Marlowe's Shade

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Euthanasia Hall of Shame: Governor Richard Lamm

From LifeTree Timeline

Three term Governor of Colorado Richard Lamm became the focus of national attention in 1984 when he made this statement to The Colorado Health Lawyers Association:

"Like leaves which fall off a tree forming the humus in which other plants can grow, we've got a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts, so that our kids can build a reasonable life."

This was not an ill-considered one-off remark, but reflects Lamm's entrenched position on end-of-life issues, as we see in this article:

The 1984 "duty to die" message is something Lamm has been closely associated with ever since. He has gone beyond the original scope of those remarks to question how much treatment we should offer AIDS patients, severely handicapped children and others in an era of limited health care dollars.

Still convinced that aggressive life-prolonging treatment of the terminally ill and very elderly soaks up precious health care dollars that should go to the poor, young and uninsured, Lamm remains a crusader. Death, he argues as a lecturer on the speaking circuit, is no longer a private issue. Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of those who die each year are elderly and insured by federal- and state-funded Medicare, making death a matter of public policy.

Now director of the Center for Public Policy at Denver University, Lamm is full of questions about how the government should weigh end-of-life care decisions to better spread health care benefits around.

On the speaking circuit Governor Lamm has an number of horror stories that he trots out regarding patients who were kept alive for years at public expense. What he doesn't address are stories like these [Thanks to Allen Turner]:

On March 29, 1986, Jacqueline Cole, the middle-aged wife of a Baltimore Presbyterian minister, suffered a massive stroke. Her daughter, who was with her when it happened, said, "She raised her arm at one point and said, 'Christine, I am having a stroke, I can use my arm but can't feel it.' Then she said, 'I don't want to live as someone other than who [I] was"' (Euthanasia: Spiritual, Medical and Legal Issues in Terminal Health Care, pages 78,79). Following this, she collapsed and went into a coma in which she survived on a respirator and tube feeding. Forty-one days later, her husband asked a judge to remove the respirator. He said, "It should be done because I believe she would not wish to continue to exist in this present state...I do not believe she would wish to live anything other than a full, rich, qualitative style of life such as she enjoyed" (Ibid.). Mrs. Cole's physician described her condition as "virtually hopeless" with a one in a hundred thousand chance of any significant neurologic recovery. The judge, John C. Bymes, refused to have Mrs. Cole taken off the respirator saying "too brief a time has elapsed." Six days later a friend of Mrs. Cole came into the room where she was to see her for the last time. He called out her name and she opened her eyes. Within six months she had almost completely recovered, except for the use of her legs and some short-term memory loss. She even remembered moments during her coma. I later saw this woman on a television program where she said she was very happy to be alive. It was interesting and chilling to hear from several of her grown children that they thought their mother should have been allowed to die. Their argument was that she was no longer the woman she had once been. She could not take care of herself, they said, and it was necessary for them to care for her—something, they claim, she would not have wanted them to do. When one adds to these the March, 1990 case of the Madison, Wisconsin. man who woke up from an eight year "vegetative state" after being given a tranquilizer for routine dental work, one ought to conclude that there is still a whole lot about coma and death we simply do not understand!

Life most in the right-to-die movement Governor Lamm seeks to justify his utilitarian world view by claiming it reflects public opinion:

"I am fairly sure that the young generation and the baby boomers are going to demand more control over life and death," said Lamm. "I think they're going to demand physician-assisted suicide. We have some of these ethical issues that lie in our future, and we just have no idea of how tough they're going to be."

The agenda of euthanasia progresses both by obscuring its true nature when it can, and de-sensitizing us when it can't. Governor Lamm's advocacy has stayed true to this strategy.
papijoe 6:36 AM