martes, 7 de marzo de 2017

The importance of stories in the euthanasia debate | MercatorNet

The importance of stories in the euthanasia debate



The importance of stories in the euthanasia debate



The importance of stories in the euthanasia debate

The risks and harms to vulnerable people outweigh any possible benefits
Margaret Somerville | Mar 7 2017 | comment 



The pro-euthanasia case is compact and quick and easy to make: It focuses on a terminally ill, seriously suffering, competent adult who gives informed consent to euthanasia and bases its claims to prevail on the obligation to respect that person’s right to autonomy and self-determination and dignity.
The case against euthanasia is more complex and time-consuming to establish. It requires placing euthanasia in a much wider context that takes into account, among many other considerations, what its impact would be, not only in the present, but also in the future, and what protection of vulnerable people and society demands.
Euthanasia involves a clash of two important values: respect for individual autonomy and respect for life. Pro euthanasia advocates give priority to autonomy; anti-euthanasia proponents to respect for life.
Respect for life is not just a religious value as pro-euthanasia advocates argue. All societies in which reasonable people would want to live must uphold respect for life and at two levels: respect for every individual human life and respect for life in society in general. Even if legalizing euthanasia were viewed as not contravening the former, it seriously harms the latter.
Both the pro- and anti- euthanasia sides in the euthanasia debate are trying to persuade the public to affirm their stance. So how are they presenting their cases to the public?
We form and support or reject the shared values on which we found our society, in part, by creating stories that we tell each other and buy into in order to create the glue that binds us together as a community.
The pro-euthanasia case relies on “bad natural death” stories - stories of the extreme suffering of some terminally ill people who die a natural death - and characterizes and promotes euthanasia as an essential-to-provide kindness and its prohibition as cruelty.
Anti-euthanasia advocates often counter these stories with “good natural death” ones of people dying naturally and peacefully, in the presence of those they love, feeling that they have had a completed life. (“Good death” stories do not assume that death can be good, but rather that the process of dying a natural death can be “good” or “bad” and that we can to a large extent influence which of these it is by the physical, psychological and spiritual care that we provide to the dying person.)
But there are also some “bad euthanasia death” stories which support arguments against legalizing euthanasia. One, by journalist Guilia Crouch, was posted on the website of the Daily Mail. It gives an account of the following facts:
Last month, a Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committee reported on a case brought before it. The woman patient had dementia. A woman doctor put a sedative in her coffee as a prelude to euthanizing her without telling her of the sedative or her plans for euthanasia, the doctor said “because she did not want to cause her [patient] extra distress”. In deciding to euthanize her patient, the doctor was relying on a phrase in the patient’s declaration in her will that “when I myself find it the right time” she could consider euthanasia.
While being injected with the lethal drug, the woman woke up. She struggled and the only way the doctor could continue with the injection was by asking the woman’s family to help to restrain her, while she continued with the injection. The woman’s case notes recorded that she had said several times in the previous days, “I don’t want to die”. 
The review committee concluded that the doctor “had crossed the line” by secretly giving the sedative and not stopping the injection when the woman resisted and had too broadly interpreted the woman’s declaration, but that the doctor had acted in “good faith” and should not be punished.
However, the chair of the review committee wants the case brought to court to create a precedent to enable other doctors to lethally inject people with dementia, without fear of legal repercussions.
So what can we learn from this story?
Even if we believe that euthanasia is not inherently wrong, its risks and harms to vulnerable people – those with disabilities, the elderly and the fragile - outweigh any benefits.
I have written previously about the Australian Law Reform Commission’s research on elder abuse. Between 4 and 14 percent of old people are abused, most often by a close relative. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme form of abuse than helping a doctor to euthanize an elderly relative by restraining the “loved one” who doesn’t want to die.
The Commission was concerned in particular about “early inheritance syndrome”, where a person, usually a child of the old person, obtains a power of attorney and uses the financial assets of their parent for themselves.
Many people worry about the cost of residential care for their elderly relatives and heirs see “their” inheritance, to which they feel entitled, dissipating. Many old people say they would rather be dead than go into a nursing home. Imagine adding euthanasia to this situation – it would certainly be a lethal cocktail.
Euthanasia is, what is called in ethics, a moral hazard – that is, it opens up possibilities of breaches of ethics, such as I’ve just described.
A response might be that the moral hazard risk of euthanasia can be avoided if only assisted suicide is legalized. But it, too, is a moral hazard. Research shows that high on the list of reasons people want to die is that they feel that they are a burden on loved ones and there is an ever present danger of coercion.
There is also a broader moral hazard from assisted suicide: the general suicide rate has increased in every jurisdiction that has legalized assisted suicide. This is not surprising. State-sanctioned assisted suicide endorses suicide as an appropriate response to suffering and suicide is contagious. Suicide is also the leading cause of death in young adults. This is a serious and major public health concern, which legalizing assisted suicide would only magnify.
How could this Dutch doctor have done what she did? That same question has been pondered over and over again in relation to the Nazi doctors.
It’s a result of a process of incremental desensitization of the doctor to what is involved: namely, killing her patient.
This desensitization results from multiple factors. Placing the “white coat” of medicine on euthanasia carries with it messages of the ethical validity of euthanasia and its kindness. The language used to describe euthanasia is massaged and euphemized. The doctor is blinded by a conviction that this is best for the patient and she’s only doing good for her. The doctor has no conscious recognition that this is not medical treatment and that she is acting contrary to medicine’s healing mandate and beyond the proper goals of medicine.
The doctor’s equanimity may, however, be only on the surface. At a deeper level of the psyche, carrying out euthanasia may have harmful impact on healthcare professionals. Doctors in the Netherlands and Canada are opting out because they are suffering mental trauma, including PTSD, from providing it. Some Canadian doctors who placed their names on a list of doctors willing to provide euthanasia withdrew their names after undertaking their first case saying it was too traumatic for them and they never wanted to do it again.
This is not surprising: Doctors are trained to heal and save life wherever possible, not to intentionally take life. And all mentally healthy human beings have a powerful instinct against killing another human being.
We must never ignore the heart wrenching pleas of both those who are suffering and those who love them and want the loved one’s suffering ended. But we must kill the pain and suffering, not the person with the pain and suffering.
Margaret Somerville is Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Until recently, she was Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, and Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, Montreal. Her most recent book is Bird on an Ethics Wire: Battles about Values in the Culture Wars.
- See more at: https://www.mercatornet.com/careful/view/the-importance-of-stories-in-the-euthanasia-debate/19452#sthash.d4Fzfqye.dpuf



MercatorNet

The English philosopher Roger Scruton yesterday published an article on the New York Times contending that humans are different from animals. "Almost all people believe that it is a crime to kill an innocent human, but not to kill an innocent tapeworm," he writes. Humans are special. 
The comments ran about 100:1 against Scruton and human exceptionalism: "my dog is much smarter and kinder than most people I know ... People who look for differences between humans and non-humans remind me of the racists who look for differences between blacks and whites ... The only thing special about human beings is our stunning arrogance and self-importance ... Grow up. Get over it ... Anyone who has lived with a dog knows that the other animals are just like us" and so on. 
It's quite a good article. I recommend it. And by coincidence we deal with the same topic below, using the occasion of a Vegan campaign to convince people that they are nothing special. 


Michael Cook 
Editor 
MERCATORNET





M-Pesa Kenya – Where Money is Mobile
By Nicholas Bunstead and Javier Aranguren
First time visitors to Kenya are greeted by the ubiquitous green ads 'Here M-Pesa'
Read the full article
 
Vegans versus humanity
By Michael Cook
An international campaign seeks to make animals honorary humans
Read the full article
 
The importance of stories in the euthanasia debate
By Margaret Somerville
The risks and harms to vulnerable people outweigh any possible benefits
Read the full article
 
The mother situation
By Michael Cook
An Australian short film about euthanasia is a comic hit.
Read the full article
 
Our divorced-scarred youth value marital fidelity
By Laura Perrins
But protecting marriage is your job and mine.
Read the full article
 
Refugees already ‘extremely vetted’ should be welcomed
By Sheila Liaugminas
New policy must take care to avoid humanitarian crises.
Read the full article
 
Montana came SO close to closing the door to assisted suicide
By Michael Cook
The status quo remains unchanged
Read the full article
 
Radical individualism is at the heart of gender theory
By Michael Cook
What does this mean for democracy and the family?
Read the full article
 
Facts of Irish infants’ burial remain uncertain, despite outrage
By Caroline Farrow
A commission's report, however, fuels a different campaign.
Read the full article
 
UK to become Europe’s largest country
By Shannon Roberts
But it will be an older, more diverse UK.
Read the full article
 
Abortion groups pledge $250m to ‘help’ the world’s women
By Rachael Wong
There's nothing like a threat to abortion rights to make some governments generous.
Read the full article
 
Boy’s wish to disappear comes true
By Jane Fagan
Have you ever wanted to just blend into the background?
Read the full article


MERCATORNET | New Media Foundation 
Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George Street, North Strathfied NSW 2137, Australia 

Designed by elleston

New Media Foundation | Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | AUSTRALIA | +61 2 8005 8605 

The importance of stories in the euthanasia debate

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario en la entrada