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April 7, 2005

Revealing the Hidden Agenda: Checkbook Euthanasia

Topics: Commentary

From the pages of Life Matters! . . .

Q: How can you tell when a euthanasia advocate is telling the truth?

A: When he disgusts you even more than usually.

Consider biological psychologist Hal Herzog, writing in the Asheville, NC, Citizens-Times on the moral, social, and legal issues raised not by Terri Schindler Schiavo's imposed death, but by her inadequate care.

Noting that "most commentators...have ignored the troubling inescapable financial consequences of severe irreversible brain damage to affected families and to taxpayers," Herzog proceeds to make the same case for checkbook euthanasia that Professors Karl Binding and Erich Hoche raised in Germany's Weimar Republic some 80 years ago in their seminal work The Destruction of Life Devoid of Value.

"Here are the facts," Herzog ominously begins:

According to a 2002 report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the frequency of persistent vegetative state in the United States is 64 to 140 per million people. Thus, somewhere between 538 and 1,176 North Carolinians are probably afflicted with this condition. At a cost of about $80,000 a year per person, this translates to an annual financial burden to the North Carolina health-care system of $43 million to $94 million--enough to hire between 1,500 and 3,500 additional public school teachers.

That last propaganda ploy, i.e., comparing the costs of caring for persons with disablities with the cost of funding productive laborers is right out of the euthanasia playbook. As Mark Mostert observes in the Fall 2002 issue of the Journal of Special Education:

In Binding and Hoche's terms, [the former] were "useless eaters" whose "ballast lives" could be tossed overboard to better balance the economic ship of state. In speaking of those with disabilities, and explicitly advocating involuntary euthanasia, Binding and Hoche wrote:
Their life is absolutely pointless, but they do not regard it as being unbearable. They are a terrible, heavy burden upon their relatives and society as a whole. Their death would not create even the smallest gap—except perhaps in the feelings of their mothers or loyal nurses.

Just like today!

Furthermore, Binding and Hoche drove home the economic argument by calculating the total cost expended in caring for such people. They concluded that this cost was "a massive capital in the form of foodstuffs, clothing and heating, which is being subtracted from the national product for entirely unproductive purposes."

As their disciple Herzog continues:

The life expectancy of a young adult in a persistent vegetative state is 11.5 years, making their lifetime health-care costs about $1 million. With a median family income of $38,000, few North Carolina families can bear this burden. Who should pay to keep people like Terri Schiavo alive?

Could this be why Judge George Greer ruled so consistently for Terri's eradication? After all, the Republican judge's conservatism was scarcely the compassionate sort.

Posted by earl at April 7, 2005 12:40 AM

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Being a psychologist, myself, I invite you to read my post on Terri and the nature of personhood so that you might see that not all psychologists would agree with the kind of perspective characterized in your post above. As psychologists, our first duty is to respect the dignity of the person.

"Their death would not create even the smallest gap—except perhaps in the feelings of their mothers or loyal nurses."

I, personally, find this kind of statement to be professionally unethical, socially repugnant, and morally bankrupt.

Posted by: Theresa Zolner at April 7, 2005 2:37 AM

Theresa Zolner,

I never thought of psychologists when I proposed a court made up of clergy and doctors to deal with this issue, but why not? At the moment I have I have the following two that are bottom line and the rest is still up in the air. 1) human lives cannot and must not ever be litigated or subject to dispute; 2)the judicial system is the most unfit of any system (short of the euthanasia advocates) to deal with this and we need to get these fragile lives out of the courts; failing that we must at very least humanize these cases with juries. No one man or woman should ever be able to decide who lives and who dies, esp. not one trained in law and not trained in "life". Make that three bottom line criteria; the "court" must carry presumption toward life and not depend on hearsay to make its decisions.

That Woman came up with the idea of conflict resolution forums and there is merit in that if we can only slash the conflict part of it. In this issue there must be no compromise and not even a hint that lives may be fought over, lest we send a wrong message to the generally gullible public.

Some others who have weighed in on this are That Woman, Juleni, Alwayschooselife, J., and a few more; I hope you can all get together and thresh this out until it stands on its own and can be taken forward. The only other idea I have right now is that when it seems to be together, it will need a devil's advocate to test it.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 7, 2005 7:27 AM

That woman and Always,

Saw your postings in other comments, but I figure you won't go back there today, so I will comment here. That Woman, my guess is that we won't have to find them, they will find us; but you are right, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Thank you for staying on the "no litigation" angle. But this story illustrates that the medical community have taken things into their own hands, too, and that ups the ante. It's still the bottom line that we must get these people out from under the control of the merciless and get them tucked safely under the protection of a group who would and could protect them from these vultures.

A situation has arisen in my life which will make it hard impossible for me to be on line much for awhile, and I may be gone for a few days altogether. I will be back as soon as I possibly can, and I won't quit praying and brain storming this avenue. So, I am begging you good people to stay on this, keep it going and make it work if at all possible; failing that, find a congress person who will host a bill ensuring that this will be done by jury henceforth and contact all legislative people urging them to support it.

For all you who have any knowledge of shelters for battered women and children, this is the same thing for the "about to be euthanized"; a shelter, a protector. Who knows how many women and children owe their lives to these shelters? I am one and my children make seven more.

God bless and guide all of you.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 7, 2005 7:47 AM

Mary! A shelter! Now, there is a powerhouse of an idea!

I would do anything I could do to help with that.

Also, to help with a bill regarding juries for life or death cases.

Or, a mediation forum.

But I love the shelter idea!

Posted by: juleni at April 7, 2005 8:52 AM

Theresa, thank you for your input and insight. You have a wonderful website, too. My prayers are with you in what you are going through yourself, at this time. Psychologists and psychology are very important in this fight, with the respect for dignity of the human life and value of each person being uppermost. I salute you.

Posted by: juleni at April 7, 2005 9:06 AM

That column was unbelievable. Unbelievable anybody could have that point of view that a brain-damaged person really isn't a person; hence, the statement that "Terri Schiavo's body," not "Terri Schiavo," died.

It is so offensive on so many labels.

Posted by: Susan Nunes at April 7, 2005 9:40 AM

I meant "levels."

Posted by: Susan Nunes at April 7, 2005 9:41 AM

Yes, Susan, it is.

Posted by: juleni at April 7, 2005 10:23 AM

Great, Juleni, take it and run. These people, however, couldn't come to the shelter (I don't think) so the shelter would have to be put over them some how. I don't care what form this actually winds up taking, just as long as it takes form quickly and effectively and leaves no openings for the opposition to weasel through.

In case any body wonders, I am ALL for impeaching judges, changing laws (caution on this one--some laws cause more problems than they solve), and throwing the book at everyone connected to the murdering of Terri. And that includes the media. I don't necessarily mean litigation here, different strokes for different folks. There are even deeper issues to be dealt with than this and I hope to be a among those who address them.

But now we must quickly throw up a strong protection around these vulnerable people and that won't happen unless we get down to work and do it. First we have to decide on the best mechanism to do it, then we have to build it and put it into action. In this case I would say, no idea is a dumb idea until it is proven dumb; just get together and start tossing and grabbing.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 7, 2005 3:35 PM

I agree. It is like writing a Paper and you see something is not right, then you scrap it in a ball and throw it in the garbage and get a new Paper. It is disrespectful that they think of People that way. They think those people are meaningless and costs them too much money. It is so unfair.

I think the whole point is that we should not be discussing Ethuaniasia, but rather adovocate more on "Life Importance". It could very well be their Brother, Sister, Uncle, Aunt, or a Grandparent. But no, they would rather worry about the Millions of Dollars that is in the Government "System". No one can really put a price on "Life" because it is too valuable of a Life. It is unspeakable that they would rather cut the service by saving, in that process killing a Person so the next one can have his/her service for another 10 yrs, then the next and next. It is like a killing machine in there. We have to stop this killing and save everyone's Life and have their own Dignity in the natural in every way they know how. I mean the Life was created, then we sinned, then we pay the price by Death, but by Natural Causes, not Murder. Does that make sense?

Posted by: momforGod at April 7, 2005 6:22 PM

All kinds of sense, momforGod. That's why I say this issues should NOT be litigated. Human lives are not something to be fought over or haggled over OR COMPROMISED ON.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 7, 2005 6:37 PM