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Choice devours itself--Open murder in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, a female doctor knew that a patient with dementia had previously said she would want euthanasia "when the time was right." Then she developed dementia and wasn't able to tell anybody that the "time was right."

So the doctor went ahead and decided on her own that the "time was right." The patient, over 80, was "exhibit[ing] signs of fear and anger" and sometimes wandered around her nursing home at night. So the doctor deemed that she was "suffering intolerably."

The doctor didn't want to distress the patient (remember, she was already exhibiting signs of fear!) by telling her, "Okay, I'm going to give you a lethal injection now." So instead she drugged her without her knowledge in her coffee, then started to give her the lethal injection.

That's when things got messy.

The patient started struggling against the injection despite the drugged coffee, so the doctor had her family members forcibly restrain her while she finished the lethal injection.

Oh, one other thing: According to the paperwork, the patient said, "I don't want to die" several times in the preceding days.

This is open murder of the vulnerable, with no disguises. The "compassion" consists in forcibly putting the person out of a supposed "misery" which the patient herself apparently doesn't deem worse than death.

So what did the Dutch do? Well, a review committee said that there were "irregularities" that merit a "reprimand" of the doctor, but that she "acted in good faith." What in the world does that mean? Does it mean she thought the patient currently wanted to die? It couldn't mean that, unless the doctor was truly delusional. Does it mean the doctor thought death was in the patient's best interests? But that has nothing to do with the law, which supposedly requires request and consent. Does it mean that the doctor pitted the patient's earlier self against her current self and acted "in good faith" to enact the wishes of the earlier self, reasoning that the earlier self "would have wanted" to die at this point even though the current self didn't want to die? Maybe, but that just shows precisely how choice devours itself. If that's good faith, give me instead a doctor who in "bad faith" refrains from murdering me, thanks very much.

The review committee actually wants a trial. The trial, it's pretty clear, is supposed to exonerate the doctor or give her at most a slap on the wrist. The reasoning used for this will then give greater peace of mind to other doctors who want to have their patients held down while giving them lethal injection. Do you think that's a cynical take? Well, make what you will of this:

The paperwork and the recommendations of the committee are now being considered by prosecutors and health officials.

Kohnstamm said he was in favour of a trial: 'Not to punish the doctor, who acted in good faith and did what she had to do, but to get judicial clarity over what powers a doctor has when it comes to the euthanasia of patients suffering from severe dementia.'

This is also the pattern for infanticide in the Netherlands, where doctors technically violating the law by committing infanticide have been let off with no punishment at trial, thus emboldening further infanticide.

At this very moment the Dutch are considering a new law that would allow anyone over 75, whether ill or not, to request assisted suicide. Of course the new law comes with all manner of requirements for request and consent and repeated interviews. Of course. But to the unbiased eye it looks like that sort of thing applies (at most) to a request by an earlier version of "you." If the later version of you fights for life, too bad.

I have said it before and I will say it again: The "choice" of death devours choice. When actively killing the patient is considered a solution to problems, it is inevitable that the theorist will decide that the rational or earlier version of the self should have chosen death or did choose death or would have chosen death and hence, in some sense, did choose death. Even if the person doesn't, in the perfectly ordinary sense, want to die now. Death is a jealous god and will have his sacrifices. Holding people down while administering lethal injection is just the current method of sacrifice in one country in the West.

Comments (17)

Apparently "safe words" are only for degrading sex, but are meaningless when are trying to kill someone, and the same goes consent to - all you need to die is a wish or previous desire. That tells you where their priorities are. (Maybe saying 'I want to live' is a microaggression against those who want to die, and that's why they ignored it.)

While a very small thing I feel like mentioning it here, since it is just a nice example of pro-euthanasia zeal - a whole new wave of reviews of the new SC nominee's book against euthanasia just happened to be posted all at once on Amazon. And guess what they're all negative! These reviewers, though, must be pretty smart, since they can write such erudite reviews without having to read the book. https://www.amazon.com/Future-Assisted-Suicide-Euthanasia-Forum/product-reviews/0691140979/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_hist_5?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=avp_only_reviews&sortBy=recent&filterByStar=five_star&pageNumber=1

You have a good point. In the area of sex, consent can (we're told) be withdrawn at any later time. Death, not so much.

I've said in an earlier post that a sign of a warped worldview is treating something as being like sex when it isn't at all, and vice versa. For example, when death proponents argue that a person with dementia who is apparently taking food by spoon-feeding happily isn't really "consenting" to it, they are treating accepting food from a spoon as being like sex: You have to consent to it, with knowledge and maturity, *right now*, or else it is a form of rape or at least statutory rape.

That, of course, is ridiculous. Babies accept spoon feeding all the time even though they are not old enough to consent to it with some kind of rational maturity. And so do people with dementia. And there is nothing sick or creepy about this. Taking food isn't like having sex, and someone is warped if he applies the standards of consent of the one to the other.

But by the same token, it is warped to have extremely high, on-going standards of consent for sex but to treat *being killed* as entirely different, so that you *don't* have to give consent *right now* to dying in order for death to count as a matter of your own choice. That can, rather, be based on something you said long ago.

It is extremely warped, but perhaps they are just realizing what people like Oderberg have been saying for some time, that the voluntariness of voluntary euthanasia does not real moral work to justify it. And if that is the case, their other arguments would be doing the moral work, and those seem to justify nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia. One wonders what kind of killings one can "justify" with their arguments, what kinds of killings are entailed as permissible by their position once the voluntary requirement is dropped.

Speaking of which, I recall a case where parents refused a rather safe and easy procedure on their newborn with down syndrome. He needed some defect in his stomach or intestine (somewhere in his digestive tract) corrected so he could take in nutrients. This happened without anything in the way of legal repercussions. Sure it was an omission, but it was a failure to do what they had a prior obligation to do, so it doesn't seem much different from intentionally killing. (Which seems to be their goal, as it is probably that if the child wasn't known to have DS, he would still be alive.)

Yes, that was the infamous Baby Doe case back in the 80s. In the Netherlands they do commit active infanticide under the Groningen Protocols for "suffering" babies. I have never been clear on whether even the parents have to consent to Groningen-based infanticide. Not that that would make it right. But it might enable parents to protect their children.

I did a little looking around at some other links in the middle of writing this comment, and I was mildly interested to see that the infamous Peter Singer will say to live audiences that he supports only "voluntary" euthanasia, while elsewhere he explicitly supports euthanasia for people with dementia, and of course he is well-known for supporting infanticide, which cannot (by definition) be voluntary. Singer is a snake in this regard who occasionally tries to hide his actual views from selected audiences discussing a selected topic.



See also here, where Singer applauded Belgium's child euthanasia law, which allows assisted "suicide" for children as young as twelve. Singer made a song and dance about the fact that the law allegedly excludes very small children, though he himself is a noted advocate of the morality and legality of infanticide.


What a slimy little worm! It is hard to say, 'I'm only for voluntary euthanasia,' when you've been advocating for killings that are not voluntary since the 70s. But if anyone can do it, a consequentialist can - they are a marvel of nature, in the same way that those parasites that live in zombified insects are a marvel of nature.

This might be a little wordy, but I hope what I'm trying to say is clear enough.

I don't know anything about that Warnock character, but I'll assume that she is only offering the comment "that there is nothing wrong with feeling that you ought to die for the sake of others" to defend/jusitfy voluntary euthanasia. But it is hard to see how this comment does so - either it doesn't help at all, or it does more than justify merely voluntary euthanasia.

She must be saying that there can be an objective duty to die
Is she merely suggesting that 'it is understandable that you have these feelings, you aren't to blame for this defective outlook?' If so, this is consistent with saying, 'the feelings or thoughts themselves are wrong,' and believing that one should act to counter them; so no help in justifying voluntary euthanasia on this interpretation. One could say, 'likewise, there is nothing wrong in feeling that you ought not to die for the sake of others, but that these others ought to support you.'

But would she want to say that it is valid to say of one person both 'there is nothing wrong with feeling that you ought to die for the sake of others' and 'there is nothing wrong in feeling the opposite?' I guess not, at least if she is trying to use this in support of voluntary euthanasia. It seems she is saying 'there is something right in feeling you ought to die' - hence why we know she's an idiot.

Since, if what is meant by 'not wrong' is not merely that it is understandable that one might have these feelings, or that their having them by itself doesn't mean they're morally culpable, since those don't entail 'they should be allowed to kill themselves, or have us help, etc.,' she must mean by 'not wrong' that the feelings aren't a defective emotional state (in the way that a cat's having three legs is defective) or that the belief 'I ought to die' is correct. So, if the belief in some duty or 'ought' is correct, there really is one!

If there is a duty, does it matter if you consent to dying?
But, then, does this duty exist whether or not you feel or believe that it does, or whether believing if you consent to fulfilling it? It would seem that it has to. Why would other people's duties to care for you change dependant on what you want? The burden for caring for you would be the same as if you didn't want it - and we venturing into utilitarian waters here, even if we aren't fully there yet. So so, why, again, do we stop at voluntary euthanasia? It can't be because only this kind of euthanasia is permissible (in principle) but the other's aren't.

Maybe someone can fashion an argument that non or involuntary euthanasia aren't justifiable in practice, only voluntary euthanasia is. Yet, the fact that such things would be, given their position, justifiable even in principle is enough to dismiss their position as morally obtuse. Of course, someone can try to argue that there is no duty to die, but, that doesn't mean that non voluntary or involuntary killing isn't permissible given whatever is suppose to justify voluntary euthanasia.

Warnock was widely publicized as saying that, indeed, those "wasting others' lives" do have a duty to die.


I don't have a copy of her article called "A Duty to Die?" (I have a feeling the question mark is merely ornamental.)

Let's just say that there *may* be some duties which others can't force us to undertake. But even if she thinks dying is one of them (and maybe she doesn't), a great deal of psychological and social pressure and arm-twisting would certainly be justified on her theory. And in the case in the main post, I have little doubt that she would go with the earlier version vs. later version of the self theory and hold that the woman's earlier statement that she wanted euthanasia when "the time was right" was sufficient. I admit that that is conjecture, but Warnock is infamous on this whole suite of topics.

Let's just say that there *may* be some duties which others can't force us to undertake

That's a pretty small fig leaf.

Can the right to die be alienated, can I revoke it? If not, why not?

Can the right to die be alienated, can I revoke it? If not, why not?

If you mean the right to be murdered, since it never existed in the first place, it cannot be alienated.

If you mean the right to be left alone to let an illness or injury take its course, the "right" exists in the midst of a wealth of competing obligations, and it may be the case for some individual that the obligation to take on what would be (for another) extraordinary means to survive exceeds the duty of others not to interfere with your ordinary death.

No, I meant, in the view of defenders of euthanasia, is the right to die, like the right to life in their view, something I can give up? I'm guessing they'd say no, but then why is thin right absolute, but not the right to life? Of curse, I agree that no one has a right to die, but I'm just wondering what they think of it. I bet they'd say that it is absolute, and that it comes from your right to autonomy - separated from the confines of seeking what is good and avoiding what is bad.

Maybe they would say that you can set aside your right to die by changing your mind, but that you can change your mind only when you are in full possession of your rational faculties. Hence, if you claim your right to die earlier, while they deem you a rational actor, and then later develop dementia, it's too late to give up the right to die that you claimed earlier.

If you think such a philosophical position is creepy, you're so right.

I wonder, if the "doctor" who murdered the woman had instead refused to kill a patient who requested it, would she be in more trouble?

Oh, yes, I imagine she could get in big trouble for that. Probably lose her whole career.

"so the doctor had her family members forcibly restrain her while she finished the lethal injection."

Lydia, are the family members who forcibly restrained the patient morally culpable and complicit?

For sure. No question.

Where were their consciences? They weren't automata or robots under mind control from the doctor.

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