Margaret Somerville on why pulling the plug is not the same thing as euthanasia. As an observer of everything bioethics, I can tell you that the distinction is (a) real, and (b) relevant. I believe that a great deal of needless suffering is happening because people are afraid of “euthanizing grandma” by ceasing futile treatment. People die. The human species has a 100% death rate. Yet, we also have the medical means to keep people alive (i.e. breathing with a heartbeat) beyond their natural ability to do so. We need to understand the subtle yet critical difference between letting go and killing if we are to use the medical means at our disposal wisely and effectively.
I am slowly emerging from maternity leave. As February rolled around, my baby turned one and my mat leave expired. I wasn’t planning to return to work until September but my previous employer made me an offer I couldn’t refuse “in these difficult economic times” and four days later, I was back in my old job.
Working means that in exchange for a pay cheque, I get a whole LUNCH BREAK. For you stay-at-home moms, a lunch break is a fabulous invention of the 20th century whereby you get to sit down and eat a meal somewhere between snack and nap-time. I know, it’s that crazy! But you know what? I’ve been home with young children for too long: for me, lunch is still stuffing sustenance in with one hand while doing something useful with the other. Hence the blog post. I hope you won’t mind a couple of goat cheese crumbs. It’s not like I can eat goat cheese anywhere else. If anybody asks why I decided to work outside the home, it all comes down to sushi and goat cheese. Yes, I’m that shallow.
Have you ever heard the tidbit “if a really nice guy is rude to waiters, watch out: he’s not a really nice guy”? I am not exactly a waitress but in my line of work – which I cannot better describe than “miscellaneous nitty gritty and random, er, stuff” – I am often the first point of contact between my boss and the world at large. I have noticed that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat the lowest rung in the office hierarchy. Some people are nice and respectful and make me want to find time for them. Others think that throwing weight around in a “do-you-know-who –I-am” kind of way will intimidate me into service. Others treat me like their foot servant: “I’m emailing you a document (from across the office where all the hardware is on a network), can you print it for me?” Because pressing “attach” and “send” is much more impressive than “print.”
What does all this have to do with pro-life? Just like I can tell a lot about a person by the way I am treated at work, I am wondering if future generations will judge us on the basis of our treatment of the most vulnerable members of our society. The frail, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless, the unborn. And when historians look back on the medical means at our disposition in parallel with our increasing tolerance toward euthanasia and assisted-suicide, what will they think of us?
Andrea adds: For Facebook followers, this post, automatically imported into my profile, is not mine. Similarities between me and Veronique include that I do like sushi and goat cheese and I harbour disdain for people who think they are very, very important and try to make others feel small. Differences include that I do not have a one-year-old and am not coming out of maternity leave.
“The management” will look into ways to make it clear who is posting what on Facebook but for the time being, be advised that not every post imported into my Facebook profile is me.
With MP Francine Lalonde’s euthanasia bill — aka C-384 — just around the corner, it never hurts to brush-up on the reasons why euthanasia is wrong. This latest article from Margaret Somerville doesn’t present any new and improved arguments but reminds us why euthanasia, even when justified by compassion, is never morally defensible.
As you may or may not be aware, there is a push to legalize euthanasia in Canada. Those of us who are against that will want to check out this web site and sign in support of the letter there.
I like the website, because it gets at the core notion that euthanasia/assisted suicide do not constitute caring. There’s also a good FAQ section framing what’s at stake.
I signed (typed) on the dotted line and you can too! There’s a focus on medical professionals but laypeople are welcome.
In yesterday’s Part Two of The Current on CBC. Find the interview with Dr. Balfour Mount here. I heard the reply to Dr. Mount in this morning’s The Current. Interestingly enough, while proponents of euthanasia present it as a dignified, compassionate way to die, the follow-up interview (not available online yet) wasn’t nearly as hopeful and optimistic as Dr. Mount’s argument for proper palliative care.
One particular point touched me: when asked why euthanasia never really leaves the public discourse, Dr. Mount — who suffers from cancer of the oesophagus — attributes it to the compassion of the Canadian people for those who suffer. We do not like to see people suffering, we want to alleviate the pain, and euthanasia appears on the surface like a compassionate thing to do. Dr. Buckman, in his rejoinder, attributes it to the bigotry of a vocal minority of right-wing religious groups. Hope and compassion versus intolerance. Who would you rather have as your doctor?
A good letter to the editor about the pending euthanasia debate can be found here:
Any doctor worth their salt knows that you do not have to kill someone at the end of life. They know that there is a chasm of difference between the possible secondary effect of pain management, which rarely, but may, hasten death and the actual purposeful intent to kill a patient. We will have the debate, I am sure. It will be headlined with the fearmongering which has kept step with euthanasia’s progress across the globe. We have regressed to the point where we want to judge some lives not worthy of life and, in that judgment, sanction their execution. We will not call it that, of course, in order not to distress societal sensitivities.
The author is Jakki Jeffs, who runs Alliance for Life in Guelph. She is this wonderful, warm lady with a dramatic flare and a fantastic (British?) accent. She’s also involved in getting ads on the airwaves about life, which I think is a critical way to reach people–remind them of stuff that really matters in the middle of House or CSI.
When Luxembourg voted to legalize euthanasia, the Grand Duke Henri refused to sign it into law.
So their parliament promptly voted to give him a purely ceremonial role. Fine.
I still say it is a testimony to personal courage that a man would risk his position and power to oppose a bad law.
This is what I look for, by the way, in Canadian leaders. A glimmer of hope that somewhere they have personal convictions that they are willing to stand on. It’s rare (see how Morgentaler sailed through the Order of Canada process with most of our elite) but it does still exist, as the Grand Duke Henri shows.
I’ll also add this: The beauty of religious types is that they don’t seek earthly power–making them much more free to conduct themselves with integrity. I believe that as faith increases, so does freedom, and fear decreases, too. This counter-cultural perspective rarely hits the media, but I see it in faithful people all around me.
Brigitte’s head is spinning: Wow, is that what “convictions” look like? One rarely sees any…
Kusch [Dr. Death] has developed, and advertises, a “suicide machine” that he will hook up to clients for a charge of up to $13,000. One of his “clients” took her life simply because she felt she was too anti-social to live in a nursing home.
Perhaps Canada would never face someone pining for his right to make a profit off of assisted suicide like this Dr. Death character. As the above article goes on to say, “the U.S. is more likely than Europe to be a trendsetter for Canada.” Hmmm…
Oregon has a law that allows terminally ill people to end their lives “through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.”
And we know that, where prescription medication is concerned, there is no profit to be made.
I have nothing really to add to this article. No snarky remark. No 2 cents. No elucidation. But in case you can’t get around to reading the full column, I’ll highlight this one bit:
In 1998, 12 per cent of PAS patients in Oregon said they chose this irreversible course of action [euthenasia] because they didn’t want to burden their family. That rose to 26 per cent in 1999, 42 per cent in 2005 and 45 per cent in 2007, the last year figures are available. If that were a company’s bottom line, champagne corks would be popping!
In other words, for the infirm and disabled, the right to die quickly becomes the duty to die. Wanting to live despite being frail or ill increasingly is viewed as selfish in places where euthanasia is the law.
That’s not empowerment, it’s coercion, guilt for living, pressure to die.
Rebecca adds: And so few people discuss this. The percentage of people euthanized in the Netherlands without their own consent or that of their next-of-kin rose along similar lines. And countless young women are pushed into abortions against their own instincts and judgment by pressure from parents (we’ll kick you out of the house, you’ll never be able to get a degree, it’s selfish to have a baby when you’re too young) and boyfriends (I’ll leave you if you don’t abort, I’ll never leave you/love you forever if you will). There is a debate to be had about whether abortion and euthanasia are moral. But even if we were to stipulate that they are entirely morally acceptable, there is a whole different debate about what constitutes informed consent. The standards applied to any other medical decision are waived, when assisted suicide and abortion are the issue.
Great piece in the Ottawa Citizen . It’s about assisted suicide and euthanasia and makes a tremendous argument against the practice. It concludes by saying:
There is a cultural assumption that severe disability is worse than death, and so to Daniel’s parents it was completely normal that their 23-year-old son wanted to die. Perhaps they were right. Maybe for Daniel, disability really would have been worse than death. But he should have been given a chance to discover otherwise.
This is our cultural assumption–that death is better, in particular in cases of disability. For that, we have no proof at all. (Tell me now, who is making a leap of faith with their arguments?)
Depression and loneliness are huge factors in wanting to die, in wanting someone else to die (in the case of abortion). Again, is killing the best we can come up with in these dire, sad circumstances?