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The Religious We'll Be Right Back After These Messages
Steven E. Landsburg writes on Slate of a cancer patient whose life support was turned off for non-payment of bills:

Tirhas Habtegiris, a 27-year-old terminal cancer patient at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, was removed from her ventilator last month because she couldn't pay her medical bills. The hospital gave Ms. Habtegiris' family 10 days' notice, and then, with the bills still unpaid, withdrew her life support on the 11th day. It took Ms. Habtegiris about 15 minutes to die.

Where were all the Congressional Schiavo jockeys when they unplugged this lady's respirator?

Posted by aalkon at January 5, 2006 10:07 AM

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"Where were all the Congressional Schiavo jockeys when they unplugged this lady's respirator?"

Um...because they are all too busy trying not to get "Abramoff-ed"?

Do you have another link for that article? The one above seems to have gone bad. I’d like to spread this around from my blog. – Thanks in advance!

Re: Typhoid Jackie -
It's like the House and Senate are the dating pool that Playboy Jack has been sleeping with...and they've just found out he's got an STD. Now they're all feverishly trying to recount what happened on their last drunken tryst...

- Mr. Joseph


Posted by: Joseph Walker at January 5, 2006 6:24 AM

Posted by: Brian at January 5, 2006 6:56 AM

Once again, this is a perfect example of Christinsanity in action! Wrong color, wrong religion, no money; you're outta here! Then, too, remember the politicians got slapped down in the Schiavo case, having gone too far to cater to the wingnuts. I think it's strictly "hands off" in this type case now. Of course, they will be back to fight us on abortion, intelligent design, the Prayer of Allegiance, and any other way they can ram their insidious superstition down the throat of humanity.

Posted by: Bill Henry at January 5, 2006 7:43 AM

I'd add that Ms. Habtegiris's family didn't have the PR savvy that Mrs. Shavio's did. If they'd contacted the right people, sure, it could have been another big show, but her family probably wasn't as power savvy as the Shavio's parents.

Posted by: cosmicmojo at January 5, 2006 8:03 AM

I am not sure you can blame the Christians for this one- sounds like an internal hospital matter to me. Nor do I think it appropriate to slip Christianity in with racism or discimination based upon economic/religious affiliations. If this were made public in advance, I bet there would have been plenty of candlelight vigils.

Posted by: eric at January 5, 2006 8:11 AM

Link is fixed. And thanks, Brian. I'd go with Bill's option. By the way, I think it's just amazing that this contingent that supported prolonging the life of the human turnip that was Terri Schiavo also support capital punishment, and call themselves pro-life -- but as soon as you, the poor, single mother, have the kid, you're on your damn own.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 5, 2006 8:19 AM

While its demonstration is satisfying in some all too human way, probably because it confirms to us that other people, no matter how high and mighty and virtuous they may hold themselves, are as weak and vicious as we know ourselves to be, hypocrisy is, in the end, not really an argument against anything. “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” One of the central tenants of Christianity, for example, is that we are all sinners, and, to follow Mr. Nietzsche, there has only ever been one truly blameless Christian. Pride, intolerance, and arrogance are sins, too. Religious folk with some sense of moderation and restraint always remember that.

Posted by: Fritz at January 5, 2006 8:37 AM

"Religious folk with some sense of moderation and restraint always remember that."

I always hear a handful of arguments for the "moderate" religious folk--cozy with liberals but the mortal enemies of the fundanutters.

I find myself having far less respect for the "moderately" religious; ala-cart christianity really only spews one message: after you're done fucking your neighbors wife, be sure to towel off and repent.

Posted by: Jake at January 5, 2006 8:53 AM

Jake, in my opinion a sneer is not an argument. Hypocrisy does not disprove the principle; it just implicates the sinner.

Posted by: Fritz at January 5, 2006 9:58 AM

So the guy at Slate thinks she ought to die because if there were such a hypothetical thing as ventilator insurance, she probably would have used her money to pay for food rather than the insurance?

God, what an ass.

Posted by: LYT at January 5, 2006 12:24 PM

> the guy at Slate thinks she ought to
> die because...

No, he thinks we need to make rational decisions about where we put our money. And that's what happened! How much money are YOU setting aside for your ventilator years? Are you going to cover MY ventilator bills when the money from selling my Zappa albums runs out? Why should you?

> hypocrisy is, in the end, not really
> an argument against anything.

Good point Fritz... BUt I've found it's a tough sell in this comment section.

Posted by: Crid at January 5, 2006 1:38 PM

Rereading, let me get this straight: A 27-yr-old was 15 minutes away from death by CANCER, and people are angry that she was taken off a respirator?

(Maybe LYT was kidding.)

It's not that I'm cynical, the problem is that other people have too much sunshine glowing from their butts. The last hour of such a life is horrid beyond description: Many of us have seen a loved one in that moment. To imagine it streched out over a calendar is heartbreaking.

On the other hand, an experience with a dear one last year showed me that doctors are often the sane ones in these scenarios. Maybe Schiavo's caretakers knew their patient's daddy was a litigious fuckwit, but I'd bet that for most doctors, the expense of extreme measures is actually a fig leaf to cover the indecency of our response to nature....

Modern medicine has lasers and radiation and endoscopy, but the nature of death mocks the our brightest thinkers, and every MD on the planet knows it. They must be grateful that most of their patients are too poor to worry about it.

You can blame George Bush for this if you want. (Really, I mean it. He deserves the opprobrium for his other sins.) But the enemy is human nature.

Posted by: Crid at January 5, 2006 6:35 PM

I just find it hard to believe that Crid, you own ANY Zappa albums.............

Cuz I need my Chrissy, and I need my beer...

Posted by: eric at January 5, 2006 8:17 PM

Dude, I own DOZENS. And met him once, at the Uptwon in Chicago in '77. Yes, I asked for an autograph; Yes, I'm embarrassed about it now. Yes, it's still around here somewhere.

Posted by: crid at January 5, 2006 8:46 PM

Presumably when she was taken off the ventilator she suffocated to death. Well, that's quicker than starving or thirsting to death when artificial feeding is removed but we wouldn't treat a terminally ill dog this way so why do it to a person?

Posted by: Norman at January 6, 2006 3:52 AM

Norman, the terminally ill dog wouldn't ever have been put on the ventilator (or was that your point)? Once it was clear that it couldn't be saved, and its remaining short life would be one of misery and pain, the dog would have been euthanized. Of course, should I become terminally ill and facing a few last months of utter agony, I don't (legally) have that choice.

Posted by: jenl1625 at January 6, 2006 6:00 AM

jenl1625 - sorry, I wasn't as clear as I should have been. Yes, I am arguing for positive euthanasia. The present climate in the UK (and I think in the US) is that we must not "play god" by providing euthanasia. Instead we have to let god or nature do our dirty work when we withdraw air or food or water.


This is some kind of sop to keep some people's consciences from bothering them. If a person was dangling over a cliff at the end of a rope, could you argue that cutting the rope was anything but murder? I don't think so. Switching off a ventilator is just the same.


We should admit that we kill the terminally ill, instead of pretending we don't. Maybe then we can move on to killing them more humanely. We all have a vested interest in this: one day it'll be you or me hooked up to the life support system.

Posted by: Norman at January 6, 2006 6:26 AM

Most of us say we would rather spend our money living while the quality of our lives is good than set a big chunk aside as a "ventilator fund" to live on when the quality turns bad. Yet a full 60% of all the money spent on health care is spent on people's last year of life. (And then I guess we just expect other people to pay for it.) What are we thinking, that if we just get the right drugs, equipment, etc. we will live forever? In the end, we all die of something or nothing. The sooner we accept this disappointing reality, the quicker we can move on and enjoy the life we DO have.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 6, 2006 7:41 AM

Norman, I completely agree that turning off the ventilator which was artificially keeping someone going does in fact kill them, and that we tend to be hypocritical about what turning it off means. We can "let someone go" by turning off the machine, but not by giving them painkillers - such a shame. If I found myself in that situation (terminally ill, in agony, with no hope of recovery and unable to even breath on my own), I'd rather have an overdose of morphine and just go to sleep. Failing that, just turn off the frickin' ventilator and let me die already!

Posted by: jenl1625 at January 6, 2006 7:55 AM

How much money are YOU setting aside for your ventilator years?

Sorry, but I don't have much left after shelling out approximately $15,000 to have my appendix removed (about half my annual income). What I do have goes to rent and food. Greedy me.

Would I shell out for you? If I can save your life with $75 a month, I just might.

Posted by: LYT at January 6, 2006 5:49 PM

> If I can save your life
> with $75 a month...

Gesture appreciated, but it's not our lives that are being saved, it's our porcine carcasses on a respirator... That's ain't LIVIN.'

> What I do have goes to rent
> and food.

That's Landsburg's point exactly. You're probably making the best decisison about where your money should go.

Posted by: Crid at January 6, 2006 9:28 PM

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