by Michael Bryan
You would think that the idea of condemning people to death by
withholding medical treatment would be pretty abhorrent to just about
everyone. That is certainly what conservatives are banking on with
their invocation of mythical 'death panels' that was supposedly a
feature of the health reform legislation before Congress.
would think, then, that they would be rather sensitive of anything that
smacks of euthanasia here at home. You would be wrong. Here in Arizona
it is perfectly legal to let a person who cannot care for himself die
by withholding medical care – as long as you pray for them to be
Many states have statutes that make it a
crime to allow a vulnerable adult or child to come to harm through
neglect, including withholding needed medical care. A vulnerable adult
is mentally or physically impaired person who cannot protect himself
from neglect, abuse, or exploitation, such as a person who is gravely
ill. Here in Arizona that statute is the Child and Vulnerable Adult
However, there are some exceptions to criminal
liability for allowing harm to come to vulnerable adults. One is,
sensibly, medical providers who are withholding care pursuant to the
patient's own refusal or an advance health care directive.
The second is quite extraordinary:
"E. This section does not apply to:
A vulnerable adult who is being furnished spiritual treatment through
prayer alone and who would not otherwise be considered to be abused,
neglected or endangered if medical treatment were being furnished."
in Arizona, you can withhold needed medical care that would save a
person's life, even if they don't consent, so long as you pray for
Maybe health insurance companies should set up prayer
groups to pray for the recovery of the folks they deny treatment
through pre-existing rulings and rescission of their policies. We
could call those prayer groups 'death panels' with a straight face.
me, this exception is outrageous. Are Christian Scientists such a
powerful lobby in Arizona that their wacky beliefs about medicine merit
an exception in our criminal code? Note that this exception doesn't
apply to children, just vulnerable adults. It's not OK to let your
children die by denying them medical care, but grandma is fair game,
apparently. Or were Arizona's conservatives looking ahead to day when
insurance companies needed a cheap way to get away with the moral
equivalent of murder?
"Yeah, we denied that life-saving procedure and the patient died, but we prayed for him to get better!"
I wonder how many conservatives will jump to the defense of Arizona's own 'death panels' of the prayerful in the comments?