Monday, April 04, 2005

 

Culture Of Death: DOA

On March 22nd I commented on a front page story on the SAEN that reported the results of an ABC News poll that were skewed to say the least. The poll asked the following leading and factually incorrect question:
Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years, doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive. Florida courts have sided with the husband and her feeding tube was removed on Friday. What's your opinion on this case - do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo's feeding tube?

The results of the poll suggested that 70% of Americans "considered congressional intervention in the case inappropriate." The SAEN gleefully hammered the Republicans, and Tom DeLay in particular, with these results, but today Zogby International released the results of their own poll on the subject, and needless to say the results were far different, and the questions more neutral:
Polls leading up to the death of Terri Schiavo made it appear Americans had formed a consensus in favor of ending her life. However, a new Zogby poll with fairer questions shows the nation clearly supporting Terri and her parents and wanting to protect the lives of other disabled patients.

The Zogby poll found that, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, as in Terri's case, 43 percent say "the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube" while just 30 percent disagree.

Zogby also asked a question specifically regarding the Schiavo case:
Another Zogby question his directly on Terri's circumstances.

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes[emphasis mine].

In addition, the poll results support comments (and seconded by SAEN columnist Jonathan Gurwitz) I made earlier that perhaps Michael Schiavo's actions since his wife's accident should disqualify him from making life and death decisions for his wife:
The poll found that 49 percent of Americans believe there should be exceptions to the right of a spouse to act as a guardian for an incapacitated spouse. Only 39 percent disagreed.

Will this change the opinion of the SAEN's editorial board and will the SAEN even report these poll results? Only time will tell, but as with so many other things with the SAEN, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Update: Welcome readers of National Review's the Corner, and thanks to Jonah for the traffic.
Comments:
One thing I’m still not clear on is this distinction that “Right to Lifers” make in saying that “Food and water are not (a) medical treatment, but basic necessities.” Their point being that connecting and unconnecting a feeding tube should not be considered a medical procedure that can be determined by the guardian of an incapacitated patient. But shutting off a respirator is apparently not a problem and does not connote the same kind of objections from them.
So how is it that food and water are essentials, but air is not? What is the difference between a machine that puts food and water into a patient’s stomach and one that puts air into a patient’s lungs?
 
Kind of late for Terry.
 
But not too late as we fight for other's in Terri's situation. Remember, the MSM couldn't mention Terri Schiavo without reporting the ABC News poll results. It remains to be seen if this will make the news (other than Fox), but at the very least the MSM will have to rethink using the ABC News poll every chance they get.
 
Ummm this Zogy poll question basically says "Should a diabled person be denied food and water?"

The shocking thing is that 21% of people apparently say yes!
 
Where is the link to the actual poll or press release on the Zogby website? Or am I missing something?

The article linked above goes to Zogby, but its an outside source ("Life News") and is listed under the "Zogby Polls in the Media" section, which essentially lists any news article that mentions 'Zogby'. There isn't a news release or anything for it, which is strange. It seems to me it should be taken with a giant grain of salt until Zogby Intl. actually, you know, acknowledges that it did the survey.
 
Actually, the link to the news release is at zogby.com.
 
Mike Thomas asks what the difference is between a feeding tube and a ventilator. The difference is that a feeding tube does not take over any bodily process. A ventillator on the other hand takes over the duty of the person's muscles and forces air into and out of the lungs.

I worked for several years at a habilitation center for mentally retarded/developmentally disabled individuals and one of the clients we had needed a feeding tube, not because he couldn't swallow, but because he would get excited and breath when food was in his mouth drawing the food into his lungs and several times almost choked to death.

I'm not a nurse so I can't be sure if they are the only kinds but there were two kinds of feeding tubes used on clients where I worked, one was a naso/gastric tube that went through the nose and was used on a temporary basis and the other kind was surgically inserted directly into the stomach.

Both kinds worked essentially the same way. Pureed food or a liquid food substitue like Ensure was poured into a syringe-like chamber, a plunger inserted and the food was pushed into the stomach.
 
as far as i can tell, there's no link to a news release. there is a link at zogby.com to a news article in "Life News" about the poll, but no actual link to a Zogby news release on the poll, the poll itself, or its methodology. Maybe the release was sent out to subscribers only, who knows. I'm just saying people can't get all up in arms about MSM bias for not reporting the poll when Zogby itself hasn't even acknowledged it did it in the first place.
 
Mike,

How is it that "food and water are essentials, but air is not? What is the difference between a machine that puts food and water into a patient’s stomach and one that puts air into a patient’s lungs?"

The key lies in the concept of "futile care". If you are dying of some cause, and further medical care will only prolong it a little while and possibly make remaining life miserable, that is futile care. You'll die soon anyway even with the care. Respirators are far more likely to be used in futile care cases since other functioning organs aren't necessarily required. But if all your organs are working fine and you just can't swallow, that isn't futile care. Now if a person wants to remove a feeding tube, fine. But we can't remove a person from feeding without their consent and we can't presume to know it without evidence. You could have (in Terri's case did have) a case where a person is starved to death wide awake and alert. That is an atrocity. An atrocity.

Besides, why don't you tell us the difference between a feeding tube and the spoon feeding that is done for both the young and the old? Is spoon feeding medical treatment? Using pureed food?
 
I would like to see a poll on the question "Should a person forfeit all rights in determining the fate of their disabled spouse, if they have started a common law marriage and family with another person?"
 
I would like to see a poll on the question "Should a person forfeit all rights in determining the fate of their disabled spouse, if they have started a common law marriage and family with another person?"

Presumably followed up by the question "If a person becomes disabled, can their spouse starve them to death?"
 
Ummm this Zogy poll question basically says "Should a diabled person be denied food and water?"

The shocking thing is that 21% of people apparently say yes!


Exactly. And those of us who supported Terri's right to life were shocked as well that such a large percentage of Americans wanted to do just that - deny her food and water.
 
It should be noted that Judge Greer did not only order that the feeding tube be removed, but also that she not be given food or water by mouth. That isn't the equivalent of removing a respirator; it's the equivalent of putting a plastic bag over the patient's head.

Terri had minimal ability to swallow -- her own saliva, for example. She was even denied communion except for two controlled instances. That makes sense, as if she had been given communion every hour, she would would live another 30 years.
 
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