A culture of death has infiltrated the healthcare system in the United States. As evidence of this, the PHA Monthly has carried articles exposing numerous cases of patients who have been denied wanted medical care in U.S. hospitals. Two-year-old Israel Stinson is one such case.
On April 1, 2016, Israel had an asthma attack and was admitted to a hospital in Sacramento. The next morning, he suffered a cardiac arrest. Staffers revived Israel, but he did not regain consciousness. He was placed on a ventilator and, soon thereafter, declared “brain dead.” Next, he was refused further treatment against his mother’s wishes. Even with many people helping to find another hospital somewhere in the nation that might agree to take Israel, no facility could be found, except one outside the USA.
Through the work of Life Legal Defense Foundation, as well as other organizations and individuals, Israel was airlifted to a hospital in Guatemala where brain scans showed he had active brain waves and did not meet the criteria for “brain death.” There, Israel was provided the medical care and nutrition that he was denied in the U.S.
Because Israel’s insurance company would not pay for his care in another country, Israel had to be transferred back to the U.S., this time to Southern California. Despite Israel’s improved health and evidence that he was not “brain dead,” the new hospital refused to reexamine Israel, would not permit an independent neurologist to examine him, and upheld the earlier “brain death” diagnosis. His family was stunned. Why would the hospital accept him, then ignore the progress he’d shown in Guatemala, and rush to pull the plug? Israel’s parents were in the process of making arrangements to care for their son at home when, despite his mother’s desperate pleas, the hospital withdrew his ventilator, causing him to die on August 25, 2016. Would Israel still be alive, perhaps continuing to make progress toward recovery, if he had received the proper care? His heartbroken mother, Jonee Fonseca, advises all of us, healthcare providers and families alike, “Do not rush to give up.”
The gradual shift from the “sanctity of life” to the “quality of life” as the core principal of medical ethics has had a profound and appalling effect on the quality of medical treatment patients receive as well as on whether or not certain patients are deemed worthy of any treatment at all. A bioethical concept–the “theory of futile care”–has been adopted by many hospitals and has been incorporated into a number of state laws. “Futile care theory” essentially proposes that, when a patient reaches a certain stage of illness, injury, disability or age, life-sustaining treatment may be withheld or withdrawn on the basis of the physician’s perception of the patient’s quality of life, regardless of the patient’s or family’s wishes.
“Futile care” decisions have resulted in thousands of patients in the U.S. being denied treatment against their or their families’ wishes. Many of these patients have died as a result. It is impossible to know which of them might have lived and even recovered if appropriate treatment had been provided to them. For example, consider the case of 12-year-old Zachary.
In 2012, Zachary suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Within 48 hours of arriving at Cook’s Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, the medical staff’s conversation focused on the quality of his life instead of the medical care that would foster healing and recovery. Even though Zachary was seriously injured, his brain stem was not harmed. A week after his injury, the hospital ethics committee began the medical futility process. Zachary’s parents pleaded for the hospital to give him more time to recover. But, on the very day Zachary began to breathe on his own, the attending physician withdrew his food and water. Fortunately, the ten-day countdown (a provision of the Texas law) was stopped when a patient advocate who had been called in by Zachary’s mother informed the hospital’s attorney that they had not followed the law and therefore would not be immune from liability.
After being transferred to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where he received treatment and reconstructive surgery, and then to a rehabilitation facility, Zachary regained his ability to speak, see, and walk, and his full cognitive abilities.
Endowed by Their Creator with the Right to Life
A founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, …”
Quality of life perceptions and life-expectancy predictions must not be allowed to be used to justify depriving vulnerable people of their God-given right to life!