Edited & Excerpted from a column by Bobby Schindler (brother of Terri Schiavo) @ Newsbusters.org:
We're living through a time when there seems to be something new and alarming in the news every day. Our media cycle is dominated by the dramatic, and one consequence of this is that alarming events can unfold on the state and local level going unnoticed despite their ultimately national consequences.
One such example is before Oregon's state legislature. First introduced in January, an alarming bill, SB 494, would radically change the meaning of healthcare in that state, with the potential for national ripple effects.
SB 494 would put countless medically vulnerable persons at risk of a premature and untimely death, wiping out existing law that mandates food and water access for all patients who can naturally receive nutrition and hydration. In simple terms, patients who are awake, conscious, and aware could nonetheless be denied food and water—even by cup or spoon.
Oregon's SB 494 is radical because it would redefine food and water delivered by such basic means not as “basic and ordinary,” but as a regulated, physician-controlled form of “medical care.”
Indeed, it's important to underscore that this bill is not about food and water delivered by means of “feeding tubes,” but rather basic utensils like spoons. Whether we're sitting at our own breakfast table, or sitting with our mother in a hospital bed, food and water should be considering basic and ordinary.
It likely comes as no surprise to find out who is responsible for Oregon's dangerous bill. Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, recently explained that the most enthusiastic supporter of "regulating" food and water is the health insurance industry.
On a purely financial basis, one understands the motives of insurers who would prefer to avoid any lengthy healthcare obligations. On an ethical and moral basis, however, the decision to fatally deprive food and water from a patient simply due to cost or circumstance is reprehensible.
How did we reach this point? As with the effort to reclassify spoon feeding as medical care, feeding tubes were initially judged by what they provided: essential nutrition and hydration. Yet food and water (by spoon or tube) is no more “artificial life support” for a mom with Alzheimer's than it is for a teenager in need of assistance with two broken arms or a family sitting down for nightly supper.
No official legislative approval or high dose of morphine for persons we starve and dehydrate to death changes the basic facts of the situation.
Those who die specifically from a lack of food and water aren't being “allowed to die,” rather they're being actively killed—deprived of the most basic form of care by their caregivers, their physician, their hospital or insurer, and perhaps all four working in perverse agreement that the best thing for the patient would be to die, prematurely.
Whatever happens with Oregon's odious SB 494, those of us who believe no one should die from a lack of food and water will need to keep speaking publicly on behalf of ethical and moral healthcare.
We'll need to continue speaking out against anyone who wants to prematurely end the lives of patients, from ration-minded governments to for-profit insurers to uncharitable family members.
We can do better, and it starts with a frank acknowledgement of what's actually happening when we deny food and water—whether by tube or spoon or tray—and rectifying our language in law, medicine, and culture.
Moderator: Super Moderators
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