Thursday, March 08, 2012

Assisted Suicide

Wesley Smith, a rather more precise thinker than most in the bioethics field, sends along reports about what has actually occurred under the assisted suicide programs in the Netherlands and in Oregon. Short answer - not a wholesale abandonment of principles, but an erosion of them, along the precise lines critics predicted. The checks against abuse are not always observed. This isn't news.

However, there is a difficulty in the government reports, which claim the proprieties are being observed, despite their own data stating otherwise, if one reads closely. Worse, data is being destroyed. That's rather chilling. To get legislation allowing assisted suicide passed, promises were made to those who objected. For example, it is required in the Netherlands that there be an ongoing doctor-patient relationship out of which this decision comes. Yet the median number of weeks the patient knew the doctor who wrote the poison prescription is 12. I am thinking at the moment of the doctor I have had for fifteen years as a contrast - and I wouldn't say she knows me all that well despite being a talkative and curious person.

The usual outraged blogger response is to Get The Word Out, reasoning that when all those people who drove a hard bargain find out that the government lied to them, they will be furious. They will take action. They will demand a change. I am not very convinced of that at present. I think the opponents were looking for an excuse to be talked into it. I don't think we actually do care very deeply about the moral issues we get exercised about. We care deeply enough to want someone else to do something, and are willing to help out in some small way, such as voting for them or signing something, or occasionally making a call.

Perhaps we fear becoming morally outraged because it has a bad history, such as the 30 Years War, full of religious pretense and devoid of Christianity. Secular attacks on the faith always stress such things, not even vaguely interested in actual history, it seems. Moral modesty and caution is hardly a fault. Yet I think it is more. Determined groups who seek to break the seal on moral issues and create a trickle usually succeed, as Christians seldom have the intensity to care about all issues and defend all fronts. We hope to slow the decline, or hope that the horrors will be few (as there are always a few horrors anyway, no matter what laws we have).


karrde said...

I have the feeling that there is more than one determined group seeking to break a seal on a moral issue.

But yes, I agree that this is troublesome. And I don't know what to do, barring a way changing the minds of a majority of the voters in Oregon.

Texan99 said...

I find this subject difficult, since I'm deeply distrustful of using medical intervention to prolong death. There are ugly motives involved in that effort, not only the bureaucratic tendency to treat the barely-alive body as a status quo to be maintained at all costs, but also the family's refusal to face facts and the willingness to drag a terminally ill patient through hell for no apparent benefit.

And yet it is extraordinarily difficult to solve these problems without blundering straight into a world where inconveniently sick people are dispatched just so the rest of us don't have to pay for them or even watch them suffer or think about them any more.