Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Half a peace sign . . .

to the NYT for today's front page headline:

Bush Proposes Goal to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Uh, he did no such thing. He said that the G-8 nations ought to talk about setting goals and maybe they would come up with something by the time he leaves office. And those "goals" wouldn't include any actual commitments to, you know, actually do anything. As Mr. Bush's environmental advisor James L. Connaughton explained, they would be "aspirational," only binding on individual nations that "chose to bind themselves."

In other words, Bush spouted some meaningless bullshit. This merits the upper right hand corner of the front page of the NYT, which informs the world that he actually proposed to do something, which he did not. Yes, it really is that easy. The editors of the NYT really are that fucking stupid.

In other news, the doctor with the bedside manner of Don Rickles emerges blinking and kvetching into the light of day. I refer of course to Jack Kevorkian, who in spite of having the communication skills of an enraged tarantula managed to keep the support of the majority of Americans for his serial assisted suicide campaign, just because most people happen to think it ought to be allowed. I link to the BBC article because unlike U.S. coverage, it is not dominated by religious fanatics threatening the nation with destruction by burning sulfur for tolerating his kind in our midst. The BBC calmly informs us that physician assisted suicide happens anyway, and that in Oregon, where it is legal, it remains uncommon, evidently free of abuse, and has not led to mass murder of people with disabilities or all the fashionable people shoving grandma out to sea on an ice floe.

I must tell you, however, that many physicians are uncomfortable with legalizing it. They fear that if it's legal, patients will ask for it, and they don't personally want to say yes or have to explain why they are saying no. Other physicians would prefer to have the legal option. The public has consistently strongly favored a legal option for assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness with poor quality of life, but I would say that physicians' opinions do also matter in this.

It certainly gets tricky. Some people who request assisted suicide are not actually terminally ill, but merely in great distress. And any definition of terminal illness is bound to be arbitrary. Contrary to popular belief, physicians are actually very poor at predicting how long a person has to live. You can define terminally ill for legal purposes as having a prognosis of say, 6 months or less, but lots of people who receive that prognosis live for years. Whoever issues the prognosis is really just guessing. I have often said that if I were facing late stage Alzheimer's disease, for example, I would want to take the big pill, but a) I would not be terminally ill at that point and b) I wouldn't be competent to request it. On the other hand, if I were terminally ill and in possession of my faculties, I hope that I would want to live out my life as best I could, assuming I could still do something useful with the time I had left. But all of that is not really relevant to the issue of legalization, which is just to give people the option.

What do you think?

No comments: