A Test of Civilization

Count me skeptical whether there is a ‘right’ to die, or a right to very much else for that matter, but a truly humane society would not force this helpless man to go to the courts for the relief he seeks:

LONDON (AP) – Former rugby player Tony Nicklinson had a high-flying job as a corporate manager in Dubai, where he went skydiving and bridge-climbing in his free time. Seven years ago, he suffered a paralyzing stroke. Today he can only move his head, cannot speak and needs constant care.

And he wants to die.

To try to ensure that whoever ends his life won’t be jailed, the 57-year-old Nicklinson recently asked Britain’s High Court to declare that any doctor who gives him a lethal injection with his consent won’t be charged with murder. This week, the court will hold its first hearing on the case


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4 Responses to A Test of Civilization

  1. RandyB says:

    I think we’re only few decades away from the day that suicide is the way most people die. We’ve all heard stats along the lines of 25% of Medicare is spent on the last six months of life. It isn’t too far in the future that most everyone will be a candidate to live to 120… in a Terry Shaivo state.

    The coming era of government cutbacks as Baby Boomers transition from their prime earning years to retirement will force discussion on these matters. Hopefully, it will be a sane discourse and not airheads like Sarah Palin screaming about death panels.

  2. TStockmann says:

    The aside on your skepticism on “rights” is even more noteworthy than your endorsement of Mr. Niklinson being allowed to end his life. “Self-evident,” however secular, is as bad as “Creator” in short-circuiting rational analysis. If it matters, I don’t think “humane” is the issue for “society” as much as the usual slippery slope arguments, a conviction by people at least as disabled as N. that they want to live, and underlying everything else an unexamined fetish for the phenomenological.

  3. Larry, San Francisco says:

    A friend of mine is dying of inoperable cancer. My last communication with him was a text that simply said “Misery”. They took the feeding tube out last week and he is only on a morphine drip. He is now in a coma with his family around him who are waiting for him to die. Just seeing him die like this is extremely painful. I wish they could give him a huge morphine overdose and just let him die.

  4. Chris says:

    “Learn toughness, not rights.”–Sambuu’s mom

    The politics of this are not as interesting as the sociology. I’ve been reading a little about disfigurement in WWI since Downton Abbey has been on, and I don’t wonder whether the early century emphasis on appreciation of poetry, music and other essentially mental pursuits didn’t mitigate against loss of hope.

    “It isn’t too far in the future that most everyone will be a candidate to live to 120… in a Terry Shaivo state.”

    This is some sort of hyperbole, as most people centenarians do not live lives anything like Terry Shiavo. They are usually relatively happy with their lives. Depressed people give up and die sooner. And Shiavo was brain-dead, not needy.

    “I wish they could give him a huge morphine overdose and just let him die.”

    In hospitals today, it is not uncommon for orders from doctors to be something along the lines of “morphine to keep patient comfortable, regardless of vital signs.” As long as there is a half-decent nurse, the amount of morphine and Ativan given to a patient at end of life will keep them from knowing what’s going on–keep their self-awareness inhibited substantially. It is easier for the family and friends not to have to deal with end of life issues, but the extension of discomfort to the patient by days or even a couple weeks is a small price to pay for the appearance of a natural course of death. It is this appearance that protects us against unwanted “mercy” killing.

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