Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dr. Anna Pou: NOLA Doctor Killer or Angel?

I don't have enough information (the exact level of morphine and other meds in the patient/victim's body and circumstantial evidence) to know what to make of Dr. Pou's clinical judgement.

Patients don't like to think about it, family members don't like to talk about it, but these borderline decisions are made every day everywhere in the U.S. Doctors "play God" all the time. Yes, they do. They predict the date of a patient's demise. They withhold nutrition--essentially ending a life. Some doctors lean toward the "save the life at all costs" philosophy and other doctors incessantly discuss "quality of life" which is a euphamism for ending any life they deem "less than".

Like most American families, ours has bumped up against this issue more than once. An older family relative of ours was never allowed out of his medication induced coma and "died" with a lot of morphine in his system and from lack of nutrition. It took three days. He was brain-damaged from a fall. He didn't have the resources for care. His wife felt that his time was up. Let me just say here and now, that the decision was not what I would have wanted had the victim been me--I hope my husband has more internal fortitude should the situation arise. On the other hand, I don't feel in the position to condemn the elderly survivor or the doctors in the case. It was a tight call.

Bottomline: these borderline cases happen all the time. The question for Dr. Pou. Was her decision a borderline judgement call or was her decision simply expedient?

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