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Hospital To Cut Treatments For Certain Patients
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 12, 2002

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA--In 1997, the American Medical Association told hospitals they should put together "futility" policies; to decide whether to stop trying to save a patient's life after the doctor has determined the patient cannot be cured. Since that time, most hospitals have developed such policies.

The Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania has announced that within the year it will put together a policy for a doctor to refuse certain treatments for a patient that has been in a "persistent vegetative state" for three to six months.

In such situations, the doctor could refuse to admit the patient to an intensive care unit, or to provide aggressive treatments such as performing surgery or using a ventilator.

"There are certain types of injuries people suffer where one should acknowledge the tragedy that has occurred, and realize that the chances of recovery are negligible, and really redirect care toward making sure the person is as comfortable as possible," Dr. Horace DeLisser, who co-chairs the hospital's ethics committee, told the Associated Press.

But disability rights attorney Stephen Gold pointed out that hospitals might want to stop using expensive measures to keep alive a person that has a disability or that does not have medical insurance.

"Not everyone agrees on what constitutes a life worth living," said Gold. "I had a client with cerebral palsy once who was asked to sign a (Do Not Resuscitate) order when they went in to be treated for appendicitis."

Disability rights advocates have been pointing out for years that refusing such measures goes hand-in-hand with the medical profession's attempt to cut costs.

"It's a fact: most people with disabilities are cheaper dead than alive," Mouth Magazine's Lucy Gwin wrote in 1997.

Related:
"Are you in the market for a cheap, compassionate death?" by Lucy Gwin (Mouth Magazine)

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