Thursday, February 17, 2005

Euthanasia in Massachusetts....
From National Review Online and The Boston Globe:Hospital plans to remove patient from life support despite wishes of family:
Massachusetts General Hospital said it plans to remove a 79-year-old patient from life support next week, against the wishes of the woman's family and despite a court ruling that said her daughter had the right to decide when to pull the plug.

Barbara Howe has advanced-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, an incurable and degenerative muscle disease. She has been in a hospital bed on a ventilator since 1997. She cannot speak and can barely move, but remains mentally alert, her daughter, Carol Carvitt, told the Boston Herald.

"Her face lights up when you talk to her," Carvitt said. "I visit her four times a week, and my sister visits her every single day. You can see the eye move back and forth and her mouth starts moving."

MGH doctors wanted to remove Howe from her breathing machine last year because they said she was suffering and would not want to be kept alive. But a Probate and Family Care judge ruled that Carvitt should be allowed to determine her mother's future care.

"I evaluate every day what is in her best interest," Carvitt said.

Dr. Britain Nicholson, the hospital's chief medical officer, said on Wednesday that he ordered Howe taken off life support next Wednesday because her condition has worsened.

"Our hospital's position is Mrs. Howe's condition has continued to deteriorate to the point that it needed to be readdressed," and that it is "in Mrs. Howe's best interest to discontinue life support."

Nicholson informed Carvitt of the hospital's position with a phone call and a letter earlier this month.

"I'm devastated and I'm angry," Carvitt said. "Devastated because they're trying to terminate my mother's life. And angry because they're violating a court order."

The probate judge last week declined to issue a restraining order against the hospital, but Carvitt's lawyer, Gary Zalkin, said the judge left open the option for them to renew their motion for a restraining order after receiving additional information from the hospital.
No Terry Schiavo-type family dispute here, the family seems to be united in this. Dr. Nicholson does not dispute (in the article) that Mrs. Howe is unresponsive.
I have no problem with the withholding of aggressive or invasive therapies to patients that would not benefit from them or change the eventual outcome, despite family wishes I also believe that families can and should make decisions about the withdrawal of care.
Has the Groningen Protocol" found a home in the U.S.?
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