Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Doctors Refuse to Dehydrate Italian Woman: The Fight Over "Conscience" Has Begun

I believe that the issue of "conscience," that is the right of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals not to engage in intentional life-terminating actions will be huge in the coming decade in bioethics. It has already begun in Italy after a father won the right in court to have his daughter's feeding tube withdrawn. But even though the EU Court has refused to save Eluana Englaro's life, no doctor in Italy will agree to participate in her intentional dehydration. From the story:

Italian officials say they are taking a hands-off approach after a European court rejected efforts to block a father's efforts to let his comatose daughter die.

Italy's ANSA news agency Tuesday said Beppino Englaro has been unable to find a clinic that will facilitate the death of his daughter, Eluana, who has been in a coma for 17 years. "Personally I hope that the woman continues to live, but I can't interfere with the decisions of her father,'' said Edouard Ballaman, president of the regional council of the Northern League.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Monday rejected an appeal by pro-life organizations trying to block Englaro's efforts on the grounds that only immediate family could be involved in the decision. ANSA said Italy's health minister warned clinics last week not to take part in the removal of the woman's feeding tube.
Judge Greer. Calling Judge Greer! Your courageous assistance is needed again. Calling Judge Greer!



At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

See what I mean? (At least until Kenya, where economic motivations, and other factors as well, may have overridden climate as cause, became "another country heard from.") If I read this right, an Italian father decided to exercise the ancient Roman ius paterfamilias, Europe as a whole (including the countries where the death culture has taken hold) refused to do anything other than continue to go all modern on the world, but the doctors of Italy remain sane. In fact the best physicians of the many I've seen have (with two exceptions, and they are at the hospital where Timothy Quill -- does he ever get discussed on SHS?) been either born and trained in Italy, or else of Italian descent; more sense than many of the rest of their colleagues. By the way, what is going on with the death culture in France? By the way further, both Italy and France are under the sun sign of the lion...

Well that is it for me.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Timothy Quill hasn't been much in the news. However, I have commented upon him, here, among other places: http://www.wesleyjsmith.com/blog/2008/11/post-washington-assisted-suicide-here.html

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger victor said...

I guess we're all human when it comes to these touchy issues and no matter how bright we really are, every body, cells included have their own opinion.

Give it a rest Victor!

Stop reading my mind guys cause that's not very polite!

Well that's it for me also.

Happy Holidays to everyone and for those who honestly believe that Jesus The Christ was no liar, Merry Christmas

Peace on Earth toward Men of good will which includes Women also and let's not forget our pets even if they were not made in God's Image!

Good bye sinner vic!

God Bless

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

It's interesting to me that the pro-life groups feel it's necessary to protect her to get a court decision saying the father cannot have the feeding stopped. I'm taking it that this means they are afraid he'll be allowed to take her abroad to be killed. But it really surprises me that the courts should draw the line just where they do. In America there was never any question of drawing the line there. Once it was declared legally that substituted judgement could be used to refuse food and hydration on a person's behalf, the next step was automatic--direct court order to the medical facility to remove the nutrition and hydration. This apparently was considered to follow from the legal fiction that the hospital/medical people were committing a tort against the person by providing "unwanted treatment." But here they seem to be declaring that the father _can_ withdraw the food and fluids but making no attempt to order that this woman's "right" to refuse food and fluids actually be recognized by the medical personnel. It's a nice surprise, but it is a surprise. It makes me wonder whether the whole legal rationale is quite different than it is in the U.S. so that he can do it but only if he finds doctors to cooperate fully willingly.

I wonder if they can stop him from taking her abroad by refusing to discharge her. After all, I assume that they can refuse to discharge her just to go home with him, because if he took her home, he could just stop food and fluids himself. So perhaps they can refuse to discharge her to be taken abroad?

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

And Merry Christmas, Wesley, and thanks!

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

Ditto Lydia. Merry Christmas Wesley and thanks for the service you do for our nation and world by discussing these vital issues.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

Based on what I've seen, they've already lost conscience and are out of control, and their use of courts to get their way and the courts' willingness to support their agenda, has become entrenched.

Speaking of Christmas, one of the things I find impossible to accept about Christianity is the virgin birth, which the same science by virtue of which the "exceptional" human race is been "benefitted," and which thus, according to that line of reasoning, is entitled to use (and if that isn't utilitarian, what is) non-human animals in experimentation, considers an impossibility, and concerning which it allows no room for a "leap of faith." If Christianity is to be accepted, the science it supposedly justifies has to take that leap of faith as well, including concerning the consideration of what it now feels entitled to ignore. Otherwise we end up with what we've got now, which brings death, suffering, and harm to humans as well as to non-humans. But Merry Christmas anyway, and ditto concerning the service SHS does. It just doesn't go as far as it can because of the inconsistency I've noted. Well, Happy New Year, too.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger T E Fine said...


I don't intend to change your mind, but I just thought I'd throw this out for the sake of interest. Certain animals have virgin births - sharks, for one. Shark who has no contact with males had a baby not too long ago. Wasps have fertilized eggs turn into females, but unfertilized eggs hatch into males. Some lizards have virgin births - they are all female, and they mate with males from another species strictly to stimulate ovulation, not for fertilization. They end up having babies born from only their own genetic code, and the males have nothing to do with it.

I'll look up the web pages if you want, but, if nature can do that, then it's not such a hard leap of faith for me that the human body could, by the grace of God, do something similar.

But that's just me. Happy Chanukah to my Jewish cousins out there and Merry Christmas to my Christian ones! I love ya all!

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

I found the references to Quill. Thank you. I should have thought just to search through the search and archive places here but these new-fangled computer things are just ahead of me. I noticed along the way a reference to Hawaii -- I forgot about Hawaii -- surely they have sunshine there -- unless Obama took it with him when he left. Maybe that's it; maybe that's why enough people thought the sun rises and sets on him so that he got elected. They'll find out too late, when it sets on them. Also, I noticed a comment in which Okakura, if I remember correctly, said that maybe those who oppose the death culture "are uncomfortable with moral ambiguity." "Moral ambiguity" -- is that like "living will" -- what an oxymoron. Aside from which, if a situation re life and death is ambiguous, the decision has to "err" (there's another oxymoron..) on the side of life by virtue of the whole thing being ambiguous to start with; otherwise, it's game over, and ambiguity is no longer part of the equation, and "moral ambiguity" was supposed to have standing in the first place. Morality cannot by definition be ambiguous. Yet people run around saying things like that and get called "ethicists." It reminds me of the Clarence Thomas hearings, and what their very existence told me things had come to. I don't know what kind of a jurist he is, but it's irrelevant. It's like Caesar's wife. The bench must have a certain dignity, and regardless of anything else, the slightest whisper that he might have been rude to a lady, behaved in an indecorous manner, etc. had to disqualify him lest the dignity of the bench be besmirched in even the slightest way. Better to put a town justice about whom such questions could not arise on the highest court of the land than the most brilliant jurist about whom they could, and surely in any event there are more than nine jurists in the land of proper decorum who could serve. The hearing itself was a circus reflecting doom to the bench. But was that considered? No, and now we've got judges ruling on life and death of the innocent and helpless in matters having nothing to do with death sentences imposed only after juries of peers, appeals, etc. in heinous crimes, despite even evidence to the contrary, with the same detachment as that of "scientists" experimenting on helpless, innocent, sentient animals whose distress is before their very eyes, and some judge broad in Oregon yammering about "mystery of life" which doesn't even mean anything decipherable but the decision turns on it and people say yes, yes, a judge said so and thus the "policy" is correct -- oh, what kind of way is that to talk about a judge? Well, that's the kind of moral ambiguity and lack of decorum to which the door is now open, as it is to the death culture. Things that go on in society and the world hardly are unrelated to one another, and the death culture isn't happening in a vacuum. Otherwise Quill couldn't have written about having assisted a suicide and not ended up in jail, but rather lauded for his "courage" in "risking his career." That kind of career leads to people who don't want to die ending up dead, with hospitals knowing that the courts support them. As a matter of fact, people were lamenting how unfair it was that Thomas' career might be damaged, just as the careers of doctors and researchers are considered more important than the human lives they cost and the ethical wrongness of their experimentation on non-human animals as they continue in the self-glorifying, justified-in-the-pursuit-of-science tradition of the Nazi experimenters on humans. In fact, "moral ambiguity" is accepted as part of the deal with animal experimentation. But there is no such thing as moral ambiguity, any more than there is a definition for "mystery of life," especially in the Oregon ruling, and anything that raises even the remotest question of its being murder cannot be allowed. Yet the courts sanctify, and even order, it with "blind justice" -- which is yet another oxymoron. Once the door is open to one oxymoron, as to death, the door is open to more of them without restriction. That's their purpose.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

Wait a minute -- isn't any determination of life and death other than by a jury of one's peers in a criminal matter unconstitutional? The guarantee of due process settles the matter without question, just as the guarantee of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" settles the matter in its first word, which supercedes the other two things guaranteed; each of the second two of the three depends on the one(s) preceding it. Nothing doctors, courts, or ethicists can say can qualify as "due process." How can a state's constitution, let alone its court's ruling, supercede the U.S. constitution? How can any pronouncement or contrivance, whether medical, document, or court ruling, circumvent the assumption that no one can lose their life other than by a death sentence in a criminal matter after due process? "Mystery of life" actually sounds like an attempt to intimidate via obfuscation in order to put over an agenda "that they'd never go for if they knew what it was, so we'd better confuse them at the outset, and then they'll never catch up with us." Isn't suicide illegal? Even though there can be no sanction imposed on the individual who commits suicide? How then can assisted suicide be legal? Or euthanasia for that matter? Some people are going to break the law no matter what, but to legalize doing that, and to violate the Constitution to boot? With what's up in the sky now and will be for some time, nations and their governments, including the U.S., have only two possible courses, both radical: Go back to the deepest roots of their constitutions and bring them to the surface and adhere to them, or cease to exist. It's not just individuals that this death culture thing is going to kill one at a time; it's whole countries, which are not going to be able to survive at all. Any minute now, despite Cuomo v. Quill, New York State will go the way of Oregon, neck and neck with Massachusetts. Then Governor Paterson can tax assisted suicide with what's left of Ted Kennedy cheering him on while saying none for me thanks. Or maybe not, as unlike non-diet soda, it's considered healthy. I just still don't understand how anyone could end up dead legally other than by accident or natural death. Removal of life support is not natural death, but technological death, and it's as wrong to give doctors the authority to do it or recommend it as it is to let (let alone require) them to perform vivisection. As for a piece of paper, whether a "living will" or a judicial decision, superseding life itself -- that's just complete insanity. Someone has to be stupid to sign one in the first place on a non-criminal matter of life and death in which the full particulars of the situation in which it may eventually be called into play or currently is being called into play cannot be known (now THAT is closer to what "mystery of life" might mean), which means they are not qualified to decide about their own or anyone else's life, and in fact the logical conclusion is that it's illegal to sign either. Which the judges should know, but, with "blind justice," seem to have missed. Just like doctors and scientists should know better but have abandoned their own code.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

T.E -- Yes sharks, wasps, and lizards can do that, and are known by science to be able to do that, and not just once when the offspring turns out to be the son of God. But although humans do behave like sharks, wasps, and lizards in other respects, and although scientific method allows for th observation based on empirical observation in those species, it denies on the same basis that humans can do it. In fact, positing that we could do it would contradict the very premises of human exceptionalism. The Mary story followed the "mystery religions" prevalent in the ancient world and followed the myths of mortal women being the recipient of divine visitation, e.g. via a shower of gold, a swan, etc. which were acknowledged as myths with the sanity of skepticism that reflected the exaltation of man, e.g. true human exceptionalism as reflected in the human self-awareness and achievement in its highest form, and that happens to have incorporated non-human animals as representative of the divine without sacrificing the status of humans. The bread and wine communion stuff is a little too cannibalistic for me, and overall, I find Christianity denigrating to humans and all other life forms, whereas the prior system exalted them. What has been done in the name of Christianity and other religions, as goes on even today, is enough to tell me that they're not such a good idea, and if humans can't figure out what's right and wrong without them, no wonder they claim morality when failing to practice it.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Time Out: Tabs, Ianthe, and all others: I know it is the Christmas Season but this blog doesn't argue religion or get into the truths or untruths about Christianity.

Thanks for understanding.

Carry on.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

T.E. -- Also, humans are mammals. Except re our livers, a phenomenon duly annotated in the myth of Prometheus, we can't even regenerate body parts, limbs, tails which we don;t even have, etc. on our own, let alone reproduce without proper protocol. But some species of the type you mentioned can, which is consistent with occasions of parthenogenisis among them as well. If we ever do do any of these things, I'm not saying that the divine is not involved, but I don't believe it's because God picked the wife of Joseph the carpenter to bear his only begotten son whom he then sacrificed in the same story-line tradition that Abraham, was it? sacrificed his son, Agamemnon sacrificed his daugher Iphigenia, etc. It may have been an attempt to put a nicer spin on the myths already in circulation, but no matter which way one slices the cake, it's no way to treat one's offspring, and starting from the premise that we are born in sin does not bode well for self-respect and all that of which it is the necessary basis. Ditto re saints and martyrs. It would be amazing to me that people even buy the doctrines, if it weren't the case that they get born into it and grow up hearing about it from people whose independence of mind also was violated from birth, the result of which is the mess the world is in now. But please let me stop here.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

Wesley: My last post crossed with yours. I really don't want to discuss religion, and that's one reason I left. Quite a few people here unite their views on human exceptionalism with their Christian beliefs, and SHS's theory of human exceptionalism regards the Judaeo-Christian tradition as integral to it. That's beyond arguing truth about Christianity; it's assuming it. I'm much more interested in going after the death culture with a axe, and I'm pointing out what I can see, from the outside, makes defeating the death culture less possible. But as I just said, before your post went up, please, let me stop here.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Ianthe: You bring up an interesting point that I think compels a clarification. People are free to comment here as to why they believe certain things. We have had atheists and Christians and others explain that their belief system led them to certain conclusions. That's fine. You have stated quite clearly where you are coming from and why. Which I encourage.

What I want is for people to discuss and debate the topics I raise. What I would like to avoid is a debate about the truth or non truth of religion per se, if you get the difference.

Thus, Commentor A might say, "I believe only God can take a life so I oppose euthanasia." In reply, Commentator B might write, "I don't believe in God, so that doesn't affect me. I am against (or for)euthanasia for reasons A, B, and C."

What I would like to avoid is Commentator A and B arguing about the proof or non proof of God's existence. That kind of discussion can take us way off course.

That's why I would (and have) also stopped discussions when topics beyond our scope here, such as Iraq, homosexuality, or the Budgtet Bailouts, are brought up. These are interesting and important issues, just not ones we can deal with here or we will come unglued. If there is one thing I abhor in blogs and comments to news articles, it is the kind of chaos that often ensues when people begin to debate issues that are not germane to the story or blog entry at hand.


At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Oh, to be clear: Judeo/Christian is not meant as a faith assertion but to identify the ethical view that has dominated the West for a long time, one that emphasizes the importance of being human and promoting our welfare as central in society. This is humanistic for it seeks to improve our lot, insure our freedom, and promote our welfare. It can be based on religion, certainly, but atheists, agnostics, and many secularists hold to it, too. It is the basis of the founding of our country and I think, key to freedom and protecting the vulnerable.

To make it clear, however, that I am not referring to religious belief per se, I have now added "humanistic" to the term Judeo-Christian, as in my latest Weekly Standard piece about Montana's asssited suicide ruling, in which I opined that the "Judeo-Christian/humanistic" moral view is being challenged and underminted by what I believe to be a destructive combination of utilitarianism/hedonism/radical environmentalism. Many religious people hold to this latter approach, just as many secular types uphold human exceptionalism.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

I get the difference. My point is that the Christian ethos, whether it's true or not, as institutionalized in Western civilization, both historical and current, actually facilitates the death culture in more than one way. On the topic at hand, right now I'm trying to figure out the basis for the decision that the matter should rest in the family's hands when the overriding issue is life, which transcends law, courts, and judges, which therefore are bound to rule in favor of life, and thus how the father's case was even able to be brought and ruled on, let alone how it could have been ruled that the matter should rest in his hands. If such an issue even can be brought into court, and ruled upon in any other way than "of course she has a right to live, take this would-be murderer into custody," there's no point in having courts at all, because what they exist to protect has already fallen apart, and the whole thing is an exercise in chaos and, pardon the expression, futility.

At December 23, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

I noticed earlier today your having added "humanistic," with interest, and I understand what you mean. I just define the term in a different way.

At December 24, 2008 , Blogger victor said...

Forgive me for backtracking but for what it's worth, I had indirectly apologize to Lydia
by thanking her in so many words for having educated me right after her following comment.


Lydia McGrew said...
And Merry Christmas, Wesley, and thanks!

I guess my comment got lost in life's shuffle.

Don't be silly sinner vic! It's just one more of your human mistakes.

God Bless


At December 24, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Hey, Wesley, when you get a chance (like, after Christmas, probably) I'd appreciate any insights on my above questions/comments re. the legal situation with this particular woman. For example, could the hospital possibly legally refuse to discharge her if her father were going to take her abroad to dehydrate her? Would it be possible for him simply to discharge her into his own custody, take her home, and dehydrate her? Why is it that the Italian/European legal system has not issues a court order for her dehydration, even though they've ruled that her father has a right to dehydrate her (or she has a right to be dehydrated) whereas that carry-through seems to follow from the legal logic of similar rulings in the U.S.?

At December 24, 2008 , Blogger T E Fine said...

Wesley -

Wow. I really owe you an apology. I didn't really expect a serious answer to mine (thanks, Lanthe, for taking me seriously!), because it was just off-the-cuff and completely out of context to the rest of the post, so I'm really sorry about getting everything off to a tangent. Blah.

Lanthe -

Like I was saying, that wasn't designed to change your mind, just was a weird thought that popped into my head, not for serious contemplation, but just because it was random and interesting in a sideways kind of way, and I appreciate your serious rebuttle, but unfortunately I meant it more of a sort of "Riples Believe It Or Not" kind of non-sequitor, and I'm sorry that I started up a conversation that we really can't finish. Blah. I should've either pointed out that it wasn't meant for serious debate or not said anything at all.

Mea culpa.

At December 24, 2008 , Blogger Ianthe said...

T.E. - Really, I enjoyed having the chance to be reminded of how often humans really are just like sharks, lizards, and wasps. Especially since I seem to be the only one here who seems to think so! Merry Christmas!


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