It’s really getting out of control. The headlines and news reports are filled with life and death. Not war. Not accidents. No, these news stories are about how and when our medical system can, and will, legally kill us.

Have no doubt, it’s a fact. Right to life – for whom?

  • Euthanasia – giving people, other than the patient the right to say when that patient should die, how, and when. Keep in mind, this can include patients of any age, from children to the elderly.
  • In vitro fertilization involving living embryos and issues dealing with the ethics of freezing the eggs and sperm for later use.
  • Abortion: early, mid-pregnancy or late-term killings of the fetus/baby.
  • Harvesting of fetal tissue from pre-dead or just-dead children for the purpose of lucrative sales.
  • The other side of that issue dealing with the ‘disposal’ of fetal remains (read: dead bodies).

The plague of legislation in so many states across the country seems to be focused on who can be the most outrageous in the details of permitting the ending of viable pregnancies.

What a quandary legislators find themselves in as they have to decide who lives and dies and when and how: terminate the pregnancy pre-labor, during labor or after labor; what to do with the fetus who at birth becomes a “baby”; and to complicate matters, what if it continues to live?

When the most brutal law was passed by the New York Legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, that group broke out in cheers and hurrahs – as though they had won the big game of the season.

Afterward there were calls for Cuomo to be excommunicated by the Catholic Church (the clergy denied those requests), Cuomo took a final “rub your face in it” by appearing on network television on Ash Wednesday for an interview, with a big, black “ash” cross on his forehead.

His unmistakable message was/is: I’m a Catholic and I approve such abortions and killings. So there!

Decisions on all of these aspects of abortion have become part of the discussion all over the news, involving legislators of all religions. They present moral problems, which become especially critical when the child is born alive after the abortion.

It does happen.

If the point of abortion is that the child will not survive, what do you do? Break the neck; cut the spinal cord; leave it on a table to just die on its own?

What a grisly picture of modern medicine. It makes me wonder why someone would want to be a doctor. What happened to the oath that included “to do no harm”?

As if it weren’t bad enough to deal with politicians getting involved in life and death decisions, now we have to be concerned about medical automation; that is, robots.

True story: At the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center Emergency Department in Fremont, California last week, Ernest Quintana was given a doctor’s last medical advice by ROBOT “that he was about to die.”

The 78-year-old was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was unable to breathe and the family knew he was dying of a chronic lung disease. He had physician visits for the initial diagnosis.

In the evening, he was with his granddaughter, 33-year-old Annalisia Wilharm, when a nurse came in to say that a doctor would be making his rounds to deliver test results.

Moments later, a robot rolled itself into the room, and a doctor appeared on a video screen. Ms. Wilharm was astonished by what the doctor said, which was hard to hear because an oxygen machine made so much noise.

The doctor on the screen told her “I don’t know if he’s going to get home” and suggested giving him morphine “to make sure you’re comfortable.”

Ms. Wilharm videotaped the incident, fearing she would forget what was said.

She was quoted in the East Bay Times: “When the robot said that to him, he looked over at me and said, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to go quickly,’ and put his head down.”

In fact, two days later, Ernest Quintana died. Ms.Wilharm said it was pitiful.

Her mother, Cathie Quintana, was furious the hospital didn’t inform any family members about the prognosis – “there was no compassion, no bedside manner, nothing.”

Family and friends are outraged. Julianne Spangler, a friend wrote, “This is not the way to show value and compassion to a patient. Shame on you, Kaiser.”

Given the reaction, it’s no surprise that Kaiser officials are on the defense. Michelle Gaskill-Hames is senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County. She said the family is “offered sincere condolences” and they have reached out to them “to discuss their concerns.”

She continued that “this is a highly unusual circumstance – and we will review how to improve patient experience with tele-video capabilities.”

According to the East Bay Times, Gaskill-Hames bristled at the characterization of the video device as a “robot,” calling it “inaccurate and inappropriate.”

The newspaper noted that InTouchHealth calls its device an iRobot.

So much for that!

Other physicians were contacted for their thoughts, one being Arthur L. Caplan, head of the division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine. He said he’s never heard of something like this happening before; but with growing automation, such interactions may well become standard in the future.

All this, and I didn’t even get into the right of doctors and others to decide when and how to euthanize a patient – i.e. kill – regardless of their age.

George Orwell, where are you?

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