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April 25, 2006

Euthanasia Threatens Andrea Clarke

Topics: Euthanasia

The great state of Texas has apparently adopted euthanasia as a means for controlling its health care costs. I'm told that Andrea Clarke, a woman whose life hangs in the balance, is one of many individuals whose medical treatment is being withdrawn for the express purpose of ending their lives.

Andrea, 54, suffered complications following open heart surgery that left her dependent upon a respirator for survival. Although her motor control faculties were damaged, according to her family, her cognitive abilities were unaffected.

On April 19, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, TX informed Andrea's closest kin that her medical care would be discontinued in 10 days; an ethics committee decided to "pull the plug" in a flagrant act of (passive) euthanasia. Amazingly, the committee included an Episcopalian priest who asserted, "it's wrong to keep Andrea alive, she is suffering," despite having had no contact with her. [as reported by Ree-C Murphey].

Until early last week, Andrea was able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until the point of "natural death". However, "the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness," revealed her sister, Melanie Childers.

In a brief conversation this evening, Melanie explained that before sedation, her sister was very responsive, both recognizing visitors and interacting with them. Although a tracheostomy left her unable to speak, she was able to communicate effectively by mouthing words and sentences.

"When her son comes in she smiles," Melanie explained. "She told [him], 'You need to get married'."

Lanore Dixon, another of Andrea's sisters, told KHOU,

"If their ethics committee makes a decision, it doesn't matter what the patient wants. It doesn't even apparently matter what the patient's condition is, because our sister is not in a coma, she's not brain dead. She's sick, but she's been sick before and she's proven doctors wrong lots of times.
Andrea's family sees her sedation as the hospital preparing them for the inevitable. "It is not easy, we want to say good-bye but she is drugged up," Melanie told me, her voice quivering with emotion.

Last Saturday Andrea's family called for a protest outside St. Luke's Hospital. To their surprise, the demonstration was well attended by families who had previously lost a loved one to the hospital's compulsory euthanasia program.

John Hawkings (RightWingNews) contacted the hospital, asking for their side of the story. Similar to other media outlets, he received the following statement:

"Ms. Andrea Clarke was admitted to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital on November 20, 2005. Due to St. Luke's confidentiality policy regarding patient privacy, it is precluded from commenting on her care unless the family provides written consent to the hospital.

St. Luke's treatment of Ms. Clarke has been and continues to be consistent with its mission of providing ethical, compassionate and quality care to all its patients."

We would certainly like to hear more from St. Luke's Hospital.

Andrea's sister disagrees that the institution is providing ethical and compassionate care:

St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, in my opinion, is heartless and cold, and only concerned about the bottom line. But the insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is also a party to this kind of thing. That's where the pressure needs to be applied. I am sure Blue Cross Blue Shield is suffering no negative publicity in this battle. But they should.

Most people don't know how this system works. And I wouldn't have known, either, had I not been faced with this horrible situation. Poor Andrea, knowing that her health was delicate, bought supplemental insurance policies right and left--most of which do not cover this type of situation at all (she didn't know--she was just doing her best, to protect herself). The sad thing is that Andrea spent large pieces of her limited income in order to avoid just such a situation, and here she is faced with it anyway.

Melanie and the rest of her family do not know what will happen to Andrea, "It's in God's hands," she said. However, they are committed to fight for her life and need the help of others.

The deadline for Andrea Clarke is Sunday, April 30th. Although her attorney, Jerri Ward, is exploring "all legal avenues", state law apparently gives the hospital a surprising advantage over their patients.

In the meantime, Melanie has asked that those concerned about her sister contact the hospital:

    Andrea Clarke is at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, TX. St. Luke's is located at: 6720 Bertner Avenue, Houston, TX. Their phone number is: 832-355-1000. Here's the website, and a general email address


Additional Sources:

Posted by tim at April 25, 2006 12:22 PM

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