Euthanasia


burning carImagine with me the following scenario: You are resting peacefully at your home, when all of a sudden you hear a loud bang.  You rush outside to see what happened, and across the street is a wrecked car with a man trapped inside.  As you approach the car to offer help, it becomes engulfed in flames.  The man is fully conscious, but unable to escape.  You’ve called 911, but it will be 15 minutes before they are able to arrive with a fire truck and the jaws of life.  The man is burning before your eyes with no chance of survival, and you hear his blood curdling cries from within the car: “Shoot me, please!  Shoot me!  Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”

You own a gun, and have the means to honor this man’s request.  The choice is yours: Do nothing, and watch this man burn to death in excruciating pain for the next 10 minutes, or get your gun, and shoot the man to hasten his death to avoid the unbearable suffering.  What would you do?

Once you have answered this question, scroll down below for an additional question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Euthanasia is the practice of actively and purposely killing an individual because they are experiencing some form of unbearable suffering.  Think, for example, of the person with terminal bone cancer whose body is wracked with pain.  If you were to meet such a person, and they requested that you kill them to end their suffering, would you do it?

If you would kill the man in the car, but not the man with cancer, please explain what you see as the morally significant distinction between the two scenarios.  Likewise, if you would not kill the man in the car, but would kill the man with cancer, please explain what you see as the morally significant distinction between the two scenarios.

EuthanizePhysician-assisted suicide and euthanasia advocates always make their case by pointing to the suffering of the terminally ill. They tug on our heart strings, and promise that if only we’ll legalize PAS/EUTH, it will be limited to the terminally ill who are in their last stages of life and cannot bear the pain of their disease and want to die.

That is how it starts out, but eventually, the scope of those eligible for PAS/EUTH always widens to encompass more and more people – either by changing the law, or just flouting the law.  The first requirement to go is usually the time-frame.  If PAS/EUTH is good enough in the last 6 or 12 months of a person’s life, well, why not allow it a little before?  Eventually, time limits don’t matter.  Next to slip is the requirement that one be terminally ill.  Any illness that causes unbearable pain will do.  But, if PAS/EUTH is the answer to pain, and pain comes in both physical and emotional forms, then why limit PAS/EUTH to just those who are suffering from physical pain?  So the tent gets widened to include those who are depressed and cannot bear life as well.  Indeed, if PAS/EUTH is a compassionate answer to pain, then why is consent even needed?  Doctor’s and parents should be allowed to kill babies born with severe medical problems, whose quality of life is deemed to be too low to be worth living (or let live).  The fact of the matter is that there’s no end in sight when death is seen as a good way to end human suffering, which is why every European country that has legalized PAS/EUTH has followed this slippery slope one way or another.

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Vermont legislatureOn Monday, the Vermont House approved a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the state by a vote of 75-65 (the VT Senate passed it previously by a vote of 17-13).  The governor supported the bill and will surely sign it, making VT the 4th state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide.  

There’s nothing like sending a message to the most vulnerable people among us that we think their lives are of such little value that they can be disposed of at will.  Our moral decline continues….

 

HT: Wesley J. Smith

Deaf TwinsTwin brothers were recently euthanized in Belgium.  The two unidentified men – who appear to be in their 40s – were born deaf, and have spent their entire lives together.  When informed that they were both going blind, they decided to end their lives because they couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing one another again.

Belgium euthanizes 1% of the population every year.  What makes this brother-duo unique is that they were not terminally ill, nor were they experiencing any physical suffering.  They simply did not want to live with the quality of life they would be forced to live under, so they found a doctor to kill them before that day arrived.

Let this be a sounding alarm.  Euthanasia is not yet legal in this country, and only Oregon and Washington allow for physician-assisted suicide.  But there continues to be a big push for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, and it is gaining momentum throughout the Western world.  Those who push for its legalization always tell the public that the legal option for suicide will only be reserved for the terminally ill who are experiencing agonizing pain at the end of their lives.  But that’s just the selling point.  Once a society buys into that line, the pro-death community always goes for the upsell.  Their ultimate goal is death-on-demand.

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Elections tell you a lot about the worldview of Americans.  Last night’s election is no exception.  It reveals a lot about our moral views.  This election reveals that our nation has become very accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, as well as smoking pot.

Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

Wisconsin elected the first openly gay U.S. Senator.  Maine (53% vs. 47%) and Maryland (52% vs. 48%) voted to support the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Maryland voters merely confirmed their support of a law allowing same-sex marriage that was recently signed into law by the governor.  Maine chimed in on this same issue in 2009 after their legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, and they rejected same-sex marriage with 53% of the vote.  Look how quickly public opinion is shifting!

The significance of what happened in Maine and Maryland cannot be underestimated.  This is the first time in history that same-sex marriage has been approved by the people of a state as opposed to the courts or legislature.

Washington also had an initiative to legalize same-sex marriage (same-sex marriage was already legal in all but name).  Only half of the votes have been counted thus far, but at present 52% have voted in favor of same-sex marriage, and thus it is likely to become legal there as well.  If so, nine states will have laws allowing same-sex marriage.

Minnesota tried to change their constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman, but the initiative was defeated 51% to 48%.  The measure’s defeat, however, does not mean that same-sex marriage is legal.  It’s just not on the books as being illegal.

On the international front, France is now in the process of trying to legalize same-sex marriage there.  If it passes, they will become the 12th country in the world where same-sex couples can marry.  And yesterday, Spain’s high court upheld a 2005 law that legalized same-sex marriage.

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Wesley J. Smith wrote about the most recent statistics available on the number of deaths caused by euthanasia in the Netherlands.  The official report as reported in the Lancet notes that only 2.8% of all deaths in the Netherlands were the result of euthanasia.  The truth is about a decimal point off, however, and Smith explains why.

First, the report also notes that only 77% of all cases of euthanasia were reported to a review committee.  That means 23% of deaths by euthanasia were not reported, raising the total number to 3.5%.  But this leaves out the deaths involving terminal sedation, which is nothing more than “slow motion euthanasia.”  The practice of terminal sedation involves sedating a person to the point of unconsciousness, and then depriving them of food and water until they die.  In 2012 a full 12.3% of people were killed this way!  Since approximately 2% of people are so close to death when they receive terminal sedation that they die of their disease before they die of dehydration, we can reduce this number to approximately 10%.  That means that nearly 14% of deaths in the Netherlands are caused by doctors actively killing the patients.

It gets worse.  The 14% figure is based on the total number of deaths.  Given the fact that approximately half of all deaths do not involve end-of-life medical decisions (accidents, heart attacks), the reality is that approximately 28% of all deaths involving end-of-life decision making are the result of intentional killing by the medical community!  Of course, the headline “28% of deaths involving end-of-life medical care caused by suicide at the hands of doctors!” doesn’t sound nearly as good as “Only 2.8% of Dutch die by euthanasia.”  You’ve got to be careful when it comes to stats.  If you’re not careful, they (stats and Dutch doctors) will kill you.

A former professor of medical ethics and former chairman of the Institute of Medical Ethics in Britain, Raanan Gillon, wrote an editorial in the British Medical Journal lambasting a judicial ruling that gave pre-eminence to the sanctity of life.  Gillon argues that given scant medical resources, physicians should be allowed to withdraw treatment from stable, but minimally conscious patients suffering from severe dementia in order to cause their premature death.  

Yes, this is a preeminent bioethicist.  The field has become overrun with utilitarians who espouse views that are anything but ethical.

The cover story for New York Magazine’s May 28th issue is titled “A Life Worth Ending.”  The author, Michael Wolff, “argues” for the voluntary euthanizing of the sick and elderly—not a rational argument, but an appeal to our emotions, our finances, and our hatred of being inconvenienced.   

Most of the article is taken up with the story of Wolff’s mother who is suffering from dementia, seizures, and a host of other debilitating health issues.  While no human could read his mother’s story without feeling a strong sense of compassion and empathy for both what his mother has endured as well as her family, his proposal is chilling: kill.  Here are some of the most provocative excerpts:

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In May of this year Gallup polled Americans to determine what behaviors they found morally acceptable and unacceptable.  Sixteen behaviors were evaluated, and here are the results:

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Wesley Smith pointed my attention to a wonderful article by Joe Carter detailing how in a period of just 40 years, the Dutch went from allowing voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill, to allowing it for the chronically ill, to allowing non-voluntary euthanasia for the disabled, to allowing for voluntary euthanasia for the depressed, to allowing for non-voluntary euthanasia of severely handicapped newborns, to debating whether or not healthy elderly people should be able to choose suicide simply because they are sick of living (“suffering through living”).  

This is what happens when you abandon the idea of innate human value, and swallow the pill that says there is such a thing as a life unworthy of life.  Sadly, America has begun its journey down this same road.  Euthanasia begins to be accepted out of sympathy for those suffering with severe pain who are near death, but the logic of euthanasia always expands the circle of those who can be killed so that eventually, it includes many people and situations that no one in the beginning ever wanted to include.

Wesley Smith alerted me to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) by Dr. Joel B. Zivot, an associate professor in the department of anesthesiology at the University of Manitoba in Canada.  Dr. Zivot writes about “Baby Isaiah,” a child born with brain damage due to the lack of oxygen during a long birthing process.  Unable to breathe regularly on his own, the baby is hooked up to a ventilator.  A legal battle has ensued when the parents were told last month by Alberta Health Services that all treatment would be withdrawn for baby Isaiah, and that such an action was “medically reasonable, ethically responsible and appropriate.”  Dr. Zivot’s words get to the heart of the debate over human value, showing just why we need to avoid making subjective “quality of life” assessments to determine who should live and who should die:

As a physician, I specialize in the management of the weak and disabled. My task is clear: restore an individual’s health if I am able, and protect my patient’s rights as a human being. … Although the issue before the court is the degree of brain injury incurred by Isaiah, I realize that it is Isaiah’s status as a human being that is on trial. In contemporary thought, once born, humanity is considered automatic and should not be revoked by disability. The yardstick of being a human being is set too high for Isaiah. Discussion on the prediction of degree of disability, including mental capacity, is not relevant as are counter-arguments based on the physical appearance of normalcy. All that really matters, to be blunt, is if Isaiah is dead or alive. … If Isaiah is alive, which includes everything but brain dead, he is entitled to the full rights and privileges of any living Canadian citizen.

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Election results did not favor the pro-life cause, but they did favor the traditional marriage cause.  Here is a brief survey of the most important issues:

Abortion

California’s Prop 4 sought to require parental notification prior to a minor receiving an abortion.  It was defeated (52% to 48%).

Colorado’s Colorado Definition of Person Initiative of 2008 (aka Amendment 48) sought to define all human beings from the moment of fertilization as “persons.”  It was defeated (73% to 27%).

Obama was elected President of the United States.  If he does what he says he will do given the chance, he will repeal virtually every restriction on abortion (including partial birth abortion), will repeal the ban on using federal tax dollars to fund abortion, will repeal the ban on funding abortions outside the U.S., and will nominate liberal justices to the Supreme Court (ensuring that Roe v Wade will not be overturned for at least another 20-30 years).  This is probably the greatest setback to the pro-life cause since the Supreme Court re-affirmed Roe in 1992 (Planned Parenthood v Casey).  Not only does he stand

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Michigan passed a constitutional amendment authorizing the use of “leftover” embryos for stem cell research by a margin of 53% to 47%.

Assisted Suicide

The voters in Washington passed Washington Initiative 1000, a bill legalizing assisted suicide.  It passed with a 59% to 41% margin.  Washington is now the second state to pass such a law (Oregon is the other).

Same-Sex Marriage

Voters in California, Arizona and Florida approved constitutional amendments defining marriage only as the union of a man and woman.

California’s Prop 8 passed 52% to 48%
Arizona’s Prop 102 passed 56% to 44%
Florida’s Amendment 2 passed 62% to 38%

California’s win was particularly important, because the state Supreme Court had just forced same-sex marriage on the state by judicial fiat earlier this year.  California is the first state to rescind the right to same-sex marriage once it has been created by a judiciary.

Euthanasia advocates begin their advocacy by assuring us suicide will only be permitted for the terminally ill who are suffering great pain.  That’s what they say.  But it’s not long after suicide is legalized that those same advocates push for expanding suicide to the non-terminally ill, and expand the definition of suffering to include emotional suffering.  We’ve seen this kind of thing in Belgium and the Netherlands.  In fact, in those two countries we’ve seen euthanasia expand from a voluntary choice, to non-voluntary, and even involuntary.  

England is pushing for Euthanasia.  Ironically, one of their leading bioethicists is being honest about what circumstances she thinks euthanasia should be legal in before “basic” euthanasia is legalized.  During a recent interview for the October 2008 edition of Life & Work-a Church of Scotland publication-Baroness Mary Warnock made the following assertions about the duty to die: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.”  She is very clear that the right and duty to die is not tied to insufferable pain: “I’m absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.”[1] 

Don’t buy into the “it will only be limited to the terminally ill and suffering” polemic.  It’s not true. 

 

HT: Al Mohler


[1]“A Duty to Die?” in Life and Work, October 2008; available from www.churchofscotland.org.uk.

Not good. An underhanded attempt to legalize euthanasia in CA has passed the House, and now goes to the Senate where it will probably be approved as well. The governor is likely to sign the bill.

Essentially the bill requires that doctors advise terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of one year or less, how they can be placed into a drug-induced coma and then dehydrated to death. If a physician is unwilling to advise their patient of this option, they must refer them to a physician who will. Go here for more details.

This is a half-step towards assisted suicide or euthanasia in this state.

Futile care theory is something going on in many parts of the world, including the United States. The essence of futile care theory is that doctors have the right to cut off, or withhold wanted medical care to the cognitively impaired, based on a personal value judgment that their life is not worth preserving, because their life is not worth living.

While I find this practice unethical, those in support of futile care theory make a persuasive case that can beguile the public. Consider bioethicist Arthur Schafer. In the Winnepeg Free Press he wrote:

Inevitably, doctors are the gatekeepers for patient access to medical resources. You can’t obtain restricted medicines unless a doctor is willing to write a prescription; you can’t gain admission to hospital unless a doctor decides that you will benefit thereby. There is a scarcity of intensive care beds; so, to admit or keep patients in the ICU who cannot benefit is to rob others who could benefit. Put simply, one person’s provision is another person’s deprivation. It’s unethical to waste scarce life-saving resources.


If a patient will never again know who or where he is, as appears to be the case for Golobchuk [a Canadian man who is the subject of a legal battle because doctors want to deprive him of medical care], then to artificially prolong his breathing seems at best a waste of precious ICU resources and at worst a cruel ordeal for the patient. Doctors and nurses are not simply technicians providing marketplace services to customers. They are health-care professionals who are bound by the ethical obligation “first of all, do no harm.” When a patient has irreversibly lost self-awareness, then using medical high technology in a vain attempt to resist death is often experienced by doctors and nurses as both unprofessional and deeply demoralizing. Physician integrity includes the right, even the duty, to say “no” when treatments offer no genuine benefit to the patient.


Schafer’s argument is very utilitarian and pragmatic, and this appeals to Westerners (who are very utilitarian and pragmatic). So what is wrong with it? Wesley Smith, a lawyer and long-time advocate against euthanasia and futile care points out the flaws:


Forget for the moment the many times doctors have been wrong about people never regaining consciousness. Schafer is the one de-professionalizing medicine. A plumber can refuse to unclog a pipe, but a doctor has no right to abandon his or her patient. Moreover, Schafer wants doctors to impose their value judgments–as instructed in continuing education clases by bioethicists like Schafer–that the burden of treatment isn’t worth the benefit of continuing to live. But that isn’t a medical judgment, it is a value judgment that we have always been told resides with the patient and family. Moreover, the treatment isn’t being stopped because it doesn’t or might not work but because it does or will–and hence it is not really a “vain attempt to resist death,” but a potentially successful one. And thus it is really the patient who has been declared futile.


Schafer says that staying alive when that is what the patient wants offers no genuine benefit to the patient. He only has the right to make that claim for himself, not for Mr. Golobchuck, you, me, or anyone else. You are watching the redefining of the ultimate purpose of medicine before your very eyes. It isn’t keeping patients alive who want to live, it is treating those who can be cured and reserving the right to refuse service to those who probably won’t improve.


This is what socialized medicine–and its’ private equivalent the HMO–creates. Medical futility is health care rationing that pits one cadre of patients against others, leading to division and discord. It is the end of trust in medicine because if you are too sick or profoundly disabled, medicine wants little to do with you.


Finally, if Futile Care Theory prevails, what in the world makes anyone think that the forced removal of people from wanted treatment will stop at the ICU? People who only need feeding tubes will soon be dehydrated (if they are not lethally injected first), and care will be rationed based on other criteria. For example, as reported in my books, I once asked a futilitiarian what would come after futile care, since cutting off the dying would not save a lot of money. He immediately said restricting “marginally beneficial care.” I asked for an example. He responded, “An 80-year-old woman who wants a mammagram.”


Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Well said.

The British journal Nature reported on some startling new evidence that those in a vegetative state may have an active mental state. MRI scans of a 23 year-old woman in an unresponsive state for five months, revealed similar brain patterns to healthy counterparts when she asked to imagine particular things such as playing tennis. (There has been mounting scientific evidence that those in a coma are fully aware of themselves, but unable to respond. Their immaterial spirit remains active and healthy, but is unable to express itself physically due to its damaged body.)

 

One would think this news would be cause for excitement, and spur those who support killing people in vegetative states to rethink their position. One would think…! Never underestimate a genuine liberal. Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe was anything but excited about this find. Goodman sees this—not as a reason to forego killing unresponsive patients—but rather as further justification for doing so. She writes:

 

[W]e do not know whether the researchers who suggest that vegetative patients may be aware of themselves and their surroundings have given us a hopeful story line or a horror story.

As University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan says, “It’s not necessarily good news that someone might have some form of consciousness but not be able to interact emotionally, socially or communicate in any way shape or form. To spend your life dimly aware but unable to let anyone know you are in there is more the subject of Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe than some sort of medical hope.”

No MRI can say whether that “rich, inner life” is a tapestry of hope or a nightmare. Which cliché fits a locked-up awareness? “While there’s life there’s hope”? Or “a fate worse than death”? The researchers, in all their enthusiasm, cannot answer the fundamental question that was raised by the Schiavo case: Would you want to live like this? Nor can technology with all its power tell us what is right and wrong, humane and inhumane.

Nearly a year after her accident, the British patient had advanced into a state of minimal consciousness. She could follow a mirror with her eyes. But no machine can tell her family or doctors whether she wanted to live “like this.”

Woman in Vegetative State Plays Tennis in Her Head. But is it a game or a trap?

You have to understand the force of this argument. Traditionally people in favor of killing people in a persistent vegetative state argue that it is morally acceptable to do so because the person is no longer conscious. According to personhood theory, consciousness is the sine qua non for defining human value. But here we have someone arguing that they should be killed because they are conscious! This just shows how unprincipled some liberals can be. Euthanasia is an ideology that must be promoted above all, even if it necessitates a changing of one’s principles. Ultimately euthanasia is about man determining what is best for himself apart from all moral considerations, and at times, what is best for others. God help us!

Euthanasia advocates seek to persuade the public toward their view by holding up the terminally ill and crying, “Have compassion.” What they don’t tell you is that their agenda involves much more than assisting the terminally ill in suicide. The terminally ill are just one step on a staircase that ultimately leads to death-on-demand.

 

One recent example of this can be seen in a Swiss euthanasia group, Dignitas. Dignitas has petitioned the Swiss court to be allowed to (legally) assist the depressed in suicide. The case will be heard October 27. (The Dutch already allow it)

 

The founder, Ludwig Minelli, said “We should see in principle suicide as a marvellous possibility given to human beings because they have a conscience… If you accept the idea of personal autonomy, you can’t make conditions that only terminally ill people should have this right. We should accept generally the right of a human being to say ‘Right, I would like to end my life’, without any pre-condition, as long as this person has capacity of discernment.”

 

He blamed “stupid ecclesiastical superstition” for the stigma attached to suicide. That’s the way to win friends and influence people!

I just finished reading Wesley J. Smith’s testimony before the CA Senate Judiciary Committee regarding AB 651: a bill that would legalize euthanasia in CA (the second attempt for passage in two years).

 

I must say that this was one of the best summary arguments against euthanasia I have ever read. I would highly recommend that you read it. It won’t take more than 15 minutes or so. This issue is one that is not going to go away. Greater numbers of people are accepting the morality of euthanasia, so we had better prepare ourselves for this cultural battle.

 

For those of you who are not familiar with Wesley J. Smith, he is a lawyer and bioethicist who is a legal and literary advocate against embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia. His extensive qualifications are listed at the end of the testimony. I also have a link to his blog on my site titled “Secondhand Smoke.”

The slippery slope of euthanasia is slipping as projected in England, Europe’s hotspot for bioethical immorality. Len Doyal, professor of medical ethics at Queen Mary University of London, argues that physicians should be able to actively euthanize severely impaired patients whose lives they deem no longer worth living, without their consent. He recognizes that this is already going on in the form of dehydration (as in the Terri Schiavo case), but argues that this can cause a “slow and distressing death.” To alleviate this distress Doyal proposes that the British government legalize the active euthanizing of these patients so that they die immediately.

 

This is important for several reasons. First, it is the doctors—not the patient or family—who decide whether the patient’s care should be ended and their life terminated. Secondly, this is no mere passive euthanasia where medical care is simply removed and the person dies from their disease. This is the active killing of human beings. And for the record we are not talking about brain dead humans being kept alive only artificially by machines; we are talking about severely damaged humans (suffering from severe cognitive dysfunction) being intentionally killed because their lives are deemed invaluable by the medical community. Thirdly, I find it interesting that during the Terri Schiavo fiasco doctors were arguing that people like Terri would not feel the pain of dehydration, and yet Doyal admits that such a death can be slow and distressing. Which is it?

 

HT: Wesley J. Smith

Al Mohler has a great post today by the above title. He examines the issue of “wrongful life” claims that are growing in popularity. While the entire article is worth reading, the last two paragraphs are worth repeating here:


When any life is deemed to be unworthy of living, every single human life is cheapened, discounted, and threatened. We are living in an age increasingly without moral rules–an age in which choices about life and death are now commonly made with specific reference to what kind of child we would welcome, and what quality of life we will accept and protect. The Christian affirmation must be that every single life is worthy of living–every life is worthy of our protection, our care, and our welcome. No one should ever discount the difficulties of dealing with children who are born with severe genetic abnormalities or serious diseases. Most of us, within our extended families or circle of friends, are intimately familiar with just how excruciating many of these situations can be. Nevertheless, these are the very same issues we will all face in terms of issues at the end of life, and at many points between birth and death.

The eugenic temptation is, in this modern age of advanced medical technologies, always too close at hand. If we do not learn to resist it, human dignity will soon rest in the dustbin.

 


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