Talk about Orwellian. A woman described as a “leading expert in ethics” has declared that doctors who refuse to kill their patients are “genuinely wicked.” I’m not making this up.
Mary Warnock, a British baroness told the Northern Ireland Forum for Ethics in Medicine and Healthcare this past Monday, that doctors who refuse to break their Hippocratic oath are evil.
It seems that virtually every day, I read another story that proves the world–and what is accepted as good and true –is being turned on its head.
Referring to terminally ill patients who make a written request to be killed when they reach a certain point in their illness, Warnock said: “There are doctors, we know, who don’t pay any attention (to those written wishes to be killed).
“But that seems to me a genuinely wicked thing to do–to disregard what somebody had quite explicitly said, that he wants to die . . . ”
This is the same old bird (she’s 84) who argued that people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease have a “duty to die” because they are a burden to society and their families.
“If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives–your family’s lives–and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service,” she said a few months ago.
There was a time when such statements would be described as wicked and the orator as well.
But in Warnock’s twisted world of “ethics,” doctors who kill are righteous and doctors who refuse to kill are villainous.
Black is white, white is black and wrong is right. Murder is merciful and compassionate care, cruel. Somewhere out there, George Orwell is saying, “I told you so.”
In her Jan. 5 speech, Warnock dismisses the idea that murdering the elderly and “demented” will not lead to a slippery slope of killing infants, depressed teens and others.
But that is precisely what is happening in Holland, where euthanasia has been practised since 1980 and has been fully legal since 2002.
Currently, infants born with defects are often killed by their doctor, with or without the parents’ permission, not that permission makes it any more acceptable.
That’s not just a slippery slope, it’s Mount Everest in a blizzard.
The language surrounding euthanasia is necessarily softened by its proponents, calling the active killing of another human being, mercy killing, dying with dignity and choice. But what actually has been shown to happen in places that embrace legalized euthanasia is the antithesis of choice.
In a government study in the Netherlands, called Medical Decisions about the End of Life, it was found that in 1990 alone 1,031 patients were actively killed by their doctor without their request and of those people, 14 per cent were fully competent, 72 per cent had never expressed that they wanted their lives ended and in eight per cent of the cases, doctors performed “involuntary euthanasia” even though they believed other options were available.
Similar subsequent studies found similar outcomes.
So, this form of “choice” actually leads to thousands of people never being able to make a choice–ever again.
Even some staunch proponents of euthanasia say Holland is an extreme example. Much better to look to Oregon, where physician assisted suicide (PAS) has been legal since 1997.
But in the reports published annually by the state, it’s evident that choice is compromised in Oregon too.
In 1998, 12 per cent of PAS patients in Oregon said they chose this irreversible course of action because they didn’t want to burden their family. That rose to 26 per cent in 1999, 42 per cent in 2005 and 45 per cent in 2007, the last year figures are available. If that were a company’s bottom line, champagne corks would be popping!
In other words, for the infirm and disabled, the right to die quickly becomes the duty to die. Wanting to live despite being frail or ill increasingly is viewed as selfish in places where euthanasia is the law.
That’s not empowerment, it’s coercion, guilt for living, pressure to die.
According to Belfast’s daily paper, The News Letter, after Warnock spoke in the debate –which was ironically held in a local church, one of the members of the audience, Avril Robb, a lawyer and a member of the Medical Legal Society, said she had cared for her parents through their terminal illnesses and stated: “I do know that the last months were very precious.”
That is what many who spend time caring for a dying parent, child or spouse says about a loved one’s last days and months. Their vulnerability causes all emotional walls to tumble down and petty problems to vanish.
A nurse friend of mine who works in palliative care but had also spent years helping to bring babies into the world says: “I’m convinced that dying can be a more blessed a time than birth.”
That may sound counterintuitive, but compared to saying that refusing to kill is wicked, it’s much easier to believe.
Licia Corbella is an editor and writer with The Calgary Herald where this article first appeared. It is reprinted with permission of the author.