Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

They're doing it in Australia too

By Aussiegirl

It's happening in Australia too -- food and water are now medical treatments which may be withheld by the state when you are helpless to speak for yourself.

The Australian: Little mercy when the state chooses to inflict a slow death [August 03, 2005]

The first and most obvious question is whether one person, such as the Public Advocate, should have the power to hasten the death of another person. That is a heavy responsibility for one person to bear. If it accorded with Korp's wish to die sooner rather than later, perhaps the decision is correct and the responsibility has been discharged appropriately. But she left no specific instructions. There is no living will. So how can we know what she wants?

As Melbourne barrister Peter Faris QC says: "Here, one man, the Public Advocate, has apparently been given the power of life and death, of judge, jury and executioner." Harangued for his colourful language, Faris nonetheless has a point.

While Korp lays in a Melbourne hospital with no food and water forthcoming, in Britain Leslie Burke, a 45-year-old man who suffers from a degenerative brain disease that will eventually leave him with no ability to speak, has been fighting his way through the courts to establish a right to be provided with food and water until he dies of natural causes. Last Thursday, the UK Court of Appeal confirmed the status quo.

That means that once a patient loses their mental capacity and ability to express their wishes, their doctor may decide to withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration.

Now consider this. While doctors may accelerate the death of a patient who cannot speak for themselves, they cannot, by law, accelerate the death of those terminally ill patients who can speak for themselves and wish to die sooner rather than later. Society has deemed only a certain acceleration of death acceptable.

Equally inconsistent is the fate facing Korp. She is in a vegetative state and her limbs are seizing up. Taking food and water from her will hasten her death. So why not deliver a lethal dose of morphine that will further hasten Korp's death? It makes no sense for society to say doctors can speed up an inevitable death by taking away food and water, but they must not bring on a faster death, lest it looks like we have sanctioned the killing of another.

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello tried to explain it like this. "The difference is, if you remove the tube you're leaving it to nature and if you give an injection, you are actively causing death." It's a distinction that does not get us very far. Around the country some palliative care doctors knowingly deliver, via a needle, a speedy death to their terminally ill patients. That is illegal. A few years ago NSW premier Bob Carr, who retires today, said that what went on behind closed doors should continue to go on. Never mind that doctors are putting their reputations and lives on the line because politicians refuse to grapple with the right to die.

Just think of this -- "by removing the tube you're leaving it to nature"!!! Sure -- and if I failed to feed my cats and "left it to nature" I would be charged with cruelty to animals and fined or even arrested. If I failed to feed my child I could say I was "leaving it to nature" -- but I would be charged with murder nonetheless. Why is it OK to do it to those who are helpless and unable to speak for themselves? The same could be said for abortion -- especially late-term and so-called "partial-birth abortion". Which is a hideous misnomer -- let's face facts -- it is infanticide, plain and simple. And there can be no quibbling about "viability", etc. A society which does not respect life and the right to life -- of the helpless and the disabled is fatally corrupted. The right to life is simply the most basic of human rights -- we violate it at our peril.


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