Human Exceptionalism

Hospice is NOT Hemlock

Those who support euthanasia and assisted suicide continue their attempt to conflate hospice/palliative care with killing, as if they invoke the same moral values. They. Do. Not.

The latest example is in the New York Times (of course!). From, “Aid-in-Dying Laws are Just a Start,” by Katy Butler:

I support freedom of choice. But after shepherding my parents through their last years, I doubt that legalizing aid in dying alone will end the current epidemic of unnecessary deathbed suffering.

The way the medical system handles death is broken, and requires bigger fixes than freedom of consumer choice. Many of us will face quandaries far too nuanced to be solved by aid­in­dying laws.

Notice the deprofessionalization of medicine: “Consumer choice,” not patient/doctor decisions.

And, good grief, why would euthanasia be the start of reform to “reduce suffering?”

Euthanasia isn’t choice, it is the end of choices. It isn’t reducing suffering, it is terminating life.

It’s a shame that Butler had throw assisted suicide/euthanasia into her column because the improvements in care she supports are worth implementing voluntary:

We will need brave, truthful doctors willing to discuss when to stop fighting for maximum longevity and explore, instead, what may matter more to us. Like living independently at home for as long as possible. Like forgoing treatments that are worse than the disease. Like managing pain. Like living a meaningful life despite physical limitations, and dying a good death, surrounded by one’s family. This is the province of palliative care.

But here’s the thing: Hospice and palliative care are about living. Euthanasia/assisted suicide are about making people dead. The two cannot occupy the same space.

Butler supports reforming Medicare so hospice patients need not make what I call the “cruel choice” between receiving hospice and curative/life-extending treatments. That is an essential change.

She makes a true point:

Dying rarely lends itself to workarounds. It is a messy, nuanced, unpredictable, deeply human, labor­intensive ordeal, and for most of us, it will always be so. It may involve suffering and take time. We need to get honest about this, and pay decently for it.

Which is precisely one reason why assisted suicide should never be legalized. Once killing becomes ho-hum, it becomes much easier than engaging in extensive–and expensive–hands-on care.


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