It's About the $: Libertarians Discover Futile Care Theory
I have crossed pens occasionally with Reason writer Ronald Baily and debated him (and others) at CUNY about transhumanism and other brave new world agendas. Well, Baily just [update, actually in 2006] learned about a Texas futile care case that, he writes, led to scorched earth commentary from the Left. (As regular readers of SHS know, it is legal in the Lone Star State to impose futile care upon unwilling patients.) From his column:
I somehow missed the culture war moment last month when it was reported that Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, disconnected a dying, uninsured cancer patient, Tirhas Habtegiris, from the ventilator that was keeping her alive. The 27-year-old abdominal cancer patient was conscious and did not wish to be disconnected because she hoped that her mother would arrive from Africa for one last visit before she died. The hospital warned the patient and her family that it would keep her on the ventilator for just 10 more days. Ms. Habtegiris died 16 minutes after the ventilator was shut off on December 14, 2005.I hadn't heard about that one either, but I am not surprised.
Bailey says the Left was up in arms when the story became public because the cutoff seems to been motivated by money. Ya think? And he wonders why the political right didn't also jump all over the case. Perhaps they didn't know about it--as I didn't. However, if Bailey had done a little digging, he would have learned that pro lifers and others on the right have coalesced with disability rights leaders and others on the left to oppose futile care theory wherever it rears its ugly head. Indeed, this strange political bedfellow coalition has stopped the advance of Idaho's S. 1114, a bill that would legalize Texas-style futile care theory.
Meanwhile, Baily exhibits his usual terminal nonjudgmentalism about such moral issues, but notes that the issue of futile care is definitely about money:
Maybe resistance is futile. But then again, maybe not: If we can alert the public to this danger, we may be able to prevent the agenda from sinking into the bedrock of medical ethics and economics.
Critics of Baylor's decision should also bear in mind that it's not as though Habtegiris did not receive medical care. She was admitted to one of the finest hospitals in America, which did treat her illness. We know that she was in intensive care at the hospital for at least 10 days and probably more. A recent study of intensive care using a ventilator calculated the cost at $2,255 to $3,040 per day, so her stay at Baylor cost the hospital at least $22,550. That's $22,550 that someone else's insurance or taxes will have to cover through increased costs....
Perhaps it was wrong for Baylor to pull the plug in this instance, but it is clear that in the real world of limited medical resources that the "authorities," whether private or governmental, will unavoidably be making similar life and death decisions in the future.
Update: I didn't notice that Bailey's article is from 2006. It doesn't change the thrust of the post, but we strive to be accurate. Thanks, and sorry for any inconvenience caused to any SHSer.