Human Exceptionalism

Ideology Over Patient Protection: Support for Euthanasia in the Land of Long Waits for Medical Treatment

How can doctors support euthanasia in a country in which patients have to wait months, or even years, for urgent testing and medical treatments?  But ideology ignores all.  Apparently the Quebec College of Physicians intend to support a “limited” license for doctors to kill their patients.  From the story:

It is common knowledge that physicians often have no choice but to constantly increase medication such as morphine to alleviate the pain and suffering of terminally ill patients. Sometimes, the pain is so unbearable that the amount of painkillers or analgesics used to control it can be fatal. And this, according to the Quebec College of Physicians, can be viewed as a form of euthanasia. “The question here is to decide whether a drop in dosage or an increase in dosage constitutes a criminal act,” Dr. Robert said. “We may go as far as to recommend that in certain cases, where the pain is unbearable, the amount of analgesic required could correspond to a form of euthanasia.”

But this is nonsense. If someone is in such pain that you have to aggressively titrate up the dosage, so be it. That is proper medical care. If a patient dies as an unintended side effect, it is no more euthanasia than if a patient dies on the operating table having heart surgery. Both involved legitimate care, and both had an outcome that was not intended by the treatment.

But that argument is almost surely a mask for something else–titrating up morphine or other drugs beyond what is actually necessary to control pain, or giving other drugs in assisted suicide.  That is a different kettle of fish altogether because the intent will be to cause death.

Moreover, because pain can be so effectively controlled, it is very rarely the issue in euthanasia and assisted suicide. Rather, we see from Oregon and other places the primary reasons people want to commit assisted suicide involve worries about being burdens, of losing dignity, and other such more existential matters. These are important, to be sure. But they can be dealt with by appropriate mental health intervention and the love of family and friends.

Pain is the weapon used to scare people into supporting euthanasia. But that isn’t why people want it when it becomes legal.  If after three years of study, these doctors don’t know that, they are either ignorant or just don’t care. I suggest it is the latter.