Starving Our Way Toward Lethal Injections

by Wesley J. Smith

I continue to push back against the starvation killing agenda now being promoted vigorously among assisted suicide advocacy groups and by some bioethics. 

Toward that end, I have a piece just out in the Weekly Standard warning about where this is heading. First, I establish context. From, “The Ethics of Food and Drink:”

Should the law compel nursing homes to starve certain Alzheimer’s patients to death? This is not an alarmist fantasy, but a real question, soon to be forced by advocates of ever-wider application of assisted euthanasia.

The intellectual groundwork is already being laid for legislation or court orders requiring nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to withhold spoon feeding from dementia patients who, though they take food and drink willingly, once requested the withholding of life-prolonging measures in an advance medical directive.

I point to, and describe, four killing agendas either being implemented or proposed that individually and collectively seek to push society into a box canyon trap:

1. Removing feeding tubes from the elderly and cognitively disabled.

2. Legalized assisted suicide.

3. Pushing suicide by self-starvation (VSED):

​4. Promoting what I call “VSED-by-proxy,” e.g. withholding spoon feeding.

I describe the sophistry behind the argument for permitting VSED by proxy.

Even today, the courts do not deem spoon-feeding to be medical treatment. It is basic, humane care—no different ethically from turning a patient to prevent bed sores or providing hygiene. Just as an advance directive instructing that a patient not be kept clean should be disregarded, so should an order to starve a patient.

Second, VSED is suicide. Legally requiring nursing homes to commit VSED-by-proxy would be forcing them to kill—and to kill cruelly. A legal regimen that did this would drive many doctors and nurses out of medicine.

Third, even in the states where assisted suicide is legal, the person being helped by a doctor to die has to be capable of making decisions. Demented patients are incompetent.

Finally, in cases such as Bentley’s [subject of VSED-by proxy-lawsuit], the patient is not being force-fed. She is taking nourishment willingly.

There is a pointed goal in pushing death by starvation:

If the law ever allows patients to order caregivers to starve them to death, the next step will surely be to legalize lethal injections for such patients.

After all, why force anyone to undergo a slow and potentially agonizing death by VSED or VSED-by-proxy when he or she can be dispatched quickly?

Euthanasia pursuant to advance directive is already practiced in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is possible that this has been the stealth goal from the time advocacy for removing feeding tubes from incompetent patients began decades ago—and that now, with the open advocacy of VSED and VSED-by-proxy, the camouflage is coming off.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death? 

The good news, if there is any: It is still not too late to reject the unethical and immoral killing agenda.