Monday, August 13, 2007

Murder By Any Other Name

I often read things that push me past my somewhat cynical bemusement at humankind's foibles, but I've learned to take a deep breath and relax. On the other hand, I sometimes find myself so utterly disconnected from the supposed logic of those with a national forum that I catch a glimpse of the simple truth behind Voltaire's comment that "The only way to comprehend what mathematicians mean by Infinity is to contemplate the extent of human stupidity."

Today's example comes from a column by Susan Estrich, a Democratic Party activist and active talking head when the television networks have time to fill and need opposing viewpoints. It's easier to begin at the end of her column, titled "Death with Dignity."

"Obviously, no one committed murder here in the sense that two men in Connecticut recently did, when they entered a suburban home and raped and killed a mother and her two daughters. The transplant surgeon was trying to save lives, not take them. But we need to do a better job of ensuring that in our haste to save lives, we don't deprive the dying, and their families, of the dignity they deserve."

The case in point involved a man named Ruben Navarro, 25 years old, and apparently upon the cusp of death because he had adrenal leukodystrophy (ALD) and his care had been grossly mismanaged by a so-called skilled nursing home. When informed he would not recover after his breathing temporarily ceased, his mother gave permission for his organs to be transplanted after he died.

Enter a surgeon, who apparently had decided that a natural death would arrive too late.

Estrich writes in her column, "After his respiratory tube was removed and he was given an initial injection of morphine and Ativan, Navarro didn't die. So the transplant surgeon sent the nurse hunting for more candy, in the hopes that a double dose would speed his death so that his organs could be harvested within the 30-minute period necessary to make them viable. When it didn't work, the doctor got on the phone while the patient lay there frothing from the mouth and shivering. He ultimately died seven hours later, at a point when his organs were no longer viable and the transplant team had long since departed."

Interestingly, during the same period -- but apparently luckily not in the same hospital nor under the same team's care -- Estrich's mother was mortally ill. She and her siblings sang to her, and "the cantor from her Temple had come ... stayed with us ... chanting the words that had comforted her in life and made her death last year a peaceful and dignified one."

Estrich's mother died, full of years and in the arms of loving.

Ruben Navarro was killed by a man who swore the Hippocratic Oath because he refused to die so that his organs could be used by another person whose life had been judged more valuable.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law - Cite This Source
Main Entry: mur·der
Pronunciation: 'm&r-d&r
Function: noun
Etymology: partly from Old English morthor; partly from Old French murdre, of Germanic origin
: the crime of unlawfully and unjustifiably killing another under circumstances defined by statute (as with premeditation); especially : such a crime committed purposely, knowingly, and recklessly with extreme indifference to human life or during the course of a serious felony (as robbery or rape)

There's a more comprehensive review of Ruben Navarro's life and death at "Diagnosis Murder."

1 comment:

Big Noise said...

Hi Gary,
I wrote the piece Diagnosis:Murder. It's gratifying to know that others find the story so utterly despicable they want to write about it.

I was literally sick to my stomach while doing the research on the story. Unfortunately, it (murder at the hand of physicians and other health care workers)won't be the last time. As long as we live in a society that believes that death is a better alternative than living with a disability, the medical establishment will continue the behavior and get little more than a hand-spank for it.

Again, thanks.
AKA Big Noise