Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's latest effort to burnish his credentials as a "pro-life leader'' are deceitful and lack any sense of decency. The hospital executive is shamelessly exploiting the tragedy of a family of a severely disabled young woman, marking the second time he has placed his selfish interests over theirs. The heartless ploy speaks volumes to this candidate's character and raises more questions about his judgment.
Sidney Ainsley Miller's story is a nightmare scenario for any family. Due to complications during labor, Sidney was born in 1990 at 23 weeks of gestation, weighing just over a pound and unable to breathe or circulate blood. After consulting with doctors, her parents, Mark and Karla Miller, said there should not be "extraheroic measures" taken that would prolong the infant's suffering. But Women's Hospital in Houston disregarded that directive. Upon birth, Sidney had oxygen pumped into her lungs through a tube down her throat, a procedure that can cause complications. Months later she had brain surgery at an age deemed too young for anesthesia. Today Sidney has brain damage, cerebral palsy, seizures and blindness. She requires constant care.
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.
It is also disingenuous to suggest that Sidney's case is about abortion. The Millers oppose abortion. The case is about the ethical obligations of hospitals to respect the valid and humane wishes of devastated parents trying to protect their dying newborn from aggressive, long-shot medicine.
Now Scott is trying to politically capitalize on the private pain of one family that sought no publicity, and he claims he does not even remember the details of the case. What voters should remember is this heartless pandering. They should remember Scott's unwillingness to pay for Sidney's care, and they should remember his cruel decision to parade this family's private pain in public.