June 14, 2011

"People with disabilities should be very alarmed"

How is a television that shows a man being killed as he pleads for water any different from the public executions that were common spectacles from time immemorial until about 150 years ago?

Choking and pleading for water as he dies.  Fury at suicide on BBC

Author Sir Terry Pratchett, who made the programme, says to a background of haunting pipe music: "This has been a happy event.

London Times comes out in favor of assisted suicide

Baroness Finlay, professor of palliative medicine in Cardiff, has tonight published a riposte, “’Safeguards’ will not make assisted suicide acceptable”, in which she makes the following points:

“Those campaigning for assisted suicide make it all sound so easy: safeguards, no investigation of those who assist and an assumption that everyone involved acts from the finest of motives.”

“But the law has to protect us all from those who do not necessarily have the best motives…So why are the so-called “safeguards” proposed by campaigners unsafe? First, they assume that one can define precisely who is terminally ill: one cannot. Doctors know only too well of misdiagnoses and prognoses that are wrong by months or years. Second, coercive influences on a person are difficult to detect. Third, doctors and nurses often have a big influence on a patient…”

“When assisted suicide is investigated, those who stand to inherit should be rigorously examined if they are complicit in the death… We are all interconnected. The actions of one person affect others.
Assisting suicide is a step too far; personal gain too easily masquerades as compassion.”

In order to ensure that vulnerable people – those who are elderly, disabled, depressed or sick – are adequately protected it means that a small number of people who desperately wish help to end their lives will not be able to do it and that others will not be able to help them without the risk of prosecution.

That is part of living in a democratic society. Autonomy is not absolute. All laws limit autonomy in some way because laws are there to protect the vulnerable, not to give liberties to the determined. That is why we have speed limits and breath tests – despite the fact that some people think they can drive safely over either limit.

Ross Douhat in the New York Times on Dr. Kevorkian's victims

And once we allow that such a right exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best. We are all dying, day by day: do the terminally ill really occupy a completely different moral category from the rest? A cancer patient’s suffering isn’t necessarily more unbearable than the more indefinite agony of someone living with multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia or manic depression. And not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson’s disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?
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Jack Kevorkian spent his career putting this dark, expansive logic into practice. He didn’t just provide death to the dying; he helped anyone whose suffering seemed sufficient to warrant his deadly assistance. When The Detroit Free Press investigated his “practice” in 1997, it found that 60 percent of those he assisted weren’t actually terminally ill. In several cases, autopsies revealed “no anatomical evidence of disease.”

This record was ignored or glossed over by his admirers. (So were the roots of his interest in euthanasia:
Kevorkian was obsessed with human experimentation, and pined for a day when both assisted suicides and executions could be accompanied by vivisection.)

That day has come,  Belgian Doctors Boast of Harvesting Organs After Euthanasia and Wesley Smith writes

The non malignant conditions were probably neuro/muscular disabilities that euthanasa/organ harvesting promoters have targeted in a Power Point presentation as splendid subjects for this process because their organs are generally not damaged.

Imagine being a devalued person with a serious disability and come to believe your life isn’t worth anything, and in fact, worry that you are a burden, to realize that you could reverse the situation by being euthanized and harvested? 
This is a emotional inducement to be killed, and as such, is extremely dangerous to the wellbeing of people with serious disabilities.

And it won’t stop there.  Just as I was right in my 1993 prediction, trust me on this:
Coming next–paying people with serious disabilities to be killed and harvested, like Jack Kevorkian once advocated.  Utilitarian booster of such a course would argue that it saves society money on the costs of long term care, allow the disabled person the satisfaction of offering a benefit to society out of their personal tragedy, and leave a nice bundle for family, friends, or cause.  Win. Win. Win.

Once you accept the premise that there is such a thing as a life not worth living–to the point that killing is an acceptable answer to the problem–there aren’t many arguments left against such a regime.
People with disabilities should be very alarmed.

From Reflections of a Paralytic  Most paralyzed people are happy to be alive

Posted by Jill Fallon at June 14, 2011 9:34 AM | Permalink