Monday, April 01, 2002

The downsides of euthanasia-I'm even more sickened by "assisted suicide" than I am abortion. Most people looking to end their own lives are depressed about the pain they are in. If a healthy college kid is considered mentally unstable if he want to do himself in, how come a sick adult is perfectly able to make a rational decision? While it will be positioned by advocates as a way to relieve pain for people who find living too physically painful to bear, changing laws and physician attitudes about pain relief can go a long way to prevent the "I can't go on like this" pain that leads older people to become suicidal. Doctors tend to ignore pain and are afraid to prescribe narcotics that may be needed to remedy pain, but from fear of addiction and from fear of the police looking at them as pushers. Legalizing euthanasia will put doctors in the position of either saving lives or taking lives, depending on what the patient or the doctor wants. Insurers that are looking to pinch pennies may encourage doctors to suggest euthanasia more often, since killing off a patient would be cheaper than treating their illnesses. As a truly heartless grad school colleague said: "They have a negative Net Present Value. What do you do with a project with a negative NPV? You get rid of it." The elderly might be fearful of seeing a doctor in those circumstances for fear of being talked into suicide. I remember this bit of dark humor-
Funeral Director-"How old are you, sir?" "Ninety-six" "Hmmm. Hardly worth the trip home."
Not only doctors and insurers, but family member might start suggesting euthanasia if it meant a bigger inheritance. A struggling senior might be goaded into suicide if the financial details were pressed: " We could send Sally to college with the $70,000 we'd be spending to put you up in the nursing home for the next two years." Or buy a nice retirement cottage for the son and daughter-in-law. Plenty of movie and TV plots have been built around a wealthy senior's premature demise; this would make such greed acceptable. People shouldn't be in a position to be pressured into selling the remainder of their lives. Euthanasia also ignores the value of the life of an enfeebled person. Their wisdom and insights can help society, even if they are a physical and financial burden. In a society fixated on youth and fitness, the old and infirm are treated as near worthless. It's the animals that leave their sick and old to die. We are not animals; no, we are Devo God has given us a better sense of value than that of the body, for we are soul and spirit as well. The Jack the Drippers of the world don't see the value of a life even when it is struggling to hang in there. There is a time to pull the plug when a patient is brain-dead or is beyond recovery. However, it should be limited to those cases, and not done to people who are still vital but simply in pain.

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