Friday, October 2, 2009

Dutch Pediatricians and Letting Babies Die

Rosemary Flanigan
Distinguished Fellow
Center for Practical Bioethics

October 2, 2009

I have just read through the new Hastings Center Report and I am troubled over Hilde Lindemann's article, Autonomy, Beneficence, and Gezelligheid: Lessons in Moral Theory from the Dutch.

For years now, I've always started off "ethics" workshops by distinguishing between morality and ethics. I see morality as the "stuff" with which ethics deals. Without moral conclusions, I would have nothing with which to "do" my ethical analysis. And the sources of that morality are many-parents, neighborhoods, school, church/temple/meeting hall, etc.

The article deals with Dutch pediatricians who end the lives of babies who 1) have no chance of survival for more than a few days, even on life support; 2) those on life support who might survive after intensive treatment but would always suffer horribly; and 3) those who do not need life support and "whose suffering is severe, sustained, and cannot be alleviated."

Dutch pediatricians make no distinction between direct killing and letting babies die; they need no such distinction. I am still trying to get inside their sense of morality before I can make an intelligent comment.


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Blogger risaden said...

I'm not sure what I think either. But from working with families, when death is the inevitable outcome, it is often a great comfort to the family to have the doctors shoulder the hard decision about when (and how) the patient dies. On the other hand, for most doctors/healthcare providers in the US, this is not a wanted responsibility. Sometimes "autonomy" is a way of shifting decisions back to the family and often results in prolonged suffering for everyone.

Friday, October 02, 2009  

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