Flutterby™! : Euthanasia

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2004-12-01 17:37:06.666243+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

[ related topics: Ethics Current Events Peter Singer ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 19:55:55.80681+00 by: meuon


Wow. Publically admitting that is amazing. In my former life, I'd spent a lot of time fixing life support equipment in neo-natal intensive care units where such things were done, usually by a 'do not resucitate' order, rarely were they 'assisted', but in less overt ways, they were. Way too many crack and heroin babies (this was 1986/1987).

Technically, it is wrong... but is is often the right thing to do. Done right, the baby never makes it out of the delivery room, the mother never knows what happened. Doing after that is hard emotionally on the parent(s).

When it's done for/with 'good' parents, it's done with the idea that they'll have another chance.. when it'd done with 'bad' parents, it'd done with the ideology of saving our society from the weight of supporting and caring for this child.

Personally, I have a very unpopular view but a realistic one: Dispite the miracles in medical science, allowing certain gene traits to spread is bad for our society and our race. Burdoning our society with hopeless cases is a drain we can not sustain. The ethical delimma is where do we draw the line, and who draws it. May we always err on the right side because miracles do happen. Signed, --meuon-- aka Mike Harrison, Diabetic, Certified Clinical Engineer, BioMedical Tech, former step-parent of a marginally mentally handicapped child..... </soapbox>

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 20:22:25.028069+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'm going to nit-pick on one thing: "crack and heroine babies" are really "nicotine and poverty" babies.

But on the rest of your points... Charlene works as an instructional assistant, taking care of developmentally disabled kids. She loves these kids, admittedly some more than others, but she loves having a positive effect on their lives, she loves how loving and responsive they are, how cool it is to watch them make progress.

However, rare is the week when she doesn't come home and ask of one example or another why we as a society have put so much into "saving their lives". What purpose it serves to go to extreme measures, often at taxpayer expense, to bring to term someone who will not only not survive long without a wheelchair and a nearly full-time assistant, but who also won't ever have much more cognitive ability than a house pet. An affectionate, loving, and rather human one, to be sure, but not someone who's ever going to have a conversation in full sentences or without the other side of that discussion inferring a hell of a lot. And not just for our side of things, but for, say, being that and enduring a lifetime of physical pain as well.

I don't know where to draw the line, but as the ability of medical science to prolong life improves, I agree that as a society we can't sustain this. Just look now at how much of our GNP healthcare occupies. And I also believe that removing the choice of when and where to die from humans is a scary slippery slope the other way.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 20:24:20.503784+00 by: Dan Lyke

Other nicotine baby study press release.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 21:11:12.068887+00 by: meuon

Specifically, I was at Cook County Hospital in Chicago at that time.. the big problem was extremely low birthweight babies of crack and heroin addicted mothers, that often had a slew of other problems besides the withdrawel issues. Watching a baby suffer in that much pain is hard, and although they don't know what they are craving, they know they are 'without' for a very very long time. If that was there only problem, they recovered and did "well" after a couple of weeks to months in NNICU. Often, this was just the tip of the iceberg, or the least of the problems. I've seen babies that were barely identifiable as human, whom did not make it. Spinal bufida and thalidomide babies are 'easy' saves in comparison. I only lasted a week as the 'dedicated' person in that environment. Although I went back and worked on things often during my time there, being there full time every day was too much for me. When I told my bosses I'd quit after being there a week, their response was "Wow, you lasted a whole week!" and the moved me to a less emotionally challenging role: modifying monitoring and life support equipment for experiments of various trauma techniques (blood expanders, burn recovery), using dogs from the pound...

And now I'm so happy and thankful I am a computer geek, although I miss playing with the kewl electronics, I do not miss parts of the environment and job.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 21:27:10.518341+00 by: petronius [edit history]

The problem with many of these arguments is our lack of perfect knowlege of the future. How many kids in the NNICU will be ruined and how many will go on to be more-or-less normal? I also think that making generalizations about what sort of life is worth living is akin to deciding which sort of person is deserving of slavery. Some decisions are not for us to make. I also recommend to you a look at the work of this remarkable woman who had some interesting debates with Peter Singer (registration required) on just who gets the needle.

As to the costs of prolonging life, the problem isn't too much medical knowlege, but too little. People live longer, and many thus long enough to succcumb to Alzhiemer's, etc. So we need to work harder on Alzheimer's, and we are making progress. Abandoning the weak is a cowardly way out.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-01 22:03:29.47766+00 by: meuon

Petronious, I'm not talking as much about adult onset issues, or the more "normally" disabled like Harriet, whom probably saw a progression of her M.S. symptoms as she grew older. She was not born dependant on life support or radical operations for survival.

That is the problem with this whole topic: We all draw a line somewhere, it's where we draw the line as a society that is the issue.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-03 23:18:41.316953+00 by: ziffle

I'm in agreement, for the most part with meuon and Dan. But the issue is not the cost to society but the cost to whom the burden should fall - -the parents, and the fact that the child could never live as a rational human.

And I defer to Charlene and meuons experience.


#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-04 07:29:40.588959+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've often said, only partly in jest, that I believe in abortion through the 55th trimester. Ziffle, the reason I bring up cost to society, and lay that decision on society currently, is that while parents take a lot of the load of developmentally disabled children, with our current welfare system society takes on a huge part of that load as well. From medical costs for the underinsured to additional costs in education to sustaining those people as adults, there's a lot of tax money spent there.

Dang it, I could swear I wrote something up for Flutterby after reading Peter Singer[Wiki]'s Writings on an Ethical Life[Wiki], but... I found it in a backup of a deleted file in my "updates to put on Flutterby" directory, no idea how it didn't get to the main page. I'll slap it in the Wiki[Wiki]. I've started a Peter Singer topic to try to keep track of where we reference him.

I read his version of his encounter with Harriet McBryde Johnson in Writings on an Ethical Life[Wiki], and while I totally disagree with his reasons for his side of his euthanasia argument, my reaction to his portrayal of her was "this is a woman who has no idea of what she's asking from other people on her behalf."

Yes, she's accomplished a lot, she's obviously mentally "all there", but Singer described the preparations that he had to make to host her for their debate, and we're talking a full-time assistant, and all sorts of other facilities accomodations. So even with her vibrant mind, this is someone who's existing on the charity of the society, and who's not afraid to commandeer tax dollars and pass laws which mandate accomodation, and therefore use the threat of violence against us, to survive.

Obviously that gives me pause.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-12-05 01:59:55.581227+00 by: crasch

Eugene Volokh has a nice legal review of the Mechanism of the Slippery Slope, which some may find relevant to this article.