Monday, March 28, 2005

An Amazing L.A. Times Cheap Shot at Tom DeLay

Yesterday being Easter and all, I was more interested in getting to the last choir practice before our Easter performance than I was in looking at the Sunday L.A. Times. (My approach to the Sunday Times is based on experience. I usually start with the sports section, then move on to the comics. Then I dig up the Opinion section to see if any of the signed editorials look interesting. I never read the unsigned ones, since they seem more like internal memos in a liberal think tank than editorials seriously exploring an issue.)

I did notice this article about the end-of-life decision Tom DeLay's family had to make about DeLay's father, but did not take the time to read it until today, when I heard a talk radio show report that the Washington Post had picked up the story and that NBC's Norah O'Donnell had essentially re-read the story on the air. (Apart from the Times, I can find the story only on MSNBC.)

DeLay's father, according to the story (which is quite long) was injured in a freak accident, but Mr. DeLay's family unanimously decided not to take heroic steps to keep him alive. The clear intent of the story is to make DeLay out as a hypocrite:

DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping [Terri Schiavo], who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube. . . . In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.
I am no fan of DeLay's polarizing style or his apparent ethical myopia (detailed in this Wall Street Journal editorial appearing today). Nor am I often surprised by any story in the L.A. Times attacking conservative Republicans. Still, I find it this story amazingly outrageous. It is about as cheap as a shot can get.

Why? Because the DeLay family's experience is totally unremarkable in the medico-legal-ethical world. My siblings and I chose the same course for our mother several years ago, in very similar circumstances. I don't advise clients about such cases because they are not legally, medically, or ethically difficult; Hospitals never even call me in cases like these, which are so straightforward that it would not occur to anyone to call the hospital lawyer.

The combination of ignorance and malice here is truly stunning. Consider: In the DeLay case the family (starting with his wife) all agreed about Mr. DeLay's wishes. His demise was imminent, absent life-support measures, and his injuries were such that he could not be restored to independent life without those measures. His kidneys had failed. Consequently, he had on his medical chart what is called a "do not resuscitate" ("DNR") order.

Folks, this happens all the time. There is no story here. And it bears no significant resemblance to the Schiavo case. Terri Schiavo's family certainly does not agree that her wishes are clear; her demise is not imminent; and none of her life-sustaining organs have failed. The only similarity is that both Mrs. Schiavo and Mr. DeLay sustained serious and apparently irreversible brain damage.

Giving further evidence of its real intentions, the Times piece goes on to criticize Tom DeLay for his family's decision to sue the company they felt was responsible for the accident that caused their father's death. Apparently the Times writer find this hypocritical because DeLay strongly favors tort reform.

Whether you like Tom DeLay or not (and truthfully, I don't) , a hit piece is a hit piece is a hit piece. I can't remember the last time I saw one this blatant in the Times. The extent to which the news media here (the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, and NBC) have combined ignorance about hospitals and medical care with malice toward conservatives with whom they disagree is truly stunning and outrageous. The resulting article gives new meaning to the term "trumped-up."

Hugh Hewitt might ask why I have not cancelled my L.A. Times subscription. Well, I canÂ’'t; I have to take the Times for professional reasons. Besides, we have a pet guinea pig, and the Times makes an excellent lining for his cage.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree it is a hit piece. Do not feel one bit sorry for Tom Delay, however. He is a hypocrite and an arrogant abuser of his power. I hope someday he wanders back into his pest control business where they mistake him for a giant cockroach and he gets squashed. 

Posted by Anonymous

Monday, March 28, 2005 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if he's a hypocrite, he's a hypocrite. I disagree that it's a hit piece. Sure, there are differences between the two cases, and some are outlined in the article. But as the authors observe:

There were also these similarities: Both stricken patients were severely brain-damaged. Both were incapable of surviving without medical assistance. Both were said to have expressed a desire to be spared from being kept alive by artificial means. And neither of them had a living will. 

And the main difference between the two cases was that one was DeLay's business, and the other wasn't. 

Posted by Thomas Nephew

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 2:12:00 PM  

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