Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Voluntary Euthanasia On The Rise

Remember in the runup to passing Obamacare, there was all this talk about "death panels" and such? With the easing of laws allowing for voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill, the rate of people deciding to end their life is rising. This isn't the standard "pulling the plug" on a patient who is unconscious and only being kept alive on machines.

Just recently a story hit the media about Norma Bauerschmidt, a 91 year old Michigan woman who opted to forgo cancer treatment for her uterine cancer to travel the country with her son. It is an inspiring story of facing reality and making the best of what time one has left - LINK. This is rationally deciding to forgo painful, and often very expensive treatment for a terminal disease for which there is really no hope of survival. And then there is the decision to actively to end your life with the assistance of medical professionals for the same reason as on young woman did who was diagnosed with late-stage terminal cancer.

But other stories I have read over the years are disturbing for the opposite reason. One includes a woman who's baby was born with only a brain stem and not a full brain. The brain stem allowed the the heart to pump to keep the organs functioning with the help of machines, but nothing else. The mother insisted beyond all reason to keep her child "alive" for 5 years in a bed in a hospital convinced that her child was responding to her even though the child did not have a brain for which to do that and no doctor could convince her otherwise. By the way, all the bills were paid courtesy of Medicaid. I feel for this mother, however this flies in the face of all reality.

I am not opposed to ending the life of hopeless cases like this. We humans have a very unhealthy relationship with death. Sometimes we keep our family members alive on machines because we cannot face the grieving and possible guilt of letting them go. I come from a family of doctors who are confronted with this issue on a daily basis and it is frustrating.

However, around the same time Mrs. Bauerschmidt's story hit the boards, this story was making the media rounds. A Dutch doctor along with the family, decided it was just too much trouble to deal with Grandma's advanced dementia. She was in an appropriate care facility, but has become increasingly "hard to handle", so the good Doc decided it was time to drug her morning coffee and euthanize elderly woman. Unfortunately the Doc miscalculated the knock-out dose in her coffee and the woman woke up mid-euthanization. The doctor then asked family members to help hold her down as she was screaming she didn't want to die, while the Doc administered the lethal dose - Dutch Doctor "Euthanized Elderly Dementia Patient. The doctor was cleared (LINK), because the woman had made it clear in her more lucid moments, she would not want to live with dementia.

Just so you know, the Netherlands legalized voluntary euthanasia in 1984 with strict guidelines. Since that time, over 5,500 people have volunteered for various reasons to end their lives. There is process one must go through including medical verification and certification, but there it is. As a matter of fact, the Netherlands has become the #1 leader in "euthanasia-tourism" in Europe. Add that Dr. Ezekial Emanuel, oncologist, architect of the ACA and brother of Rahm, published an article in Atlantic Magazine LINK in 2014 advocating for voluntary euthanasia once one reaches the age of 75 years old because one is no longer of any use to society after that age. And since the time of Dr. Kavorkian, the US has softened it's stance on voluntary euthanasia, but this is a very slippery slope the world is going down. Are we really moving down the road where we are devaluing human life to the point we are going to decide who gets to live and who will die because they are just an inconvenience?

Does anyone remember the movie "Logan's Run" from 1976 where no one was allowed to live past the age of 30? Yeah, is that where we're headed? I know that in the Hippie days of the '60's, it was famously declared that no should trust anyone over 30, but let's not go there.


As an endnote: I know that death is an uncomfortable subject, but it is the one thing that we all have in common - rich or poor - that we will all throw off this mortal coil. It is the one thing that truly makes us equal. And as a public service, I admonish all to make your end of life wishes known in writing and/or by having honest, open conversations with your family. Don't leave it to a Dutch doctor to drug your coffee because you become an inconvenience or (as I have often threatened my parents) if you oversleep one day. Certainly don't leave this as an unanswered question to grieving family members.


AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I intend to be immortal. So far... so good.

AndrewPrice said...

In terms of euthanasia, I'm in favor of it actually. I've seen a lot of suicide and I don't know if I understand the impulse or not. The whole thing is very sad and rather sickening to me. But at the same time, I get the strength of what they must be feeling and I respect their need to act on this. And I would rather that the state not butt into that decision and I would rather they didn't need to go do it in ways that might endanger or scar other people.

That said, I do want some safeguards. I want to know that they haven't been pushed to do this by family members or things that can be changed rather easily.

So to me, allowing this makes sense. It gives the doctors a chance to intervene to protect these people. It protects society from their alternative methods. And it lets people decide when they truly cannot go on.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - My issue is not the "voluntary" part. Everyone should have dominion over their own bodies. My issue is when do we as humans go from "voluntary" to "mandatory" as in withholding treatments because of age as happens in those countries with gov't administered the Netherlands, for instance. And that is the deep, dark secret of "socialized medicine" in these countries - they will keep the old folks (over 55) comfortable, but withhold common treatments like bypass surgery because medical resources should be used for those under 55. See: Dr. Emanuel

In the case of the woman with dementia, maybe it was justified. But what if what she had was heart failure and it was decided that she was just too old even though simple surgery could correct her issue?

Anyway, as long as I can get my Goop detoxes, cleanses, and vitamin supplements from well-known bio-scientist Gwyneth Paltrow, I am sure I will be just fine...;-D

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I agree. If there is even a hint of not-voluntary, then I think it's murder.

AndrewPrice said...


Oh, and...



BevfromNYC said...


"oh wait the Obamas had gold easter eggs too, oh, and Trumps come in easter eggy pastels too...uh, hmmm..LOOK RUSSIANS!!!!"

BevfromNYC said...

Oh, by the way, that outrage was from a NYT writer. At least she did own up to her mistake. For that I give her...LOOK RUSSIANS!!!!

Kit said...

I'm against euthanasia. And I'll explain why later.

BevfromNYC said...

The latest soundbite outrage is about VP Pence. He admitted that he doesn't not dine alone with women not his wife and his wife always accompanies him to event where alcohol is served. The HORROR! The OUTRAGE! what a SEXIST! He must be afraid of his animal urges! Or he respects his marriage and his wife, but most importantly, maybe he recognizes our modern media by not putting himself in any potential compromising position as a pubic figure. Maybe the Clintons should take notes.

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - I look forward to your take on this subject. It's a complicated subject.

Kit said...

I'm afraid it'll come later. Too tired.

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