Sunday, March 20, 2005

Oh, and it just gets deeper!

Much has been made of the Terry Schiavo case. Schiavo is a woman in early middle-age who possesses no high cerebral functions at all. She has the appearance of consciousness, but we are assured by physicians that she is in a persistent vegetative state. The battle between people calling themselves pro-life and people calling themselves representatives of common sense replicates the lines between Schiavo's parents and Schiavo's husband. This conflict has found its way to the halls of Congress, where such decisions were made by higher courts and occasionally by the Supreme Court in the past. Since Congress is too neoconservative and conservative to ferret out questions of empire and republic, of deficit and solvency, of infrastructure and public investment, they've decided that this should be the central issue in the public debate. Many of them, most notably, Tom DeLay of Texas, want Schiavo's case to go to federal court and believe they are defending her. Talk about creatively wasting time.
I want to draw attention, though, to a case in DeLay's home state of Texas. Remember the entry about the ethically charged decisions treating 0f life and death, and how these decisions are being made more and more on institutional and fiscal grounds. Here is a story of the death of a child that was hastened, mercifully or unmercifully we will never know, by the considerations of the hospital he was in and over the objections of his mother.

6 month old Sun Hudson died at Texas Children's Hospital yesterday, after being removed from the breathing tube. He "wiggled with eyes open, his mother said, and smacked his lips." His mother, Wanda Hudson, had fought to keep her son alive against the medical judgment of the hospital. It is the first such case in this country, where a hospital's decisions about the life of a patient were placed over the wishes of a family member or legal guardian.
Baby Sun had a fatal form of dwarfism which has always resulted in death shortly after the birth of the infant. It is usually diagnosed in utero, and I imagine makes up a portion of late term abortions. Wanda didn't have that knowledge when she gave birth however, as she had no prenatal care. Even if she had, the right to make a decision about a late term abortion isn't hers, yet a hospital can turn around and take the decision away from her after her child is born. END QUOTE.

We know who is more powerful here.
The institution is out of control.
The word of a mother is hollow.
And financial considerations rule the day.

In the next article, another author, Mark Kleiman, compares the Schiavo case with the "Baby Sun" case.

1. Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, but isn't terminal. The two Texas patients were terminal but not vegetative. It seems to me that the distinction between a patient who is aware and a patient who isn't aware is the morally relevant one, while the disctinction between a death that is sure to occur soon and a death that is sure to occur eventually is morally irrelevant. (Try pleading as a defense to a murder charge that the victim had a terminal ailment.)
2. Terry Schiavo's husband has decided that she would have wanted to die, and the courts have upheld his view against the view of her parents. The mother of Sun Hudson wanted her child to live, and the wife and children of Spiro Nikolouzos want him to live. So while the Schiavo case is an intra-family dispute, the two Texas cases pit the families against health-care institutions motivated at least in part by financial considerations. END QUOTE.

The point I am repeating here is that human considerations, those of family, are losing dignity in this society. Money is coming to be the only thing that is worth anything, the greatest arbiter of justice. We may as well not have any doctors, because doctors must be free of financial considerations to practice good medicine. We may as well have no judges because if justice is determined by financial considerations, then there's no point in weighing things like distress or loss of life or limb. No, accountants are going to usurp both positions in the future I see.
Our only hope is to become ungovernable by these standards, in these times, and under these insane bastards.

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