Thursday, 31 May 2007

Who sings when your mother is dying?

Not knowing all the facts is no barrier to every bullfrog and his leg-rope taking up positions on the death of Folole Muliaga. Plenty of questions about what exactly happened, few of which seem to have been answered twenty-four hours after we first heard of the apparent tragedy, and Craig asked these questions.

If Folole Muliaga died so shortly after the power to her home was cut… why wasn’t she more prepared? Power cuts are common. If the facts as the media are presenting them are correct, a car hitting a powerpole down the street or a fault at a substation could have killed her at any time.

Furthermore, if you do subject yourself to this level of dependence on the power grid, why sit waiting for four warning notices and six weeks to elapse and do nothing? Not arrange with your respiratory nurse for a portable O2 bottle, not arrange for a transport to hospital, not call an ambulance when the contractor turns up and tells you they’re going to shut off the power.

Mercury Energy may certainly have some culpability, but it seems like there’s something we’re not being told. For a person to let their very survival rely completely, 100% on an unreliable system which is out of their control, and to ignore several warnings about its impending disconnection yet failing to enact any one of several easy remedies to the situation?

All good questions that I don't think have been adequately addressed. What we do know is that Folole Muliaga wasn't completely, 100% reliant upon the oxygen machine. It was not "a full breathing machine," notes David Farrar, "where death is automatic if it stops. The machine was for people with a chronic, mildly reduced level of oxygen in their blood, typically those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder." That said, she received the machine on May 11, she needed it, and the Muliagas were presumably already behind in their bills at that stage, yet they proceeded to rely on power always being there -- just as if, in their minds, the unpaid bills and the supply of power were unconnected. That's a clue right there, isn't it?

There does appear to be a lack of responsibility all round, doesn't there. Cactus puts the questions we'd all like to ask more bluntly than most:
If you were on a home oxygen machine, don't you think you would put the electricity bill ahead of ALL the other bills? Or if you were a family member don't you think you would have helped and made sure it was paid? Or run to Social Welfare and get assistance like they are MEANT to be there for...real emergency matters of welfare. It is a horrible story but it really hits deep into the league of can lead a horse to water.....but you can't help people who don't help themselves. Or get off their arse and call for a fucking ambulance when the power was cut off?
Nope, with Middlemore Hospital just down the road, with unpaid power bills all around them and the alarm for their mother's oxygen machine loudly playing a tune, they apparently all sat around and sang a song. I find that just impossible to understand. Perhaps you could explain it to me.

UPDATE 1: I've heard people arguing there are "cultural" reasons for what this family did (and Falu. On that, I can only quote Thomas Sowell on that and invite you to reflect upon it:
Cultures are not museum pieces, they are the working machinery of everyday life, and we should judge them by how well they work for those within them.
Think about that. If reports are true, it has rarely been so starkly illustrated.

UPDATE 2: I say that not all questions have been answered, which is true, but I should give credit to this morning's coverage in the hard copy of the Herald [some of which appears here], which seems to have answered all the questions that it's possible to answer at this stage. Kudos to the Herald for that. (The coverage is so good that all copies were sold out at the three outlets I visited this morning. I was forced to buy a coffee to catch up).

It's worth noting that none of the people describing the events publicly were there at the time, and that the family spokesman who has described them is described as "a union organiser" -- so expect some (quite understandable) hyperbole. And this too seems worth noting:
Folole Muliaga was seriously ill from heart and lung disease, but her hospital doctors are surprised she died "so soon" after her oxygen machine stopped providing the life-giving gas. The 44-year-old died about 2 1/2 hours after the mains-powered machine, supplied by the Counties Manukau District Health Board, stopped working about 11am on Tuesday.

Medical experts said yesterday that home-oxygen machines were given only to patients with chronic conditions. They were not aware that any of the machines had battery back-ups. "It's not a life-critical thing as a rule," said the health board's chief medical officer, Dr Don Mackie. "There are things about this case that we don't understand," he said.
Now ain't that the truth.


  1. PC said...
    they apparently all sat around and sang a song

    It is a sad story but they were obviously relying on praying for cure. This is one silly example of when people , try to get help from imaginary friends, rather than real friends from around the corner at Middlemore hospital. I have some relatives who are 2 doors down the road from the Muliagas in Mangere. One told me , that they sat around and sung the WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS hymn, just before Mrs Muliaga dropped.

    I have to say, that this sort of thing, ie, praying & hoping to be cured, is very common in the Island communities. I had an uncle who died , because he refused to get medical treatment preferring to pray instead.

    This is a warning to the likes of Tim Wikiriwhi, that Jesus might not be there when you ask for help.

  2. After seeing the family on TV last night, especially the son who was with Mum, the reason he didn't call an ambulance may heav been the fact that he couldn't get up. he as fat as, and looked about fifteen years old.

    Brian Smaller

  3. Let's try and keep comments focussed, can we Brian? It's difficult enough discussing such an emotional topic without unnecessary abuse of people who have just lost a mother.

    FF, that really is tragic if true. Just unbelievably, bloody revealing.

  4. John in Wellers31 May 2007, 10:45:00

    I wonder where the level of outrage is? These are people who didn't pay their bills. Helloo?

    In fact, where's the outrage from the public at these people? It's like you pointed out about that Subway case, isn't it. Everyone feeling sorry for the victim. Well, the victim here is the power company, not a stupid family that wasn't even responsible enough to pay its bills!

  5. PC said...
    FF, that really is tragic if true. Just unbelievably, bloody revealing.

    Yeah, it was in 1983. Also my mum & my older brothers & sisters told me, that even my dad (a now retired methodist minister) went thru the same thing as his brother who died by refusing medical treatment about 10 years earlier , may be around 1973/1974. He had a serious illness that he couldn't eat at the time, wasn't able to walk or even sit. All my dad's (7) brothers were Church ministers, themselves (die hard christians). My dad was only saved when the village noble (my mum's first cousin), intervened and took my dad to the hospital. Now, my dad is only alive because of the real friends at the hospital. He had been long gone if he relied on his imaginary friends.

  6. The Coroner's report will be instructive as the actual cause of death.

  7. I've heard people arguing there are "cultural" reasons for what this family did.

    Aaargh... You know something, my late grandmother was 'culturally' disposed to fiercely value her independence and privacy. She died last December, at the age of 96, and HATED spending her last few months in residential care but accepted we couldn't provide the level of 24/7 medical care and practical assistance she needed.

    But if I'd ever found her in a state of acute distress, and she tried to wave me off from calling an ambulance I'd tell the old trout to STFU or I'd kill her myself.

    Stoic dignity is an admirable quality, but not when you're putting your very life at needless - and easily avoidable - peril.

    Any 'cultural value' that leads you to put your own mother in mortal peril is (IMO) decadent and depraved.

  8. michael fasher31 May 2007, 17:59:00

    ill bet you they paid 10% of their income to the church

  9. ill bet you they paid 10% of their income to the church

    I think they would have paid more than 10%. This is based on family members and relatives that donate their annual income to church of more than 10%.

  10. I don't get this Samoan church tithing business. 10% I could understand but...I have a tenant whose mother is assessed (yes, assessed) an amont to donate each month and if she doesn't, she gets her name read out at church in a list of shame. The amount (based on the fact that she has four working sons), is $1600 per month. That is enough for a mortgage. How do I know this? My tenant got behind in his rent because he paid the church for his mother instead of me.

    Brian Smaller

  11. Ha!

    That's what occurs when you don't pay the power bill. There's a good lesson in it! Tragic for the family, but you don't take something and then expect to get more when you have not paid for what you already got. Looks like there was a fair bit of slackness and carelessness all round really.


    Simple really.


  12. It was a case of SbME - Suicide by Mercury Energy.

  13. I am beginning to suspect there is more to this story than has been published thus far.

    What was the chronic disease? What was the prognosis? How long did the medicos expect her to survive?

    Still, singing to a friend is not what I'd have done in the circumstances. Penn and Teller would advise what that course of action is based on...BS!

    BTW, what about the cadaverous Helen getting involved in this situation. What a political!


  14. I was suspicious from the start with a union official being appointed media liaison officer for the family. His position seems to be that the family's actions are beyond question, that the big company took advantage of its size in dealing with the small family, and Mercury is responsible, whatever the facts. His sole objective is obviously to win money for the family.

    I don't see how his approach can possibly be helpful to the questions of what actually happened and who is responsible, which is what everybody other than that union official needs to know.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.