Human Exceptionalism

Dehydration of a Conscious Patient in Florida Reported as No Big Deal by St. Petersburg Times

For more than ten years I have been telling anyone who will listen that unquestionably conscious cognitively disabled patients are being denied sustenance in every state in this country–so long as no family member objects (and eventually, if futile care theory takes hold, it will be even if they do). Here’s the latest proof: A young man was catastrophically injured by a drug overdose. For years his parents kept vigil, and then decided to transfer him to the hospice in which Terri Schiavo died, which removed his feeding tube. But he wasn’t unconscious. From the story:

His brain was severely damaged, and he never spoke again. If his mother pulled his chin, he could mouth “Mama.” If she leaned close, he could kiss her. That “broke my heart,” Sue, 53, said.

For nearly three years, his mother and father did nothing but “work, sleep and spend time with Bradley,” she said. There was a chance his condition would improve. But it didn’t. Infections kept landing him in a hospital. Finally, his family transferred him to the Hospice of Florida Suncoast, where Terri Schiavo died.

They removed his feeding tube, and his mother lay in bed beside him. He died July 2.

It is my understanding that a patient is supposed to be PVS in Florida before a tube can be removed. But never mind. That law isn’t really designed to protect, but give false assurance.

I think the bigger story here is the blase`, matter-of-fact reporting about the matter by the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg Times–which exhibited profound, nay, nasty, bias against the Schindlers during the Schiavio debacle. Can you imagine the paper’s reaction had a dog or a horse been denied sustenance?

This is the truth: Once we decided that people who are diagnosed as persistently unconscious could have sustenance denied based on quality of life, then we stripped all profoundly cognitively disabled people from moral equality. The wall was breached allowing utilitarian bioethical values to come pouring in. Now, virtually anyone who needs a feeding tube and can’t make their own decisions–conscious or not–can and are being denied food and water. What a testimony about the state of the times in which we live.