The Houston Chronicle reports on the resolution reached between St. Luke’s Hospital and the family of Andrea Clark. A hospital in Chicago has agreed to accept her. As I reported in the update to this case yesterday, the family received the offer from the Chicago hospital yesterday. If the family agreed to move her yesterday, St. Luke’s would pay the transportation costs. If they waited until today St. Luke’s would pay half. If they waited until tomorrow or later, they would pay none of the costs. So while St. Luke’s is pointing out how generous they are to pay these costs, it should be noted that this is just a financial decision for them. It is probably cheaper for them to pay the transportation costs than it is to keep her in the hospital through Sunday when they planned to remove her from life support. Their declining financial contribution to the transportation costs supports this.
Significant points from the Houston Chronicle article include a quote from the letter written by the head of the St. Luke’s ethics committee, Dr. Robert J. Carpenter, Jr.
The conflict erupted April 19, when Dr. Robert Carpenter Jr., chairman of St. Luke's ethics committee, wrote Ward and Dixon to say that the committee had unanimously agreed with Clark's attending physician that "the life-sustaining treatment currently being provided to your sister is inappropriate and should be discontinued."
Although St. Luke's officials said federal confidentiality laws prevent them from talking about the case, the letter stated that Clark was "experiencing substantial pain and suffering."
This indicates the decision was made because the ethics committee made the decision that Andrea’s life is not worth living. In truth, that is not their decision to make. That is Andrea’s call.
Fortunately, there is a move afoot to reform this law. Texas health care officials and lobbyists from both sides of the issue are meeting in Austin with the hope of providing recommendations to the 2007 Legislature. The Houston Chronicle reports this statement from Dr. William Winslade.
Dr. William Winslade, a prominent bioethicist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said the reforms should include a more impartial process.
"One problem with the law is that it gives all the bargaining power to the hospital and doctors," Winslade said. "I think it would be better if an external mediator looked at cases. I'm sympathetic to hospitals on these issues, but I've talked to too many families who feel browbeaten and without recourse."
There is no doubt that St. Luke’s was feeling the pressure of all those who wrote, called, and emailed concerning this case. Fortunately, it is becoming harder for those who do not recognize the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death to operate in secret.
A wonderful reference book is William May's Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life. You can purchase it from the link in the left sidebar.