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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Never Here, Revisted

I originally wrote this as a comment in response to probligo (which was in response to this post) but decided that it deserved its own post. Here goes:


I know, cases like that are extremely difficult. I have spent time at a hospital dedicated to long-term care. The pediatric ward is possibly the most depressing thing I've ever witnessed. And, some way I can't describe, the most beautiful.

Some beds are filled with children born with severe disabilities and others with kids who were struck by a car while riding a bike. Each case is enough to make you weep.

Many will ask, as have you, what is their quality of life? I think the easy answer is to declare that their lives are not worth living and conclude that we should simply 'ease their suffering' by ending their lives. Yes, I said that is the easy answer.

The much more difficult, and in my opinion correct, answer is that I do not have either sufficient cognitive capabilities nor the moral authority to decide that another's live is not worth living.

That is not to say that withholding care equals euthanasia nor that it is always wrong. Why? As a physician, I have a duty to my patients, first and foremost. Let me say that again, my duty is first and foremost to the patient. Any responsibilities I might have to his or her family members, the community, or to anyone else except that patient are secondary. I also took an oath that requires I first do no harm. Every action, and inaction, a doctor takes has the potential to help or harm.

The best result is always to help, whether through action or inaction. The worst is to cause harm by taking action. Therefore, when there is a reasonable expectation that action will harm, inaction is a viable and often correct choice. It is for that reason that 'comfort measures only' for a newborn with no hope of survival is a viable option. Beyond the withholding of care, while a more difficult decision, the removal of active life-saving measures is also sometimes the correct choice.

The thing that I will never accept is any action on the part of a physician, or any healthcare professional, that is undertaken with the sole purpose of terminating life. Period.

There are certainly plenty of specific circumstances that will fall into a gray area no matter how carefully we define right and wrong. That does not, however, mean that we should suspend the very concept of right and wrong just to make our lives a little easier...and another's a bit shorter.


Donald Sensing has posted a great paper (pdf) on the topic of Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) from his days as a seminary student. Here, I think, is one of the keys to the argument against PAS:

We have no more right to say we are useless to our community than to say someone else is. The ethic of service and love means that we should expect the community’s embrace just as we are bound to give it.
Read the rest. It's well written and provides a very good defense against the all too seductive idea of 'just ending it all'.


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