Monday, October 03, 2005

On the Slippery Slope

Interesting post at Normblog on the supervision of interrogation by medical professionals.

Whenever an argument about involuntary euthanasia or the notion of a life not worth living is brought up, you can guarantee that those opposed to such ideas will raise the prospect of embarking down a slippery slope of rationalization whereby, once an absolute right to life is discarded, we could find ourselves justifying any number of lives as worth terminating. What is often ignored is that that slippery slope works both ways. If you insist on an absolute right to life and the view that there is no such thing as a life that is not worth living, consider, as a thought experiment, a doctor who is required to revive a tortured interrogatee every time he comes close to death, knowing that the only outcome of this active of revival will be further torture until the prisoner dies. In effect, the doctor is reviving the prisoner in order that he be tortured further. Is there not a case, here, that might justify at the very least the withholding of treatment, if not the deliberate euthanasing of the prisoner? (I take this to mean regardless of the doctor's obligations as a human being to protest torture in the first place).

I had always regarded this as a circumstance at the far end of the slippery slope, a reductio ad absurdum unlikely to arise even in our cynical and dirty world, but it looks like it may be a dilemma some doctors will have to face. That said, as implied by the above, any doctor facing that dilemma is already an accomplice to torture, and torture is always and everywhere wrong.

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