Wednesday, November 11, 2009

USCCB Moves to Stop Practice Legal in All 50 States: Removal from ANH.

Wesley J. Smith admits he knows the difference between various kinds of "euthanasia." But only in order to insult a senator and lump Death with Dignity (as legal in Oregon and Washington), removal of artificial life support, and well, pretty much all else into the same "Culture of Death" category.

The major significance of this article (and news today that the USCCB will revise their ethical and religious directives to prevent patients from being removed from artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH)) mirrors recent successful efforts by the USCCB to prevent federal (and private) funding of abortion under the health care reform bill.

There are about 600 Catholic hospitals in the US, operating one out of five beds. Despite the fact that removal from ANH is legal in all 50 states, Catholic hospitals will end the practice. And yes, Catholic hospitals are about 50% funded by the federal government.

A few conservatives are trying to make mistaken hay out of the House bill’s payment of doctors who withhold food and fluids, even though it will not pay to “promote assisted suicide” (the nuances about which I discussed here) in the end of life counseling provision (revised and made better from the original version, as I also discussed here). From the story:

The health-care bill that cleared the House on Saturday says federal funds cannot be used to “promote” assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing. But Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-La.), who is a surgeon, says the bill does not prohibit the use of federal funds to pay health care providers who provide “end-of-life care” that involves denying food and water to a patient. “H.R. 3962 does not rule out using federal funds to reimburse health providers should they withhold nutrition or hydration,” Boustany spokesman Rick Curtsinger said. “The bill says end-of-life care planning materials may not ‘promote’ assisted suicide, but it leaves this term intentionally vague so the ban might not apply in states with ‘death with dignity’ laws.”

Sigh. Of course they don’t because they are different things. Indeed, withdrawing tube supplied food and fluids is legal in all fifty states.

Assisted suicide/euthanasia is making someone dead, usually with an overdose of drugs. Withdrawing tube-supplied food and fluids is stopping an unwanted medical intervention, with the cause of death coming from the dehydration due to the underlying medical condition. The issue of food and fluids is very important morally and ethically and anybody familiar with my work knows how adamantly I oppose forcing someone off of basic sustenance based on quality of life judgmentalism. But the issue is distinct from assisted suicide, different arguments apply, and the two should not be confused. The Congressman is making a huge mistake–both factually and from a public advocacy perspective–in confusing the two. In fact, he helps Obamacare by so doing.

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