Andrea Clarke and Death by Committee

Yesterday the National Review published the story of the imminent killing of Andrea Clarke by St. Luke's, an Episcopalian hospital in Houston Texas. Unlike the Terri Shiavo case, Ms. Clarke is both conscious, and has personally requested that her treatment continue, as have all of the members of her family. A very moving plea was offered by one of Ms. Clarke's sisters as a liberal web site, and her posts can be read here and here. The story is nothing short of incredible... and very, very frightening.

From the story in the National Review:
The bioethics committee at St. Luke's Hospital in Houston, Texas has decreed that Andrea Clarke should die. Indeed, after a closed-door hearing, it ordered all further medical efforts to sustain her life while at St. Luke's to cease. As a consequence, Clarke's life support, required because of a heart condition and bleeding on the brain, is to be removed unilaterally even though she is not unconscious and her family wants treatment to continue.

Andrea Clarke may become an early victim of one of the biggest agendas in bioethics: Futile-care theory, a.k.a., medical futility. The idea behind futile-care theory goes something like this: In order to honor personal autonomy, if a patient refuses life-sustaining treatment, that wish is sacrosanct. But if a patient signed an advance medical directive instructing care to continue — indeed, even if the patient can communicate that he or she wants life-sustaining treatment — it can be withheld anyway if the doctors and/or the ethics committee believes that the quality of the patient's life renders it not worth living...

...Illustrating the level of hardball some hospitals play against patients and families, the Clarke family's lawyer Jerri Ward told me that St. Luke's agreed to pay the $14,806 transportation costs to transfer Clarke to a hospital in Illinois — more than 1,000 miles away — if the decision to transfer is made on Thursday (4/27). If the family doesn't decide until Friday, the hospital will pay only one-half of the cost of transportation. Thereafter, it would pay nothing.
So now we have moved from killing people who cannot speak out to defend themselves (as in the case of abortion, as well as the killing of the severely disabled), but even those that have expressed, and continue to express, the wish to live, all with the support of their family.

As her sister tells us in her post of April 25:

You're fighting for your life. But the insurance company is still paying and getting mean about it. They start pressuring the hospital, which starts pressuring the doctor. The doctor had a patient who he could pull from the arms of death with surgery and he almost did it, but then these complications occurred. Things are not looking that rosy anymore. Pressure is mounting from the insurance company.

The doctor, caving to pressure from the hospital, which caved in to pressure from the insurance company, finally gets with the family to ask them for permission to pull the plug. But the family talked to you and you didn't want to give up the fight.

The doctor convenes a meeting with other doctors and they decide to medicate you into unconsciousness so that you can't say what you want anymore. Once they do that, they have another meeting, with other doctors and make the decision that they can unplug you, with or without your or your family's permission.

These people, the insurance company that you gave your money to, in the expectation that they would pay for your medical bills; the doctor, who you trusted in and believed in, to have your best interests at heart--these are the people who are bringing about your death, just when you are fighting for your life the hardest you've ever had to fight.

Isn't that one heck of a deal, guys? These are the people whose hands you put your life into and they are going to kill you. That's the Texas Futile Care Law. And my sister is going to die because of it.
I could find nothing on this story on, or even, though it has been spreading like wild fire on the Internet. I am astonished at the lack of coverage by major media outlets, especially since this story answers all of the objections raised by those who said that Terri Shiavo needed to die. This woman can express her current wishes to live, has done so in a signed document, and her family is fighting desperately, and unanimously to keep her alive.

The Houston Chronicle reported this morning that Ms. Clarke would be moved to Chicago, but today reports that the move will not take place. From that story:

...In any case, on Tuesday (May 2), the hospital has a meeting scheduled about Andrea and the one sliver of good news is that the family says they have a doctor with privileges at St. Luke's who is willing to go in and argue that Melanie is not medically futile. Whether that will make a difference is impossible to say at this point.

The bottom line here is that according to Andrea Clark's family, St. Luke's has not lived up to their end of the bargain and has only agreed in writing to extend Andrea's life one day beyond the old deadline of Sunday (May 7).
Time is short.

To contact St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital:
St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital
6720 Bertner Ave.,
Houston, TX 77030
PH: 832-355-1000


BK said…
This is truly a frightening story. I find it hard to believe that we can let bureaucracy so control our decisions that it could come down to killing an innocent woman who wants to live because of our inability to see reality.

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