Bioethics, conscience, debates, end of life, eugenics, Medical Futility, morals, Physician Assisted Suicide

Wesley Smith on Toronto Conference on End of Life

Wesley’s report is at his blog, Secondhand Smoke.

The medical interventional suicide or “Physician Assisted Suicide” (PAS) offers a false sense of control to people who are actually the healthiest of the patients who know that they are nearing the end of life.

It’s false because before legal medical regulations can be used to “help” terminal patients to control the “time and manner of their death,” the laws are actually being sold to voters who aren’t sick, who are encouraged to think “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Instead of giving dignity to patients in pain, talking about the indignity of having others care for our bodies and the horrors of uncontrollable pain increases the revulsion toward physical weakness and dependency.

Mr. Smith says that in Toronto ( as at the Houston Holocaust Museum last month), he focused the bulk of his talk on “Futile Care Theory.”

Calling all cases of withdrawal of care “Futile Care Theory” and eugenics is also false. It denies any acknowledgment that doctors act on their conscience. By denying that doctors and medical ethics committees -a group of peers and lay people, clergy, and ethicists – can be acting in good conscience, even when it goes against the wishes of surrogates and families condemns us all. If we can’t trust these people, how can we trust a judge or a jury to act in good conscience?

I hope everyone reads what Wesley says about another speaker, Ms. Frazee:

She told the audience that there are two general veins of opposition to assisted suicide; political and spiritual, with people in each camp disagreeing with each other on other issues. She suggested that the best way to work together would be to develop a philosophical approach that would include all and permit people to also pursue other agendas when not working against assisted suicide.

Too often, the only common ground is the hatred of the control that doctors seem to have. Suicide proponents and “futile care” activists declare doctors the bad guys who diagnose and couldn’t cure, who bring the bad news of unavoidable death and who won’t “do everything.”

As I reported after Wesley spoke at the Houston Holocaust Museum, the risk is to squeeze doctors between two extremes.

I suggest that the doctrine of double effect can help us make the distinction. Doctors may not act with the intended result of death, but we know that some of our actions may cause death, unintentionally. In all cases, the intention and the act must be ethical, but sometimes – as when we poison the body with chemotherapy or radiation to fight cancers – only medical knowledge and experience can inform our conscience.

Laws and the legal process are a poor substitute for medical ethics and will result in the death of those same ethics.

The logical result is an end to all laws protecting the conscience of doctors, pharmacists, and nurses, in favor of laws leading to court and cookbook algorithms. The practice of medicine won’t be a profession – much less a calling – with peer review, judgment and conscientious men and women. It will be a job done by people capable of following orders, even when it goes against their best medical and moral judgment.

Who will you trust? Lawyers and judges like Blackmun and Greer? Juries who live in a society that forces medical professionals to act in a way they believe is wrong? Legislatures and referendums that give us Oregon’s assisted suicide? Or doctors and pharmacists who are prescribing and dispensing the potassium, heart stimulants or blood pressure control in the IV, adjusting the ventilator, dialysis machine and the dosage of pain meds under the watchful eye of nurses and the rest of their community?

Edited 3/18/2012 for formatting problems resulting from transfer from another host.

About bnuckols

Conservative Christian Family Doctor, promoting conservative news and views. (Hot Air under the right wing!)

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