Los Angeles Times Supports Right-to-Die Ruling, Saying Court Must ‘Protect the Unprotected’
The California Supreme Court's ruling last week barring families from removing feeding tubes from "severely brain-damaged but conscious [relatives] without clear, convincing evidence" of the patient's wishes "seems a reasonable, cautious half-step as our inattentive society drifts through the slow, arduous process of consensus-building while medical advances race ahead," according to a Los Angeles Times editorial. The Times says that it is "uncomfortable" for the government to "dictat[e] to families what they can and can't do in excruciatingly personal, painful times," but adds that the guidelines set forth by the decision can "provide valuable patient protection in an era of cost controls, when medical decisions could easily be swayed by financial concerns." While the court ruling "disappoints" doctors and right-to-die activists, who said that it "ignored" the "wishes" of the wife of the patient in the case, Robert Wendland, the editorial states that "Wendland, like most Americans, left himself unprotected" by leaving no tangible evidence of his wishes, adding, "In real life and death, courts require evidence ... and must protect the unprotected." The editorial notes that President Bush announced his stem cell policy on the same day that the California Supreme Court handed down its ruling, with the stem cell decision receiving "much debate and discussion" nationwide, partly because it involves "cells formed at the beginning of life." The editorial concludes that while Americans "don't hesitate to display ... personal initiative" when "debating distant issues like stem cells and the start of life," when it "comes closer to the end of lives ... evidence suggests we'd really rather skip the subject altogether. Unfortunately, that leaves it to the courts, and they are right to be ... cautious" (Los Angeles Times, 8/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.