Ethics Committee Hospital to Terminate Texas Woman

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Her family says 'no' but her doctors say 'yes':

A life or death struggle is taking place at St. Luke’s Hospital, where doctors are planning to remove a woman from life support.

The patient is not brain dead, and according to her family, she wants to live.

Andrea Clark has been at St. Luke's since November.
They may be small in number, but the protesters said the bigger picture is the gravity of their message.

“They just say, ‘well she’s miserable.’ Well, to me that’s a quality of life decision that is up to her and her family,” Lanore Dixon said. “That is not a medical decision.”

Dixon is protesting on behalf of her sister Andrea Clark, a patient at St. Luke’s Hospital since November.

In January, the 54-year-old underwent open-heart surgery. The next month she developed bleeding on the brain.

Now an ethics committee has recommended removing her ventilator and taking her off life support.

But her family is fighting to stop that despite not having the law on their side.

“If their ethics committee makes a decision, it doesn’t matter what the patient wants,” Dixon said. “It doesn’t even apparently matter what the patient’s condition is, because our sister is not in a coma, she’s not brain dead,” Dixon said.

In fact, family members said even though their sister cannot speak, they know she wants to live. They said she communicates by moving her lips and blinking her eyes

Clark will be killed on April 30th unless the family can find a facility to move her to.

How did this happen? According to Andrea Clark's sister, insurance companies pressure hospitals to get critical patients "off the books" - those in their care become worth more "dead than alive":

When the hospital notified us about the ethics committee meeting, we knew what the outcome would be. We had tried to put off that meeting so that we could have more time to find a hospital that would admit Andrea as a patient, but we were not successful in that regard. We are still trying to find a hospital to take Andrea as a patient. However, none of this would have come about if it were up to the hospital alone.

Andrea's attorney explained it to us this way:

An insurance company negotiates with the hospital how much they will pay for certain services. Say, for instance, someone in the ICU costs $10,000 for treatment per day. The insurance company says to the hospital, "Okay, we will pay you $7500 for you to provide that service to our insured patient."

There's a catch, though. The insurance company will pay the negotiated amount to the hospital, but if a patient goes on and on, needing that service, the insurance company begins making noise. This insured patient is costing them too much; they are losing profit. They begin to put pressure on the hospital to get that patient off of their books. The hospital either does this by getting aggressive with the patient's treatment, getting them well, and discharging them, OR by "pulling the plug" on that patient.

In other words, that patient has now become, in terms of profit, both for the hospital and the insurance company "worth more dead." If that patient continues to receive that intensive care, it costs the hospital in terms of where they stand the next time they negotiate prices with the insurance company. The next time negotiations come up, the insurance company will say, "Hey, we would give you the going rate on an intensive care patient this year, but you gouged us for 90 days on Andrea Clark last year, so we are lowering our starting point for payment to $7000, to make up for it."

St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, in my opinion, is heartless and cold, and only concerned about the bottom line. But the insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is also a party to this kind of thing. That's where the pressure needs to be applied. I am sure Blue Cross Blue Shield is suffering no negative publicity in this battle. But they should.

Most people don't know how this system works. And I wouldn't have known, either, had I not been faced with this horrible situation. Poor Andrea, knowing that her health was delicate, bought supplemental insurance policies right and left--most of which do not cover this type of situation at all (she didn't know--she was just doing her best, to protect herself). The sad thing is that Andrea spent large pieces of her limited income in order to avoid just such a situation, and here she is faced with it anyway.

More to follow ...

Update: Action Item Here

5 Comments

This poor woman's plight is a real wake up call for the folks at DU. Her sister said she isn't like Terri, so she shouldn't die. Terri was so much more cognizant than media let on, that our sick culture mostly believed she deserved to die. We are all completely vulnerable to the whims of the bottom line almighty $$$$$. If we aren't producers, we will be eliminated!!

Posted by lesforlife at April 23, 2006 07:46 PM

They can thank George Bush, the X Governor for that futile law. My advice is to take her home.

Sad story. I have BCBS. I don't understand how that is happening. Did her coverage run out??

I still don't understand how they can do that. It's time WE, the PEOPLE put these DOCTORS and HOSPITALS out of business. I am serious. No wonder Bush passed the lawsuit cap bill for Physcians. At the time, I thought he was protecting the doctors from friviulous lawsuits and being run out of business. These people need to be sued.

How much more can America take? America, meaning, WE THE PEOPLE, NOT GEORGE BUSH and his cronies.

I see these die hard republican supporters refuse to see the truth about these criminals that make their living off of WE THE PEOPLE. They will tell you it is a conspriacy. I am telling you what, Iraq maybe a safer place to live.

We are trying to rally InAheartBeat, but we found out a bit late. It isn't like we we were told 24 hours ago.

For those of you who are blaming President Bush for the law, you know nothing of its history. It was passed in the Texas Legislature that I believe was then Democrat controlled. Some version was going to pass over and above a veto because it had that much support. The original law would have allowed NO time --zero days, minutes, or hours -- to move the patient. It was then Governor Bush that worked in at least the 10 days. Yes, its a bad law. But you have the "pro-death" lobby and pro-Euthansia lobby to thank for it being inevitable. So stop blaming President Bush for everything and address the real culprits.




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