Friday, April 01, 2005

It Gets Worse

Andrew Sullivan is a touch breathless in describing a Weekly Standard piece regarding the right to die and the question of whether even pre-stated, signed living wills and powers of attorney should be recognized. I'm feeling a little breathless myself. Either that or I'm hyperventilating with anger.

The key point of the article is that not even the patient prior to incapacitation can speak for the incapacitated patient, and therefore all such patients should be kept alive. The invocation of "dignity and rights" is particularly galling. Andrew puts it right when he asks what would replace the "autonomy regime" author Eric Cohen wishes to do away with. Evidently, it would be some self-appointed wise elder that would know best.

The discussion stays with the topic of incapacitated patients. I see nothing here that would prevent even patients with sufficient mental faculties to refuse treatment from having their decisions disregarded. It is a well-known contingency that a person's right to make decisions for their treatment (particularly in the case of mental illness) can be overruled if they are shown to be a "danger to themselves". Now certainly, one could describe not pursuing every last possible avenue of treatment as a passive form of suicide. Therefore, if someone refuses treatment, then they are de facto incapable of making such a decision for themselves. Bring in the wise elder.

I'm not so much for the slippery-slope argument, but this seems more like a precipice than a slope.

Update: Just a quick thought. What would happen when the life-at-all-costs brigade runs into the thou-shalt-not-thwart-God's-will types? There have been stories of parents refusing even basic medical care for their children, even unto death. So whose morality will take the field when that happens?

1 comment:

Unknown depths said...

Death is not a right: it's a consequence of living.