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Monday, November 18, 2013

The beginning of the duty to die

Wesley Smith has often said that the mere legal availability of euthanasia (and with it assisted suicide) to respect the "right" to die with "dignity" will lead to a duty to die.

Only the selfish will choose life over death. Selfish because in dying slowly rather than quickly they:
  • Consume massive amounts of healthcare resources and medicines, depriving others more needing of it
  • Impose needless expenses on loved ones as well as the health system
  • Cause those loved ones needless suffering by having to watch the dying person deteriorate and making them make special trips to hospitals or other facilities
  • Only extend their own suffering with modest gains in life duration and no gain or even decrements of life quality
Therefore, people should just hurry up and die when they find themselves in difficult situations.

Here is an article complaining about how, in Australia, the slowly dying consume one-fourth of that country's entire health budget. It is titled, "Too much medicine wasted on the dying, end-of-life care report says." Doctors are "pleading" with patients to ensure that, when the time comes, they don't make the problem worse.

Now, it is undoubtedly true that at least some of the aged and the infirm receive inappropriate or futile care or even care they would otherwise refuse - but the dramatic cases they discuss are hardly typical. To get our imaginations going, the article cites the 70-something man with kidney failure and respiratory distress who needed emergency heart surgery that ended up taking 9 hours (very expensive), using 20 units of blood (excessive consumption), and displacing three other heart surgeries (presumably of people who were more deserving), only to die after 13 days in the (very expensive) ICU. First of all, I have a question - were his other difficulties a result of the heart condition? If so, then emergency heart surgery would probably seem like the right course. If the fellow had kidney and respiratory failure due to other reasons and an unrelated heart condition, then maybe the intervention for the heart condition would have been a little agressive. But it sounds like they went in and found something unexpected with the heart, so maybe the pre-op workup was faulty.

Yet, with this as the example, we are given to think that Australia is plagued by frail, dying elderly people getting massive, aggressive interventions that are basically pointless and deprive others of needed health resources.

It also mentions that 90% of people would prefer to die at home than in a hospital. I can buy that.

Yet, I believe that 100% of them would rather receive potentially life-saving care in the hospital rather than at home. To the moron who justified depriving people of potentially life-saving care because 90% of people don't want to die in a hospital: People don't go to a hospital when they are dying to die - they go when they are dying to stay alive. People who are dying stand a much better chance of living if they go to a hospital.

And that is precisely the problem, isn't it?

So if I were pro-euthanasia, I'd keep up this rhetoric for a while. Maybe float a mandatory "living will" law, knowing it will fail. Then keep at it. Sooner or later, we'll have a country that passes not just a "right to die" law, but a "duty to die" law.

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