22 May 2007

"Nurse, would you move Mr. Smith into the Death Wing? Thanks!"

This article comes from The Discovery Institute. Anytime you hear liberals spouting some crazy ideas, and you think to yourself, "But won't that lead to...?" and they say, "No! You're just being a reactionary, knee-jerk neocon!" Remember this article:
What if hospitals could put a sign over their doors stating, “We reserve the right to refuse life-sustaining care?” People would be outraged. Yet that is precisely what Texas law explicitly grants to hospitals — namely, to say no to wanted life-sustaining treatment, on the basis of subjective judgments about the quality of the patient’s life. It is an example of a bioethical concept known as Futile Care Theory, a.k.a. medical futility.

How did Texas, of all places, become ground zero for futile-care impositions? Back in 1996, a group of Houston hospitals adopted internal administrative protocols, called the Collaborative Policy, in which they granted themselves the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment even to a patient who still wants it. As described in the August 21, 1996, Journal of the American Medical Association (“A Multi-institutional Collaborative Policy on Medical Futility”), if a doctor wished to refuse treatment, but a patient or family wanted it, the dispute was to be adjudicated behind closed doors by an institutional ethics committee; the patient/family would be given three days’ notice of the meeting. If the committee members decided that the patient should not continue to receive life-sustaining treatment, such treatment could then be cut off immediately, with only comfort care rendered thereafter.

Needless to say, the Collaborative Policy was controversial, and legislation was soon introduced in the Texas legislature to thwart the Houston hospitals’ futile-care scheme. Unfortunately, lawmakers were divided on the issue. Eventually a compromise was worked out, giving families ten days to find an alternative institution to provide care once a hospital ethics committee ruled that treatment for a patient should be terminated. Governor George W. Bush eventually signed the bill into law in 1999 after right to life groups agreed to the compromise, never dreaming that patient transfers would become almost impossible to secure.
Does the name Jack Kevorkian ring a bell? Making assisted suicide legal wasn't going to lead to hospitals deciding who lives and who dies. This wasn't going to lead to widespread euthanasia. Well, not only was that a lie, but it is already coming into form. And how ironic that a week after this is posted, Dr. Death will be released from prison.

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