The British Medical Journal recently announced its support for Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. The editorial, “It’s the Right Thing to Do, and Most People Want It” reasons that since society already accepts when people decide “to reject lifesaving treatments, if they have mental capacity, regardless of any effects their subsequent deaths may have on those they leave behind,” why not move forward and decriminalize assisted suicide as well?
The article admits that there are doctors who have already voiced objections to being involved in a patient’s decision on this matter. But BMJ editors argue that, in the case of abortion, the Abortion Act has protected conscientious objection by physicians—and has done so for the past 50 years. The same protections are written into the Falconer proposal.
According to BioEdge,
The editorial was immediately disavowed by the publisher of the BMJ, the British Medical Association. Dr. Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA council, said: “There are strongly held views within the medical profession on both sides of this complex and emotive issue. ‘The BMA remains firmly opposed to legalizing assisted dying.’ This issue has been regularly debated at the BMA’s policy forming annual conference and recent calls for a change in the law have persistently been rejected.”
Fundamentally, one can see that from the perspective of the “freedom of choice” argument, which has been so successfully used by the pro-abortion movement, the logical conclusion must be that the same mentality will dictate acceptance of killing at the other end of the life spectrum. This is so even though the rational mind can observe that there is no logic in either the former or the latter.
In a related matter on this side of the pond, “The Medical Society of New Jersey said [on June 5] that the Practitioner’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form should be given more time to be adopted by doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes before the legislature considers assisted-suicide bill.” This raised a concern voiced by disability rights advocate Ben Mattlin. Mattlin, himself a victor over extreme disability, wrote in the Los Angeles Times,
I can’t help but feel a deep-seated distrust and dread over POLST and any assisted-suicide laws. I have lived all of my 51 years on the cusp of death because of a genetic neurological condition called spinal muscular atrophy. I have never been able to stand or walk, and I lost the use of my hands 16 years ago. I was not expected to live beyond my teens but am a Harvard graduate, a writer, a husband and the father of two. And with the help of a motorized wheelchair, a voice-recognition computer and attendants, I live a full life.
He argues with obvious credibility that physician orders written in advance cannot possibly “cover every real-world eventuality.” His opinion piece rings true with commonsense observations concluding, “POLST merely hastens uninformed decision-making based on fear, just as assisted suicide’s medically monitored poisoning is based on fear. Both have equally insufficient safeguards against coercion.”
Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) are pieces of paper that can be used for good or for evil depending on three things:
• Who is describing their use
• How fully informed about the possible consequences the patient and his family are
• What the intentions of the medical professionals in a given case are regarding respect for the dignity of the patient’s life
That’s just too many variables for anyone concerned with protecting the vulnerable from those who want to hurry the vulnerable to death.