Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Britain to Doctors: Kill or be Prosecuted

Excerpted from an article on LifeSiteNews:
In a statement yesterday Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor of England has warned doctors that they may face prison sentences if they refuse to starve and dehydrate patients to death. Criminal charges of assault could be laid against doctors or nurses who refuse to allow patients to die, even by removal of food and hydration tube.

The Labour government unveiled its new guidelines for doctors to follow the Mental Capacity Act that is to come into effect next spring.

The guidelines instruct doctors that a patient’s “advanced decision,” what is often called a “living will,” that includes a request for cessation of medical treatment must be followed even if it means the patient will die. To fail to do so, in other words, to take action to keep a patient alive, could result in criminal charges or heavy fines.

The government’s guidelines instruct doctors, “If you are satisfied that an advance decision exists which is valid and applicable, then not to abide by it could lead to a legal claim for damages or a criminal prosecution for assault.”

British courts, in conjunction with jurisdictions around the world, have determined that it is sometimes in the patient’s best interest to be dehydrated to death by removal of feeding and hydration tubes. In many parts of the world, including Canada, food and hydration is considered “medical treatment” and as such can be, and frequently is, withheld on the grounds that it constitutes “extraordinary treatment”.

This was the thinking that allowed the court-ordered killing of Terri Schindler Schiavo in 2005.

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, warned that the Act is a means of installing “euthanasia by omission.” Schadenberg says the Act allows for the intentional killing of patients who would not otherwise be dying by withholding food and fluids or other ordinary medical treatments.

And that’s the whole point. It’s one thing to withhold treatment; it’s another thing to withhold food and water. One is allowing someone to die naturally; the other is killing. If one removes the hospital setting, the differences become more obvious. If you are lost on a desert island and your friend gets bitten by a snake, you and he may decide not to cut off his arm (i.e. withhold treatment); you’re still going to give him food and water. We don’t require soldiers to kill in violation of their consciences. As a matter of fact, the Nuremberg trials spelled out that “following orders” is not a valid defense. Requiring a physician to kill is unconscionable. Somewhere (probably somewhere warm), the spirit of Hitler is laughing hysterically. I think the Brits may need to offer an apology to the SS.