By Alex Schadenberg
The recent Australian guidelines on withdrawing medical treatment from people in a “unresponsive” state will not only encourage families to withdraw medical treatment from their family members but also to deny them basic care provisions. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23755540-952,00.html
The guidelines will encourage families to withdraw basic care such as tube feeding from their “unresponsive” loved one’s. When tube feeding is withdrawn from a person who is cognitively disabled and appears unresponsive, but who is not otherwise dying or nearing death, then the cause of death will be death by dehydration, or in other-words death by euthanasia by omission.
It should be considered optional to withdraw or withhold medical treatment that is risky, intrusive, destructive, exhausting, painful or repugnant or when the cost outweighs benefit or success, or when the treatment is literally futile.
But, medical care such as the provision of fluids and food by tube should be considered obligatory so long as the patient is physiologically benefitting from the care or until the person is imminently dying.
In order for everyone to be treated as an equal citizen, society needs to recognize the dignity of each human being, even when they: live with permanent physical or cognitive disabilities and unable to effectively communicate with others.
The new Australian guidelines encourage physicians and family members to treat people who are patients in post-coma unresponsiveness (PCU) and a minimally responsive state (MRS) differently than other people.
I think that this is a huge step towards future policies that will include the elimination of people with cognitive disabilities who will already be treated without equality and already viewed as expendable.