Diane Meier to the brain injured: We respect your choice for life-support, but most people “make sane decisions”

It is difficult to say which was more disturbing: the doctor’s contempt for families who choose life for brain-injured loved ones; or Wesley J. Smith’s bizarre spin on the doctor’s speech.

On April 8, Smith blogged about a talk given by Dr. Diane Meier to a group of Vermont end-of-life activists. (“Assisted Suicide Ex Proponent, Dr. Diane Meier, Speaks Wisdom.”)

The item seemed contrived.  Meier’s about-face on assisted suicide is old news.  She was an assisted suicide activist until 1998, when she announced via the New York Times that she had changed her mind.  Now she is ostensibly against legalization of assisted suicide, though even Smith himself says “she is not an activist in the sense that I [Smith] am against that doctor prescribed death agenda.”  Moreover, her short comments on assisted suicide, quoted by Smith, were not very different from what she has been saying for many years.

The Q&A that Smith quoted was just a footnote to Meier’s hour-long speech.  Smith never commented on the ethical implications of Meier’s central arguments, which were taken right out of the Cass Sunstein/Zeke Emanuel/Donald Berwick playbook.  Meier argued  that via incremental change Obamacare will succeed in transforming American medicine to a public health model, will do away with the “original sin” of “unrestricted fee-for-service,” and will extend citizens’ quality years. More importantly, Meier argued that Obamacare won’t break the bank if palliative care – symptom treatment for people with five or more chronic conditions – is an essential part of the program.

The real kicker came roughly 44 minutes into the talk when Meier let slip what she really thinks about people who choose life   (video available here). Meier said 90% of the time severely brain-injured patients and their families choose to forgo or withhold life support; 10% of the time they don’t. She continued (note the mocking tone):

“10% of the time they say ‘I want everything; I don’t care if my brain is gone; I want to stay on a ventilator; I’m waiting for a miracle.’ Palliative care teams respect those choices . . . but nine times out of ten people make sane decisions.”

Just in case you missed it, that wasn’t respect, it was sarcasm. Meier was questioning the sanity of families who choose life-support for a loved one with severe brain damage.

Meier is a leftist ideologue. It is not surprising to hear her malign pro-lifers and bash American health care. However it is a surprise, and disappointing, that Wesley Smith covers for her.