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Unread 06-20-2015, 03:12 AM   #1
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I had seen conservative Catholic website/magazine First Things discuss the explosion of euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands a few months ago, but now, finally, other sources are picking up on this trend.

I would love to have a discussion on this, and perhaps we can start by reading this from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...eath-treatment

If this is the face of hope for humanism/secularity then I cannot see much but the wiping out or resurgence of religious persuasions (here, I am only half joking). But, to allow, for instance, euthanasia to be used by non-lethal problems such as bi-polar disorder, types of depressions, and for 'not having a definite goal in life' is monstrous and shows that THIS IS NOT ABOUT AUTONOMY.

Not only because radical autonomy and notions of humans as 'free and rational decision making agents' is passé and bull, but because one cannot even pretend to claim to have such in the throes of their mental illness.

If euthanasia has a place at all, then surely that place is superlatively marginal. But, here we see that euthanasia seems to be a choice grounded in fear, or in trying to cover up the fear of not being in total control, being able to manipulate all that touches one's life, by making a single swerve of a choice to embrace death instead of embracing the possible nothingness of the contingency of human life and experience.

This is tragic. I pray that the Catholic church in Belgium and the Netherlands can provide an outlet for those who have been hurt by this, are hurting because of this, and are seeking for something beyond the death-dealers.

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Unread 06-22-2015, 10:26 AM   #2
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I honestly cannot think of a single situation in which I could support euthanasia.

If it is done by the patient, then it is nothing more than suicide by another name. It it is done by a doctor, then it is nothing more than manslaughter (or murder, depending upon the case) by another name.

I consider myself pro-life. I oppose abortion. I oppose euthanasia, and the older I get, the more oppose the death penalty. I realize that I am not 100% consistent but I am finding fewer reasons to deliberately end a human being's life.

If we say that euthanasia is a viable option for those who no longer "have a definite goal" then where do we draw the line? What about the homeless? What about those who are unemployed and making no positive contribution to society? Who decides these things?
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Unread 06-22-2015, 11:07 AM   #3
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I find euthanasia incredibly difficult to define as differentiated from palliative care in some cases. For example, if you give someone with end stage cancer, in agony, morphine, it WILL depress respiratory systems and shorten the life in addition to easing pain.

You also end up picking your death sometimes. If, for example, kidneys have failed in a dying patient may cause drugs to never clear from the system, meaning the patient will die from what those drugs do. It can be shorter or longer. You can get in a catch 22, where technically any drug that will help alleviate suffering will also kill, but if you leave the patient alone he dies in agony. I, in nursing school had a patient like that. Generally it isn't considered euthanasia, but there is no real bright white line there.

In my perception in end of life medical care, defining what is and isn't euthanasia gets murky fast. In those cases I totally do get why euthanasia might be viewed as a good thing. In my view though that is only at end of life where death is no longer questioned, but imminent.

This is VERY DIFFERENT than the situation in the Netherlands.
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Unread 06-22-2015, 11:56 AM   #4
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I find euthanasia incredibly difficult to define as differentiated from palliative care in some cases. For example, if you give someone with end stage cancer, in agony, morphine, it WILL depress respiratory systems and shorten the life in addition to easing pain.

You also end up picking your death sometimes. If, for example, kidneys have failed in a dying patient may cause drugs to never clear from the system, meaning the patient will die from what those drugs do. It can be shorter or longer. You can get in a catch 22, where technically any drug that will help alleviate suffering will also kill, but if you leave the patient alone he dies in agony. I, in nursing school had a patient like that. Generally it isn't considered euthanasia, but there is no real bright white line there.

In my perception in end of life medical care, defining what is and isn't euthanasia gets murky fast. In those cases I totally do get why euthanasia might be viewed as a good thing. In my view though that is only at end of life where death is no longer questioned, but imminent.

This is VERY DIFFERENT than the situation in the Netherlands.
Thanks for this.

What exactly is palliative care?

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has done a lot of work on bioethics, specifically tackling euthanasia and the problem of 'dying well', also articulating the modern difficulty with dying, the problem of radical autonomy that we can see in this article; I am a radically constituted individual who has the right to decide when I can die, to pick my death.
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Unread 06-22-2015, 12:56 PM   #5
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Thanks for this.

What exactly is palliative care?
Medical care for people with serious illnesses.

Hospice is for those nearing the final stages of a terminal illness.
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Unread 06-22-2015, 02:00 PM   #6
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Medical care for people with serious illnesses.
I would think that is a bad definition. The general definition is comfort care. It is for providing comfort to the patient rather than fighting the illness generally. Usually it is used in cases where there is no point in fighting the illness or a patient has opted not to fight an illness because of the cost.

Hospice is a form of palliative care.
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Unread 06-22-2015, 03:18 PM   #7
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I agree with Bill in that it often is not a cut and dried thing, there is a lot of blurred territory due to the effects of the various medications used.

From the ethics argument standpoint, the strongest one I can think of is that a) a patient would need to be of sound mind when make the decision to be euthanised, and b) can a patient really be of sound mind when they are in that level of pain/distress?

Theologically speaking, I have a simple understanding in which I think whatever can be done to preserve life should be done, but this understanding is not strong enough for me to really make strong statements about when the lines are blurred.
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Unread 06-22-2015, 03:51 PM   #8
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From a humanist standpoint, however, what is the argument against such a radicalising of euthanasia laws?

The viewpoint portrayed in the article by one individual I found particularly disturbing: why be afraid of nothing; just embrace it.
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Unread 06-22-2015, 10:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by BillSPrestonEsq
I would think that is a bad definition. The general definition is comfort care. It is for providing comfort to the patient rather than fighting the illness generally. Usually it is used in cases where there is no point in fighting the illness or a patient has opted not to fight an illness because of the cost. Hospice is a form of palliative care.
I took that definition from a medical website. Don't shoot the messenger.
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Unread 06-23-2015, 09:00 AM   #10
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Can I play devil's advocate? Why should Euthanasia be illegal? If somebody decides that they no longer want to live, why not let them die? If they feel hopeless and that their continued existence will only result in pain, then why fight it? Lets look at it from this perspective, there are people starving all over the world, why waste food and government resources on somebody who clearly does not want to continue to be part of society, to somebody who doesn't want to contribute? Isn't overpopulation still a concern? Why force people to be part of the problem?
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Unread 06-23-2015, 10:18 AM   #11
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Can I play devil's advocate? Why should Euthanasia be illegal?
I like Wittgenstein's criticism of suicide:

"If suicide is allowed then everything is allowed. If anything is not allowed then suicide is not allowed. This throws a light on the nature of ethics, for suicide is, so to speak, the elementary sin. And when one investigates it it is like investigating mercury vapour in order to comprehend the nature of vapours."

In other words, suicide is the ultimate disavowal of the world and all the corresponding moral obligations it impresses upon one. At the very least this rules out suicide on the mere basis of feeling hopeless.
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Unread 06-23-2015, 11:53 AM   #12
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I like Wittgenstein's criticism of suicide:

"If suicide is allowed then everything is allowed. If anything is not allowed then suicide is not allowed. This throws a light on the nature of ethics, for suicide is, so to speak, the elementary sin. And when one investigates it it is like investigating mercury vapour in order to comprehend the nature of vapours."

In other words, suicide is the ultimate disavowal of the world and all the corresponding moral obligations it impresses upon one. At the very least this rules out suicide on the mere basis of feeling hopeless.
I don't follow his logic, certainly without further context. I'm not really sure why suicide is illegal (which it is) anyways, it doesn't make sense... Are you going to prosecute someone who has committed suicide? Wouldn't you rather them do it with advanced notice and in a cleaner manner rather than, say, finding a body with their internals spattered all over the walls randomly?

Personally I prefer David Foster Wallace's view on Suicide:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Davide Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life's assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire's flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It's not desiring the fall; it's terror of the flames. Yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don‘t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You'd have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
Are we then to send that person on the edge into the fire?
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Unread 06-23-2015, 12:12 PM   #13
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Personally I prefer David Foster Wallace's view on Suicide:

Are we then to send that person on the edge into the fire?
Just from my little time as a nursing student in a Psych ward, that is a very bad view a lot of the time. Someone who is in the grip of depression and/or psychosis may have views that are:
1) Not afraid of death.
2) Convinced they are invincible and will not die. (More common than you might think.)
3) At a moment of acute crisis and not even thinking of consequences.
4) In that much chronic pain that they just want it to end.

As a society there are deemed conventions about why suicide is illegal. One of the first things that comes to mind is that many forms of depression are acute, rather than chronic. The right combination of factors and improvement is possible routinely.

Another is that many forms of suicide are damaging to others. I have had several patients who attempted suicide. Some of them used methods that involved damaging/injuring others.

Very often, it is a matter of putting out the fire rather than forcing them into it. There are certain situations where I can definitely understand suicide, but most suicide is not those situations. (Mental health is actually the field I want to work in.)
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Unread 06-23-2015, 12:36 PM   #14
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I don't follow his logic, certainly without further context.
It's simply that choosing suicide almost always entails a rejection of the world, as you're leaving the world permanently and irretrievably behind. And rejecting the world nearly always necessarily entails a rejection of one's relationships with others (and all the moral duties which naturally accompany such relationships). One cannot affirm that we have moral duties to each other while simultaneously affirming the permissibility of permanently rejecting the possibility of fulfilling said duties At least not in a way that is logically coherent (unless maybe the fulfillment of such a duty means laying down one's life—like a soldier jumping on a live grenade to save his comrades).

Quote:
I'm not really sure why suicide is illegal (which it is) anyways, it doesn't make sense... Are you going to prosecute someone who has committed suicide?
I wasn't making a claim about the legal permissibility of suicide, but rather the moral permissibility. But if I had to venture a guess I'd say it's some manner of outworking of a societal condemnation of suicide. Because, as you point out, it's obvious that one cannot prosecute the deceased. Of course, one can enact punitive measures against those who attempt suicide. Though, in my opinion, this is cruel and counterproductive. But perhaps it can serve as a legal foundation for the administration of a compulsory therapeutic program.

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Are we then to send that person on the edge into the fire?
Most suicides are ultimately resultant from some degree of mental illness rather than a rational process. As Bill mentions, this gives rise to moments of crisis which are hard to conceptualize as anything other than a medical emergency. Reaching the conclusion of suicide strictly via discursive processes is quite rare, relatively speaking. Though I would suspect that in the case of terminal illness rational decision making is more prevalent. In any case, different circumstances may require different philosophical responses, depending on the particulars. Though to my mind Wittgenstein's argument comfortably addresses most of them.
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Unread 06-23-2015, 01:02 PM   #15
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It's simply that choosing suicide almost always entails a rejection of the world, as you're leaving the world permanently and irretrievably behind. And rejecting the world nearly always necessarily entails a rejection of one's relationships with others (and all the moral duties which naturally accompany such relationships). One cannot affirm that we have moral duties to each other while simultaneously affirming the permissibility of permanently rejecting the possibility of fulfilling said duties At least not in a way that is logically coherent (unless maybe the fulfillment of such a duty means laying down one's life—like a soldier jumping on a live grenade to save his comrades).

I wasn't making a claim about the legal permissibility of suicide, but rather the moral permissibility. But if I had to venture a guess I'd say it's some manner of outworking of a societal condemnation of suicide. Because, as you point out, it's obvious that one cannot prosecute the deceased. Of course, one can enact punitive measures against those who attempt suicide. Though, in my opinion, this is cruel and counterproductive. But perhaps it can serve as a legal foundation for the administration of a compulsory therapeutic program.

Most suicides are ultimately resultant from some degree of mental illness rather than a rational process. As Bill mentions, this gives rise to moments of crisis which are hard to conceptualize as anything other than a medical emergency. Reaching the conclusion of suicide strictly via discursive processes is quite rare, relatively speaking. Though I would suspect that in the case of terminal illness rational decision making is more prevalent. In any case, different circumstances may require different philosophical responses, depending on the particulars. Though to my mind Wittgenstein's argument comfortably addresses most of them.
Regarding your last point, this is precisely the danger mentioned in the article, namely slipping in certain issues that are decidedly not 'terminal' and issues that can be fixed, under the larger umbrella of terminal illnesses. So.... Autism, bi-polar disorder, depression, and 'hopelessness', or a feeling of aimlessness in life.
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