Physician-Assisted Suicide in Vermont (and Elsewhere)

 

“The Doctor will see you now.”

 

Anybody who believes in the sanctity of human life (and fears the pressures to consent to being terminated that might be imposed upon the elderly and the seriously ill) should be watching moves toward assisted suicide very, very carefully.  Here is an important warning on the topic from a well respected psychiatrist associated with Johns Hopkins University:

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323475304578499774161574386.html

 

 Posted from Park City, Utah

 

 

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  • Ryan

    I was saddened (and perhaps more annoyed than saddened) to learn that Sir Patrick Stewart is an enthusiastic “die with dignity” activist.

    He’s also a self-described socialist and a fan of Bloomberg’s soda regulation.

    What is it with them Brits?

    • DanielPeterson

      He’s a good actor. Perhaps not a very good thinker?

  • Lucy Mcgee

    Couldn’t read the article per the link offered.

    My dad died after a very long battle with colon cancer and an extremely terrible three years of nearly unrelenting pain after several surgeries did not stop the cancer from spreading. He spent his last month in our small town hospital grinding his teeth in agonizing suffering. There was no hospice, no morphine, no relief. This was the worst experience of my life.

    For those who haven’t been at the bedside of a long suffering human, I would offer that such an experience makes one consider death and dying viscerally. I was young, in my early 20′s, as my dad, in his mid 80′s lay semi conscious in his hospital bed. He was so frail and pained and unaware, that my only prayer to God was that he would die quickly. It didn’t happen fast enough. I’m not religious but I did pray, more than once that God relieve my dad of his immense pain. It took too long.

    It was then, that I made the decision, that if I were ever afflicted with such a disease, that death should come sooner rather than later. I would be quite content with a massive morphine injection which would stop my heart. I don’t ever want some well meaning bureaucrat to decide that my last months or weeks or days should be spent attached to life continuing machines. And if it came down to it, I’d take the exit of Richard Farnsworth, or Hemingway or Hunter Thompson before I’d submit myself to a life prolonging few months of agonizing pain and stupor and financial expense.

    • DanielPeterson

      Hmmmm. Too bad about the link. It’s a really good article.

      Your father’s story sounds horrible, and I don’t favor artificial means to prolong life. But physician-assisted suicide is problematic on a number of levels.

      There is much wisdom in the legal maxim that hard cases make bad law:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_cases_make_bad_law

      • Lucy Mcgee

        My dad’s prolonged illness was a terrible burden. The entire time mom was taking care of him, she worked full time as a chef at the local Holiday Inn. Their days never ended and neither did the pain and sadness. Dad underwent his last futile surgery at the age of 84 to remove a tumor. When they opened him up, the doctors discovered there was zero hope. He lingered on for months, because of his strong heart, in state that most humans would not allow their pets to exist in. Why is that?

        “Hard cases making bad laws” means nothing if you happen to live by the bedside of someone dying in agonizing pain.

        Why is it that we demand that our beloved pets, who contract terminal illness be put down mercifully, yet require that our human family members suffer until death comes? Even the best lawmaker would have a hard time explaining that to me.

        • brotheroflogan

          There’s just a lot of danger in it. A relative who knows that grandma is about to change her will, may try to get things moved along more quickly. I’ve heard rumors of this happening in Europe where doctor assisted suicide is allowed.

  • GeorgeLocke

    If I want to die (and am sane), how is it ethical for you to force me to live? Talk about big government…

    • DanielPeterson

      One of my principal concerns is that old and/or sick people come under intense pressure, in places where physician-assisted suicide is permitted, to die and get out of the way of their (possibly impatient, possibly greedy, possibly merely selfish) relatives. Vulnerable people should not be at the mercy of others for their lives, and should not be made to feel guilty or selfish for resisting being put to death.

      And one of Dr. McHugh’s concerns is that many of the people being done in by their doctors may merely be depressed — a condition that can be treated.

      You may recall the case of the late Dr. Kevorkian (“Dr. Death”), who helped a fair number of people die before he was sent to prison. Supposedly, they were terminally ill. But subsequent investigation showed that a number of them weren’t terminally ill, and may even not really have been ill at all. He was a sick, death-obsessed man who preyed on psychologically at-risk folks. I have reservations about that.

      • GeorgeLocke

        Well, it’s not too surprising that a man operating outside the law should be unscrupulous, now is it? If there is evidence that when physician assisted suicide is legal, folks get pressured into it, I’d be interested to see it. (As you say, hard cases make bad law.)

  • brotheroflogan

    One must remember that there is a difference between allowing a person to take an overdose of drugs and having a doctor actually inject you with something. There is also a difference between removing life support and injecting you with life-shortening drugs. There is nothing illegal about asking doctors to remove you from life support. But it is, imo, morally wrong and dangerous to have doctors actively take steps to shorten your life. It is a different thing to prescribe pain medications and answer a question about how many pills would lead to death.

  • brotheroflogan

    There is a difference between pulling the plug on life-sustaining machines and letting nature take its course versus actively injecting life-destroying drugs. There is no law against asking the doctor to remove a breathing tube even if the doctor knows that the patient will die. And if you are afraid that you will be in a coma forever, then you really should make a health care directive so that your relatives know what you want before you are in that situation.


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