Saturday, 21 March 2009

Life or Death?

This building may look remarkably like a great cathedral, but there is no God inside, just a High Court Judge.

Today, a couple known only as Mr and Mrs T, are planning to spend their final hours enjoying the company of their baby son. Last night they lost a final legal bid to overturn the ruling of the High Court giving Doctors the power to cease the medical intervention which is keeping him alive.

The parents who are, not surprisingly, ‘deeply distressed’ by this ruling, will have the sympathy of everyone today.

“We are and always will be convinced that despite his desperate problems his life is worthwhile and is worth preserving as long as it is possible to do so without causing him undue pain,” their statement said.

“That was the real argument between us and the doctors — they think his life is intolerable and that his disability is such that his life has little purpose.

John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University has argued “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” Often people don’t realise how late abortion is carried out in the UK. Over the last four years, there have been repeated calls to restrict the abortion limit, on the grounds that aborting babies at six months (24 weeks) is appalling as babies can survive if born at that stage. But how many people are aware that the 1967 Abortion Act also permits babies to be aborted right up to the moment of birth if the baby has a ’serious’ disability?

The saying ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ springs to mind.

The ‘Right to life’ argument is intrinsically bound up with the ‘right to death’ argument, a subject which will receive another, long overdue, airing on Monday as a result of Patricia Hewitt’s amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill.

There will be many who will argue that we have a ‘duty to live’ - and that neither assisted suicide nor euthanasia should be available for those who are not capable either by reduced mental capacity or physical impairment to chose when they die, as permissible under the Suicide Act.

There will be others who will assert that the ‘right to death’ will lead inexorably to a ‘duty to die’ - as exercised by the notorious laws passed in Germany, and expanded upon by the Nazi government, which saw many hundreds of thousands of mentally incapacitated people exterminated.

So it is a timely point to reflect on the fact that The Mental Capacity Act 2005 contains provisions which allow the Court of Protection to decide on the ‘right to life’ for any of us, not just the ‘hard’ cases which we see emotively reported in the mainstream media, whether we should continue to receive the medical treatment which is keeping us alive.

This is not just an issue of free choice in the matter of your own suicide, but a reminder that it is now the law which can exercised your supposed ‘autonomy’ in these matters.

You do not have the right to demand medical treatment - which includes food and water if supplied under medical supervision - you only have the right to refuse it. If you are not considered to have the mental capacity, either because you are a child, or because you have impaired or non existent capacity, then the court can, and will, exercise that choice on your behalf. It is for that same court to decide whether you are able to make a competent choice. Not you.

It is equally a reminder that you, as parents, can only make those choices on your child’s behalf that a court considers to be in the child’s ‘best interests’. You are but guardians, under the control of the judiciary.

We have truly sleepwalked towards allowing the legislature to contain and curtail our lives in ways in which we scarcely understand.

27 comments:

Goodnight Vienna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goodnight Vienna said...

“We are and always will be convinced that despite his desperate problems his life is worthwhile and is worth preserving as long as it is possible to do so without causing him undue pain,” their statement said." Sounds like Solicitor-speak.

This child couldn't survive outside the womb even with massive medical intervention.

It's heart-rending for the mum & dad but, that's what life is. Some make it; some don’t.

The technological advances since Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ no longer apply. It’s left to governments and judiciary to lay down the law of nature.

wv: uncure

Oldrightie said...

A moral maze indeed. However will the time come when your life depends on your vote?

Anna Raccoon said...

Oldrightie has it sussed. Indeed, the act gives 'appointed officers of the court' - civil servants in fact - the right to make executive decisions.
Right now we are seeing the most dramatic cases debated in full view - but when it all slides in to 'its been that way for years', how will the civil servants decide on the fate of the run of the mill cases out of public view?
Now it is expensive treatments that most people can see the futility of - but when it is fairly routine heart drugs - and the country is strapped for cash - and you don't see the decision being made in the glare of publicity?
Your vote, your religion, your ethnic group, the NHS budget - who knows which of those factors will come into play in the decision making process?

Old Holborn said...

Old Rightie got it in one

You wouldn't believe the lengths our masters would go to keep a sickle cell child alive....

You wouldn't believe the lengths the BBC will go to, to keep a few African orphans from dying of Aids

Dr Mengele would be proud. A Vaterland running medicine in perfect alignment with the Fuehrer.

Old Holborn said...

PS.

My second child was born at 28 weeks, weighing a hefty 1.2 KG. Just slightly more than a bag of sugar. 3 months premature, a third of a normal birth weight.

The Doktors (yes, it was in Germany) simply tutted and demanded to know what should be done with the corpse "when" the child dies.

One of them still limps to this day.

My now 13 year old daughter has just decided she would like to learn drums as well as classical piano.

Anonymous said...

I don`t get this country... we dont do euthanasia & people that have taken that option leave a risk that their partners will face prosecution. Then on this side we have it legalised via the doctors & judge...

I would like to have the option of euthanasia... It`s upto me how i choose to live or not as the case maybe.

End of the day being a parent is hard already. Having a child with needs even more so _BUT_ they were willing to take on that responsibility. Kudos to them.

/Sry fer rambling

Goodnight Vienna said...

I still say that in this country it's down to the Government and Judiciary. We have no say.

Jess The Dog said...

What about those with the funds to seek private healthcare? Would the state get involved then, or only when it's taxpayer's money (sorry, the state's money)??

Goodnight Vienna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FireForce said...

I only support abortion up to about 16 years old, but mind you with some of the feral scum round here I would gladly go older.

Old Holborn said...

I thank Anna for (yet again) a stunning post.

THINK

When the state can decide who lives and who dies. AT BIRTH.

Why waste money on gas chambers?

Tory Poppins said...

An excellent post O.H and a topic that is close to many people's hearts. Unfortunately, as 'citizens' of this country under this regime, we're left with very little autonomy. Sad times indeed.

Anonymous said...

One might argue that "sentience" begins at your first memory. I think the earliest I can remember was when I was about 2-3 years old.

black hole sunset said...

A wedge, thin end thereof.

I won't spoil the shock of this other than to say it provoked, in me at least, a serious case of teeth-grinding and a barely suppressable urge to gouge and maim the source of the affrontary.

Wonder if she'd extend the same compassion to groups or individuals that I consider an irretrievable drain on society? (if cost really is the bottom line in all this).

aproposofwhat said...

black hole sunset - read the article again, slowly and carefully.

She is not advocating a cull of the demented - she is promoting the right of the individual to choose to die, and the right of the individual to nominate someone else to make the ultimate decision in case they are unable to make that decision themselves.

I've been through an almost identical situation recently with my wife - we had discussed the scenario at length, and we both came to the same conclusion.

Agreeing to the withdrawal of treatment isn't an easy decision to make, but knowing that someone who loves you will make that decision for you is a great comfort.

All my nearest and dearest know my views, and I hope that if the time comes, they will honour my wishes.

It's a pity that it has been reported so sloppily, and that you and so many others (well, some of them are MPs, so we need to make allowances for the poor hoons) have got the wrong end of the stick on this matter.

I've posted more over at Anna's blog - you will see that I have a complicated but instructive life that informs my moral perspective.

Anguished Soul said...

Interesting post on the Cranmer site about the Germans legalizing pedophilia. Good comments about the islamasization of Europe.

AngryDave said...

The decision to die should only be made by the person who is to die, or those closest to them if they are unable.
The fact that the state can now make this decision for us is frightening. This should be kept in the media spotlight as much as possible so that it does not ecome 'routine' to kill people who's treatment is too expensive. There is also the governments fixation of political correctness to consider, as mentioned in one comment above. Will muslims for example, be given treatment a christian or atheist would not? Especialy in the current climate of islamic apeasment. This is just an example, but if this process is not done publicly, who will be whitheld tratment? Probably smokers, drinkers, meat eaters, men, the overwieght, the poor, or perhaps the tax payer as we seam to mean so little compared to the criminal classes.

Savonarola said...

We have allowed The State to assume the role, legal and general, of mother and father.

The creeping intrusion of The State into every aspect of our live seems not to bother 98% of the population. Such indifference is the midwife of facism. We are getting closer to this point as this decision confirms.

Shame on us..

Anonymous said...

If the parents were happy to pay for all ongoing care necessary for their child then fine. Doubt an insurance company would be keen on paying for indefinite care in private sector.
Who would want urgent lifesaving treatment for their child blocked by an unfortunate baby with a rare incurable metabolic disorder who was ventilator dependent. The issue is one of rationing in a state funded NHS.

Guthrum said...

Having lost a child at 9 months, I now firmly believe that the only thing that can determine whether a child lives or dies is nature, but as a parent at the time I was living hope against hope- so understand the parents state of mind completely.

My Eldest son was born very prematurely, weighing like OH's daughter the same a a bag of sugar. He is now a strapping 24 year old.

The medical team did not need a flock of lawyers and judges to tell them what to do, they assesed the risks, kept us informed,and it was our joint decisions that pulled the situation round. If the lawyers and the State had got involved, and a cost benefit analysis done- he would not be living now.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Yet another Muslim with links to the Government has escaped justice.

http://wrinkledweasel.blogspot.com/2009/03/islam-conspiracy.html

shibby said...

The question is,

What can we do about it?

I want to know.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very emotive subject & my heart goes out to the parents involved. I don't know the right answer but I would suggest the decision may have been made on the back of that case a few years ago where a so-called Christian couple went to court about their little daughter for the same reasons. They won - within a very short period of time they'd had another kiddie, their marriage had broken up & presumably the first kiddie was abandoned to the care of the State.

black hole sunset said...

aproposofwhat said...

"read the article again, slowly and carefully."

I have read the article but we've obviously come to quite different conclusions as to what might actually come to pass as a result of the arguments presented therein.

"She is not advocating a cull of the demented - she is promoting the right of the individual ..."

That would be a "right to die" and not a "A Duty to Die?".

"I've been through an almost identical situation recently with my wife - we had discussed the scenario at length, and we both came to the same conclusion. Agreeing to the withdrawal of treatment isn't an easy decision to make, but knowing that someone who loves you will make that decision for you is a great comfort.

Then the system allowed you to make your own decisions in a way that brought you the most comfort in a difficult situation.

"All my nearest and dearest know my views, and I hope that if the time comes, they will honour my wishes."

I wouldn't want to be maintained in a demented, vegetative or similar state either and nor would I want to be a burden on my family or the state - but opinions vary.

"It's a pity that it has been reported so sloppily, and that you and so many others (well, some of them are MPs, so we need to make allowances for the poor hoons) have got the wrong end of the stick on this matter. I've posted more over at Anna's blog - you will see that I have a complicated but instructive life that informs my moral perspective."

It can be argued that Baroness Warnock is championing the rights of the individual to make their own decision in such matters - that's cetainly the way she would like to be seen and certainly something that I'd wholeheartedly support - if I though that was the most likely or significant outcome of the views she has expressed and the way she has expressed them.

On the other hand, comments such as "A Duty to Die?" alongside "... wasting the resources of the National Health Service" and annual cost estimates speak to rather less noble motives - which is the more correct interpretation remains to be seen.

Regardless of how Baroness Warnock might want see her opinions shape the debate or subsequent legslation, I am of the opinion that while they might lead to greater individual choice, they will do so at the expense of empowering the State to act as it sees fit in a wide range of cases where the wishes of the individual are ambiguous or unknown and where the morality of the case in hand is similarly ambiguous.

Perhaps Labour will be out of power before we get a chance to see how they would actually codify "personal choice" into law but, going by their track record, it will surely not be an unalloyed endorsement of personal liberty - and if you think that Labour will pass up the opportunity to grant to itself wider powers over life and death on the back of a movement to, ostensibly, increase individual choice in such matters and that it will not be readily corrupted by the powers thus acquired, that's your folly, not mine.

aproposofwhat said...

black hole sunset:

I agree wholeheartedly that the Labour government is not fit to legislate on this or any other moral issue, or indeed any issue at all, come to think of it.

The title of the pamphlet was "A Duty to Die?" - note the question mark at the end. I don't think Warnock believes that there is such a thing as a 'duty to die' - and I think the title is needlessly provocative and open to misinterpretation.

On the "wasting people's lives – your family's lives – and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service." quote, we have to remember that at the root of a lot of Warnock's 'moral philosophy' lies a streak of utilitarianism as long as your arm, and that she is also unduly influenced by health economists.

I certainly don't want to see the State involved in decisions of this nature - and with the disgraceful bureaucratisation of the NHS over the last two decades (it's not just a Labour problem - it goes back to the mid-80s), I fear that economic imperatives have too great an influence on medical opinion.

So yes, I share your concerns - having spent a wonderful day today with my disabled stepson who was born at 28 weeks and was only kept alive at the insistence of my wife, I would hate to see health rationing becoming the norm.

black hole sunset said...

Yes, she isn't quoted as saying that people have a duty to die in such circumstances but it seems a moot point given the tone of her argument - it's so strongly implied as to render the actual choice of words secondary.

"... lies a streak of utilitarianism as long as your arm."

Now that I didn't know. Utilitarianism is a philosophical tradition that can only be adopted in combination with a natural or cultivated ignorance of the systems of government which usually arise from it.

Confusingly, I think it's an indication of good character that many people do choose to "do the right thing" by their next of kin and by others who might be denied medical care as a result of the costs incurred keeping them alive - but it must be voluntary. The State should provide the legal framework necessary for people to give or withhold their concent prior to an illness or event that renders them unable to do so at a later date - and no more.

Quite aside from the fact that there are other ways to save money and improve the quality/quantity of available healthcare without considering a cull of dementia patients - which is what I truly believe lies at the heart of the debate.

Bottom line, I'm concerned with what people are actually thinking and what they might actually do given the chance rather than what they would have us believe of themselves.

I'm not saying that Baroness Warnock is knowingly saying one thing while advocating another, people are rarely so honest with themselves as to recognise their own rationalisations for what they are, but neither am I prepared to take her arguments as face value.

More choice then, but not in the style of "choice" that has become a New Labour political motif.

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails