Sliding towards euthanasia in Oregon

Many Americans oppose abortion because they reject injustice – particularly when it targets vulnerable, fellow human beings.

You and I would be hard-pressed to find anyone more vulnerable than an innocent preborn child.

However, there is another segment of society whose right to life is being increasingly jeopardized, and there are ways we can – and should – help protect them.

It seems with each passing week another patient who has suffered a serious brain injury is being threatened with or denied the basics of food and water – the result of a healthcare professional deeming his or her life hopeless.

This is a much more serious problem than most people realize.

If you read only one article on this topic, let it be Basic Care, Human Dignity, and Care for Medically Vulnerable Persons, by Bobby Schindler. Bobby is the president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.

Bobby recently became an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of Susan B. Anthony List. In his first article for CLI, he articulately summarizes key moments in history that brought America to the point of ending the lives of patients by denying them food and water. He exposes the alarming margin of error associated with diagnosing a patient of being beyond hope and he notes some subsequent ramifications.

Bobby also directs us to the flickering light at the end of the tunnel that may mean life or death, recovery or languishment, for many thousands of people.

Last year Oregon’s State Senate passed a bill redefining food and water when given by a cup or spoon, as “medical care.” Thankfully it was tabled in the House. Had it passed, patients who were alert and aware but unable to feed themselves may have been denied food and water.

This frightening legislation isn’t a giant leap in logic from the laws in all 50 states that allow patients’ lives to be ended by denying them food and water. Yes, every state.

The term Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) means a complete unawareness of self and environment. It was coined by just to physicians, and it degrades and dehumanizes unresponsive or minimally aware patients, relegating them to the category of grocery produce.

PVS is arbitrary and subjectively applied to patients. In addition, research shows it has been misdiagnosed as much as 48 percent of the time. If that were the case with heart disease there would be an immediate stampede to rectify the situation.

Once a patient is labeled with PVS it’s difficult to undo and they are often denied insurance benefits for rehabilitation when it’s needed the most, their first signs of recovery are often overlooked, or it can lead doctors to persuade families to “let them go” by withdrawing food and water.

The flickering light at the end of the tunnel is this: New medical advancements have allowed doctors to better diagnose brain-injured patients. And the European Task Force on Disorders of Consciousness recommends the medical community abandon PVS and replace it with “unresponsive wakefulness syndrome.” It jettisons the dehumanizing “vegetative” language and infers the possibility of some level of recovery.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, one of the founders of modern neurology, believed that the human brain was “hardwired” and unable to fix itself in the wake of an injury. However, Dr. Joseph J. Fins’ research now suggests the brain has a capability of “rewiring” itself to some degree. Even more is being done to assist this process with adult stem cells.

To help protect you and your family from the potential withdrawal of food and water against your will, please check out our free resources.

No patient should ever be subjected to death by dehydration and starvation. We wouldn’t do that to an animal, so why are we doing it to our own human family?

Brad serves as chairman of the board for the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.

Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 27 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

Life Issues Institute welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.