Friday, January 22, 2010

Scotland and the Work of "Life" Crusaders.

To the string of Westernized countries that have contemplated aid in dying over the past year, add Scotland. This week, Margo Macdonald introduced a bill that has been called more permitting than the Netherlands' - and according to opponents of aid in dying the latter country is not one to emulate. In every court case in the US, the Netherlands has been held up as the primary "culture of death" capital, only exceeding Switzerland in it's wickedness because the latter has made efforts to reign in "suicide culture" by considering changing it's "permissive" laws.

Of course Scotland's bill, the End of Life Assistance Bill, has caused an international "pro-life" ruckus. Here are some links from the usual noisy criers:

From Peter Saunders, Director of Britain's Care Not Killing
From Wesley J. Smith, of the junk science haven Discovery Institute, who paused to demonize Scotland before ranting his (premature?) joy at the defeat of the US health care bill.
From Alex Schadenberg at Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Rather than dig into the bill to tell you the pros and cons of it's construction, or tell you the forces that are working on the ground to address it's passage, or the story of the MP who introduced it, I'd rather ask a question:

Why is there a rash of constituents in Westernized countries who are compelled to press their legislators and government leaders for aid in dying?

To those who work from the premise that society is bifurcated into good and evil, that "the culture of death" has risen from the "threat" of modernization and the decline of church power over personal lives - the Peter Saunders, Wesley J. Smiths and the Alex Schadenbergs - a great decline in human morality is what most threatens the "sanctity of life" around the globe.

This fear of change and the future is a powerful force or these men wouldn't make their living hating personal autonomy and patients' who fight for their right to control their medical destiny. These men think they are grappling against the new decline in personal and societal morals. However successful their strategies are at the moment, they are on the grand scale actually actors who, like the American teabaggers who are funded by corporations to promote government deregulation, aiding and abetting power structures by spreading fear of sound government representation of individual citizens.

To the rest of us who view the Westernized medical landscape without the fear or ideology, without the self-righteous desire to keep society governed by unchanging and draconian faithful strictures, the cause of aid in dying bills is more difficult to explain.

The patriarchal character of medicine has combined with new technology to remove patients' from their own medical decision-making. The church and the state have colluded to, with all their might, leave such rights in the hands of doctors dedicated to curing disease; doctors who now operate within a closed, corporatized and cost-driven delivery system that compels patients into futile care, over-treatment, and ignorance of how death occurs. Patients are rendered helpless in this new landscape and so they fight, country by country, to wrest their control over death back from these institutional forces.

The new dying culture has pitted helpless, resourceless patients against the church, the state and the medical profession, much more powerful and organized institutions.

The three men I cite consider themselves crusaders for society's morality. In truth, they are crusaders, throwbacks to the time when ideological views of the world were unchallenged by science and medicine. Their ways are dated because they appeal to a moral compass that no longer exists, and indeed was a state and church sanctioned imposition on personal beliefs and autonomy. These men are the enemies of patients' rights, of social services that work to end suffering, and of human advancement.

And their maniacal, antiquated work has allowed the state and the medical profession, forces that they otherwise despise when they counter the church, to dictate what rights individuals have in the world of new technology.

They are throw-backs to be sure. With self-righteousness and paternalism they claim to stand for the disabled, the poor, the ill, the "least of these." But their stand is on their own ideological premise, not on the rights of individuals in a pluralistic society. They demean the autonomy of every patient and yet claim compassion. They paint selected facts and statistics as proof of moral debasement. They monger fear among the elderly and disabled.

And most importantly, they fail to address the cause of these bills in a mature, real-world manner, preferring to work in their good vs. evil constructs, rather than seek non-judgmental approaches to the crisis in modern medicine of a good death.

Scotland is not the last country where citizens rise up and say they want to make their own health care decisions. Crusaders who work to keep individuals under the power of corporations, the state and the church will always exist. They will continue to frame the issue of patients rights as one of "moral decline". And they will continue to do the work of imposing power structures while patronizingly claiming that they indeed know what is best for a patient.

The task we have as a society is to recognize who they work for.

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