Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life And Death Decisions, The Bureaucracy Version

A woman in a vegetative state is being kept alive in an Irish hospital because the State is not sure what is to be done about her.

The State is making a decision on pulling the plug for a woman in a vegetative state. Not the woman's family. The State.

And why does the Irish government hold this power of life and death? Because the woman is pregnant and her unborn, unviable foetus may have some rights under the Irish Constitution but it's not entirely clear. This being a bureaucratic decision, it will take time to sort out the legal technicalities and such, so in the meantime, the woman who is brain dead must be kept artificially alive. Whether her loved ones think that is the best course or not.

It's all there in the eighth amendment. The unborn have a right to life. Sure the mother has a right to life as well, but that doesn't say a thing about her right to be allowed to die, does it? Should a doctor turn off the machine, well, he'd likely be sued by some ardent pro-life organization and nobody wants to wallow in that particular swamp.

So the respirator pumps away and the feeding tube slurps and you might think it would be a mercy to let the poor thing go but this is a bureaucracy. Mercy has not been written into the law.

Brain trauma is seen often enough in traffic accidents or falls. When the Irish Constitution was written, it was not unknown. What has changed is medicine's ability to treat brain trauma and extend the life of the injured. The family of the victim is typically consulted, however, because the ability to extend life may not be desirable if that life is one lacking any quality. In this case, the victim just happened to be in the early stages of pregnancy, and God help us if the medical community did anything that might be considered an abortion. That's breaking the law right there.

The respirator maintains its rhythm to no good end. The woman is essentially dead already. Her body is being preserved as a containment vessel for the developing foetus, too small and undeveloped to be delivered so that the mother can be put to rest.

Her family is seeking legal counsel, to find out what rights they might have in regard to the care of a loved one who was so unfortunate as to fall pregnant before suffering a traumatic brain injury and then even more unfortunate as to be treated successfully.

While the case winds through the courts and government ministers and bureaucrats debate the fine print of the law, an innocent woman and her family is made to suffer.

The bureaucrats are making a life and death decision that should not be theirs to make, let alone consider.

But that is health care in today's Ireland.

Some are calling for a change in the country's highly restrictive abortion laws that have doctors second-guessing treatments, afraid that they might do something illegal and so they do nothing. Women have died because of the dithering.

Too many will not hear of making changes because that just opens the door and the next thing you know women are deciding on their own if they want to continue a pregnancy and they have no right to make such decisions. Neither do their doctors, for that matter.

Health care in today's Ireland. It's a dangerous place to be a woman.

No comments: