Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The BMJ Doesn't "Get" Disabled People

I have more than a little trouble with the Deputy Editor of one of the world's three most respected medical journals suddenly coming out to express an intense contempt of disabled persons.

Mr. Tony Delamothe of the British Medical Journal recently voiced his opinion in the journal's 'Observations' section that

"The debate on assisted dying has been hijacked by disabled people who want to live. It needs to be reclaimed for terminally ill people who want to die."
I can't begin to enumerate the things that are wrong with this statement. But it gets better. After referencing the view of Baroness Campbell, herself a severely disabled member of the House of Lords who needs a ventilator to be able to breathe, that

"sanctioning assisted suicide would make doctors and those who help disabled people think that death is what is wanted by disabled people, 'the very people who need every encouragement to live and not to succumb to society’s prevalent view that our situation is so tragic, so burdensome, so insufferable that surely we must want to die,'"
he says, "I don't get it."

However, it is not that he does not understand the argument, but it is certainly true that he doesn't "get" it:

"I understand that changing the law might mean that some people could feel under some obligation to bring about their premature end to avoid being a burden to others—and that severely disabled people might feel this more than most. But should such a risk override the freedom of competent terminally ill people to bring about their own end at a time of their choosing?"
So, in other words (though not really), guaranteeing the freedom of the 'competent' - i.e. the strong - to choose for themselves whether they want to live or die is more important than securing the rights of those who might feel tempted - or pressured - to get themselves killed due to weakness, pressure from unloving relatives, lack of encouragement from caregivers etc.? Never mind if a few weaklings get thrown overboard, we have to make way for the übermensch, eh?

Plus, it costs an awful lot of money to have them pesky disabled people hanging around.

Think that's an unfair assessment of Mr. Delamothe's point of view? Then tell me why, to back up his stance, he invokes the infamous Baroness Warnock, according to public opinion Britain's "leading moral philosopher," who has publicly stated that people who suffer from dementia are "wasting [their] families' lives and... wasting the resources of the NHS," and that it is perfectly understandable that they should feel a 'duty to die'.

I understand Mr. Delamothe's and Baroness Warnock's argument for euthanasia - but I don't "get" it. And as a future doctor who joined this profession to care for the weakest, I sure as hell don't want to.

British Medical Journal? More like Brutish Mengele Journal to me.

H/T Fr. Tim

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