Euthanasia


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.

 


« Previous Page