Human Exceptionalism

Betsy Gallardo: Starved/Dehydrated to Death for Spitting on a Cop While HIV+?

My headline is too provocative, but it is the best I can do considering the different nuances of this case.  So please be patient.

The political Left is making great hay out of a tragic story of the pending death in Florida of a young woman named Betsy Gallardo.  Betsy is dying of cancer in prison after being convicted of battery on a police officer for spitting on him while knowingly HIV+. From the story:

An Indiana woman is fighting with the state of Florida to get her dying, HIV-positive daughter released from the Broward Correctional Facility. However, Jessica Bussert says the state is refusing to release her 27-year-old daughter Betsie Gallardo and also is withholding intravenous nutritional support. “A person in the prison medical system told me that the reason that they hadn’t started TTN (nutritional treatment) is because the forgone conclusion was that she was going to die and it would prolong her suffering. It didn’t seem she was suffering to me when I saw her the other day,” said Bussert in a phone interview. “I bet she would like another day to live.” Gallardo was convicted in 2008 of battery on an officer and resisting arrest. Her crime, according to a letter Bussert sent to the Indianan based LGBT blog Bilerico, was that she is HIV-positive and spit on a police officer during a traffic accident investigation

The Left is driving this story–and good on them.  But too much of their energy is being spent bemoaning the sentence she received and the ill treatment of HIV+ defendants generally.  This is certainly an important issue–albeit beyond our scope here–but it is irrelevant at this point to what is best for Betsy now.  The key question is the propriety of her care.

There are two important questions that I see in this regard, and then a third.

  • First, with her parents wanting her to receive treatment, I think the prison authorities have to provide support  unless her medical condition is such that withholding nutritional support is medically required. I don’t know the answer to this question.  Apparently Betsy has a bowel obstruction.  But I wouldn’t think that should require dehydration.  So, the question becomes one of medical necessity or value judgment.  If it is the latter, the parents should be heeded.
  • Second: Regardless of the answer to the first question, Betsy is entitled to comfort care.  That means proper medication, but also proper emotional support–including the right to family visits.–which are apparently being denied.

Bottom line: It would seem to me that the state owes her a fiduciary obligation–given her prisoner status–to not just abandon her to death if she wants treatment,and to certainly not isolate her.  The last point makes me wonder: Is the decision that seems to have been made by authorities to be cruel and unmerciful to a dying woman being taken because she was a) from Haiti; b) HIV+; c) convicted for assaulting a cop; and/or d) all of the above?  None of these justify nor excuse treating Betsy inhumanely or less than a fully equal human being of incalculable moral worth.

Finally, is the question of merciful release.  Good gosh!  It’s Christmas.

For anyone wishing to let Florida officials know your opinion, hit the second link above for contact numbers and addresses.

HT: Sarah Foster

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