Another ‘miracle recovery’

Time is a gift. Especially in a hospital urgent care setting where final determinations are made in more haste these days.

So another story emerges…

Aaron Denham was lying motionless in his hospital bed after suffering a broken neck, smashed pelvis and punctured lung.

Doctors were within hours of turning off the 22-year-old carpenter’s life support machine.

But now, just a few months later, he is making a rapid recovery and can even walk unaided.

The first sign that talk of Aaron’s funeral was premature was when his hand flipped over at Southampton General Hospital. His mum, Deborah, ran from the intensive care unit in disbelief as the unexpected movement sparked dreams that he may survive the ordeal.

She had been preparing for the worst – even beginning the heart-breaking task of choosing music for the funeral with his sister Leanne.

What a dreadful scenario.

But Aaron, from Fair Oak, near Southampton, Hants, has done more than just survive. And despite initial fears he would be paralysed for life he is now on the road to recovery.

Doctors described Aaron’s turn-around as “miraculous”.

Note in the story that doctors seemed to give it just hours, determing that if there were no sign of recovery in that short time, they would have to switch off life support. Thankfully, in this case the tunraround happened within that time. The medical ethics clash is, in part, over the unaffordability of the gift of time in health care. I understand the arguments. I just rejoice that cases like this still prove human truths beyond the calculations of medical science.

Deny conscience and redefine ethics

And still call it health care?

Yes, in many places. Start with Sweden.

The Swedish parliament has overwhelmingly passed an order instructing Swedish politicians at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to fight against the rights of doctors to refuse to participate in abortions.

Read that again. The Swedish parliament overwhelmingly voted to deny doctors their fundamental conscience rights to practice moral medicine.

The Riksdag passed a resolution, by a vote of 271 to 20, to condemn an October 2010 PACE document supporting conscience rights for doctors.

This is surreal. But it’s really happening.

John Smeaton, head of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: “Sweden’s vote today shows the lengths to which the supporters of abortion are prepared to go to promote the killing of unborn children. There are no international conventions which recognise a right to abortion, whereas conscientious objection is a basic principle of international human rights law.”

This is a new world, and it’s not so brave. It’s seeming more like Wonderland all the time.

In Britain, there’s this:

A survey conducted recently of disabled people in Britain, commissioned by the disability group Scope, found that 70 percent are “concerned about pressure being placed on other disabled people to end their lives prematurely” “if there were a change in the law on assisted suicide.” More than a third were worried they would personally experience such pressure…

“Disabled people are already worried about people assuming their life isn’t worth living or seeing them as a burden, and are genuinely concerned that a change in the law could increase pressure on them to end their life.”

‘Life unworthy of life’ – or lebensunwerten Lebens – as Princeton Professor Robert George often speaks of, whether talking about abortion, euthanasia, Terri Schiavo and the cognitively impaired, or any group marginalized by a more powerful group.

And somehow, powerful groups are increasingly better-positioned to marginalize other human beings they consider unworthy of health care resources by a new calculus and tortured logic. Such as…ethics committees. Or some ethics committees in some places.

Piecing together the clinical picture of a complex patient is difficult enough. Add to the mix the patient’s value system, that of the family and those of various healthcare providers, and a case that might involve difficult decisions becomes even more daunting. That’s where an in-house ethics committee can step in.

That actually sets up a chilling premise.

Let’s jump to the section sub-headed ‘Common Conflicts.’

Patients and their healthcare providers frequently weigh the value of additional cancer-focused treatment versus comfort care only, as well as provision of other care such as dialysis, and artificial nutrition and hydration.

Stop right there. That’s a manufactured term, a misnomer. It was only in recent years that giving a patient basic food and water got labeled ‘artificial’ or ‘extraordinary’ care. For the very tendentious purpose of disqualifying it as basic and routine care.

Advance directives and appropriateness of a DNR order also fall under the goals-of-care umbrella, McCabe says.

As bioethics nurse Nancy Valko said on my radio show, advance directives were originally devised as a tool to facilitate the cause of euthanasia. Terri Schiavo was starved and dehydrated to death allegedly because she didn’t want any extraordinary measures to be applied to her care if ever she were to be in an impaired state. Which is far down the dark rabbit hole…but that’s another story for another time.

This is supposed to be about respecting choices, and advance directives are supposed to say what a patient doesn’t want done if they wind up impaired or in need of ‘extraordinary care’, and by redefining extraordinary care, pulling treatment can be ‘justified’ as patient choice.

However, choice falls apart when it doesn’t fit the scheme of withholding treatment or protecting life. Look at the end of this article:

Nurses also should understand their own value systems and set them aside when needed, because other considerations in an ethics case may trump personal beliefs.

Valko replies:

Conscience rights are not an optional ‘personal value system’ that can just be ‘set aside when needed.’ Conscience rights are a crucial protection against the ‘whatever is legal (or can be legalized) is ethical’ mentality that is overwhelming medical ethics.

Dr. George reminds anyone who will listen:

Since the life of every human being has inherent worth and dignity, there is no valid category of lebensunwerten Lebens. Any society that supposes that there is such a category has deeply morally compromised itself. As Leon Kass recently reminded us in a powerful address at the Holocaust Museum, it was supposedly enlightened and progressive German academics and medical people who put their nation on the road to shame more than a decade before the Nazis rose to power by promoting a doctrine of eugenics based precisely on the proposition that the lives of some human beings…are unworthy of life.

The new medical ethics are the old eugenics. And they’re not ethical, no matter what some committee decides.