Mercator has an article on euthanasia that discusses the pressure that can be put on the vulnerable:
It was 1995 and our then governor-general, Bill Hayden, was addressing the College of Physicians during debate on the Northern Territory’s euthanasia laws. The scene was significant, since the dual concern with euthanasia is the corruption of the relationship between the state and its most vulnerable citizens, and between doctors and their most vulnerable patients. Our head of state urged doctors to support euthanasia not only as a right, but also as a positive duty towards society. He reflected on past cultures where the elderly would take their lives when their usefulness had passed, and declared of our own culture: “There is a point when the succeeding generations deserve to be disencumbered of some unproductive burdens.” The next day a retired state governor, Mark Oliphant, publicly supported Hayden’s astonishing message to “unproductive burdens” that they should do the right thing by society. This is the callousing of social attitudes, the insidious pressure on the frail and demoralised, that we could expect within a culture of mercy-killing.
A year earlier in Britain, a House of Lords select committee on medical ethics completed the most thorough enquiry into euthanasia ever undertaken, and concluded in stark contrast to Hayden: “The message which society sends to vulnerable and disadvantaged people should not, however obliquely, encourage them to seek death, but should assure them of our care and support in life.” This committee began with a majority in favour of euthanasia, but ended by rejecting it as unsafe and corrupting public policy: “It would be next to impossible to ensure that every act of euthanasia was truly voluntary. We are concerned that vulnerable people – the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed – would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to seek early death.”
Doctors have no illusions about the pressures that can be felt by vulnerable people. One patient of mine, a woman with disabilities and minimal self-confidence, received a cruel letter from a close relative effectively telling her she should be dead, and demanding certain arrangements in her will. She then developed cancer. Consider such family dynamics in a setting of legalised euthanasia, and ask what the “right to die” would mean to a cancer patient so isolated and intimidated.
Elsewhere, I found a quote from British philosopher Baroness Warnock:
[Baroness Warnock] told the Church of Scotland’s Life and Work magazine, “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.” In another article for a Norwegian periodical, titled “A Duty to Die?” she suggests, “There’s nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so [commit suicide] for the sake of others as well as yourself.In other contexts, sacrificing oneself for one’s family would be considered good. I don’t see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance.”
And an article a couple of years ago in InsideCatholic comments:
To be clear, treatment is denied not because the patient is expected to die; rather, the providers fear the patient might live. Thus, not only are many persons now denied a natural death, but some might even be denied a chance to livea normal life.Not surprisingly, then, the hallowed “right to die” has evolved into a “duty to die,” and a caste of disposable persons has essentially been created.
This modern concept of futility poses grave danger even to patients who specifically request resuscitation efforts in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest. Indeed, another issue that has bubbled to the surface is the “slow code” — hospital slang suggesting a leisurely walk to the bedside — wherein a code team declines to pursue aggressive measures to resuscitate a patient. In effect, they stage a response that is delayed to the point where the patient’s chances of survival are greatly minimized. When the patient dies, the staff document that “all measures were taken.” The rationale for such a response might be that the patient is “severely terminal” or “demented,” and resuscitation is regarded as “futile,” as the team speculates that the person would have an inadequate quality of life if he were revived.
My father died two years ago, several weeks after a massive stroke left him in a coma. I count our family lucky that he lived in a small rural community, and the local community hospital gave him loving care in the weeks he was dying. I’ve seen what happens in a large city hospital, and I wouldn’t want that kind of mechanical neglect for anyone I loved.