Monday, October 13, 2008

See the Plants, Stay for the Suicide

As I detailed last spring, Switzerland granted constitutional rights to plants. Switzerland's apparently impervious to mere blogsphere fisking, because the rule's now in effect:
"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."

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.
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:
All state-subsidised old people's homes in canton Vaud may be obliged to open their doors to the controversial practice of assisted suicide.

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.
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: Conclusion: This is a grave and difficult issue, important to many. But not, it seems, the Swiss, whose laws are laughable:
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)


OBloodyHell said...

> 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

Sorry, Carl, can't agree with you on this connection. I agree, fully and utterly, on the sheer and abysmal assininity of "plant rights".

But the idea that ALLOWING people to commit suicide -- and even making it easier on them when they choose to do so, is somehow "wrong" -- is to impose your own ideals on others. Not quite as bad as totalitarianism, but certainly a degree of busybody that isn't called for by the libertarian or American ideal.

Making sure that someone is making a rational, considered decision is one thing -- assuming that such CANNOT be a rational decision -- especially for an already terminal patient -- is paternalistic in the extreme.

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

We have surrounded people with support mechanisms which are themselves unnatural and outside of the design of the universe, and, by holding our own choices over them, outside the directed design of God on a nominal level (i.e., everything is within the design of God, but, if we bear any responsibility for our choices, we must have Free Will, and therefore are able to do things which are not of his exact designing).

In other words, there are many people -- including quadraplegics, etc., who, in any more capable society, would be dead, period.

That we CAN keep them alive does not mean that we MUST keep them alive, should they not wish to be alive in this unnatural state.

Keeping someone alive by means only an advanced civilization such as ours can produce should always be left up to those who, in their own right minds, may choose to not continue, despite the option.

How many Twilight Zone type stories are there about someone who longs to live forever, and by some macguffin, thus lives, despite the fact that they've experienced something which would have killed them and, by virtue of the state it leaves them in, makes them not want to live at all?

"Life at all costs" is not life. It is Hell on Earth.

Kath said...

For whom is suicide the easier option? The family? The government cutting costs of maintaining the sick so someone else can take the bed? Society and individuals as a collective need to examine what they believe about life and death more honestly before we all jump on the let them die bandwagon.

OBloodyHell said...

> For whom is suicide the easier option?

I'm sorry, at what point did my family get to expressly tell me I must suffer in treemendous agony so that they can "feel better" about my not being gone yet?

At what point did their selfish need to cling become more important than my pain?

If they actually gave a damned about me, then they'd accept my desire to no longer fight or live with the pain.

There is, indeed, a danger in allowing society to choose for those who cannot choose for themselves -- but for the mentally competent?

Three words:
"Go F*** Yourself".

If there is ANY INDIVIDUAL RIGHT TO ANY CHOICE AT ALL, it's the one which involves living or dying. THAT one is between each of us and our Creator, and is no one else's business.

For the mentally incabable or incompetent, yes, the problem should be analyzed very carefully. But emotion-based arguments should not be allowed to win out on basis, either. And I'm sorry, I don't believe The Bible fully answers this one, either. Last time I checked, it had nothing to say about heart-lung machines and saline injections.

Frankly, getting trapped in a coma, with my mind possibly functional but my body unable to respond, and kept alive indefinitely by machines strikes me as one particular sort of hell which only the worst of humanity might deserve.

So, by all means -- once I've passed that point of "unlikely return" -- pull the plug. Let my spirit free, as the universe intended. Do not allow the fact that I *can* be kept alive mean that I *must* be kept alive.

Carl said...

I think OBH and Kath are talking past each other. Unlike, perhaps, Kath, I'm not opposing the option in all circumstances. But, unlike OBH, and like Kath, I see huge potential conflicts of interest that the Schiavo case touched upon. I'm addressing the narrow issue when the patient's wishes are not clearly expressed and the patient is unable to communicate.