Saturday, October 9, 2010

Michael Caine admits role in assisted suicide

Actor Michael Caine, 77, revealed in a recent interview that he requested euthanasia for his father back in 1955:
Although the doctor told him he could not hasten his death, Caine said he honoured his request and discreetly gave his father, then aged 56, an overdose.

"My father had cancer of the liver and I was in such anguish over the pain he was in that I said to this doctor, 'Isn't there anything else you could (do)? Just give him an overdose and end this', because I wanted him to go and he said, 'Oh no, no, no. We couldn't do that.' "

"Then, as I was leaving, he said, 'Come back at midnight.' I came back at midnight and my father died at five past twelve. "So he'd done it ... "
Assisted suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom, but it is very unlikely that Caine will be prosecuted. does not have an official position on assisted suicide, except that it ought to be analyzed separately from abortion. Assuming that the decision is made by the dying person, only one human life is involved, and I'm not sure that it's possible to violate one's own right to life. Of course, there are other reasons, religious and secular, to oppose assisted suicide. Chief among these is the concern that the elderly and disabled will face social pressure to relieve the burden on their families by killing themselves, so that it isn't really their decision at all.

Caine says that his father expressed a desire to hasten his death. He makes a distinction between end-of-life decisions made by the patient (which he supports) and those made by others (which he opposes). But he also describes his father's state at the time as "semi-conscious," which deeply disturbs me. Can you ever have true informed consent in that situation?

Whatever your view, I highly recommend that all of our readers write a living will and/or designate a trusted surrogate to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is of tough issue, as is every life issue.
My organization, KSU Students for the Right to Life, promotes the protection of life from conception to natural death. I have a slightly different perspective on euthanasia and sometimes find myself sticking up for the group's constitution rather than my own personal beliefs. Like Caine, I believe that if the patient is in a normal state of mind, then they should ultimately be allowed to make the decision to end their life peacefully. Sometimes that is not the case. In the cases which the patient is brain dead and/or is not able to communicate their wishes, the decision should revert back to a living will. I encourage everyone to write a living will, so that if they were in this position, their loved ones could revert back to the will for guidance on what to do: pull the plug or leave them be.

-Patrick Ptomey