Tuesday 17 April 2012

Difficult Decisions

A little while ago, I wrote a blog piece on the traumatic effect of having to make a morally difficult decision.  Then on Friday, Dr. Phil had a woman on who is facing one.  Her children have an incurable and untreatable degenerate disease.  They are in their forties, reliant on feeding tubes.  The doctors think they cannot see, cannot hear and may be trapped in a world of unexpected pain and stress.  But they can’t know because the two of them are completely non-responsive.  They are completely reliant on outside help, unable even to sit up on their own.

Their mother wants to be able to humanely euthanize them so that they aren’t trapped in their own bodies any longer.  She believes they are suffering each and every day with no hope of a cure or even relief.  The law permits her to suspend feeding so that they die slowly of starvation and dehydration.  She doesn’t want to put them through that, so she is fighting to change the law.

As a parent of a special needs child, I’m afraid of a legal precedent allowing parents to euthanize their special needs children.  It’s a slippery slope.  I would be worried that the government might be able to take the decision out of my hands.  They already do in medical cases where parents refuse treatment for their children.

On the other hand, my heart is full of compassion for her and her dilemma.  If I truly believed my children were suffering intently each and every day and that death was the only way to relieve that suffering, I would hope that I would have the option of helping them without having to make them suffer more.  Robert Lattimore had to make this decision over a decade ago and he spent ten years in prison for it.

They had a different special needs mother on to argue the other side of the case and I was offended when she accused the woman of wanting to kill her children because they were inconvenient and because of the medical expense.  It irritated me because she never once mentioned expense or difficulty.  The only thing she talked about was her children’s experience and her belief that they were suffering.  People who resort to hyperbole and distortions to win arguments irritate me.  We should be discussing the implications of changing the law and the needs of this case in particular.

Personally, I think if a compassionate euthanasia law is put in place, it should be something that you have to argue in front of a court.  You should need to convince an impartial judge and possibly a panel of doctors that the situation can only deteriorate and that the patient in question is suffering.  Then you get an exemption.  There aren’t many of these cases so checking into the facts of each one shouldn’t be too big a burden on the court system.  And it doesn’t give blanket permission which can be twisted after the fact.

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