Saturday, April 30, 2011

Standards of Consent

“Would you want to live as a vegetable?”

This is the question proponents of physician assisted suicide will often ask of its detractors.  The honest answer to which is, “it depends on the alternatives.”  If I get to choose between a persistent vegetative state and a quick end, then the quick end is preferable.*  But a quick end is seldom on offer.  The choices usually come down to PVS and a slow, lingering death by dehydration.  When those are the options, PVS starts to look a lot better.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t be up to me.  When Mrs. Φ and I redid our wills around six years ago, we were also presented with a living will that basically said that in the event of PVS, “extraordinary treatment” should be withheld.  But when I asked that the will stipulate that food and water IVs should not be withdrawn, I was told, essentially, that there was no such document that would be legally recognized.

And from what I have read (although I can’t link the source; maybe one of you readers can help me out here), judges have been known to grant power of attorney to whichever relative of a non-communicative patient wants to end his life.

Death by starvation has become so common for the elderly that we’ve achieved informally what the Dutch achieve directly:

Despite the fervent assertions of atheists to the contrary, again and again we see that their political objectives revolve around two things, sex and death. They can't even hide behind the defense that "assisted death" is voluntary, because in the Netherlands, at least 20 percent of the legal euthanasia is performed without the patient's consent.

Vox’s observation linking sex and death reminded me of the myriad of ways a man can be considered guilt of rape, especially #16:

She would make the sex act a presumed crime whenever a woman cries rape. The burden would be on the defendant to prove “that express and present consent was explicitly obtained at the time of the actual sexual interaction, not before or after . . . .” Only if the defendant is able to establish “express, present, and uncontroverted consent to the sexual interaction at issue” does the burden shift to the prosecution to prove withdrawal of consent, and “withdrawal of consent can happen at any time during the sexual interaction.”  (The latter point about withdrawal is not objectionable under the contract law theory of consent.)

We’ve reached the point where the legal standard of “consent” is now lower for killing someone that for having sex with her.  If a woman is non-communicative, then the law assumes that she does not consent to sex if she claims later to have not done so.  But if an old person is non-communicative, then he is assumed to consent to being starved to death, and conveniently will never contest that assumption.

Somehow, this just strikes me as an odd state of affairs.

* Although my choosing it does not imply a corresponding obligation on those around me to accede to my wishes.  My views on this are complicated.

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