Human Exceptionalism

Andrea Clark Case Needs More Attention

The denouement of the Andrea Clark case–a desperately ill woman forced to move 1000 miles just to receive the care she wants to stay alive–has been insufficiently covered by Texas media, although this is pretty good story. The people of Texas have a big problem with their futile care law, and the media need to begin covering it in earnest.

Of course, I have no doubt that it will eventually be spun to make those who want to protect people like Andrea Clark to be interloping vitalists who want people to be tethered to machines forever, with the resulting conclusion that proper medical decision making should be left to the experts. This approach will simply forget that the earlier spin on end of life issues was that no one has the right to gainsay intimate family decision making about life supporting care. Such breathtaking hypocrisy has actually already begun, most notably a few years ago in an editorial in the Des Moines Register during a brief futile care dust up in Iowa.

We’ll see how this issue unfolds. Meanwhile, it is time for federal hearings on the nature and scope of the medical futility problem and some federal and state remedies to prevent the values of bioethics from being imposed on the lives of the sick and disabled.

The issue of medical futility is too important to be decided by the few behind closed doors. This entire subject needs to be aired in public democratic debate.