Doctors in San Francisco are refusing to intervene in a suicide by starvation by an suspected murderer—even though he has been declared mentally incompetent. From the “Matier and Ross” feature in the SF Chronicle:
Doctors at San Francisco General Hospital are refusing to intervene in a nearly month-old hunger strike by a man accused of a double killing near Fisherman’s Wharf, on the grounds that he is of sound mind and can make his own decisions, San Francisco’s sheriff says. This after a court-appointed psychiatrist said the murder defendant, Hong Ri Wu, was mentally incapable of standing trial...
On Sept. 17, after about two weeks of refusing food at the County Jail, Wu’s condition was deemed “acute” and he was admitted to San Francisco General. “And now the doctors at the hospital are saying that he doesn’t have any mental health issues, so they can’t intervene,” Hennessey said. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has been contacted by Hennessey and is investigating the situation. “I don’t think San Francisco should be in the business of standing by and letting people die on our watch,” Herrera said.
Oh get with it Mr. Herrara! This is a new age. The autonomy monster is on the loose. Who are you to stop anyone from starving themselves to death? Good grief, we even have assisted suicide advocacy groups, like Compassion and Choices, which push suicide by dehydration and starvation for the dying and disabled as a form of “death with dignity,” a procedure they call “Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking” (VSED). (More on VSED in another post.)
But if doctors refuse to intervene in a self starvation, why should they resuscitate someone who tries and fails to hang themselves? Is there something different from self starvation and self asphyxiation? Or self gunshot? Or self organ busting from jumping off a bridge? After all, they want to die, and who are doctors to interfere with autonomy?
Indeed, if a suicidal person wants to drink antifreeze, and if she puts a note on her chest refusing medical treatment,doctors should just stand around and watch her die over a 24 hour period. Right? It’s her autonomy, after all. What? Oh, yes. That’s already happened in the Kerrie Woolterton tragedy.
Anyone who denies that we are developing a pro suicide culture simply isn’t paying close attention.