Sunday, 15 July 2007

'Ethics' in End of Life Care

I am new to the blog here, thanks so much for having me. I work as a geriatrician for a large hospital system in eastern Pennsylvania and am an associate professor of medicine at Penn State Medical School. I work part-time, meaning 35 hours a week, vs full time 70+ when I was in solo private practice. I am also a musician and have been performing acoustic music for most of my life. I have my own blog at Crossed The Tiber.
I had been an evangelical Christian for the past 33 years having left the Catholic Church as a young teenager not knowing who I was leaving. (Jesus in the Eucharist) I am in daily wonder of the beauty of Catholicism and in particular the wonderful tools Holy Mother Church equips us with to live out the gospel in our professional and personal lives. Regarding ethics and making end of life decisions as an evangelical physician, I flew by the seat of my pants adopting the "quality of life" mantra that had been shoved down our throats since medical school. Through the medical ethics of the Church, God is teaching me that life itself is "a good" because He has created it and quality has nothing to do with the decisions when caring for people at the end of life. 60 years ago, the Nazis were very big on the *quality of life* paradigm and started exterminating the retarded, crippled and disabled of their own race which opened the door for the final solution. My first post on this blog deals with the palliative care committees which are springing up in many hospitals including my own. Initially it seems like a positive idea, trying to guide the appropriateness of care, but in my experience they have acted as a unwelcome force to remove basic care from patients who are deemed "low quality of life."

The "futile care theory" is spawning the creation of "ethics" committees in hospitals which may be more accurately called "Auschwitz Welcome Wagons." When the doctors perceive that the patient's quality of life is poor they now consult these "Welcome Wagons" to badger the families into relenting and letting them stop care. I understand the need to stop aggressive measures when death is imminent and the treatment is over-burdensome, however, I have seen fluids and feedings stopped because a person with dementia was judged to not "measure up," to use Dr. Kevorkian's terminology.Once we start killing life at the beginning, it becomes so much easier to hasten death at the end.Germany still has the graveyards where the elderly and disabled were interred after being euthanized. Let's face it, elderly and embryos don't look good in two piece bathing suits nor do they contribute to the GNP. So where's the quality there? God have mercy on us. Lord Jesus, Give us understanding of the inviolability of life.

1 comment:

Modern Catholic Mom said...

Hi- I'm not sure how often you check this blog but I just wanted to say thank you. My husband is a second year resident and we are just beginning to discuss end of life issues. I would love to read more on a Catholic physicians thoughts! Thank you for a great post.