Thursday, I had a new experience: I wasn’t counted among the “prolife” people in the room because I defended the right to conscience. The same conscience that I’ve defended before.
The occasion was the meeting of the group in Texas which is attempting to tweak the Texas Advance Directives Act, Chapter 166 of the Health and Safety Code, some of which I discussed on this site in April and May. (Here’s a review of some points,and more background here and here. The risk of getting out of step is public vilification.)
I’m afraid that “prolife” advocates may find ourselves divided over this legislation next year at the Capital, as we were Thursday in another part of Austin.
The issue was boiled down to fairly simple terms by one of the “pro-life” attorneys: a lack of trust in the good will of doctors vs. what they perceive as a lack of trust in the good will of lawyers. Patients are somewhere in there, I’m sure.
For me, it’s not a matter of trusting or not trusting lawyers. It’s a matter of job description and roles. I’m afraid that having lawyers act as lawyers at a family meeting with the hospital ethicist sounds to me like what would happen if each member of a couple takes their own lawyers to marriage counseling. You might as well skip that step and go on to the courtroom.
Lawyers can act as medical ethicists, and often do. It’s just that the job of lawyers who are acting as lawyers instead of ethicists is following the law, rather than explaining medical processes and consequences while counseling the family and patient in a delicate medical setting.
I’m afraid that each legal step that we put between the patient and the doctor only serves to harm the patient. At the bedside, the patient is and should be our main concern. As a family doctor, I understand that the family health is integral to the patient’s health, but when there’s conflict between what the family wants and what is best for the patient, I have to act in the patient’s best interest.
However, as we were told by that lawyer, they just don’t trust any doctors or hospitals to preserve life.
In your own personal experience, is it reasonable to believe that the doctors and nurses whom you know do not want to make you healthy and save your life? Do you want a doctor or a lawyer at your bedside?