Sunday, November 02, 2008

Assisted Suicide? Here?

Who even knew it was possible to get something like this on the ballot? In Washington state, they'll be voting on Initiative 1000:

Today, the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide announced it has started a $750,000 broadcast advertising campaign, featuring actor Martin Sheen. Sheen agreed to help publicize the dangers of Initiative 1000, the assisted suicide measure on the November ballot in Washington State.

"Martin Sheen is an outstanding actor and a person of impeccable integrity. His tireless efforts to help low income people across the country and his concern for vulnerable populations have earned him the reputation of a man who is compassionate and walks his talk," said Coalition Chair, Chris Carlson. "We are happy to add his distinguished voice to the growing chorus of people opposed to assisted suicide being legalized in Washington."

I'm glad Sheen is on board, though it's a little perplexing. He's against abortion, too, but in a 2003 interview he said, "I cannot make a choice for a women, particularly a black or brown or poor pregnant woman. I would not make a judgment in the case. As a father and a grandfather, I have had experience with children who don't always come when they are planned, and I have experienced the great joy of God's presence in my children, so I'm inclined to be against abortion of any life."

I suppose he is making a judgment now so we should be happy with what we can get.
According to Geller, [R.N., B.S.N. , spokesperson against the initiative] the ads point out some of the little known, major flaws of the proposed law:

  • Spouses and family members do not need to be told before — or after — a loved one is given lethal drugs.
  • Persons suffering from depression can be given a lethal overdose without any psychological counseling or treatment — nothing in the Initiative requires an assessment of potential depression by a qualified professional.
  • Health care insurers and HMO's could exploit I-1000 to save costs, since a bottle of lethal drugs costs far less than other end-of-life care.
  • Heirs to a patient’s estate are allowed to participate in the assisted suicide and to witness the request for lethal drugs. This would contravene existing practice governing wills and estates, a scenario that worries law enforcement because of the real potential for abuse.

OK, well here's the thing: either life is sacred or it's not. Personally I'm in awe of it. And we can differ on what situations warrant the taking of life, but at the very least, can't we agree that life should not be taken for convenience?

Oh but what about those who suffer? Surely it's a mercy to end their pain. But once you make that acceptable, what about those suffering half as much? What about those suffering from treatable pain? Creep sets in:

The classic example is the Netherlands, where doctors have been allowed to euthanize patients since 1973. Dutch death regulations require that euthanasia be strictly limited to the sickest patients, for whom nothing but extermination will alleviate overwhelming suffering — a concept in Dutch law known as force majeur. But once mercy killing was redefined as being good in a few cases rather than being bad in all circumstances, it didn’t take long for the protective guidelines to be viewed widely as impediments to be overcome instead of important protections to be obeyed.

Thus, supposedly ironclad protections against abuse — such as the doctrine of force mejeur and the stipulation that patient give multiple requests for euthanasia — quickly ceased meaningfully to constrain mercy killing. As a consequence, Dutch doctors now legally kill terminally ill people who ask for it, chronically ill people who ask for it, disabled people who ask for it, and depressed people who ask for it.

Euthanasia has also entered the pediatric wards, where eugenic infanticide has become common even though babies cannot ask to be killed. According to a 1997 study published in the British medical journal The Lancet, approximately 8 percent of all Dutch infant deaths result from lethal injections. The babies deemed killable are often disabled and thus are thought not to have a "livable life." The practice has become so common that 45 percent of neonatologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to Lancet surveys had killed babies.

It gets worse: Repeated studies sponsored by the Dutch government have found that doctors kill approximately 1,000 patients each year who have not asked for euthanasia. This is not only a violation of every guideline, but an act that Dutch law considers murder. Nonvoluntary euthanasia has become so common that it even has a name: "Termination without request or consent."
Termination without request or consent. Imagine. That's what Ted Bundy did. That's what Charlie Manson did. That's what Dutch doctors do.

In fact, I first became concerned with this problem years ago when I heard an anti-euthanasia Dutch doctor on NPR. (NPR - zut alors!) He had been an early proponent of euthanasia and had been fine with the Dutch laws until he came in one Monday morning and found that one of his patients had been killed over the weekend because another doctor needed the bed. He explained that though the patient was terminal, they had discussed options and the patient had decided to rely on ameliorative treatment for his last six-months, or year, or however long he had. He would have been discharged from the hospital in a day or two. But this second doctor had used the law to cut the man's life short without his consent, for convienence.

I have to wonder if the man was even told he was going to die. Did they do it in his sleep? Or did they tell him he was getting a vitamin shot? I guess it doesn't matter, the more you know about it, the more horrible it is.

The culture of death is evil. You give it a foothold at your peril. Even agnostics and secular humanists should be able to look at the evidence and get this one right.

H/T to Mister Grumpy for bringing this to my attention