Hogan's Alley

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Liberal Urban Myth: Woman Taken Off Life Support Due To Lack Of Funds

Steven Landsburg in Slate decries, via the cynic's presumption that compassion has nothing to do with economic considerations and large institutions, "reports" that a woman, Tirhas Habtegiris (sic), was taken off life support at the Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, TX because of her and her family's inability to pay and lack of medical insurance. Landsburg echoes the moral posturing of Yucatanman at Daily Kos in this matter.

This story so deliciously fits the biases and presumptions of the left that neither of them apparently bothered to wonder whether the story is true. Googling the woman's name returns only two news stories on the matter, both by local TV stations in the area. The facts are that the woman was taken off support and died a few minutes later. She had abdominal cancer which had spread to her lungs. The report of the local CBS outlet plainly states that although members of her family believed this would not have happened if she had insurance, outside experts view the matter has having nothing to do with available funds:

But a Dallas attorney who worked on the law said money has nothing to do with it and only clinical matters are considered.

Dr. Allan Shulkin, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine at another Dallas hospital, supports the law.

"Sometimes applying technology when there is no other opportunity for recovery is wrong not because it i’s expensive, but because it prolongs suffering," he said.

In this matter I prefer to rely on the input of experts rather than the perspective of understandably distraught family members. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of medical economics knows that in all states hospitals are required to provide treatment regardless of the ability of the patient to pay. All hospitals have staff available to secure Medicaid funding if the person is eligible. Further, all hospital bills paid by private persons and insurance companies include a surcharge that is meant to cover the costs of "indigent" patients.

I know this doesn't fit the neat image, relished by many on the left, of a cold, cruel America where the poor are treated like dirt. Truth is often inconvenient.