Futile Care Theory (medical futility) permits strangers–doctors, bioethicists, etc.–to overrule a patient’s advance directive or decisions by family to maintain a patient’s life. Boiled down to its essence, it is a sign over the hospital ICU stating, “We reserve the right to refuse service.”
Texas law explicitly permits futile care. But apparently not Florida’s. A judge recently refused a hospital’s demand to kick an elderly woman out of life support, noting that the proper decision-making authority in this regard should be that of the family. From the Fox4 story:
The woman has been in Cape Coral Hospital since November after being admitted for diarrhea. Last week attorneys with Lee Memorial Health Systems filed papers asking a judge to take her off life support, saying she is brain dead and in a vegetative state. The family argued that she is not, showing a video in court saying she can respond to commands.
Today Lee County judge Michael McHugh decided not to pull the plug. “He went to the statue and he said, ‘No. He wasn’t abusing his duties as health care surrogate and lacking a living will we don’t know what Jane Doe would want to do so he did the right thing,” added Endrizal.
Note the misuse of the term, “brain dead,” which is dead. The patient here is alive and profoundly cognitively impaired. But I digress.
Good for the judge. Deciding whether to continue efficacious life-sustaining treatment is not a medical decision. It is a value judgment that properly belongs with patient/family/surrogate.
Allowing doctors/bioethicists to decide that a wanted life is not worth living would turn the fundamental purpose of medicine on its head. It would empower a technocracy to decide who lives and who dies. It would destroy the weakening trust of the American people in the health care system.
HT: Thaddeas Mason Pope