The British Medical Journal has published an editorial by Raanan Gillon, a retired professor of philosophy, under the title ‘Sanctity of Life Law has gone too far’, which argues that dementia patients should be starved and dehydrated to death to save money.
The British Medical Journal has published Raanan Gillon’s maifesto for killing patients in response to a ruling by Mr Justice Baker, sitting in the Court of Protection, regarding a woman with extensive and irreparable brain damage, whose family had applied for an order that artificial nutrition and hydration be withdrawn. The patient had made no ‘advance directive’ detailing how she wanted to be treated if left incapacitated.
Patient M has some awareness of herself and her environment, some understanding of language, occasionally spoke, appeared to be able to appreciate some things that were said to her and responded to music. Although she regularly experienced pain, this was not constant or extreme, and her condition was stable. And unlike dementia patients, who are terminally ill, she had a non-progressive condition.
However, the British Medical Journal editorial by Raanan Gillon ignores all these medical facts in its determination to use the patient M case to argue that ‘severely demented and brain-damaged people should be sedated, starved and dehydrated to death on the basis of their friends and relatives vague and contradictory recollections of ‘what they would have wanted’.
Mr Justice Baker ruled that given the importance of the sanctity of life, it would be wrong to attach “significant weight” to the wishes she made prior to collapse. He also said decisions to withhold or withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration from a patient in a vegetative state or minimally conscious state had to be referred to the court.
According to Dr Peter Saunders of Care not Killing the British Medical Journal doesn’t like Mr Justice Baker’s ruling for two reasons:
First he felt that the judge ‘did not accord “significant weight” to the patient’s previously expressed values, wishes, and views’. But in fact these were not sufficiently clear and in the absence of a clear statement of the patient’s wishes, Justice Baker was simply giving precedence to the preservation of life over uncertain autonomy.
Second, Gillon was unhappy that decisions about starting or stopping life prolonging treatment, including the withholding or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration, for all incapacitated patients should be brought to the Court of Protection. But in so doing the judge was simply acting in accordance with precedent laid down in the Tony Bland case (involving a man in persistent vegetative state) and outlined in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
Gillon’s real problem is that he doesn’t like the current law and considers that the lives of some seriously brain-damaged people are not worth living. He thinks that giving nutrition and hydration to people with severe brain damage or dementia is not beneficial and that they should have this basic care withdrawn and allowed to die.
His real reasons come out later in the editorial:
The logical implications of this judgment threaten to skew the delivery of severely resource limited healthcare services towards providing non-beneficial or minimally beneficial life prolonging treatments including artificial nutrition and hydration to thousands of severely demented patients whose families and friends believe they would not have wanted such treatment. The opportunity cost will probably be reduced provision of indisputably beneficial treatments to people who do want them.’
Now this statement is very interesting indeed as M was not actually demented, just seriously brain damaged. In addition she had some degree of residual brain function.
Gillon’s suggestion, that severely demented and brain-damaged people should be sedated, starved and dehydrated to death on the basis of their friends and relatives vague and contradictory recollections of ‘what they would have wanted’ would create a most dangerous precedent and place us on a very slippery slope indeed.
His implication that we should be withholding nutrition and hydration from such people so that we can spend the money elsewhere is chilling and demonstrates precisely why we don’t give doctors, politicians and most importantly philosophers (like Gillon!) the power and authority to make such decisions on utilitarian grounds.
People who are severely brain-damaged or suffering from dementia, but not imminently dying, should be given nutrition, hydration, symptom relief and warm human interaction until the day that they die peacefully and naturally.
We don’t kill them either by giving them lethal injections or dehydrating them to death and we ensure that there is adequate legal protection in place so that no one who has an interest in their deaths, whether financial or emotional or to get rid of an unwelcome care burden, should be able to exploit or harm them in any way.
The law is there primarily to protect vulnerable individuals from exploitation and abuse and as such it needs the strength to deter individuals and institutions who have something to gain, financially or otherwise, from another person’s death.
It does not need changing and the involvement of the Court of Protection in difficult cases is a necessary and effective safeguard.’
Protect the Pope comment: When did it become acceptable for the editorial staff of the British Medical Journal to advocate the murder of patients? The British Medical Journal wants dementia patients to be starved and dehydrated to death to save cash. The Catholic Church is clear that what the British Medical Journal is advocating is murder: ‘Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.’ (CCC 2324).
‘Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.’ (CCC 2277)