Skip to comments.FAMILIES WHO DEMAND INAPPROPRIATE MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR MORIBUND PATIENTS
Posted on 10/20/2003 9:03:08 PM PDT by Chancellor Palpatine
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In some areas -- Houston, for instance -- hospitals have conspired to join forces and agree on protocols such that no one hospital makes the others look bad for their myriad means of refusing wanted care to the very infirm and/or dying pending a finding of "futility" by a Medical Director or interdisciplinary review board. Houston is only one of many major metro areas who've initiated this sort of network.
Here's a story by Wesley Smith at NR which ought to cheer you up.
So you go kill people for that 3%, ok? P>And be sure to do it in the most cruel manner possible, that of allowing them to dry up literally, from lack of fluid.
In fact, food and water have been provided by means of gastrostomy tube for over 100 years  and, according to a government report, at least 848,100 people per year receive food by means of a tube in hospitals, nursing homes or in their own homes.  A gastrostomy tube, inserted through the abdominal wall directly into the stomach, is a simple surgical procedure that can be performed under local anesthesia. Once inserted, the small incision heals and its presence causes essentially no discomfort to the majority of people.  Yet, in the debate over food and fluids, this simple procedure has been described as one which is highly invasive and highly risky.
The 1984 case of Mary Hier had lived in a state hospital for more than fifty-seven years. Elderly and demented, she thought she was the Queen of England. She was not terminally ill. Because of a Zenkers diverticulum in Ms. Hier's pharyngeal esophagus to her stomach, she had received food by means of a gastrostomy tube for many years. When, in an unexplained incident, Ms. Hier's gastrostomy tube became dislodged, the care facility sought to replace the tube.
Although her guardian ad litem argued that nutrition should be differentiated from treatment, the Court declared, "We do not agree that such a distinction should be drawn as a matter of law."  The Court noted that the 1983 President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine had taken the position that "artificial feeding" should be thought of as a "treatment" decision.  Additionally the Court found that replacing Ms. Hier's gastrostomy tube would entail a "major medical procedure" that was "highly intrusive" and entailed a "relatively high risk to the patient due to her age."  Permission to replace the tube was denied.
Mary Hier's story and her life might have ended there had it not been for the fact that, just as her case was being reported, another story appeared in the same newspaper. It concerned a ninety-four-year-old woman who was doing well following "minor surgery to correct a nutritional problem." The surgery had been performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. The woman's name was Rose Kennedy and the "minor surgery to correct a nutritional problem" was insertion of a gastrostomy tube.  For ninety-four-year old Rose Kennedy, matriarch of a rich and powerful family, tube feeding was a mere correction of a nutritional problem. For ninety-two-year-old Mary Hier, poor and mentally ill, it was termed "medical treatment" that was too invasive and risky for a woman of her age.
Last minute intervention by a local physician and an attorney did eventually lead to Mary Hier's tube feeding being provided again, and both Mary Hier and Rose Kennedy lived for many additional years.
The choice of words to describe the method of providing foods and fluids, as illustrated in the case of Mary Hier, depends upon whether the discussion is intended to lead to their being provided or withheld. Manipulative terminology, using the language of treatment rather than care, has also been used to describe not only the tube but also the food itself. For example, referring to food received by tube as "artificially implanted nutrition and hydration"  seemed a patent attempt to create the illusion that food and fluids themselves are exotic medical treatment. Yet it seems doubtful that those who contend that food and fluids become "treatment" if taken by tube would tolerate others calling penicillin or milk of magnesia "food" when taken by mouth.
Lunch Trays Bearing Treatment
Whether one agrees or disagrees with what has transpired, the reality is that, by the time of the Cruzan  case, the provision of food and fluids by means of a tube was clearly considered to be a form of medical treatment by society at large and by the courts.
However, by the time that Cruzan was decided, some ethicists and and right-to-die advocates had already begun to expand the boundaries of "treatment" once again - this time to include oral feeding as a medical intervention that could be withheld or withdrawn ethically. The spotlight had now shifted from method by which food and fluids were provided to the actual food and fluids, no matter how provided.
It is no longer unusual to observe a dispassionate discussion among ethicists and medical professionals about the withdrawal of oral feeding from frail, elderly or brain damaged, but non-dying patients. Such discussions take place at many conferences, and can also be observed on the Internet. They certainly take place in the clinical setting.
The willingness to extend denial of even spoon feeding was also apparent in the 1988 testimony of Ronald Cranford, M.D., in the Cruzan case. Cranford, an associate physician in neurology at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, testified there really is no definition of "artificial" feeding.  He said that, if Ms. Cruzan were able to take food orally, he would still consider provision of food in this manner to be "medical treatment." 
This 1988 statement, that no definition of "artificial" feeding exists, differed from a position Cranford had held only four years earlier when he differentiated between "artificial" feeding exists, differed from a position Cranford had held only four years earlier when he differentiated between "artificial means" (nasogastric tubes, gastrostomy tubes, hyperalimentation and intravenous lines) and the ability to take food by the "natural route." At that time he specifically stated that "it may be justifiable to consider withdrawal of fluids and nutrition given by an artificial route."  However, by the time he testified in 1988, he included spoon feeding in the category of what might be considered "artificial feeding." "There is a legitimate difference of opinion concerning spoon feeding," he said. "It is not fair to say that artificial feeding would only characterize what we call gastrostomy and so forth." 
He stated that spoon feeding is denied in cases of like Ms. Cruzan's (where profound brain damage has occurred) because to spoon feed her "would be totally inconsistent" with what was wanted (i.e. death for the patient). 
In another 1988, case also involving the denial of food and fluids for a patient who was no longer able to make medical decisions, a physician reasoned that if a patient is in a convalescent care facility, even the patient's normal diet must be prescribed; therefore it is always medical treatment.  Thus, in the minds of some, the food on a nursing home patient's tray had now become "treatment" and, as such, could be considered optional.
By 1994, virtually anything that a physician authorizes, prescribes or performs was said by some to fall within the meaning of "treatment." This was evident in testimony given before the Senate Finance Committee by Eric J. Cassell, M.D., of Cornell University Medical College, who stated, "Treatments are not merely technologies or drugs, virtually everything done to or for a sick person is part of the treatment." 
The notion that any and all patient care - even the provision of food and fluids taken by mouth - was "treatment" which could be withheld or withdrawn had gained wide acceptance within professional circles. However, the general public was still far from embracing death by starvation and dehydration as a desirable, noble "option" to be sought. The bridge from tolerance of the concept to widespread support for it was still needed if assisted suicide was to gain a foothold.
As far back as 1972, at a conference of the Euthanasia Educational Council,  Cassell acknowledged this when, during a discussion of effective ways to commit suicide and assisted suicide, he stated:
"Maybe we ought to accord the right of the suicide [sic] to make it an elegant and noble move. What you're describing is a turn around of society in which death becomes the elegant thing: in which you achieve an age when it's proper for you to die and to get help in your dying, and you arrange for a death that's appropriate to your life, with all the fittings, without pain and the proper pill. 
...What seems to me I hear [when people request assisted suicide] is a way to dignify it, making it an honorable thing to do, make it respected by other people. That's a profound change in the structure of society which may well come, but it's going to be a while coming. It's not just the finding of the pill - that can be found. It's the finding of the world in which one would have one's death as one would have one's wedding and a few other things...." 
By 1996, the Euthanasia Educational Council (which by now was called Choice in Dying) had begun to list dehydration in a guide to end-of-life options. The organization noted that among the legal ways to end life was to do without food and water: "A tray of food is considered treatment. You have the right to refuse it. A growing body of research indicates voluntary dehydration is not a painful or unpleasant way to die." 
"Graceful Death" by Dehydration
The process of dignifying death by starvation or dehydration began in a 1994 article by David Eddy, MD., Ph.D., published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  In it, dehydrating to death was portrayed as a way for an elderly woman - who had no life threatening condition - to end her life "gracefully." Dr. Eddy wrote that his mother was a spunky, self-sufficient widow who had enjoyed an abundant life and who, when ailments made her quality of life no longer acceptable, decided it was time to die. "As a physician's wife, she was used to thinking about life and death and prided herself on being able to deal maturely with the idea of death." 
With her son she explored ways to end her life. "Can I stop eating?" she asked. He told her that if she was really intent on dying she could stop drinking too since, "without water, no one, not even the healthiest, can live more than a few days." 
On her 85th birthday, Virginia Eddy celebrated with her family at a party with all the trimmings. Then, her son wrote, "She relished her last piece of chocolate, and then stopped eating and drinking."  Her son arranged for her to be placed on a self-administered morphine drip to relieve the pain of dehydration. She died six days later.
"This death was not a sad death; it was a happy death," Eddy wrote. "She had done just what she wanted to do, just the way she wanted to do it." According to Eddy, his mother had chosen the time and manner of her death and this had been a positive experience for the entire family: "Although we will miss her greatly, her ability to achieve her death at the 'right time' and in her 'right way' transformed for us what could have been a desolate and crushing loss into a time for joy." 
Clearly, this article was intended to significantly influence its readers' attitudes. In fact, the piece was referred to in a report about the impact of medical journal articles on public opinion, clinical-care standards and health care policies. George Lundberg, M.D., who oversees all of the American Medical Association's forty-seven professional journalists, including JAMA, called Eddy's article the "most important article published in the last 50 years." He said, "The openness of the presentation, the competence and compassion, and the method of dying - by withholding food or drink - were all salutary. The argument presented was legal, ethical, moral and loving." Lundberg predicted it would become "a landmark model of dying." 
The Hemlock Society's medical director, Richard MacDonald, M.D., who was, at that time, campaigning to legalize assisted suicide in Oregon, jumped on the bandwagon. He wrote, "She [Mrs. Eddy] chose a very rational course, which is the right of every patient - to refuse treatment [i.e. post-birthday meals and beverages] which can extend life but is futile as far as improving the quality of life or curing the diseases contributing to that poor quality." Then, making a pitch for Oregon's Measure 16, MacDonald added that "such a peaceful end to suffering is not often available to someone who doesn't have the good fortune to have a physician for a son, as this patient did." 
It was not the method of induced death that was emphasized but rather the "right" to choose how, when, where and why to die - and the right of someone else to "assist" in bringing about that death - that was being promoted. MacDonald and other campaigning for the Oregon initiative were working to extend the "good fortune" of Mrs. Eddy to all Oregonian's by legalizing what would later be termed "comfort care."
Poisonous Prescriptions As "Comfort Care"
The Eddy article was indicative of yet another attitudinal shift - one that now saw intentionally ending life with a doctor's assistance as a graceful exit from life. The right to be free of unwanted treatment had been totally transformed into the right to be free of unwanted life.
It had taken many years, many attempts, many returns to the drawing board, so to speak, and - more than anything else - careful manipulation of language. In November 1994, Oregon, with the passage of Measure 16, became the only state in the history of the nation to approve a proposal permitting physicians to intentionally prescribe lethal overdoses to certain patients. (Because of an on-going legal challenge,  Measure 16 has not gone into effect.) As in previous attempts in Washington and California to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, proponents had always stated that the purpose of the law was to give a new "right" to patients.
In fact, the major impact of legalizing assisted suicide was not to give rights to those who would be dead, but was to bestow immunity on those who would be instrumental in making them dead. This was acknowledged by Barbara Coombs Lee, Measure 16's chief petitioner, who described the measure, saying, "The [Death with Dignity] act creates a safe harbor in Oregon's assisted suicide laws for an attending physician to provide a prescription for lethal medication...." Lee has been vague in describing how the waters in this "safe harbor" would be navigated.
Asked how patient deaths would actually be brought about, she said that the new law isn't specific since "it would be pretty outlandish to tell physicians what particular mode of care to provide."  When questioned about the need to educate physicians regarding assisted suicide, she opined that courses dealing with assisted suicide would eventually be taught in medical schools, saying, "Writing a lethal prescription is one very small aspect of the total care of terminally ill individuals." 
Problematic, of course, is the way a prescription for "care" of this type would be labeled. Lee explained that a physician might write something like, "take as needed to control symptoms."  Without question, a prescription for this type of "care" would "control symptoms" - permanently. That, however, leads to the difficulty about how the outcome of this "care" would be described.
Almost immediately, after Measure 16's passage, rhetorical gymnastics reached Olympian proportions as attempts were made to come up with a label for the new death-producing medical procedure. The problem was, how should deaths in compliance with Measure 16 be categorized, particularly on death certificates? If the law survives legal challenges and goes into effect, such deaths can't be called "suicides" because Measure 16 prohibits suicide and assisted suicide.  Lee claimed that the word "suicide" would not apply and asked that deaths resulting from the legal drug overdose be called "self-administration under Measure 16,"  while the Oregon Health Division recommended that the cause of death be designated "drug overdose, legally prescribed." 
As far as categorizing the deadly practice for purposes of payment, Oregon's Medicaid director, Jean Thorne, said the procedure would be covered under a part of the Oregon Health Plan called "comfort care." 
As Oregonian reporter Mark O'Keefe observed, "One thing is certain. Terminology matters. If it did not, politicians would not call tax increases 'revenue enhancements.' Corporations firing thousands of employees would not describe the act as a 'work-force adjustment.'  And a group that provides suicide assistance would not call itself "Compassion in Dying." (During the first 13 months of its operation, before it brought a court challenge to Washington's law prohibiting assisted suicide, Compassion in Dying counseled 24 patients who committed suicide with prescription drugs. Since then it has refused to divulge the number of deaths with which it has been involved.) 
Compassion in Dying grew out of the Hemlock Society's failed 1991 attempt to pass an "aid-in-dying" initiative in Washington State. Until recently the group was headed by Ralph Mero, who had previously served as executive director of Hemlock of Washington State. (In the summer of 1996, Barbara Coombs Lee, Measure 16's chief petitioner, left her position as a vice president for a large Oregon managed care program and took over the helm of Compassion in Dying.)
As the first U.S. group to admit publicly to offering assistance in committing suicide,  this Hemlock spin-off received a gigantic boost in achieving one of Hemlock's objectives - the right to decide the manner and means of death  - when Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that there is a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in determining the "time and manner" of death. 
The Compassion in Dying opinion presents a stark picture of the progress that has been made toward accomplishing the euthanasia agenda by distorting legal precedent, misrepresenting philosophical principles, and twisting the meaning of words. For example, contrary to Judge Reinhardt's opinion, Cruzan  did not recognize a "liberty interesting in hastening one's own death."  It had, as its underlying rationale, the right to be free of bodily invasion, not the right to be free of life. Similarly, Judge Reinhardt's contention that the principle of double effect permits a doctor to intentionally "assist" a patient "to die through medical treatment"  completely disregards that principle's elements.  Judge Reinhardt not only gave a judicial approval to the intentional termination of a patient's life, he did so in a style previously reserved by the most outspoken euthanasia activists - placing the labels "medical treatment"  or "medical function" on actions that have death as their "necessary and inevitable consequence...." 
For a number of years, Jack Kevorkian has been carrying out actions that have death as their inevitable consequence. Like Judge Reinhardt, he refers to such acts as medical treatment.  By mid-August 1996, when the body count from Kevorian's "treatment" had reached thirty-eight "patients," Linda Emanuel, vice president of ethics for the American Medical Association, remarked, "The bizarre has become normal and the ghastly is no longer seen as ghastly." 
Judge Reinhardt has given the ghastly a judicial seal of approval.
The success or failure of political or social revolutions often depends on the terms used in the debate. If the movement is in accord with accepted values as expressed by language, success is often the result.
But what if the existing lexicon and traditional understanding of words and phrases hurt the cause and bog down the movement? The answer is simple: If the people don't want to follow where you want to take them, make the destination appear more attractive. This is precisely what proponents of the "right to die" have done. By using fuzzy euphemisms, by blurring vital distinctions, by using imprecise phraseology, and by redefining well-understood concepts and ethical principles, they created an Alice Through the Looking Glass World, where previously understood concepts no longer apply. It's as if "up" were now "down" and "hot" were now "cold." Words only mean what the speaker intends them to mean, regardless of the understanding of the listener.
Terms like "killing" and "suicide" which have precise definitions but negative connotations have become outcasts, replaced by subjective, feel-good, meaningless phrases such as "gentle landing," "deliverance," "chosen death," or the ubiquitous "death with dignity." Thus the ongoing revolution in ethics and values was preceded by a radical shift in the use of language, all intended to beckon us to embark on a journey to radical social change.
That direction may or may not be where we, as a society, will want to go. But one thing is certain. We need to use clear definitions and accurate terminology if we are to truly understand what awaits us at the end of that road.
A: Tube feeding is neither new nor expensive. Its been in use for more than 100 years. Two articles, published in the 1896 "Transactions of the Kentucky Medical Society," described the ease with which feeding by gastrostomy tube (g-tube) was being accomplished at that time. (3)
The food placed in a feeding tube is not expensive. A full days supply generally averages about $8. Nor is it exotic. Next time youre shopping in your neighborhood supermarket, pick up a 32-oz. can of Ensure in the liquid diet food section.
Pick any flavor. It comes in chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. Read the label on the back, and youll find that you can drink it as a fully balanced meal or that it can be used for tube feeding. If its a quick meal for you and me, how can it be "extraordinary medical treatment" when its placed in a feeding tube?
It seems doubtful that those who contend that food and fluids become "treatment" if taken by tube would tolerate others calling penicillin or anti-depressants "food" when taken by mouth.
You are way out of your league on this one, CP. Patients can be tube fed at home for less than it costs to feed one of my teenagers.
Not only that but a lot of people are self-tube-feeding and work, play baseball and raise kids.
This is yet another liar, as we know that tube feeding is very inexpensive and easily done at home. This is yet another death-culture-groupie sucking at the twin teats of George Soros, autonomy and dignity.
In the medical journals there are physicians who call these writers to accuracy, but I guess when they write to the public, some gullible people believe this stuff.
WHERE does one begin with such *hit? When I think about ALL the *hit that I fund through taxpayer dollars, that I TOTALLY DISAGREE with, THIS is a situation when I'd HAPPILY pay my taxes to help someone else keep a loved one alive.
I see an epidmemic of PRO DEATH propaganda coming on because of what's going on with Terri. THey're feeling VERY defensive. They're trying to rationalize, just as they did with abortion, as to WHY we must murder human beings - especially if they are vulnerable.
Can you spot the dehumanizing parts in this sentence?
Hint - someone still alive is not a warm cadaver.
Hint - warehousing is not something we do to people, made in the IMAGE OF GOD.
Scarce resources is what began the holocaust. There are no scarce resources except for nursing schools. This is all baloney. I work in the field and for an HMO!! We made money last year in spite of doing piles of unnecessary testing and care for patients. I do the testing, I know how much we do. We do way more than we need to.
There is even a prolife group of physicians who are trying to fight back against the culture of death.
It is all the fault of the jews, who are causing us to be poor. Wasn't that how it went? Pit one group against the other. "Your taxes are high because these people insist on keeping Grandma alive against our wishes".
the ICU bed ALONE was better than 80% of the "cost".
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