Monday, December 3, 2007

Death in the Family by Daniel Bergner, a long piece in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine presents one of the best takes on the Netherland's euthanasia practices I have read in the the mainstream, movers-and-shakers media.

The article is an investigation of former Washington state governor Booth Gardner's campaign for an Oregon-mimicking assisted suicide law for his state. Bergner writes ...
Gardner wants a law that would permit lethal prescriptions for people whose suffering is unbearable, a standard that can seem no standard at all; a standard that prevails in the Netherlands, the Western nation that has been boldest about legalizing aid in dying; a standard that elevates subjective experience over objective appraisal and that could engage the government and the medical profession in the administration of widespread suicide. What is unbearable? What level of acute or chronic physical pain would qualify? What degree of disability? Would physicians be writing suicide prescriptions for the depressed?

What's interesting to me is Bergner's take on ...
  • The recognition that movement must deal in euphemisms -- death with dignity.
  • The thoughtful and straightforward take on the Dutch model which illustrates the people with disabilities might be the first targets.
  • The implication that much of the former governor's drive toward this law comes from a background of privilege and power.
  • I learned something new -- something I had been too ignorant to see in spite of much reading on the subject: the idea that society works to impose the suicide-ethic on women far more than men.
  • Another underlying element within the dynamic of those pushing for the law seems to be "control," but I find myself wondering why people like Gardner simply don't exercise free will. Why extend the idea into the public arena? Why have the law sanctify the idea?
  • I think the words of the hospice nurse --"Those who can’t afford health care and insurance could be pressured to have their lives ended. It could become the ultimate in discrimination." -- reveal one of the uglier aspects of these efforts: it is about class; and class is about money in the USA.

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