Culture of death

Those who worried that the Terri Schiavo case presaged a growing euthanasia, and even forced-euthenasia, movement in this country are starting to sound all too reasonable these days.

While Terri’s guardian argued, persuasively it seems, that Terri herself didn’t want to live in the condition that she was living in, we’re seeing cases where caregivers are pressing to withdraw life support over the objections of patients and their guardians.

Am I about to blast Bush for signing a law allowing hospitals to deny “futile care” to patients? Not really, although (yet again) I sincerely wish that those who excoriate him for doing so, and call the entire Republican party a bunch of hypocrites over the issue, were right about his actions and their purpose and effect. It makes perfect sense to me for someone to favor a stricter standard for deciding that someone wants to be left to die on the one hand and favor more limited provision of medical care at taxpayer expense on the other hand.

But the really frightening thing is that, under this law, it appears that the hospitals taking advantage of this law so far aren’t doing so for financial reasons. Now while everyone seems to think that money and health care being in any way related is the work of the Devil, I say that the only reason that a hospital should ever overrule a patient and deny him treatment is because they aren’t being paid for it.

Of course those damned controls on the medical industry rear their ugly head here. From the article linked above:

“It’s certainly true that money is a factor in these cases – how could it not be? – but many other resource-availability questions are also factors, such as the need for staff services for other patients, the demand among multiple patients for scarce equipment or medication, and the availability of intensive-care beds and other facilities. ”

And where do those resource availability questions come from? Some of those resources, such as doctors and nurses, are kept scarce by law; a deliberate act of Congress has necessitated a rationing of resources that people are willing and able to pay for. And since the equipment, medication, and facilities are also, by law, limited to use by those scarce and rationed personnel, well, it’s not hard to figure out where all the “resource availability” problems are coming from. But even more frightening than this is what follows:

“And, finally, there are non-resource-related questions, such as the emotional drain on staff of providing futile care in difficult cases, and the common-sense principle that care should be given only when it is reasonably possible that it will make a tangible difference to the patient. ”

Common-sense? It’s common sense that patients should be forbidden to fight for their lives against hopeless odds for their own good?

Of course, it’s not just in Texas that this sort of thing is going on. In Massachusetts, we see another case where a patient who wants to delay her arraignment at the Big Courtroom in the Sky is overruled by the caring, helpful hospital staff for her own good. The hospital went to court to have the woman’s daughter removed as guardian because she was carrying out the mother’s wishes a little too well. After a protracted legal battle in which the judge “told Carvitt to refocus from carrying out her mother’s wishes to acting in her best interest” (!), the family agreed to let life support be withdrawn.

Looks like the wingnuts were right – they predicted that we’d reach the day when hospitals demanded – and got – the right to impose involuntary euthenasia, and that day now looks all but inevitable. And yet another slippery slope has become evident – libertarian wackos who kept saying that “for your own good” was another name for tyranny got laughed at by social reformers (now entrenched so long they go by the name “social conservatives”) when bitching about laws that ostensibly aimed to improve health and well being even as they implicitly assumed that human beings remain eternal children. Now “for your own good” is being used to justify involuntary euthanasia, and those libertarian wackos are looking damned reasonable to me (although I’ll admit to a certain bias in that respect).

3 thoughts on “Culture of death”

  1. The law that Bush signed actually increased protections for comatose patients. For example, previous to new law, hospitals could remove life support over the guardian’s objections without providing time for the guardian to relocate the patient to another facility.

    Reports portraying Bush’s stance in the Schiavo case after sighing the Texas law as hypocritical are dishonest. He sought to change the existing law to make the legal standard closer to the “presumption of life” standard that he evinced in the Schiavo case. He did not get all the protections in the final law that he fought for but the bill represented an improvement over the previous law which granted virtually no protections whatsoever to comatose patients and granted the healthcare provided more say in the decision to terminate than the guardian.

  2. From the Corner:

    It’s Happening Again:

    Georgia Woman Being Starved and Dehydrated

    85 year-old Mae Margourik of LaGrange, Georgia, is currently being deprived of nutrition and hydration at the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy. Mrs. Margourik suffered an aortic dissection 2 weeks ago and was hospitalized. Though her doctors have said that she is not terminally ill, Ms. Gaddy declared that she held medical power of attorney for Mae, and had her transferred to the LaGrange Hospice. Later investigation revealed that Ms. Gaddy did not in fact have such power of attorney. Furthermore, Mae’s Living Will provides that nutrition and hydration are to be withheld only if she is comatose or vegetative. Mae is in neither condition. Neither is her condition terminal.

  3. Shannon, you miss the point. Under Texas law, Terri Schiavo would probably have had her plug pulled some time ago. That law may have increased the protection for comatose (which are not the same, BTW, as PVS patients), but it still would have led to a withdrawal of life support in the TS case. Hence the hypocrisy. If it wasn’t, the law would have gone further as he and the congress attempted to do at the later stage.

    And if you respect life so much, why no such support for people on death row who claim with evidence of a similar nature and scope to that offered for TS that they are innocent. Maybe they are innocent (and some surely are), if so, surely they deserve life at least as much as TS, but for them the law must hold, but for an attractive political cause like TS, any amount of attempts to undermine the judiciary is deemed acceptable. Isn’t that rank hypocrisy ? To forestall the never ending rejoibders about murderers getting what they deserve, if they were wrongly convicted, they’re not murderers. Don’t they deserve the same scrutiny ? If not, try to justify why not.

    And for jrdroll, why is “Happening Again” ? This sort of thing has been going on for years and years, especially for patients with dementia. Now in the case you cite, it would appear that if the old women dies, both the hospital and the granddaughter would be at risk of being accused of manslaughter or worse. If the old woman is not terminally ill and not in an irreversible PVS or equivalent, there are no grounds to withdraw support. The case is quite unlike the Schiavo case.

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