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Torturing the sick and elderly

It's such a hard topic.  Thanks for voicing your thoughts, Jay!

We call ourselves an enlightened, humane society, but persist in torturing the terminally ill through sadistic anti-euthanasia laws. Isn’t it about time we stop giving into that section of the population who are so afraid of their own death that they are willing to force others to suffer needlessly? And so cowardly that they often perform their torture, not personally, but through third parties – the health professionals and relatives of the dying

How can we claim that human beings have a fundamental right to life, without an equally fundamental right to death? If one is forced to do something, then it cannot be a right. 

Those against euthanasia talk of the potential for abuse, but that is to divert attention from their own abuse. Health professionals and those who care for the terminally ill are on the front line, day after day. Yes, they can and will exert an influence on the terminally ill. That is their right and their responsibility. We do need safeguards to ensure that the person making the decision to die is of sound mind, but we already have well-tested protocols for determining a person’s sanity. 

Yes, there is an element of financial common sense in legalizing euthanasia. We have an ageing population and health costs are rising. But, making money from it shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing.

That’s what I think. What do you think? Isn’t it about time that humanity became more humane?

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 In a way, I can understand

 In a way, I can understand Geoff''s point.

 Politics in  Europe in the first half of the twentieth century in particular, produced some genuinely weird ideas as to criteria for "euthenasing" one's self, but more particularly, "other" people.

 For that matter, add the obnoxiously horrific Balkans civil wars of the 'nineties, to clarify.

 Secondly, and interconnected with the first point if society slips that far, is  the slippery slope argument.

 If you loosen the laws too much, then you do ask, are we encouraging shonky and sinister abuses that may come with such a loosening. And does a purportive change constitute a sensitising of the public that normalises euthenasia for people other than those for whom the law would be designed to protect.Think of the old sci fi movie, "Logans Run", where folk over thirty were automatically put down on reaching that age. 

I don't think that situation quite exists in mainstream Australian society-its gross to contemplate,  but it could come to pass, so I agree that any legislation would have to be scrutinised and very severely.

Jay, I think, implies that, even in a relatively affective health system in an advanced western country, mistakes can be made and not all health care workers will be as competent as others in diagnosis and proactive action concerning problematic cases.

 A case that comes to mind is the"Dr Death" case in Queensland a few years back. Even in our society rogue or maverick cretins can break in to the system and do so much damage.   But that's an extreme example. Even with  Dr  Death, the ledger demonstrates incompetence rather than the sort of conscious malice that Geoff, I think, is talking about.

My own experience with the health system and my mum's situation also, have convinced me that most health care workers are quite fine people who generally make a fair difference, but no system is foolproof and I guess we all must hope we don't end up under the care of exceptions to the rule like Dr Jayant Patel. 


A problem if I may...

I accept of course the force of your arguments. Both of you. I don't like this topic either. That's why I guess I haven't made up my mind.

One problem I have is not necessarily with those who choose death by their own hand, but with those who don't. That is the death is at the hands of the hospital or hospice professionals. Nor is my problem necessarily with those professionals, although I do have a few qualms. Afte rall there is no evidence that hospitals are the only oasis of professionalism, competence and good faith in the world. Quite the contrary.

My concern is with those around the patient and the patient herself. This is an unpeasant topic so here is an unpleasant fact. The death of an elderly person can be seen as convenient, or even if that's the last thing on anybody's mind, it can be perceived that way by the patient. I am not talking about people of unsound mind. Just normal average sick and very vulnerable people very often away from their homes. There can be any reason for this perception. The inheritance or the actual or perceived "burden on others" are obvious examples. Malice is another.

Hence my concern is with a whole range of situations which don't fit the picture of grandpa choosing with dignity to say goodbye on his terms. These include everything from a wrong perception to moral or actual coercion even through to some sharp words said in anger later deeply regretted or outright murder. 

My concern grows when I consider that the death option (why mince words?) is no longer a private affair. Everyone knows it is an option and everyone knows everyone knows.  

Nor am I reassured by the presence of health professionals no matter how able they are. What are they supposed to do?, I ask myself. Watch out for the signs? Delve into the private affairs of families? Isnt that expecting too much?

Yes, I answer myself. Therefore my concern becomes a problem.

Do you agree with me there is this problem? If so, do you have any suggestions?

And that is just one problem. I have others. Where are you Justin? I would especially appreciate your input on this as well as Jay's and Richard's.


Nosy parkers

Geoff: "Nor am I reassured by the presence of health professionals no matter how able they are. What are they supposed to do?, I ask myself. Watch out for the signs? Delve into the private affairs of families? Isnt that expecting too much?"

Whether it's too much or not, we do expect these things of our health professionals. There are two situations where the health professionals responsibility towards the patient is triumphed - 1) where there is a likelihood of injury to others; and 2) where there is a likelihood of injury to oneself.  

Doctors are expected to diagnose depression in patients, and one of the grounds for urgent intervention, including involuntary incarcaration is thoughts of suicide.

I'm not saying that these expectations are always met - only that the legal and ethical framework does exist.  

Peace in purgatory

Geoff, I remember when Kevin Andrews overturned the NT euthanasia law back in the 90s, although the public at large were in favour (and still are I think) of being allowed to top themselves legally, should they so desire. From memory it was around two thirds of punters who were in favour of euthanasia. It would appear Kevin Andrews and others within the Federal Government had more respect for their personal ideology than democracy - I thought.

I suppose Kevin being a good Catholic feels that he has saved many from purgatory, whether they like it or not. But for someone who is not Catholic and does not believe in purgatory I would have no problems topping myself (or with assistance if the situation required) if I felt it was the best solution to an unpleasant and intractable condition; carried out in the right environment it could actually be quite a rewarding although brief experience. It would be hard to believe the family of someone willing to go out with dignity would not object to such a choice.

You do, however, raise some important points in relation to this choice many would like to have, the main one being: does the patient really want to be dead and do they make this decision with a sound mind and sans coercion?

Personally I find it hard to believe there would be many benefactors who would attempt to manipulate the early execution of the estate; but yes this could be a (rare) reality. And yes, if that be the case then the state would have to rely on suitably trained professionals to counsel those who wish to be dead to make sure such a decision has been personally motivated for the right reasons. In the best of possible worlds that is all the state could do, I suppose.

At the end of the day one is forced to ask: should the many be deprived of a dignified and painless death (if they so choose) because a very small number of arseholes may or may not try something nasty? Once again I suspect it would be a rare occasion that family would try to "murder" a "loved one" for something they will receive in the near future anyway. After all most  of those who would make this choice would probably leave it till they were near death anyway - don't you think?

Anyway whether the state says we can top ourselves or not I don't think it will change much as far as I'm concerned. If and when I feel that death is preferable to life (for whatever reason) I shall exercise my free will accordingly and find peace in purgatory. If such is a crime then the state can  charge me with breaking the law and if I am found guilty they can rip the gold from my teeth to pay the fine - or they can lock me up - for eternity, hehe.

Hi Justin, other WD's

Hi Justin, other WD's.

Geoff, Your post is interesting enough for me to chew over it a little more; give it a separate post.

Jus, I'd broadly agree with the tone and sentiment and sense of your  post.

Trouble is, I'm now sitting thinking of all the BBC mysteries and Robin Cook novels that have dealt with the theme of your third to last para. Give them time enough and chance enough...

As to Andrews' trait , said trait is widespread among politicians of all colours and the country moving into election mode. Is it sit culturally induced or something in the "wiring"?

WASPish right across the spectrum.

Speaking of conditions, grief must inevitably remain a foundation stone, part of our conditionality, I think.

Grief will express itself in the form it chooses, Shudder at the thought of the day someone calls folk in for an announcement that they are ending it next week. There will always be resentment and grief wrongfooted by the event or circumstances of it, such as not being told or consulted beforehand.

Naked came we all, you know the solemn rest, and everything has its season.  

The second to last para mentioned a, "small...number of arseholes.", presumably alluding to other forms of religious activism , already underwritten in blood in the actuality of the murders of abortion clinic workers, mainly in the USA?

God is the fall guy

Paul, the "arseholes" I mentioned alluded to family members who may try to manipulate an early death for whatever their sick and twisted reasons - this as I see it is the main argument for those who wish to keep euthanasia illegal.

But I agree, there are other forms of religious activism that includes topping those who perform abortions, but such extreme activism is rare. Those who do the "topping" no doubt believe they are doing god's work. Sadly "God" has been used all too often as justification for control and depravity, we all know this as history documents it well.

Cheers mate.

the fall guy

Yes Justin, I find that a curious trait in people (blaming god) also.

I remember once, severely hung over, blaming god, hypothetical or otherwise, for all my misfortunes, as was my normal practice back in those times. It came into my head that it wasn't god who had tipped all that cheap plonk down my throat- it was me.

Then I thought, "well, what if there is a god, and (s)he has been falsely blamed, isn't it painful to be blamed for something that wasn't your fault". I actually had the grace to feel embarrassed at myself, on  reaching that conclusion, for that.

"God" never did interfere with my subsequent attempts to sort myself out, so I presume if there is a god, (s)he has better things to do with their time than jump on dills like me just because of everyday life stuff.

After all, god is supposed to be an ideal someone who has the guts, wisdom and compassion we lack, so why would god jump on me provided I for once showed a bit of good faith, too. If I can let bygones be bygones, how much easier for this hypothetical being possessing the moral attributes I lack?


God never put me in a shit- the only person whoever put me in  a shit was,  is and always will be, me.

Wonder - wonderful or what?

Paul, surely you must know that it's never been god that encourages one to drink, nor was it your good self - everyone knows the devil makes us do it. And is there not a little devil in all of us? If not god would be somewhat superfluous, maybe even redundant, and god may choose a painless death rather than a useless life. 

I always chose to drink (excessively) not because of god, but in the interests of god and keeping the old bugger/buggeress occupied; well that was my excuse and god never complained, not even once.

Ah, isn't it "wonderful" Paul, when our free will enables us to believe in delightfully flexible fantasies about that which we desire, rejoice or wallow in, yet at the same time, exposes our self delusion in all its humanity and all its destructiveness.

No joke

It is not especially cheering to watch someone you know going downhill slowly and painfully thru severe illness.

My mum's lung cancer saw  fearsome changes and a fearsome end to an otherwise worthwhile and constructive life. In the end the cumulative effect of al the painkillers more or less finished the job, once she was too weak.

Things might have been different had she the chance or choice of a decent last six months, without being a guinea pig for chemo and so forth and some guaranteed "out" once things got too bad.  In retrospect, I think she, (a deep thinker and realist) and the rest of us, her family and friends, would have done those last times far differently. 

Dont get me wrong. Those last months also provided  the most meaningful moments of my life,  personal sharing moments that the stuff of life is made of.

But I would no way ever have her or anyone else go through what she went thru for my benefit, when a better way could be available except for the timidity of much of the public in facing up to reality issues like mercy killing.. 

The choce of the last Good Night

When tmany of the elderly are stockpiling pills ahead of the moment in time when they decide that their quality of life necessitates "calling it a day",  perhaps we need a cultural shift away from the archaic religious taboos around a person's right to die and get the topic on the table.

I've seen the corpse of a lad who's jumped in front of a train.  I knew another who hanged himself in a squat a fortnight ago.  These are lives that need saving, as they haven't yet been fully lived.  

I have the utmost repect or people who've lived full lives and wish to chose when to end them .  That we treat them as criminals or as mentally unbalanced is deplorable.

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