Florida Eliminates “Useless Eater”

Florida Eliminates “Useless Eater” December 6, 2012

…(as such human beings in the image and likeness of God were called under a notable historical regime some years back).  A reader writes:

I’ve been following your posts on human life issues, and as a fellow pro-life Catholic myself, I am very concerned, as you are, about the myriad of anti-life trends in our culture, not only with respect to abortion, but also with increasing stories in the news about government abuse of parental rights, and government sanctioned neglect of babies left to die, such as what has been going on in the UK and Canada. I am sad to say that I came across another disgusting and heartwrenching story just today – this time here on our own soils in Florida – that makes me seriously have to wonder at times if I’m really living in the United States of America or some communist country.

Reading stories like this makes me angry, and my heart goes out to that poor mother and her family. But it’s also a call for us as a people of faith to do even more to promote the Gospel and a Culture of Life, as it is abundantly clear that our society desperately needs it now more than ever.

The story really has to be read to be believed. It’s like something out of the Soviet Union. Here is Marie Freyre, who you can see was a suffering vegetable begging for sweet release from a cruel existence that could cost the state of Florida a little money.

And here is the disgusting story:

Even after Marie Freyre died alone in a nursing home 250 miles from the family in North Tampa that loved her, Marie’s mother had to fight to bring her home.

In March 2011, state child protection investigators took 14-year-old Marie from her mother, Doris Freyre, claiming Doris’ own disabilities made it almost impossible for her to care for Marie, who suffered from seizures and severe cerebral palsy. But a Tampa judge signed an order that Marie be returned to her mother, with in-home nursing care around the clock.

Florida health care administrators refused to pay for it, although in-home care can be demonstrably cheaper than care in an institution. Child welfare workers ignored the order completely.

Two months later, Marie was strapped into an ambulance for a five-hour trip to a Miami Gardens nursing home, as her mother begged futilely to go with her.

Marie died 12 hours after she arrived.

“Since the state of Florida took custody of my daughter, I would like the state of Florida to bring me back my daughter,” Freyre, 59, said at a May 9 court hearing, 12 days after her daughter died.

“They kidnapped my daughter. She was murdered,” said Freyre. “And I want my daughter back.”

The last days of Marie Freyre, chronicled in hundreds of pages of records reviewed by the Miami Herald, are a story of death by bureaucratic callousness and medical neglect.

Read the whole God-damned (I am speaking with exact theological precision, not swearing) thing. Monstrous evil was done here by faceless bureaucrats who preferred that a mother be torn from her child and that child die rather than their bean counting be interfered with. Monstrous evil. In a civilized country, this gravely wronged mother would be awarded hundreds of millions in damages and the bureaucrats who ordered this selfish cruelty would be jailed for the rest of their natural lives. If you are a lawyer living in Florida, I hope you contact this mother and, together with her, embark on extracting from the state in justice many times the pittance it would not pay out in mercy. A bureaucracy has no soul and deserves no mercy from God or man when it fails this egregiously. May the monsters who made this choice find mercy from God for their miserable souls. May the budget and the system find only pitiless retribution. And may this mother find solace from Christ crucified and her daughter find eternal light and peace in his embrace. Mother Mary, pray for every human being involved in this tragedy.

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  • I offer my prayers for Marie and Doris through the intercession of St. Nicholas.

    • ivan_the_mad

      May her family be comforted, and may she know the joy of seeing her Creator’s face.

  • Investigate the nursing home too.

  • Nina

    I’m curious as to where your article title originated?

    And on a further note, Gov. Rick Scott (R) is a major tool. He cuts the state budget for things like in-home care like Marie needed and education. How pro-life is that? HE is the “useless eater” in Florida. Never mind that his health-care facilities (Solantic) benefit from his being in office – even though he put them in his wife’s name. Like I’m buying that just putting his assets in his wife’s name make it all better and there’s NO appearance of evildoing whatsoever. Nuh uh. As much as I was neutral on Jeb Bush, neither he or Charlie Crist would’ve allowed this to happen.

    • ivan_the_mad

      In the name of all that’s right and sensible, what is wrong with you? This is an utter tragedy and a grievous injustice, not something to be used to score partisan points.

      • Sagrav

        There is nothing wrong with Nina. This blogger decided to use this tragedy to rant and rail against a “soulless” bureaucracy, and Nina was helpful enough to point out the name and political philosophy of the man in charge of Florida’s bureaucracy. There are very real consequences to defunding health care and educational organizations. Maybe it’s time to reexamine the value of political conservatism…

        Nah, it’s easier to scream at the very existence of bureaucracies because this one bureaucracy failed! It also feels good to get nice and angry about a human condition that you have no intention of changing. Impotent rage is the perfect drug: it gives you a high, it is tolerated by society, it is legal, and there is an endless supply of it.

        • ivan_the_mad

          There’s a world of difference between denominating the cause of such a grievous injustice and desperately using it as a stick with which to beat somebody.

        • Jmac

          “Maybe it’s time to reexamine the value of political conservatism…”

          If you honestly think that many of us here are cheerleaders for the GOP or what conservatism has become, then you must not come here often. Or even look at any of the other posts above this one.

        • The tug of war between “liberalism” (giving control to the government) and “conservatism” (trying to make the state behave in a fiscally responsible way) is what has caused this tragedy. It is not the fault of one party or another. A fiscally unsustainable bureaucracy has to be trimmed. It’s a law of nature. We can’t make money from nothing and keep it having any value. The problem isn’t having liberals in charge of the government (they’ll bring reality down on our heads, Greek-style), or having conservatives in charge of government (they’ll drive the ship of state right over the heads of the poor to keep it running smoothly).

          Bureaucracy isn’t soulless because it’s mean, it’s soulless because it hasn’t got a soul. I’ve worked in them. It has millions of well meaning folks who punch a time card, do their job, and go home – leaving it to someone else’s problem and sleeping soundly at night, whatever papers they pushed during the day. Sometimes they build bridges or libraries, and sometimes they tell ambulance drivers to leave a mother wailing on the curbside after prying her daughter from her. That’s just a fact. Apparently.

          The problem is having government in charge of things in general. Government is meant to govern, not to love. When we say, “Oh, the government will do this social function or that,” we leave the task of loving to those whose job is to govern or administer. When we start giving it 1/5 or 1/3 or our income, in lieu of giving that money to private charities that can actually, you know, behave charitably, we are selling our souls.

          The people of Florida have built a massive and inefficient system of child protection, for whatever reason and for the interests of whoever, and that system of child protection DID NOT FAIL in this case. It did EXACTLY what it was supposed to, legally (up until it ignored a court order – whoever did that should be jailed for contempt). It investigated and assessed and intervened in what should, fundamentally, be a private, personal, family, or local-community matter: the care of a family’s and community’s weakest members. We cannot expect people who write regulations about people they’ve never met, and others who follow those regulations or lose their jobs, to do anything BUT what they did.

          The first crime, here, is ours – our society has been all too happy for 80 years to dump the care of the poor and fragile into the loving and tender arms of Holy Mother State, as Dorothy Day liked to call it.

          • Sarcastically. Dorothy Day called the government “Holy Mother State” ironically. She bitterly opposed Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and other entitlement programs. Unnoticed fact by many of those who claim her as a totem, but really worship the State.

        • Thomas R

          Yes but she maybe should have looked a bit first. This blogger pretty much hates the Republicans and is practically a socially-conservative Leftist. (We don’t see Social-Conservatism mixed with Leftism much in this country, but socially conservative Leftism occurs in some Catholic nations. Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica is a socially conservative Social Democrat and Daniel Ortega of the Sandinistas has become Pro-Life) Granted his views on economics and defense are more a kind of “Third Way” than Leftist, but for the US it’s more like the Left than Right. In fact in some ways he’s to the Left of the Democratic Party on war or economics.

    • Mark Shea

      The title originated in my brain.

    • Anna

      Perhaps your computer’s sarcasm detector is broken, so I’ll explain. Mr. Shea didn’t actually mean that Marie was a useless eater, just that that was what the disabled were often referred to as (by the regime he mentions in the first paragraph) in order to justify getting rid of them.

    • Subsistent

      As to the origin of the term “useless eaters”, googling it, I learned from the second item on the list that the concept figured in Nazi ideology in the 193o’s and ’40’s, and dealt with killing certain persons deemed sufficiently unfit to go on living. (It’s available also by googling http://www.regent.edu/acad/schedu/uselesseaters/.)

      • Subsistent

        I’d have expressed myself more clearly if I’d written, “… deemed too unfit to go on living.”

    • Lynn Loring

      I agree with you, sadly. I have been utterly disgusted with the Republicans cutting so much yet saying they are pro life. I am pro life but the Republicans do NOT NOT NOT enact anything that helps anyone to live their beliefs while they gorge themselves on luxury. By the way, the Democrats are fat pigs too.

      • It is NOT the job of government to care for the poor. The government is not equipped by its nature as a (get this) governing organization to do so, and no amount of money will change the nature of government. The role of government is to govern. Putting a velvet glove on it does not soften an iron fist. It’s not bad to govern – it’s bad to thing that a government is nice and loving. That’s not its job. It’s job is to govern. Govern. Not be nice and care for grandma.

        When we entrust the poor and weak among us to the government and surrender it our “excess” wealth so that it can care for them, we commit an abomination in the eyes of God. We turn our back on our own duty and pay hirelings to do it for us. (I don’t hear mean caregivers, to be clear.)

        The problem with Democrats is not that they are fat pigs. The problem is that they keep telling people that they care about their poor and weak, when really, like all politicians and most people in history, they care about their OWN people and keeping their job to keep bread on the table at home. The rest is just part of the job.

  • Judge Emily Peacock, by inadequately exercising her office started the train of events that led to this girl’s death. This case should be prominently raised during her re-election campaign. She is next due for re-election in January 2019. Judge Peacock will be 63 at that time. This case should also be raised if she is considered for any superior position whether or not it is in the judiciary.
    Angela Attila had a responsibility as AAG in this case to not ignore the prior judge’s ruling and to come up with a better solution. Her boss is Pam Bondi. It pains me to say that AG Bondi is a Republican, but that’s a fact. She needs to clean up the way her office handles these cases. She may already be doing so as it appears that this case is under review. I hope she is. Her office courted contempt proceedings with its actions in this case and that’s generally not a good thing. This is her put up or shut up moment and she needs to make sure that this tragedy is not repeated. The investigation by AHCA was concluded in September of 2011. There should be a coda on any changes that the AG’s office has made since then or a notation that procedures have not changed. Neither happened in the story linked above as well as the other Herald piece (more extensive and earlier) I found independently. This is not normal journalistic practice and may be the mark of a hit piece against AG Bondi, who, like most state AGs, probably has her eye on higher office. Those interested in actual justice should seek more deeply in finding that coda and judge from the full record.
    A final note, this sort of thing is exactly why conservative Catholics get the hives about Obamacare (or the ACA if you prefer). The more that the state gets involved in the financing of medical care, the more tough cases are going to get railroaded with an eye on the budget without even the fear of lawsuit or scandal. After all, it is incredibly difficult to sue the government. The system was already breaking down due to the last round of state involvement not holding together. Now the descent into even worse conditions is likely to accelerate. Whoever is advising the USCCB on these matters did not do their job well.

    • Very well said. I still seethe sometimes at how eagerly our bishops sold us down the river RIGHT UP UNTIL THE MOMENT that they realized that somehow, just somehow, abortion might sneak into PPACA through the regulatory backdoor. Shocking, I know, but it might. They very, very, very foolishly failed to learn ANYTHING from the history of state socialism and the methods of its proponents, or even ANYTHING about the nature of government.

      Grrrr… I am gonna stop before I really get started. This has been an occasion of real sin for me. My only hope is that our bishops are finally showing signs of ending their little concubinage to state socialism under the name “Great Society” blah blah blah.

      The really horrible thing is that throughout the ’60s-’90s our bishops did precious little to catechize the faithful in matters of faith and morals and became increasingly obsessed with politics and economics. They might at least have LEARNED something while being derelict of duty. WTF were they doing all that time, while clearly neither teaching theology nor learning political economy?!!?!


  • Elaine S.

    “The more that the state gets involved in the financing of medical care, the more tough cases are going to get railroaded with an eye on the budget without even the fear of lawsuit or scandal. After all, it is incredibly difficult to sue the government.”
    I work for an agency that reviews state regulations (not in FL). Some of the things we emphasize when we review proposed rules are:
    1. If the rules set conditions for obtaining some kind of benefit (e.g. Medicaid assistance) they need to clearly state what one has to do to qualify, or what will cause someone to be rejected — it can’t just be left to the discretion of the agency to decide whatever they feel like.
    2. If a negative decision will affect someone adversely, say by denying them medical assistance, there MUST be a due process mechanism in place for the person to appeal to officials higher up in the agency BEFORE they have to resort to a lawsuit.
    Agencies often grumble when we insist that they add these things, but the reason we do is to help prevent tragedies like this. No agency can be allowed to make decisions — especially life and death decisions — arbitrarily and without some kind of recourse for the persons affected.
    Oh, and maybe if our federal and state governments didn’t spend so darn much on non-essential stuff like new sports stadiums, tax breaks for big corporations, etc., they wouldn’t even have to consider this horrific kind of “bean counting.”

    • Thanks for the info. It is illuminating to hear about such battles. One quibble, medical care pricing is essentially set by Medicare and heavily influenced by the AMA. Private insurance just sets a certain rate % above Medicare that they’re willing to pay in order to draw doctors to their panels. This broken pricing mechanism would guarantee the need for horrific bean counting even absent the government’s other idiotic decisions regarding corporate welfare and other actions the government simply should not be doing.

    • NOOOOOO!

      If the government didn’t spend so much money on this stuff, they wouldn’t have a rationale for our taxes, and the average American might still be willing to tithe (or something like tithe) as he or she was in 1910, and we’d have muscular voluntary charitable organizations that weren’t dependent on the government (like we had in 1910).

      All these government rules are what caused the problem. Except for violating the court order, all these bumblecrats were following their stated purpose: intervene in cases where somebody seemed unable to provide adequate care.

      How many layers of rules and rulemakers does it take to make a human heart with sound judgment and a God-given right to use those things to meddle in someone else’s affairs?!

  • in the know

    This is about legislators (with nursing homes in their districts) who don’t want to lose the healthcare lobby during the next election. So they keep renewing state contracts with nursing homes, and continue denying this care in the home.

    IF ‘bean counting’ were the issue as suggested by story and comments, then a minimum wage attendant for 24 hours ($200) wins out over a $500/day nursing home, no contest. This is actually about politics which is why the DOJ is coming down on some states for continuing to warehouse in nursing homes.