The Horrifying Medical Culture into Which the Vermont Legislature Has Injected Assisted Suicide
True Dignity has received yet another compelling personal account of this dangerous and coercive medical culture and the devastation it wreaked on the lives of VT patients and their families even before assisted suicide became legal. One has to set reason aside to ignore the reality that the very same powerful people who act coercively with regard to what their prejudice causes them to define as “overtreatment” of people with disability, the old, and those thought to be terminally ill, will act coercively with regard to assisted suicide.
The events described in this story took place at a hospital and rehab/nursing Home in Vermont. As much as we can without revealing identifying information, we will let the person involved, who was the designated surrogate for her partner, tell the story in her own words, which are italicized and indented. For the partner’s protection, and ours, we are calling the patient, “John Doe”. We have not changed the partner’s capitalization and boldface of words and phrases she wants to emphasize.
Shockingly, such behavior is not actually illegal in Vermont. In fact, the physician did not even have to consult the patient or proxy. All he was legally required to do was recruit another clinician (the resident?!) to join with him in defining resuscitation as futile care by issuing “a certification…that resuscitation would not prevent the imminent death of the patient, should the patient experience cardiac arrest (http://healthvermont.gov/regs/ad/dnr_colst_instructions.pdf). This man lived six weeks more after a Pneumonia type infection so using “imminent” to describe his death does not seem to be justified. This doctor clearly had a point of view that he was determined to impose, and he did not conceal his anger when someone bucked his authority.
The only thing that kept this patient alive after Pneumonia was the strength of will of his partner, who did not care what people in the hospital thought about her, even as, she writes, “Between the Death Advocates at the Hospital and the indifference at the Rehab Center, I DID START TO QUESTION MY OWN AND ALL SANITY.” When everyone else is for death, it’s hard to stand firm on a choice for life, but she did it, admirably.
The real agenda of the promoters of assisted suicide has nothing to do with the “choice” which their promotional ads tell us must be honored at all costs. It is about getting rid of people who need care that is costly and time consuming. “At all costs” is an apt phrase, because patients, who, as this story shows, are already paying the costs that hospitals and the states are cutting everywhere, will lose more and more of their liberties if assisted suicide becomes an ordinary part of end of life care in Vermont.