Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baby Joseph given a reprieve, re-ignites debate over Obamacare health rationing

The baby at the center of what has become an international flash-fire debate on the right to life and to what extent public authorities (as opposed to individuals and families) should decide who lives and dies and “merits” the graces of the government to receive medical treatment that may prolong their life has received a reprieve and reignited a debate on the risks of health care rationing in modern industrial societies increasingly turning to socialized medicine.

Joseph Maraachli, the son of Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader who originally only wished for their son who suffers from a genetically rare disorder to be given a tracheotomy-- a common medical procedure whereby a breathing tube is inserted to enable breathing by a person who is temporarily unable to breathe through their mouth-- in order to allow him to return home with them and die a peaceful death as his sister who had the same disorder did 7 years ago. (Regarding the tracheotomy itself you'll recall the same procedure was performed on Congresswomen Gabby Giffords after being shot in the head by mentally deranged gunman Jared Loughner in the Tuscon Shootings, see Dubya Dupnik post, Dec. 10, 2010 on this blog).

However, under Canada's social medicine system London Ontario's “Health and Science Center,” a regulated health provider in London Ontario, Canada had refused, claiming the operation would be a "futile" waste of resources on the boy who they claimed was in a terminal “persistent vegetative state.”

Moreover, eager to pull the plug, they went to court in an effort to procure an order to force the removal of all medical assistance from the child resulting in issuance from the London Ontario Superior Court of a court order for the parents to “consent to the removal” of their child's breathing tube. This is where international charitable and right to life organization Priests for Life came in.

PFL began a focused social media effort highlighting such heavy-handed tactics and open contempt of the boy's parents to determine the appropriate treatment for their son and moreover, seemed to force them to violate their consciences by ordering them to “consent” to ending their child's life. (Indeed, such tactics call to mind the tragic Florida case of Terry Schiavo, an American, who, upon expressing intentions to leave her relationship with her husband Michael whom her parents, best friend, and some medical evidence suggested had been abusing her, see here,  and here, mysteriously ended up dead after the suspicious collapse of Ms. Schiavo which was originally assigned to be investigated by homicide detectives got "bumped down" by a police commander who had interestingly donated campaign funds to the Florida judge who ruled over the matter, see here).  Although I realize this may seem a slight digression from the baby Joseph story give me a moment and I'm sure you will see the connection.

The dangers of giving government too much power over health care- The Terri Schiavo and baby Joseph Stories 

  Although widespread media accounts listed the reason for Terri Schiavo's collapse as due to being caused by a "heart attack" brought on by the eating disorder bulemia, not so widespread were the facts of various ongoing state investigations into her husband's alleged abuse which were halted by the court, see here, and the fact there was no way for doctors to conclusively determine the cause of Terri's "heart attack" at the time in light of her husband's absolute control over her medical care and his obstructions of any procedure that could possibly rehabilitate Terri or yield more definitive answers about her sudden collapse.

  Indeed, it was only after her death that an autopsy conducted by Pinellas County medical examiner Jon Thogmartin determined that rather than a heart attack her collapse had been caused by an “external problem outside of the heart causing the heart not to beat,” (see investigative report of the North Country Gazette here).  Moreover, and even more ominously,

       "The autopsy performed in 2005 also definitively ruled out that Terri Schiavo had bulimia as Schiavo has long claimed. The autopsy report states that there was no evidence of bulimia and the assumption of bulimia presented at the medical malpractice trial had simply been accepted and not challenged. The medical examiner said there was absolutely nothing to support the theory of bulimia as presented by Michael’s attorneys. He also ruled out the 15-year fallacy presented by the mainstream media and Michael Schiavo that Terri had sustained a heart attack, saying that her collapse was the result of an “external problem outside of the heart causing the heart not to beat”. He said there was no evidence that she had had any heart problems prior to her collapse and said that the fact she lived 15 years after her resuscitation was testimony to the strength of her heart"- North Country Gazette Feb 5, 2009, see here for article, for results of a more complete and subsequent medical/neurological examination of Ms. Schiavo see here.

  Indeed, the paucity of evidence that Terri suffered from bullimia or any other condition that could have caused a heart attack as she is alleged to have had-- amidst competing suggestions she could have been poisoned-- contrasts sharply with the almost universal concern over Michael Schiavo's near malevolent attitude and conduct in the case, see here.  

  In addition to a former girlfriend of Michael's who plainly stated  under oath that he lied about knowing Terri's end-of-life wishes-- aside from the fact Terri's life was arguably far from "ending"-- and that he only cared mostly about monetary matters, (see here), his possessive and/or possibly abusive nature was attested to by multiple parties in sworn court documents, (see portions of statement of witness Cynthia Shook here, in addition to the sworn statements of at least two others close to the case regarding Mr. Schiavo's callous attitude towards the wife he allegedly "loved" and was legally obligated to protect as her "guardian" here and here).  NOTE: while the purpose of my mention of these things here is not to comprehensively examine all the possible motives, claims and counterclaims of all parties of the Schiavo case, something which would take a much longer discussion, (but see here and here)-- in the end as persuasive as all this is we must admit that we do not and may never know the whole truth regarding this case-- I do believe that in the very least it provides an apt example of the failings of the legal system to protect the rights of the most vulnerable among us and/or always err on the side of caution when it comes to the health-care and due process rights of those unable to speak for themselves.

  Indeed, regardless over the disputed facts and legal outcome in this case, there is little doubt from the record that Terri Schiavo was left in an entirely vulnerable state at the mercy of a husband who, in the most charitable light, had a conflict of interest by virtue of his desire to marry one of the many women he had had affairs with during his marriage to Terri and whose conduct throughout the ordeal suggested a less than pure interest in Terri's welfare, see herehere and here).  (Indeed, he had openly fathered a child with another woman he later married while Terri lay in the hospital, see here and here for details).  And again, while our focus here is on the tragedy of rationing that can occur in such cases vis a vis their relation to the case at hand, we would have been remiss not to mention the Terri Schiavo story for its potential relevance.   

  In short, I detailed the Terri Schiavo story here, as, just in the baby Joseph case, I believe it reveals the dangers of giving anyone-- including a government who in the end could do nothing to insure either a searching examination and/or accounting for all the irregularities in the case OR the right to life of Terri Schiavo-- too much power to decide when to end someone's life and/or cease providing medical care, (often the same thing in critical cases), based on often incomplete or conflicting medical "facts" and for other than altruistic reasons, (i.e., economic). 

 While we leave for another article the general debate on what has become an almost macabre "culture of death" in many states of the Union, it appears as if the baby Joseph case is on its way to a happy (at least as happy as can be) ending.   

Thankfully, with the decision to accept baby Joseph by American and non-profit St. Louis-based Cardinal Glennon Hospital, a children's health organization dedicated to improving the lives of all its patients to the best of its ability, baby Joseph now won't go “quietly into that good night” without giving him every benefit of a medical doubt. (Indeed, let's face it, even doctors don't ALWAYS know why a patient recovers and can't say with certainty whether a person, even a gravely ill one, will live or die; indeed, they have been wrong before, even with those in long term comas, Click here for proof ).

But politically speaking, the case could not have come at a worse time for President Obama and the left wing of the Democratic party who have been engaged in an ongoing public relations campaign to shore up support amongst an increasingly restive American electorate over Obamacare. Indeed public support for repealing this divisive and overarching “health reform” bill has risen to almost 60% in some polls, driven at least in part due to the fears by many that it could result in similar denials and rationing of care in America on a broad scale, (see previous post on this blog “So what's really the problem with Obamacare?”)

Indeed, the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Act, as it's officially called, as well as rising health premiums and cases like Baby Joseph's, has re-invigorated debate over the latter's precise concerns for which former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin was mocked in 2008 for warning of possible “death panels” (an apparently apt characterization coined to warn of the Act's possible unintended effects of stripping individuals and insurance companies alike of the decisions re: who receives necessary health treatment and who doesn't by handing them wholly over to government bureaucrats' who it was feared would make such determinations based solely on cold financial calculations).

This case has also reignited, in our view, a badly needed debate over when (and whether) there is ever an appropriate time for governments or insurance companies to engage in a “balancing” of financial costs v. perceived “quality of life” issues in making life and death medical decisions, (determinations many argue are better left to theologians and families, or at least the various State legislatures which could better represent the values of its citizens by enacting appropriate legislation upon full and thorough consideration of all salient issues through the Democratic process).

Indeed, in addition to the legal and moral questions raised by the Maraachli's experience with socialized medicine, concerns that this monumental shift in American health policy was passed by less than savory means without ANY pro-life or Republican support in Congress and with considerable dissension even in the Democratic House at the time only amplify the concerns with rationing already latent in this legislation, (see “So what's really the problem with Obamacare?” post this blog).

So our satisfaction that at least in baby Maraachli's case he will be given the second opinion (and chance) at life-- with Cardinal Glennon hospital announcing that baby Joseph's tracheotomy will likely be performed this week-- is tempered by the fact that thousands of other "baby joseph's" might not be so lucky. (Indeed, if Obamacare is not repealed stories like this could be become more of a standard occurrence all across this great land).

It is due at least in part to such concerns as well as the enormous increase in the deficit that Obamacare is likely to have in its outyears-- as has occurred with every other federal entitlement program in our nation's history-- that the Republican-controlled House has already voted to repeal this ill-conceived legislation. 

 Accordingly, we urge all concerned citizens to work to insure such health care rationing as we see has happened to Baby Joseph can never happen to all of our citizens by contacting their United State's Senators and demanding they go along with the House and repeal this misguided legislation so real solutions to health care that respects the right to life and dignity of all our citizens can be implemented in its place.   jp

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