Less Than Human

DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
edited August 19 in Epiphanies
I don't agree with that. For me, human is a state solely reliant on possessing those attributes we generally ascribe to humans. Remove those attributes and you have something less, and often much less, than human. It follows that other species that display near human attributes are also deserving of being considered human. The unfortunate Tony Bland had lost all the attributes of being human and should have been allowed to die much sooner.

Similarly, the lack of human attributes in a foetus is why I have no problem with abortion.

How disabled do I have to be or become, for you to start to consider me sub-human ?

The kind of identity striping dehumanising Alzheimer's that my mother has would do it. She made it clear when she saw her own mother similarly reduced that if she ever got to that stage she'd like someone to put a pillow over her face and end it. Unfortunately, the law has yet to agree.

Should add that no amount of physical infirmity would ever strip someone of their humanness.
And people with severe learning disabilities ?

Depends how severe but in general I don't think life should be prolonged or perpetuated when a reasoned judgement is that it isn't worth living. That's a judgement we make of other animals all the time so I don't see why we shouldn't extend it to humans.

In the case of severe mental and physical disabilities discovered before birth then I believe the case for termination should be overwhelmingly.

That may seem callous but my mother's situation tells me that our current attitude to 'life' is untenable.

So I’m bringing this here - in an attempt to keep things civil. I respect Colin Smith’s distress about his mother’s condition. But I am deeply concerned about any perspective that so devalues the life of people with disabilities. And any perspective that labels Homo sapiens sapient any stage of thei life as less than human.
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Comments

  • To clarify. I wouldn't say that I am distressed by my mother's condition. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease but essentially my mother 'died' some time in 2013 and the last six years have been an unusually long wait for the funeral. Her physical remains receives good care but it does seem a terrible waste of time and effort to continue a physical existence that has no purpose or pleasure in it.

    Concerning the wider issue. Human, as far as I'm concerned, is best regarded as a verb rather than a noun. Human is what one does rather than what one is.

  • NB. I don't see any reason why this discussion should become uncivil.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 19
    I am aware that I have very strong feelings about this and it would be easy for me to rant in an abusive manner - which would not be helpful.

    Colin, what was the difference in 2013 vs 2012 that led you to consider her essentially dead ? (Obviously, don’t feel you have to answer, but I think it would be easier to understand your threshold with a concrete example.)
  • I am aware that I have very strong feelings about this and it would be easy for me to rant in an abusive manner - which would not be helpful.

    Well, if you do, then I accept your apology in advance :wink:
    PS. I also have strong feelings about this.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 19
    Colin, what was the difference in 2013 vs 2012 that led you to consider her essentially dead ? (Obviously, don’t feel you have to answer, but I think it would be easier to understand your threshold with a concrete example.)

    @Colin Smith I think it is extremely difficult to assess quality of life, for one’s future self and anyone else.

    I think it is even more of a problem to assess the quality of life for someone born with a particular issue, and someone who acquires that issue later in life.
  • Colin, what was the difference in 2013 vs 2012 that led you to consider her essentially dead ? (Obviously, don’t feel you have to answer, but I think it would be easier to understand your threshold with a concrete example.)

    @Colin Smith I think it is extremely difficult to assess quality of life, for one’s future self and anyone else.

    I think it is even more of a problem to assess the quality of life for someone born with a particular issue, and someone who acquires that issue later in life.

    This is complicated, though I assure you it's now 'pain free' as far as I'm concerned.

    What I mean by [b[essentially my mother 'died' some time in 2013[/b] is that the person I identified as my mother ceased to be over a period of about a year or two. I only witnessed the beginning of the process up to a point when she no recognised her husband (my adoptive father) whom she had been married to for fifty years and was beginning to no longer recognise me. She was also losing mental faculties and abilities and had become delusional. My adoptive father at one time became her recently deceased father, her brother, also an Alzheimer sufferer, became a doppelganger who was "just like her brother" but no her brother. If that sounds confused it was because it was confusing.

    In essence, my mother gradually lost crucial faculties that I identified with my mother, such as her knowledge of the relationships between her and others, her personality, and her faculties. In that sense, the person that I identified as 'my mother' ceased to be.

    That period coincided with me moving too far away to maintain regular contact so I decided to allow my mother to forget who I was completely and broke off contact with her. I simply did not see the point of seeing someone I no longer had any connection with.

    I don't think it's that difficult to assess someone's quality of life. We do it all the time with non-human animals.
  • It seems to me that you are confounding her quality of life with other facets of her condition.

    In terms of the issue of judging someone else’s quality of life - if your own needs as you understand them are met, is it right for me to say you have a poor quality of life ? I might enjoy what I am doing right now, eating cake for example, even if I do not remember that tomorrow.

    We do not necessarily think a new born baby has no quality of life, even though they may recognise very few people and engage in a very limited number of activities.

  • What about more than human? I've been wondering what the Epiphanies-related implications of transhumanism might be, and this seems relevant to the question 'what defines what it is to be human?'

    Interestingly, I see that early transhumanist thinker FM-2030 explained his vegetarian stance as 'refusing to eat anything with a mother'. Might 'having a human mother' be a benchmark for being human?
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    To clarify. I wouldn't say that I am distressed by my mother's condition. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease but essentially my mother 'died' some time in 2013 and the last six years have been an unusually long wait for the funeral. Her physical remains receives good care but it does seem a terrible waste of time and effort to continue a physical existence that has no purpose or pleasure in it.

    Concerning the wider issue. Human, as far as I'm concerned, is best regarded as a verb rather than a noun. Human is what one does rather than what one is.

    My Mum also had severe dementia and was six years dying.

    I asked God to ‘take her home’ many times. Of course that didn’t happen, God doesn’t answer prayers.

    Even so, I would never have called her less than human. We loved her dearly right to the end and brought her home for the last two weeks to be sure she had a ‘good’ and comfortable death.

    My brother’s step daughter has never been able to move or communicate or ‘do’ anything, due to Rett Syndrome. She is still very much human, and very much loved.

  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited August 19
    @Doublethink said -
    We do not necessarily think a new born baby has no quality of life, even though they may recognise very few people and engage in a very limited number of activities.

    I always compared my Mum’s dementia to the exact opposite of babyhood - a slow steady loss of capacity compared to the steady gains of ability a baby makes. Each day another small step backwards.

    Yes, she certainly could enjoy things (like cake!) ‘in the moment’ right up to the last two weeks. She had a visit from a family member every day on a rota basis and we tried hard to fill our visits with enjoyable moments for her. The home was simply amazing in that regard too.
  • I do recognise it’s a limited analogy, but I am also thinking of those like your step-niece who might have quite a limited range of things that give them pleasure, or that they remember. It doesn’t mean the pleasure it real, it does not mean they have no quality of life. You know this I think, my worry is that people like Colin do not share that view - what length those lives if people who believe them less than human get to judge whether euthanasia is merited on quality of life grounds ?
  • For myself, I know that I would not want to be kept alive if I had lost my abilities. I don't think I can list such abilities, but I have recently made sure I have a Health and Welfare registered paper so that if I am in such a state, my sons have authority to overrule medical opinion if necessary. I am very lucky that I have had 83 years so far.
    As far as the law is concernd, I am sort of supportive of the idea of voluntary euthanasia, but would definitely vote against such a law because there would be too many anomalies, many unforeseen. Medical care mostly improves and end-of-life treatment will continue to improve, so maybe the question will always remain unanswered. Too many grey areas.


  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    I do recognise it’s a limited analogy, but I am also thinking of those like your step-niece who might have quite a limited range of things that give them pleasure, or that they remember. It doesn’t mean the pleasure it real, it does not mean they have no quality of life. You know this I think, my worry is that people like Colin do not share that view - what length those lives if people who believe them less than human get to judge whether euthanasia is merited on quality of life grounds ?

    She adores birds and watching real birds or You Tube videos of birds gives her a great deal of pleasure, shown in huge smiles and lack of distress. Her family work hard at giving her as many bird-related experiences as they can.

  • That’s fab :)
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate

    Boogie wrote: »
    I always compared my Mum’s dementia to the exact opposite of babyhood - a slow steady loss of capacity compared to the steady gains of ability a baby makes. Each day another small step backwards.
    Yes, she certainly could enjoy things (like cake!) ‘in the moment’ right up to the last two week.

    That's how I looked at Mum's situation from 2009-13. I live in another country and spoke to her weekly by phone. I noticed nothing much wrong - nothing to prepare me for her condition when I flew there after being asked by her neighbours to come and visit. She didn't even know who I was. She was a danger to herself and others. I spent 3 months organising her through the health system into a suitable facility. From there she was moved to another more secure unit after 3 years.
    I looked at the time I was with her as being like when she looked after me when I was a baby and couldn't do anything for myself. I saw it as a real gift even though sometimes it was very difficult. She was distressed when she realised she was confused but quite happy the rest of the time.
    Then when I had to leave her I knew I had done the job I had to do. I wrote to her weekly and the staff read her the mails; "letters" which she'd carry around with her and show everyone. I was in communication with the facilities in which she was resident and they had to make adjustments to her care. When she died I organised "a lovely funeral"

    On arriving home I spent months worrying about myself. Her father had dementia and she did ... so I would, etc. Then I sat everyone down and said that by the time it came to me there would be different medical options available to them than what we'd had for Mum and they'd make decisions in my best interests. And that society's thinking on the topic would change along with all that.


  • SusanDoris wrote: »
    For myself, I know that I would not want to be kept alive if I had lost my abilities.

    Assuming you were aware that you'd lost them, of course.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    For myself, I know that I would not want to be kept alive if I had lost my abilities.

    Assuming you were aware that you'd lost them, of course.
    And this is the thing. People who would judge others as less than have no freaking idea how those people see themselves.
    It is, in large part, projection.
    And othering them is part of how people deal with their own pain. I'm not condemning that, it is a bitch.
  • A common thing you hear people say is they could not bear to be incontinent - as if this is not a common experience for older women who have born children.

    I think judging the quality of life even of your future self, let alone those you don’t know, is actually very difficult.

    What you decide for yourself, is up to you.

    But once you start saying people lacking this or that, are less than human - once you start to describe anyone as less than human - you invite a cold, dark river of unintended consequences.

    Consequences that find their first expression in questions such as why should we care for people who are less than human, why should we pay for them, what is the point of doing that, what is the point of them ?
  • edited August 19
    A common thing you hear people say is they could not bear to be incontinent - as if this is not a common experience for older women who have born children.

    I think judging the quality of life even of your future self, let alone those you don’t know, is actually very difficult.

    What you decide for yourself, is up to you.

    But once you start saying people lacking this or that, are less than human - once you start to describe anyone as less than human - you invite a cold, dark river of unintended consequences.

    Consequences that find their first expression in questions such as why should we care for people who are less than human, why should we pay for them, what is the point of doing that, what is the point of them ?

    It's easy to see what's going on when people say others are less than human. But what if for example:
    the public transportation has been terminated between towns and smaller cities because it was not profit-making, and the large cities are where the health services are?

    It is common here that the specialist health centres, and frequently simply the hospitals, are some distance away. The province converted about half rural hospitals to health clinics staffed only by nurses. The nurse may assess that you should go to the nearest town with a hospital. This may be 15 km or 150 km (9 or 90 miles). If you do not have a car and/or someone to take you... well you're on your own. There is no bus, train, plane, nothing. Ambulance is not a covered health service here. Starts at $325 to collect you, and $2.30 per km they travel. It's easy to have >$1000 ambulance bill, which is typical. So people don't call ambulances.

    So a family member travels to come and get the person, taking a day off work. And because it's chemotherapy or radiation, there's many trips to be made. The ill person gets depressed both because of illness and because of the immense burden on others. I started a thread some time ago about euthanasia "medical assistance in dying (MAID)" and these sorts of problems. We have health care people now offering this as a "treatment". MAID is legal in Canada, regulated via procedures in provinces and local health regions.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    My wife and I are just starting to go through this process with her mum, a delightful and gentle woman who is in the early stages of dementia. But we have numerous friends and relations who have travelled down this road with much loved relatives. And we've heard their stories, seen their pain.

    I hesitate to be dogmatic about how others should cope with the long, slow, loss of a loved one. We've known of cases where the personality just faded away, others where the personality changed - a gentle person became violent and foul mouthed. Others where the loved one lived for a long time with the fear of what the condition was doing to her. Others where the loved one "fell off a cliff" - moved from lucid to largely unaware of themselves in a few short months.

    There is also, in the UK, the sometimes appalling "dementia industry" dimension, of residential care being sold very expensively because of the greatly increased demand. Such care can be of very variable quality.

    Personally, I am very confused about the ethics of this. There is at least a part of me which recognises that treating people with dignity and respect and working hard to keep them alive sometimes travel in opposite directions. Sorting out my thoughts and feelings on this is a work in progress.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited August 20
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    For myself, I know that I would not want to be kept alive if I had lost my abilities.

    Assuming you were aware that you'd lost them, of course.
    And this is the thing. People who would judge others as less than have no freaking idea how those people see themselves.
    It is, in large part, projection.
    And othering them is part of how people deal with their own pain. I'm not condemning that, it is a bitch.

    I was thinking the same. Both my reaction to my Mum’s dementia and @Colin Smith ‘s to his are projection of a sort. Both very different in action, but from the same place of pain and despair.

    We should have a ‘Fuck Dementia’ thread.

    @Barnabas62 said -
    There is at least a part of me which recognises that treating people with dignity and respect and working hard to keep them alive sometimes travel in opposite directions. Sorting out my thoughts and feelings on this is a work in progress.

    I think this is simple at the end of life. “Pain management only” works then. But, if life is ongoing in this state, like my step-niece, I have no idea. I think it can only be done case by case and with compassion.

    The case of the baby whose parents didn’t want his life support switched off comes to mind.

  • I just moved my dad into a nursing home. He has Parkinson's - well, that's the closest they have come to a diagnosis but let's just say he has dementia. The main issue was that his incontinence was so bad my mom could not keep him and the parts of the house he moved around in clean even with home health aides coming multiple times a week to bathe him. He has been in the home about a month now and because the home is too worried about falls to let him walk much - and they get even more nervous when they see Parkinson's on his chart - his muscles are shriveling and I think he will lose the ability to walk altogether soon. His walking was already getting worse - painfully slow and only for short distances with a walker - when he went into the home.

    The only thing he has ever wanted to do for years is watch TV and he is losing interest in that. Even if it is on, he doesn't really pay attention. He pulls out all his charm and acts very sharp when anyone other than Mom or me speaks to him but conversations longer than a few minutes are hard for him to follow so he tends to try to end the conversation or becomes quiet after a talking for a short while. He loves nothing more than to talk about his exciting life in business before he lost all his money - which was possibly because of his dementia setting in early. But the details of his stories are now getting confused, and since going into a home he just tends to be talking less overall.

    He doesn't seem very interested in meeting people at the home or in doing any of the activities there. They take him to the dining room for meals and that's about the only time he goes out of his room. My mom visits most days around dinnertime and to sit with him afterwards. I live thousands of miles away, but I make it out when I can. No other family visits.

    My grandmother on my mother's side, who is 13 years older than my dad, also lives in a home and her mind is fuzzy most of the time, but she is more talkative than dad and has them take her out of her room to do bingo. She can't walk, can't feel her lower legs, and needs help to go to the bathroom. I have seen her be happy though, which I haven't really seen dad be in years with a few exceptions.

    I have an aunt who had an aneurysm and strokes that left her paralyzed on one side and only able to say a few words now and then, in addition to nodding, smiling, and squeezing people's hands. I have no idea what her cognitive abilities are now because of her difficulty communicating.

    I also have a brother in law whose lower body was crushed in a car accident who can walk but is in tremendous pain all the time, can hardly sleep at all, and doesn't want to die now but is a fierce supporter of laws that let him choose when and how he dies.

    My mom told me a lady at dad's home was crying saying "God doesn't see me" and she and the staff had to try to comfort her and tell her that wasn't true.

    I don't want to argue about assisted suicide or euthanasia legislation here, although I have pretty strong beliefs about it that I had before all this stuff started happening in my family.

    My biggest fear isn't about losing dignity (I've never felt like I had very much to begin with) or independence. It's all horror about not knowing what it is like to be inside the black box of people's minds in such situations, and in the case of my brother in law not knowing what severe chronic pain and sleep deprivation feel like and what cognitive state they produce.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    But once you start saying people lacking this or that, are less than human - once you start to describe anyone as less than human - you invite a cold, dark river of unintended consequences.

    Consequences that find their first expression in questions such as why should we care for people who are less than human, why should we pay for them, what is the point of doing that, what is the point of them ?

    For obvious reasons this brings the Schiavo case to mind. Terri Schiavo lacked any kind of higher brain function but had enough autonomic functions in place to be maintained indefinitely on artificial life support. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say her family's decision to terminate artificial life support necessarily "invite[d] a cold, dark river of unintended consequences".
  • There is a significant difference in saying some people are less than human, and saying that someone is in fact dead.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    There is a significant difference in saying some people are less than human, and saying that someone is in fact dead.

    Is there? The dead are considered less than human so there's at least a basic equivalence. This seems to hold even in cases like Terri Schiavo who was still alive by most measures.
  • This is a good summary of the kind of issues I am trying to capture. Peter Singer would perhaps say, this human is not a person, rather than this individual is less than human.

    To take Colin’s account given above, his mother was in nowhere near Terri Schiavo’s condition when he chose to stop seeing her. She was not dead, she is human.
  • I think it must be especially heart-rending and difficult to make decisions about someone like Ms. Schiavo. She did seem to have some awareness, and movement. Her mom evidently took that as proof her daughter was still in there. Her husband went so far as to become a nurse, so he could take care of her. IIRC, he went with medical advice in deciding Terri wasn't really there anymore, and it was time to let her go.

    (Years?) later there was news that people like Terri may be more "here" than they seem. I don't have any particular opinion on what was done, other that it was a horrible, painful situation. But I have sometimes wondered how Terri could move and display some awareness if no one was home inside.

    (:votive: for anyone dealing with that kind of situation.)
  • Oh, the dead are hunan, though in a different state from the living (legally and etc). It's precisely their humanity that leads to the criminalization or other penalization of such things as corpse abuse, mishandling of human bodies (in ways that don't necessarily create health hazards), and cannibalism. Humanity in every culture AFAIK makes a difference between what may be done with a human body and what may be done with an animal's. The details may vary, but the underlying perception renains the same--that the dead are human.
  • This is a good summary of the kind of issues I am trying to capture. Peter Singer would perhaps say, this human is not a person, rather than this individual is less than human.

    To take Colin’s account given above, his mother was in nowhere near Terri Schiavo’s condition when he chose to stop seeing her. She was not dead, she is human.

    Whilst respect for the dead is an important facet of humanity, and how we treat the dying is important - let’s not take a massive leap over the implications of the arguments and characterisations we make have for people with severe disabilities who are not dead or imminently dying.

    Saying people can be less than human if they can’t not do x or y, saying the assumption of detection in pregnancy of such conditions should be for termination - is dangerous, is a form of eugenicist thought.

    @Colin Smith was Connor Sparrowhawk less than human ? Was Richard Handley less than human ?

    Death by indifference is what happens when you fundamentally just consider disabled lives to be worth less.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Maybe ‘do unto others’ would come in here. That locked in, disabled life could be any one of us tomorrow. How would we like to be treated?

    Would there be any consensus? My husband would say ‘just shoot me’. I would say ‘surround me with family and interesting things’.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 21
    But what about the people who are disabled today ? Who were born into a disabled life. Also, please watch the video clip, it’s the best short summary I have ever seen.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    But what about the people who are disabled today ? Who were born into a disabled life. Also, please watch the video clip, it’s the best short summary I have ever seen.

    My step-niece was born almost completely ‘locked in’, she can’t move at all, apart from her eyes - she can smile and grunt and moan, so her feelings are known. Her mother is amazing and has attended her every need for 32 years.

    How people who can’t even communicate their feelings are we’ll never know. :cry:

  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 21
    What did you think of the video about Singer ? Link.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 21
    There are quite a lot of sources on what it is like to have locked in syndrome. The Diving Bell & the Butterfly is probably the most famous account - but here is a shorter first person account.
  • There is a significant difference in saying some people are less than human, and saying that someone is in fact dead.

    That depends on what you mean by people, human, and dead.

    I have no hesitation in saying that my mother is dead because my mother was an association of personality, memories, emotions, and so on, that comprise an actual person with whom I had a fifty year association. All those qualities have now been stripped away and what is left is only a physical shell devoid of personhood.

    I should add that as an atheist I reject any supernatural or divine element in our make-up: we are our physical and mental attributes and no more.

    It follows that while we might disagree about what the legal and physical entity known as Mrs Smith has become and how we should regard her (though even the use of the feminine pronoun is debatable) that entity is no longer recognisable to me or to other family members as my mother.
  • To take Colin’s account given above, his mother was in nowhere near Terri Schiavo’s condition when he chose to stop seeing her. She was not dead, she is human.

    At the point I chose (it was something of a forced choice as I was moving away and travel would be difficult) to move away the person I knew as my mother was diminishing in front of my eyes. She was not at that point less than human but she was certainly ceasing to be the person I recognised as my mother. In the almost six years since then her condition has deteriorated to the pint where my brother has described her as a shell.
    Whilst respect for the dead is an important facet of humanity, and how we treat the dying is important - let’s not take a massive leap over the implications of the arguments and characterisations we make have for people with severe disabilities who are not dead or imminently dying.

    Saying people can be less than human if they can’t not do x or y, saying the assumption of detection in pregnancy of such conditions should be for termination - is dangerous, is a form of eugenicist thought.

    @Colin Smith was Connor Sparrowhawk less than human ? Was Richard Handley less than human ?

    Death by indifference is what happens when you fundamentally just consider disabled lives to be worth less.

    I don't know anything about Connor and the link doesn't give any details about his condition. In the case of Richard I do think any foetus diagnosed with severe Downs should be aborted. That is not about eugenics but simply that I do not think we should subject anyone to such a life or that we should expect people to provide the lifelong care they need.

    Bear in mind that while you find my attitudes appalling, the reality of life in care homes is appalling and the issue will only worsen in an ageing population where medical intervention in physical care continues to outstrip concerns for quality of life.

    We know when it is right to put a dog to sleep. Why can we not make the same decision for members of our own species?
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 21
    @Colin Smith What did you think of the video about Singer ? Link.

    Would you say that he reflects your views ?

    (Also, leaving aside all other issues, isn’t the issue of crap homes a question of fix the care homes rather than kill the people who use them ?)
  • @Colin Smith What did you think of the video about Singer ? Link.

    Would you say that he reflects your views ?

    (Also, leaving aside all other issues, isn’t the issue of crap homes a question of fix the care homes rather than kill the people who use them ?)

    Unfortunately I'm in a public library so sound isn't an option.
    The issue isn't that we have crap care homes but that in many cases the care is wasted on those who would be better off out of it.
  • @Colin Smith What did you think of the video about Singer ? Link.

    Would you say that he reflects your views ?

    (Also, leaving aside all other issues, isn’t the issue of crap homes a question of fix the care homes rather than kill the people who use them ?)

    I have read most of this article about Singer and find I broadly agree with him on most issues. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/1999/nov/06/weekend.kevintoolis

    It's interesting that the interviewing uses a number of words and concepts that I believe to be meaningless, such as
    How people decorate the spaces they use tells you something about their soul. If that is true, then Singer's soul must be remarkably functional.

    and

    Singer is not detested because he eats miso soup and supports animal rights, but because he denies the sacredness, the sanctity, of human life.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited August 21
    For folks caught in the midst of this (and at least two of our friends are dealing with far gone relatives and problematic care homes) I don't blame them for saying, in effect, "my karma has just run over your dogma".

    Boogie is right I think. Case by case. And involving the law just seems to make matters worse in most situations.
  • caroline444caroline444 Shipmate
    edited August 21
    Boogie wrote: »
    Maybe ‘do unto others’ would come in here. That locked in, disabled life could be any one of us tomorrow. How would we like to be treated?

    Would there be any consensus? My husband would say ‘just shoot me’. I would say ‘surround me with family and interesting things’.

    That is why I think living wills are so important. Were voluntary euthanasia available in this country (the UK) I would alter my LW immediately to include that option. I would request it be applied if my quality of life were to drop drastically with something like dementia or locked in syndrome.

    My step-mom is in her sixth year with Alzheimer's - and I know that is what she would have chosen to do, even if given the option of voluntary euthanasia, as she is very frightened of dying. I've also read two books by people who have experienced locked in syndrome....one of whom recovered completely. Plus I've read about current research which tests for consciousness, even when people seem in a vegetative state.

    I still wish deeply that I could have access to the option of voluntary euthanasia if terminally ill, or in ongoing pain. We make this choice on behalf of our beloved pets, to me it would seem a great step forward if we could make the choice for ourselves too.

    PS I watched the video which discussed Singer. I don't agree with his views.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    What did you think of the video about Singer ? Link.

    I think Singer is wrong, and confused. It isn’t only religious people who believe in the ‘sanctity’ of humans and of life. All kind people do.

    I do think animals are often personalities who have just as much right to kind treatment as I do. But that shouldn't diminish the human, or the rights of the human, disabled or not.

    I agree with Frank Skinner - you don’t need to kill severely disabled people to be kind to animals and support charities.

    It isn’t about the money imo. If we wanted to save money we’d give everyone on earth a good quality of life and good medical care - easy done if we stop spending it on war and allowing the rich to take and hoard it all.

  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    For folks caught in the midst of this (and at least two of our friends are dealing with far gone relatives and problematic care homes) I don't blame them for saying, in effect, "my karma has just run over your dogma".

    Boogie is right I think. Case by case. And involving the law just seems to make matters worse in most situations.

    I agree that case by case is best. Unfortunately, the law has already involved itself by criminalising assisted suicide and for holding the threat of a murder prosecution over medical people doing what's best for a patient.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Yes. I understand why the law says what it does. The issue is nearly always the impact of third party enforcement.
  • @Barnabas62 do you agree with Singer that killing any severely disabled person up to the age of three would be a reasonable thing to do ?
  • edited August 21
    Boogie wrote: »
    Maybe ‘do unto others’ would come in here. That locked in, disabled life could be any one of us tomorrow. How would we like to be treated?

    Would there be any consensus? My husband would say ‘just shoot me’. I would say ‘surround me with family and interesting things’.

    That is why I think living wills are so important. Were voluntary euthanasia available in this country (the UK) I would alter my LW immediately to include that option. I would request it be applied if my quality of life were to drop drastically with something like dementia or locked in syndrome.

    My step-mom is in her sixth year with Alzheimer's - and I know that is what she would have chosen to do, even if given the option of voluntary euthanasia, as she is very frightened of dying. I've also read two books by people who have experienced locked in syndrome....one of whom recovered completely. Plus I've read about current research which tests for consciousness, even when people seem in a vegetative state.

    I still wish deeply that I could have access to the option of voluntary euthanasia if terminally ill, or in ongoing pain. We make this choice on behalf of our beloved pets, to me it would seem a great step forward if we could make the choice for ourselves too.

    PS I watched the video which discussed Singer. I don't agree with his views.
    I see this kind of sentiment expressed by (mostly) healthy people, considering themselves as individuals. Which is not the way to make public policy. Assisted suicide is legal in Canada, called MAID - medical assistance in dying. The process is arduous, and there are many safeguards, but it boils down to repeated confirmation that the person wants to be drugged to the point of death. If the procedural checklist is followed, the death by medication is legal.

    What this does not cover is the elderly or frail person who is spending their children's inheritance on care for themselves, which here can approach $5000 per month plus additional expenses related to medical supplies and transportation (ambulance is $325 plus $2.30 per km ~$3/mile including travel to the patient). The point is that the costs add up. Hospital care spends the $5000 in less than 3 days.

    So what I'm understanding is that people are being offered MAID by way of discussion as a "treatment option". The influence of family, of medical opinion etc is dealt with by clearing the room and the person being asked if they want this option on the slate of options. Does having it available make it more likely to occur? is there direct and subtle pressure?

    Of my questions, the only one I know the answer to for certain is that people have decided to not see a particular doctor again because MAID was discussed with them.

    I always return in thought to "life unworthy of life" which my father recalls from 1930s Berlin. From voluntary to necessary in a short while.

    Which leads me in the completely different direction of "palliative sedation" and palliative care generally. It leads away from those whose physical health is not precarious. But leads to appropriate care so that there is not suffering. The poor quality of elder care when they have chronic conditions is not reason to authorize terminating their lives. Which the current MAID procedures in Canada wouldn't allow anyway. The person can't confirm wanting to die with assistance. Thus I don't think a living will would work if the person does not confirm at the time of hooking up the lethal injections.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited August 21
    The problem I have with saying an end-stage Alzheimer's patient is "dead" (besides the misuse of the English language) is that I have witnessed people at this point pull off amazing episodes of lucidity for short periods. They never last, of course, but what the hell is going on when such a person who is no longer even verbal suddenly opens her eyes, recognizes you, and has a coherent, complex conversation with you for several minutes before falling asleep and returning to her normal state? Especially when the last time she was coherent was years ago.

    Judging by stories I've been told, I'm not the only person who has run into this phenomenon.

    Which leads me to believe that the "real person" is in fact still there, hiding somewhere inside that shell, apparently cut off from normal life and interaction 99% of the time by ... shall we call it a problem with the cable? As when a computer screen goes dark, not because the computer itself is bad, or because the screen is bad, but because the cable linking the two is on the fritz and only occasionally wonks itself back into momentary usefulness. That's the model I'm currently thinking about for Alzheimer's.

    If correct, we have a situation much closer to locked-in syndrome than to "she's dead."
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    I agree with Frank Skinner - you don’t need to kill severely disabled people to be kind to animals and support charities.

    It isn’t about the money imo. If we wanted to save money we’d give everyone on earth a good quality of life and good medical care - easy done if we stop spending it on war and allowing the rich to take and hoard it all.
    It is not only a false equivalence, but the sort of thinking Singer has will lead to less charity. If you can put life into such pragmatic terms, it diminishes the value of all life.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    @Barnabas62 do you agree with Singer that killing any severely disabled person up to the age of three would be a reasonable thing to do ?

    No. I'm dogmatic that utilitarianism should not be a life-deciding dogma!
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited August 21
    I ask the question, because people are tending to engage with this thread around, essentially, end of life issues. Whilst I understand that happening given the context in which the OP arose. That is not really what I am trying to discuss.

    It’s more, if you justify defining someone as effectively dead or less than human through the loss of intellectual skills - which becomes your reason for advocating euthanasia - have you thought about the implications of those specific reasons when applied to disabled life. Not the process of dying.

    So it seems to me, that Colin’s view - forgive me if I have this wrong Colin - is not just that dementia robbed him of his mother and who or what that left was not worth keeping for the last 6 years, but that anyone with an intellectual disability serious enough to mean they can not reliably recognise people (e.g. “serious Downs”) has a life not worth living. Moreover it is unreasonable to expect others, and by extension society, to provide the care and support they need to live that life.

    I fundamentally and passionately disagree with this, (and if I have misrepresented Colin’s position - it certainly not an exaggeration of Singer’s position).
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