A “Conservative” Wearing Blinders about PAS

[CORRECTION—September 4, 2015—Since posting yesterday, it was brought to my attention that my reporting on the steps being taken in Quebec was imprecise.  This is inexcusable and I regret the error, about which more in a moment.  The original post is preserved below, without further edit directly.

[I wrote, following Wesley Smith, that Quebec is taking steps to prevent conscientiously-objecting physicians from providing aid in dying.  That’s not exactly correct.  Smith himself was referring to a report from the Canadian news agency CTV.   That report describes comments by Quebec’s health minister.  Quebec’s law, described as “strict,” limits the so-called right to die to “certain terminally ill people” who “must be at death’s door and suffering,” according to the report.  The health minister said “that on an individual basis, a doctor could invoke an objection of conscience and refuse to shorten the life of a sick person.”  However, “it is the role of [medical] institutions” to “offer the service” and “will” do so, finding another doctor to fill in for any conscientious objectors.

[So, again, I stand corrected.  But I also suggest that this is a distinction without a difference, in this sense:  a Catholic hospital would be forced to violate its principles, would it not?  And, if the institutional requirement is allowed, how long before that requirement is extended to individual doctors?  And it is assumed that all doctors are part of larger groups or institutions.  And forcing the institution to provide PAS is a form of forcing the “institution” (formerly the profession) of medicine to consider PAS as essential to medical practice.  Or so it seems to me.

[The CTV report leads with the statement that the health minister “called out un-cooperative doctors….”

[Like all my posting, yesterday’s posting was done with an eye toward speed and brevity.  I should also admit that I repeated Smith’s quotations of a proposed Colorado statute, but did not independently confirm them with a search of the Colorado legislative information.   If anyone finds that I propagated any factual errors, I will promptly address those deficiencies.  In the meantime, I wrote to prompt reflection, and I encourage interested readers to investigate further.  And I stand by the spirit of my post, and the deep personal dismay that it is intended to reflect.—JTH]

George Will’s column condemning the Planned Parenthood barbarism was salutary.

His column defending physician-assisted suicide is execrable.

In the latter, he is blithely sanguine about slippery slopes (we can’t avoid them, he says), suggests that Medicare cost savings is a reason to support a “right-to die,” seems to embrace the notion that we shouldn’t hesitate helping depressed people end their lives, claims (contra Ezekiel Emanuel) that medical technology is why we are now so interested in PAS and euthanasia, and betrays no sensitivity to the question of whether doctors are called to care or to kill.  He allows some reasons for “wariness,” including the notion that a “right to die” might morph into a “duty to die”—a critical concern—but neglects to mention that somebody’s “right to die” entails somebody else’s “duty to kill.”

Scarier still are the comments on the Washington Post web site (follow the link above), which include diatribes against all those “sadistic” doctors who won’t act to put a person out of her misery.

“Sadistic,” eh?

Read ‘em and weep.

One robust response comes from the reliable Wesley Smith, who has also pointed out a stunningly broadly-worded proposal in Colorado to render immune from prosecution “any person or group,” not just medical professionals, who would assist “Sovereign” individuals in exercising the “liberty to pursue happiness” by making the “personal medical decision” to “set the time and tone of their own deaths, asking permission of no person or organization.”  Such “exercise” of such a “right” would not be “limited to the maintenance of mental competency only, but can be durable into incompetency if desired and documented.”  

And elsewhere, Smith flags a new requirement, first in Quebec and soon in all of Canada, that physicians must provide PAS when requested.  No conscientious objectors allowed.  Oh, Canada!!

So, as Smith writes, “Thou must kill.”

Who will stand and say, “WE SHALL NOT!!”

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Barry Orvell, MD
Barry Orvell, MD
4 years ago

I rarely agree with George Will’s positions but I admire his intellect and his vehemence. And now that I agree with him, I admire his robust thinking especially when it leads him into moral inconsistencies. I believe that consistency is the enemy of change. Inconsistency is a sign of an open mind, and therefore growth, and therefore life.
This discussion about PAS is really about life and growth and change and death. One may or may not believe in God, but dying is not doubted. George Will avoids using the language of God. His inconsistencies are not a problem as long as he is intellectually consistent and honest.