March 22, 2005

Bush ex Machina

I knew it was only a matter of time before we saw Bush do a flip-flop of his own. Amidst the politcal grandstanding of the Terri Schiavo case, where President Bush took a red-eye to attempt some last-minute legislative attempt to save her, word came around that the president held quite the opposite position when serving as Texas Governor in 1999.
In 1999, then-Gov. Bush signed the Advance Directives Act, which lets a patient's surrogate make life-ending decisions on his or her behalf. The measure also allows Texas hospitals to disconnect patients from life-sustaining systems if a physician, in consultation with a hospital bioethics committee, concludes that the patient's condition is hopeless.

Bioethicists familiar with the Texas law said Monday that if the Schiavo case had occurred in Texas, her husband would be the legal decision-maker and, because he and her doctors agreed that she had no hope of recovery, her feeding tube would be disconnected.

While Congress and the White House were considering legislation recently in the Schiavo case, Bush's Texas law faced its first high-profile test. With the permission of a judge, a Houston hospital disconnected a critically ill infant from his breathing tube last week against his mother's wishes after doctors determined that continuing life support would be futile.
Bush's response to this: That there was no inconsistency on this position, that the laws don't affect one another.

Right. In 1999, he signs a bill that allows a spouse to disconnect a loved one from life support, and in 2005, he makes a grand Deus-ex-machina act to try and prevent that same thing from happening. I would at least respect his decision if he admitted to changing his mind, but to deny that he's wavering just shows how in denial the man is.

So if Bush Succeeds in making a law to prevent the same decision-making power of spouses in regards to terminally ill family members, the two acts cancel each other out. So what from the Advance Directives Act are we left with? The frightening prospect that Texas doctors and hospitals can decide to pull the plug if THEY declare a patient hopeless (or unable to pay their bills), but a spouse cannot do the same. Isn't that what we sent Dr. Kevorkian up the river for? Only difference was that in his case, the people actually wanted to die.

So the moral of the story appears to be this: It's wrong for you to take a spouse off life support, out of respect for their quality of life. However, the HMO's reserve the right to kill you off, purely for financial reasons. (Like Tessio in "The Godfather" :"Tell Michael it was only business.")

If anything good comes out of this, there will be a surge in Living Wills in this country, so that people's fate is not left up to politicians.

No comments:

Post a Comment