Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Live And Let Live

Though abortion and stem cell research monopolize a lot of the pro-life energy, the principles and moral questions they raise do not stop after the child is born. The same moral issues, and the same questions, come into play at the end of life also. What is a person? How and why do we value life? Will we protect the most vulnerable among us?

There are scientific questions about when life ends, philosophical questions about what constitutes personhood, and political questions about how our society chooses to codify where we will take a stand. We can't do much about Presidential political appointees, but when it comes to policies and voting on issues, we most certainly can -- and we must. Consider what happens when we don't ...
Imagine that you have lung cancer. It has been in remission, but tests show the cancer has returned and is likely to be terminal. Still, there is some hope. Chemotherapy could extend your life, if not save it. You ask to begin treatment. But you soon receive more devastating news. A letter from the government informs you that the cost of chemotherapy is deemed an unjustified expense for the limited extra time it would provide. However, the government is not without compassion. You are informed that whenever you are ready, it will gladly pay for your assisted suicide. Think that's an alarmist scenario to scare you away from supporting "death with dignity"? Wrong. That is exactly what happened last year to two cancer patients in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal.
This is the kind of scenario we end up with when we let the emotion of the "death with dignity" argument overwhelm the intellectual arguments for life and humanity and personhood. Combine that with the push for a government run health care system that needs to be "cost efficient" and you have a moral recipe for disaster.

Charles Colson reports that legalizing so-called "assisted suicide" has led to instances like the "... man who had to wake his father, who was groggy from pain pills given to him by a hospice worker, in order to take the extra pills that would kill him. [The man] admitted that his father might not have finished taking the pills had he, the son, not fed them to him." That man, author John West, also wants to "assist" his mother in the same way, and is busy lobbying in California to legalize the same for everyone else. The fact that his actions are not legal in California (where he did it) does not dissuade him in the least because, as he puts it, "everyone in the medical world knows that it happens all the time."

I certainly happens in Oregon, where "assisted suicide" is legal. Wesley Smith, writing about how "The Right To Die Can Become The Duty To Die," notes that ...
A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine last year, for example, found that doctors in Oregon write lethal prescriptions for patients who are not experiencing significant symptoms and that assisted suicide practice has had little do with any inability to alleviate pain – the fear of which is a chief selling point for legalization.
Silence equals consent. But not always. In the Netherlands, where euthanasia was legalized years ago, studies show that nearly 20% of patients who die by this method are "assisted" without their knowledge.

Yes, politics matters. And the slippery slope that leads to these kinds of outcomes only gets more slippery when the politicians who control them are pouring grease on top of the ice.

We all need to pay more attention, think about what is really going on, and let our voices be heard.

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