Human Exceptionalism

France Debates Slow Motion Euthanasia

Sigh. If the euthanasia pushers can’t get people dead one way, they try another.

The French Senate is debating legalizing terminal sedation for the terminally ill who want it. From the Yahoo story:

France’s debate over end-of-life care goes to the Senate, with a bill that would allow doctors to keep terminally ill patients sedated until death comes, but stops short of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and recent polls show a large majority of French people favor legalization. But French lawmakers haven’t been willing to go quite that far, in a debate that is arising at the same time as the wrenching family dispute surrounding Vincent Lambert, a Frenchman in a coma since a car accident seven years ago.

But terminal sedation is “that far,” just via a slower process than lethal injection, as this part of the story makes clear:

The new bill would give people “the right to deep, continuous sedation until death.” Some doctors say it can mean patients are sedated for weeks, and that euthanasia may be more humane.

That’s killing by slow motion because it involves putting a patient into a coma and depriving them of food and fluids so they dehydrate to death.

Pushing terminal sedation is egregious for another reason: It confuses people as to whether the legitimate pain controlling technique–palliative sedation–is killing by another name.

It isn’t. And these are important distinctions:

  • Palliative sedation is only applied if necessary to alleviate suffering, which is rare.
  • Terminal sedation is applied even if unconsciousness is not needed to alleviate suffering
  • The purpose of palliative sedation is to relieve suffering.
  • In terminal sedation, the point is to end life.
  • In palliative sedation, death is caused by the disease or injury
  • In terminal sedation, death is usually by dehydration or starvation.
  • In palliative sedation, the level of consciousness may vary, with focus on allowing as much awareness as possible.
  • In terminal sedation, the patient is rendered unconscious.

Here is a link to a more extended article I wrote distinguishing the unethical terminal sedation, from the wholly ethical palliative sedation.

Also, readers may recall that the UK’s Liverpool Care Pathway descended into this kind of back door euthanasia

This is another example of euthanasia’s corrupting impact. Advocates constantly blur crucial moral distinctions and redefine terms toward the end of opening the door to–or expanding categories for–medicalized killing. 

Killing by any other name would smell as fetid.

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