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By Max J. Charlesworth
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Extra info for Bioethics in a Liberal Society
Willy nilly we have to make decisions for such children and impute judgments and decisions to them. Those who argue that the child's life must be preserved at all costs, so that in effect the child is denied any right to refuse treatment (a right that adult competent patients have), are also making a decision for the child and imputing a judgment about its future life to it, just as much as the parents and physicians who decide to forgo active treatment for a gravely disabled child. A final decision about whether or not active treatment should be given to a gravely handicapped infant cannot then be made solely on medical grounds, as though one could judge or diagnose how much specifically human worth, value or 'quality' a person's life had solely by 'objective' medical observations and tests, very much in the way that one can medically diagnose whether or not a person has AIDS or Alzheimer's disease.
2 With respect to the last point, Aquinas admits that concerning the rest of his life a person must use his free will and make his own autonomous decisions; it is only regarding his death that he must leave the decision to God. 3 Again, Aquinas argues that suicide is not an act of true courage but rather of the 'softness of spirit' (mollities animi) of a person not able to bear with life's afflictions. It must be said that much remains unclear in Aquinas' arguments against suicide. For example, if it is against the natural law to take one's life does this mean that I have an absolute duty to preserve my life at all costs and that I have a correlative duty to shun occasions where my life is endangered?
Richard A. McCormick, "'Physician assisted suicide: flight from compassion'", Christian Century, 108, 1991, p. 1132. 5.
Bioethics in a Liberal Society by Max J. Charlesworth