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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barb Goodwin for the Obamacare Death Panel?

After first endorsing incumbent Satveer Chaudhary for re-election to the Minnesota Senate, the DFL had a change heart. It appears that Chaudhary's ethical lapses became too embarrassing. The Senate District 50 Democrats rescinded their endorsement in favor of former State Representative Barb Goodwin.

But, did the DFL replace one embarrassment for another?

In her last year as state representative, Goodwin was interviewed by Marie Castle, Communications Director for Atheists for Human Rights. This is a group that exists "because so many violations of human rights have their source in religious authoritarianism".

Goodwin was interviewed to discuss "anti-human health care". Castle frames the discussion by suggesting that Republican health care legislation is an effort to force anti-human religious views upon the population. Goodwin appears to echo the sentiment with the obligatory those darn right-wing extremists exclamations.

Throughout this interview, the facts are flawed and the logic is bent in pretzelian fashion. Goodwin describes one such "anti-human" bill:
"We heard a bill in the health care committee, which I'm on, that would require that a person get feeding tubes and hydration, whether or not they wanted it, if they didn't have it specifically written in a health care directive that they didn't want it."
Goodwin opposes the bill because it would require the use of feeding tubes and hydration "whether or not the patient wants it". No. Wait. Did she then say that the bill would not require force feeding of patients who have a health care directive? So does Goodwin oppose "keep the patient alive" as a default plan of action for doctors?

Castle continues the interview with the claim that comatose patients feel no pain through dehydration and that feeding tubes cause pain and suffering. Goodwin elaborates with a personal story:
"I've been through this with several members of my family, and most recently, and still with a brother in-law, who is still in the hospital. Five months he's been in hospital now. And, he went to the hospital in critical condition ... a few days later, stopped breathing. My sister, his wife, was there to make health care decisions for him. But, they would not allow her to make health care decisions for him. He wasn't, in the beginning, in a place where he could make them for himself. So they did inject a feeding tube and they did, of course, give him hydration. He continued to lose weight."
Apparently, he had no written health care directive and doctors did what they could to save his life. The story continued:
"...When you give or force feed a body that's shutting down, that can be extremely painful. And, not only can it be painful, but for him, it created a case where he had diarrhea day and night for days and days. He lost weight, more and more weight, and he was way underweight when he went into the hospital. So in his case, it was technological torture to continue feeding him. He had several times, during that time, when his body tried to give out and he got pneumonia 3 or 4 times. That sometimes can be a blessing because its a quieter way of the body dying. but it was always aggressively treated. He is doing some better at this point..."
Goodwin doesn't explain the underlying cause of the brother in-law's illness. She describes a difficult battle for life, yet acknowledges that the effort improved his condition. There's more (emphasis added):
"...but the thing is is that he's only 50 years old, he was a professional architect, he's never going to be able to work again, his organs are still a mess... if he does survive this, he's going to live in a nursery home the rest of his life. That is not what he would have wanted. That is not what he wants even now. But, that's the kind of decisions that the Republican Right is trying to force on individuals."
Those darn Right Wing Extremists! How dare they force doctors to preserve life – especially when family members have decided that the life of a loved one isn't worth saving.

This issue hits home for me. Several years ago, a best friend of mine was stricken with Leukemia. There was a point where he was comatose and on life support for seven weeks. Doctors did all they could, but saw no signs of hope. They concluded that he would never breath on his own and said it was time to consider pulling the plug.

Because his young son's birthday was on the coming weekend, his wife wanted to postpone the decision until the following week. She didn't want the son to forever link his birthday to when dad died.

The following week he proved doctors wrong. He started breathing on his own and he was home a few weeks later. He lived in remission for two years before a relapse took him quickly. But, those two years were extremely valuable to him, to his family, and to his friends.

We don't know what ever happened to Barb Goodwin's brother in-law. It seems clear that he didn't have a Living Will that would have defined how far doctors should go to keep him alive. Yet, his family was willing to make those decisions for him. We are to believe that he would not want to "live in a nursery home the rest of his life" -- and that living in a nursery home was inevitable.

But, doctors can be wrong. So can family members. So can politicians.

During this interview, Barb Goodwin endorsed flexibility in health care legislation that gives family members wide latitude in life or death decisions over loved ones. With the passage of Obamacare, legislators and bureaucrats now have rationing authority based on the cost of care versus the perceived value of the patient's recovery.

Do we really want Barb Goodwin on Obamacare's extended legislative death panel with the power to regulate health care rationing based on her perceived value of life?

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