Monday, September 11, 2023

Questioning a medical euthanasia mandate in the UK

By Gordon Friesen
President, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An interesting pro-euthanasia article was published in the British Medical Journal on August 29, 2023 titled, "Breaching the stalemate on assisted dying: it’s time to move beyond a medicalised approach" by Nancy Preston, Sheila Payne, and Suzanne Ost.

According to the authors, British attempts at legalizing euthanasia have encountered an unyielding obstacle in the medical system:

"Despite growing legal and medical support for assisted dying, many healthcare professionals do not want to be directly involved."
In fact, we might add: this wildly underestimates the problem. Where euthanasia is actually practised, only about 10% of doctors will do more than one or two (before quietly dropping the issue). 70% will never do even one. And the real volume is carried by only a handful of hardcore zealots.

It is this problem, then, of medical rejection, which is standing in the path of decriminalization in the UK. And the solution suggested by the authors (in order to "Breach the Stalemate" as their title promises) would be a "de-medicalised approach".

We cannot overestimate the importance of such a statement from an apparently pro-euthanasia source. For as noted in the article "debate about whether assisted dying is morally justified tends to assume that, were it legalised, it would be part of healthcare".

Again I would say more: the primary difficulty of passing off assisted death as a moral act, at all, depends upon transferring the debate to the grounds of medical ethics. And yet everybody knows, from the start, that doctors do not consider euthanasia to be ethical. The entire scheme, therefore, actually depends upon legislation (as in Canada) over-ruling doctors in their own domain. In that way, the moral debate is deviously settled through reliance on an illegitimate ethical support, gained from medicine, effectively at political gun point.

For even a small number of euthanasia supporters to retreat from that position represents a major victory for euthanasia opponents.

Reality is setting in.

The reasons given for contemplating a "civil" (rather than a "medical") regime of assisted death are described as follows:

  • Doctors do not want to be personally involved.
  • Pharmacists do not want to provide drugs. 
  • Hospitals would rather discharge the patient than permit the procedure.
  • Relatives report difficulties in navigating healthcare systems to find participating doctors.

The general portrait painted in these lines, is that of a sullen medical industry, passively resisting the unwanted euthanasia mandate in any way that it can. And the solution of the authors is simple: if institutional medicine does not want to work with us, let us work with those who do.

Non-profits and lobby groups.

It is an open secret, in Canada, that the fastest way to die is not to contact some random doctor, or hospital. The fastest route is by contacting the euthanasia lobby, or a to contact the CAMAP. Either of these will immediately hook you up with professionals whose favourite word is "yes".

In other words, even where euthanasia is already legally imposed upon all medical professionals and institutions, it is still the euthanasia movement, itself, which operates the most efficient pipe-line to death.

Why, do the authors ask, should policy engineers continue needlessly pushing on a string?

There is a problem with trust in the profession and in the public health system.

The authors, identify significant positive benefits which are associated with keeping assisted death out of public system responsibility.

  • Reporting and safeguards are more meaningful because the Government is not reporting on itself.
  • Attending doctors are not forced to espouse values which are foreign to them (and conscience thus becomes a non-issue) 
  • Patients are better able to maintain trust in both individual doctors and the Public Health system.

In this list of benefits, we sadly see a corresponding admission of present harms in the actual Canadian regime, where patient trust has definitely been undermined in the new environment; harm indeed, endured by the entire medical industry, patients and professionals, in order to execute an ideological program of suicidal choice.

Moreover, if we are to believe the authors, that massive vandalism has been practised for no reason at all (or was simply factored in, in countries such as mine, as the price of getting over the first political hump of decriminalizing assisted death).

In any case, if the UK debate on assisted death were to take the turn suggested in this article, it would be wonderful news for euthanasia opponents.

As the authors state: 

"The possibility of situating assisted dying outside healthcare would significantly reposition the debate."
Indeed it would! And it would re-calibrate the issue accordingly.

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