Bioethics Blogs

PAS and Conscience?

Wesley Smith offers this link to a Dutch story about a family considering legal action against the general physician who declined to support a family member’s wish for assistance in dying.

The article, which I was able to read only after Google toolbar translation from the Dutch, describes the case of a person who apparently was 19 years old and wanting to end her life because of her suffering from lupus, an autoimmune disease.

It seems that the young woman’s neurologist and an ethics committee agreed with her request but her GP did not, and a complaint against the GP was “drawn up with the help of a lawyer.”  Her request for PAS having been denied, it further seems that she killed herself.  (Smith reports she hanged herself, but I can’t find that in the online article.)

In this case, PAS advocates will say that the GP was heartless, and should have complied with the patient’s request.  But whither a right of a physician not to abet suicide, as a matter of conscience?  (There is no information about whether the GP in question was “religious.”)

Smith comments, and Joe Gibes’s post of last week further reminds us, that if there is a “right to die”—that is, a “right to be made dead”—then there is a corresponding “duty to kill.”  Leon Kass noted this in the past (and I have reported that in prior blog posts here).

What Joe missed in his “modest proposal” that the physician in “physician-assisted suicide” be replaced by somebody else, leading to “somebody-else-assisted suicide,” was to suggest “bureaucrat-assisted suicide.”  And certainly this, or “third-party-payer assisted suicide,” will likely be on offer in the future, perhaps more often than anyone would care to admit or most folks will bother to consider.  Again, Kass said this.  One could easily imagine a scenario where the government creates a  PAS mechanism, with responsibility delegated to one or more civil servants, in an attempt to minimize the requirement that a physician be pressed into the service.  Or a hospital creates a staff position.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.