Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints by James D. Torr

By James D. Torr

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In the latter scenario, we will be with the patient and try to problem-solve. Conversing about physician assistance in dying is reserved for cases in which we have gone through this process with the patient, and in which the patient’s end-stage suffering is extreme and intolerable—death is all that awaits. REAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE VERSUS ETHICAL THEORY One way I have participated in this policy debate is by telling stories of real people, stories that point up a tension between real human experience and the law, between clinical practice realities and principled ethics.

Because the goal of hospice is comfort, not cure, patients are usually treated at home, where most say they would prefer to die. “Most people nowadays see two options: A mechanized, de97 Euthanasia Frontmatter 2/27/04 2:29 PM Page 98 personalized, and painful death in a hospital or a swift death that rejects medical institutions and technology,” says Nicholas Christakis, an assistant professor of medicine and sociology at the University of Chicago. “It is a false choice. ” HOSPICE OR HEMLOCK? If so, there remains a gauntlet of cultural roadblocks.

RESISTING THE CULTURE OF DEATH The matter-of-fact arguments on behalf of the Dutch way of death,the use of the absurd phrase “performed euthanasia” in the work of a well-known syndicated columnist—these are signs that the forces of darkness are gathering. Those who have a different view of life can take some comfort and draw some succor from the knowledge that the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s autobiography remains on the bestseller list. Clearly his example continues to inspire, and his arguments against the culture of death remain cogent, vital and—we can only hope and pray—decisive.

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