Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Catholic Hospitals and Nuns Promoting Futile Care Policies?

One of the euphemisms for euthanasia is terminating "futile care."  In other words, medical professionals make a decision that providing further care to a patient would be "futile", thereby giving the institution the right to remove such care.  Wesley Smith, in his always excellent blog "Second Hand Smoke", describes how in Texas a law was adopted permitting hospitals to refuse life sustaining care if the hospital determined, in its own discretion, that the care would be futile.  Unfortunately, the Texas Catholic Conference , under the influence of the Texas Catholic Hospital Association, joined in opposing the repeal of this legislation.

The Catholic Hospital Association, the same group that gave cover to Catholic politicians in voting for Obamacare, has also strongly promoted futile care policy, that would give hospitals rather than families and individuals the right to determine when care would be futile.

Now, the New Jersey Supreme Court has a case before it that may establish futile care policy in that state.  And who has written an op-ed supporting a hospital's right to refuse care?  Sister Patricia Codey of the Catholic Healthcare Partnership of New Jersey.

As Smith puts it, futile care theory and health care rationing are the evil stepsisters of euthanasia.  Rather than viewing the promotion of life as a good in itself, the futile care promoters take the following position:
The question our society must confront is: Should health care professionals be required to use technology to prolong a dying patient’s life when those interventions violate longstanding medical ethics and standards, while providing no relief or benefit to the patient?  (Sister Patricia Codey in her Op-ed)
 It's a bizarre perspective that places no value on prolonging life as a good in itself.  There are many procedures that keep a person alive without necessarily providing "relief."  Should that be the operative standard?  And whose definition of relief applies here?  Is there no concern that putting life and death decisions into the hands of profit making institutions will  present a huge conflict of interest?  And, why is the hospital in a better position to determine whether care should be provided as opposed to the family of the patient or the designated medical proxy?

We are already on the slippery slope to denying life sustaining care based on economics.  It is unfortunate that Catholic health care providers are helping to push us further down the hill.

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