Legal Battle Heats Up Over Andrea Clark and Potential Euthanasia Death Case

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 1, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Legal Battle Heats Up Over Andrea Clark and Potential Euthanasia Death Case Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 1, 2006

Houston, TX ( — The legal fight in the battle to save the life of disabled patient Andrea Clark continues to heat up. Her case is the latest fight in the post-Terri Schiavo world where doctors employing what detractors call the "futile care theory" saying a patient is beyond medical help and are refusing to treat her.

Clark, 54, suffered complications following open heart surgery and required a ventilator and dialysis to survive. Her motor control faculties were damaged but, her family says her cognitive abilities were unaffected.

However, on April 19, St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston, where Clark is a patient, informed her family that her medical care would be discontinued in 10 days — following a Texas law that provides medical facilities the right to give a family 10 days notice that treatment will be withdrawn.

In what pro-life advocates say is a direct act of passive euthanasia, a hospital committee decided Clark’s condition was beyond hope and refused further medical treatment.

Clark’s family, working with the hospital, found a hospice in Chicago that would take her, but the arrangement fell through. As a result, the hospital now plans to move forward on its threat to withhold treatment, but Andrea’s attorney, Jerri Lynn Ward, has served St. Luke’s with a cease and desist order. has been provided with a copy of the order. In it, Ward tells the hospital, "Because Andrea is heavily sedated and is limited in her ability to communicate treatment decisions to her physicians and the hospital, the family is empowered under law to make such decisions on her behalf."

"The family is united in its decision that life-sustaining treatments should NOT be withdrawn or withheld from Andrea Clark pending transfer to another physician or facility," Ward writes.

Ward said Clark’s family does not believe she is a "futile case" and cited at least one physician who says otherwise. The letter says the family is having a hard time finding another medical facility for Clark because of the "futile case" label applied to her.

Meanwhile, the The Terri Schindler Schiavo Center for Health Care Ethics has weighed in on the case and is siding with Clark’s family.

"Andrea Clark is not comatose nor is she brain dead and yet, her life hangs in the balance because a hospital ethics committee has decided that her life is not worth living," Terri’s family’s foundation said. "This case is another example at how we have lost compassion not only for the disabled and elderly but for the medically dependent as well."

Wesley J. Smith, a noted author and attorney who monitors end of life issues, has written that Clark’s case should be a warning for Americans.

"Clark’s case involves value judgments rather than medical determinations," he says adding that it is increasingly becoming a case where money dominates decisions.

"Illustrating the level of hardball some hospitals play against patients and families, the Clark family’s lawyer Jerri Ward told me that St. Luke’s agreed to pay the $14,806 transportation costs to transfer Clark to a hospital in Illinois — more than 1,000 miles away — if the decision to transfer is made on Thursday," he wrote.

"If the family doesn’t decide until Friday, the hospital will pay only one-half of the cost of transportation. Thereafter, it would pay nothing."