Wednesday, December 01, 2004

"The Groningen Protocol" and other horrors of socialized medicine

Hugh Hewitt links to this story, and says,

There are three kinds of people in the world: Those who will react with horror and alarm to this story; those who will applaud it; and those who will shrug it off as of no interest to them. I am uncertain which of the latter two groups is in worse moral condition.

Count me in the first group.

Here's the story:

A hospital in the Netherlands - the first nation to permit euthanasia - recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.

The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives - a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.

In August, the main Dutch doctors' association KNMG urged the Health Ministry to create an independent board to review euthanasia cases for terminally ill people "with no free will," including children, the severely mentally retarded and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident.

I'm shocked and saddened that so-called "civilized" society would come to this. But I guess I'm not surprised. Recall this case earlier this year in England. Parents of an 11-month-old girl had to battle doctors in the courtroom to force them to continue treating her. The girl was born premature and had severe medical problems. The parents lost their case.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, said the case had been fraught, but the judge made the right decision.

"It is unusual for doctors and parents not to agree about whether or not to resuscitate a very seriously ill baby but when no consensus can be reached the only way forward is for the case to go to court," Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's ethics committee, said.

"The BMA is confident that Mr Justice Hedley . . . has made the right decision in the best interests of Charlotte Wyatt."

This article recalls another similar case ten years earlier.

The arguments echo those made almost a decade ago in the case of Jaymee Bowen, referred to in court as child B, whose father, David, fought unsuccessfully to force Cambridge Health Authority to continue treating her.

In 1995, Jaymee, then aged ten, was given eight weeks to live by doctors after the health authority refused to pay the £75,000 for specialist blood transfusion treatment, saying her chances of survival were slim. Having lost the legal fight, which went to the Court of Appeal, an anonymous donor paid for Jaymee to be treated at the private Portland Hospital in London. She died on 22 May, 1996, aged 11.

The case divided the medical profession. Dr Peter Gravett, who treated Jaymee at the Portland Hospital, said at the time: "I would still do the same thing to the same person in the same circumstances. As for the cost of the treatment, is it worth £6,000 a month to have an 11-year-old girl running around? Jaymee’s treatment seems like value for money."

But Nigel Pitt, representing Cambridge Health Authority, said: "If health authorities spent their money on treatments which doctors thought extremely unlikely to succeed and then had no money left to treat hundreds of other patients who might have been effectively treated, what would the public say about that?"

I wouldn't say we're sliding down the slippery slope toward euthanizing any inconvenient lives; I'd say that we're already there. Now it's just a question of who's next. In the Netherlands they will consider euthanasia for "terminally ill people 'with no free will,' including children, the severely mentally retarded and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident."

This is the end result of socialized medicine.

UPDATE: Anyone ever read Lois Lowry's Newbery Award winning novel The Giver? At the risk of spoiling an important plot point, the novel concerns a "utopian" community where the elderly, infirm, or imperfect infants are euthanized all so everyone can be free of pain, both physical and emotional. It's a children's book, a very good one, and I cannot think of a more important book for kids to read given the rising influence of the culture of death.

Sue Bob comes out of hiding with a great post on this subject.

It is my opinion, because of my representation of providers whose consumers are recipients of Medicare and Medicaid, that our society's compassion for those recipients has decreased and will continue to decrease as the percentage of the governmental budget for those recipients increases. Our moral standards will give way under pressure to cut such governmental costs and the most vulnerable and compromised recipients of Medicare and Medicaid will be at risk of being euthanized in the interest of budget cutting.

If we are to preserve our society's belief in the sanctity of life--we had better arrange a better way to pay for those who simply cannot (as opposed to those who chose not to) support themselves because they are born disabled. It must be a way that does not engender the resentment and moral callousness caused by confiscatory taxes and a socialistic scheme of redistributing wealth. If we don't suggest a better way, our ethical objections to euthanizing handicapped infants, or elderly people, will fall on deaf ears. Thus, I challenge those who find the Groningen Protocol as repulsive as I do, to not only assert the sanctity of life--but to discuss concrete ways to support the life of those who are difficult and expensive to sustain.

Excellent words, Sue Bob. And I'm afraid I missed the distinction between the two cases mentioned above and the Groningen Protocol. Whereas in the UK (and often here in the US) doctors may withhold treatment on patients and "allow nature to take its course," under the Groningen Protocol, these inconvenient lives are prematurely ended. That is, actively euthanized. Put down like an old dog at the hands of the bureaucracy.

As I said, we've already reached the bottom of this particular slippery slope.


At 1:27 PM, Blogger Sue Bob said...

Hi Drew,

I like your post on this so much that I did a trackback ping for you to my blog. It actually worked--though for some reason it is still showing 0 Trackbacks at this moment. It's there if you click on Trackback.

I hope you don't mind.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Oh that's fine. Thanks, too. I didn't really have much to add. The horror of the thing speaks for itself. But I thought you made some practical points in your post.


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