Monday, February 11, 2019

Assisted dying is an ethical minefield and not just a matter of personal choice

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Charles Moore wrote an excellent article that was published in the Telegraph on February 9

Moore begins the article by responding to the story of Geoffrey Whaley (80) who died by assisted suicide at a suicide clinic in Switzerland. Whaley had a letter sent to the media and parliament, after his death, arguing that the law should change in the UK. Moore writes:
Mr Whaley’s story follows a familiar media pattern. It is one of a determined and suffering person, usually with a brave and supportive spouse and/or children, making a rational choice to die rather than suffer further. In this narrative, any public authority which tries to block the path is shown as cruel and, to use a word chosen by Mr Whaley, “hypocritical”
Moore responds to the letter by pointing out that Whaley isn't the only story. There are many more stories about people who live until they die. Moore writes:
MPs must (and do) think about the effect not only on the relatively few who decide to go to places like Dignitas, but also on everyone else, especially the vulnerable. It is not out of stupidity that Parliament has repeatedly, after much debate, declined to change the law in the way Mr Whaley demands. It is because this is a profoundly difficult subject.

In media terms, it is much harder to tell the story of those who have not sought the path of assisted suicide than that of those who have; yet there are hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of the former. They vastly outnumber the latter.
Moore tells us the personal story of his brother-in-law who died by cancer, three years ago. The death of his brother-in-law inspires him. He wrote:
Although entirely tolerant of those who thought otherwise, he had no belief in the existence of God. In soldiering on, he was not trying to uphold a religious tenet. He was simply brave and honest. This is what gave him, to coin a phrase, dignity in dying. The cancer duly killed him. It was a terrible thing to watch. But his last years of life were not worthless: they were inspiring. Nor were they unendurable: he endured them.

There are thousands of such examples every year. It is important that people hear about them. Otherwise, those facing terminal illness will receive only a message of despair. Despair is false – as false as false hope.
Moore concludes by explaining how many people are not treated with equality in society.
One must not forget that not everyone is enlightened about the vulnerable. A good many people believe in a sort of social hygiene. They see the lives of weak groups like the old, destitute, mad, mentally handicapped, autistic, disabled or the terminally ill as pointless. As well as them are the much smaller but not insignificant numbers who wish harm to their next of kin because they want their money or are simply fed up with them. In a public health system always short of cash, how safe would vulnerable people be if policy or financial pressures or personal malice told them to stop blocking the beds and choose to leave this life, and the law permitted professionals to help them on their way?

I agree with Moore that it is far more difficult to tell the story of a true death with dignity, living until one dies, there is also a relunctance among the media to tell the story of the personal effect that is had on families and individuals who are pressured to "choose" euthanasia and the effect upon the family that is left behind. The following are a few powerful stories.
Oregon doctor speaks out about his depressed patient who died by assisted suicide.
Belgian doctors charged after euthanizing autistic woman.
I'm dying of brain cancer. I prepared to end my life. Then I kept living.
Candice Lewis was pressured to die by assisted death.
Fatal Flaws film will change the way you view assisted death.
"No man is an island" but let's not be innocent. Assisted death is sold to the culture in a philosophically pure sense, meaning, it is about my body my choice. The reality of the act and decisions are in fact very different. The reality of giving the physician, the right in law to cause death, is not an easy topic. We would rather say that doctors and nurses wouldn't do those things. But in reality, choice is an illusion, and for many choice is only the banner that is waved to encourage legalization.

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