Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Euthanizing Babies

As Wesley Smith and others have been pointing out for a long time, this is where assisted suicide must, by necessity, eventually lead.

If people want to live in a society where doctors make the arbitrary decisions on who lives and who dies, based upon their own belief as to what conditions or deformaties make life not worth living, then so be it.

But people should not be fooled into thinking that legalizing physician-assisted suicide is the final step. It is merely the next step.

1 comment:

beniyyar said...

Look, so long as financial resources are finite and medical needs, among others, pretty much infinite, someone will have to decide just who gets treatment for what, and for how long, in practical terms we are talking about euthanasia. For decades now, doctors and families have been making these decisions on an ad hoc basis, usually based on patient age, the chances of full or partial recovery, the chances of making some sort of positive contribution to society or to their families after recovery, and finally, the total cost of the recovery. To be more specific and relevant, babies born with severe birth defects such as spina bifida or retardation, or which have suffered some sort of oxygen deprivation, or Down's syndrome, or some constellation of genetic and physical disorders which will make their lives at best very difficult, or at worst extremely short, do not just suffer these problems themselves. Their usually young parents, who are in no way equipped psychologically, emotionally, physically, or especially financially to provide the care these babies need, often find themselves and their marriages literally and figuratively destroyed by these tragic events, and often unjustly hold themselves guilty for what has happened. Additionally, the medical staffs which must provide the immediate life saving and preserving care for these infants often find themselves ultimately overwhelmed with the task, for which they provide so much effort and emotional investment for so little reward. Worse, these seriously impaired infants often require such enormous amounts of care that other infants with less serious defects or who are even normal, are deprived of care which could make the difference between adequate care and excellent care. Also, the medical centers which ultimately must fund this care usually barely have the funds and equipment just to operate, much less take on these expensive, time consuming, and difficult cases. To give a practical example, just suppose their is a seriously ill, probably certain to die premature infant on a respirator because the baby cannot breathe on her own, and another premature infant with far less problematic health problems which also needs the respirator? And the decision must be made within the hour, and not only are there no more respirators available in the hospital, but also there none in the vicinity? What do the doctor and the two families decide to do? These sorts of decisions happen all the time, and generally they are worked out as they say, in the field. But is this fair, or even moral? Perhaps real written guidelines, based on medical ethics, societal morality, economic reason, and the needs of the family involved should be in place so as to remove as much as possible the problems of conflict of interest and any other arbitrary or personal reasoning. This is not a simple problem, but in the ten years I worked as a Registered Nurse in several critical care areas, you may be sure that this problem occurred regularly and caused enormous emotional turmoil among the staff as well as the patients families. This is what makes me personally want to see real, effective, and practical guidelines published to take away as much as possible, the families responsibility, and any personal medical responsibility from the doctor's and the nurses who are ultimately responsible for making these decisions and especially carrying them out.