The Bioethical Dilemma Of The Mother’s DNR Revisited, And More Fetal Rights Ethics Confusion [UPDATED]

In Part 2 of the New York Times editorial board’s examination of the ethical and legal complexities of conflicting laws protecting the right to kill a fetus, the rights a fetus does have, and the mother’s rights, the question is posed:

Katherin Shuffield was five months pregnant when she was shot in 2008. She survived, but she lost the twins she was carrying. The gunman, Brian Kendrick, was charged with murdering them. Bei Bei Shuai was eight months pregnant and depressed when she tried to kill herself in 2010. She was rushed to the hospital and survived, but her baby died a few days later. Ms. Shuai was charged with murder.

Both cases are tragedies. But are Ms. Shuai and the man who shot Ms. Shuffield really both murderers?

It is an ethical question, a legal one and a logical one. Unfortunately, and typical of the entire series, the Times cannot play straight, or begin with basic principles. No, the questions is asked with an assumption in hand: the right to abortion must trump everything, even logic and justice The editors go on:

“Ms. Shuai is one of several hundred pregnant women who have faced criminal charges since 1973 for acts seen as endangering their pregnancies, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which has completed the only peer-reviewed study of arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women in the United States. In many cases, the laws under which these women were charged were ostensibly written to protect them. Ms. Shuai, for instance, was charged under a law that was stiffened after the attack on Ms. Shuffield.

These criminal statutes are results of a tried-and-true playbook, part of a strategic campaign to establish fetal rights, reverse Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion. The sequence begins with anti-abortion groups seizing upon a tragic case in which a woman loses her pregnancy because of someone else’s actions. Public outcry then helps to strengthen a state feticide law that recognizes such lost pregnancies as murder or manslaughter. It’s a backdoor way of legally defining when life begins.”

In other words, the Times relies on ideology to duck an ethics conflict that points in a direction that radical abortion advocates don’t like, and thus refuse to acknowledge, because they don’t have a good answer for it. Here’s my answer: Yes, they are both murderers. If a mother who is gestating a child that she and her husband intend to have, and the child is killed by the act of a third party, a human being has been murdered, and charges are just. In the Sheffield case, her twins were within the protection of abortion limitations, though I would hold that this doesn’t matter, if they were both going to be delivered. If you don’t call this a murder, then a manic could perform an involuntary abortion on a 9 month’s  pregnant women, ripping her fetus out of her with murderous intent, and still face no murder charges as long as the mother recovered. Were it not that all obstacles to abortion must fall, even logical ones, no woman, no human being would call such an act anything but murder. Once any rights are assigned to the unborn at all, however, such logic is impolitic. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The DNR Tattoo

 Paramedics brought a 70-year-old man to the University of Miami hospital emergency room after finding him on the street, intoxicated and unconscious. Doctors tried to revive him got no response. Then they had an unusual problem: The man had a ‘Do not resuscitate’ tattoo on his chest, with a line under the ‘not.’ There was also something that looked like his signature. Tattoos are not legally-binding DNR orders, and in Florida, there are  very specific requirements for DNRs. to be legal.  Both a doctor and the patient must sign it, and they must be on paper, not on chests.

The doctors decided to respect the man’s tattoo. They did not try to revive him after the initial efforts failed

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was that the right call?

Continue reading

The Glenwood Gardens Incident: A Duty To Rescue, Policy Or Not

"Here at Glenwood Gardens, our residents understand that our crack staff will allow them to die on the floor without lifting a finger."

“Here at Glenwood Gardens, our residents understand that our crack staff will allow them to die on the floor without us lifting a finger.”

Once again, we consider the ethical duties of someone placed by fate and circumstance in a position to give life-saving service…and who refuses to do so.

Lorraine Bayless,  87 year-old resident of Glenwood Gardens, a Bakersfield, California senior living facility, collapsed on the dining room floor, not breathing, her life obviously in danger.  A Glenwood Gardens staff member who identified herself as a nurse called 911, and this exchange ensued…

911 Dispatcher: “This woman’s not breathing enough. She’s gonna die if we don’t get this started. Do you understand?”

Nurse: “I understand. I am a nurse. But I cannot have our other citizens, who don’t know CPR, do it … ”

Dispatcher: “Is there anyone that works there that’s willing to do it?”

Nurse: “We can’t do that.”

Dispatcher: “Are we just gonna let this lady die?”

Nurse: “Well that’s why we’re calling 911.”

Dispatcher: “Is there anyone that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”

Nurse: “Um, not at this time.”

The 87-year-old was declared dead at the hospital. Continue reading