"Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously," Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. "It's one more constraint on doing genetic research."Ok, so plants are protected. Are humans? Less so, should the western-Swiss canton of Vaud adopt legislation to force state-funded hospitals and nursing homes to permit assisted suicides on premises:
Dr. Keller recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn't "disturb the vital functions or lifestyle" of the plants. He eventually got the green light.
All state-subsidised old people's homes in canton Vaud may be obliged to open their doors to the controversial practice of assisted suicide.To be clear, I'm not necessarily opposed to "voluntary suicide" if--as in the United States--enacted by legislation or referendum (rather than courts through a "right" to die). My concerns are more narrow:
The assisted suicide organisation Exit, which already helps terminally ill patients in a number of nursing homes, has launched a people's initiative to force a local debate on the issue - a Swiss first.
Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no direct interest in their death. Switzerland has five assisted suicide organisations, which help around 350 people each year. . .
Exit's initiative asks for nursing homes receiving state subsidies to allow elderly residents to receive assistance to suicide if they request it, in accordance with article 115 of the Swiss Penal Code and article 34 of Vaud's cantonal Penal Code.
"When a nursing home stops us, they are contravening the law," said [Jérôme] Sobel.
- Conflicts of interest: The Schiavo case was troubling precisely because the decisionmaker--the husband--had an inherent conflict of interest, both financial and romantic. Healthcare institutions may have a similar financial conflict, especially for indigent patients. The legislation bring make such institutions into the suicide process--and I'm worried that could leak into the decision.
- Freedom by compulsion: What if a institution or doctor objects to assisted suicide? Lawyer/blogger Wesley Smith wonders whether there's an exemption for, say, Catholic homes and hospitals. If not, whose freedom overrides whose choice and conscience? Why must one side's moral objection give way?
- Slippery slope: The Swiss already sanction suicide by mentally ill patients, the result of a Swiss Supreme Court decision involving a bi-polar man. That seems, well, crazy--and potentially much worse where the ill may be a captive audience for the suicide movement, turning final exit to forced exit.
Defenders of the law argue that it reflects a broader, progressive effort to protect the sanctity of living things. Last month, Switzerland granted new rights to all "social animals." Prospective dog owners must take a four-hour course on pet care before they can buy a canine companion, while anglers must learn to catch fish humanely. Fish can't be kept in aquariums that are transparent on all sides. The fish need some shelter. Nor can goldfish be flushed down a toilet to an inglorious end; they must first be anesthetized with special chemicals, and then killed.Perhaps, in Switzerland, it's better to be a pet than a patient.
(via Planet Gore, Secondhand Smoke)