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Suing for the Right to Live

Two cases of European doctors refusing to treat their patients are cause for concern: Futile Care Theory may be coming to America.

11:00 PM, Mar 10, 2004 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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A primary reason bioethicists have created futility protocols is to stack the deck against such patient/family lawsuits. Indeed, as one Futile Care Theory apologia published in the Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics in 2001 put it, "Hospitals are likely to find the legal system willing (and even eager) to defer to well-defined and procedurally scrupulous processes for internal resolutions of futility disputes." In other words, bioethicists and hospital lawyers plan to say to the judge, "Our futility protocol has already been agreed to by the experts. It represents the standard of care. Who are you, a mere lawyer after all, to tell us how to practice medicine?" Given that the courts increasingly reflect the views of the elites rather than the people, this tactic seems a good bet to succeed.

WEAK AND VULNERABLE PATIENTS in the United Kingdom are having a duty to die imposed upon them by medical ethicists and the courts' approval of Futile Care Theory. The same game is now afoot here. Bioethicists are getting their futility procedural ducks in a row to persuade the courts to permit them to impose their values on the patients and families of America. And lest you believe that U.S. courts would never allow the medical intelligentsia to impose Futile Care Theory on Americans, remember this: The United States Supreme Court now looks to European courts for precedent and guidance on how to decide cutting-edge legal and cultural issues. This means that the Burke and Glass cases could eventually become the justifications used by U.S. courts to deny you or someone you love, wanted life sustaining medical care.

Author Wesley J. Smith, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and the Culture.