4.12.04

what is is: the terminology of life, death and dying

Euthanasia is a pressing, though hardly new, issue worldwide. “Assisted suicide,” is legal in both the Netherlands and Belgium, and is decriminalized to some extent in a number of other places.

The debate surrounding euthanasia is obviously fraught with religious and moral hangups. On a more basic level, and I believe more importantly at this juncture, it is haunted by the insufficiency of semantics and overly flexible terminology. How does one even define euthanasia? Is the witholding of supportive medical care in a terminal patient to be considered euthanasia? What about patients (infants, the mentally handicapped, the comatose) who cannot weigh in on their own fate? The devil is in the details.

The uneducated masses present a great obstacle for the professionals who must deal with these dilemmas on a daily basis. In order to overcome this obstacle (insofar as that is possible), professionals must first solidify their terminology... Whether we agree or not, we must all at least begin on the same page. The first step toward a more rational debate is the establishment of a universal linguistic baseline.

Euthanasia in the News


One issue of growing concern involves euthanasia of infants – a practice that some refer to as “post-birth abortion”:

This article in the BMJ details an October decision by the British High Court, allowing doctors to withold further life-sustaining treatment in severely brain-damaged infant, Charlotte Wyatt, despite her parents’ wishes to maintain their child’s life at all costs.

Growing in notoriety is the ‘Groningen Protocol’ – A set of guidlines developed at the University of Groningen Hospital for the euthanasia of terminally ill and severely disabled infants. This Dutch hospital recently disclosed its creation of said guidelines, and reported the euthanasia of four such children carried out at the facility last year. Read more from the Times Online.

Public awareness of so-called suicide tourism is also growing. The recent case of Mrs. Z, a British woman suffering from a degenerative neurological condition, is one high-profile example. Mrs. Z and her husband traveled to Switzerland with the goal of ending Mrs. Z’s suffering. According to the Times Online, Mrs. Z obtained her wish this week. Her husband may face criminal charges for assisting her in her travels.

Also see, A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, written by Ian Dowbiggin and published by Oxford University Press.

1 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Charles said...

these are excellent links, and I agree that language clarification is essential before continuing debate. good luck with the evolving blog!

3:35 AM  

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