Sep 27, 2005

A time to die

BMJ is currently discussing about the issue of euthanasia.

"there are signs that a majority of UK doctors now favour legalisation of physician assisted suicide with stringent safeguards"

This is very much depressing, and I particularly support this chap below

Eugene B Wu,
Interventional fellow, cardiovascular division
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, ppb-1, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA

"The position the BMA has taken on euthanasia troubles me deeply. Truth is not determined by head counting, right is not determined by votes, and good is not determined by law. Ethics cannot and should not be determined by popularity. The turning of the tide of opinion about euthanasia does not make euthanasia right. Democracy may be a good way to select a president to run a country, but it is not a good way to do ethics. Slavery, eugenetics, female genital mutilation, ethnic cleansing, and infanticide have all be democratically deemed as good in other cultures and in history. To suggest that just because many people agree with euthanasia and therefore we should legalize it is simply bad ethics.

Those who say that "They wouldn’t let a dog die like my old dad died", may be failing to genuinely appreciate the gross difference in the value of life between his old dad and his old dog. The value of human life is not determined by votes, nor by law. Philosophically, assuming all men are created equal, then, the value of human life is at least as great as the value of my life. Therefore, I am at no liberty to take another man’s life and also at no liberty to take my own life. Since my life is valued higher than my autonomy. In fact, this should come as no surprise to practicing clinicians as many of us have persuaded, argued, and limited our patient’s autonomy for beneficience. From the simple persuasion to stop smoking after a coronary stent to a desperate warning against further alcohol in liver disease, we put their benefit above their autonomy. If we are willing to so discard their autonomy for modest benefits, how much more should we be willing to do so for life?

Historically, doctors have stood out against the crowd on many issues. Even today, doctors in Africa recommend chastity to prevent HIV. Our stand for clean water, vaccination, healthy diet, tobacco use and alcohol use stand against the majority trend of our societies. Our recommendation is more passionate and more urgent than the manufacturer’s "smoking is a cause for lung cancer" label on the packages of their products. When did we, as a profession, lose our guts to stand up for what is right?

As an ageing physician, I unwisely yearn for the days when medicine was a professional vocation, when patient’s trusted their doctors, when legal threats did not impact our decisions. There are many reasons for the degeneration of our profession and the lost of trust of the public. Perhaps one of them, is that we are becoming like the public, for we no longer stand upon ethics, but upon opinions.

Let us not change our position on what is right based upon votes. "

Are becoming more like public? I had to have a closer look at my fellow members of my fraternity…

Something new, there’s an interesting findings about higher risk of neh neh cancer in the left-handers char boh.

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