If it’s good enough for Tigger…

It seems that many people argue that euthanasia should be legalized on the grounds that “we do it for our pets, so why shouldn’t we do it for suffering family members?” I am actually shocked to see this kind of reasoning used in public fora. Can we really compare the value of a human being with that of an animal? Are we prepared to say that putting grandma down is no different than putting down the family cat?

Come to think of it, though, why is it that we put animals down? The most common answer I have heard is that we do it to prevent them from suffering. Is this really why we put them down, though? In fact, I think that most of the time when we put animals down it’s because it’s too expensive to keep them alive through operations or constant medication. I took my hamster to the vet and was told I could pay $1k for an operation or $30 to put it to sleep. Which do you think I chose?

When people can afford it, they opt for operations and medicine to keep their animals alive, because they love them. If you could afford to give your pet medication or an operation that would ease its suffering, would you still choose to put it to sleep? Surely not.

In that case, if we can provide medicine to ease a human’s suffering, shouldn’t we do that instead of “helping them die”? Dr. Robin Bernhoft says,

Hospice care is cheaper than hospital care and allows most people to die naturally at home with their families, in comfort and true human dignity. If there is a ‘right to die’, it surely is the right to die naturally and in comfort–as happens under good Hospice care–not to be ‘put to sleep’ like a pet. Patients only request assisted suicide when they fail to receive the support and care they need. We must not accept the false claims of euthanasia advocates who say that killing a person is compassionate and dignified. Let’s make hospice available to all, not physician assisted death. Our humanity is at stake.

She also notes the inherent problems with assisted suicide:

The Dutch have been officially tolerating direct euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide since 1973, under carefully-considered safeguards. Nonetheless, according to their own government, almost 5% of deaths in 1990 resulted from involuntary euthanasia . Another 6% died when their care was stopped without their agreement.

It is ironic to realise that the Dutch euthanasia system was set-up–in the name of patient’s rights–to ensure patient control over end of life decisions. But the government’s own statistics show that doctors decide when death should come for one patient out of ten. More than half the doctors do not consider themselves bound by society’s safeguards.

Is this really what we want? No matter what rules we put in place to prevent abuse of the system, loopholes will be found. We are truly on a slippery slope–one that ends in the devaluing of human life and, ultimately, non-voluntary euthanasia. Luke Gormally writes,

Many of those who support the legalization of voluntary euthanasia are opposed to the legalization of non-voluntary euthanasia. But if we cannot make sense of the claim that euthanasia is a benefit to the person to be killed without relying on the thought that that person no longer has a worthwhile life, then supporters of voluntary euthanasia are buying into a larger package-deal than they perhaps realise. For if one can be benefited by being killed, is it reasonable to deprive people of that benefit simply because they are incapable of asking to be killed? And if we are puzzled (rightly) by the claim that someone might be benefited by having his life ended, we might nonetheless accept the claim that a person cannot be harmed by having his worthless life ended.

In fact the most active and clear-sighted advocates of the legalization of voluntary euthanasia are also advocates of the legalization of non-voluntary euthanasia. They promote the view that many human beings lack the ‘moral standing’ (what is here called ‘basic dignity’) in virtue of which they enjoy basic human rights; so they cannot be wronged even if the motive for killing them is merely the convenience of those human beings who do have ‘moral standing’. The whole exercise of drawing a line between human beings who do and those who do not possess ‘moral standing’ is utterly arbitrary. Advocates of the legalization of euthanasia, such as the philosophers Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse, who embrace such arbitrariness, do so without any evident concern for the subversion of the foundations of justice which the arbitrariness entails.

As Wesley J. Smith has pointed out, “Killing is not medicine.”

Prolife euthanasia links:
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Seven Reasons Why They Should Not Be Legalized
Pushing for Assisted Suicide on Demand

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4 Responses to “If it’s good enough for Tigger…”

  1. childlife says:

    Casey – I had been meaning to come back and comment on this excellent post… Thank you so much for blogging about this – it’s a really important topic. The quote you included says it all:

    “Luke Gormally writes,

    Many of those who support the legalization of voluntary euthanasia are opposed to the legalization of non-voluntary euthanasia. But if we cannot make sense of the claim that euthanasia is a benefit to the person to be killed without relying on the thought that that person no longer has a worthwhile life, then supporters of voluntary euthanasia are buying into a larger package-deal than they perhaps realise.”

    This is exactly right! The whole concept of ‘voluntary’ euthanasia is such a slippery slope, putting people in the position of playing God. I think a lot of the push for voluntary euthanasia arises out of a misunderstanding and mismanagement of pain.

    Excellent post!

  2. casey says:

    Thanks for the note and for stopping by!

  3. Shalene says:

    Hi Casey, I just wanted to say that I agree with you. I do have a story to share, though. My mother was once in a coma and on life support for two months. She was expected to be a “vegetable” if she ever awoke. She was indeed a completely different person when she did “wake up.” Though she was not a “vegetable,” she did have to relearn everything, including how to walk and talk, and that she was the mother of two daughters. Because of this experience, surprisingly, she signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order if she ever were to need life support again. In 2004, when she suffered her fatal heart attack at home, no one remembered to tell the EMTs that she did not wish to be resuscitated. Though she did ultimately die, I thank God that they did attempt to revive her for 2 hours, before pronouncing her dead. It meant that I got to see her one last time before she died. Though it’s not a memory I treasure (she did not look the same) I am thankful I got the opportunity anyway. Blessings to you, and thank you for sharing.

  4. casey says:

    Thank you, Shalene, for sharing. I’m sure that was a painful experience. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and it was very hard to watch her slowly forget who we were. I have no problems with DNR orders. There’s a big difference between choosing not to perform extraordinary measures to prolong life and actively ending a life.