The Fresno Bee has an extended article on the Janet Rivera case today. Rivera is a profoundly cognitively disabled woman whose husband and family want her to live, but who has been ordered dehydrated by the public guardian, a matter we first discussed here at SHS last week. (I was interviewed for the piece and have a small quote.) Here is the general gist of article. From the story:
That’s a very big deal, it seems to me. Otherwise, as I noted in my earlier post, we move toward medicalized tyranny in which the state or strangers can decide that the time has come for your loved one to die.
Among the questions her situation has raised: Should a government agency be able to overrule family members and withhold life support when the patient’s wishes are unknown?
The Schiavo family has taken an interest in this case. The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation helped find a lawyer to represent the Rivera family, said Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler.Rivera’s situation is more alarming than his sister’s, he said. “We had a family dispute,” he said. “This is a family in agreement.”
More from reporter Barbara Anderson’s story:
Rivera has been comatose for two years following a heart attack. It’s unclear what Rivera’s preferences about life support would be. “We never really talked about life and death things much,” said Rivera’s brother, Michael Dancoff of Berkeley.Experts agree that the county is taking a chance by trying to make an end-of-life decision for Rivera without knowing her wishes.Not if futile care theory takes off. As I have stated repeatedly, choice is just the key that opens the door. The real agenda is that certain people not remain with us due to utilitarian considerations. To wit:
It’s unusual for a conservator to argue for removing life support without evidence that’s what the patient would want, said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and co-chair of the hospital’s ethics committee.
Yeah right...Here’s my part in the story:
“The stewardship of scarce resources does require us to take resources into account,” said Ben Rich, a University of California at Davis bioethics professor. “But it has to be done carefully.
Wesley J. Smith, a Castro Valley attorney who was an adviser to the Schindler family in the Terri Schiavo case, said there is a “potential for tremendous discrimination” if finances are ever taken into consideration in cases such as Rivera’s. “If HMOs did this, people would be screaming,” Smith said. “If we’re going to do it because of public financing, people should be screaming also.”All in all, a very nicely balanced piece of reporting. Well done Ms. Anderson.