Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The issue that won't die

How can anyone oppose voluntary euthanasia in the face of a story like this?

Here we have a rational, intelligent person who has decided that their quality of life will deteriorate so much as their disease progresses that they will be nothing more than a prisoner inside their own skull. But because of the current state of the law, they have to take a particularly slow and painful way out while they still can, because no-one will be allowed to help them later, and even those who simply provide the tools face prosecution for murder.

This is, at its core, a question of autonomy and authorship over our own lives. And as such, there is only one way it can be answered. We own our lives. They do not belong to god, and they do not belong to the state. The decision on when and how to die should (insofar as it is under our control) belong to us.


How can anyone who thinks we should spend 40% or more of our working hours in what is effectively involuntary servitude, solemnly declare that our lives do not belong to the state?

Posted by Nigel Kearney : 1/19/2005 12:48:00 PM

Pharmaceutical policies often mean that those who do need palliative care medications get cost-benefitted
out of their necessary medical needs, anyway. Moreover, according to Peter Davis' recent Australian Health Review article, there isn't a cost/benefit analysis of palliative medication available to trace the effects of cost transfers and substitution within that context.

I believe in palliative choice. Voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should be one option, but the other has to be just standards of access to
lifesaving medication if necessary.


Posted by Anonymous : 1/19/2005 01:47:00 PM

I hate to say this, but as someone who has worked with people who are dying, this is exactly how people die all the time. Dehydration and starvation are how the elderly are dying _right now_. This guy is doing nothing radical at all. Withdrawl of food and fluid is how ill people are usually euthanised.

And FYI, it isn't a pleasant death. Having seen both ways - people getting dehydrated to death and people being given saline by sub cutaneous drip until their organs just naturally shut down, I know which one I'd pick for someone I loved. It might be a lot slower, but it's far more comfortable than just drying up.

What would be far better and much more compassionate is if we had better palliative care. Of course, that's expensive and people don't want to pay for it. As soon as you allow legal euthanasia you'll have every old nana getting popped off because the family don't want to pay for care. I know that sounds over the top but the government only pays for end of life care after the person's finances are spent. So all the recipiants of granddad's will get nothing after he's had a few years of professional hospice care.

Right now there's a real problem with elder abuse because people refuse to allow their elderly parents into rest home/hospital situations because they don't want to lose the money. If you legalise euthanasia these people will just get sent off to the knackers yard. Soylent green....

Euthanasia sounds great in theory, but in reality, it would be a terrible, terrible thing to legally allow. Our sick need to be wanted and loved, not popped off. Most people with a terminal disease have very bad depression and need to work through a lot. Pre-empting a natural death isn't compassionate for the dying person.

Posted by Muerk : 1/19/2005 10:01:00 PM

I witnessed a debate on this issue about ten years ago. The point that was raised in opposition to euthanasia was that even if the elderly were not pressured by others to undergo euthanasia, they would still feel pressure to relieve others of the burden of elderly care. In my opinion, if voluntary euthanasia were legalised, it would have to be in such a way that onlt the really determined would ever consider it.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/21/2005 12:15:00 PM

frankly I found his particular case unconvincing he is planning on starving himself by halving his food intake (or somthign like that) - now the problem is that a human can survive on A LOT less than the average intake of food in NZ. It seems this slow starvation strategy is the work of a massochist and a person who wants as much publicity for his strategy as possible as opposed to a person realy trying to solve the problem. Also he has chosen as noted aove, a rather unplesant way to die.

One has to wonder why he is not going cold turkey or using any of the other usual methods. the voluntary euthinasia method of falling off somwhere high head first has been around for a long time but is not used all that often..
If he asks to go to a bridge (not a moterway one pls that would be too dangerous for others - water would be fine) and rols himself over the edge he will solve his problem.

Having said that if I put on my hard core utalitarian/nationalist hat if we were to make euthinasia easily available and thus we were to eliminate lets say 10,000 people a year it could go a long way to reducing costs of medical care and so forth because the old the physicaly sick the mentally sick and those that judge themselves hopeless would use it. We could then provide much better care to those that remain.

If you find that idea repulsive and a slippery slope then you really need to watch out because it is a rational one. It would be very hard to defend some arbitrary level of difficulty used to arange euthanasia. once it is alowed why not allow pills on the shelf? and "euthanasia councelling" firms?

Posted by Genius : 1/23/2005 01:42:00 PM

The very fact that you are correct when you say that form of euthanasia is rational is why I'm not an ultra-rationalist. It would be rational to terminate the lives of those who are going to die anyway, where it would be expensive to maintain them until their eventual natural death. That money could be used elsewhere...

However, that kind of rationalism is repulsive and dangerous. But, it's rational none the less.

Posted by Muerk : 1/23/2005 03:34:00 PM