Do we have what we need to make a decision about “End of Life Issues?”
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask a question to a US Congressman and I asked him about his voting record on a specific issue. His response was pathetic. He said that he simply followed his heart when making decisions about which way to vote on public policy.
I hope that you are not as foolish as him. I pray that you do not look towards your emotions and personal feelings when trying to discern what is right or wrong. I hope that you allow philosophical disciplines and fact-based principals and perhaps historical record to inform your decisions about weighty end of life issues.
I have three questions for you…
1.Have you allowed the historical record of states and governments that have enacted assisted suicide legislation to inform your decision?
In Oregon: Legitimate end of life programs are being removed and left unfunded. The number of programs are down from 680 to 503. This is what we call an unintended consequence. The change in the law has limited the options of those that do not seek assisted suicide. HMO's are making efforts to facilitate physician assisted suicide because they have a financial incentive to do so. Physicians that refuse to comply are being disregarded and physicians that are willing to comply are neglecting the limits of minimum patient/physician interactions before prescribing lethal drugs. Assisted Suicide Advocacy Organizations are involved with 90% of the cases making the decision. This statistic is staggering and points to the clear fact that people’s decisions are being hijacked for political advocacy and not personal choice.
2. There will be those that try to break the law and push it past the ethical limits. How will we deal with them?
Have you applied fact-based principles of the feasibility of regulation and enforcement? Very simply…people's lives are on the line here. When mistakes are made; what can be done to right the wrong? Some may say, “There are plenty of laws that could be very harmful when they are contorted, stretched, and broken. However, other laws about other issues can carry a fiduciary penalty and can easily offer allowances for compensation for loss. Things can be made right in civil courts. Justice can be served. But when this law is and undoubtedly will be pushed in a wrong direction by some; the dead cannot be raised back to life by a judge’s ruling or a stiff penalty.
We have absolutely no instrument available to us to set things back into just order. There are no re-dos. There can be no reset or do-over.
End of life issues are based on the terms of a medical diagnosis. There is a medical margin of error, a human mistake element, a ratio of misdiagnosis and the rare cases of unexplained and unexpected disease remissions. These instances cannot be overlooked, especially when a human life is on the line. Human Life Matters! Human Life Matters far too much to permit any tolerance for allowable errors.
In Oregon, the fact is that “Safeguards” are disregarded and no one has been disciplined.
3.Have you consulted the philosophical disciplines of theology, anthropology and psychology?
Theology teaches that God has numbered our days and will ultimately and sovereignly control matters of life and death within the confines of natural law. All humans will one day die. It teaches that treatment may be ethically refused, that hospice care may be sought after and administered compassionately, but that purposefully ending a life is wrong. Deuteronomy 30:19 “Choose Life”
Anthropology teaches that doctors should be narrow in their focus toward diagnosing, treating, and healing disease. Being careful to seek only the well-being of their patients and restricting their medical interference with human life to be bound by an oath to " do no harm."
The American Medical Association opposes Physician Assisted Suicide and says it is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
Quote from "AMA Principals of Medical Ethics" chapter 5.7-physician assisted suicide page 60. Copyright 2016
The Nazi holocaust began in 1939 with the killing of 6,000 disabled children and 70,000 patients in geriatric and psychiatric institutions. Leo Alexander, a psychiatrist who gave evidence at Nuremberg in 1949 said that ‘its beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans.’
Psychology teaches that depression is real. It has been studied how the weight of a thought-to-be hopeless future can carry the mind to a dark and despairing place. It has proven that mental anguish and emotional pain can be just as excruciating as physical suffering. While under these kinds of pressures a criminal confession is considered inadmissible. When under mental duress a legal power of attorney and a will can be judicially invalidated. It is well known that important life decisions should not be considered while under strenuous mental circumstances. Yet this law would ask a patient to make life and death decisions concerning these matters during exactly those moments.
Let truth inform your decision. Look at the big picture. Don't follow shallow and manipulative attempts to cloud clear thinking with senseless emotional pleas. No one that breaks with all three philosophical disciplines ends up heading the right direction. There might seem to be an emotional pay off for “providing options” to people facing the end of their life. Some have even chosen to use the word compassion to describe giving those options. However, real compassion helps people to be strong, comfortable and noble during their most vulnerable times. Real compassion does not snuff out human life and create a culture of death. Let life end in dignity thru hospice care and do not force families and doctors to introduce a cold, awkward conversation about optional suicide to people with terminal diagnosis.
Board of Directors at the Center for Garden State Families
Editor’s Note: Currently 2018-2019 in the NJ General Assembly the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act”; permits qualified terminally ill patient to self-administer medication to end life in a humane and dignified manner is A1504 Assemblyman John Burzichelli and S1072 Senator Nicolas Scutari.