Comment Of The Day: “The Euthanasia Slippery Slope: A Case Study”

 Ethics Alarms master commenter Mrs. Q has the highest ratio of Comments of the Day to comments of any of the erudite participants here. If she would consider it, I’d love to feature her ethical musings in a regular column on the blog. This is the first of two Mrs. Q compositions you will see this weekend; it concerns the issues of euthanasia and consent, which were explored in twoposts this week, and a poll. Regarding that: here is the still live survey regarding the hypothetical I posed in this follow-up to the one about the Dutch doctor:

As you can see, those supporting the opposite position of Mrs. Q (and me) are in a distinct minority.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day, a reply to another commenter,  on the post, “The Euthanasia Slippery Slope: A Case Study.”

My God fearing Catholic grandma had the opposite response to yours. She was 102 & 7mo. and after breaking her hip it was too late to even think of surgery. She continued to weaken & lose weight yet she fought by drinking milkshakes & trying to greet her many family/visitors.

Before she got to this point a few years prior, her care coordinator somehow changed her directive to DNR, which as a Catholic she wouldn’t have agreed to, yet this person tried to convince the family that my grandma said yes to the change. If my family hadn’t checked the paperwork, my grandma’s incorrect and unauthorized change would have remained; however our family changed it back. My understanding is such acts are not uncommon in these facilities.

Fast forward to her last days. She was increasingly given higher doses of morphine & we weren’t allowed to even give her sips of water, though she was clearly thirsty. Her last words ever spoken while she gripped onto me, and heard by everyone in the room were “I don’t want to die.” She didn’t want to go and the nursing home was killing her and she knew it.

I still feel complicit in her death, as I tried to “go along” with staff who I assumed knew best. Continue reading

Addendum: To “The Euthanasia Slippery Slope: A Case Study,” Hypothetical And Poll

The Euthanasia Slippery Slope: A Case Study, this morning’s post, has attracted a wider range of opinion than I expected. I considered attaching a poll to the original post; now I’m going to go a step farther, and base that poll on a hypothetical of the kind that I use in my legal ethics seminars.

Speaking of those, on Tuesday, September 17, in Richmond, VA, and Wednesday, September 18, in Fairfax, VA, I’ll be presenting  “The Greatest Legal Ethics Seminar Ever Taught!” for three hours of legal ethics CLE credit to Virginia lawyers and others. The title reflects, other than my own warped sense of humor (“The Greatest Story Ever Told” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen), the fact that the legal ethics hypotheticals being discussed cover what I have found to be many of the most contentious, fascinating legal ethics issues extant over 20 years of doing these things. Moreover, I am being joined by my friend and colleague, John May, who approached these issues from the perspective of a practical litigator as well as one who often defends lawyers accused of ethical improprieties. He’s also one combative and clever pain in the ass who loves disagreeing with me, so I recommend bringing popcorn. The details are here.

Now here’s your hypothetical:

Continue reading

The Euthanasia Slippery Slope: A Case Study

Dr. Kevorkian was happy to help you kill yourself…

As health care costs rise and the public as a whole becomes more financially responsible for the care of individuals; as the population ages and the massive increase in health care costs in the final years and months of life becomes an increasing burden on society, and as legal abortion stays front and center as the most brutal form of utilitarianism, where a weaker and “lesser” life is deemed expendable for the well-being of others, I expect the United States culture to be drawn closer and closer to the seductive policy of legal euthanasia.  It is now legal in Washington, D.C.,  California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Maine (as of next year), New Jersey, Hawaii, and Washington. You may note what these states all have in common….not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I believe that permitting an individual to kill another with the victim’s consent is so ripe for abuse—Dr. Kevorkian comes to mind—that it crosses an ethical line that should be thick, black, and forbidding.  The alleged consent can too easily be coerced or manufactured for the convenience of others. A recent case in the Netherlands confirms my strong reservations.

The unidentified patient, 74, had asked in writing for doctors to end her life if she had to be admitted to a nursing home, and if she thought the time was right. When she entered a home in 2016, however, though incapacitated, she appeared to have changed her mind, and gave what prosecutors called “mixed signals” about her desire to die. Continue reading

Suicide And Ethics

Just as we learned about the suicides of two niche celebrities, Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade, the news media is reporting a massive increase is self-homicide since 1999, over 25%. “Social isolation, lack of mental health treatment, drug and alcohol abuse and gun ownership are among the factors that contribute to suicide,” says the Times. All of that hasn’t increased 25% in less than two decades, however. What has changed?

This:

1. The decline of religion. In Christianity, for example, suicide is a sin, and if you believe in an after-life, a terribly short term solution. People don’t believe in eternal punishment for suicide any more.

2. The end of shame. Suicide was once considered shameful in this culture. For decades, however, suicide advocates have been promoting it not only as a right, but a reasonable option under certain circumstances. Never mind sin: the culture currently teaches that suicide isn’t even wrong.

3. Reinforced narcissism, selfishness, and cowardice. Suicide is a terrible act of aggression against loved ones and associates.  As a member of a family that has suffered through three suicides, I have seen this up close. Suicides leave horrible emotional carnage in their wake. The essence of ethics, which is thinking about the impact of one’s conduct on others, has been gradually eroded in the culture through the dominance and influence of ethics corrupters.

4. Confused and contradictory cultural signals regarding death. Beginning with abortion, through assisted suicide laws in Oregon, our culture is sending strong messages that some people are better off dead. For the unsophisticated, the young and the gullible especially, this new cultural eddy makes suicide far more attractive than it used to be.

5. Celebrity suicides. In a culture that uses performing celebrities as role models, suicide becomes model conduct. Politicians rarely kill themselves, much as we might wish they would.

I don’t see any mystery at all. Suicide rates are increasing because our culture no longer sends the message that suicide is wrong.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2018: The “Blotto From A Sleepless Night Fuming About Nobody Stopping That Puppy From Being Stuffed In The United Overhead Luggage Bin” Edition

Good Morning, United!

Where’s that whimpering sound coming from?

Grrrrrrr.

1 Don’t make America stupid, ABC. The new ABC legal drama “For The People” premiered last night, and lost me forever. I can’t trust the writers. In the final moments of the episode, a veteran female defense lawyer was consoling a young lawyer who was upset after losing a case. The older lawyer evoked the memory of a 1951 rookie for the New York Giants, who went hitless in his first Major League games and was devastated. But his manager put him in the line-up again, and he hit a home run in his first at bat, and never stopped hitting.

“Ah,” said the young lawyer, “Willie Mays. The greatest player who ever lived.” The older lawyer nodded sagely.

By no measure was Willie Mays the greatest baseball player. Is this racial politics by series creator Shonda Rhimes? I assume so: there is no other plausible explanation. The odds of two randomly selected baseball fans asserting that Mays was the greatest baseball player would only be more than miniscule if anyone who knows baseball believed that. Willie was the greatest centerfielder of all time, the greatest African-American player of all time, quite possibly the most charismatic and entertaining player to watch of all time, and very possibly the second most gifted baseball player of all time. But he wasn’t the greatest. The best player by every measure, statistical, modern analytics, WAR, JAWS, OPS, contemporary reports and common sense was, of course, Babe Ruth. He was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a great pitcher before that, and no athlete in any sport ever dominated it like Babe did in the Twenties.

Now, any individual can hold an eccentric opinion that Willie was better. But that was not how the assertion was presented. It was presented as an accepted fact that two random baseball fans agreed upon. This is irresponsible misrepresentation. I was trying to think of an equivalent: I think it’s like a TV show having someone quote the Declaration of Independence, and a listener then  say, “Thomas Jefferson. Our greatest President!” as the other individual nods sagely.

2. Four Regans, or, if you prefer, Linda Blair Heads.This is the new Ethics Alarms graphic for unethical media spin. The number of Regans can range from one to four, with four Regans signifying “spinning so furiously her head might fall off.” (If you don’t get the reference, you are seriously deficient in cultural literacy.) The four Regans go to the polar news media spinning yesterday’s special election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have narrowly won a seat in a Republican stronghold, though the race is still too close to call. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/4/17

Good Morning!

1. An update to the Michelle Carter fiasco from Taunton, Mass., where the judge in the case discussed here sentenced the young woman to 15 months in jail for her supposedly deadly words, which “made” her boyfriend commit suicide. This classic example of the axiom “hard cases make bad law” provides the censorious camel’s nose access to the tent for advocates of  the criminalization of “hate speech,” opposition to climate change propaganda, and the gradual castration of freedom of speech. Carter should have never been charged or tried; doing so was an abuse of process, prosecutorial ethics and judicial ethics. I strongly suspect that the judge knows the case will be reversed on appeal as unconstitutional, hence his decision to stay the sentence, allowing Carter to remain free while her case winds its way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, her life will be stalled, and completely absorbed by the consequences of her texts urging teen Conrad Roy III to act on his expressed desire to kill himself, which he did. This is her real punishment, because the sentence will not and must not stand.

It is unethical to use the legal system this way. When the government takes it upon itself to punish citizens despite the absence of applicable laws, it is treading over the line dividing democracy from totalitarianism.

2. What is to be done about California? States have always maintained their own unique cultures, and that is a national strength. When a state’s culture becomes wholly estranged from and hostile to the values and principles of the nation it belongs to, however, it becomes a danger to that nation and perhaps to its citizens. What, if anything, is the responsibility of the federal government when this happens? What is the duty of the state’s elected officials?

Tucker Carlson’s creepy interview on Fox with a leader of the California secession movement,Shankar Singam, raised these questions and more. Among Singam’s jaw-dropping positions was that the documented exodus of middle class Californians and small businesses from the state was a good thing. “If everyone in the middle class is leaving, that’s actually a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do,” Singam told Carlson. He also told Carlson that “This is California. We’re not the United States.”

At least that settles the question of whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

An ethical, responsible, loyal American governor would recognize the danger inherent in allowing his state to see itself as separate from the rest of the country, and actively work to reverse that dangerous trend and attitude. That governor is not Jerry Brown. Continue reading

The Michelle Carter Verdict

Michelle Carter’s 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, had told her that he has been considering suicide. First, she told him to seek counseling, then  she changed course, texting him to go through with it. “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” she wrote.  “You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.”

Later, she texted to Roy that his family accept his death, and that he would enjoy the afterlife. “Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts,” she texted.

“You are my beautiful guardian angel forever and ever. I’ll always smile up at you knowing that you aren’t far away.”

A week before the suicide, encouraging her boyfriend to be more diligent as he searched for the supplies he needed and then going through with his plan in these exchanges:

“Do you have the generator?”

“Not yet LOL,”

“WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?”

“Now.”

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t”

“I don’t get it either. I don’t know”

“So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.”

“I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up”

“No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You keep pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action”

 “You better not be bullshitting me and saying you gonna do this and then purposely get caught.”

“No, none of that.”

On July 12, 2014, Conrad drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a pump that released carbon monoxide. When he lost his nerve and got out of the truck, his girl friend texted him  to “get back in.”  She never alerted any authorities to stop the suicide attempt. The young man was found dead in his truck.

Yesterday, Judge Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, ruled that Ms. Carter, just seventeen at the time of her crime, committed involuntary manslaughter by urging Roy to kill himself. Continue reading