Physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, and capitalism

There’s a good little piece here by Daniel Fleming, who reminds us of the larger economic context in which debates about physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are taking place; and, should the legislation be passed, of the context in which the legislation will be enacted. Here’s a taster:

Where we make social interventions in our context, we should also remember that it will inevitably become someone’s business to deliver on them. Correlatively, in answer to the first question, we should consider what the impact of private, for-profit, companies which specialise in the provision of euthanasia might be. Such companies would have as their primary purpose profit or return to share-holders. They would, assumedly, be required to increase business in order to produce better annual results. What would their marketing strategies look like? Who would their target market be?

One can quickly imagine a strategic planning meeting whereby the market of those who are dying or those who are close to someone who is dying become the aim of the product, perhaps also particularly those who would not be able to afford other forms of end of life care, or those who are suffering from some form of depression. The current proposed legislation [in Victoria and New South Wales] rests on the possibility of someone making a free and fully informed decision, but freedom and coercion have a tenuous relationship when it comes to marketing strategies – especially those directed at vulnerable groups, and that is something we should consider in this case.

To put it crudely, if we agree to this legislation we should be willing to accept active and aggressive marketing strategies from companies who enact it …

Such companies do not currently exist, but for-profit health insurance companies do, and so we should also consider what the proposed legislation might look like from the perspective of an insurance company which is trying to improve its bottom line. Could it be that insurance companies would direct patients toward the cheaper option instead of agreeing to a larger payout for more expensive care?

In the United States, for example, a physician recently claimed that “insurance companies in states where assisted suicide is legal have refused to cover expensive, life-saving treatments for his patients but have offered to help them end their lives instead.” As anyone who has sat in a budget meeting will know, the logic applied here by the insurance companies is perfectly compatible with the value-set imposed by capitalism.

These are uncomfortable considerations, and they take the debate outside of its typical contours which consider the suffering of an individual and sometimes their family, and whether or not it is right for that person to end their own life with medical assistance. That debate still needs to be had. However we land there, it is crucial to remember that the debate takes place in an ideological context, and if or when the legislation is enacted it will be done in a way that takes it beyond the intent of those proposing it, and into the realm of the value set of capitalism. Any legislation or major social interventions has social consequences beyond its original purpose.

You can read the full article here.

Some Recent Watering Holes

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Brenda L. Croft, ‘shut/mouth/scream’ (detail), 2016. Source

 

I haven’t posted one of these for a while. Here are a number of pages I’ve appreciated visiting this past week or so:

And this:

On capitalism

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‘We will no more be able to shield our eyes from class struggle, which began in the previous century within the nation and now has gripped all continents, gripped them indeed as a deadly conflict between the privileged and those who have been exploited for centuries. What disguises itself as the free market system and which promises to enrich all, is in reality the continuation of imperialism and colonialism by means of a capitalistic system. It survives by the third world delivering raw materials and taking back our finished goods, among which – and this is especially abominable – are weapons of every sort. Thus the slums grow, which are the underside of our prosperity, and for three quarters of humanity our earth becomes a hell, in which hunger, murder, and prostitution reign and everyone struggles with the other for survival’.

– Ernst Käsemann, 1988

[Image: Andrew Cullen]

Chomsky and Interventions

In this characteristically punchy article, Noam Chomsky speaks about the status of democracy and the US’s responsibility in Iraq, U.S. imperialism over Latin America, and the media’s shallow coverage of foreign affairs. These topics, and more, are all explored in his latest book, Interventions.

Some Chomsky quotes:

‘you can’t really have a functioning democracy under military occupation. You can have some elements of it but not much. Military occupation is too harsh’.

‘if the United States was occupied by Iran, would we be able to run a democratic society?’

‘The responsibilities are to, first of all, pay enormous reparations, not just for the war but for the murderous, sanctioned regime that preceded it and fatuous support for Saddam Hussein during the ’80s.’

‘The presupposition is “We own the world.” … Because we’re there by right. And everything we do is right by necessity and there maybe some mistakes here and there but basically, it’s ours, we’re there. And if anyone’s interfering, it’s their problem, they’re the ones who are the criminals’.

I am reminded here of Forsyth’s words addressed to another (Christian) nation:

When the capitalist stops his charities because his property is threatened by legislation we learn how short in the fibre is the charity which is not rounded on the love and pity of God. The real test of the love of man does not come till we love our enemies. The love of our enemy is only the love of our neighbour true to itself through everything. For an employer to love the strikers that have ruined his business after a long and bitter war is not in nature.. Yet that is the kind of tax to which the love of man is at last exposed. And there is only one source in the world to feed it and keep it alive—which is God’s love of His bitter enemies, and His grace to them in repaying their wrong by Himself atoning for them on the cross. Central to all our humane kindness at last is the grace of the cross. (Cruciality of the Cross, 1667)