Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Nurse Comments on Terri, and the Brave New World We'll Soon Have

      Holly Lisle, novelist and nurse, blogged about Killing Grandma for Fun and Profit: Florida's Trojan Horse:
1. The plaintiff for the 'victim' can sue for the cessation of extraordinary measures in sustaining life, whether or not the plaintiff stands to profit substantially by the death of the 'victim';
2. The 'victim' never has to have stated in any form a wish not to have extraordinary measures taken to save his or her life;
3. Food and water are defined as extraordinary measures.

Now add in one final goody, and we can have some real fun. These precedents have been established in Florida, the Sunshine State. Three beats. Come on. Think ugly thoughts with me here. The retirement capital of the world? Old people, including well-off old people who bought that house on Long Island for $7000 forty or fifty years ago and sold it for $500,000 last year?

Getting there? Florida is cheek to jowl with old people, who get confused if you take them out of their surroundings, so that all you really need to obtain a power of attorney is to be the closest living relative when Grandma goes into the hospital for an overnight stay, and starts seeing bugs on the wall.

And you know what? No one even has to appoint a lawyer to represent you and your rights personally. The person acting in what he or she decides will be your best interests can have a lawyer, and that lawyer will speak for both of you. So there you go. Who could complain about the fairness of that?

The Trojans won the war, and no one even saw them coming. Pretty good horse they made, huh?

      Well, that drew some responses, the most interesting of which Lisle printed yesterday The Value of a Bed (Warning, Profanity):

I'd like to focus on one that was just left of the middle. Written by a woman who thinks she's very reasonable. Very sensible. Because I found her e-mail the most chilling of all. The basic content was that I was wrong in my assessment of the situation -- that cases like this have been around for ages, that Schiavo is getting standard treatment, and since she's not getting better, she needs to die. Her parents should just move on, because the hospice needs the bed.

Here's an unedited quote.

"Food and water for a person who is cognizant and award of people and surroundings isn't an extraordinary measure. A feeding tube for someone who IS NOT aware of or capable of interacting with their environment and/or other is an extraordinary measure. and also kind of a waste. Once your brain function is gone (and I would love to see something to substantiate that hers wasn't- I don't like the black and white nature this whole thing has taken on) you're not really a person anymore. You're a houseplant, and as you well know as a nurse, the hospices and hospitals need the bed."

. . .

So let's talk about the value of that bed, honey.

I'm a mother, and as a mother, I know the value of a daughter or a son. I am a human being, and I know the value and joy of drawing breath. But most of all, then, now, and forever, I am still a nurse. I fought my battles right on the front fucking lines, in ERs and ICUs and Med-Surg wards. I saw all the shit and piss and vomit you'd ever want to see, wore other people's blood on my skin, celebrated when we won someone back from oblivion, held the hands of the dying and hugged the bereaved who'd lost their dead. I fought. Fought. Life and death, and pain and suffering and grief and hope, and my own anguish when I when I couldn't do anything for the young mother dying of cancer, when I couldn't save the two young children crushed in a dirt cave-in, when I couldn't save the son killed in the car accident. I pumped stomachs and did IVs and jugular sticks and intubated and did CPR. I know life and death intimately. A staff RN is the equivalent of enlisted, a staff sergeant, the person who goes in and gets filthy and does what has to be done because the job matters. I was a working woman -- don't salute me.

And you're going to lecture me on the value of the bed? A mother and a father are losing the daughter they would have paid to save, and you're going to stand with the bean-counters and the corporate cocksuckers who have turned medicine from a calling that men and women pursued because life mattered, because people mattered, into another watch-the-bottom-line, turn-a-profit-for-the-shareholders industry ... and you're going to tell me the BED is the important part of this equation?

"... Once your brain function is gone (and I would love to see something to substantiate that hers wasn't- I don't like the black and white nature this whole thing has taken on) ..."

The writer of that e-mail would love to see something that would substantiate that Terry Schiavo's brain function wasn't gone. Never mind that the medical standard is and always has been that you're alive until proven dead. Because to people like this writer, you're dead unless you can prove you're alive. You're guilty unless you can prove you're innocent. You're dead unless you can stand up and fight for yourself. The weak, the helpless, the mute, have no room in her heart, because they're all costing someone money. And the hospice needs the bed.

      And one day, they'll be coming for us.  Don't say you weren't warned.



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