I suspect that there is more to this story than a couple of quotes. I really would like to see the video or, at least, read the entire transcript.
However, Dr Carson, as quoted here, is mistaken.
It was appropriate for government to intervene, as Mrs Schiavo’s right not to be killed was being infringed.
The case was a show trial, an act (actually, a series of acts) intended to cause death, supported by the euthanasia activists and went much beyond “the right to die.” No, this was about the right to kill.
Mrs Schiavo wasn’t allowed to die due to the progressive breakdown of her organ systems. Instead, a woman who was able to swallow and breathe was subjected to medical and law enforcement intervention – the act of removal of her feeding tube rather than simply ceasing to use it, morphine injections and – most egregious of all – the judge’s order requiring local Sheriff’s deputies to prevent her mother and loved ones from giving her oral hydration and nutrition.
The only outcome possible was to cause her intentional death and to infringe on her inalienable right not to be killed.
There is a huge difference between withholding medical intervention involving repetitive invasive procedures and forbidding care that can be provided by loved ones.
In the Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis notes that, “When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.”
Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a “Perspectives” column, “Life or Death for the Dead Donor’s Rule?,” in which the authors illustrate Lewis’ point with their redefinition of non-maleficence to better serve a re-defined autonomy.
They would convince us that there is no harm in hastening the death of a dying patient even by intentionally causing it if he or his surrogates ask. They ignore a 2500 year old First Principle of Medical ethics,focused on the health of the patient in front of us: “Cure when possible, but first do no harm, ”
Autonomy, like all rights, is a negative right: the patient has the right to refuse invasive medical interventions that will harm him or that he does not want. Patients and surrogates, if they can compel the use of medical skills and invasive technology, can only do so for the medical benefit of the patient himself.
Illogically, in these times of reducing costs, the authors would have us consider taking a patient from the ICU to the OR “and then take him back to where life support would be withdrawn.” The return to the ICU is nothing but our own “medical charade.”
I want to thank Nancy Valko, who runs an email list covering a range of traditional ethics issues, her email alerting me to this editorial.
You can comment, let the New England Journal of Medicine editors and the world know your thoughts.
Do you believe that Mr. Wallace should be able to receive life-terminating drugs from his physician? Which one of the following approaches to the broader issue do you find appropriate? Base your choice on the published literature, your own experience, and other sources of information.
To aid in your decision making, each of these approaches is defended in the following short essays by experts in the field. Given your knowledge of the patient and the points made by the experts, which option would you choose? Make your choice and offer your comments at NEJM.org.
My opinion is that poisoning Mr. Wallace, or writing the prescription so that he can attempt to intentionally commit suicide, is a direct infringement of Mr. Wallace’s inalienable right not to be killed.
“1. The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.
“2. It is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her
from developing the potentiality to become a person in the
morally relevant sense.”
The British Journal of Medical Ethics continues to publish thought exercises that go against common sense and traditional medical ethics, “emphasising” (British spelling) the utilitarian world-view of today’s “medical ethics,” without the slightest acknowledgment that there might be harm in the act of arguing that not all human beings are “morally relevant persons.”
This month, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, redefine “abortion,” “euthanasia,” and “infanticide” in “After-Birth Abortion: Why should the baby live?”
In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.
The arguments don’t work other than as an example of the logical results of the utilitarian world view that has come to dominate medical ethics and to illustrate what Leon Kass called “The Wisdom of Repugnance,” or the “yuck factor.”
One of the editors, Julian Salvulescu, who believes that values and conscience lead to “a Pandora’s box of idiosyncratic, bigoted, discriminatory medicine,” defends the piece on the grounds that that the ideas are not new. Indeed, the authors discuss the history of killing babies before and after birth because of medical diagnoses such as Down’s syndrome and after birth due to suffering of the child or the lack of worth placed on the child by his or her mother. The Netherland’s “Groningen Protocol” for active euthanasia of children is mentioned as precedent for government support for their position.
We should let these “expressions” be a warning to us all in these days of increasing government involvement in healthcare. As the authors argue,
“Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”
Freedom of expression and the discussion of even such unpopular ideas do have a place in our world. However, I wonder at an “ethics” journal whose editors claim that their
“Journal does not specifically support substantive moral views, ideologies, theories, dogmas or moral outlooks, over others. It supports sound rational argument. Moreover, it supports freedom of ethical expression.”
Obviously, they do support “sound rational argument” and “freedom of ethical expression” over “moral views, ideologies, theories, dogmas or moral outlooks.”
At what point would the editors determine that “ethicists” should be censured, corrected or even retrained? Would the Journal publish a “sound rational argument” that advocates the end of “freedom of ethical expression?”