Disability Activists Call for Moratorium on Starvation and Dehydration

The following Press Release is from a group called "Not Dead Yet" (HT: LifeSteward - LifeNews has more)

Disability activists have called for a nationwide moratorium on the
dehydration and starvation of people alleged to be in persistent
vegetative state. This would apply to individuals who do not have
an advance directive or durable power of attorney.

The call for a moratorium is a reaction to the newly-published report indicating high levels of brain activity in people thought to be in minimally conscious state (MCS). The study, published in the February issue of Neurology, discovered evidence that these individuals may hear and understand much of what is going on around them, but are unable to respond.

The study drew a distinction between MCS and Persistent Vegetative
State (PVS), but the distinction is not a reliable one. In a New York
Times article, Dr. Joseph Fins mentioned research indicating a 30%
misdiagnosis rate of PVS, indicating that nearly a third of persons
diagnosed in PVS are actually in minimally conscious state.
Fins is chief of the medical ethics division of New York Presbyterian
Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

With the exception of oblique references to Terri Schiavo, current
coverage of the study and its implications dance around the
most important issues regarding this study. Namely, thousands of
people around this country with labels of both MCS and PVS are
being starved and dehydrated, often without an advance directive
indicating their wishes, or a durable power of attorney appointing
a substitute decision-maker they chose for themselves.

Given the current research regarding brain activity and misdiagnosis,
its a virtual certainty that countless people have been helpless to
prevent their own deaths through starvation and dehydration, says
Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a national
disability rights group opposed to legalization of assisted suicide
and euthanasia. Theres an analogy to DNA evidence and the
death penalty. Here in Illinois, the staggering numbers of innocent
and wrongly convicted people on Death Row resulted in a moratorium
on the death penalty. Whether you agreed with the death penalty
or not, everyone was forced to find ways to make sure no innocent
person ended up on Death Row again. The same amount of concern
should apply to medically induced deaths, in which the numbers
far exceed the number of convicted people executed each year.

Not Dead Yet is calling for a moratorium on the withholding of feeding
tubes from people in PVS and MCS until they can be tested under the
same protocol used on individuals in the Neurology study.
State-of-the-art testing for cognitive activity should be a minimum
standard to be applied when someones death is proposed. Just as
the availability of DNA testing and competent counsel are accepted
as essential to people being tried in capital cases, the new technical
tools to evaluate cognitive activity and potential should be applied to
individuals before feeding tubes are withdrawn. Even with this
technology, there will probably still be mistakes. But at least it will
be the first step in reducing the number of conscious people dying
from hunger and thirst in hospitals and nursing homes, aware of every
minute and unable to cry out that they are awake.

Not Dead Yet
7521 Madison St.
Forest Park, IL 60130
708-209-1500
http://www.notdeadyet.org




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