Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Debunking Republican and "Pro-Life" Talk on End of Life Consultations.

Robert Parham, Executive Director for the Baptist Center for Ethics, takes apart in a column for the WashingtonPost the "kill granny" meme that Republicans have been pushing regarding the current health care bill.

No political deception this year has been more shameful than that of Sarah Palin, the Christian Right and many Republicans who have tried to sabotage health care reform with the canard of "death panels." Even after many myth-debunking articles and reports, the anti-health care reform crowd still crows about death panels.

Only a few weeks ago, the Southern Baptist Convention's chief lobbyist told students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that a Senate bill would reinstate "death panels."

The myth-that-will-not-die distorts the provision for voluntary counseling by doctors with patients once every five years related to the care patients want at the end of life--paid for by Medicare.

Rather than affirm the cherished value of the doctor-patient relationship, the right sees a conspiracy of the federal government pulling the plug on grandma.

Part of the right's fear is rooted in its anti-government DNA. Part of it is embedded in the belief that our culture hates life and is slipping down the pro-death slope toward active euthanasia for the aged and terminally ill.

For years, "right to life" groups have opposed living wills. They see such legal documents as a stalking horse for the "right to die" movement accused of advocating mercy killings and assisted suicide. They distrust the courts and legislatures, charging them with having a presumption against life, of favoring a "quality of life" ethic. They urge their supporters to sign "wills to live," documents that request treatment to include food and fluids when the patient cannot speak for themselves, as opposed to being allegedly starved to death. They often warn that without a will to live what happened to Terri Schiavo might happen to them and their family members.

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British Couple, Dennis and Flora Milner, End Lives.

I've sat on this story for two days waiting for more information regarding the case and the manner in which the Milner's took their lives. Some of the reports have been inaccurate, saying that the Milner's opposed assisted suicide; rather the couple sent a letter to the BBC before ending their lives that was critical of Britain's ban on assisted suicide.

The topic of assisted suicide has engaged the British this past summer because of a case brought to the courts by Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis patient, who wished to ensure that her husband, Omar, would not be prosecuted under existing British suicide laws for helping her to leave the country to end her life. The government was forced to revise their prosecutorial guidelines regarding those who assist the death of another person.

For more on the Milners, see here, here, here.

For Wesley J. Smith's analysis, see here. Unfortunately, he sheds little life on end of life choice and he and his commenters continue to conflate a desire for hastened death with depression. For those who believe doctors or God or the state has jurisdiction over suffering and our lives, the Milner's choice makes no sense. For those who believe in autonomous choice, it may.

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