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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Old or Sick People Starve Yourselves!



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Is there no end to the fixation on getting people dead? Now, in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the publication that brought us “after-birth abortion,” comes Julian Savulesu–aka Peter Singer, squared–arguing that doctors should help suicidal patients starve themselves to death. From, “A Simple Solution to the Puzzles of End of Life–Voluntary Palliated Starvation:”

Should people be assisted to die or be given euthanasia when they are suffering from terminal medical conditions? Should they be assisted to die when they are suffering but do not have a ‘diagnosable medical illness?’ What about assisted dying for psychiatric conditions? And is there a difference morally between assisted suicide, voluntary active euthanasia and voluntary passive euthanasia?…

I will argue that there is, within current medical ethics and human rights, a method of assisted suicide which could fall within the limits of the law.

By which he means voluntary self starvation–also pushed in the euthanasia movement as VSED (voluntary stop eating and drinking).

Understand, Savulescu is not talking about those situations in which an elderly or dying person’s body starts to shut down and they reject food and water as a natural part of the dying process. In such cases, it would be wrong to force nutrition on the patient because it will do no physiological good. Indeed, it would cause harm and is not medically indicated.

What about people who refuse food and water as a way of killing themselves? The law generally states that as a general principle (outside of prison), doctors cannot force feed those refusing food because that would be compelling them to receive medical treatment they do not want.  

Whatever the merits and demerits of that view, not allowing forced feeding doesn’t mean that doctors should help people kill themselves via starvation/dehydration by providing medical treatment making the process less onerous, thereby making it less likely that the patient will his or her mind. That’s facilitation any way you look at it.

Claiming that assisting people starve themselves to death isn’t assisting suicide is pure sophistry. Or to put it another way: What do they call assisted suicide in slow motion? Answer: Assisted suicide. 



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