After Peak Compassion Fatigue

     Cause People frequently fall victim to the error of the “oversell.” That is, they persist in hammering anyone who’ll stand still long enough with their sacred Cause. This results in a long-term rejection of the Cause and, often enough, its advocate as well. The “tragedy” often includes making potentially receptive listeners, people who could become allies, into absolute opponents.

     Something like that happened in the later Twentieth Century, when American advocates for “the poor” – surely one of the most underdefined demographics in human history – became so ubiquitous and so relentless that they exhausted Americans’ natural generosity. (Cf. the National Welfare Rights Organization.) The media’s hammering of the subject was a significant contributor to the demise of the longstanding Democrat Party hold on the majority in the House of Representatives. The phrase compassion fatigue entered the national discourse. It was cited to explain many an election result, whether or not the candidates in that election had expressed specific positions or policies regarding poverty.

     What went undiscussed then, and remains largely so today, is what lies beyond compassion fatigue:

     Half of Canadians would agree to allow adults in Canada to seek medical assistance in dying due to an inability to receive medical treatment (51%) or a disability (50%). Fewer than three-in-ten would consent to expand the guidelines to include homelessness (28%) or poverty (27%) as reasons to seek medical assistance in dying.

     Canadians are split when pondering if mental illness should be a justification for an adult to seek medical assistance in dying: 43% support this idea, while 45% are opposed.

     Horrified yet? You should be. “Medical Assistance in Dying,” whether we acronymize it as MAID or MAD, is something that sends a chill up the spine even when the person to be “treated” is terminally ill with an incurable and excruciatingly painful disease. To recommend euthanasia as a social corrective for poverty and mental illness is grotesque in the extreme. Yet recent events have apparently numbed Canadians sufficiently to check that box.

     Time was, we would say “While there’s life, there’s hope.” “Dum spiro, spero,” as the Romans would put it: “While I breathe, I hope.” That’s a valuable credo; it fends off despair and unnecessary surrenders. That a great many Canadians should endorse despair and surrender on others’ behalf is shocking.

     Maybe they’re just tired of being hammered. It happened to us, after all. Canada’s problems with poverty and mental illness are at least as bad as ours. Look at the totalitarian clown they chose for their prime minister.

     There isn’t much more one could say about this. I can’t think of a rationale for the rejection of life and hope that would apply here. Mental illnesses are largely treatable today. Poverty is an even weaker justification for wanting to die; on average a “poor person” in North America is about as well off as a working-class European. Besides, economic mobility – the potential for a “poor” individual to raise his economic condition above its current level – remains a feature of both American and Canadian societies. Despite confiscatory taxation and insane levels of regulation, most “poor” persons and families don’t remain that way lifelong.

     I’m largely unacquainted with Canadian Cause People. Maybe they’re a lot worse than those south of the 49th parallel. Canada is, after all, a place of extremes: extreme cold; extreme snows; extreme politeness… Or the pollsters could have made a mistake. I think I’ll pray for the latter.


  1. There is a hazy line between ‘peaceful, painfree, natural death’ and ‘overmedicating and CAUSING death’. Sometimes, hospitals, conscious of the cost of caring for people with major illnesses or injuries, come down on the overmedicating side. Most medical professionals are too quick to pull the trigger in the elderly or very disabled. Their lives are seen as not worth the effort or money.

    The organization Not Dead Yet – – is one that I learned about in the time when Terry Shiavo was in the process of legally being put to death. They are still around, and should be monitored for updates on the struggle to keep government/medical personnel from pushing people down the road to termination.

    Should terminally ill people be given sufficient meds to keep them out of excruciating pain? Sure. But, with pain meds, there is often a drawback. The administration of meds will generally lead to reduced ability to breathe. The struggle, for the families and friends, is to keep the staff from injecting when the person makes movements to shake off the meds, which many staffers interpret as “in pain, give more meds”.

    That’s why, if you want a Living Will to protect your existence, you need to be careful:

    Choose your Health Care POA person carefully. If you want them to err on the side of continued existence, you need to say so, loud and clear, and make sure that they will advocate for you.
    Get a Living Will, and make sure your people know where it is. Give you doctor’s office a copy, and perhaps file one with your local hospital. The Right to Life website has a downloadable form, called Will to Live, that is aimed at those who don’t want the medical industry to shuffle them off to eternity too soon. I have seen comebacks from major illnesses and accidents, and I know the disabled can live in comfort with adequate support. That won’t help the Canadians; their government will NOT give health care to those that they consider ‘not worth it’. But, in America (so far), it can protect the patient’s rights.

    1. Since you didn’t mention the dangers in the pro forma living will provided by most states, I will assume you don’t know of them. Thus neither would anyone who reads your well-intentioned suggestion. Read this for learning of the danger, but more importantly, of the simple solution.

      To highlight one potential danger, here is an example scenario that is possible if one simply copies and signs the standard living will, the same one that your own lawyer in most cases is going to give to you.

      You are in a car accident and wind up in a coma.

      Attending doctor: “I don’t think she’ll survive. Better to withhold oxygen.”

      Attending doctor’s colleague: “I concur.”

      Attending doctor to your husband: “Sorry, but it’s what we think. Now even though your wife never knew me or our emergency room, she agreed to abide our opinion. Legally. Buh-bye.”

      I only can offer you this insight. What you do about or not is up to you.

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