Recently the controversial issue of euthanasia was tossed around in the news media due to the living will clause in the health care reform bill. Democrats wanted health insurance to cover any patient who wished to have an “end-of-life consultation” with his/her physician, deciding ahead of time what to do if the patient’s condition was past hope and the patient no longer able to communicate his/her desires.
Critics of the bill distorted the issue, claiming that the clause would allow doctors to kill at their own discretion. A ridiculous misrepresentation of the issue, it was eventually shown to be just that. But what’s strange is that the issue of euthanasia itself was sidestepped. It was simply too volatile to take up amidst the already volatile issue of affordable health insurance, and most proponents of the “right to decide” wisely kept silent.
The “end-of-life consultation” clause would undoubtedly save money for insurance companies, but I have no desire to further that cause. I think insurance companies are no longer useful for they no longer insure people against economic hardship. They get the money up front, rather like the way Mafia bosses collect protection money. I think people ought pay doctors and hospitals a yearly membership and let the insurance companies disappear. But I digress.
The point I want to make is about how the illegality of euthanasia opens up family members to abuse from hospice workers. Somewhere around 95% of hospice workers are asked, at some point in their careers, to assist with a suicide. Hospice workers often have little medical training, indeed little professional training. They are not well paid, which means that many hospice workers have chosen their careers out of a pure and honest desire to be a comfort to those who need it during their last days. Others, however, are just in it for the little money and they don’t have many other options. It is this latter kind of hospice worker that presents a serious problem. He or she often lives in the home with the bereaved family as the patient slips further and further away. In this situation the family members can become very vulnerable to someone looking to make some money by offering to assist in an illegal matter. I don’t have to describe the kinds of abuses that are possible here. You can imagine. My novel Naked Singularity describes one possible scenario if you have trouble imagining.
I do think euthanasia should be legal in all states so that such abuses can be avoided. This is not to say that I think euthanasia is the best solution to all those who wish it. But if the families were allowed to discuss the issue openly it might save a lot of indecision, confusion and heartbreak.