Fox News has latched onto the case of a terminally ill Canadian baby, mostly to politicize it by fearmongering about the death panels that are supposedly coming (but in reality are not) under health care reform in the U.S. Now, Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel has upped the ante by getting basic facts of the case wrong.
Siegel writes in a February 25 FoxNews.com opinion piece:
Joseph Maraachli is 13 months old. He has a neurodegenerative disease, and is reportedly badly brain damaged and suffering from recurrent seizures. He is unable to breathe on his own, and is probably in a coma from which he won't awaken. The condition is genetic, and his sister already died from the same condition when she was 18 months old. But the difference between Joseph and his sister is that she was allowed to die at home under the care of her parents, whereas he is residing in a hospital in London, Ontario, where doctors are threatening to remove him from the respirator and end his life precipitously.
Canadian law would seem to not allow this. It flat out refuses physician-assisted suicide, where a doctor's direct intervention brings about a patient's death. According to statute 241, "Everyone who counsels a person to commit suicide or aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years."
Setting aside Siegel's outrageous suggestion that a 13-month-old baby who is in what doctors have described as a persistent vegetative state is somehow consenting to suicide, it's simply not true that this case has anything to do with assisted suicide. Doctors and the child's parents agree that the baby's condition is terminal; the question is over how he will be cared for in his final days. Doctors want to remove the child's breathing tube and allow him to die in a hospital, while the parents want a tracheotomy to be performed so the child can be cared for at home.
Siegel dismissed doctors' fears that the tracheotomy would expose the child to an increased risk of infection and pneumonia: "In my experience, the hospital's contention that this is painful and increases the risk of infection are greatly exaggerated." Meanwhile, doctors who are actually caring for the child say that while a tracheotomy might prolong the baby's life, it's futile in this case and would likely cause much discomfort.
And since this is Fox News, Siegel works in the death panel stuff:
We seem to be heading in the same direction here in the U.S., where Accountable Care Organizations and other regulatory bodies and committees will be ruling on what is cost effective care and what isn't. Will there come a time here soon when the plug is pulled too quickly, and doctors are afraid to resist?