March 21, 2008

Euthanasia problems.

Driving through the snow just now and listening to BBC radio, I heard the tail end of a discussion about euthanasia. A man, who sounded perfectly cheerful and physically well, was talking about how he missed his dead wife and how he'd accomplished what he wanted in life. He was ready to close the book on life and thought he should be able to get a prescription for death with dignity. There was an expert on the show, a doctor who worked under the euthanasia regime in the Netherlands, and he said that even in his country that man would not be able to have what he wanted, because the law limited him to killing patients with physical illnesses. "It's a problem," he said. It's a problem!

Now, connected to the internet, I'm searching the BBC site for that program. I can't find it, but I see is this article about a woman with a frightful tumor on her face who sought euthanasia:
Former schoolteacher Chantal Sebire, a mother of three, was found dead on Wednesday after a court rejected her request to let doctors help her die....

Ms Sebire, 52, had appealed on French television last month for the right to die, saying she could no longer see properly, taste or smell. She described how children ran away from her in the street.

33 comments:

MadisonMan said...

That tumor looks painful. That poor woman!

blake said...

That is horrifying.

However, suicide isn't really illegal, is it? Just attempted suicide?

dbp said...

I can understand and sympathise with a person who wants to end her life. What I don't understand is why, unless the person is paralyzed, they would want to involve a doctor.

There are many easy and painless ways to go: Open a vein, gas yourself, crash your car at high speed into a large tree, jump off of someplace high...

I suspect that people who want to involve others, actually want to live. They want to be saved from despair.

dbp said...

Let me ammend that last sentence:

They may, by getting help with death, have their decision to die validated.

Synova said...

Anyone can be moved by an individual's plight. But policy doesn't deal with individuals.

Pretending it does is dangerous.

Middle Class Guy said...

In a similar vein, I read earleir this week that Dr. Kervorkian is running for some elected office. I just cannot remember which one.

MadisonMan said...

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.


Dorothy Parker didn't have an esthesioneuroblastoma.

George said...

I wonder what kind of medical care she got.

Her form of cancer is treatable and curable if caught early, but may be fatal if misdiagnosed or neglected.

Here's another article from the Skull Base Institute which recommends minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, chemo, and radiation.

How did her case get so bad?!!!

Freeman Hunt said...

What in hell--why would anyone argue that doctors should be allowed to help a perfectly healthy man kill himself? That's insanity. Get that man to a therapist not the gallows.

Middle Class Guy said...

A few years ago, I was discussing this with my then wife. I told her that if it came to it, I did not want to be connectd to machines and eletronics being pumped full of fluids to be kept alive.

She walked over, unplugged the computer, then threw away all my Mountain Dew.

Cabbage said...

How sad. What is it with the Britannia and suicide? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Ireland (or maybe scotland) dealing with some bizzare rash of teen suicides?

dbp mentions despair, and he's right. My own beliefs are coloring my opinion here, but their whole culture seems to have no hope, no kids, and no God. That's why they are so.

Cedarford said...

George - I'm afraid you do the usual leap of logic that people do with the terminally ill. MOST disease is curable if caught early, though people all eventually die of something that hits them...but when someone has incurable cancer that might have been cured if caught early, then it HAS to be someones fault.

1. The woman's failure.
2. Her family's failure for not urging her to have "nose exams" for an exceedingly rare blastoma.
3. The French medical system.
4. The American medical system if she had been here and was one of the 200,000 that died because they lacked health care and let the condition go.

The bottom line is she did have an incurable cancer. Painful, disfiguring - with no remaining quality of life. And did herself in rather than suffer a few more months, a year...Happens all the time, and while people are queasy about ethanasia, they accept the terminal going out early if they want to...

Sorry, Chantal Sebire, may there be a heaven and may you be restored to the disease-free beauty of youth.

George said...

Cedarford--

Yes, even "The Elephant Man" could no longer hold his head up high.

Truly, though, we know nothing of the woman's story. You say she had "no remaining quality of life." How can you presume to know that?

Our impulse is to react viscerally to the horror of what we see, instead of waiting to learn the facts, facts that may lead us to conclude that "going out early" (as you put it) was the wrong decision.

Just because some thing "happens all the time" does not make it morally right or legal.

Ain't no coming back if you go out early.

former law student said...

It always annoys me when gun control activists dishonestly include suicides where the departed used a gun along with homicides when they want to exaggerate the "gun death toll." The man most likely to commit suicide with a gun is over 75, likely for quality of life reasons. I can put an aged pet to sleep when his quality of life is shit, but we cannot make the same decision for ourselves.

Middle Class Guy said...

former law student said...
It always annoys me when gun control activists dishonestly include suicides...


They, in their disingenuous manner, use all gun deaths as preventable. Their stats make no distictions. Some years back it was shown that they included in their gun death stats people shot by the police. They refused to remove those numbers. They only care to pump up the numbers for to push their agenda- guns bad. Guns kill people.

They seem to forget that guns, in and of themselves, are inamimate objects that can do nothing without the hand of man, like knives, clubs, bricks, bats, pipes...

Revenant said...

What in hell--why would anyone argue that doctors should be allowed to help a perfectly healthy man kill himself?

I don't understand how anyone could argue the opposite. If the person really is mentally and physically healthy -- and doctors are best-equipped to judge that impartially -- then what possible business is it of ours if he wants to die? What grounds do we have for forbidding doctors from helping such a person die?

Middle Class Guy said...

Being as it is Good Friday, I was thinking about going to confession. I did not think about it too long. Being Sicilian, if I confessed anything I would have to kill myself.

Synova said...

I'm all for making suicide difficult. I don't feel confident that humans can find with accuracy that line between assisting or encouraging. I also have great faith in our overwhelming suggestibility.

I don't want suicide approved of. I do not want to have a constant message of acceptance out there for every love sick or depressed person. How many *actual* suicides would any of us consider justified? How many suicide *attempts* are repented of later? People who decide that their lives aren't worth living CHANGE THEIR MINDS all the time.

Get a competent person to help and none of them will ever change their mind.

Take a person who would rather be dead and add a society and community that says, "Yes, we'd rather you were dead, too."

It's easy to say, look at poor Mrs. Sebire, how cruel and hateful of you not to have compassion on her! But a POLICY change isn't about Mrs. Sebire. A POLICY change is about the guy on a bridge after his divorce or the teenager slitting her wrists in the bathtub and being rushed to the emergency room. How cruel and hateful to condemn those people to die, to make it easy for Mrs. Sebire.

reader_iam said...

Regarding the specific, individual woman referenced in your post:

R.I.P

***

P.S. In her case (and in other individual cases), what I'm wondering about is the origin of the clearly heartfelt desire for "other-intervention"--specifically medical--as opposed to just taking things into one's own hands, quietly or not.

Is it a last-ditch request for intervention of an entirely different sort ("save me," as against "kill me)?

Is it "I don't want to die, even by my own choice, alone"?

Is it "If **I** do it, it'll be labeled suicide," which will cause problems--guilt, recriminations, whatever--for other people (family, friends, whatever)?

Is it "If **I** do it, it will have undeserved financial repercussions of some type (I don't know about France, but here those might involve, for example, insurance, pension & etc.) for whatever loved ones?

I mean, I don't know the answer to any of those questions. I'm not sure I could judge if I DID have those answers, but I am certain that I can't provide a good analysis, much less judgment, absent that information.

Just my reaction and two cents, FWIW. I get that, why and how others may and will disagree.

Synova said...

I believe that the "right" for physician assisted suicide as well as eugenic related abortions is based almost entirely on a belief that there are too many people in the world and we'd be better off with fewer of them.

I'm not going to kill myself or my children but if you want to go ahead and do that, that'd be fabulous.

We can start whispering... how terrible to be born like that, aren't you going to abort? How terrible to live like that, can you stand it?

And then we can go on to... how expensive to care for you, don't you feel guilty?

Elliott A said...

Physicians cannot help a healthy person commit suicide since it breaks the Hippocratic oath. Putting people in unbearable pain out of pain is more of a gray area where they may feel compelled to help.

reader_iam said...

Synova:

We can start whispering... how terrible to be born like that, aren't you going to abort? How terrible to live like that, can you stand it?

And then we can go on to... how expensive to care for you, don't you feel guilty?


I don't do--and have never done--any of that.

if you want to go ahead and do that, that'd be fabulous.

I'd bet serious dollars you don't really believe that, at least, specifically, the "fabulous" part. Forget the dollars part. Synova, I don't believe you think desperation, unto death or otherwise, but most especially unto death, is "fabulous."

We don't know yet how this afflicted woman met her end. If one were to assume that at she went ahead and did it herself, how is that "fabulous"? If you really do believe that, then I guess I would like to understand that, too. I'm willing to try to stand in those shoes, too.

Synova said...

I typed that before seeing your post so I wasn't responding to it.

I was suggesting that a whole lot of the thinking behind, not having compassion for this woman who most would agree was in a terrible place, but just anyone who wants to just because they want to, has to do with the fallacy that the world would, in fact, be better off with fewer people

No, I *don't* believe that. I was being sarcastic. Which is seldom a good plan on the internet.

Cedarford said...

Synova - has to do with the fallacy that the world would, in fact, be better off with fewer people

Except your fallacy is that the world WOULD be better off with fewer people. Ecologists believe the carrying capacity of the Planet is about 2 billion people with a reasonably high standard of living - without triggering unsustainable resource use, mass extinction events from habitat loss, and mass human casualties from ecosystem collapses triggering war and famine where the goal is enough surplus humans killed by war, disease, famine to allow a sustainable remnant population.

Uban experts say a city should only have 3 million or so, unless it is an extraordinary port or capital with ample fresh water supplies.

Right now, we are going up to 12.6 billion and somewhere between there and 20 billion, even by the most optimistic "science will help mitigate it some" experts, they see human collapse.

The US will go from 76 million people in 1900 to 420 million in 2050 at current rates of growth and allowing other people to mass-cross our Borders.

China had only 420 million in 1900 and even with mass famines and Communists butchering 50 million, reached 1.2 billion.
Subsaharan Africa has 95 million in 1900. They now have 790 million and unless they collapse prematurely, before the predicted mass extinction and human dieoff around 2125-2150 - they are predicted to go to 1.88 billion and seek to export their surplus numbers (anything above 350-400 million) to the West.

Revenant said...

I believe that the "right" for physician assisted suicide as well as eugenic related abortions is based almost entirely on a belief that there are too many people in the world and we'd be better off with fewer of them.

Lumping eugenic abortions together with assisted suicide is lumping gay sex together with forcible rape. There are traditional moral arguments against both things, but the key difference between then is *consent*. There's a huge difference between deciding another human being is better off dead and deciding that you'd rather not be alive.

My reason for supporting the legalization of assisted suicide is that there are a lot of things I fear more than death, and I don't want to be forced to endure them. It has nothing to do with a belief that there are too many people in the world -- just a belief that I might no longer want to be one of those people, someday.

I would also point out that allowing doctors to assist in suicides would encourage people who want to kill themselves to see a doctor, rather than just wrapping their lips around an exhaust pipe or jumping off a building. If mandatory counseling was part of the process, that would potentially let us REDUCE the overall number of suicides by catching more of the people who were planning to attempt it were opening to being convinced otherwise.

Synova said...

You need to update your experts.

There is no reason, other than prejudice, to think that 1) larger populations cause war or famine, particularly as war and famine happens in sparsely populated areas every bit as much as more densely populated ones, and 2) that war, disease, or any other method of mass death actually results in lower, sustainable, population levels. It never does. Every mass die off in human history has resulted in reestablishment of previous population levels in only a generation or two.

So, I should believe anything about a 2 billion magic number when your "experts" get all the rest of it so wrong?

As it is, the population alarmists suggest things that never work to reduce fertility rates which does happen naturally and dramatically in currently observable situations... it's not even speculation. We KNOW how to reduce fertility drastically.

But those who still worry, who make a hobby of it, sometimes idiots with PhD's and other lofty degrees or titles come up with grand plans... bravely they suggest, as an example, sterilization agents in water supplies... I think it was an Ozzie idiot PhD who came up with that one... but do it in Western, advanced, countries, those exact places where voluntary negative fertility is a concern... sterilize those nations collapsing their economies and what happens? Why, population BOOMS.

This is not speculation, we know how this process works.

Or how about that community college hack in Texas waxing poetic about an 80% population reduction due to bird flu? Yes, no industry, no contraception, it would be lovely. All people would have to do is reproduce and if they had sex at all that's what they'd do.

How much would it take to collapse industry and ensure no one manufactured another condom? But rather than *promote* conditions we know lead to voluntary and controlled infertility these morons think a nice big catastrophe would be just the thing Mother Earth needs.

The over population believers don't even get the science right so why trust the gloomy predictions? Why trust anything they say?

They haven't updated their thinking since Malthus.

"China had only 420 million in 1900 and even with mass famines and Communists butchering 50 million, reached 1.2 billion."

Because famine and butchering NEVER WORKS TO REDUCE POPULATION.

The only thing that reduces population is education and wealth. More education, more wealth, fewer babies. Unless the plan is to keep regions primitive hell-holes by inhibiting development those places will stop bleeding excess population (and workers) across borders.

former law student said...

Physicians cannot help a healthy person commit suicide since it breaks the Hippocratic oath.

Helping women abort breaks the Hippocratic oath as well; docs take different oaths nowadays.

blake said...

Synova,

I called this months ago: As the global warming hysteria dies down, a new panic has to be created. The noise from the ZPG has been louder lately, despite the rate of growth slowing.

Of course, it's not ZPG any more, that's not good enough. It's gonna have to be negative population growth. But it all ties into any ecological theory you like: fewer people means less global warming, more infrequent ice ages, less pollution, fewer animals being made extinct, less industry, less consumerism, less, less, less.

And it's all good until a meteor hits the planet or the Yosemite mega-volcano goes off and there aren't any humans around to prevent it or repair the damage. But even that just finishes the job the anti-human crowd started.

And the best thing about it is that your computer models are easy to write and easy to jigger however you like.

The ones I saw as a kid predicted 20 billion by 2000. Here it is 8 years past and we haven't hit 7 billion yet.

And, of course, you're absolutely right: The only proven way to curb population is to raise the standard of living. But a whole lot of people seem to have a whole lot invested in convincing us that that's impossible.

All Cedar's missing is a reference to "useless bread gobblers".

George said...

Good article in this week's New Yorker about how the experts decide when the blueberries are ripe for picking.

And there was a movie Z.P.G. 1972, Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin.

memomachine said...

Hmmmmm.

@ Cedarford

1. "2 billion"

Ok I elect *you* to be in the unfortunate group of 4+ billion that now need to go somewhere else.

Frankly the problem with experts is that anybody can call himself an expert and then pretend his or her opinion actually matters. Remember that Malthusian nightmare of starvation that was supposed to take place in the 1970's? Remember how the world was supposed to enter a post-industrial apocalypse because we'd run out of natural resources?


2. "Subsaharan Africa has 95 million in 1900. They now have 790 million and unless they collapse prematurely, before the predicted mass extinction and human dieoff around 2125-2150 - they are predicted to go to 1.88 billion and seek to export their surplus numbers (anything above 350-400 million) to the West."

Haven't you heard of AIDS?

In 2005 approximately 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa had AIDS. Now it's even more due to the cultural predilection for "dry" vaginal sex without condoms. Especially by well paid long haul truck drivers who catch every disease imaginable and then merrily transmit it every step of their journey.

Frankly we'll be lucky to have any Africans alive in 50-75 years unless there's a cure/vaccine for AIDS or some serious changes in African society.

3. "China had only 420 million in 1900 and even with mass famines and Communists butchering 50 million, reached 1.2 billion. "

You're aware of China's serious demographic imbalance right? As of 2006 the middle schools in some of China's biggest industrial coastal cities had 148 boys for every 100 girls. At this rate by 2050 there'll be about 400 million men *more* than the number of available women in China.

As it is there are an estimated 70 million men now that cannot be married because there simply aren't enough women. Chinese farmers near the North Korean border are paying for North Korean women smuggled over the border.

Then there's the issue of the enormous number of elderly in China. By 2050 there'll be about 300-350 million elderly Chinese 65 and older.

...

Population isn't as straightforward as an Excel spreadsheet. Society, prosperity, education and technology have tremendous impact on population and ecology.

Khyrel said...

I briefly saw a show about it, too. On CNN. The same story.

Synova said...

About Africans and AIDS and everything Cedarford said...

Firstly... I betcha AIDS won't significantly slow population growth in Africa. The natural human response to death is reproduction. Think about that and it's clearly a biologically determined instinctive response. To war, to disease, to death... we reproduce. More war, more disease, more death, and we reproduce like bunnies.

Does *population* result in the export of excess population? No. Economics does that, not population levels. Places with sparse population export excess population every bit as much as places with dense populations. This is observable.

As is more than one example of the most densely populated areas *not* tending to export population.

Fewer people makes no difference. Mexicans do not come to the US because Mexico is crowded. They come to get jobs because the economy in Mexico sucks. Muslims are not moving to Europe because Saudi Arabia is uncomfortably crowded. They are moving because European nations, which would be catastrophically infertile without the numbers provided by immigrants, have said they need workers. (Or did... it doesn't seem the job people came for are there for the next generation.)

Nicole said...

In terms of the man who is just depressed about his dead wife, of course there is no grounds for him to be able to have a doctor help him "die with dignity" because his issue is not health-related. I believe in euthanasia but not for things like this. If someone is terminally ill they are already under the care of a physician, and there is no reason that they should not be granted the right to die. Therefore, it is acceptable for the physician to allow them to die by removal of life support or even provide the necessary medicines for them to die. However, if they are just depressed, there is no reason to involve a physician. A psychologist, maybe, but not to allow them to die - to give them the help they need. If they want to die, they can easily do it themselves. If a terminally ill person wants to die, they often lack the capacity either mentally or physically to do it of their own accord. That is where the physician comes in.