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    Warning Will Robinson!

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    Commentor Timmah brings to my attention a story about a Texas woman who had her ventilator removed...and this story is making it's way across the lefty blogs as a comparison to Terri's fight. They are not even remotely similar and it's typical of the left to leave out basic facts. To yell and scream about these things is good. To bring them out in center for attention is good too. But to use ability to pay or race or immigration status as an excuse for removing the vent is wrong. Get the facts straight folks before you all fly off the handle and land assdown looking like idiOts.

    A family has gathered to mourn a woman gone too soon. Tirhas Habtegiris was an East African immigrant and only 27 when she died Monday afternoon. She'd been on a respirator at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano for 25 days. "They handed me this letter on December 1st. and they said, we're going to give you 10 days so on the 11th day, we're going to pull it out," said her brother Daniel Salvi.

    First of all anyone on a vent cannot speak. They have a huge tube in their throat which makes speech impossible. These tubes are uncomfortable and patients who require them are almost always sedated because they often try to pull them out themselves.

    The statement from the hospital
    Ms. Habtegiris was not conscious at the time of her death and was not consistently conscious after the first few hours in the hospital. The medical record reflects that she was given morphine for severe pain shortly after arriving in the Emergency Department, and she was further sedated when she required mechanical ventilation shortly after admission to the hospital. From that point forward, she was never again able to speak because of the tube in her windpipe (trachea), and she was never able to meaningfully communicate by other means because she required ongoing narcotics for pain and sedatives for anxiety and agitation.

    As I thought. As is typical for patients on vents.

    Even though her body was being ravaged by cancer, this family says Tirhas still responded and was conscious. She was waiting one person. "She wanted to get her mom over here or to get to her mom so she could die in her mom's arms," says her cousin Meri Tesfay.

    She may have made this wish known prior to being placed on the vent. If so, her family should have made arrangements for her mother to get here in time. This woman had been DX with the cancer for a while at the time of admission to the hospital. The terminal status had been known as well. They had time. And if you read the statements from the medical records the hospital has released we see they actually tried to help the family with getting her mother to the US.

    Ms. Habtegiris was already sedated for her comfort as noted above. Her grieving family no doubt did not want to see her removed from the mechanical ventilator and perhaps this caused them to perceive that their loved one was suffering when she was not. However, both medical professionals and the hospital chaplain (who tried to help the family cope with their grief) noted that Ms. Habtegiris died peacefully. The statement that she "suffocated" for 16 minutes is false.

    In my own experiences with patients who are removed from vents, they are almost always sedated to the point where one would never know they even needed to be on the vent. There is no grasping for air, no dramatic last moments so many would like us all to believe. Morphine is the drug of choice for these situations. For pain.
    Morphine has a side effect though: It reduces respiratory function.

    It was medically inappropriate, on scientific grounds alone, for Baylor to go along with the family’s request to maintain the ventilator indefinitely for Ms. Habtegiris (whose lungs filled each day with more and more cancer), to provide CPR at the moment of death, or to provide a lung transplant. More importantly, it is outside the ethical standard of care of both physicians and nurses to keep a suffering patient alive merely because of others' belief that it is never appropriate to stop any medical treatment.

    It's absurd to even consider performing CPR on a patient who has lung cancer. It would kill them. It wouldn't help.
    And lung translplants don't work when we have cancer in every other part of our bodies. The vent was keeping this woman alive, for sure, but it wouldn't have kept her alive for long. Her cancer had most likely spread to her brain, where the functions of life are controlled. She would have been truly brain dead but kept alive via ventilations from a machine. How's that for quality of life? The sad facts here are she had cancer, which was spreading more and more every day. The ventilator cannot stop this. If anything, it keeps the cancer alive and not her.

    Her family feels caught in America's health insurance crisis.
    "And it's kind of a shock to me too to experience this in this country. It's the richest country in the world. Very sad," Salvi said.

    No this is not the case here. When I first read the article Timmah sent in comments I was pissed off. A simple Google of this story shows a lot more was involved here. Funding issues? I was surprised to see that brought up. Being America, the land of entitlements and free healthcare for the poor, I was shocked that this was an excuse. ALL people get care, no matter the ability to pay.

    The medical record reflects that the hospital never raised payment issues with the family. As is routine for all patients without private insurance who might qualify for public assistance, the family was given contact information to apply for Medicaid. The medical record clearly reflects Medicaid would pay for the patient's hospital care.

    Medicare will pick up these costs no matter what. No matter what the political spectrum we each have, the fact is America will pay for the healthcare of everyone. No matter what their immigration status or ability to pay.
    So using payment sources or the lack of, doesn't gel here. It doesn't matter. Her care was paid for. Period.
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