When is it considered murder or manslaughter?

I was listening to a talk how about a woman who needs a stomach transplant and her insurance company is balking at paying for it. This seems to happen a lot these days because I’ve heard of it before, especially with the still rising costs of medical care.

That generated a question.

Why is it murder to kill someone deliberately but not murder to deliberately withhold medical treatment which would save a life?

Even if you accidentally kill someone, there can be repercussions. If you kill someone on a spur of the moment urge, it is manslaughter.

But, if you or your company withhold vital medical treatments which will save a life, simply because the person cannot pay, it is just fine.

I would think it would still be murder or manslaughter because, through someone’s actions, another person died.

I’ve read where some places have a good samaritan law, where if you see a crime being committed where a person is in risk of harm or is in distress and you do not help when you could, you can be prosicuted.

When it comes to needed medical care, nothing applies to help the patient. Insurance companies, hospitals and doctors can and have refused services and help with impunity. There’s stories going around about people being brought to one hospital in an emergency and, being uninsured, being sent to another one much further away. I think one person went to three hopitals before being admitted and by then his condition had grown so bad that he died

One story told of a woman with breast cancer who was turned down from hopital after hospital because she had no money and trying to find her some help took so long that she died after months of laying at home in severe pain. Everyone involved in the case denied responsibility.

Why is this not considered not manslaughter or murder? The medical help was there but denied this person.

What is missing in each and all of your presented scenarios is intent to commit harm. The prospective patient, outside of an emergency room, where different laws take effect, is not guaranteed treatment for health conditions by law. No provider is required to treat every person who might benefit from that treatment.

If I need a kidney transplant, and you match me, and have two kidneys, do you feel that not wanting to give one to me should constitute murder? After all, you only need one, and I am going to die if I don’t get one.

The Samaritan Law does not do what you think it does. If you act in good faith to aid someone in dire distress, you are protected from lawsuits for damages resulting from your reasonable attempts to prevent loss of life or limb. It does not require you to be a hero, or even try to be a hero. Some jurisdictions don’t even require you to actively attempt to report felonious activity. Others do.

Most jurisdictions will hold you responsible for callous disregard for life if you fail to take some trivial action that would save the life of a person you knew to be in danger. However, that type of conviction is hard to get, because it must be proven that you perceived and understood the danger, and the solution, and still chose not to act. An example might be if you saw a child of three dragging a loaded shotgun around, and simply walked away.

All right, but what about when it comes to institutions like hospitals, where providing life saving treatments will not be a personal thing, such as your kidney example?

They have everything someone would need, even doctors and all that would be provided is time and materials. I see your point about regular citizens, but a place like a hospital is different. If you have the cash, the hospital will treat you but if you don’t, then it withholds needed medication and such.

I know hospitals often treat people for free, but there are many that will not and even free treatment stops when the cost gets high. Like someone needing a transplant. The insurance companies have lately started resisting paying for expensive treatments, which means the patient has to get a lawyer who threatens them, which takes time and the sick person gets worse.

Something like this happened to my aunt, who paid for top quality insurance to take care of her in her old age. When she had to move into an assisted living facility, her adjuster said the insurance would pay for the place. Once she got into one that wasn’t just a place to lay and die, her insurance refused to pay. When her doctors and the home could get nowhere, nor her adjuster, she had her lawyer contact them. They then started paying for her care, which was why she had signed with them in the first place. Had she not had a large amount of money locked up in stocks, the home would have pitched her out by the time the insurance company decided to pay.

There have been situations where insurance companies have decided not to pay for medical treatments and not everyone can get a lawyer to force them to.

A hospital can deny treatment to people unable to pay. You can be left to die on the sidewalk in front of the building containing things which would save your life. I don’t think I could make the decision to reject a dying person from a hospital because they were broke. Nor to argue with a customer over paying for his needed surgery because my company wants to hang onto their money longer.

If a doctor, I don’t think I could refuse to help someone in pain and potentially dying in my hospital if my skills could save them and if I was in charge of a drug company, I don’t think I could deny people medication to keep them alive.

Maybe that’s why I’m not in any of the health related fields. I still remember when the first, real AIDS medication came out with the potential of keeping those affected from dying within months. The stuff was $100 a dosage and only those who could afford it could use it. Insurance companies refused to pay for it.

Still, if you are denied life saving treatment because you cannot pay for it at a hospital, would that not constitute a form of murder? No one employee at the hospital has to provide anything but time and skill. The instruments and drugs are already there.

In the U.S. anyway, one cannot be liable for a failure to act (or an ommission) unless the person owes the other a duty to act (parent must care for child, for example). A hospital is not under a duty in all situations to admit a patient. Once admitted they do have a duty to care for the patient, and failure to provide that care may make them civilly and even criminally liable.

As for why don’t doctors and hospitals owe a duty to someone they haven’t taken as a patient? I can think of a couple of reasons. First, in the U.S. we don’t like to force people into contract-type of situations, it is a matter of choice. Second insurance rates would skyrocket not only because of the cost of care without payment, but also for increase in malpractice instances that would probably accompany such a practice.

All right, but is this right?

Contractual obligations, possible lawsuits, expenses and such do not equal the value of a human life. If a person shows up at the ER to a hospital and is dying, would not that person’s life be more valuable than all of the previously mentioned excuses? I mean, the hospital is in the business of saving lives after all.

Well, if you feel it’s not right - petition congress. Sorry, I understand your point, but that’s what it would take. And you have a long trek ahead of you. (BTW, in most cases that I’m aware of, if a person shows up “dying” at a hospital, their first course of action is to stabalize them - not to worry about insurance, etc.)

Gazoo is right. They are not going to leave someone ‘dying on the sidewalk’ in an emergency situation. They will attempt to stabelize someone’s condition, then transport them elsewhere.

What you’re talking about it administering a very costly treatment, or series of treatments, without reimbursement. Hospitals, for the most part, are for-profit businesses. As such, they must make money and control costs in order to stay open. Sometimes hospitals close, even when they only take patients with insurance. If they perform unpaid for operations, they lose a considerable sum. The doctors and nurses and technicians must still be paid, medicines given, and resources(beds, linens, food, x-ray film, etc. etc.) which cost money are used. Add to this the very real threat(espescially in our sue-happy world) of litigation. Treating patients who cannot pay could destroy a hospital. Then, it treats no one.

The only alternative for indigent patients are county-run hospitals and some institutions run by religious organizations which survive on tax dollars and private donations. Next time you see a ballot measure for such hospital funds, vote yes.

I have 2 cases to question.

  1. A guy decided he had been wronged on a drug deal so he goes the to dealer to get his money back. he takes a pistol. he gets into a fight with the dealer and kills him. the DA wanted murder but the defense wanted manslaughter (amnesty international also after he was sentence to death).the question was whether he went there with the intent to kill the guy.

  2. a guy purposely shoots another with a rifle and kills him . DA wanted murder, defense wanted manslaughter because the rifle was a 22 and it is not defined as a “deadly weapon”

I know this is really about manslaughter vs murder and not your case but I think it sheds some light on the legal definition .


I say.

  1. Is murder, because he had a gun and he pointed it at the bloke and shot him. (Unless it went of accidentally).

It doesn’t matter that he didn’t go TO the dealer with the intent of killing him. Fact remains that he pointed the pistol at the bloke, pulled the trigger and killed him.

  1. Same thing, not defined as a deadly weapon, but if i beat someone to death with a herring, it’s still murder.

Basically, accidentally killing someone (by negligence, etc.) is manslaughter. Purposely killing someone is murder.

But that’s just an opinion. :slight_smile:

[sub]beginning to get an unnerving fear of herrings[/sub]