Friday, June 11, 2010

Who Wants To Die? Belgium and Junk Studies.

Fox news and other outlets are reporting that Belgium, long the recipient of scorn for being one of the few nations where assisted suicide is legal, is killing the dying. A survey (of some sort) was conducted of (a very limited number of) nurses on how often they euthanized (however you wish to define that term, type of drug insignificant) a patient (their health status not included in the article) without the patient's consent (written? verbal? what about the family's or the doctors?).

It's the perfect proof of a slippery slope! Give that "culture of death" an inch and it will take your mama!

From the story at Fox:

In interviews with 248 nurses, a fifth admitted they had taken part in a euthanasia procedure based on the “assumption” that the patient wanted to die. Almost half of the nurses confessed to “terminations without request or consent.”

Sure it sounds terrible and scary. Fifty nurses running around offing patients whenever they feel like it, often doing it for the doctor who couldn't be bothered. And what's a vulnerable patient to do when they can't protect themselves and they don't want to die?

I expect it's all rubbish. Britain and Canada, where the primary stories come from, are in the midst of a harsh and unsavory battle over the legalization of assisted suicide. Any story that starts off using the term euthanasia, even one that is about a country in europe, without first clarifying the terms is coming already from a particular position on the issue. Neither article has a link to the original study, nor the name of the study organization - it could have been conducted by the Catholic Church for all we know.

Two of the story versions (here's a British one) quote Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing, an "anti-euthanasia" organization. In both, nothing is said about how the study was conducted, nor is there a description of what is meant by euthanasia. Were the nurses all clear in their answers and using the same definitions? What kinds of hospitals did the nurses work in? From what regions? How old were they? How long had they been nursing? What is consent? Were they trained in palliative care? Do they think that morphine ends lives?

Unfortunately, these types of unsubstantiated stories still move emotions. Just read the comment sections on any of them.

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My Distaste for Kagan.

There's such a buzzing noise in the "pro-life" community right now about the horrors of Obama's supreme court nominee, Elena Kagan. Surprise, surprise, she's being called a lefty pinko. The commotion would be twice as much fun to watch if there were any truth to the concerns for her "radical stance." You can read some of the recent commotion here and here and here.

She's clearly a moderate, in the pre-Clinton sense of the word. I fear that any of her reluctance to regulate social services for women and the elderly are probably a libertarian streak more so than a human rights one; you know, personal liberty and freedom and all that (read the Montana state constitution, written in the 70s for a fine example.) But opponents of this administration and of the Democratic party (of which I am often finding myself lately, though from another direction) have been running off into the crazy fields of "radical," "activist," "communist," "fascist" claims regarding anything left of, say, George W. It's some sort of conspiracy, paranoid delusion that's again taken hold of the country; unfortunately, not a novel phenomenon.

Kagan's positions on abortion and assisted suicide are what have the "pro-lifers" up in arms. Yet, little is mentioned about her hands-off stance regarding consumer safety and corporate regulation. And because she's been nominated by Obama and served in Clinton's administration, liberals and/or progressives have been reticent to vocalize their opposition.

I expect it will be a contentious nomination process, though if the Republicans are smart, they'll keep doing what they're doing: pretending that moderates look like radicals. The Dems cans seem to cope with all the confusion.

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