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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, July 1, 2019: Movies, Cultural Literacy, “A Nation Of Assholes,” And The Mystery Of The Fake Public Defender

Good Morning!

1. Any ideas about what was going on here? I’m stumped. This is New Orleans public defender—that is, former  New Orleans public defender—Ashley Crawford:

She began working for the Orleans Public Defenders last October, and since that time apparently handled over a hundred cases without having ever acquired a license to practice law. The Orleans Public Defenders said the bar certificate of good standing she presented to the office last fall when she was employed had been falsified, and Ashley used the bar number of another attorney. She’s fired now, and facing charges.

Crawford  graduated from  the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 2016, then  clerked for a New Orleans judge beginning that fall. Judicial clerks are not required to pass the bar exam, though many do.

Why would she—would anyone—do this? Now she is facing criminal penalties, and will never be able to practice law legally. It should be far easier to pass the bar exam and be admitted properly than to fake having a law license. She also has caused havoc for the judicial system: any defendant convicted while being represented by Crawford has an automatic right to a new trial.

There’s a lesson, a tragedy, a made-for-TV movie here; I just wish I knew what the lesson is. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (2): “Observations On Britain’s Charlie Gard Ethics Fiasco”

This is the second outstanding comment on the Charlie Gard post, and it boldly ventures into the ethics jungle of euthanasia. The discussion must go there, for if society has limited resources, and we have more limited resources than Paul Krugman and Bernie Sanders admit, then when people use up their allotted portion, they either have to die or someone else has to pick up the bill. The recent surge in popularity for single-payer health care is due in part to the old saw about how soldiers think when going into battle. It’s everyone else who’s at risk, not you. Or as my dad liked to put it, “Gee, I’m going to miss those other guys!”

Increasingly, as I get older and think about how different my family’s life would be if both Mom and Dad hadn’t contrived to pop off quickly after relatively short illnesses and minimal hospitalization, I see the same consideration in planning for my loved ones. I don’t want to waste my son’s inheritance to pay for the last and worst years of my life; indeed, I think it would be unconscionable to do so. However, that needs to be my choice, not the Death Panel’s.

Here is Mrs Q’s Comment Of The Day on the post,  “Observations On Britain’s Charlie Gard Ethics Fiasco”:

When medical care is socialized, nihilism & scientism combine to control those who can be useful to the state & those who need to be eliminated from it.

Dutch lawmakers are looking at a Completed Life Bill that would allow those 75+ in age to choose medical euthanasia. The lawmaker pushing the bill, Alexander Pechtold, said it would allow the Netherlands to…

“take the next step for our civilization.”

And what step is that exactly?

The Gard case highlights the dark workings of Marxism for what it is by defining life in terms of how much of a burden it supposedly is to others. That the “greater good” is better served when certain people s lives are considered “complete.”

Baby Gard, as Jack noted, cannot continue to be a financial burden in the context of socialized medicine because in such a paradigm, there are not enough resources to support all of those represented by it. Remember socialism ALWAYS promises more than it can ever deliver and always spends more than it has.

I love it when people tell me how great the health care in France is, while many there complain the immigrants are a drain on the system because they have not put their money into it for years. Or Canada, where our friends cannot afford private insurance and go without certain medications & treatments because they’re not covered by state. Or Europe, where rates of Downs Syndrome are jarringly low because doctors have advocated so severely for abortion of these unborn, that in some countries it has literally been years since such a child has been born. Continue reading

Indiana’s Unconstitutional, Unethical, Thoughtful, Subversive Abortion Law

If you want to kill this no matter what, it's legal and ethical. If you just don't like its skin color or gender and want to kill it because of that, you're a monster....

If you want to kill this no matter what, it’s legal and ethical. If you just don’t like its skin color or gender and want to kill it because of that, you’re a monster….

Feminists, pro-abortion enthusiasts (They like it! They really like it!), the biased, brainless news media and kneejerk progressives who haven’t given abortion and its many ethical problems one-thousandth of the careful, objective thought it deserves are just dismissing the new Indiana law restricting abortion as one more “war on women” maneuver and yet another mindless attack on abortion rights. It is an attack on abortion rights, but hardly a mindless one, and Indiana deserves respect and some ethics points for aiming a law right at the fault line of dishonest pro–abortion logic.

Maybe the law will provoke some quality discussion before it goes down in flames, and maybe some abortion supporters will slap their heads and realize that the rhetorical and rational behind abortion is at its core intellectually dishonest. If so, it will have done some quantifiable good.

Maybe the law will be the tipping point that finally makes a significant number of ethical people who have blindly accepted the tortured logic behind the nation’s casual acceptance of millions upon millions of aborted human lives open their minds.

Maybe if I flap my arms really hard, can fly to the moon. Continue reading

The Unlikely Ethics Dunce, And Why Nobody Pays Attention To Ethicists And I Don’t Blame Them

Wait, how can the nation's most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It's not easy...

Wait, how can the nation’s most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It’s not easy…

Ethicists have managed to make ethics nearly invisible in our cultural debates, and nearly useless as a decision-making tool, when it ought to be the most useful tool of all. They accomplished this over centuries of work, making the discipline of ethics abstruse, elitist, abstract, and worse of all, boring. Nobody should be bored with ethics, hence my statement, “Ethics isn’t boring, ethicists are.” Once ethics was pigeon-holed in the realm of philosophy, however (it belongs with “crucial life skills” and “critical thinking”) and philosophy became associated with scholarship, advanced degrees and academia, the jig was up.

The problem is that academic ethicists teach and write about abstract ethics, and life is not abstract. Their quest is for one formula to determine right from wrong, and life and human beings are more complicated than any one formula can encompass. When I started this blog, I got a lot of grad students writing me who demanded to know whether I was a Utilitarian,  Kantian Deontologist, a follower of Natural Law Ethics,  a Virtue Ethicist or a devotee of Stakeholder theory. My answer was “all of the above and none of them.” All of these and more are useful tools of analysis, but none work all the time, and the amount of words loaded into jargon to explain and debate the nuances of any of them render them all useless except for  writing scholarly papers.

The ethics that the public learns, as a result, are what pop culture and society teach them, and most of that isn’t ethics at all. For example, in the cable series “The Affair,” a well-educated older man was advising a young woman, the mistress in the affair, about how to think about the illicit relationship that broke up he lover’s marriage. Wise and thoughtful, he described his own adulterous affair, and then said, “What you did wasn’t wrong. You didn’t kill anybody. You didn’t break any laws.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  There is no ethics in that statement. Itis just employs two popular and facile rationalizations (#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” and #22, the worst of all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”) with another lurking but unspoken one, the Cheater’s Special, #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants,’ underlying the whole scene.

That’s ethics, I would guess, to about 90% of the population. Scary. This is, however, where ethicists have taken us. They could be so important to the culture, if they would get their heads out of their asinine models and explain ethical principles that are relevant to real lives in a manner that doesn’t make normal people become hostile to the subject.

This brings us to Peter Singer, Princeton’s acclaimed professor of bioethics who has been called the most influential ethicist alive. It is admittedly faint praise, but probably correct. Continue reading

KABOOM!* Kitten-Shooting By The Police…In Front of Children

kittens

(Normally a story like this would make my head explode, but my head is apparently too disgusted to blow.)

This incident sounds like a sick joke in “Policy Academy 6” that ended up on the cutting room floor, but unfortunately, it really happened.

Dispatched to a home to deal with a feral mother cat and her five adorable kittens discovered in the yard, Bob Accorti, the Humane Officer for the North Ridgeville Police Department, told the homeowner that the animal shelters were full but that he would make sure that the cats went to “kitty heaven.” He then too out his revolver and shot the five kittens, estimated to be between 8 and 10 weeks old. The homeowner’s children, aged  5 months to 7 years, watched in horror from inside the house.

The mother cat escaped during the slaughter.

After a complaint of animal cruelty was raised by the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, NRPD Chief Mike Freeman responded that no discipline was necessary or appropriate, as he reasoned that “animal organizations accept shooting as an acceptable means of euthanasia.”

The chief did concede that Accorti could have communicated better with the homeowner about how the kittens would be killed.

Ya think???

Be thankful for small mercies: Accorti was the Humane Officer. I assume one of the non-Humane officers would have stomped the kittens to death.

Let’s see…

Was shooting the kittens necessary?

Continue reading

“Walking Dead” Ethics: Hypocrisy, Substance Abuse And Survival

"The Walking Dead"...as always, providing abundant ethical dilemmas to chew on...

“The Walking Dead”…as always, providing abundant ethical dilemmas to chew on…

If you can stand the periodic spectacle of shambling, rotting flesh and heads being lopped off or split down the middle, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” still provides the most daring and interesting ethics storylines available on television.

The latest episode, titled “Indifference,” raised two gutsy issues that are unpopular in today’s culture to the point of taboo. It was revealed that Carol, previously the simpering and tragic mother of the now dead, zombified and executed little girl Sophia, has morphed into a stone-cold pragmatic survivalist who advocates killing on instinct when the threat is sufficiently severe. In addition to teaching methods of mayhem to the children entrusted to her instruction in the grim, abandoned penitentiary where our heroes have fortified themselves against the roaming zombie hoards, Carol summarily executed two members of the community who were fatally ill with a pernicious virus on the grounds that they threatened the safety of the rest. For this, Rick, the sheriff-turned farmer alleged leader of the non-zombies, orders her out of the prison.

Strange. In a world without doctors, medicine and hospitals, where the objective is simply to survive long enough for some remote miracle to rescue humanity, a runaway virus is as much of a threat as a maniac with a hatchet. Rick and the rest have long ago accepted the necessity of killing members of their group who are bitten by zombies, since they are certain to “turn”after death and start indiscriminately eating people. True, the preferred method is to withhold execution until the second after the living become undead after becoming unliving, but this is a distinction without a difference. Carol is quite right that a breathing, doomed, virus-carrier is as much of a threat to the group—perhaps more—as a newly-minted brain-muncher. Why is her strong action in defense of the group, a defensible utilitarian act, reason for exile? Continue reading

Dog Owner Ethics: The Suicide and the Pitcher

Does one of these nice creatures not belong in this picture? Ontario says yes. The correct answer is  no.

Does one of these nice creatures not belong in this picture? Ontario says yes. The correct answer is no.

Our life-changing events often become crises for our canine companions. In the news today: ethical  and unethical responses in such circumstances, by two individuals in the public eye.

The Unethical

Mindy McReady, the troubled country music star, committed suicide Sunday on the front porch of the home she shared with her boyfriend, who had recently committed suicide there as well. She apparently killed the couple’s dog before taking her own life. McReady’s friends insist that she didn’t kill the dog out of malice, but because she didn’t want to leave the dog alone. Granted, McReady deserves consideration and compassion, since her actions that day were not those dictated by a healthy or fully functioning mind. Still, I read of dog owners doing this a lot, and I’ve known a few—not committing suicide, but killing their dogs when they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep them any more, on the theory that the dog would be happier dead than with new owners. Continue reading