Euthanasia — it's morality and its legality — may become a bigger issue in coming weeks, as the Senate takes up the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gorsuch penned a book on euthanasia, in which he wrote, "all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."
Europe generally doesn't believe this, especially not about euthanasia. Many Americans want us to have a more European outlook. In this context, Michael Cook at MercatorNet tells a very disturbing and revealing tale of Dutch "death with dignity":
A Dutch doctor has been rebuked by a Regional Review Committee after she gave a lethal injection to a demented patient who appeared to be struggling to stop the procedure....
An 80-year-old woman with dementia entered a nursing home because her husband could no longer care for her. When the woman was still lucid she expressed two wishes: (a) not to go into a "home for demented elderly" and (b) to be euthanized "when I myself find it the right time."
She was unhappy in the nursing home and wandered the corridors at night. After seven weeks of this, the nursing home doctor decided that she must be suffering unbearably. Based on her previous statements, the doctor decided that euthanasia was appropriate.
With members of her family in attendance, the doctor approached to give her a lethal injection. The woman was agitated, so the doctor slipped a sedative into her coffee. This did not work, so she gave her an injection. With all these drugs, the woman dosed off.
But when the needle for the lethal injection appeared, she started to struggle. The doctor had to ask the family members to hold her down so that she could continue with the injection. The woman died soon afterwards.
Deceiving someone into taking a sedative so you can end her life hardly sounds like obtaining consent. Wrestling her, pinning her down so you can kill her also sounds more like rape than like fulfilling someone's wishes.
Were they following the wishes of a no-longer lucid woman? Or were they getting rid of a costly, stubborn, and inconvenient person?
This Dutch case is not a normal euthanasia, I imagine, but it does highlight the pitfalls of this practice. Caring for an ill relative, especially one whose lucidity is waning, can be emotionally and economically very taxing. Good people will find this situation stressful, and it's not unnatural to hope for it to end soon.
The prevalence of that feeling — the wish for the ordeal to end — doesn't condemn the relatives as much as it should act as a warning: We need guardrails. Whether in our laws or in our norms, we need boundaries to make sure we treat our elderly with the respect and dignity they deserve — and that we as a society continue to act in keeping with a thorough respect for life.
The institution of assisted suicide can demolish those guardrails, and leave the elderly, the ill, and the disabled — that is, our most vulnerable brothers and sisters — vulnerable. Deadly vulnerable.
Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.