Human Exceptionalism

The Duty to Die This Way Cometh

Medicine is becoming a one-way street. If a patient wants to refuse treatment in order to die–sacrosanct! That’s fine. But it should work both ways. Nope. Increasingly, if a patient wants treatment to extend life–not your call!

We are watching the slow motion imposition of a duty to die. Formal health care rationing is an example. But I think the greater threat is the imposition of an ad hoc duty to die in Futile Care Theory that allows doctors and hospital bioethicists to refuse to extend the lives of patients who they don’t think have lives worth living. (Here is an article I wrote explaining the concept.)

Futile care has led to much litigation around the world. So now, futilitarians are passing laws granting doctors the legal authority to impose their values on patients and families. Texas comes to mind in the USA.

Now, in South Australia, a new law will explicitly authorize doctors to refuse life-extending treatment–and there appears nothing that the patient or family will be able to do about it. From the Journal on Law and Medicine article:

Upon commencement of the reforms, new section 17(2) will read:

77 (2) A medical practitioner responsible for the treatment or care of a patient in the terminal phase of a terminal illness, or a person participating in the treatment or care of the patient under the medical practitioner’s supervision—

(a) is under no duty to use, or to continue to use, life sustaining measures in treating the patient if the effect of doing so would be merely to prolong life in a moribund state without any real prospect of recovery or in a persistent vegetative state (whether or not the patient or the patient’s representative has requested that such measures be used or continued); and

(b) must, if the patient or the patient’s representative so directs, withdraw life sustaining measures from the patient.

Moribund state? What if you want to live in a moribund state? Tough toenails!

Also: Notice that the law gives doctors a veto over the patient and the patient’s advance directive. If they think your time has come to die–your time has come to die!–even if you disagree.

For those who take comfort because they don’t live in South Australia, understand that these laws are as catching as a virus. It won’t be long until a similar proposal appears where you live.

And ponder this: Doctors-get-to-decide policies won’t long be contained to the ICU. Once the futile care principle is entrenched–and as the cost-cutting paradigm in medicine subsumes sanctity of life values–expect the enactment of increased medical authoritarianism in cases involving other forms of expensive care.

Bluntly stated, the decision of whether continuing to live with a serious illness and/or disabling conditions will soon not be ours to make.

Most Popular

U.S.

In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young ... Read More
Film & TV

Toy Story 4: A National Anthem

The Toy Story franchise is the closest thing we have to an undisputed national anthem, a popular belief that celebrates what we think we all stand for — cooperation, ingenuity, and simple values, such as perpetual hope. This fact of our infantile, desensitized culture became apparent back in 2010 when I took a ... Read More
Film & TV

Fosse/Verdon and the Dismal #MeToo Obsession

In the final episode of Fosse/Verdon, one of the two titular characters, Bob Fosse, is shooting one of the greatest films of all time. The other, Gwen Verdon, is having a quarrel with her unspeakably dull boyfriend about whether he approves of her performing in a road-show production of a Broadway musical. These ... Read More
Elections

Joe and the Segs

Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep. Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Madcap Caution of Donald Trump

The worry last week was that the Trump administration was ginning up fake intelligence about Iran blowing up oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to justify a war against Iran. Then, this week, President Donald Trump said the Iranian attacks weren’t a big deal. The episode is another indication of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren’s Terrible Plans

Elizabeth Warren is being lauded as the serious candidate in the race. Her motto, “I have a plan for that,” is accepted as proof that she is thoughtful and conscientious. That’s too generous. One should expect a grown-up to evaluate costs and benefits, to understand tradeoffs, and to pay for what they ... Read More
Education

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn't resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business. College leaders should learn ... Read More