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  #1  
Old 03-22-2004, 12:50 AM
KGS KGS is offline
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We euthanize our pets. Why not people too?

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago, and has gone on a rapid downward spiral since then, going from independent living to round-the-clock nursing care in an "assisted living" facility. By last week, he'd lost nearly all speech and bowel functions, and it's hard to tell if he could actually recognize family members anymore. He's also got Parkinson's, and while the nursing staff does their best to keep him in a wheelchair, it seems like every other week he's off to the emergency room to get stitched up from yet another fall.

Last week, he took another tumble and struck his head -- but this time, he wound up with a hematoma in his brain and he's currently in a coma. The hospital says that he's unlikely to recover, considering his age and advanced illness.

Luckily, he had the foresight to make out a living will with a DNR order. Problem is, there's no plug to pull -- he's breathing on his own (with the aid of passive oxygen) and the only I.V. he's hooked up to is the one providing nutrients (as far as I know...I know they took him off antibiotics yesterday.) Right now, the family's looking into whether the DNR covers a feeding tube or not.

This whole situation sickens me. If he were a dog or a cat or a horse or a muskrat, he would have been "put down" years ago. After all, it's the "humane" thing to do.

But, when it comes to human beings, the only options are to (1) keep him alive with I.V.'s until nature takes its course, or (2) remove all sustenance and let him starve to death (if that's even allowable...remember that lady in Clearwater?) While comatose, he will still open his eyes sometimes, and it's anyone's guess just how much physical / mental / emotional pain he's aware of right now.

So what is it with our society that says a pet dog can get a dose of the pink gooey stuff, but an elderly family member must be left to suffer? This could go on for weeks, even months. Just look at Ronald Reagan. I heard on CNN that Nancy's nearly destroyed herself emotionally & physically from taking care of him all these years. Wouldn't it be more compassionate, more dignified, to hook these people up to Dr. Kevorkian's machine, when there's CLEARLY no quality of life remaining, and allow their loved ones to get on with the rest of their lives??

It makes no sense. It just makes no sense.
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  #2  
Old 03-22-2004, 12:56 AM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KGS
It makes no sense. It just makes no sense.
I concur, wholeheartedly. As long as the person is of sound mind and legally able to enter into a contract, I fail to see why he/she should not be allowed to choose to end his/her own life, should the see fit. Nor why such a person should not be able to dictate a "living will" stipulating same, should they become unable to speak for themself directly.

People poke fun at Jack Kevorkian, but I think he has the right idea.
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Old 03-22-2004, 01:10 AM
II Gyan II II Gyan II is offline
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It's primarily to do with the 'life is precious' schtick and that if you desire to die, you are either nuts or severely depressed. In the first case, you should be protected (from yourself), in the second, you must be "restored"/counseled back to normalcy. But I can understand the desire for this attitude. It's a form of societal survival mechanism. Once you openly acknowledge that a person can make a sane choice to die, the impetus and pretense for life and "progress" gets diminished.

I don't see the "abuse" argument as a significant factor.
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Old 03-22-2004, 01:16 AM
dotchan dotchan is offline
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Actually, I'm of the opposite assertion. Both pets and people should live as long as possible, because you should never give up hope.

Well, sure, it's more "convenient" and less "heart-breaking", but once they die, that's it. (Well, barring Heaven or the Resurrection, but this isn't a post to discuss that.)

I love my grandmother, even if she's heavy as anything, wakes up at odd hours wanting to go to the bathroom only to come up empty, falls out of her wheelchair even after we explicitely tell her not to move it with her feet, dammitt, talks in this pathetically annoying whiny voice because she has no strength, and is a persistant drain on my parent's finances. Her value isn't in her ability to do anything other than live. And who says her life has no meaning even if she's bound to a wheelchair having us wait on her hand and foot?

And no, I haven't personally experienced prolonged suffering. Maybe my stance will change when it happens. I hope it doesn't.
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Old 03-22-2004, 01:21 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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We buy and sell our pets. Why not people too?

I believe in the legalization of euthanasia, your analogy isn't one of the reasons why.
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Old 03-22-2004, 01:30 AM
dotchan dotchan is offline
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One more thing...

If the person suffering didn't make clear his/her wishes, what then? Or, if they made the wish to live, no matter what?

See, what I'm worried about isn't just the euthanization of elderly, but of all "unsuitable" lifes--the mentally ill, those with disabilities, etc.

Yeah, yeah, slippery slope isn't the best argument for an idea, but still, it's kind of chilling that in addition to baking Jews in an oven, Hitler also tried to forcibly weed out the above traits from his so-called "Master Race".

If we don't speak up for the weak and helpless, who will speak up when we become the weak and helpless?
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Old 03-22-2004, 01:55 AM
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Devil's advocate here but I've only ever heard one anti-euthanasia argument with any merit. That is that legalised, voluntary euthanasia will create a situation where some people will feel pressured into electing it only to relieve their families of the burden they perceive themselves to be.

A voluntary euthanasia programme would ideally have some compulsory counseling component where the patient's real motives and wishes can be more accurately determined. Palliative care professionals develop an excellent feel for such patients' situations and generally have a good grasp of what is going on behind the scenes. Often, staff, especially the nurses who spend more time with the patient than their family does, have a better understanding and even relationship with the patient than the family has. In my experience, it would be rare for a debilitated, albeit determined, patient to put one over on the counseling and care staff.

The role and structure of a society's health service also plays an important part. The idea that a patient can be a burden on his family has less weight where universal health care is available. A user-pays, expensive (for the consumer) system will mean a a greater (financial) cost for the family and I can see no way to work around that. The fact is though, most of the countries with SDMB posters do have universal health care. Sadly, most of the SDMB posters themselves don't have access to such a system. Also sadly, universal health care is an argument that has been done ad nauseum on these boards with very little meeting of the minds. It won't happen here either.

If we accept the Devil's Advocate's position, should the possibility of an occasional, wrongful euthanased end for a patient be the cause for a blanket ban on euthanasia with the undeniably large amount of subsequent suffering it brings? Should the possibility of a minority's arguably immoral, albeit understandable, decision making prevent many others taking a moral and justified course of action?
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Old 03-22-2004, 07:04 AM
Dogface Dogface is offline
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We forcibly sterilize our pets, why not people, too?
We put our pets through involuntary breeding programs, why not people, too?
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  #9  
Old 03-22-2004, 07:25 AM
Dead Badger Dead Badger is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogface
We forcibly sterilize our pets, why not people, too?
We put our pets through involuntary breeding programs, why not people, too?
This isn't analogous because the OP's question is based on a contradiction: the action is in his opinion a caring one, and yet we ought to care more for people than pets. Your questions do not involve caring or merciful actions, and are therefore at least consistent with holding pets in lower esteem than people. The OP's point is clearly not that we should do everything to people that we do to animals.

IMO (while I agree with its broader point), the OP's argument doesn't really work because I believe it is the lower value placed on pets that is the reason for the acceptance of euthanasia in their case. Since they have a lower perceived value, the moral implications of euthanasia are given less weight relative to the cost of sustaining the animal's life. Some people may be willing to shell out thousands upon thousands of dollars to buy their pet some more time; the vast majority are not. In a choice between no treatment and euthanasia, euthanasia is left as the most merciful option. With people it's different; it's a choice between treatment and euthanasia, which is much more tricky, and much less obvious which is "right".
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Old 03-22-2004, 08:11 AM
sghoul sghoul is offline
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While I don't think your pet = people argument really works, I do see your point. And I agree. In the country (others too), we place a VERY high price on human life. But there is almost no price put on the quality of said life.

Regardless, I don't feel that the Government should have a say in someones choice to be alive or not, so long as their affairs are in order.

As to people like dotchan, your "hope" that things will get better (and they might) should not automatically trump someone who is suffereing from ending their suffering sooner rather than later. Because they may in fact get better, but they may also get worse, or drag on suffering, being miserable for months or years.

When my Grandmother found out she had cancer she chose not to treat it. She was in her late 80's, Already could no longer do most of the things she loved (go to the beach being prime), and didn't want her last days to be brought down by a long spell of sickness from treatment. She led her life her way. I am just glad the goverment couldn't force chemotherapy on her.
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Old 03-22-2004, 08:40 AM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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In some cases it seems to me that doctors already do this. When my father was ill with terminal cancer we were given Demerol as a pain reliever. I mentioned to the Dr. that when he was coming out of the Demerol he seemed to be experiencing a little pain and the Dr. replied, "I wouldn't let him come out." So we started laying the Demerol on.

I have to believe that the Dr. knew that lying there mostly inert would lead quickly to pneumonia and a relatively quick end, which it did.
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  #12  
Old 03-22-2004, 02:17 PM
KGS KGS is offline
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Well, I got a call this morning telling me that Grandpa Fred died late last night. Frankly, I'm relieved. I mean, I loved the man and I'll miss him, but as far as I'm concerned, that man already disappeared months ago. Anyway...

Sometimes I wonder just how aware animals are about their own mortality and their own will to live. Could it be that your dog, old and arthritic and lying on the vet's table for the last time, is actually thinking: "Noooo!! I waaant to liiiive!!!" In any case, animals can't communicate their intentions to us, so it's assumed that when faced with irrevocable pain, it's merciful to end their suffering. In the case of people who can no longer communicate, though, the perception is reversed -- we assume that they want to live, no matter what.

I don't put much stock in the "always hope" theory some here have put forth. Hope for WHAT?!? That we'll suddenly learn how to conquer death?? Everyone's gonna die someday, there's no way around it. And when you're talking about a 90 year old person with a disease that literally eats away at your brain until nothing's left...where's the "hope" in that??

It's a bit more of a thorny issue when you're talking about a much younger person in a coma -- but the hard truth is, "miracles" are very rare, and after a certain length of time, practically unheard of. In any case, I think that human life itself is way overvalued. I hope that once I lose my mental faculties, they'll put me on an ice floe and let me drift out to sea...

Oh, and we DO sterilize humans, all the time. Ever hear of vasectomies or tubal ligations? (Which begs the question...why don't we give pets vasectomies? Why do we have to cut their balls off? But that's a different tangent...)
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Old 03-22-2004, 03:14 PM
sghoul sghoul is offline
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/hijack

I tink they cut the balls off for behavioral and health reasons. If you leave em on, they will still have the urge to hump things.

/hijack
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Old 03-22-2004, 03:48 PM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sghoul
/hijack

I tink they cut the balls off for behavioral and health reasons. If you leave em on, they will still have the urge to hump things.

/hijack
Yep. Both testicles and ovaries are endocrine glands as well as being the producers of gametes. They don't need a duct to dump their hormones, so cutting the vas deferens or tying the fallopian tubes won't do squat to keep the hormones from influencing behavior. They have to come OUT.
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Old 03-22-2004, 03:52 PM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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The pet analogy fails because rights are the business of government, and government governs humans, not pets.
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Old 03-23-2004, 03:23 AM
iamme99 iamme99 is offline
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Oregon has had a law for nearly 10 years that allow terminally ill people to end their life with the assistance of a doctor. See link

Personally, I think that anyone, not just the terminally ill should be able to choose to die at the time of their own choosing, if, after appropriate counseling, that is still their choice. This would at least give people a cleaner option other than jumping off of someplace high or walking in front a train.

However, a big dilemma is what to do about a young person in good health who wants to end their life? Teen/adolescent suicide is the 2nd or 3rd biggest cause of death in the 15-24 year old age group. Do you put an age limit on the "right" to die? Do you force the person to take anti-depressants if they are young and not physically ill?


[QUOTE]More than 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year, and 5,000 of these Americans are teenagers. Though one of every eight teenagers suffers with depression, the diagnosis is often missed, and depressive symptoms are mistaken for the typical ups and downs of teenage life.[/QUOTE]

Source link
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  #17  
Old 03-23-2004, 07:40 AM
Sister Vigilante Sister Vigilante is offline
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KGS, my sympathies. We went through something similar with my grandmother recently, and I had been ready to tell you that you probably don't have to worry much longer.
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Old 03-23-2004, 08:16 AM
HumptysHamhole HumptysHamhole is offline
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Sympathies KGS. Quick note - "fixing" pets is humane. About 10 million cats and dogs are sent to shelters every year and half of them are gassed to death when no one can take care of them. Many others are starved or drowned to death by people who can't/won't take care of the litters thier pets have. Sex really isn't that enjoyable for most mammals by the looks of it anyway -- usually involves force - and bitches do not enjoy being in heat.
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Old 03-23-2004, 08:34 AM
nocturnal_tick nocturnal_tick is offline
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The arguments we're all making demonstrate the reason why there isn't a straight yes/no answer to euthanasia. I am myself pro-euthanasia. I believe the critically ill should have the decision to end their lives "prematurely". I use the word loosely because it seems that the going belief that being hooked up to IV's and machines in your final hours is living. If a person is no longer able to sustain themselves for the remainder of their life then surely Nature intends for them to die. It is only by human intervention that this is not the case. Of course there is the problem of who decides, after all a comatose person cannot express their desires. Also what of the depressed and mentally ill. If a able bodied 16 year old wants to die most if not all of the Dopers here would be outraged to allow it. But it happens and although I hate to say it to deny a person the decision of how long they wish to live is to deny them the individual freedom we aspire to achieve. In any case, ill or not, the person in question may at a later time wish to live. How to we settle between the rights of a present person compared to those of a future self. This is why euthanasia is still not settled.

There that shoulda confused 'em.....is this thing still on. Oops.
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Old 03-23-2004, 12:45 PM
KGS KGS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamme99
Teen/adolescent suicide is the 2nd or 3rd biggest cause of death in the 15-24 year old age group. Do you put an age limit on the "right" to die? Do you force the person to take anti-depressants if they are young and not physically ill?
Antidepressants don't work for everyone. I think Holland allows assisted suicide for victims of depression, though I don't know what the criteria are.

The age limit issue is a good one. Adolescence itself seems to be a form of mental illness (which everyone goes through and most eventually recover from) so putting a cap on it like they do with drinking or driving would be a good idea.

Mental illness often gets ignored in these euthanasia debates, but in some ways I think it's MORE applicable because it's a non-terminal condition. Hell, I suffer from depression and sometimes I wish I did have cancer or something like it, because then I'd only have to wait 2 years for the inevitable instead of sixty...

Thanks for the sympathies, Jean Grey (and everyone else) -- I'm starting to realize the same thing, looking back with a clear(er) head. In fact I'm feeling a little silly since it turns out he had already died before I started this thread/rant, but the news hadn't reached me yet.
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  #21  
Old 03-23-2004, 04:02 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Originally Posted by HumptysHamhole
Sex really isn't that enjoyable for most mammals by the looks of it anyway -- usually involves force - and bitches do not enjoy being in heat.
I dunno about that. There was this one time at band camp...........
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  #22  
Old 03-23-2004, 10:00 PM
scr4 scr4 is offline
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Originally Posted by Dogface
We forcibly sterilize our pets, why not people, too?
I don't think we are talking about forcibly doing anything. Euthenasia would have to be consensual (i.e. with prior written authorization). It's perfectly legal to sterilize people with their consent, so the analogy breaks down.

Although I think the argument Gest mentioned is valid - that some people will feel pressured to consent to euthenasia. This is especially true with high medical costs - asking your family to pay thousands of dollars to gain a few days of life may be a difficult decision. My opinion is that a free health care system is a prerequisite before we can even consider legalizing euthenasia.
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Old 03-23-2004, 10:53 PM
presidebt presidebt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dotchan
If we don't speak up for the weak and helpless, who will speak up when we become the weak and helpless?
Sometimes the choice for suicide or euthanasia is made by someone who is not weak or helpless. Suicide/ethanasia are taboo and that's a difficult threshhold for some people to cross, I understand. However, as a mentally ill person who reserves the right to end my suffering at any time as long I do so in as responsible a manner as I can, I must say, I'll do what I can to break this taboo. Along with that, I'm working to change the response to expressed suicidal tendnacies. That people are locked up when they want to discuss their inclination to suicide is not always the best response, yet it is the universal response. I personally think that fact is responsible for a number of suicidal or mentally ill persons to refrain from getting help. I know I will never, ever tell another health care professional that I've had or am having suicidal thoughts (which I am not currently, in case anyone is worried). And I will never seek help in a hospital again, because my freedom was taken away from me when all I wanted to do was talk to someone in order to break the isolation I felt. Hospitalization made my case worse, though I understand it helps some, and more power to them. Just my two cents, USD.
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Old 03-23-2004, 10:55 PM
presidebt presidebt is offline
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Oh, forgot: How dare anyone try to force hope on me. Sometimes life really is hopeless and it's not going to get better. I think people are too sensitive to the concept of death. Do the math. Every death, and I dare say most deaths, are not tragic. They are necessary.
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Old 03-24-2004, 02:36 AM
CrazyCatLady CrazyCatLady is online now
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I've been asking myself the same questions since I was about ten. Let's face it, in many cases, death means suffering and a hell of a lot of it. As a general thing, we accept that ending suffering is a kind thing to do. That's the whole point of euthanasia, that it's a kindness. It always boggled my mind that we're supposed to be kinder to our pets than to other human beings.

For what it's worth, I don't want to die unable to tolerate solid foods, incontinent, and either doped out of my gourd or in horrible pain. I don't want to put my family through seeing me that way, and I sure as hell don't want to be that way. Hit me in the head with a sledgehammer, overdose me with barbituates, inject 40meq of KCl straight into my heart, strangle me with my own IV tubing, I don't give a damn. Just don't put me through something I wouldn't put my cat through.
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Old 03-24-2004, 03:14 PM
mrklutz mrklutz is offline
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Some very good points here. My own personal perspective on the matter is influenced in no small way by watching my mother die slowly of cancer. For the last 5 weeks of her life, after the doctors had determined there was nothing further they could do to stop the spread of the cancer, we all watched helplessly as a steadily increasing morphine drip gradually eroded my mother's mind. We lost her, and she lost herself, bit by painful bit. At one point, she informed us that she wanted to die right now, in the tone she always used to use when we were young and no argument would be permitted. The laws being what they were, we could not obey. I won't relate in detail the anguish she went through, but no human should be forced to suffer that.

The only really persuasive argument against euthenasia I have seen is that some people would elect to do so out of a sense of guilt over the expense to their families rather than a genuine desire to end their suffering. IMO, the slippery slope argument holds no water if euthenasia is permitted only with the subject's explicit consent, given at a time when they can legally make a will or other similar decisions. And as KGS pointed out, it would not be unreasonable to expect an age limit to be placed on assisted suicide, just as there is one placed on a variety of other important decisions.

Would some people choose suicide who might have later changed their minds had they been prevented? Almost certainly. I do not see that as a persuasive enough argument to force people to suffer, and to take away their right to choose. We fear death so much that we often deny people the ability to die in comfort and dignity. For my part, I find prolonged suffering to be more feared than death. I, and other like-minded people, should be free to act on our beliefs and values.
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Old 03-24-2004, 03:15 PM
filmore filmore is offline
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I think we euthanize pets because they cannot express their desires and that we, as their owners, are responsible for making the decisions for them.

A person, however, can express their desires. So I don't think we have the same justification to say that someone else should be euthanized because they are sick. It could be that even though the person is in a coma, they do want to keep living. We know that a person is capable of having the desire to keep living, so we cannot make the choice for them even if they currently cannot express their desires.

Also, it is *much* more likely that medical technology can make a person better. So a person might receive $100,000 in medical care and be able to live a productive life. A pet will not have that option. Sometimes the only realistic options for a pet are to be euthanized or to let the disease run its course.
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Old 03-24-2004, 06:19 PM
Kalt Kalt is offline
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Humans pay taxes. Pets do not. Dead humans no longer pay taxes. Court cases on this issue, as well as the similar issue of abortion, are quite clear that this is the reason. The government "has an interest" in preserving human life. That's always the rationale. What interest is it? Tax revenue, of course. What other interst is there?

Similar reasoning lies at the foundation of organized religion always being opposed to euthanasia. Religions do not want their paying customers, err... followers... to die. It's bad for the cash flow.
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Old 03-24-2004, 06:21 PM
CrazyCatLady CrazyCatLady is online now
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filmore, that's a lovely thought, but $100,000 is what, 2 days in ICU? Ten days in the general patient population? People in the sort of shape that $100,000 will save them aren't the ones most of us think of when we're talking human euthanasia. We're not talking about people who are just sick, but people who are terminally ill. We're talking people like my uncle, who's got lung cancer that's spread to his brain. He's dying a slow, painful death, and there's not enough money or technology in the world to give him back a productive life. There's nothing we can offer him but more and more pain meds, and a lot of times those aren't enough to control the pain at the end.

If money and medical technology could fix him, could give him back a productive life, my family would pay any price and take him anywhere. But it won't. He's going to die, and he's going to die soon. And in the meantime, he's suffering in a way that it would be cruel to let my dog suffer. You can't tell me that's right, or good.
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Old 03-24-2004, 10:00 PM
Spavined Gelding Spavined Gelding is offline
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David Simmons, your experience is not unheard of, especially when there has been a long and close relationship between the dying patient, his family and the physician. It can be done any number of ways, all painless, and involving sedatives and painkillers. My father, himself a medical doctor, died abruptly after his lawyer and I talked to the attending physician. The lawyer and the attending physician were both old friend of Dad's and I had known them from childhood. We had been told that my father would not be expected to live for more than 72 hours with generalized cancer but that his heart was still strong and beating regularly. We both asked that he not be allowed to suffer and the doctor assured us that what could be done would be done.

Another friend, a physician, now deceased, told me that he administered a "terminal cocktail" in two specific cases when there was doing to be a particularly horrific dissolution if nature had been allowed to take its course. In both cases it was done with the express consent of the patient's spouse and children.

As horrible as it sounds, simple humanity demands that a dying person be given a quiet and peaceful way out. I can only hope that when my time comes my friends will treat me with as much kindness as my father received at the hands of his friends and colleges.

KGS, as you can see, others of us have been through what you are facing. We all know what a tough situation it is. You have my sympathy.
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  #31  
Old 03-25-2004, 06:48 PM
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Why do I object? Simple. I will be among the first euthanized, whether I want to or not.
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  #32  
Old 03-25-2004, 07:07 PM
Gest Gest is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capacitor
Why do I object? Simple. I will be among the first euthanized, whether I want to or not.
You object even to euthanasia carried out with the expressed wish of the patient? How would this put you at risk without your consent? Even without your consent, euthanasia would only be carried out in the case of your brain death. In that case, you couldn't want for anything. I don't know of anywhere in this thread where somebody is advocating euthanasia against the will of the patient.
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