Thursday, November 08, 2007

Parents Sue Doctors for Reviving Baby

Because the child survived with serious disabilities. But the Supreme Court of Washington-State threw it out. Good. Imagine if a court ruled that saving the life of a disabled baby could bring liability, but not saving the life of an able-bodied baby. Saving a life in such circumstances should not bring legal liability, or the benefit of the doubt will fall on the side of death--already a growing problem in America's hospitals.

HT: Deborah Kelly

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18 Comments:

At November 08, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

The parents said the doctors were _negligent_ for continuing to try to revive the baby. That just gives a whole new meaning to the word 'negligent'. Page Humpty Dumpty.

 
At November 08, 2007 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

Lydia, I think Humpty Dumpty fell right on these people.

I don't get these people and people like them. The child is 3 years old and they are suing because he is not dead... Do they get what it says about what they think about their child? "He'd be better off dead and so would we. We are harmed for having to be his parents."

If they don't want these children and want to sue for what they've done to their lives, why don't they give them up for adoption? There's not much info in the story, so maybe they have. But I don't get these people who try to sue for wrongful birth but then keep their children. I guarantee some couple will take that child and give him or her the love and acceptance he or she deserves.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Royale said...

"I guarantee some couple will take that child and give him or her the love and acceptance he or she deserves."

No offense and nothing personal, but that is the most niave statement I've heard or read in a very long time. Special needs kids, such as the disabled, frequently languish in foster homes or orphanages.

As for the larger issues this story raises, I do agree that tort law is a ridiculous avenue to pursue this.

However, I am queesy about the broader implications of statements made here. Don't parents decide the healthcare of their children? even to the point of (admittedly my bias) reckless endangerment for religious reasons?

What if it violated the parents religion for the doctor to invervene? If we allow crap where parents can refuse insulin for a diabetic child who's dying simply because it's the parents religion, then I frankly don't see parents can't say "don't do CPR on my kid" for any reason whatsoever.

If life of the child is so important, then the parents motivation for withholding treatment should be irrelevant, religious or otherwise.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Wesley, I blogged this over at WWWtW

www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net

and one of my commentators says Washington State has a special "wrongful life suit" category that would have apparently encouraged this sort of suit. He says it's one of only three jurisdictions that allows that sort of suit, and that it's different from the wrongful birth suit regarding not detecting birth defects. Can you shed any light on that whole legal background thing regarding Washington State? Is this "wrongful life" stuff part of statutory law or just something that has succeeded in the courts there sometimes?

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

Royale, I suppose there are some babies like this who get caught up in bad situations, but there are people waiting to adopt special needs kids. They look at these kids as precious gifts from God, not a pile of mangled DNA. I don't think you are saying that all foster parents are bad. I have friends who are great foster parents. One told me she takes in babies addicted to crack until they can be adopted/reunited with the mother. I don't like a lot of the "system" but their are some great foster parents out there.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

There are different types of group homes, foster care, care for mothers with disabled children, etc. One of the ladies from my church adopted several children who had Down's syndrome, aspergers, a baby born dying from a drug addiction (they got to bring her home just before she passed away), and other kids with special needs. There are all sorts of people willing to take in children nobody else wants, though they aren't given the support they need. Not by the government, their families, or by their neighbors. Still, there's no call for demanding a baby be left alone to die.

As for the religious part of it - CPR isn't forbidden by JWs or other gropus, nor are most medications. JWs believe that the body will be revived after the last judgment and needs to be kept whole. That has nothing to do with this child's situation - there was no religious violation here.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Royale said...

TE, that is beside the point. My question was in the form of a subjunctive hypothetical. Whether or not there is a religious issue or not is irrelevant.

But there easily could have been.

My concern is the double-standard, get-out-of-jail free card given simply because of the religious motivation.

If this family did something wrong by denying CPR, then so do the Amish/JW for denying insulin, or perhaps even the parents who object child vaccinations.

I'll repeat what I said before (albeit with less grammatical errors), if the child's life is so important, than any motivation on the part of the parents should be trumped, which includes religious grounds.

If we condemn this family for refusing LST on one ground, but not for religion, then the issue is clear - religion trumps the sanctity of life and is then a defense to child endangerment.

If that's what it is, fine. But spare me the platitudes on the "sanctity of life" or "equal human worth", because clearly, the value of a child's life depends on the religion of his/her parents.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Sheila said...

Seems to me there's a difference between objecting to a specific treatment and objecting to the life of the child as such. It's one thing to say, "I believe that CPR will do harm to my child, if not physical harm, than some spiritual harm." And it's entirely another to say, "Don't give CPR to my child, because I think he would be better off dead."

People who refuse life-saving treatments for their children on the grounds of religion (though I think they shouldn't do this) are still acting for what they perceive as the good of their child. Obeying the commandments of their religion will be good for the child, and they trust God to come through and save him. But no one claims that being dead is better than being alive *for the person in question* -- it's a matter of parents who want a chance to lose the burden of responsibility for a disabled child.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger The Social Pathologist said...

There is very little information in the news article to which this post is linked to make a judgment on the nature of the action. On principle, I would agree that it would be wrong to sue the doctor for resuscitating the child, but I'm not sure that the doctor's actions were correct.

Firstly; was the child disabled before it was born or as a result of the prolonged hypoxia during the resuscitation? The longer the period without oxygen; the greater the hypoxic injury and hence severe disabilities.Was resuscitating the child for an hour appropriate?

Secondly; some people have made snide comments with regards to the motives of the parents. There simply isn't enough information in the article about their motives. I presume in the U.S. as in Australia, there is very little state assistance for the home care of children with severe disabilities. A carer usually has to give up full time work resulting in a huge financial burden to the family. Other siblings still have to be cared for and who will provide for the disabled child once the parents have died? People usually sue the Doctor in these instances because the Doctor's insurance fund is the only possible source of funds from which these people can obtain financial assistance in a meaningful way. Our legal friends therefore invent an argument in order to "ping" the Doctor to get access to their insurance fund. Get a sympathetic liberal Judge, a semi-plausible legal argument and presto! the child ends up with financial security, the doctor ends up with a bad reputation, the Judge gets to feel good about himself and bad case law is established.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Resuscitating the child isn't what caused the brain damage even if it _was_ the prolonged lack of oxygen, SP. It was whatever caused the child to need the resuscitation. Hence suing the doctors for the child's disability, as though the doctors' resuscitation is what caused the disability, is inappropriate regardless, in my quite definite opinion.

It would be different entirely if the disability could have been prevented had they started CPR faster or something like that, but they dilly-dallied. Then you are suing them for dilly-dallying, which is in fact negligence. But the resuscitation itself can't be "negligent" in the nature of the case.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Royale said...

Sheila - I concede there is a difference in Mens Rea (i.e., criminal mind) between knowing/wanting the child to die and acting as such with the knowledge it might happen.

But that's all there is.

In a legally consistent world, we would prosecute the JW/Amish/(insert religion here) for child endangerment or manslaughter, which under criminal law, fits precisely the mindset of the religious groups who withhold LST/CPR for their religious motivations.

But the issue that remains - why question the motive of those who act outside of religion, but not those who do, even when the result is precisely the same (a dead child that medicine could have saved).

Like it or not, allowing for religious parents to withhold medicine for children means the lives of their children is less important than their religion.

Now, I wouldn't call that "pro-life."

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger The Social Pathologist said...

But the resuscitation itself can't be "negligent" in the nature of the case.

Agreed.

However, the resuscitation may have been inappropriate. I've seen plenty of gung ho doctors resuscitate the terminally ill, the severely demented and the extremely aged simply because it was in their capacity to do so. Likewise I have seen others act in a similar manner out of fear of being litigated against. It appears that once you are in hospital you're not allowed to die.

Sometimes resuscitation is inappropriate; It may or may not have been in this instance. I cannot tell from the article but I do know that the longer that the resuscitation is practiced the more likely the patient will end up with severe disabilities. Are parents obligated to pursue resuscitation of their children knowing full well that their child is likely do suffer severe disability if they survive? Likewise are parents obligated to pursue medical therapies which extend the life of their children at the expense of their functional capacity?

The parents motives in suing the doctor may have been highly laudable, they may have choosen this course of action because they wanted to provide for their child once they are gone. We simply don't know what their motive was from the article. I'm not saying that suing the doctor is right, but what other option would they have in order to raise the millions of dollars that will be needed for the lifetime care of their child? Before we go casting stones at them put your self in their position. These people are between a rock and a hard place. They may want to provide their child but how? In a private health system do they sell all their assets to keep the child going? Or do they go after the obvious and well trodden path of medical negligence? It's a no brainer for most folks. People pursue legal remedies because there is no other.

 
At November 09, 2007 , Blogger Royale said...

Soc. Path.,

Amen.

As an American, the Terri Schiavo experience taught me that too many people in this country want to jump in the bedside of dying strangers and tell their families what is "right," but too many of the very same people don't want to pay for national healthcare.

Logic? Nope. Just easier tell someone else what to do if it doesn't affect you.

 
At November 10, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

I think it's definitely morally wrong to sue the doctors for reviving the child. I'm sorry you disagree, SP, but to me _that_ is the no-brainer. You do not try to set a legal precedent that says, "You brought my child back when he had no heartbeat, and he has disabilities, so you were wrong not to let him die, and I'm going to try to punish you in the legal system for reviving him." That's a horrible precedent and a horrible message--the disabled are better off dead, and parents of the disabled are entitled to compensation for being "stuck" with a disabled child.

I think the notion that their motive was to provide for the child and such may well be true but is irrelevant. You have to look at what the act is in itself, and what the act is in itself is trying to sue doctors for _not_ letting your child die, and that on the grounds that there is now (whether there was before or not) "something wrong with" him, so he should have died. It's no more right to get money for their needs that way than by running an e-mail scam, holding up a bank, or any other unethical way to get money. People have this weird idea that suing somebody is amoral, that the only question is whether you need the money and have some hopes of getting it this way, and whether the people you are suing are somehow-or-other connected with what happened to you. That's nuts. Suing can definitely be wrong.

 
At November 10, 2007 , Blogger The Social Pathologist said...

Lydia, I don't know where you got the impression that I thought suing the doctor was right. I will repeat again; I think suing the doctor is wrong.

What I object to is the assumption that the parents of this child are somehow evil. Look they may be, but I can't simply tell from the link. I know quite a few families with disabled children and its hard work with massive financial and emotional implications for the family. All of them fret about who is going to look after the child once they are gone. The care these children receive costs big money, something I see not too many groups of any political or religious persuasion care to offer.


What I'm saying is that I would go easy on these parents because their lot is hard and they are probably forced into this position because of circumstances. Once again I'm not saying that it is the right course of action, rather it is an understandable course of action given the circumstances.

Once again, the only realistically easy source of funds for the care of their child is to take the doctor to court. Now the Plantiff's lawyer is not going to walk up to the judge and say, "we know that the doctor did not do anything wrong but we would like to access some of his insurance companies funds to pay for the upkeep of this permanently disabled child because we can't get them from anywhere else", rather under the adversarial system of justice we have, we will make up a claim of injury in order to sue to doctor for negligence and see if we can get away with it.

Likewise, doctors may inappropriately resuscitate because of fear of being sued by a legal system that encourages people to put it on. The obligation to live crowd--as opposed to right to life--are just as likely to sue the doctor for his failure to act as the parents are for him acting.

We would have much less of this rubbish going on if disabled care was better funded, culturally rewarded and its disgraceful state. acknowledged. Those who want people to accept burdens should out of Christian charity be prepared to share them.

 
At November 10, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

SP, the parents could have placed the child for adoption. That's been mentioned several times.

I can't really say I feel the sympathy for them that you do. *At the best*, and on your charitable reconstruction, *someone* treated a deeply immoral act--a suit that punished doctors for saving a child's life, and did so on the grounds that the child is disabled, which implies that the child would be better off dead than disabled--as an amoral act, a simple way to try to game the legal system to get money.

Now, maybe that "someone" was a lawyer. Maybe the parents are just too dumb to realize, "Hey, this sounds like we're saying our kid should be dead. What kind of parents are we?" Maybe someone has just taught them to think of a lawsuit as a kind of morals-free button-pushing. But *if they have any inkling*, if they are *in any way* really saying what even this brief story pretty clearly attributes to them--[cue snarky voice] "Why didn't you ask us first before starting his heart back up? You should have let him die. Now look at him. He has all these disabilities. You owe us money for resuscitating him"--then they are to that extent evil. I make no apology for that attribution to that way of thinking.

 
At November 11, 2007 , Blogger HellKaiserRyo said...

"As an American, the Terri Schiavo experience taught me that too many people in this country want to jump in the bedside of dying strangers and tell their families what is "right," but too many of the very same people don't want to pay for national healthcare.

Logic? Nope. Just easier tell someone else what to do if it doesn't affect you."

You make euthanasia sound dangerous in the United States and I agree. This is one where my hero Peter Singer is wrong.

 

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