Thursday, February 21, 2008

It ain't just Delaware, but it is indicative of why we can't have civil arguments in America...

... because we'd rather score points.

One of the blogs in Places That Will Make You Think is Dr. Thad Pope's Medical Futility. Dr. Pope's blog takes a serious, reflective look at the issue of what should happen when the best judgment of medical professionals conflicts with the wishes of family members regarding people in terminal or vegetative cases. Dr. Pope chronicles the cases with care, goes over the details in depth, and lays out the issues. He is not afraid to take an unpopular position if the facts of the case lead him there.

It is not a blog about his ego, or about pushing a specific political agenda, but a blog that asks serious philosophical questions about how we deal with the most profoundly troubling medical issues of our times.

So it is downright aggravating to watch somebody (in this case, Wesley Smith of Secondhand Smoke) take the usual cheap shot:

I just learned about this blog, "Medical Futility," that tracks futility care cases. The author is a law professor named Thaddeus Pope who, from what I have seen of his entries, clearly supports Futile Care Theory.

In reading his entries, it validates my belief that the twin ideological beliefs behind Futile Care Theory are a feeling of repugnance about the lives of people with profound disabilities and a utilitarian view that maintaining their lives is, therefore, a waste of money.

In this entry, Professor Pope reports that medical students apparently believe it is wrong to sustain the lives of patients diagnosed with PVS. He doesn't comment, but based on the next entry, he no doubt approves.

Professor Pope seems to support cutting off all patients' with profound cognitive disabilities--meaning feeding tubes for those who need no other interventions--because of the cost of their care: [quoting from my $6b post]

Never mind that such expert calculations were part of a litigation in which the plaintiff's lawyer is duty bound to make the damages appear as high as possible. The point is that if futilitarians get their way, and if PVS is deemed a condition for which it is inappropriate to provide sustenance, we are looking at the mass dehydration of tens of thousands of patients against their families' desires, and perhaps against their own advance directives. Is the country really ready for that?

If that prospect ever became an imminent reality, I have no doubt that we wouldn't resort to mass dehydration to rid us of these useless eaters, but instead would opt for the lethal injection as more humane. Cheaper too. Now, let's see. Dehydration takes 12-14 days. The cost of the care for those days for all of the patients would amount to the tens of millions. Yup. Inject them. We have better uses for that money.


In vain did Dr Pope point out:

You write: "Professor Pope seems to support cutting off all patients with profound cognitive disabilities." This is most certainly NOT my position. Nothing in my blogs or law review articles suggests that I espouse such a position. I support "cutting off" ONLY those patients who are brain dead or in a PVS. Even highly distinguished disability scholars and advocates (e.g. Adrienne Asch) except PVS patients from the rest of the physically and mentally disabled.


Because his opponent is not interested in meaningful discussion, but in throwing darts:

Be that as it may: You certainly do advocate the mass dehydration of 25,000 patients you identifed as PVS on your blog site. That seems inescapable to me. And it is abhorent.


This is, again, a massive distortion of Dr Pope's position.

I know that few of my readers are going to wade through technical medical jargon and the legalese that Dr Pope examines in these cases. Yet you've all seen the phenomenon: When you can't argue the substance, lampoon the position and attack the motives of your opponent.

We see it in Delaware politics--and in Delaware blogs--every day.

And beyond the momentary spasm of pleasure resulting from this sort of mental masturbation, where does it get us?

I'll tell you where: it gets us into a society wherein fewer and fewer people are going to be willing, like Dr Thad Pope, to tackle the serious philosophical and policy questions of our day, because it's not worth the damn trouble to put up with character assassination.

1 comment:

Shirley Vandever said...

Merit-Bound Alley shares your sentiments (but says it in a slightly different way):

http://www.meritboundalley.net/2008/02/21/anger/