Friday, June 09, 2006

Slipping Down the Slope

Critics of Christian approaches to bioethics often complain that the slippery slope argument presented by Christian ethicists is inaccurate—that society is able to set a definite point along the slope between what Christians want and chaos and anarchy, and to maintain that position. But we had yesterday, on the front page of the well-known British newspaper, The Guardian, more evidence that western society is slipping down the slippery slope. A British ethicist, one Professor Doyal, is advocating that in the instance of patients who are no longer able to respond and choose for themselves, doctors should be able to exercise active euthanasia without consent. In other words, if a person has a painful disease and is in so much pain that they cannot lucidly respond to a question about whether they would like their life ended or not, the doctor may choose to actively dispatch them by injecting them with poison rather than merely waiting for them to die by natural means. Or if someone is on a feeding tube or on hydration by IV, rather than wait for them to starve or dehydrate, the doctor, according to Professor Doyal, should be allowed to choose for the patient by injecting them with poison and hastening their demise. Doyal actually argues that allowing people to die from want of water or dehydration is like a father allowing his drowning infant to drown until dead. He is, in a sense, correct that withholding food and water from patients who are not in the process of immediately dying is in fact an unethical practice. But giving people poison rather than waiting for them to die from dehydration is not more ethical. So much for holding fast on the slope.

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