Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Wed Dec 14, 2005 at 01:19:30 PM PDT
No one here can forget the spectacle made over the death of Terri Schiavo, whose brain had died long, long ago. But in Texas, the law George W. Bush signed as governor allows doctors to inform the family that further treatment is hopeless (and costly) and Pull the Plug. Literally.
In the latest case to escape the Culture of Life warriors, Tirhas Habtegiris, a young woman and legal immigrant from Africa, was CONSCIOUS and responsive when removed from a respirator and allowed to die.
Let me rephrase that: She was killed by doctors who removed the ventilator keeping her alive. And this action was fully legal under Bush's "economic considerations" law. Her body was ravaged by cancer, but she was alert. She was responsive.
Salvi was stunned to get this hand-delivered notice invoking a complicated and rarely used Texas law where a doctor is "not obligated to continue" medical treatment ....
She wasn't white. Politicians did not speculate on her diagnosis via video tape. Conservative religious zealots did not picket the hospital. She didn't have insurance. Ventilator treatment is expensive. Baylor did not want to incur any more expenses. So they removed a conscious woman from a respirator.
THIS is the true face of "compassionate conservatism" and of the phony "culture of life". They don't give a rat's ass, as long as the insurance will pay the bill. No insurance? Good-bye, you die.
"She wanted to get her mom over here or to get to her mom so she could die in her mom's arms," says her cousin Meri Tesfay.
Ten days was not enough time, they say, to get a mother from Africa to America.
The family and hospital desperately tried to get Tirhas moved to a nursing home but they say no one would take her.
"A fund issue is what I understand. Because she is not insured and that was the major reason the way I understood it," Salvi said.
A statement from Baylor Plano disputes that and says the hospital did its best to comply with the family's wishes in every way.
Still, on the 11th day, Tirhas Habtegiris was taken off the respirator and died.
A dying person's last request: To die with her mother by her side. Yet, "economic considerations" are more important in Texas than compassion. Without insurance, you are literally condemned to death if you need expensive treatment.
After the fact, the hospital claims they were willing to help bring the mother from Africa, but the family here in Dallas says they were told time had run out. Yes, the hospital was willing to help, but only within 10 days. Otherwise... the bill.
Tirhas Habtegiris would not have recovered from her cancer. There is no dispute of that. But... just to see her mother one more time. That was all she asked. And the hospital allowed 10 days before treatment was discontinued.
"It didn't take long -- 15 to 16 minutes," Tirhas Habtegiris' brother recalled.
Can you imagine what it must be like to know you are dying for 15 minutes? Every time some wing-nut Republican politician trots out the phrase "culture of life", remember Tirhas Habtegiris. Reflect on a conscious person knowing that life-giving air was being cut off.
Sit quietly for 15 minutes and contemplate how hopeless and horrifying that must feel. Recall the abject hypocrisy of Schiavo: Bush rushed back to Washington (more than he did for New Orleans) to sign the Schiavo Federal Court review legislation. But, Tirhas Habtegiris died quietly, died for 15 minutes, without anyone knowing, without politicians manipulating her life and death, never uncared about within the phony "culture of life."And she died without seeing her mother one last time.