Human Exceptionalism

Obamacare: Nonstory–Bill Does Not Refuse to Pay For Withdrawal of Food and Fluids

A few conservatives are trying to make mistaken hay out of the House bill’s payment of doctors who withhold food and fluids, even though it will not pay to “promote assisted suicide” (the nuances about which I discussed here) in the end of life counseling provision (revised and made better from the original version, as I also discussed here).  From the story:

The health-care bill that cleared the House on Saturday says federal funds cannot be used to “promote” assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing. But Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-La.), who is a surgeon, says the bill does not prohibit the use of federal funds to pay health care providers who provide “end-of-life care” that involves denying food and water to a patient. “H.R. 3962 does not rule out using federal funds to reimburse health providers should they withhold nutrition or hydration,” Boustany spokesman Rick Curtsinger said. “The bill says end-of-life care planning materials may not ‘promote’ assisted suicide, but it leaves this term intentionally vague so the ban might not apply in states with ‘death with dignity’ laws.”

Sigh. Of course they don’t because they are different things.  Indeed, withdrawing tube supplied food and fluids is legal in all fifty states.

Assisted suicide/euthanasia is making someone dead, usually with an overdose of drugs. Withdrawing tube-supplied food and fluids is stopping an unwanted medical intervention, with the cause of death coming from the dehydration due to the underlying medical condition. The issue of food and fluids is very important morally and ethically and anybody familiar with my work knows how adamantly I oppose forcing someone off of basic sustenance based on quality of life judgmentalism. But the issue is distinct from assisted suicide, different arguments apply, and the two should not be confused.  The Congressman is making a huge mistake–both factually and from a public advocacy perspective–in confusing the two.  In fact, he helps Obamacare by so doing.

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