Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Ethical Consideration

The Anglican Bishop Harries takes a very divergent point of view on assisted suicide. Rather than striking himself to either side of the dividing line -- life is absolutely sacred vs. absolute autonomy in all choices -- he regards the prioritizing of human autonomy over all other considerations a faulty premise.

This would mean that assisted suicide is a matter of joint decision between the person requesting to be euthanized, the medical practitioners qualified to administer lethal means, and all those who care for the person requesting the mercy killing. Essentially, euthanasia, as bishop Harries views it, is an issue of interdependent choices, not individual autonomy.

What do you think?


sarah said...

This subject is broad with so many outliers and ripples... I want to comment on just one, non-inclusive aspect of it.

It confuses me that people come to a point where this decision is considered- whether or not I'd like to continue in agony. The thing that really gets me is that it concerns people who have already sought healing from the medical industry moreso than than those who don't bother.

What I mean is that while I have been in pain for all of my life, increased amounts and decreased amounts at various times, that I am not reliant on the medical industry to fix that, means that I am also not in a position to contemplate whether since what they did didn't help, I should just give up and die.

For instance (since I'm into real-life examples of late, lol):

Woman A goes for chemotherapy and radiation for lung cancer, is in lots of pain and suffers with horrendous lethargy and of course the wreck that her life becomes while this is going on.

The 'treatment' doesn't get rid of the cancer, she is still in pain, her life is becoming more unmanageable and even moreso given her lack of ability to organise it, restore order in her present state of severely ill-health. She has nowhere to turn, no hope of recovery, and the only thing the medical industry has left to offer her is a mercy killing (the last line on the list of available options, and no, it doesn't come with fries and you can't substitute an amputation). So, whether to continue living the wreck of the life or not might seem like a valid question.

Woman B has cancer and resolves to get rid of it by her own methods, employing the expertise of various health practitioners, but keeping responsibility for her healing and recovery all her own and that of those who are close to her, maybe her husband, her sister, her dad. She goes through a long process and discovers in this process that the cancer had spread throughout her body before she recognised it, and now although she can kill the cancer, and even remove the offending catalysts from her life, her heart and lungs have been severely compromised and she'll likely either suffocate to death or have a massive heart attack and die. Her life is in shambles too.

Woman B would be more likely to consider the following options: a) continue with various healing treatments to strengthen her body and the lungs and heart especially, knowing that they may give out before her body has time and energy to heal anyway, or b) stop the cancer-related/healing treatments and focus on pain-relieving treatments so that she can stay home and be with her family without burdening them any further with the cost of more stuff and allowing herself the peace of knowing she'll die soon.

Woman B wouldn't be considering euthanasia. Euthanasia seems to be more of a form of medical industry nihilism than a natural or organic option for our human lives. From my own experience and lots and lots of reading of that of others, it is usual that medical intervention begets medical intervention, and here is the example of just how far it goes.

I guess it's just a non-issue for people who don't buy in to begin with, like me. And I'm in no ivory tower here, as some know; I live with pain every day and there are lots of days when I wish my body would just stop so I could experience some relief, but I'm glad it doesn't (it's an emotional reaction for me to think that); I admit to anticipating a pain-free body once my time on earth expires though. :)

Euthanasia just doesn't have any place in my view of human life, so it's really not a pressing issue for me personally. I wish others didn't see it as their only viable option too, but that would require that they see other options for healing their bodies to begin with which would require a desire to seek out unconventional ideas and so on and so on, really a complete paradigm shift for most people; one that I know from experience doesn't easily come about in in the midst of crisis, but better considered while in relative repose (hard to do in retrospect, though).

suneal said...

I see the Bishop as saying, he is an absolutist on his position in pallative care, but not necessarily so in extreme cases such as a burning victim in a car who beyond doubt will die, or in cases of war when sometimes protecting certain human life takes precedent over taking other human lives. He is absolutist not merely for the sake of human life as sacred, but for the sake of what messages are being given to the patient who so wants to die if we concede to it. In essence he is putting ultimate hope rooted in love ascertained now amidst great suffering as a pledge of a better life to come. I think the Bishop by so doing is being an evangelist and putting eternity as the final most pentrating reality, whether as a believer or as an unbeliever.

I am not fully convinced of his conclusions but find his intelligence and kindful consideration of human life as valid for its own sake to receive love regardless of human frailty and tragedy, as a great stance on ultimate hope.

Christopher said...

Agreed, Suneal.