Medical Tuesday Blog
Time to Terminate Assisted Dying
This story appears in the September 30, 2018 issue of Forbes. Subscribe
“With all thy getting, get understanding.”
IN 2002 Belgium legalized the murderously chilling act of euthanasia, whereby doctors and nurses kill patients with their supposed consent. Holland had formally done the same the year before. This practice, all too reminiscent of what Nazi Germany did before WWII to the mentally handicapped and to people with very serious disabilities, is justified these days not by Hitlerian theories of “purifying the race,” of course, but as a “humane” way to deal with those who are suffering mortal illnesses and in extreme pain.
Many thousands of patients have been disposed of since Holland and Belgium enacted these morally repugnant laws. Belgium now allows euthanasia to be applied even to children, acknowledging recently that between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017, two children, ages 9 and 11, who were afflicted with a brain tumor and cystic fibrosis, respectively, and a 17-year-old, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, had been put to death. Apologists say these kids gave their consent, as did their parents. Good God! Are we to believe that youngsters should be making such decisions?
Holland has been hit with scandals in which patients were administered lethal injections without their consent, in order to free up “needed” hospital beds. After all, the reasoning went, these people were going to die soon, anyway. In Belgium, according to a news report, a member of the Federal Commission for Euthanasia Control & Evaluation resigned last year “in protest at the unchecked killings of dementia patients.”
What’s happening here is an ugly, slippery slope. Instead of working to alleviate the tribulations of the afflicted and innovating ever better ways to do this, we simply “put them out of their misery,” the way we do with household pets.
It’s not only in Belgium and the Netherlands that we’re seeing this awful phenomenon. A chronically ill man in Canada is suing the government because medical personnel allegedly and illegally tried to coerce him into going the assisted-suicide route to save money. “Why force me to end my life?” the plaintiff asked.
It’s one thing for people to declare in writing when they are in good health and of sound mind that no “heroic” measures are to be taken, that medical staff should “let nature take its course.” But it’s quite another for medical personnel to actually kill patients, as is happening in Belgium, Holland and elsewhere.
Research shows that many euthanasia and assisted-suicide victims are suffering from depression. They should be treated, not abandoned. As for physical suffering, it’s hardly beyond the capabilities of modern medicine to effectively manage pain with older, well-established medications, as well as newer, better drugs.
It’s true that in the U.S. we have a serious opioid crisis. Nonetheless, the response shouldn’t be a diminution in pain management but, alternatively, a focus on reducing and eventually eliminating the abuses.
The temptation to use euthanasia as a solution will only increase as populations age and as cash-strapped governments and insurers scramble to find ways to reduce growing healthcare costs. It should be axiomatic that life is sacrosanct, whether or not you are religious.
In recent times we have seen enormous medical advances that not only prolong life but also improve the quality of life as we age. The answer to the rising costs of healthcare is the creation of genuine free markets, which always turn scarcity into abundance. There is precious little in the way of free markets in healthcare. Third parties, primarily governments and insurers–not the patients–still dominate. This is beginning to change in the U.S. Rapidly effecting this transformation should be our urgent goal, not surrendering to rationing or descending into the pit of euthanasia and “assisted dying.”
Morally and pragmatically, such practices have no place in a truly civilized and humane society.
Steve Forbes is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media. Steve’s new book: Reviving America: How Repealing Obamacare, Replacing the Tax Code and Reforming The Fed will Restore Hope and Prosperity co-authored by Elizabeth Ames (McGraw-Hill Professional) came out in December.
Steve writes editorials for each issue of Forbes under the heading of “Fact and Comment.” A widely respected economic prognosticator, he is the only writer to have won the highly prestigious Crystal Owl Award four times. The prize was formerly given by U.S. Steel Corporation to the financial journalist whose economic forecasts for the coming year proved most accurate.
In both 1996 and 2000, Steve campaigned vigorously for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Key to his platform were a flat tax, medical savings accounts, a new Social Security system for working Americans, parental choice of schools for their children, term limits and a strong national defense. Steve continues to energetically promote this agenda.
Editor’s Note: On an International Meeting in Europe, I sat next to a physician from Belgium. I asked if they were doing Assisted Suicide? He had recently experience having admitted an elderly lady on a Friday who decline admission for fear of being put to death. This physician assured her that he would watch over her. He was off on the weekend and on his return on Monday, he could not find his patient. When he asked the doctor covering, the doctor replied, “She was old, ill and they needed the bed.” He stated that this put a chill through him and he was not for it. He felt helpless in being unable to do anything about the issue which was increasingly prevalent throughout Europe.