Skip to comments.“Obsessional” Fear of Suffering Ushering in Euthanasia Culture: Prominent Bioethicist
Posted on 06/03/2009 12:54:57 PM PDT by wagglebee
LANSDOWNE, Virginia, June 3, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A culture that seeks to escape suffering and inconvenience at all costs will end by eliminating not only pain, but by ending the lives of those suffering or whose condition burden their families, warned bioethicist Wesley J. Smith this weekend.
Smith spoke at the Second International Euthanasia Symposium held at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, Virginia. The symposium was hosted by Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
Reflecting on the euthanasia agenda amid the modern advances of palliative care, Smith asked, "Why now?"
"We live in a time of - even despite the problems we're having - such tremendous prosperity," said Smith. "If you had a burst appendix 100 years ago, you died in agony. Today, people don't have to, at least in the developed world, die in agony."
Smith said he was further baffled after receiving piles of hate mail in 1993 for writing an article warning against euthanasia. "What happened to my culture, and where was I when it happened?" he mused.
Smith said he found the answer in the reflections of philosopher and bioethicist Yuval Levin, who stated: "Health has become the primary good for society ... not only as a beginning, but also as an end, relief and preservation from disease and pain, from misery and necessity, become the defining ends of human action and therefore human societies."
"The purpose of society had shifted from when I was growing up in my formative years," said Smith. "From the concept of justice, from the concept of eqality, mutual caring and mutual support, to - I would say - an obsessional fear and loathing and avoidance of not only suffering, but difficulty. ...
"It is distorting our culture ... into something that is not as compassionate as we should be, that is not as caring as we should be," said Smith. "If the point of society is to make sure you don't suffer, that will often be making sure there aren't any sufferers. Which isn't only about making sure the sufferer doesn't suffer, but putting the sufferer out of our misery."
"If we're going to defeat euthanasia and assisted suicide, we're going to have to recognize that for a lot of people, the principle of right and wrong don't matter anymore," said Smith. "What matters is making sure there isn't suffering. And that can lead to some very bad and dark places."
Smith told the story of a mentally ill, depressed woman who paramedics allowed to die after drinking antifreeze, because she had left a note asking not to be treated. Smith related the sentiments of her attending physician, who said: "It's a horrible thing to have to do, but I thought I had no alternative but to go with her wishes."
"Think about the kind of mental anguish somebody is going through to drink antifreeze, and to do it more than once," said Smith. Allowing her to die, he said, was "abandonment of the most profound kind."
"There are many things today that are better than in my formative years, racism being one of them," he continued, "but there are a lot of things that are not, and this is one of them: abandoning suffering people, mentally ill, mentally anguished people, to suicide."
In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com, Smith noted that an avoidance of suffering logically leads to "greater and greater extremes to try to prevent the suffering to the place where you end up preventing the sufferer." The current culture, he said, tries to prevent "not only the suffering of the patient, but the suffering of the family and the suffering of society who has to put up with these people, and see them or pay for them, and be reminded of our own mortality."
Smith called the current trend toward euthanasia "a rather desperate and sad attempt to avoid part of the human condition, which is difficulty and suffering." "If you took it to the full extreme, we'd all end up totally infantile, because the way people grow and gain wisdom is to go through difficulties," he said. "It's not the only way, but it's the essential way."
Although aware that such anti-humanistic policies as deep ecology and euthanasia are becoming mainstream, Smith said he was optimistic about the possibility of turning back the tide.
"This is not a shift that is a fait accompli, we are in the midst of what I call a 'coup d'culture,' but the coup has not succeeded, the contest is being waged," he said.
Smith urged those opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide to be proactive in asserting the sanctity and equality of human life.
"Unless people engage that with a clear eye that they're in a 'coup d'culture,' that they need to man the battlements and ramparts to keep the barbarians from getting through the gates, they'll get through the gates," said Smith. "And believe me, if these people get through the gates, they're not going to be gentle about 'tolerance' and 'freedom,' because that's not their gig. That's their gig when they're on the outside; when they're on the inside, their gig is power."
Wesley J. Smith's blog http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition website http://www.epcc.ca
To order DVDs of the Second International Symposium, contact the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at: firstname.lastname@example.org
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Experts at International Euthanasia Symposium Stress Unity, Strategy, and the Triumph of Love over Suffering
"The Weekend Cleanup": The Gruesome Aftermath of Legalized Euthanasia in Belgium
Exactly, we are engaged in a life and death struggle with the culture of death.
Many would call appropriate pain management in severe cancer patients assisted suicide. Surely you are not suggesting that one MUST accept medical care for EVERY illness or disease?
Then address the rest of my comment. At what point does one say, yes enough is enough do palliative care only?
There is a huge difference between using necessary levels of pain medication that happens to hasten death and deliberately overdosing a person with the intent of causing death.
I don’t like pain medication. Pain means I’m still alive and doing things I was never supposed to be able to do again.
Well worth the “suffering” as far as I’m concerned.
There are times when that line is not a bright clear one. Are you not relieveing suffering and death occurs in both cases? If you know that the next dose of pain meds will kill your patient how is that different than knowing that the next dose of pain meds will kill your patient? Don’t get me wrong I am not one who advocates for ‘assisted suicide”. But thelines can be very very blurry
Wait until you are stage 4 cancer ( pancreatic , liver, gut) and I believe you will in fact change your mind. Ever had a gqall bladder attack so severe that your gall bladder had to be removed? Ever had 10 out of 10 pain? I am pretty sure the answer is no
This should be SOLELY at the discretion of the patient.
The lines are not at all blurry, it is a matter of intent.
There are certainly instances where pain medication is absolutely necessary and not having it will actually shorten a person’s life because the pain interferes with healing.
Suicide is not murder. Assisted suicide (euthanasia) is not murder.
Not the dumbest post ever, but it's certainly in the running.
Suicide and assisted suicide are generally considered homicide, euthanasia IS murder.
I'm a big boy and I can make up my own mind about a DNR and, in fact, I did submit them during two critical heart surgeries within the last five years.
If I should come down with a terminal illness, I'd prefer the busybodies and the government stay out of my business.
Death is a multibillion dollar industry in America and it needn't be.
If I should come down with a terminal illness, I'd prefer the busybodies and the government stay out of my business.
Glad to hear that you oppose new laws legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.
I'm actually opposed to the existing laws that insist I belong to the government.
How are you so comfortable with them?
I’m not aware of any such law.
Then you are remarkably obtuse.
The cite the law, be specific.
No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
Or maybe THIS one:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
I'm not permitted to be disposed of by funeral pyre in the state of Pennsylvania. That's one. I don't have the opportunity for assisted suicide, for another. My doctor can order anything he/she pleases except in the case of cerebral or cardiac failure (the DNR). Even through I don't want an autopsy under any circumstances, the government may dictate one. I cannot be transported to a cremation facility except by a licensed funeral director.
Choice is liberty, eh? Lack of choice is government ownership.
When was your day?
And yet your nect post, you say it is a matter of intent. So is it my intent or the intent of the one giving me pain medication?
Then the lines are indeed blurry. I want my pain to end, my doc wants my pain to end, giving pain meds sufficient to end my pain ends my life. So what was my intent? I am out of pian but I am dead. Same result either intent. Maybe I want to die because I want my pain to end and I know that I will never be out of excruiating pain UNTIL or UNLESS I die.
Are you a physician or a hospice worker? Because all of the ones that I have talked to stated that pain can almost always be managed without overdose. Generally the problem comes in when a person is already near death and the pain medication causes respiratory problems.
Keep in mind that on the average 85% of what you spend to care for yourself medically, as an individual, will be SPENT during the last TWO MONTHS of your LIFE.
If you DO NOT fight death and opt out of spending that last lump sum of 85% the SYSTEM is losing a huge amount of business.
This SEEMS like it would be the case, but the reality is that many hospitals and doctors are the ones pushing for assisted suicide/euthanasia.
But you see you immediately call it a problem. If you are treating the pain with things such as morphine ( or even stronger drugs) then respiratory failure is ALWAYS a risk. You did not address the basic question which was how do you distinguish between the the desire to be out of pain and the desire to have life end because you know the pain ( and trust me it is excrutiating) will not end until you have ceased breathing. You treat “end stage” as if it is instantaneous and trust me it is not.
Which was my starting premise.
and I can attest through the many medical people I have as friends that tell me there are many more health care conglomerates pushing in the opposite direction.
You treat end stage as if it is instantaneous and trust me it is not.
Your attitude is similar to that of many in the pro-death movement in which you presume that those opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide have never experienced having a loved one die of a painful terminal illness. This is a FALSE presumption.
But there is also a lot of pushing from insurance companies that would prefer to not spend the money.
No it is not. I have drawn the only conclusion I can based on your statements. Do not presume that I am “pro” anything
There are three causes of death: natural causes, accident, or murder. Neither suicide nor assisted suicide is death by accident or natural causes. Is it "death by choice?"
WHICH of my statements has lead you to believe that I am unfamiliar with having loved ones die of painful illnesses?
Why do you refuse to say if you are a physician or hospice worker?
Do not presume that I am pro anything
Well, NOTHING would lead me to conclude you are pro-life and it matters of life and death I do not recognize any sort of "neutral" position.