Dispensable Patients - who will make the decision?

Withdrawing or withholding of treatment in newborns, the disabled and the elderly are mostly based solely on "quality of life" considerations, by a third party.
  • Withdrawal of food and water for defective babies is common, even when their defects are medically correctable.
  • Many paedetricians consider it ethically justifiable to starve to death a newborn baby with developmental handicaps.
  • One doctor said that "human vegetables" should be allowed to die from starvation.
  • We are finding that doctor-assisted suicide is fuelled by the desire to make the problem of old age "just go away".
  • "Cessation of nutrition may become the only effective way to make certain a large number of biologically tenacious patients actually die."
There are real and dangerous snags when the Government tightens the health budget. The reduced health dollar coupled with human life being treated as a cheap and even expendable commodity bodes ominously for society unless we renew our respect for life.

The "Medical Discrimination against Children with Disabilities" report of the US Commission on Civil Rights (1989) shows that the practice of withholding food and water from babies born with developmental handicaps is becoming more and more prevalent, even though many of these defects are medically correctable.
The more prominently that mental retardation figures into the infant's diagnosis, the more willing they are to do it


The Commissioner's report cited a survey (conducted by the American Academy of Paediatrics that said 63 percent of paediatric surgeons this it is ethically justifiable to starve to death a newborn baby with developmental handicaps. And the more prominently that metal retardation figures into the infant's diagnosis, the more willing they are to do it.

This is also the finding of Stephen Wall, et al, "Death in the Intensive Care Nursery: Physician Practice of Withdrawing and Withholding Life Support." Paediatrics (Jan 1997) The article notes that 23 percent of the deaths attributed to the withdrawing or withholding of treatment from newborns was based solely on "quality of life" considerations.

Harvard University physician, Dr. Dwight Harken, who specializes in open-heart surgery, spoke to the Medica Canada' 83 conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He recommended that 300,000 North American "human vegetables" should be allowed to die from starvation.
"Fatal doses should be administered if that's what is required to let a patient die comfortable."


A Canadian physician, Dr. David Roy, said that "deformed babies should not be shoved into corners to starve and scream themselves to death", but that "Fatal doses should be administered if that's what is required to let a patient die comfortable." [`Human vegetables' should starve, The Columbian, 1.6.83]

It is notable that he did not argue that those babies should be treated, as we would expect humane medical staff to do.

Dr. Philippe Schepens, Secretary of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life (WFDRHL), commented that the complete story of `Maartje' (little Martha who was born with multiple handicaps)

"... shows us that (again in Holland) things go forward in the wrong direction.... it is the start of recognition of infanticide as good medical practice ... this case is a start of a new jurisprudence about infanticide for "deformed babies", so that after abortion and euthanasia, people can be killed "for their own sake" without own request. Once this is achieved, all kinds of (more or less) ill and very ill people will be legally `allowed to be put down', actually as pets.
Killing infants is not something alien to New Zealand. Recall the efforts of Dr McLean to save the life of an infant that he had come across in a utility room. The infant had been placed there by other medical staff to perish.

Eliminating old age and disabilities
Now we are finding that Doctor-assisted suicide is fuelled by the desire to make the problem of old age "just go away", rather than provide quality care for the terminally ill.

In Holland, nearly half of all euthanasia cases involve a doctor killing without the patient's consent or knowledge, according to an analysis of the government's own pro-euthanasia report by the journal of the American Medical Association.

Now we are finding that doctors and relatives are fighting to have the sick and handicapped denied food and water so that they too will starve to death.

"Cessation of nutrition may become the only effective way to make certain a large number of biologically tenacious patients actually die." [Daniel Callahan, Hastings Report, October 1983]

On 14th April, UK parliament backed Ann Winterton's Prevention of Euthanasia Bill by 96 votes to 10. It was four votes short of the total required for the bill to proceed to the next stage of parliamentary proceedings. It was defeated because the Government and the British Medical Association (BMA) opposed it, and many MPs who supported it did not turn up to vote, because they felt they could not influence the juggernaut tactics of the Government.

The bill read: " It shall be unlawful for any person responsible for the care of a patient to withdraw or withhold from the patient medical treatment or sustenance if his purpose or one of his purposes in doing so is to hasten or otherwise cause the death of the patient."
Once conditions are set, by which a person's life may be ended, others will find ways to alter those conditions.


Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor said:
"I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers."
The case of Terry Schiavo
Consider the case of Terri Schiavo in Florida in which the Courts have ruled that the feeding tubes should be removed from Terri. This action effectively condemned Terri to die by starvation. Terri was disabled and unable to eat by mouth by otherwise enjoyed good health.

The courts paid little attention to the evidence and protestations of Terri's parents and medical experts. The Courts ordered the medical staff to take deliberate steps that would kill Terri. Read more about the fight over the life of Terri Schiavo here.

Australian case study
An article in Undercover Medicine published in November 2002, tells the story of the last days of a woman (the author's mother) who had been admitted to a public hospital for the treatment of a bedsore.
Within 48 hours of her admission, the woman was placed on a "pureed" diet, although she had a healthy appetite with no problem eating prior to admission.

Within 48 hours of her admission, the woman was placed on a "pureed" diet, although she had a healthy appetite with no problem eating prior to admission.

"This diet weakened Mum considerably. On the eleventh day, Mum was fed by the nursing staff and, from her medical records, it would seem she aspirated on her evening meal and her temperature spiked. This caused the Speech Pathologist to put my mother on a "Nothing By Mouth" diet(?), with not even a drip for sustenance."

The family protested which resulted in the woman being placed on a drip. Eventually, with the woman becoming weaker and weaker daily, she was fed through an incorrectly-inserted nasogastric tube which resulted in the fluid filling the lungs.
"As soon as the feed began, Mum choked and gagged for several minutes and I ran desperately to the nurses, begging them to come and check the tube. Without any x-ray or serious attempt to find the problem, my Dad and I were informed Mum's nostril was probably feeling a bit irritated from the insertion of the tube.

The feeding was allowed to continue and my concern was not noted in the medical records. A couple of hours later, Mum was gasping for air. A couple of hours after that, she was placed on oxygen. For the next twenty-four hours she received no sustenance, not even a drip, and she choked to death that evening." Read the full story here.
Bioethicist Joseph Fletcher went so far as to recommend that it would be an act of mercy to euthanase all those who have a below average IQ.
Extending the criteria
History has shown that once society provides approved guidelines within which it is acceptable to kill another person, it is only a matter of time for those guidelines to be changed and the range of victims extended.

Bioethicist Joseph Fletcher went so far as to recommend that it would be an act of mercy to euthanase all those who have a below average IQ. Because, by virtue of the their IQ, they cannot properly provide for themselves, not could they contribute in a meaningful way to society. Perhaps it could be on the grounds that a truly compassionate person could not bear to see the hardships and sufferings that they must endure.

Consider, though, the T4 programme of pre-war socialist Germany and the American Eugenics movement of the 20s and 30s which applauded the Nazi goals. In Judgement at Nuremberg, one of those responsible for the Holocaust says that he "never thought it would go that far," and he was told that it "went that far" as soon as a single innocent life was taken.

Discrimination of the elderly
Dr. Adrian Treloar, a leading UK geriatric specialist, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that an unspoken policy of "involuntary euthanasia" is being practised in government-funded National Health Service (NHS) hospitals.

This 1999 news article reported, "There is an ongoing controversy around different interpretations of recent British Medical Association (BMA) guidelines which permit the withdrawal of nutrition and fluids administered by tube for stroke victims and the confused elderly, even when the patient is not terminally ill."

Age Concern England, a leading advocacy group for the elderly, said age discrimination was apparent at all levels of the NHS, from primary care through to major teaching hospitals. They report personal accounts of patients who complain of being deprived of treatment because of their age.

Six years later nothing has changed. In July 2005, the BBC's Panorama programme broadcast a three-month undercover investigation into the care of elderly patients in British hospitals. A nurse employed by Panorama secretly filmed footage shows neglect of elderly patients.

Filmed incidents included failure to administer pain relief drugs properly to terminal cancer patients and nurses eating patients' food in the kitchen whilst some patients who were unable to feed themselves went hungry.

Herbert Hendin, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide who has studied euthanasia in the Netherlands and elsewhere says:
"In practice it is still the doctor who decides whether to perform euthanasia. He can suggest it, not give patients obvious alternatives, ignore patients' ambivalence, and even put to death patients who have not requested it. Euthanasia enhances the power and control of doctors, not patients." Source: Seduced by Death, (W.W. Norton & Co 1997) p.214