Re: Legalization of euthanasia

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 4, May 2010, page(s) Letters
Ari Giligson, MD

I am afraid that the author of this article on medical ethics [BCMJ 2010;52(2):92-94] seems a little confused. It seems that she argues against legalization of euthanasia by looking at the ethical implications within the scope of “competence, autonomy, and beneficence.” 

In her article she seems to “prove” that (1) competence is irrelevant because it cannot be proven, (2) autonomy in euthanasia cannot exist because the patient is not intelligent enough to come to the right conclusion without consulting a physician, and (3) despite the aim to reduce suffering via eu­thanasia, it is not a beneficent act but always a malicious one because those who aid the patient always do so to benefit only themselves.

Ms Ko may have learned a lesson from television advertisers who know that if you shout a message loud enough and long enough, people will believe it no matter how utterly illogical it may be. 

Considering that her argument rests on the idea that physicians cannot be trusted to evaluate and gravely judge a patient’s decision to end his or her life in what is the ultimate fiduciary act; it is ironic that she writes, “However, whether such profound trust can be placed in any group of professionals is another question.” No, that is actually “the” question of her article. 

Finally, one gets tired of the sloppy slippery slope argument used near the end of the article. This is always trotted out by the opponents of change, no matter how beneficial that change might be.

While legal decisions are not al­ways logical I think it behooves us to conform to careful and rational arguments when looking at issues of an ethical nature.
—Ari Giligson, MD
Delta BC

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