Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Coming soon to a hospital near you?

In the UK a mother and father are fighting a legal battle with their local hospital to force it to continue to care for their daughter. At issue is whether or not her life is one that is worth living.

For those that see parallels to the Schiavo case here the US not too long ago (as gross a miscarriage of justice as that was), there are some significant differences. Mrs Schiavo's husband, nominally her guardian (or whatever the correct legal term is) was all in favour of pulling the plug on her. Mrs Schiavo was also in a "vegetative state"; that is to say, she didn't respond to stimuli and would not have survived at all when removed from the hospital. There were many doctors who thought she could still be helped and wished to attempt to do so.

For the girl in the UK, Amber Hartland, she doesn't have to stay in the hospital, she is not vegetative, can communicate, and can see and hear. She's also six years old. Her parents (who do still have legal custody) wish her to live. The issue here is that because the doctors at the hospital think her life isn't worth living, they don't want to treat her when she is brought to them for help.

As if this wasn't bad enough, they have the effrontery to claim their whole motivation is "to provide the best possible patient care." That's right, the best care for a six year-old girl who enjoys her life and whose parents love and care for her, is to allow her to die through neglect of her medical condition.

My favourite bit of Newspeak from the hospital is this gem. After claiming that they always have and will have Amber's best interests at heart, he goes on to say that as a result "[W]e are now asking the courts to decide on the best course of action for Amber's future care."

Translated: "Because your parents love you too much to let you die, we're going to get a judge to force them."

Though levity at such a time may seem out of place, I do think that black humour often allows people to see such things clearly. So I will quote Mr Burns from The Simpsons. "This man is costing my health plan $5,000 a day! I demand that he die with dignity!"

It's a Brave New World, neighbors.