Company of Disciples: Euthanasia – Saving Lives or Prolonging End of Life?

Date(s) - October 28, 2014
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

The Vancouver Club

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“Saving Lives or Prolonging the End of Life?”

Hosted by Jonathan Chan and Pat O’Brien,

A discussion on Euthanasia during an evening that will be facilitated by panelists providing perspectives from their respected professions, a theist and atheist perspective followed by group discussions and engagement.

We will be putting on the table various Ethanasia angles such as: Euthanasia for competent and consenting adults and euthanasia for suffering children (see below)  

Below are two excerpts from an articles found in The Economist, November 6th, printed edition entitled “Baby Euthanasia: Suffer the Little Children.” and The Vancouver Sun’s Opinion Section: Choice of death is a personal thing – Assisted suicide: Place it in the hands of the people, not the doctors or courts August 25th, 2014

THE ECONOMIST – “THERE are few sights that tug at the heartstrings more than that of a desperately ill newborn baby. The instinct is to protect the child against all odds. Now the body representing the doctors that deliver such children into the world, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, asks whether it is always right to keep the sickest infants alive. It suggests that the rights and wrongs of active euthanasia should at least be debated. The doctors made their views known to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body charged with examining moral issues that arise from medical advances. Nuffield launched a broad inquiry into the care of very sick newborns in October 2004 and expects to make recommendations on November 16th. Withholding or withdrawing treatment is already legal in some situations—if the child will remain severely impaired, or is brain-dead or suffering unbearable pain, for example. Active euthanasia would allow doctors to go further by, for instance, using morphine to hasten the end of a brief, pain-filled life, if the parents agreed. Nor is it true that, in countries where euthanasia is permitted, there has been a sharp rise in the numbers of adults or babies who take that route. A Dutch survey in 2004 found that doctors were helping to end the lives of just 15-20 newborns each year—a tiny fraction of the 200,000 annual live births. Richard Nicholson, the editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, argues that doctors are often not so much saving lives as “prolonging the end of life”.

There is another reason, too, why baby euthanasia needs discussing, but talking about it is virtually taboo. Families who bring up massively handicapped children often find the stress too much for them. Take the case of Charlotte Wyatt, born at 26 weeks in 2003 with severe disabilities. Her doctors wanted to withhold treatment but her parents argued successfully that she should be kept alive. Now the parents have separated and Charlotte is up for adoption. Disabled children are nine times more likely than others to end up in the care of the state. Tiny babies do tug at the heartstrings but raising a severely impaired child is heartbreakingly hard. It is brave of doctors to dare to question whether they should save the life of each and every one.”

THE VANCOUVER SUN –  The reasons why multi-talented Robin Williams took his own life will never be fully known. Maybe depression, Parkinson’s, money woes, or some other demon – only he knew, and his voice is now stilled. But his death begs a public discussion about suicide. I have long maintained that if ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, I will take my own life. My reasoning is personal and purely selfish: What’s the point in staying alive if I can’t think? I am beholden to no one, no children of my own, no needy parents, no debts.

If life is not worth living, what is the point?

But our society prohibits assisted suicide, making it a crime punishable by jail time. Williams chose to die at his home, leaving his body to be found, his remains a messy, stark and perhaps surprisingly tragic discovery. He had no real choice. Assisted suicide is legal in just a few U.S. states – as close to us as Washington – but only for people diagnosed with just a few months to live, usually too weak and addled to take their own lives. There are some agencies internationally, such as Dignitas in Switzerland, that people can attend, but travelling there entails a passport, airports, money, paperwork and other indignities. It strikes me as a waste of effort to leave the country to do something we’re all going to do: die.

What are your thoughts?

Join us on October 28th at Bar 3 (aka Members’ Lounge) for an in-depth discussion on a highly publicized topic. Jonathan and Pat have invited professionals from various disciplines to speak into the topic so that our roundtable discussions with everyone who attend will be informative, helpful and thought provoking. Jonathan and Pat will also provide their theist and atheist perspective which will then be followed by group discussions. Hope to see you there! Please RSVP online. $5 online and $10 at the door. Cash bar is open to purchase beverages.

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