John Hawkins at Right Wing News has a heart wrenching story posted at Democratic Underground about Andrea Clarke whose doctors want to withhold treatment and allow her to die even though she is capable of communicating; however, she’s been medicated into unconsciousness.
Here’s part of Melanie’s post:
The hospital ethics committee met the day before yesterday and concluded that Andrea’s treatment (respirator and dialysis) should be discontinued. We have ten days to move her from that hospital or they will “pull the plug” and let Andrea die. Andrea, until a few days ago, when the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness, was fully able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until she dies naturally. We have learned that this is part of the process, when hospitals decided to declare the “medical futility” of continueing treatment for a patient. But, this is not a Terry Schiavo case; not anything like it. Andrea, when she is not medicated into unconsciousness (and even when she is, and the medication has worn off to some degree) is aware and cognizant. She has suffered no brain damage to the parts of her brain responsible for thought and reason, or speech. She has only suffered loss of some motor control. The reason that the physician gave to medicate her so much is that she is suffering from intractable pain in the sacral region (in other words, she has a bedsore that causes her pain). This is not reason enough, in our books, and we are trying, as we speak, to get Andrea’s medication lowered so that she can speak to us.
There is also some disagreement as to whether Andrea is really in that much pain, as well. When she is not medicated to this degree, and she sees her son, Charles, she smiles. She also mouths words (Andrea is very vocal, normally, even with a trach, and asks for food, etc., when she is not medicated to the gills). Once again, this is not like the Shiavo case, where there was brain death. Andrea has voiced her wishes, over and over again, and if she were not on so much pain medication, she would voice them again.
Houston hospitals have a policy in that once the medical treatment of a patient has been deemed “medically futile” no other hospital in the area will accept transfer of that patient to their facility. This means that the patient, who is usually in a very delicate condition anyway, has to be transported over a long distance, in order to receive care.
We received notice of the ethics committee decision the day before yesterday and we are organizing a protest to take place tomorrow, at 2-2:30pm outside St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Our family members number four and we will all be there, but we need more people. Please help us.
This protest is very likely to be filmed and get news coverage.
For those of you who will reply to this post with more questions, please see my other posts on this topic. I have done my best to answer all of your questions, but as you can imagine, my mind is not working as efficiently as it should, because I am upset. I assure you this is real; this is happening, and in Texas, medical professionals have the right, under the Futile Care Law, to discontinue life saving treatment, under these circumstances, even while the patient and the family is protesting that action. If you need more information, please see my other posts on this topic. For now, we need help, not questions or suggestions as to further courses of action. We are fighting on all fronts, ie., lawyers, news media, churches, internet, etc. We have left no stone unturned in this battle.
Many, many people, even some medical professionals in Texas, and other areas, don’t know about this law. They have no idea that this can be done, and it is is being done every day in Texas hospitals, but is not covered by the news media. This needs to become common knowledge and this law needs to be overturned, of course, but we are fighting for the life of our sister. We are fighting to see that her wishes about how she lives, and how she dies, are honored. Perhaps these kinds of battles are fought in just this way, one by one, out of love, and this is how the war is won, in the end.
Please help us. Please lend your presence to our fight at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas, located at 6720 Bertner Ave. at 2-2:30pm CST tomorrow (Saturday). If you would like to bring a sign, please do so, because we only have a limited amount. If you don’t, then please just bring yourself.
My name is Melanie Childers and my cell phone number is: 832-221-****. My sister (not the one in the hospital, but the one handling the protest) is Lanore Dixon and her numbers are: (cell) 214-577-**** and 254-874-****. Please do not call us unless you are calling to request some information that I have not posted here. We have our phones glued to our heads, trying to find a hospital that will take Andrea, before her ten days are up at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. I am posting these numbers only to show you that this is not some kind of scam, or a joke or something even more idiotic.
As I’ve said a number of times before, medical bioethicist is simply code for death squad. Andrea needs help. If you live in the Houston area and can help, get Melanie’s phone number on the original post and contact her. Her sister’s life matters.
A note: yes this post came from Democratic Underground, but this issue is bigger than politics. I’d appreciate it if those who are tempted to make a less than civil remark contain themselves. I write this because I’ve seen a few pop up in the comment section of other blogs, and, in the context of this issue, it’s really inappropriate.
Update: Texas Rainmaker has more information about Ms. Clarke’s situation including contact names and numbers if you want to express your feelings about this case.
Update II: John Hawkins has a lot more information on this case. He spoke with Melanie’s attorney, Jeri Ward, and she confirmed the details in Melanie’s post. Jeri also left a comment on John’s site about the case:
“Okay, I can’t stand this anymore. First, we have tried facilities offering every conceivable level of care. She is on a respirator and getting dialysis. There are some nursing homes that offer respirator care and no dialysis and vice versa. The long term acute care facilities see that the hospital says she is “futile” and say they can’t take her because they are there to rehabilitate and send patients to a lower continuum of care. Other hospitals rely on the “futility” diagnosis. A provider won’t take a patient just on the say so of the family–they talk to the hospital. The hospital believes she is futile. It’s a catch-22.
The law sets ethics committees up as quasi-judicial entities that have no other oversight. There is no effective or fast way to dispute the decision of “futility”.
The law provides only 10 days to find another place and to go to court to request more time. In court, you have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a reasonable expectation of transfer. So for ten days you try to transfer or get evidence that somebody will take her.
I will have to challenge the entire law–that is a huge undertaking and ten days is not enough time to do it in.
And, yes, they will pull the plug on the 10th day.”
John also reports that a local news station has reported on the story.
Others who are outraged: