Monday, January 11, 2010

What's wrong with Euthanasia

The problem with euthanasia is that it sends a message that some lives are worth living and others are not and that it is up to man to decide which. Once you say that person A can be killed because condition X makes his life not worth living, you've allowed person B to be killed because of Y. By making the value of a life contingent on something you devalue all life. It's not just a slippery slope, but a jump off a cliff.

Furthermore, by telling someone that suicide is an option what are you telling them? It says that the loneliness and despair they feel is all there is. There is no one who loves them, no one who cares. You are in effect telling that person that their life is unwanted, that they are useless consumers who should be killed for the convienence of others. I can't think of a more hateful thing than to say "yes, you're right, you're life isn't worth living."

Additional comment from a friend:
Something to add would be how difficult it can be to determine a person's true level of cognitive impairment, which seems to be a big factor in determining whether or not a person can CHOOSE whether or not they want to die (otherwise, it falls on a family member I suppose...). This is pretty important when you consider how many individuals who are euthanized have some type of cognitive deficit.

Working with communication disorders, it's really easy to see how something as simple as a hearing loss can exacerbate a person's state of confusion. Many patient's just try to fake like they understand what you're saying or they are so demented that they really don't have the ability to tell you what's wrong with their hearing. Either way, bad hearing can make a person's cognitive status appear MUCH worse than it actually is.

Another point to take into account is that once someone has it in their mind that "hey, this person's pretty demented," it can make it VERY difficult to change their mind. One of my previous supervisors told me about how there was a woman on the Alzheimer's ward at her nursing home that really wasn't that demented and really didn't NEED to be there and didn't want to be there. There were one or two higher staff members there that said the woman was very demented and needed to be on the Alzheimer's ward. From the sounds of it, one of the staff members just had it in her mind that the lady was demented and not much could be said to change her mind. Eventually it WAS determined that the lady really was pretty with it and was taken off the ward.

The point I'm trying to make is that you can't always tell how cognitively impaired someone is just by looking at them or having a conversation with them, and many people in nursing homes could be taken advantage of due to this. While we'd like to believe that there's always going to be a nice clean procedure in determing whether or not someone should be euthanized, it won't always be. In the end, regardless of whether or not someone believes euthanasia is equivalent to murder, people WILL be murdered because there are going to be times when proper procedures won't be always be made.
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