Ah, the old "for millennia, we've thought...." argument: if we've thought that way for a long time, it must have been a great idea to have stood the test of time. For centuries, "the best and the brightest" thought that dark-skinned people were inferior to lighter ones; that slavery, which was ordained by the Bible, was a perfectly respectable idea; that women were too dim-witted to be able to study and practice medicine, be permitted to vote; earn doctoral degrees and teach in universities (as does Dr. Somerville); or receive equal pay for equal work. And for millennia, in places and cultures that still exist, female adulterers are still stoned to death.
Dick, I think Margo Somerville was stating that human beings have in nearly all cultures, considered it wrong to kill other people, other than in self-defense. You seem to be arguing that a society that permitted the hideous practise of shackling people and making them slaves must have been wrong about everything.
If they weren't wrong about everything, then were they right about not killing others? Would society be better if it kills newborns with disabilities, (as some cultures do), if it kills a newborn child if that child was a daughter and the couple wanted a son (like some cultures do), or it kills the elderly because they are useless eaters? I think that a culture that protects its vulnerable is a good culture, one that could treat everyone with dignity and equality.
Côté then went on to say:
Anyone who has no place in their head or heart for a physician who would honor the wish of a terminally ill person who is emaciated, incontinent, writhing in uncontrollable pain (and no, even the best palliative care / medication can’t always control it) and begging for a swift and painless death, even if that person thinks assisted suicide or physician-hastened death is unconscionable to them, has no right whatsoever to enforce that view on anyone who doesn’t agree with him or her. It’s easy to argue these profound questions from the safe, sanitary distance of the intellectual ivory tower. It’s quite another to make the same decision when the sights, sounds, and smell of death is only inches away. Richard N. Côté
What Côté is saying is the answer to human suffering, which we all disdain, is to kill the sufferer, rather than care for the sufferer. Côté suggests that the difference is whether or not the person asks to die.
What about the 2005 report from the Netherlands stated that 550 people were killed, yes killed, without request or consent?
What about the study that was published this year on euthanasia in Belgium that concluded that 32% of all euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were without request or consent? So much for people asking for it, once it becomes legal, I guess some doctors will just do it.
Can society effectively limit euthanasia to only those who are of sound mind and who request and consent euthanasia? Even Philip Nitschke recently stated - There will be some collateral damage. In other words, some people will be killed, who didn't want to die, who never asked to die by lethal injection or who were experiencing treatable depression, and didn't really want lethal injection.
Euthanasia is not done by the person who dies, but rather another person, usually a physician. If legal, society will give the physician the power over life and death. The physician will be trusted as the ethical arbitor of you will be given the thumb up or the thumb down. Is Côté not concerned that some doctors will abuse their power? What about Michael Swango or Harold Shipman?
Côté suggests that euthanasia would only be done to those who are near to death. Which law limits euthanasia to those who are nearing death? Certainly not the Netherlands, not Belgium, not Oregon, not Washington state... I guess there isn't a euthanasia law that only applies to people who are nearing death. In fact, in the Netherlands, newborn babies and people with depression are fair game.
I think Côté and I agree that society needs to treat the effective care of suffering people as a priority.
We will never agree how to do that. Côté would like society to accept the killing of the vulnerable. I advocate for the care of the vulnerable.
Society should be proud of the martyrs of the White Rose Campaign in Nazi Germany who did not turn a blind eye but stood up against the T4 euthanasia program and the other hideous crimes that were permitted by their government. Society should also be proud that those who did not turn a blind eye and gave their life to abolish the slave trade, and won the day.
In the same way, I will never turn a blind eye to killing people, as Côté suggests I should do. I believe that every human being has dignity and is equal and should not be killed by me, my doctor, your doctor, Dick Côté, or anyone else.