Monday, September 26, 2005
The current BMJ has several opinion pieces about the current debate over euthanasia & physician assisted suicide (together called "assisted dying" in the BMJ). The occasion is the recent change in BMA policy no longer opposing assisted dying & a pending debate in the House of Lords about its de-criminalization. The many pieces in this issue address the history of the BMA and assited dying in the UK, the current debate, and present pro- and anti- opinions. Everything from most people & doctors in the UK want it therefore we should do it to legalizing euthanasia will endanger our disabled countrymen is present here. There does seem to be somewhat of a lumping of PAS and euthanasia here which may be appropriate to the debate in the UK although here in the US--at least amongst PAS's proponents--the distinction between the two is kept firm. Although I can't imagine myself performing PAS I don't think it should be a criminal offence. And while I can't at all accept the morality of euthanasia, those who argue that true terminal sedation (deliberately knocking someone out & keeping them down until they die to control advanced symptoms) is not that removed from euthanasia make a certain amount of sense, especially for those of us who believe what makes us human is our mind and the ability to relate/interact with other members of our species. The difference, however, is that it seems that in both the Dutch euthanasia experience & the Oregon PAS experience, most people seeking assisted dying don't do it as an escape from advanced symptoms but because they are afraid of advanced symptoms, losing control, etc (or they're frankly depressed). This is, in a sense, a form of existential suffering, & is that then sufficient reason to comply with requests for assisted dying?