The Council of the District of Columbia is set to debate euthanasia legislation later this month, after a five member Committee on Health and Human Services this week approved a draft euthanasia bill.
The bill was sponsored by Councillor Mary Cheh, who believes the State “should not stand in the way” of someone wishing to “peacefully” end their life.
The bill would allow D.C. patients, at least 18 years old, who are terminally ill and expected to die within six months to obtain a prescription from a physician for a death-inducing drug.
The Washington Post has expressed its support for the proposed legislation, saying that “the District should add its name to the list of places that offer their citizens compassion and control at life’s end.”
Yet a number of bioethicists have voiced concern about the risks entailed by legislative reform. Writing in The Washington Post, Allan Roberts of the Pelligrino Centre for Clincal Bioethics and Scott Red of Reformed Theological Seminary said that the legislation posed an indirect threat to “individual dignity”.
“When we make human dignity merely a matter of human autonomy, we risk devaluing the dignity of human community, and we neglect the importance of the individual as a member of a broader community that itself enriches dignity. Such a balance between the individual and the community safeguards against radical individualism like the type that we see expressed in the D.C. Death With Dignity Act.”The bill is scheduled for discussion by the full 13 member council on the October 18.
British actress Sally Phillips has made a magnificent documentary about Down Syndrome for the BBC. (You can watch it here on a dodgy YouTube link.) Her own son Ollie has Down Syndrome and Ms Phillips is convinced that Ollie has been a jolly good thing for her and her family. It grieves her to see that most mothers treat a diagnosis of Down Syndrome as a catastrophe. In the UK about 90% of women abort their Down Syndrome child after screening; in Iceland 100% of mothers do. That's 100%.
Ms Phillips tells the camera, as she chokes back tears, “The type of characteristics that these people share are so benign. It’s like when the Western explorers encountered the dodo. This nice, curious bird comes up and gets … wiped out. Through not being suspicious enough. Or violent enough.” This makes her concerned about what the Brits call NIPT (non-invasive pre-natal testing) which is being rolled out across the country.
The documentary is unashamedly emotional. That’s the way it should be. Thank God somebody has the courage to feel emotional about Down Syndrome people. I started to get angry when I read a scathing review in the New Statesman dismissing the doco as “profoundly anti-choice”. But there’s no point in being angry with someone whose attachment to an ideology blinds them to the splendour of being human.
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