My first post is about whether or not health care is a right. I think we can all agree that no one wants to see people go without health care when they need it most but this brings us to my second thought. Is ALL health care a right? As everyone freaks out about the end of life discussions in the current health care bill (HR 3200), I have long thought futile care should not be a right and today I have a better understanding of why I think that and it is not about money.
I attended a CEU seminar today at the Methodist Hospital by Dr. Baruch A. Brody, Ph.D. (pictured above), the Director of the Center for Ethics at Baylor College of Medicine. According to Dr. Brody, discussions surrounding medical futility really started when hospitals and physicians wanted to continue care in opposition to the family wishes. Some of these early end of life cases were Quinlan and Cruzan. Now, it is the reverse. I see so many families insisting on having everything done no matter what the outcome or cost (even if they are uninsured). I had always thought I objected to the waste of money and limited resources. But after hearing Dr. Brody speak, I realize that what I was most incensed about was the abuse of my “professional integrity”.
When I say “professional integrity”, I mean that we, as health care professionals, are there to help, not hurt. So many times I see family members hurting patients rather than helping them by insisting that they receive treatments which are futile, for any number of reasons. What we sometimes do to patients who can no longer make their own decisions at the insistence of the family, is plain WRONG!
I will leave you with this question, “Are patients/families entitled to force the Physician/Institution to provide treatment they don’t agree with and is futile?”. But be prepared because if you answer this question No, you must be prepared to defend the hospital/physician when the family runs to the media and courts to get their way.