Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dutch Pediatricians Part Two

Rosemary Flanigan
Distinguished Fellow
Center for Practical Bioethics

Isn’t much of the moral distress suffered by professionals in healthcare today (besides not having enough time to do what you know you ought to do) the conflict of over the “right” thing to do—with patients, families, and fellow professionals.

But consider, as Hilde Lindemann tries to tell us, how we use language. Unless we can get to the level of another’s meaning, we are not helping them, no matter how many words we use.

“Let us remove the feeding tube from Granny” can be heard in so many different ways, and yet we often start our sentences there instead of asking questions of Granny and the family that may lead up to our prescription.

But if I read John Lantos correctly, what the Dutch pediatricians do—and the language they use in doing it—indicates something deeper than language, some reality that deters us from acting in the same way, no matter how we speak of it.

The “something out there” (killing infants if they fall within the Protocol’s limits) is understood or “meant” differently to Dutch and American pediatricians. The Dutchman justifies it; the American can’t. And no amount of “discussion” will lead to consensus.

But that attempt ought to be made, I think, before we agree to disagree—and hand the patient over to another provider.


Dutch pediatricians and letting babies die, Practical Bioethics, October 2

Autonomy, Beneficence, and Gezelligheid: Lessons in Moral Theory from the Dutch, Hilde Lindemann, The Hastings Center Report

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