It Was Legal To Let Baby Jayden Die

September 10, 2009

Apparently the government in the U.K. has laws that not only permit doctors to refuse care to certain viable premature babies, but require it.  Little baby Jayden received a death sentence because he was born two days before the time cut-off, even though his mother pled with the doctor for her baby’s life, and even though there was a chance of survival (as established by other similar cases where babies survived). 

Jayden’s mother has since channeled her grief into an effort to change legislation that permits and even requires these deaths-by-neglect. 

If government authorities already think that they have the right to declare which viable humans live and die (whether based on the chances of successful medical treatment or otherwise), what is to stop them from doing so among the elderly?  For medical treatment purposes, even in the abortion regime, there is no logical difference between a viable baby outside the womb and an elderly patient.  In a socialized medical program such as that in the U.K., it may eventually be the government and not the family that “pulls the plug.” 

Consider that baby boomers are aging, and Americans will soon face an unprecedented number of elderly patients requiring very expensive care, sometimes with an outside chance of survival.  The abortion ethic unleashed on this nation by the boomers may come back to bite them.

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4 Responses to “It Was Legal To Let Baby Jayden Die”

  1. Sarah B Says:

    What a tragic story. My heart goes out to the mother and her family.

    I think it’s important to remember, though, that the US actually has a higher infant mortality rate (6.4/1000) than the UK (5.0) and other countries that have what you term “socialized medicine” (Canada – 4.6; Finland – 3.5; Germany – 4.1; Japan – 3.2; Sweden 2.8). Based on some of the information I’ve come across, the US infant mortality rate is driven up by a class of people who have terrible health insurance or none at all (e.g. the working poor, who are too “rich” for MediCal – or the local state’s equivalent – but too poor to purchase adequate health insurance). Thus, young Americans are dying EVERY DAY from preventable causes — even less serious conditions than extreme prematurity.

    Now that I have started my practicum at a sliding-scale mental health clinic aimed at the working poor, my eyes have been opened BIG TIME to the intense struggle that many Americans go through every day just for basic survival. For every horror story I hear about injustice/malpractice in countries with universal health care, I can tell you two or three horrific stories from American citizens in my own city. It’s a terrible tragedy that in one of the best countries in the world, hard-working people (who manage to make it through infancy) die from preventable illnesses because health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs are astronomical.

    Please bear this in mind when you publish horror stories about what happens in other countries. American citizens die EVERY DAY from preventable illnesses.

    It seems that every country is facing a health care crisis right now, and every country is rationing medicine in its own way. I’m not comfortable with Obama’s plans either, but something has to change here in America NOW.

    I strongly encourage you to take a look at these links:

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004393.html
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/parenting/05/08/mothers.index/

    ESPECIALLY THIS ONE:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=112172939

    I’m careful to think critically about the messages in the article, but it’s REALLY worth the food-for-thought.

    Thanks for reading! 😀


  2. Well, my post wasn’t really about whether or how to reform healthcare in the USA so much as it was about my concern that the government will be given the power to decide by fiat who is worthy of life, and that there will be no way out of the government’s decision. That may or may not occur within a given program of socialized medicine, so my concern is narrower than the overall socialized medicine debate (I would have a lot more questions/thoughts on that concept as a whole, but that’s not the point of my post).

    That said…

    My thesis:
    (a) Placing government in charge of healthcare may likely lead to a government (especially in America, given the climate of our (dis)respect for life) intentionally choosing that some living human beings are not worthy of care and essentially should be denied life, under force of law (a factual claim, supported by the story in the post).
    (b) Under a government-run healthcare system, it is likely that private healthcare options will be unavailable or even declared illegal (a factual claim).
    (c) It is immoral and absolutely unacceptable that a government should have the power to determine by force that a certain class of humans should not be eligible for any medical treatment (a metaphysical claim).
    (d) Government should not intentionally choose some living human beings to live and declare that others are not worthy of care, and any proposed system that includes such actions ought to be rejected (a metaphysical claim).

    Your apparent response, as I understand it:
    (a) Without government intervention, more human beings will die of preventable diseases than without government intervention (a factual claim, allegedly supported by the links you provided).
    (b)(1?) It is tragic and immoral that more human beings die under any particular system of healthcare and we as a society are morally obligated to select a healthcare system that minimizes medically preventable deaths (a metaphysical claim).
    (b)(or 2?) Individual human beings have a positive right to be provided a healthcare system that will minimize the chances of medically preventable death, regardless of cost or the inability to pay (a metaphysical claim).
    (c) Therefore, the government ought to intervene in healthcare, or we should at least consider it, notwithstanding that the government will likely choose which class of humans are fit for life and which are not (a metaphysical claim).

    Is that a fair summary? Or have I misunderstood you? I have lots to say in response, but it’s only fair that I understand your argument first.

  3. Sarah B Says:

    I suppose you have misunderstood me in the sense that I had presented organized theses at all. I see blogging as a place to throw out important ideas (even if in a friendly, casual manner) rather than to a post outlines for would-be PhD dissertations in political science or ethics.

    Anytime I comment on your blog, you can assume that I am coming at ideas from this angle. It’s also very safe to assume that you can take my comments at face value rather than wondering if there are underlining motivations behind them.

    I *did* understand that the point of your post was NOT to suggest which health care system is best for America (except that you’re not fond of what you call the “socialist” option). I do not know that more lives would be saved in the US if the government adopted a universal health care system. Although it’s true that there is a lower infant mortality rate in many countries with universal health care, I understand that it would be ridiculous to apply Japan’s system (for example) to the US and expect the same results. There are too many factors at play for that. However, I *do* think it’s essential that citizens consider the strengths and weaknesses of health systems throughout the world. This is precisely why I brought up my points at all — not because I have an specific argument or an agenda but because I believe it’s important to focus on our OWN current problems AS WELL AS potential future problems (such as a lack of care for the premature).

    – – – – – – –
    Different topic:

    I’m hoping you can clarify something from your original post. You write, “the government in the U.K. has laws that not only permit doctors to refuse care to certain viable premature babies, but require it.”

    The original post reads,
    “In fact, the medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks. The guidance, drawn up by the Nuffield Council, is NOT COMPULSORY but advises doctors that medical intervention for very premature children is not in the best interests of the baby, and is not ‘standard practice’.”
    [caps mine — does your blog support html?]

    And,
    “The association said they were NOT meant to be a ‘set of instructions’, but doctors regard them as the best available advice on the treatment of premature babies.”
    [caps mine]

    And,
    “Amillia Taylor was born in Florida on October 24, 2006, after just 21 weeks and six days in the womb. She celebrated her second birthday last year. Doctors believed she was a week older and so gave her intensive care, but later admitted she would NOT have received treatment if they had known her true age.”
    [caps mine]

    It seems to me that Jayden and Amillia were BOTH at the mercy of their doctors.

    Jayden’s British doctor was advised that a baby born at 21 weeks would endure intense suffering and likely die anyway. However, the doctor knew that the medical advice was NOT “a set of instructions.” My impression is that the doctor would not have been punished for trying to save Jayden if he wanted to. Thus, the onus was on the him to decide what to do (so, even in a universal care system, he had some degree of personal autonomy).

    Likewise, Amillia’s American doctors’ decision was based on the medical information they had learned. However, they had MISinformation about Amillia which ALSO informed their decision. They believed that Amillia was a week older than she was and openly “admitted she would not have received treatment if they had known her true age.” Luckily for Amillia, they were wrong. If they hadn’t been, she likely would have died just like Jayden.

    I didn’t get the impression that the British doctor was REQUIRED to ignore Jayden, but that he chose to do so. Apparently you had a different impression. Did I miss something in the article?

    – – – – – – –
    I am unable to respond to comments before September 23rd due to pressing responsibilities. I’ll be back after that date and perhaps ready to comment if I’m still welcome to do so (even with my less-than-theses-like manner of speaking). 😉


  4. I’ll address the second part of your comment first.

    The fact that “guidelines” aren’t “compulsory”, I think, distracts from the true power of any “guideline”, especially one drafted by the government. There are lots of manuals in various professions with titles like “guidelines”, “best practices”, and “standards”. These are not “compulsory” because there may be situations where they cannot apply, but every deviation from the guidelines must be justifiable or explainable (and ordinarily, there better be very good reasons). If a doctor deviates from the guidelines and the situation goes wrong, the first thing in the newspaper or the lawsuit will be “the doctor did not follow the guidelines.” (This is especially true in America, and especially in California, which is probably the most litigious place in the world.) It’s just safer for the doctor to follow the guidelines. For the government to set the system such that the doctor must risk his own reputation, license, and pocketbook by violating a written “guideline” so that he can treat a viable baby in need of medical care hardly seems consistent with protecting all human life, let alone providing all citizens with free healthcare.

    According to the story, the doctors “ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment”. I think that quote underscores my point, and it also addresses your question as to where I got the impression that the doctor was required not to treat the child. The impression I get is that the doctor tells the mother, “hey, we’re just following orders, and there’s nothing we can do.” Your suggestion that the doctor knew he could freely violate the guideline at his own discretion may be speculative, because we don’t know what his bosses at the hospital told him about the guidelines. Perhaps he has an employment contract stating that violating national healthcare guidelines may be grounds for termination?

    But even if the guideline was purely voluntary, is it legitimate for a government to merely “advise” a doctor that a citizen should be allowed to die to avoid intense suffering? I’m more than a wee bit uncomfortable with that.

    Additionally, lets say that there’s a hypothetical government with a rule in its universal coverage plan that requires no child younger than one year receive any care. In another country there is no universal coverage, and one particular health insurance company in that country will not cover treatment for children younger than one year old. From a moral standpoint, I find the former unjustifiable and the latter justifiable, even if they lead to the same outcome for certain people. In the former, government coercion disqualifies one set of humans from care. In the latter, two private parties have a contract whereby one of them will pay for the healthcare of the other, provided the people to be treated are at least a year old. In the latter, if the insurance-holder wants to, he/she can bargain for better terms or seek additional insurance with another company (or even just pay for the additional care). If there is sufficient demand, surely some company will step in and fill the void of coverage, but even if none does, there is no government forcing the situation.

    Thus, whether the mother of the U.S. premature baby that survived (referenced above) was at the mercy of her doctors is neither here nor there, because they were not under a governmental rule disqualifying her child from care. That is completely different from the U.K. situation, as I understand it (which is admittedly limited). If I have misunderstood the U.K. situation, my point still remains: Americans should tread lightly when entangling government and healthcare in a time when government respect for life is not exactly impressive.

    This also relates to your point in your first comment where you admonished me that when I find injustices in other countries and re-publish them here, I should remember how many people die in America “EVERY DAY” (your caps). The fact is, I find those situations different. A governmental injustice is not mere tragedy, it’s something worse. Do you think those American medically preventable deaths rise to the level of a governmental injustice, or are they just tragic? My argument is that the U.K. rule/advice denying treatment to baby Jayden is governmental injustice, and I believe the American deaths (infant mortality rate, etc.) are “merely” tragic (not to downplay the grief and heartache of those involved; I’m just doing analysis here). If you do think the American deaths are an injustice, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to ask for an explanation why.

    __________________________________________

    As to the first part of your post, I’m a bit puzzled. I didn’t say that you organized your argument, nor did I say that you should have or that you should now, nor did I accuse you of any untoward agenda. I attempted to decipher what you were saying and I organized MY thoughts about what you were saying, and just asked whether I was right. I originally had written a different response, but I thought I had too many assumptions about your statements, so I thought I’d try to clarify your position before responding (this is how I’d want someone to address my comments when I’m unclear). That appears to have offended you for some reason, which I don’t really understand.

    That said, whether you find blogging “casual” or not, you cannot expect to make statements like “something has to change here in America NOW” (your caps) without justifying them. It would be one thing if you merely said you subjectively *wanted* things to change, but when you state in the objective case that some state of affairs emphatically “has” to change immediately, it appears to me that you are making a rather urgent moral claim. I’m still confused as to what that moral claim is (hence (b)(1) and (b)(2) in my first comment). You appear outraged that some people receive sub-standard healthcare. Is this nothing more than your own personal feeling (like your personal distaste for certain types of food), which has no practical relevance to America or me or anyone else, or are you actually making a moral claim that you think others ought to accept and follow? If the latter, I’d like to know exactly what that claim is. Who is obligated to do what? Why? (This point has the potential to turn into an excellent discussion, BTW.)

    You can protest that I’m too in-depth or nit-picky or that I am looking for “motivations” (which isn’t true; I’m looking for presuppositions and conclusions, not motivations), but this is a place for people to discuss beliefs and sharpen each other. Sometimes when I say things, or when others respond, I discover hidden ideas and assumptions that I didn’t know I had, and examining those is useful. Hopefully the experience is mutual. You have said things in this thread that are screaming for justification.

    I appreciate your request for clarification on the “non-compulsory” nature of the English national healthcare guidelines; that was useful. I am going to return the favor and ask you for clarification on your beliefs and presuppositions, as noted elsewhere in this comment. Hopefully, we’ll both learn something from that process.


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