Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Talks Up Taking Medical Decisions From Families

Florida received a great deal of attention when Governor Jeb Bush stepped in to try to deny Terri Schiavo’s husband the right to make medical decisions for his wife. Now it looks like Gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott would like to follow in Bush’s footsteps, based on his new favorite anti-choice stump speech talking point based on a case 20 years ago.

In 1990, parents of Sidney Miller, an infant born very prematurely at 23 weeks gestation with neither the ability to breath nor circulate blood on her own, chose not to allow further medical interventions to be performed on their child. The parents now say that doctors at the hospital at which their baby was a patient–and of which Scott became CEO– disregarded their health directive and instead performed surgeries that left the baby alive, but with nothing resembling a functioning life.

From Mother Jones magazine:

Ultimately a court ruled that the Millers, not the hospital, were best positioned to make decisions like those surrounding Sidney’s birth. The court awarded the Millers $43 million. Rick Scott, when interviewed by the Times, said he couldn’t remember the specifics of the Millers’ case, other than to say, “I believe that when a child is born, as a medical entity you take care of that child and do everything you can to preserve that life.”

Not so, said Mark Miller, Sidney’s father, who is clearly offended by Scott’s distortion of a chain of events that forever altered the Millers’ lives. “Our case had absolutely nothing to do with abortion, nothing to do with pro-life advocacy, nothing to do with right to life. Our case was about consent to treat, a fundamental expectation that all parents deserve.”

Due to the the hospital’s intervention, Sidney is now 20 years old, blind, brain damaged, unable to walk, prone to seizures and in need of constant medical attention.  Rick Scott fought the 2003 lawsuit against his hospital asking for damages to cover care of Sidney, though he now claims the suit as proof of his dedication to life issues.  From a St. Petersburg Times editorial:

Scott uses this case to proclaim himself a “prolife leader.” In referring to Sidney’s case he said, “We lost a $43 million lawsuit because we saved the life of a child that the parents didn’t want us to.” Scott’s hospital company had bought Women’s Hospital as part of a chain in 1994. As CEO of Columbia/HCA, Scott decided to continue to fight the Millers’ lawsuit. Eventually a jury awarded the Millers $43 million to cover Sidney’s expenses, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Any claim that Scott’s decision to battle the Millers’ lawsuit was a matter of principle is disingenuous at best. This was about the bottom line. Scott’s efforts were to keep the hospital from being on the hook for a fortune in medical bills and professional care for Sidney throughout her life — expenses that Scott was all too happy to dump on the Millers.

Once more, anti-abortion politicians show that their real concern ends the moment the the baby is born.  Sounds like a true “pro-life victory.”

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  • liberaldem

    What a tragedy for the Miller family.  I can’t imagine the heartbreak that Sidney’s parents have experienced during her life. 

  • crowepps

    The verdict was overturned on appeal. That means Sidney Miller, massively handicapped and needing 24-hour care the rest of her life, will be flat out of luck after her worn-out parents can no longer care for her and end up warehoused in a nursing home that takes Medicaid.

  • saltyc

    Typical, crying up and down about how much you care about the baby, forcing your hand against the paren’t sane and compassionate wishes, then when it comes to paying for it, well, you know, that’s not our business.