A few years ago a battered infant was admitted to a California hospital. After a period of observation and testing, the physicians concluded that the infant had been beaten so badly that his brain was almost completely destroyed, leaving him permanently unconscious. The hospital had just adopted a policy specifying that life-sustaining treatment for permanent unconsciousness was futile and, therefore, not indicated. According to this policy, after suitable subspecialty consultations and deliberations, including efforts to gain parental agreement and documentation of (...) unanimous ethics committee support, the patient's physician had the authority to discontinue life-sustaining treatment. The infant's physician wished to do this. The mother, however, who was the prime battery suspect, insisted that the baby be kept alive. (shrink)
In 1990, I voiced strong doubts about a bill entitled the Patient Self-Determination Act, which had been introduced in the U.S. Senate by John Danforth and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I hoped to see it defeated. In 1991, after the bill had become a small part of a massive status adopted in the waning hours of the 101st Congress, I devoted countless hours to its implementation. I wanted to see it succeed. Why the change?
: The appearance of a sheep named Dolly, the first clone of an adult mammal, dramatically affected the agenda, pace of work, and visibility of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. The Commission's approach to its task and some of the issues it considered in responding to President Clinton's request for review and recommendations within 90 days are described.