Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The New Generation of Dr. Deaths

Never mind the difficulties of talking about euthanasia (see blog below), we better start talking about how, increasingly, doctors are acting, literally, as the sole authority on who gets to live or die.

It’s not only the Dr. Hootan Roozrokhs of the world, pumping patients full of morphine and atavan to hasten their deaths to get at their organs:

Doctor Power is alive in Britain.

No shock there. Still, read on:

BBC News reported last week that Ellie Westwood, 88, was in a government hospital where she was being “treated for dementia” and an infection following shoulder surgery. The infection spread to Ellie’s throat, making it difficult for her to swallow. Unsurprisingly, she became malnourished.

Enter Doctor Power:

Ms. Westwood [Ellie’s daughter, Kathleen] said she and her father were called into a room at Selly Oak Hospital on 8 February and told doctors had decided to withdraw all fluids, food and hydration.

They said they had begun giving Mrs. Westwood morphine "because she is dying."


Well, we are all dying in a sense, but Ellie wasn’t immediately dying. Her dementia obviously wasn’t rendering her “dying.” Neither was her infected throat, because she was being fed and hydrated via tubes.

No problem for Doctor Power - the doctors rationalized their death-making by declaring Ellie had "lost capacity," and that they, therefore, were in charge of her best interests. Under British statutes, if doctors judge that a patient has “lost capacity” they may make all further “medical” decisions - no questions asked.

What medical decision did Doctor Power decide was in Ellie’s best interest?

You had to ask?

Why, dying, of course.

Said Kathleen: "Well in their view the best interests was for my mother to die - and clearly by Monday she would have been dead.”

Kathleen didn’t want her mother killed.

Here’s the doctors’ response: ". . . 'it's happening, sorry.'”

Sorry, Kathleen, WE don’t care that you don’t want your mother killed. WE know the law. WE know OUR rights. WE are in charge. WE do what WE want. WE, repeat, WE Kathleen, know what’s best for mom. Don’t get in OUR way.

This story has a semi-happy ending. Kathleen didn’t take the intimidation too kindly, and eventually scuttled this episode of Doctor Power. Good for her.

A funny thing happened: As care continued, Ellie's condition improved - significantly.

mmm, what happened to the “dying” diagnosis?

Could it be that it was manufactured by Doctor Power?

Nah, surely that couldn’t be?

Of course it was.

I shudder to think about all those British government hospitals with thousands of Ellies who don’t have the Kathleens of the world to stand up for them.

We better start taking back the power. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Barbara Wagner Faces Official Darkness in Oregon

Euthanasia is not a pleasant idea to think about or discuss.

Well, we better discuss it anyway, because it’s coming to a state near you sooner than you think.

We already have legalized euthanasia in Oregon.

It’s on the ballot in Washington State this November. It’s creeping into the California legislature.

But back to Oregon, where death making is sanctioned by law.

Barbara Wagner has lung cancer. Her oncologist prescribed medication. Nothing wrong with that.

But, folks, read on: Oregon Death Apparatchiks to the rescue.

Barbara has an Oregon medical insurance plan, which, of course, had to agree to pay for the drug.

Nope, no can do.

OK, something wrong with that, but many of us have had to wrangle with medical insurance desk jockeys. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

In the name of decency and human dignity, one would have thought that, with lung cancer, the insurers would have made some accommodation to make the medication available.

Nope, no can do. No medicine for lung cancer.

BUT, to be fair, the state health plan DID offer an accommodation - read on, if you dare (some of you will know what’s coming next):

Barbara got a letter informing her that in place of offering her the drug, the state would be happy to cover medical palliative (comfort) care for her condition. Oh, and, by the way, they also offered to pay for the costs involved if she chose to go the route of assisted suicide (did I mention this is legal in Oregon?)  

We better start talking about this. There’s a serious, catastrophic, societal, and moral failure when big government won’t help you live, but is happy to help you die.