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Monday, April 2, 2012

How respect for autonomy ends up reducing autonomy

BioEdge has a little article on how the very existence of euthanasia for those who want it, in the end, pressures people to want it.

And it is true. Where euthanasia is not tolerated, people find another way to deal with their situations. I do not say that it is easy. I do not say it is not costly. But I do say, if killing the old/sick/depressed person is not an option, then people find other options. They find a way.

Where euthanasia is accepted, on the other hand, it looms as an option. It looms as an option for the caregivers who are burdened with an old/sick/depressed relative. It looms as an option for the old/sick/depressed relative as a way to relieve the burden on the caregiver. It looms. Large. You can't say, "Well, those who do not want to choose euthanasia do not have to." Of course they have to. It's an option, isn't it? They have to consider it because it is available. And if they choose against it, they do so not by default because it is not an option, but by conscious, explicit, determined choice. In choosing against it, they thereby choose to continue the burden. There are many pressures in favor of killing, many benefits that could be gained. They have to choose against all of them. It is not an easy choice.

How can you quantify, "But we love you and want you around"? You can easily quantify the medical bills as they pile up. The hours that are lost helping someone use the bathroom and eat. The resources used. The days with pain and suffering. All those numbers loom larger and larger, gaining strength and weight with each passing day.

Let's not forget who's paying the brunt of those medical bills: Health insurance, both private and government. They don't want to keep paying for health services for someone who cannot hope to benefit from them. Euthanasia becomes part of patient and caregiver counseling.

But how do you quantify "we love you" to withstand the pressure? You can't.

The very existence of euthanasia means that it will become a duty, not a choice. A duty.

So much for autonomy. So much for the rallying cry of the euthanasia movement.

I wonder... are they really striving to protect autonomy, after all? Is it really about the right to die?

I don't think so.


  1. Very interesting. I had not thought about it in these terms before.

  2. Thanks Patricius. Keep in mind, in every movement to impose policies contrary to sound reasoning and the Catholic faith, there is the marketing of it. And the ultimate goal. Look behind the marketing. Unmask it. See it for what it is. Euthanasia is about the right of some to determine who among everyone else should die. It is about the right to kill. Same with abortion. It is about the right to determine who is a person with rights and who isn't, with an emphasis on the notion that persons can kill "non-persons" morally. It is not only moral but sometimes necessary in that way of thinking.

  3. Why can a person NOT decided to take their own life? It is their choice. I fully agree that they should never be coerced or forced into doing it, but if not what is the harm.

    I fully intend to end my life if I get to the point where I can no longer take care of myself and enjoy my life. By doing so will being respecting my family and friends(who are all okay with my decision) and ending my life with dignity on MY terms.

    1. You are the master of your actions and, when the time comes, I hope you have people around trying to talk you out of it and not trying to talk you into it.

      A person can voice his determination to do a certain thing that is agains the law, and be convinced that it would be a good thing to do. But that does not mean all of society should endorse or permit the act. Social acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide does not merely let the people who want them to do them. It puts pressure to do them on those who do not want to. The so-called "right to die" on your own terms becomes a "duty to die" for others--on your terms, or at least on terms that other people define.

      You say, "they should never be coerced or forced into doing it." The legalization of euthanasia is inherently coercive. When society permits euthanasia, society thereby inherently coerces people into it. It becomes a choice that is presented to everyone, and advocates of that choice will try to sell it. "Don't forget, you could end all this suffering, there's no need for you to impose on your poor wife any longer. One little pill, and all the suffering and burden and costs stop piling up. And, it's covered by insurance, which by the way is going to stop paying for your hospital bed and your medications and your nutrition and hydration." It is inherently coercive.

      If God does not exist, then there is no objective morality, and no one can tell you whether anything is right or wrong. Kill yourself, kill others, shoplifting or genocide, none of it matters. These things may be against human laws, but just as you question about your end of life, being illegal is not the same as being immoral. If there is no God, then a person is the sole and ultimate judge of the morality of his actions.

      If God exists, however, then your life is not your own. It is HIS. You have no right to take it.

      "My Lord God, even now I accept at Thy hands, cheerfully and willingly, with all of its anxieties, pains, and sufferings, whatever kind of death it shall please Thee to be mine."

    2. As you can likely tell, I beleive in no god...

      I know what is right and wrong because I base my actions on how they will effect others and their emotions. That can be whole other discussion!

      Euthanasia is MY choice. If I am a burden to others, myself, and in a place where I can no longer be happy, what is wrong with it? Obviously a 2 day bought of depression is not what I am talking about.

      The sticky situation is life saving techniques. I my life is actually god's life, as you suggest, does that mean Paramedics have an OBLIGATION to save my life under every circumstance even if it means I'll be a vegetable?

      How do you feel about with DNR (do not resuscitate) orders?

      The problem I have will all this is that you are trying to legislate MY freedoms based on YOUR religion. Luckily we live in a government founded on secularism (albeit we are turning towards a christian based nation). No where in the constitution or bill of rights was christianity ever mentioned. I simply do not beleive in a god, and therefore don't think I need to live by religous rules. I do however have moral laws I live by, some are line with christian values.

  4. Whether or not God actually exists is not the same as not believing in God.

    If God does not EXIST, then ANYTHING you want to do is moral if YOU deem it moral. ANYTHING. ANYTHING. By the same token, anything anyone wants to do is moral, even if it affects you negatively.

    If you have a moral code about not bothering others, it is only because you have imposed it on yourself. But if you are serious about how your actions affect others, does not my explanation of how legalized euthanasia affect others mean nothing?

    But you can never be certain that God does not exist. I say He does exist, in which case, your believing otherwise does not justify anything.

    As far as end of life ethics in a universe where God DOES exist, you can do a little research on the matter if you are really serious about finding out the answer. I suggest getting the document on euthanasia published by the Catholic church: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19800505_euthanasia_en.html

    In it you will find information on the desirability of using life saving technologies. Briefly put, no procedure is obligatory if it is disproportionate to the benefit gained. If it is excessively expensive or burdensome or intrusive and is expected to achieve nothing, it is not wrong to omit it, but such things need to be decided on a case-by-case basis, since the possible permutations of circumstances are infinite. It is not wrong to let nature take its course when treatments are futile.

    Letting death occur naturally is one thing. Intentionally causing death is another.

    Intentionally causing death is never permitted. For instance, in terminal cancer, it is not wrong to stop treatments, go into hospice and await death. It would not be wrong to prescribe this person high doses of morphine for pain -- for PAIN -- even if it as a consequence shortens life. But it would be wrong to intentionally overdose the person, or shoot him, or give him cyanide. The difference is allowing nature to take its course unto death, and going out of your way to make death happen.

    DNR orders have to be very clear about when to resuscitate and usually they are not. Too often, especially if euthanasia is socially acceptable, they impede the use of life-saving procedures inappropriately. Personally, I would rather be resuscitated since I could always change my mind later and die, but dying has a nasty way of taking away options.

  5. And you might say that you feel your freedoms are infringed upon by my religious views, but my freedoms would be infringed upon if you had your way, and my life will be threatened by them. At least my views tend toward saving your life rather than imposing upon you an early death.