The Corner

Health Care

Twenty-Seven Euthanasia Killings at Ohio Hospital?

Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s ‘Thanatron,’ often referred in the media as the ‘Death Machine,’ is seen during a press preview for the Sale of the Estate of Jack Kevorkian at the New York Institute of Technology, N.Y., October 27, 2011. (Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS)

A major euthanasia scandal is brewing at a hospital in Ohio, where a doctor and other staff professionals are being investigated for lethally overdosing dying patients. From the Columbus Dispatch story:

Mount Carmel Health System says one of its intensive-care doctors gave “significantly excessive and potentially fatal” doses of pain medication to at least 27 near-death patients between 2015 and 2018.

Dr. William Husel, who had worked for the system since 2013, has been fired, and details of an internal investigation by Mount Carmel have been turned over to authorities, the health system’s top executive said in a statement Monday.

The alleged perpetrator may have thought he was doing the patients a favor by cutting the dying process short:

The families of all patients involved had requested that lifesaving measures be stopped, but the amount of painkiller prescribed was beyond what was needed to provide comfort, said Ed Lamb, president and CEO of the Columbus-based health system.

It is one thing to refuse life-support. Then, if death comes — sometimes it doesn’t — the demise is natural, the person’s “time” as the saying goes. It is quite another to make that happen by ending the patient’s life.

The problem apparently involved more than a lone-wolf killer:

Along with Husel’s firing, 20 employees have been placed on administrative leave, among them pharmacists who were involved with related patient care, and nurses who administered the medication, Mount Carmel executives said. The health system said only one doctor was involved.

If these allegations prove true — innocent until proven guilty — does the euthanasia movement bear some of the blame? Not directly. The acts are the sole responsibility of the perpetrator(s). Moreover, such crimes have happened before legalizing assisted suicide was a dark cloud on the horizon.

Still, I think that the ubiquitous presentation — even celebration — in media and popular culture of dying by overdose as “death with dignity” contributes to a cultural atmosphere around death and serious illness that might lead a disturbed person to feel justified in speeding things up.

This seems particularly so if these deaths involved a conspiracy among hospital personnel or a clear willingness by some staffers to look the other way. What would have given them the idea that administering a mass overdose of fentanyl was in any way acceptable?

I’ll keep an eye on this and report as there are further developments.

Most Popular

Culture

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More