Tag Archives: Terri Schiavo

Wesley J. Smith’s top 10 issues in bioethics

Wesley J. Smith blogs at Secondhand Smoke, but he also works for the Discovery Institute. And he’s written a post about the top 10 issues in bioethics.

Here are the top 10 recent bioethics stories:

  1. The ascendance of an anti-human environmentalism.
  2. The growth of biological colonialism.
  3. The increase in American pro-life attitudes.
  4. The struggle over Obamacare.
  5. Legalization of assisted suicide in Washington.
  6. The success of adult-stem-cell research.
  7. “Suicide tourism” in Switzerland.
  8. In vitro fertilization (IVF) anarchy.
  9. The Bush embryonic-stem-cell funding policy.
  10. The dehydration of Terri Schiavo.

Do you know what “suicide tourism” is?

Here’s what it is:

Over the last decade, Switzerland became Jack Kevorkian as a country, its suicide clinics catering to an increasingly international clientele — mostly from the United Kingdom — with the victims ranging from the terminally ill, to people with disabilities, to even a double suicide of a terminally ill elderly woman and her frail husband, who wanted to die rather than be cared for by others. Alas, as was the case with Kevorkian in the 1990s, audacity was rewarded. In the face of a wave of high-profile suicide-tourism stories, England’s head prosecutor published guidelines that, in essence, decriminalized family and friends’ assisting the suicides of the dying, disabled, and infirm. Others mimicked the Swiss. In the U.S., the Final Exit Network appears to have created mobile suicide clinics, leading to the indictment of several of its organizers. Meanwhile, the Australian “Dr. Death,” Philip Nitschke, traveled the world holding how-to-commit-suicide clinics. Still, as the decade came to a close, there was a sense that the tide could be turning: The Swiss government appears poised to shut down the suicide-tourism industry, perhaps even — although this is less likely — outlawing assisted suicide altogether.

Actually, the UK is considering cashing in on suicide tourism, as well.

How reliable are persistent vegetative state diagnoses?

Check out this article from The Weekly Standard. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

The case of Terri Schiavo–who died five years ago next March, deprived for nearly two weeks of food and water, even the balm of ice chips–continues to prick consciences. That may be one reason the case of Rom Houben, a Belgian man who was misdiagnosed for 23 years as being in a persistent vegetative state, is now receiving international attention.

In 1983, Houben suffered catastrophic head injuries in an automobile accident. He arrived at the hospital unconscious. Doctors eventually concluded that his case was hopeless, and his family was told he would never waken. But the Houben family, like Terri’s parents and siblings, didn’t give up. They diligently sought out every medical advance. This wasn’t delusion or pure wishful thinking. Several studies have shown that about 40 percent of persistent vegetative state diagnoses are wrong.

[…]During the years that Houben was thought unconscious, society changed. Bioethicists nudged medicine away from the Hippocratic model and toward “quality of life” judgmentalism. Today, when a patient is diagnosed as persistently unconscious or minimally aware, doctors, social workers, and bioethicists often recommend that life-sustaining treatment–including sustenance delivered through a tube–be withdrawn, sometimes days or weeks after the injury.

One thing that stands out to me about this story is how the medical profession has accepted the idea that it is OK to kill people who do not have a high enough quality of life. What is behind this view? Well, I think it’s caused by secularism. Secularism has marginalized the Christian worldview that dominated the West. One component of that Christian worldview is that it is morally good to deny yourself happiness to care for the needs of others. And that the right thing is not based on your opinion or the arbitrary views of the majority of people in your culture.

On the secular worldview, though, there is no “right thing” that we “ought to do”. The universe is an accident and there is no design. The only thing to do on an atheistic worldview is to be “happy”. And you can’t be happy if other people need you to take care of them. So, I think that this is what is behind the push by secularists to kill the weak and stop them from using up resources. Secularists look at people who need them, and they want to kill them. There is no objective duty of self-sacrifice for others, on atheism.

Christopher Hitchens is fond of asking people he debates to name one thing that a Christian can do that an atheist can’t do. Here’s one: an atheist can’t rationally ground the decision to sacrifice their own pursuit of happiness to take care of the needs of others. On atheism, self-sacrifice is irrational, unless it makes you happy. You only have one life. There is no way you ought to be. The purpose of life is to be happy. The needs of the weak diminish your happiness. It’s survival of the fittest. That’s what is rational on atheism.

UPDATE: I just got back from breakfast at Denny’s and I was reading Jennifer Roback Morse’s “Love and Economics”. She was talking a lot about the helplessness of babies, and what mothers and fathers do that make children grow up capably. She writes that early on in the baby’s life they scream for everything and the mother has to be there to meet those needs or the child will never learn to trust. Later on, the parents try to encourage the child to be better-behaved and self-sufficient.

All this made me recall this post. If a selfish person believes that it is too much work to care of someone sick who needs extra love, then that person isn’t going to be willing to take care of babies, either. And I guess that’s exactly where we are as a society now, with people having fewer babies, but more abortions and day care. And of course people divorce when they have small children as well, which (usually) deprives the child of a father.

Man thought to be in vegetative state was actually conscious the whole time

Story from the UK Daily Mail. (H/T Ace of Spades via ECM)

Excerpt:

A man thought by doctors to be in a vegetative state for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time, it was revealed last night.

Student Rom Houben was misdiagnosed after a car crash left him totally paralysed.

He had no way of letting experts, family or friends know he could hear every word they said.

‘I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,’ said Mr Houben, now 46.

Doctors used a range of coma tests, recognised worldwide, before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was ‘extinct’.

But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

[…]Mr Houben said: ‘I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me – it was my second birth.

‘I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead.’

What are we to make of the Terri Schiavo killers now? Is it morally praiseworthy to advocate for getting rid of inconvenient people? Shouldn’t we look on the misfortunes of others as opportunities to act out our love and compassion for our fellow man? Doctors can be wrong in their diagnoses.

Bobby Schiavo urges caution on persistent vegetative state diagnoses

Story here from TownHall. (H/T Secondhand Smoke via ECM)

Excerpt:

To be clear: there is no indignity more final and brutal than forcing a living person to die the death of dehydration and starvation. Try to imagine the torture my sister endured in the last two weeks of her life. Being unable to defend herself, very likely aware of precisely what was happening and having absolutely no ability to escape it. For nearly two weeks, Terri was denied food and fluids. Not so much as an ice chip was given to her. It was pitiful, it was barbaric and it was clear that she was made to suffer. When my sister expired, she was a shell of her former self.

It is because of the suffering my sister and others endured that I believe the PVS diagnosis must be either reevaluated or completely abolished. With so many medical and neurological professionals admitting that there are inaccuracies and with the diagnosis being a death sentence, it is time to rethink disability and the way we regard it and our fellow human beings.

It is not too much of a burden to provide sick people with food and water.