Take my neighbor. Please.

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 11, 2005

After just 3 years of heavy thinking, the Royal Dutch Medical Association has concluded that it's OK for a doctor to administer a lethal injection to anyone who is "suffering through living."

Let's say that John Doe is perfectly healthy, and perfectly happy in his life. John has a neighbor, Richard Roe, who detests him. Roe is a powerful community leader-- let's say he's just donated a new wing to the medical center, where the euthanasia cases are "treated"-- and the resident doctors always show him great respect.

Another thing: Richard Roe hates John Doe.

One fine day, Roe pops in for a visit at the Roe Euthanasia Annex, and mentions that his neighbor John Doe is sadly "suffering through living." Brought in for questioning, Doe says that he's never been happier. Roe replies that it's a terribly sad case: Doe is delusional.

A panel of experts-- all trained in philosophical ethics by eminent professors like Peter Singer and Richard McBrien-- is convened to hear the case.

Doe says that he is happy because he has faith in God. That's bad, very bad, the experts agree-- evidence of a dysfunctional superstition. But the clinching evidence comes when Roe testifies, quite accurately, that he has often heard Doe refer to life as a "vale of tears."

The interns roll the gurney into the room, and the resident prepares the IV drip...

Of course this could not happen. It's just a nightmare I had. Probably because of something I ate. Don't worry, I'll get over it. I feel fine. Really! I'm OK!

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2005 12:59 PM ET USA

    I believe the technical term for these people is "Sophist". Despised for centuries by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (all atheists, but not stupid) and others. Today they cloak themselves in technical aspects of a trade, and, having never learned to actually think, for a price they offer bits of jargon and techniques for the temporary solution of whatever disturbs you. The word "prostitute" also comes to mind, but, unlike sophist, it hasn't quite lost all of its negative connotations.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2005 11:01 AM ET USA

    Like lawyers today, and researchers, too, (used to be accountants), sadly ethicists will provide the answer you want to the questions you ask. It's all about the money.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2005 10:25 AM ET USA

    No, the Dutch vision is more likely to involve a trip across the River Charon by a feeble person in his 80's, coaxed into relieving Society of his life-burden.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2005 9:40 AM ET USA

    Sadly, medical ethics has simply become a means of rationalization. Throw a cloak of a few years of feigned angst over it and it appears to be a serious philosophical/moral inquiry. Listen to medical ethicists for any length of time and you begin to wonder why they are all Unitarians.