Wesley J. Smith analyzes a new peer-reviewed paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
First an introduction to euthanasia:
Belgium has followed the Netherlands in jumping off a vertical moral cliff by embracing legalized euthanasia. The awful consequences that I predicted are now coming to pass; a steady increase in the number of cases, inadequate reporting, and a large percentage of non voluntary euthanasia deaths. Thus, I am anything but surprised by the study I analyze below, which echoes an earlier one reported here at SHS, that nearly as many Belgian euthanasia killings are non voluntary as of those that are voluntary (the concept of “voluntary” in this context being highly problematic, but let’s not deal with that here).
Why might that be? Euthanasia consciousness rests on two intellectual pillars–that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering, and radical individualism in which we all own our bodies and have the absolute right to do what we wish with it, including make it dead. But interestingly, the latter idea–often reduced to that most effective of all soundbites, “choice”–turns out to be far less robust than the acceptance of active killing as a proper method of ending suffering. In other words, once a society accepts killing as the answer to suffering, the request element becomes increasingly less important as doctors assume they are doing what is best for the patient by extinguishing their lives.
But does the new research paper justify his concerns? The paper finds that nurses administered life-ending drugs without the patient’s consent in 120 cases, as compared with 128 cases where the patient requested the drugs.
The paper says:
When the patient can no longer communicate, nurses are, by the nature of their work, more directly confronted with the patient’s suffering and may therefore wish to take a more active role in life-ending acts. We also have to consider that the administration of life-ending drugs without the patient’s explicit request may have included situations of terminal sedation or an increase in pain alleviation, in which the delegation by physicians to nurses to administer the drugs is considered common practice. Finally, although about half of the nurses’ reports indicated that there was no explicit request from the patient, it should be stated that the physicians and nurses probably acted according to the patient’s wishes.
The paper is here. (PDF)