This article was published by Wesley Smith on his blog on March 8, 2016.
By Wesley Smith
Some bioethicists are not nearly as smart as they think.
Witness this attack by University of Ottawa professor Stuart Chambers on the disability rights advocacy organization Not Dead Yet for its opposition to legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Chambers calls the organization’s stance, “unprincipled” because it distinguishes between the right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment, which the group supports, and legalized euthanasia/assisted suicide, which it opposes implacably. From, “Not Dead Yet: An Unprincipled Position Against Assisted Death:”
Although the choices surrounding acts of commission and acts of omission could be similarly motivated by loss of autonomy, decrease in bodily function, or feelings of being a burden, Not Dead Yet only supports autonomous choice for passive treatment decisions (withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment) that lead to premature death.
To be consistent, Not Dead Yet should be lobbying for or against all end-of-life alternatives.
We’ve been hearing this same tired, sophistry for decades:
- Withdrawing medical treatment may lead to death, but that isn’t the intent. Indeed, the point is to stop an unwanted bodily intrusion, not to kill. As Paul Ramsey put it, that is treating the “patient as a person.”
- With the exception of a feeding tube, such deaths are uncertain. Sometimes–if unexpectedly–people live. For example, Karen Ann Quinlan lived about ten years after her respirator was removed.
- Death is certain in euthanasia/assisted suicide.
- When medical treatment is withdrawn or withheld on request, if it comes, the death is natural.
- In euthanasia/assisted suicide, death is unnatural, e.g., a result of homicide or suicide.
- In contrast to removing unwanted treatment, the intent of assisted suicide/euthanasia is to kill.
Not Dead Yet sees clearly that assisted suicide/euthanasia discriminates invidiously against people with disabilities because it treats them as a disposable caste whose lives are not worth saving if they become suicidal.