Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Death with dignity' can take away choice

this article appeared in the ottowa citizen.

full article here:

Last month, England moved one small step closer to legalizing assisted suicide. When Debbie Purdy took her case to the highest court in the U.K. she wanted clarification of the law: Would her husband be punished upon his return to England if he accompanied her to Switzerland, where she would get assistance to commit suicide?
The verdict is that the law needs to be clarified -- and that returning family of suicide tourists should be told whether they will face punishment or not.
And so it goes. Purdy is ecstatic about the decision, telling reporters "We've got our lives back."
Does being able to plan your own death mean getting to live a better life? So often, the ability to have help in death is framed as increasing choice and freedom. In reality, legalized assisted suicide is all about giving doctors control, even making choices for patients, without any repercussion.
This has been the case in the Netherlands, where the supreme court permitted euthanasia/assisted suicide in some cases in 1984.
Numerous reviews and studies have tracked the issue since then. A government-commissioned report by an independent committee revealed that in 1990, of 2,700 people killed by euthanasia/assisted suicide, fully 1,000 died without making any explicit request. Another study revealed something similar; in 2005 alone, 546 people died not by their choice but by that of their doctors.
Another 1993 report about death in Holland confirms that doctor choice is critical. The authors state that doctors are themselves "moral agents, not simply instruments of the patient's will." This remains true in cases where a doctor denies requests for euthanasia as well, of course.
But more troubling is the reverse scenario, where "life might justifiably be terminated without the patient's request," something this report suggests is both important and necessary.
One can imagine these statistics are actually higher, considering the doctors themselves are responsible for reporting......http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Death+with+dignity+take+away+choice/1876485/story.html

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