Friday, February 26, 2010

visit springImage by Jennifer 真泥佛 via Flickr
I am in so much pain that I want to die. Can you help me?
If I wasn't in so much pain then maybe I wouldn't want to die...but then I would probably be so much under the influence of morphine that life would be nothing more than a haze, a blur a waking moment possibly between endless hours of unconsciousness. 
Is it wrong to want to die? Why is euthanasia such a complex issue?
Who are we protecting with the laws that forbid euthanasia?

I'm glad I've never been in the position to have to make such a difficult decision but assisted suicide is a very real and aweful dilemma that people face everyday. Those who are lucky enough might have a doctor who prescribes medicine that will painlessly and effortlessly end a life that has no further meaning, and spare the family and loved ones with having to make such a difficult decision. But this isn't always the case and many doctors are afraid of litigation so they take the safe option and do nothing.Leaving it up to the close relative to care for the patient, to weigh up the pros and cons of assisted suicide and face the consequences of legal action against them. Civilized society aren't we?
We don't blink when it comes to euthanasia for animals because we consider ourselves humane and wouldn't dare contemplate an animal living a life in pain or artificial life support systems. A racehorse breaks a leg and we put a bullet to it's head. No problem. A cat or dog is caught and living in a pound, it's life prospects limited because it can't find a new owner, no problem, put it down.
It seems strange that in the name of humanity we treat animals and humans entirely differently.
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(((Thought Criminal))) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
(((Thought Criminal))) said...

where quality of life arguments lead

Lexcen said...

So, do we use Hitler as a reference point for any new development? It seems a huge burden to carry the legacy of Hitler for all of mankind's foibles. Are we incapable as a society of moving forward without reference to mistakes made by Hitler?

Lexcen said...

I suggest you read up on the Australian philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer to get a different view on this issue other than the legacy of Adolf Hitler.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

To what end? (mind the pun)

As soon as the medical profession is authorized to make quality of life decisions, particularly a medical profession taken under government control and cost-rationalized, you're going to run into decisions about euthanasia being made "with your money" - government cuts health care costs in half by executing the patients.

I'd rather not try to nail pitons into the slippery slope and "hope for the best."

I'm betting Peter Singer has never been in a room with people talking about if he should remain alive.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

In other words, moving towards euthanasia is not "moving forward."

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

I'm having trouble distinguishing an advocate of eugenics (Peter Singer) from the historical practice of it (the Nazis, et. al.)

Leftists, all of 'em.

Jeannie said...

I've been in constant pain since I was 18 but it's been entirely manageable - except last year with whatever was going on. While I wasn't suicidal I was not happy and did not want to live another 25 years feeling as I did. I'm pretty sure, had the pain continued without relief, I would have eventually had enough.
My life. My decision.
However, one of my employees' mother who was dying of cancer - slowly and painfully - chose to go to Switzerland (?I think?) where assisted suicide is legal and put an end to her suffering. My employee was quite traumatized as was her father. My employee was in her 20's at the time. She still can't understand someone actually choosing to die.
I suppose if you've never been pulled low enough to want to end it, you can't understand.

At what point, and at whose judgment, would it be considered ok to say enough? How can we objectively measure pain? How hard do we make it for people who are in great pain? Because if it's too easy, then someone in the state I was in last year might decide to just duck out because it's available and acceptable.

There are people who can take a great deal of pain and those who are total wiennies. Is there a different scale of okayness for each? Could chronic pain simply be a convenient excuse for someone already depressed?

What makes each human life so sacred that it must be endured until the body finally expires on its own? As you say, we are humane to animals yet can not be to fellow humans - that humanity turns to evil in society's eyes.

Funny - not so long ago and still, in some countries, it was acceptable to sentence a person to death for a number of crimes. And they would be hanged or decapitated or shot or whatever. No biggie. Now that the planet is bursting at the seams with more people than we are capable of managing, we insist they live no matter what.

This anti-death thing is a cultural phenomena and will pass. Hopefully, with foresight and protective measures for the weak and vulnerable.

Anonymous said...

Anybody can commit suicide anytime they want... there is no "penalty" suicides will pay for violating laws against it, so tell me again why we need to legalize acts committed by those who would "assist" them? This is like the stupid "legalize" torture argument. If you have to worry about being convicted by a jury of your peers, then perhaps you should should not assist the act in question unless you are certain your peers won't misjudge your actions.

If you "assist" in a legitimate "painfull no-hope" suicide, none of your peers will convict you... so you've nothing to fear ALREADY. And if you do assist, I hope they DO put you on trial, that way everyone will have to think twice and the practice of assisting suicides will not be abused.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we euthenize animals because people don't care enough to pay for the care. RIght???
If you dog needed a lung transplant, or brain surgery...bye bye Fido.

Sometimes it's because we don't want to see them suffer, but that's because WE'RE the wimps. Was there always someone there to put a bullet into every animal that was suffering or old?
Death is part of life. Why do we run from it, as if we can avoid it, circumvent it, lessen it?

Reminds me of the nurse who, when she found out that my newborn daughter died at birth from complications of spina bifida, said, "Oh, I was pregnant with a baby with spina bifida. I had an abortion. Why didn't you?"


(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Suicide is a selfish impulse, and using it as the relief of physical suffering does not mitigate it from being a selfish impulse, especially because it ends life itself, not just the pain.

Now I'm normally all for selfish impulses (yay selfishness!) but having considered suicide a few times in my life I've come to appreciate living, even with pain. I love myself too much to quit this ride.

The Terry Schiavo case in Florida really cemented me as an opponent of government-sanctioned euthanasia. She was in a persistent vegetative state and starved to death by court order in a "health care" facility, even when her blood family offered to continue her care out-of-pocket.

Now we find, a few short years later, studies in Britain confirming stimuli brain response in PVS patients. And at a level less obvious than Terry Schiavo's following people around the room with her eyes. Terry Schiavo was more than a piece of meat.

Who knows what diseases today have cures tomorrow? Many of the conditions that "justified" euthanasia arguments in the early 20th Century have treatments and cures now.

There's just too much overlap with eugenics pseudo-science for me to condone euthanasia under any circumstance. It's a lack of ethics argument trying to pose as an ethical argument.

Lexcen said...

Beamish, consider the terminally ill cancer patient. There is no hope of a future medical breakthrough. Maybe a visit to death's waiting room might focus your attention. Any palliative care hospital ward should do. Same goes for FJ, I didn't detect any compassion for those in constant pain with no hope of remission and who might beg a doctor to put them out of their misery. Yes, there are people who cling to life no matter what the cost but there are many who just want to die. In the name of humanity consider their wants and don't flog them with the intricacies of the legal system which we know to be imperfect at the best of times.
We might dismiss Peter Singer as a leftist without reading him or read him and dismiss him as a leftist. He does practice what he preaches (how common is that?) and I do value his opinions when the ethical waters are murky. Personally I would opt for the fast and efficient death rather than endure endless pain without hope of remission. That is my decision and I don't expect others to feel the same. Finally, have any of you experienced unmitigated intense pain for any length of time, while attached to a life support machine,while in a coma and thought to themselves, yes life is good and I want to live? Me neither. Jen, Jeannie, you obviously have enough compassion to see viewpoint of the patient rather than the lawyer.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...


I've seen terminal cancer patients salve their pain unwrapping and sucking on morphine lollipops by themselves. Intricate, complex motions with their hands enough to slash a wrist, start up a car in a closed garage and asphyxiate on carbon monoxide, or perhaps even simpler, overdose on their own pain medications and a bottle of wine. Eat rat poison for the massive internal hemmorhaging. Overdose of Cumitin and bruise themselves to death with a few slip and falls on the floor.

They don't need help killing themselves, they're largely just too chickenshit to do it themselves.

I'm sorry but, "assisted suicide" arguments are a red herring to distract from the larger issue of eugenics-based euthanasia. We can't afford to care for granny, so granny's got to go.

And Peter Singer describes himself as a leftist, but his zeal for the idea of killing newborn babies and the elderly infirmed really can't be politically placed in any other direction. Garbage in, garbage out.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

That said, if I were ever reduced to say, the state of the soldier in Daton Trumbo's "Johnny Get Your Gun" then yes, please kill me. I'm not sure I can tap out "kill me" in Morse code with my head.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

er, Dalton Trumbo

(((Thought Criminal))) said...


Lexcen said...

Tough titties to those who can't manage their own suicide! Same goes for wimps.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Yep. I'm such a horrible human being, not wanting to end someone's life or help another end theirs. And most decidedly against that decision being made by a government official.

During the 13 days it took Terry Schiavo to die from starvation when the Florida Supreme Court decided to remove her feeding tube to kill her, why was she given pain meds intravenously? Was she "brain dead" or not? And why starve her out? Why not have Peter Singer come in and shoot her in the face? We treat captured terrorists better.

End suffering my ass. "Assisted suicide" advocates are sociopaths.

Anonymous said...

I do see the viewpoint of the patient, although I've never been in long-term pain.

For me, it's not about litigation, it's about sanctity of life.

Doctors should not formally assist in the suicide of patients. That changes the face of society, and what was a personal decision now becomes a societal issue.

I'm not being cruel here. The patient needs empowerment. If I'm unhappy with the traditional medical birth process, I seek out alternatives (home birth, birthing center, etc.). We are not slaves to the system. If I am not satsisfied to linger and die in a hospital bed, I seek out alternatives (my family or friends help...).

"If you "assist" in a legitimate "painfull no-hope" suicide, none of your peers will convict you... so you've nothing to fear ALREADY. And if you do assist, I hope they DO put you on trial, that way everyone will have to think twice and the practice of assisting suicides will not be abused."

Are you saying...take it off-the-record?

Anonymous said...

I just googled 'suicide techniques' and I am now throroughly bummed out...

Anonymous said...

Same goes for FJ, I didn't detect any compassion for those in constant pain with no hope of remission and who might beg a doctor to put them out of their misery.


I said "assist away" but you'd better be damn sure that you did the "right thing" or we'll toast your ass. If you did do the right thing, we'll let you go. It doesn't get MORE compassionate then THAT... it only gets LESS compassionate than that.... like allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses to patients suffering from hangnails or perhaps similar temporary maladies.

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't "be easy". THAT is what is so compassionate about the current approach.

Anonymous said...

...and no, I'm not saying take it "off the record".. I'm saying the OPPOSITE. Let the DA review the cases and prosecute doctors who abuse their prescription writing authority.

Checks and balances.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Is it ethical to want to die (for any reason)?

Is it ethical to ask someone to help you die (for any reason)?

Is it ethical to kill someone even if they ask you to?

These three questions damn the euthanasia advocate into admitting their "ethical" pretentions have no ethical basis whatsoever.

Lexcen said...

Thanks for all your comments. If we agreed on everything then it would be something to worry about.
Here is my position on assisted suicide and I'm sticking to it

Lexcen said...

Beamish, please give me a reference to a right wing philosopher/ethicist that I can read to balance out my view on this issue. Since I'm only a simple man with a simple mind, I cannot form opinions on such complex issues on my own and refer to a higher intellect. Maybe the higher intellect in this case in left wing but I cannot dismiss him without an alternative right wing opinion of a higher intellect/philosopher/ethicist.

Anonymous said...

Palliative care is practiced every day, all over the world.
I don't consider that assisted suicide.

Is it ethical to want to die?

It's human.

I think that most of the time, we don't really want to stop living, we just want the suffering to stop.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

C.S. Lewis
G.K. Chesterton
John Stuart Mill
Immanuel Kant
Thomas Hobbes
John Locke
Jean Jacques Rousseau...

All of these argue, in their own words that human freedom ends with death. Committing suicide is a decision that can not be reversed, and prevents further choices. One might as well be enslaved if they are going to rob themselves of all future choices.

Lexcen said...

Food for thought.

Lexcen said...

Afterthought. I wonder if any of the great thinkers could imagine or foresee the possibility of life indefinitely extended on artificial life support?

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Dunno. Artificial hearts (the Jarvik 7, for example) were new when I was a kid.

Even the depressing existentialists like Sartre seem anti-suicide. You can pretty much sum up Sartre with "Life sucks. But to suck is life. Viva la sucking!" hehe.