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December 12, 2006

Update on Judy

Topics: Euthanasia

From our reader Mary:

Judy passed away today, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Judy did nothing without first carefully considering all options. I have to believe that she carefully selected the person who had Power of Attorney with the same care that she approached everything else in her life. At this point I do not see the point of second guessing medical care decisions or the motives of people whom one does not know. By all accounts Judy's cancer was terminal barring a miracle. Somehow, I think she would prefer that her life be a rallying point to defend life rather than a point of division over very difficult healthcare decisions that even the medical community would be divided on which is best course of action. With so many praying for her, we should take the sign that the Lord brought her home on this feast day as a sign that His will not ours that has been done.

Posted by tim at December 12, 2006 7:36 PM

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It's not clear to me that the "water under the bridge" approach here is correct. The fact that this lady had cancer that would ultimately prove terminal does not mean that in fact she died of cancer. As savvy pro-lifers who read and contribute to this blog, I think we need to beware of the mindset according to which, if someone is terminally ill with cancer, we assume that his death cannot be suspicious. Unfortunately, many people _do_ argue this way: "Oh, so-and-so's cancer was terminal absent miracle, so there's no point in talking about whether the hospital treated him wrongly." But people live for years with cancer! A person with cancer can still be medically killed or be a victim of medical malpractice.

The report given concerning this particular patient was that the hospital wrongly administered oxygen, that this was the immediate cause of her going suddenly downhill when she was previously not otherwise imminently dying of her cancer and was in fact doing quite well (eating, talking, doing business from her bed, regaining strength after signing herself out of hospice, and so forth), and that the hospital then gave extremely high doses of pain-killers and mixed them in a very potent way because she was in pain as a result of the faulty administration of oxygen and was being intubated and put on a respirator (itself necessary because of the damage to the lungs by oxygen burning). If the harm to the lungs and/or the high doses of pain killers were the immediate cause of death, this is a clear case of medical malpractice, and all the more so since this lady was a nurse and asked explicitly not to be given a morphine drip but only local injection of morphine. So they acted directly contrary to her verbally-expressed wishes in a way that may have hastened death in a person not otherwise imminently dying. That's pretty serious stuff. Just to say, "Oh, she had cancer, and she wouldn't have wanted us all to fight over this" sounds nice but may be a tacit permission to hospitals to cover over malpractice on terminally ill cancer patients.

Posted by: Lydia [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 14, 2006 4:36 PM