Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What About That Advance Directive?

Ann Woolner writes for Bloomberg today that while you may fill out that advance directive (living will), don't expect your hospital to honor it.

It's a warning that Compassion & Choices, The MergerWatch Project and others (including myself) have been giving for some time. I'm glad to see it gaining voice.

An excerpt from the article:

The conflict between patient and medical personnel speaks to a larger health-care issue that reaches beyond Catholic institutions.

The notion is growing that the institutional or individual conscience of a health professional trumps a patient’s wishes when they conflict, or at least makes them more difficult to carry out.

Health professionals have been winning ever-stronger language in state and federal laws that forbid discrimination against them if their moral or religious beliefs prevent them from assisting or performing abortion or prescribing birth control. You will find some version of it in health-care bills Congress is considering.

And while in most cases of conflict arrangements are made to transfer patients to health-care providers and professionals who will comply with their wishes, that isn’t always possible.

Critical Decisions

This tugs at a sacred tenet of American health care: that an informed and competent patient should be allowed to make critical decisions over his own body, even in advance.

Increasingly, the patient’s moral and religious convictions are taking a back seat to the beliefs of people charged with caring for their health.

So it was with the Bishops Conference, which ditched its more ambiguous stance to adopt principles taught by Pope John Paul II.

Catholic hospitals can still follow patient directives that refuse other sorts of medical treatments. The more difficult question was whether food and water are medical treatments and therefore morally optional. And what if the patient could exist for years in a vegetative state?

Or was it something so essential to a person’s humanity that it must be given to affirm the value of human life, indefinitely? Would it be euthanasia to refrain from tubing?

It would, the bishops announced.

“We believe we are upholding the dignity and value of every human life,” Weinandy said in a telephone interview.

And yet, there are others who believe their dignity requires health-care providers to abide by their wishes to keep feeding tubes out of their bodies if they have no hope of ever resuming consciousness.

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Blogger Susan said...

Very scary. Between the catholic church and Sarah Palin and her death panel claims, individual rights, regarding end of life decisions, have taken several giant steps backwards - and we hadn't made that much progress to begin with.

December 9, 2009 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger Ann Neumann said...

Unfortunatley, so true, Susan. Thanks for reading.

December 9, 2009 at 7:18 AM  

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