Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Re: The Schiavo ordeal

If there were no specific, written instructions indicating that a patient preferred to die rather than be left in a vegetative state, I think the doctors and courts should presume she would desire to live (and thus feed her, keep her on machine, etc.). I don't see that as a necessarily conservative perspective, but as a humanist and ethical one. A ruling that said the state could terminate the life in absence of those written instructions could certainly lead to some scary scenarios: doctors "pulling the plug" on anyone who was in a coma who had not signed some release or consent or whatever: a bad precedent.

Moreover, there are no logical reasons why a cure or new surgical technique could not be discovered; her recovery might be highly unlikely, but it's not impossible. And how does the hospital know that her husband and/or relatives are reporting the truth about her wishes? And yes we should be very alarmed that the appelate court did seem to decide against the patient's rights here.

There should be a federal law that presumes that, unless there is clear and reliable written evidence to the contrary, the patient desires to live and thus should be fed, kept on machines, etc.


keitho said...

It seems to me that the decision of the courts, absent a written statement, was that she had no desire to live dependent on all kinds of medical actions that would not cure her. Further since most of us have no desire to be kept breathing in a vegetative state, why do so many people conclude that Terri's wishes are different?

J said...

Since a patient doesn't have a written statement indicating that she wants to live, she dies? Obviously you see the potential problems with that. I don't doubt that Ms. Schaivo's chances of survival were slim, and I think in some cases doctors might be called upon to make a decision, yet presuming that someone doesn't want to live in vegetative state seems a bit dangerous: at the very least then the judges should have decided to inject her with some sodium pentathol. These sorts of rulings could lead to doctors (with help from friendly judges) making all the decisions for patients, ala the Netherlands, where euthanasia of dying, old, and poor patients is fairly common.

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