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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

How the Culture of Death Metastasizes



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The culture of death is like a cancer sapping the moral health of western society. And, like a cancer, it never stops spreading.

Here’s how:  I wrote earlier today about Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu supporting palliated self starvation as a manner of dying. To get to that conclusion, he uses the right of people to refuse tube feeding–legal because it is deemed a medical treatment–as the multiplyer to grow the death agenda.  From, “A Simple Solution to the Puzzles of End of Life? Voluntary Palliated Starvation:”

The process of withholding or removing artificial feeding from patients as young as newborns to elderly people has been commonplace in medicine in many parts of the world.

That’s what happened to Terri Schiavo, and to Tony Bland in a famous UK case. 

In the UK, a paralyzed man capable of eating named Tony Nicklinson sued for the right to commit assisted suicide. After he lost the case, he stopped eating and died of pneumonia. Savulescu uses Nicklinson’s death as a point of reference to spread the death agenda:

Now if doctors, courts and family members can make a decision that a person’s life is no longer worth living and feeding should be stopped, why can’t the person, like Tony Nicklinson, make that decision, and it be acted upon? Surely the person who has the most right to decide whether life is tolerable is the person who must live that life.

So it seems to me that ethically Tony Nicklinson had the right to die by starvation. And if other patients received palliative care in the form of analgesia and sedation as a result of decisions made by courts, doctors and their families, then Tony Nicklinson had an equal right to such palliative care as he died.

Did you notice the intellectual prestidigitation? Savulescu misdirects us with the right to refuse medical treatment,which, abracadabra, suddenly becomes a right to be made dead by self-starvation–even though when the tube feeding refusals were being advocated, we were told that wasn’t the point.

That’s not medical care, it is suicide facilitation.

And then comes the punch line:

But what, you might ask, is the difference between Tony Nicklinson dying by starvation, perhaps unconscious, over a period of weeks and him being given a lethal injection that would kill him in seconds, painlessly? In both cases, he will certainly die. Surely it is more humane, in these circumstances, to give him a lethal injection than to allow him to starve himself to death?

This is the argument of course from suicide, to assisted suicide, to euthanasia. That is, it seems that if one has a right not to eat, then one has a right to euthanasia,at least as far as morality is concerned.

The right to refuse treatment = a right to starve oneself to death with a doctor’s help = a right to be lethally injected.

And that, my friends, is a classic example of how the culture of death metastasizes. By destroying principle, deconstructing definitions, and blurring ethical boundaries. 



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