The right to die

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A place for serious discussion on any non-religious topic

Re: The right to die

Postby Lyn » August 18th, 2012, 2:39 pm

Greg I am not at all unsympathetic, I've seen plenty of people with similar neurological conditions, and I don't know why he hasn't refused life prolonging medication. Maybe he doesn't realise he can? People tend to take whatever medication is given to them and if they have difficulty in swallowing, it is put in a drip so they often don't know what they have. There would be no need for him to die in a lot of discomfort with something like pneumonia, at that stage he could be given something to make him comfortable.

I have recently known someone with MND, at the very end of her life, who was in and out of hospital with urinary infections which were treated successfully so she could go home and carry on living. It was very cruel, imo. In the end her relatives said no more treatment and she was given medication which made her feel better, slipping in and out of sleep, and passed away peacefully within about three weeks.

The biggest problem is that patients are not informed and neither are their relatives, they tend to trust doctors. I wouldn't and I am sure you wouldn't either.
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Re: The right to die

Postby Val » August 18th, 2012, 4:13 pm

GregB wrote:The problem in this particular case, Vix, is that the conditions you describe don't really apply. Also, you said earlier that "someone in this state will be susceptible to pneumonia", but Tony has been in this state for seven years, now, so he's evidently resistant to pneumonia and clearly doesn't want to wait forever for some infection to carry him off. As for lying down, he may find that more uncomfortable and distressing for all we know. I cannot lie down fully flat on my back for long without getting a panic attack and other people, like Tony, may have the same phobia (awful if you can't prop yourself up or simply get out of bed.)

As for someone accepting the responsibility of actively ending a person's life, there are certainly people who are prepared to do so and, indeed, would regard it as an act of mercy to end the suffering of that person. I would hope that if I were ever in such ghastly circumstances as Tony, someone I knew would demonstrate their true love or friendship by putting me out of my misery* (without, of course, leaving evidence which would incriminate them.)

I think Tony's wife should make an appeal for a donation from an anonymous rich benefactor to provide the necessary funding for the trip to Zurich and the Dignitas clinic where his life could be ended peacefully.

[* It needn't be a violent act. A plastic bag fastened over a person's head soon induces hyperventilation, which then leads on to loss of consciousness and subsequent suffocation. A few whiskies beforehand for the moribund person would undoubtedly help, certainly in my case.]


Life is not so easily dispatched especially with the plastic bag, I witnessed this method being used on a family pet dog many years ago who had suffered irreparable damage in an accident with a tractor, Vets were scarce but money was scarcer so a decision was made to put the much loved animal to sleep, and although weakened and in a semi-comatose state the pet became agitated and struggled once the bag was placed over its head and the air supply was restricted, the whiskies would undoubtedly have helped but in the end we administered copious amounts of tranquilisers and painkillers which were prescribed for a neighbour but never used, our lovely border collie died quietly a few hours later.

In most civilised countries it is against the law to allow an animal to endure pain and yet thousands of humans who suffer from locked-in syndrome and similar conditions are allowed to languish in appalling conditions kept alive by modern technology, many suffering nightly from vivid life like terrifying nightmares mostly induced by the very medicine that keeps them alive, to what end

If Tony can move an eye or blink then surely it is possible to construct a device that would respond to his limited movement whereby he could, not only make the decision to end his life but to carry out the procedure himself, of course someone would have to build the device and install whatever was required for the purpose.
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
John Stuart Mill

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke
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Re: The right to die

Postby Lyn » August 18th, 2012, 4:44 pm

That is what he has communicated, Val, but it is against the law for anyone to kill him, however humane their motive.
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Re: The right to die

Postby Pondero » August 19th, 2012, 12:03 am

I needed a break, I wasn't going to join in this discussion, but everyone thinks it would be merciful if Tony ended his own life under the circumstances, except me. I am surprised that no-one is opposed to euthanasia which is morally unacceptable .
The Catholic Church teaching on this matter is outlined in the Catechism, paragraphs 2276,2277,2278 and 2279.
I won't go into all the details here, but you can read them for yourselves.
In brief: the church is not opposed to the use of pain killers even at the risk of shortening the lives of those who are dying, as long as it is not the primary aim. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity and should be encouraged. But, I think the important one here is paragraph 2278 which writes about discontinuing burdonsome, dangerous , extraordinary and disproportionate medical procedures.

Apart from the moral aspects of euthanasia in this particular case. How do you know Tony is feeling pain since he is paralysed from the neck down and can only blink his eyes? He may or may not have emotional pain, we don't know that. Secondly, how do you know the caregivers or whoever brought this matter to the High Court, have consulted Tony? Or are they pushing their own agenda forward? ( which has now hit a road block).
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa, The bookmark of Teresa of Ávila, [28]
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Re: The right to die

Postby Bev » August 19th, 2012, 1:44 am

Pondero wrote:Apart from the moral aspects of euthanasia in this particular case. How do you know Tony is feeling pain since he is paralysed from the neck down and can only blink his eyes? He may or may not have emotional pain, we don't know that. Secondly, how do you know the caregivers or whoever brought this matter to the High Court, have consulted Tony? Or are they pushing their own agenda forward? ( which has now hit a road block).


I would agree with Pondero, that these are important questions to have answers to in any case. But, I have to ask you Pondero, what if Tony's answers to this were affirmative, that there was a way for you to know precisely how he feels, like a a communication through blinking? How would you deal with his answer being absolutely yes, that he wants to end his life? Could you, especially given the Catholic Church's clear stance on the issue, agree with him, even help him in such a situation?
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Re: The right to die

Postby GregB » August 19th, 2012, 7:25 am

Firstly, on the question of plastic bags and Val's post, there's obviously no comparison between an animal (a dog in this case) which has no reasoning capacity and doesn't know what is happening to it and a rational human being who knows perfectly well what is happening. The former will naturally resist and struggle while the latter will passively co-operate in what s/he knows is the end of their suffering. Having said that, I salute Val (we don't often agree!) for his observation:
"In most civilised countries it is against the law to allow an animal to endure pain and yet thousands of humans who suffer from locked-in syndrome and similar conditions are allowed to languish in appalling conditions kept alive by modern technology, many suffering nightly from vivid life like terrifying nightmares mostly induced by the very medicine that keeps them alive, to what end."

On Pondero's post, I'd say first let's drop the speculation (including the unfounded slight against his carers' motives); Tony has made it perfectly clear through his unique method of communication that he wants to end his suffering and, thus, his life. He has been found to be in his right, reasoning mind and is perfectly compos mentis, so his wishes should be respected. As for pain, it's not a question of that (as has been said, Tony has no sensation below the neck.) It's the continuous mental suffering, the anguish, of being trapped in an immobile body, unable to do anything whatsoever, just sit there as the hours, the days, the weeks, months and years tick by. Surely it's more merciful to be in a vegetative state, unaware of the world around you and the life you could be living instead of this dreadful, endless nightmare. (Or dead...) What is left of the poor man's life now? - nothing, nothing at all. Again, Tony had made his feelings on that, as well as the mental torture he has to endure, perfectly clear. (Try to imagine being in that hellish state yourself, Pondero, and then compare it with the quality of your present full, varied life; and please don't tell me you could live with that - I wouldn't believe it.)

As for Catholic doctrine, it is not binding in the case of non-Catholics, so whatever the Catechism says is irrelevant here. The same applies to many ultra-conservative Protestants (including most of those in my church) who base their opposition to euthanasia on a couple of texts in the Bible (or, rather, their interpretation of those texts.) I do not share their perspective on this issue (or on the heartless doctrine of endless torment for the unsaved.) I believe God's compassion and mercy are far wider and greater than our own neat and pat little theologies suggest.

Tony with his wife Jane: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/arc ... 11909b.jpg
On hearing the news that his plea had been rejected: http://i2.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-wor ... urt+ruling
Tony before his massive stroke in 2005: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/651582/thumbs ... e640.jpg?4
"I hate reality but it's still the best place to get a good steak."
- Woody Allen
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Re: The right to die

Postby Pondero » August 19th, 2012, 9:46 am

Well thank you both, Bev and Greg for your civilized comments. It is early in the morning here and dawn has yet to break.And so my reply at this time will be brief, very brief.
I ask you to consider the life of British physicist Stephen Hawking who is in a similar situation to Tony, before conclusively in your own minds of making any judgements about quality of life.
Last edited by Pondero on August 19th, 2012, 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa, The bookmark of Teresa of Ávila, [28]
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Re: The right to die

Postby GregB » August 19th, 2012, 10:25 am

My answer to that, Pondero, is that each person must weigh the value they place on their own life, just as each person is different. Hawking is a brilliant physicist, perhaps the most brilliant of our time, and clearly had a consuming purpose and goal in life in developing his field of research and advancing within it largely from his own abundant mental resources. His mind must always have been full of ideas and theories which evidently compensated for his physical condition. Now, I think it's safe to assume that Tony has no such capacity nor a mind richly stocked with ideas to develop and expand on, so he has no refuge in such a mental world as that which drives Hawking on. Whatever gave Tony satisfaction, fulfilment and pleasure in life before his stroke is evidently not within his reach now so life as it is is just an empty barren desert stretching before him for the rest of his life. He has made it quite clear that he has nothing to live for and cannot endure the suffering he has to bear day after day and that is the grim reality of his situation, not a misleading comparison with Stephen Hawking.
"I hate reality but it's still the best place to get a good steak."
- Woody Allen
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Re: The right to die

Postby Pondero » August 19th, 2012, 11:30 am

Greg:We don't know the state of mind of Tony.When you get older, and I am there already,being close to 80 years old, one day dreams a lot, at least I do when driving on those country roads.
The point is that as we don't know and there is no record of his own wishes in writing in the form of a living-will. Tony did not suddenly become completely paralysed from the head down, it was a gradual process of deterioration.He had time to write or dictate his own wishes in this matter.
All we have given to us so far is media coverage, no court transcipt. no names of who brought the case to trial.In short very few facts,little data, and lots of heat.
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa, The bookmark of Teresa of Ávila, [28]
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Re: The right to die

Postby Sprocket » August 19th, 2012, 12:19 pm

Pondero wrote:I needed a break, I wasn't going to join in this discussion, but everyone thinks it would be merciful if Tony ended his own life under the circumstances, except me. I am surprised that no-one is opposed to euthanasia which is morally unacceptable .
The Catholic Church teaching on this matter is outlined in the Catechism, paragraphs 2276,2277,2278 and 2279.
I won't go into all the details here, but you can read them for yourselves.
In brief: the church is not opposed to the use of pain killers even at the risk of shortening the lives of those who are dying, as long as it is not the primary aim. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity and should be encouraged. But, I think the important one here is paragraph 2278 which writes about discontinuing burdonsome, dangerous , extraordinary and disproportionate medical procedures.

Apart from the moral aspects of euthanasia in this particular case. How do you know Tony is feeling pain since he is paralysed from the neck down and can only blink his eyes? He may or may not have emotional pain, we don't know that. Secondly, how do you know the caregivers or whoever brought this matter to the High Court, have consulted Tony? Or are they pushing their own agenda forward? ( which has now hit a road block).

You know perfectly well, if you've read the reports with even the slightest care, that it is Mr Nicklinson himself who wants this. He is capable of communicating, albeit slowly and with great difficulty.

As for the CCC - to hell with it.
Last edited by Sprocket on August 19th, 2012, 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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