The so-called 'last right.' The inevitable and natural follow up to abortion. Euthanasia follows abortion as certainly as night follows day. When people speak of the philosophical aspects of euthanasia, they will inevitably return again and again to the central focus of the issue.
Before any intelligent discussion on euthanasia may proceed, the critical differences between direct euthanasia, passive euthanasia, and natural death must be precisely defined. Note that the pro-euthanasia lobby has made much of its gains by deliberately confusing people by blurring the lines between direct and passive euthanasia and a natural death. It is essential for anti-euthanasia activists to know these terms intimately, or they will be confused and ineffective in their efforts. Direct euthanasia is action taken for the purpose of hastening death.
These measures may include lethal injection by a physician, or any one of a number of more clumsy methods undertaken by amateurs such as poisoning and suffocation. Passive euthanasia is action withheld for the purpose of hastening death. These measures would include the withholding or withdrawal of non-heroic measures, to include food, hydration, and oxygenation. One exception is noted below. Natural death means to allow a person to die in comfort and peace by withholding aggressive treatment that would only cause pain and lengthen the person's lifespan by a very modest or insignificant amount. Note that, if the same treatment were withheld from a person whose lifespan would be greatly lengthened by it, such action would instead be passive euthanasia.
"When I visited the starving people in Ethiopia, I could hardly have imagined that providing them with food and water, even though artificially brought in from the Western world at tremendous expense, would be considered 'medical treatment.'"
Cardinal John J. O'Connor
It is a curious fact that most pro-euthanasia activists are opposed to capital punishment, primarily because mistakes can be made when administering the death penalty. In other words, once a person has been executed, not even the most conclusive proof of his innocence can bring him back to life. Precisely the same reasoning may be used to oppose euthanasia. There are literally scores of medical cases on record where people have been judged to be "irreversibly comatose," and then have awakened to lead perfectly normal lives. In fact, it is safe to say that there are many more people who have awakened from 'irreversible' comas than there are innocent people who have been executed. The "Right to Die" is not a right - it is the taking away of all possible rights.
A few cases where euthanasia was considered but rendered moot when the patient in question recovered are outlined below.
Teisa Franklin. This little 21-month old girl ingested a huge quantity of anti-depressant drugs on February 4, 1988, and lapsed into a deep coma. After a rather cursory examination, doctors at the Mercy Hospital pronounced her clinically brain dead and stated that she would be a good candidate for organ donation. However, only 18 hours after slipping into the coma, she began to recover, and, on February 11, only one week after the near-fatal incident, she was released from the hospital. Erin Shanahan, Mercy Hospital's perplexed head pediatric nurse, said that "We never would have guessed it would turn out like this."
Leslie Bond. "Girl Eyed as Potential Organ Donor Now Doing Fine." National Right to Life News, March 24, 1988, page 11.
This is precisely why the euthanasia of comatose persons is such a dangerous practice.
Scott and Jeff Mueller. These twin boys were born in 1981 sharing a leg and large intestine. They were fully developed from the waist up. The attending 'physician,' Petra Warren, decided that they were not worthy of life and attached a "DO NOT FEED" sign to their bassinet. Several nurses disobeyed this order, and fed the babies sugar water, which saved their lives.
Front Line Updates. "Siamese Twin Scott Mueller Dies." National Right to Life News, May 2, 1985, page 4.
They were successfully separated at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital the following year. Scott died of heart problems in 1984, but Jeff is thriving and lives a normal lifestyle. Predictably, the 'parents' and the 'doctor' were let off scott-free.
Jacqueline Cole. Mrs. Cole awoke on May 15, 1986, 47 days after lapsing into a deep coma induced by a stroke. Her husband, a Presbyterian 'minister,' had gone to court on May 9 - just six days before - to have her disconnected from her life support systems. Fortunately for her, Baltimore Circuit Judge John Brynes refused his request. This 'minister' said that he had "no regrets" at trying to allow his wife to die.
Leslie Bond. "Starvation Order Hastily Rescinded As Carrie Coons Awakens From So-Called "Irreversible" PVS." National Right to Life News, April 27, 1989
Michelle Odette. Marie Odette Henderson was 26 weeks pregnant when she was declared brain-dead on June 7, 1986, after suffering a stroke three days earlier. Despite the fact that she was carrying a viable baby, Miss Henderson's parents decided to allow her and her baby to die by disconnecting her from her life support systems. Henderson's fiance, Derrick Poole, decided to fight for his baby's life and obtained a court order barring Marie's disconnection until after the baby was delivered. Dr. Donald Dyson delivered a healthy baby girl at 33 weeks gestation. Michelle Odette's weight was 4 pounds, 5 ounces. Marie Henderson was then disconnected from her life support systems and died three hours later. However, she lives on in her child.
Carrie Coons. Carrie A. Coons, 86, of Rensselear, New York, was declared to be in an "absolutely irreversible vegetative state" by her doctors after she suffered a stroke and cerebral hemorrhage in November of 1988. For nearly five months, she neither spoke nor showed any signs of alertness. Her 88-year old sister and various doctors and lawyers petitioned the state Supreme Court to allow the removal of her feeding tube. Her doctor, Michael Wolff, a nationally recognised expert in geriatric medicine, declared that she was in a "hopeless" state with "absolutely no chance of recovery." Coons was the first New York citizen whose petition to die was granted by the State Supreme Court. However, just two days after the Court granted the petition, she woke up and began to eat and speak. Judge Joseph Harris wadded up the right-to-die writ when he heard that she had recovered. Neurologist Ronald Cranford of Minneapolis, a White House commission advisor on right-to-die issues, stated that "It's a dramatic case. It shows you that you're basically never dealing with certainties here." Once again, this is why both direct and passive euthanasia should be banned.
Harold Cybulski. The doctors were all ready. 79-year old grandfather Harold Cybulski of Barry's Bay, Ontario, had been pronounced "brain dead and comatose," and the experts who pronounced him so stood by to disconnect his life support systems just as soon as his family said their last goodbyes. When his two-year old grandson ran into the room and yelled "Grandpa!," Cybulski woke up, sat up, and picked up the little boy! Six months later, he was leading a completely normal life, to include driving the new car he had been looking forward to buying before he became comatose. Cybulski's doctors could find "no explanation" for his instant recovery.
Cybulski's case is described in "A Little Child Shall Lead Us." Presbyterians Pro-Life NEWS, Summer 1990, page 4
Barbie Blodgett and Her Baby. On June 30, 1988, near Yakima, Washington, the car that 24-year old Barbie Blodgett was riding in was struck by a drunk driver. Three months pregnant at the time, she slipped into a persistent coma, and experts believed that she would never regain consciousness, because her cerebrum, the large part of the brain which controls consciousness and voluntary functions, was simply not working at all. She was unable to speak or eat and was fed through a stomach tube.
John Wolcott. "The Barbie Blodgett Story." Living World (publication of International Life Services, Inc.). Vol. 5, No. 2, pages 8 to 10. Also see David H. Andrusko. "Comatose Pregnant Woman Gives Birth, Then Comes Out of Coma." National Right to Life News, February 16, 1989, pages 1 and 10
Other experts predicted grimly that the baby she was carrying would die and/or would worsen her condition to the point of death. However, her pro-life family maintained hope and continued to pray. And on December 9, 1988, 8-pound Simon Alan Blodgett was born perfectly healthy. Dr. Thomas Benedetti, Director of Perinatal Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, stated that this was the fourth instance known of a comatose woman giving birth. The day after the baby was born, Barbara Blodgett recognised her son, Simon, and began to regain consciousness. A month later, she could communicate and feed her newborn. A year later, she was still partially paralyzed and had to communicate via a computer keyboard. But she said that she "hoped to walk and talk before Simon does," and seemed ready to achieve the goals she had set for herself.
Conclusions. In every one of the cases described above, and in dozens of others that go unreported every year , people were condemned to death by health professionals who were all "absolutely certain" that they would never recover. And, in a large percentage of these cases, the patient did recover, either partially or completely. In light of this dismal prediction record, it is perfectly obvious that, when dealing with PVS patients, there is no such thing as a "sure thing." It is also quite obvious that the primary motivations of the so-called 'health' professionals are the conservation of medical resources and cost containment, not the conservation or betterment of human life.
Regardless of whether or not we like it, our primary function as adults in this society is to set the example for younger and less experienced persons, even if we have no children ourselves. After all, what we teach the young will largely determine how they run the world after they inherit it, and this, in turn, will determine what kind of world our grandchildren will inherit. What we teach the young will also determine how they treat us when we are elderly and infirm.
The teenage suicide rate in this country is a tragic situation which seems to have no end in stopping. Experts in the demographics of suicide (suicidologists) already call this situation 'epidemic.' What kind of an example does Curt Cobain or other famous people who commit suicide give to teenagers when they kill themselves? How about the young girl whose pet dies? Or who becomes pregnant too soon? Or the boy who doesn't make the local hurling team? Teenagers don't respond to a double standard. They don't accept the adage "Do as I say, not as I do." If euthanasia becomes legal and accepted by society, we must expect our 'epidemic' of teen suicide to become a 'pandemic,' with hundreds of additional cases per year. How will we react to a pandemic of teen suicide without appearing (and being) grossly hypocritical?
Entropy is the measure of the degree of disorder of systems. And all systems - from the smallest to the largest, and from the simplest to the most complex - tend to accumulate entropy, unless positive steps are taken to prevent this process. This immutable principle applies equally to living and nonliving systems.
Every type of system requires effort in order to maintain it in an ordered state. Every type of system, if it is neglected, will begin to decay and disintegrate. A lawn will sprout weeds unless the gardener remains vigilant. Eventually, if it is not cared for, the lawn will return to its original riotous, biologically diverse, and disordered state. A truck will rust, detune, and accumulate beer cans unless the driver has pride of ownership. Eventually, if it is not maintained, it will fall apart and will be hauled to a junkyard. We read lately about our country's deteriorating infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, and water and sewer systems are falling apart because not enough maintenance money is allocated to them. The fight against disorder is being lost. Our bodies, as they age, accumulate aches and pains as organs wear out and begin to malfunction. We must feed our bodies the proper foods, exercise, and refrain from destructive activities like the use of tobacco products, illegal drugs, and excessive alcohol. Eventually, if our bodies are not maintained, they will sicken and die far too soon. Our consciences require constant exercise and discipline.
If we do not maintain constant vigilance over our attitudes and beliefs, we will become self-centered. We will live only for self-gratification. Eventually, our consciences will sicken and die. A society requires unselfish, hard-working, imaginative individuals for its survival. When its individual members become obsessed with themselves and their own selfish pleasures, a society will sicken and eventually be absorbed by other cultures. This principle holds true even for animal-based clans and troops. The principle of increasing entropy applies even to the largest system of all - the universe. As long as prodigious quantities of energy in all its forms is being exchanged, the universe will live on. However, tens of billions of years from now, the universe will 'wind down' and will experience its 'heat death,' when everything is the same temperature and entropy (disorder) is at a maximum.
Entropy, while a fact of life everywhere, is considered 'bad' in virtually all cases. When highly organised systems (i.e., cars, computers, bodies, minds and societies) increase their degree of entropy drastically, they will rust, break down, or die. The anti-life mentality is essentially entropic. It favours abortion and euthanasia. This strange mindset strives to destroy the natural and efficient function of the human reproductive system, and ultimately, considers man to be just another animal. Curiously, while it considers humanity just another species of animal, it fails to recognise that non-instinct driven euthanasia is unknown in the animal world.
It is a universal axiom that anything manmade that is 'good' is difficult to initiate, maintain, or expand, while it is difficult to prevent what is 'bad' from spontaneously initiating, continuing, or expanding. In other words, 'bad' manmade or man-influenced things grow by themselves; 'good' things must be continuously nurtured. As stated above, a 'good' lawn requires continuous maintenance or it will sprout 'bad' weeds all over the place; a 'good' truck requires constant attention or it will become rusted and detuned; a 'good' teenager must be nurtured or he will acquire 'bad' habits like drug or alcohol use. Lawns do not police themselves, and trucks do not tune and maintain themselves. By commutative reasoning, we may infer that whatever is man-influenced and grows by itself is 'bad.' This is particularly true of social issues. Abortion is a good example of this reasoning. In a period of just five years, it expanded relentlessly, almost effortlessly, from a few exceptions in a few states to a universal 'right' available through all nine months of pregnancy all over the country. By contrast, a 'good' social expansion is the civil rights movement, which required decades of struggle on many fronts, the martyrdom of dozens, and is still not complete. Another 'good' example of civil rights activism is our own pro-life (anti-abortion) movement, which must struggle relentlessly against the full weight of the media and the government. Every small advance must be vigilantly guarded, or it will be reabsorbed quickly and effortlessly.
One good way of telling whether something is "good" or "bad" is by measuring the amount of confusion it causes (confusion being defined in this case as hindrance(s) to communication and/or understanding). If something is incomprehensible to the common man, it is usually something that is not in his best interests. If a social proposal is confusing and undecipherable, it is usually something that liberals are trying to "slip by" us. As always, anyone who sees the euthanasia issue in "black and white" terms is condemned as "simplistic" by the Hemlock Society and other organisations. It is in the best interests of these groups to make the issue appear to be as complicated and as vague as possible, because then the vast majority of the public will feel timid and unqualified to comment or even hold an opinion on it. This is the mighty weapon of "mystagoguery" that worked so well for the pro-abortionists, particularly regarding the issue of "when life begins." Now the Neoliberals are trying to confuse us as to when human life ends.
Pro-euthanasia lobbyists are notoriously shortsighted and unimaginative. They believe that everyone should be able to do away with themselves, and they also believe that society has no interest in such self-destructive acts. This is unmitigated rubbish. Every person who enters our society develops, throughout his life, a web of relationships so complex that it can never be completely summarised or traced. Every person significantly affects hundreds of other members of this society every year, often without realising it. A society-system is roughly analogous to a human body. Its major cities represent organs; the motorways are the arteries, and local roads are the capillaries, carrying nutrients to every cell.
We, as individuals, might represent blood cells conveying nutrients to every other cell and organ in the body. In this setting, euthanasia could be considered a type of leukemia, where individual blood cells start destroying themselves randomly and at an ever-increasing rate. No human body can live with an acute case of leukaemia, and no society can endure if its people destroy themselves at a high enough rate. All of a healthy body's cells work together to promote the common good of the body. Similarly, individual persons work together to advance the common good of society. Each of us plays a vital part in this many-faceted corpus. Just as our bodies could not survive if individual cells took it upon themselves to randomly 'self-destruct,' our society cannot tolerate the accelerated destruction of individuals without serious damage.
What deeper expression of despair is there than to kill oneself? Everyone has, at one time or another, experienced despair so deep that they may have even thought of how easy it would be to just 'let go' and die. This kind of depression is no joke, and it does no good to simply tell the person to just "Snap out of it!" This kind of despair can easily lead to one of the more than 400+ suicides Ireland suffers annually. Perhaps the greatest sorrow of all is to see a person totally without hope. This is because, as long as there is a means to thwart one's troubles, hope remains. When a person has lost all hope, he has lost all faith that he has any control over his situation. Our society's emphasis on "choice" and "control" has aggravated this problem terribly.
We are told that we cannot have control if we cannot have an infinite universe of choices or avenues of action. Therefore, we have become conditioned to think that, if we lose options, we have lost control of our lives. And, if we lose control of our lives, those lives are not worth living. We come to think of ourselves as less than human if we cannot have total control all of the time. This is nonsense. As long as we are living, we can seek to improve our situation. We can actually generate choices ourselves if we have been trained to possess initiative and imagination. To kill oneself, of course, is to really lose control of the situation. Once again, dead people don't make choices.