Skip to comments.Medical euthanasia raises quesions about dignity
Posted on 10/05/2007 5:23:47 PM PDT by wagglebee
The phrase "Death with Dignity" may or may not be familiar to many citizens of the United States.
However, it is yet another new term our society has had to learn and face in order to keep up with the polarized ethical debates which mark our time.
It is the idea that as humans, we deserve to pass away in a dignified matter. However, for many citizens in our society, dignity means control.
Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) is the practice in which a physician provides the means by which a patient takes his or her life.
The most common manner in which they accomplish this is in the form of lethal injection or an overdose of some sort.
It has been legal only in the state of Oregon, when, in 1997, the Death with Dignity Act was passed.
And since then, close to 300 patients have opted to die with dignity through suicide.
California, with a population close to 35 million, is looking into similar legislation which would legalize PAS for patients who have been diagnosed with six months or less to live.
Defenders of the 1997 act and the proposed legislation in California say that PAS restores dignity by allowing the person to choose their own life.
What I would like to know is where did people get the idea that dignity means control?
When I looked at the eight definitions of "dignity" given by the Oxford English Dictionary, control was not mentioned at all. According to the dictionary, dignity is "the quality of being worth something." It is a state of "elevation and honor."
Some people would argue that the ability to choose for oneself demonstrates worthiness.
I would argue that dignity and worthiness have nothing to do with control and choice.
The slaves that were brought to the United States had neither but still retained their dignity.
American prisoners killed in POW camps had no choice or control, were they not dignified?
Take, as a sobering example, the millions of Holocaust victims.
Were they not worth anything because they had no choice?
My point is that suicide is never dignified.
The taking of one's own life is an admission that life is no longer worth living, and must therefore end.
It does not matter how one comes to this conclusion.
Whether it be terminal illness, emotional stress, or financial reasons, suicide in any form involves someone saying to him or herself "life is not worth the pain," therefore negating the definition of dignity.
What state legislatures must see is that Physician Assisted Suicide is a denial of the dignity of life, a life filled with hope.
As Christians and as humans, we must recognize that there is dignity in all life, whatever its form or condition.
We are continuing to live in a time where we constantly have to question the morals and ethics of decisions that are not made by ourselves, but usually by those who are in positions of authority, or the law. This phrase is another very touchy subject in our culture today -- one that may not have a direct effect on us at this point in time, but may find its way into affecting members of your own family.
By ending life to end the suffering of a particular person, we deny the dignity that suffering can have.
We need only to look at the examples in history previously mentioned or the more current example of Pope John Paul II to see this dignity.
We also send the message that a life of less than perfect health and comfort is not worth living.
Without meaning to, Physicial Assissted Suicide also discredits the dignity of the doctors and professional people involved.
Although we must assume their intentions are good, physicians who help a patient take his or her own life, in my opinion, are no better than one who collaborates in a homicide.
I believe that if legislatures in California, Oregon, and the rest of the United States for that matter wish to provide their citizens with a dignified death, they must explore other options.
In fact, there is a very practical alternative to Physician Assisted Suicide.
Physician Assisted Living is an alternative to Physician Assisted Suicide in which a patient is given palliative care at home or in a hospice during their final days.
This care involves a patient bill of rights and access to doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and clergy members regardless of the patient's financial status.
Physician Assisted Living allows patients to spend more time with their loved ones while still being able to get sufficient medical attention -- from professionals -- needed to ease their pain.
Physician Assisted Living is a more dignified approach to death because it allows the patient to make peace with his or her loved ones without placing on them the heavy emotional burden of dealing with a loved one's suicide.
It also prevents physicians from entering ethical or moral roles which might be considered homicidal.
By living out your life with palliative care and with friends and family, you not only embrace a dignified death but a dignified life. You acknowledge that your life, even the last six months of it, is worth something.
Lord, give me the dignity to suffer out my last days in Your service.
Morphine, starvation and no water.
3 weeks, not 3 minutes or seconds.
‘Palliative care’ is just longer, not less immoral.
The author was NOT talking about starvation and dehydration.
The author makes a great point. One also must ask, if these people want to control their own death, can’t they use a peaceful method of suicide and leave our legal and medical system alone? Who needs a doctor to tell them what will kill them?
Second, check this para:
"While palliative care may seem to offer an incredibly broad range of services, the goals of palliative treatment are extremely concrete: relief from suffering, treatment of pain and other distressing symptoms, psychological and spiritual care, a support system to help the individual live as actively as possible, and a support system to sustain the individual's family.
That's from Wikipedia, but the list is taken from a paper in the Journal of Pain Management titled, "Managing a palliative oncology program: the role of a business plan". Seems like you're not talking about the same thing they are. Then there's this, from the same Wikipedia entry, and I can vouch for it because my wife is an RN who often works with the dying:
The palliative care teams have become very skillful in prescribing drugs for physical symptoms, and have been instrumental in showing how drugs such as morphine can be used safely while maintaining a patient's full faculties and function.
I would also add that the patient who suffers because they can't get pain meds or other palliative care is nearly a myth in the 21st Century, and those that are in that situation are almost always there because of thickheaded family or thickheaded doctors, not because of the limits of palliative care.
Third, the average human lifespan is made up of 3,744 weeks. Are you proposing massive changes to our medical and legal systems because spending a thousandth of that lifespan on morphine is just too much to ask?
I defy anybody to say that they could see a loved one suffering in excruciating pain with no hope of recovery, and believe that extending their last days of suffering would have anything to do with the "dignity" of life.
The fact is when this happens nobody talks about ending their life, but the pain meds are upped in an attempt to give them relief, often hastening the end. This happens all the time.
What are you talking about? My father was on palliative care for 27 months before he died, well-fed, well-hydrated, naturally, at age 92.
What palliative care means is that thre are no attempts at a cure (no surgery, radiation, or chemo) but all medical efforts are directed toward relieving symptoms.
It includes nutrition, hydration, hygienic care, pain management (in his case, morphine by mouth when he reported pain) and comfort care (in his case including inhalation therapy with bronchodilators, which he discontinued when he didn't want it.)
Cutting off pain management and comfort care is cruelty, and cutting off food and water (for the patient who can still assimilate nutrients) is murder.
Palliative care has nothing to do with "extending" their last days of suffering. Paliative care is care directed to relief of symptoms sothe patient can live out his natural last days comfortably.
Moreover, there is no medical reason for any terminal patient to die in pain. Pain management is avilable, and it is effective. This is the 21st century.
(A doctor I knew even 25 years ago said, "I have never seen intractable pain; though I have seen instractable doctors and nurses.")
"The fact is when this happens nobody talks about ending their life, but the pain meds are upped in an attempt to give them relief, often hastening the end. This happens all the time."
If the pain meds are upped in an attempt to give them relief, there is nothing wrong with that --- even if it does shorten the time they have left. It does happen all the time. As I said, there's nothing wrong with that. Legally, morally and practically, that's not euthanasia.
I am sorry for your losses. My condolences.
My experience with palliative care covers history also: relatives who did have good end-of-life care, and were able to maintain a life up until the end. My dad lived 3 days after a heart attack, believed what the docs said about being bed-ridden, and chose to not resuscitate; he lived how he lived until he died, which was lucky for him and would be for us all.
On the other hand, one of my closest relatves ended up in a hospice when strongly recommended, not his own condo, signed a do not resuscitate order, and had the palliative care I spoke of (3 weeks, no food, no water, increased morphine), and died forthwith. The man had barely taken aspirin his whole life. As far as I was concerned, it was murder a la Schiavo.
I was furious watching that whole experience. He could have gone home. He could have had time. He could afford any treatment he wanted. Anything.
That’s when I decided that if that’s going to happen to me, I had just better disappear up in the mountains somewhere above the tree line in winter. Dried food, a tent, and there I’ll be on my way.
I am not saying the article doesn’t have a point. I do have experience that says otherwise, however. Additionally, because of the Soros project on death and dying in America, as well as the dollars that will be spent on health care projected for the next 20 years for people who are above a certain age now, the death process will be provided for in this country quite differently.
That is ALL I am going to say about this.
Anybody who thinks Dr. Kevorkian is dignified, raise your hand. No takers, I see. Why didn’t he use his medical training for good instead of to promote euthanasia????? He wasted his education.
You’re confusing palliative care with a form of murder commonly referred to as “passive euthanasia.” They are not the same thing, and are not compatible with each other.
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