Euthanasia


Doctors have found a way to communicate with locked-in patients.  Perhaps surprisingly to some, most report being “happy” despite having what most would considerable to be a miserable existence.  We often think to ourselves that life would not be worth living if we had X debilitating condition, and yet, those in such a condition usually want to go on living.  We need to be very careful about making value judgments considering how worthwhile one’s life is.  While we may not be able to imagine how life would be worth living if we were to experience some major illness like locked-in syndrome, it’s amazing how those who experience such conditions continue to find meaning and value in life.  Every life is valuable, and even those who are experiencing terrible suffering still prefer life over death.  Life is precious.

Mark Langedijk was an alcoholic.  He battled his addiction for eight years.  The battle was so difficult for him that he decided he would rather die.  And in the Netherlands – where the logic of euthanasia has run its course – he found a doctor who would make him dead.  And why not?  He was suffering.  It doesn’t matter that his suffering did not involve physical pain or that he was not terminally ill.  All that matters is that he was experiencing suffering and wanted relief.  Euthanasia knows no limits.

And last year, a person suffering from mental illness due to sex abuse as a child was also euthanized.  Euthanasia is an easy way to throw broken people away rather than treat them.  It is abandonment.  These people need our care, not a lethal injection.

slippery-slopeWesley J. Smith reports that the Dutch government is drafting a law that would legalize euthanasia for the perfectly healthy who feel that they have “completed life” and want to die.  This is not surprising given the logic of the pro-suicide position.  The two prongs on which it hangs are self-autonomy and ending suffering.

I’ve long thought that these two rationales would be decoupled, such that justifiable suicide would no longer require that both requirements be met.  In this case, self-autonomy alone is the justification for suicide.  A perfectly medically and mentally healthy person just wants to die.  No more justification is needed.

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Wesley J. Smith writes about the strange ethics afoot in the medical world today. While more and more doctors and bioethicists are advocating the repeal of conscience rights for doctors, insisting that they participate in euthanasia and abortion because the patient’s desires are autonomous and trump the doctor’s conscience.  Ironically, however, many in this crowd also support futile care laws which allow a hospital to determine that due to your quality of life, the healthcare desired by the patient is not worth the cost and can be denied.  Smith ends by saying, “Autonomy rules if you want to die–even over medical conscience. But doctor/bioethicists values rule if you want to live.”  Clearly, this is not about patient autonomy.  It’s about strong-arming an anti-human view on the medical field, forcing everyone who values life out of the business.

Wesley J. Smith notes how prominent “bioethicists” are increasingly advocating that all doctors be required to participate in euthanasia and abortion.  The left is all about coercion, and we are seeing a steady march toward the death of conscience rights and freedom of religion.  If we value freedom, we must speak against this tide.

Oxford University has published a statement signed by prominent bioethicists calling for doctors to yield their moral convictions to their patients’ desires/needs.  They want all doctors to either perform morally contested services or refer patients to those who will.  The direction is clear: you must violate your moral conscience or get out of medicine.  This point of view is gaining wide traction.  It won’t be long before it is legislated and morally sane doctors will find themselves forced out of their professions.

HT: Wesley J. Smith

Ryan Anderson writes in the Daily Signal about a new study showing that contrary to the claims of some physician assisted suicide (PAS) advocates, legalizing PAS increases the number of suicides.  Did we really need a study to tell us this?  No, but these days common sense can’t get a hearing unless it is confirmed by a study.

 

HT: Wintery Knight

Push into GraveLong commutes, domestic responsibilities, teaching, and the need for more sleep (old age) have prevented me from blogging as much as I would like to.  That means I get behind on my cultural commentary. Case in point: the legalization of assisted suicide in California.

On October 5 Governor Brown signed the bill into law after years of failed attempts from the assisted suicide lobby (the CA Senate approved it by a vote of 23 to 14, and the CA House approved it by a vote of 43 to 34).  Assisted suicide is not something I write about too often, but it is a matter of concern to me. Here’s why I think it should be a matter of concern to you as well:

Legalizing suicide sends the message that there are some human lives not worth living. While suicide advocates say the option for suicide gives people dignity, it does anything but. It robs them of their dignity and value. It communicates a message to them that they are better off dead than alive. Indeed, to claim that this is “death with dignity” is a backhanded way of saying those who choose to suffer in life rather than choosing to take their own life lack dignity. The message is loud and clear: death is more noble than life.

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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.

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