[Paleopsych] CHE: A Health-Law Expert Looks at the Terry Schiavo Case
checker at panix.com
Thu Apr 7 16:51:10 UTC 2005
A Health-Law Expert Looks at the Terry Schiavo Case
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.4.8
By PETER MONAGHAN
George J. Annas, professor of health law at Boston University's School
of Public Health
The right of competent patients or their designees to refuse unwanted
medical treatment was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, but
Florida lawmakers nevertheless passed a bill ordering the continuation
of Terri Schiavo's life support when her husband tried to remove it.
Florida's Supreme Court found that unconstitutional, but last month
the U.S. Congress passed legislation, signed by President Bush, that
gave the parents of Ms. Schiavo, who had been in a "persistent
vegetative state" for 15 years, the right to seek a new court review.
Several federal judges subsequently ruled that Ms. Schiavo's parents
did not have the right to reinsert her feeding tube.
Mr. Annas's article, "'Culture of Life' Politics at the Bedside -- The
Case of Terri Schiavo," will be published in the April 22 edition of
The New England Journal of Medicine and is now available online.
Q. Is the medical community troubled, frustrated, angered by what has
A. All of those things. It's unprecedented meddling in medical
decision making by Congress. And the only hope is that Congress will
learn from this never to do it again.
Q. Will it?
A. Only if the public react as they seem to be reacting. The
overwhelming majority in the polls have said that they don't believe
that Congress should be involved in this kind of decision. ...
Congress misread the public. ... An overwhelming majority believe that
the Supreme Court did the right thing to say that individuals should
have the right to make these decisions themselves.
Q. There's nothing to stop politicians from grandstanding, is there?
A. That must have been the thinking going in. ... Either the feeding
tubes will be put in, and then they can take credit for "saving Terri
Schiavo's life"; or the feeding tubes won't be put in, and they can
argue that the judges are out of touch with the new culture of life
and should be replaced.
Q. These issues may become very expensive, mightn't they?
A. That's definitely true. The law right now is that patients have a
right to refuse any medical treatment, but don't have a right to
demand mistreatment. Put differently, patients would have a right to
choose among reasonable medical alternatives. If there is an
alternative that has no medical benefits for the patient, then
certainly medical-insurance providers -- Medicare, Medicaid -- would
be perfectly justified in saying, "We're not paying for that, we're
only paying for reasonable medical treatments. ..." Is there some
basic medical care that every American should be entitled to? Congress
doesn't want to talk about that, but it's high time they did.
More information about the paleopsych