by Chris Fitch
June 8, 2006
LifeNews.com Note: Chris Fitch is the legislative director of the New York State Right to Life Committee.
The New York State Right to Life Committee opposes the Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA), unless our critical amendments are incorporated into the bill to prevent hospitals from denying life-saving treatment against the will of patients and their families.
Increasingly, the "quality of life" ethic has become a justification for health care facilities’ withdrawing or denying treatment, or even food and water, regardless of the wishes of patients or families. This new ethic is permeating the health care community and our culture.
Health care providers and hospitals have in many cases adopted so-called "futility policies." "Futility" used to mean the treatment would not work to save the patient’s life (medical or "physiological" futility). Now "futility" often means the treatment would work, but in the provider’s view the patient is "better off" dead so the treatment is therefore bad or "qualitatively" futile.
For over a decade, the New York State legislature has been considering proposals to enact a Family Health Care Decisions Act. Throughout that period, New York State Right to Life has steadfastly fought to amend these bills to protect patients and families who want treatment. Our efforts have been successful in stopping this legislation from becoming law without our protective amendments.
Specifically, when a health care facility wants involuntarily to withhold treatment, food, or fluids whose denial, in reasonable medical judgment, would result in the patient’s death, our amendments would allow the patient’s transfer to another health care provider willing to respect the patient/family choice for life. Most critically, these amendments would require such treatment, food, and fluids to be provided until the transfer is completed.
Finally, there are indications that those promoting the Family Health Care Decisions Act may be willing to incorporate such amendments. It is crucial to keep the pressure on state legislators, especially senators, to oppose the Family Health Care Decisions Act unless these amendments are in fact made.
Please tell your state legislators that respect for patient autonomy means equal respect when the choice of a patient or a duly designated surrogate is for life. Ask for their commitment to oppose the Family Health Care Decisions Act until assured by the New York State Right to Life Committee that acceptable amendments have been included to protect against involuntary euthanasia.