Social-media statements could turn out to be deadly for people in the United Kingdom who are on life support.
A new guidance from the British Medical Association advises families to “trawl through” the Twitter and Facebook accounts of such loved ones in search of any indications that they may want to die.
The aim is “to help reach a decision on whether to withdraw treatment or switch off life support.
Steve Fouch of Britain’s Christian Medical Fellowship explained to the U.K.’s Christian Institute why the guidance should be junked.
“It ignores the latest medical evidence on how difficult it is to accurately diagnose the level of brain damage of our patients and long-term prognosis,” he said.
The institute explained the advice follows a test case in 2017 in which a high court judge in the United Kingdom ruled a 72-year-old woman in a minimally conscious state should be allowed to die because of an email she sent to her daughter in 2013.
‘Euthanasia by stealth’
Dr. Max Pemberton addressed the case in a commentary for the London Daily Mail.
“How often have you dashed off an email, only to re-read it months or years later and shake your head in disbelief that you’d ever written it? Or posted your thoughts on social media about a topical issue, only to have an entirely different opinion after mulling it over a little longer?” he wrote.
“Our brains are highly sophisticated computers, constantly assessing and re-assessing the data we feed in – and influenced, of course, by the physiological and emotional reactions of our bodies.”
But the guidance provides “a horrifying new dimension,” he said.
“To put it starkly, one Facebook post might be enough to bring about your death,” he said.
“Yes, it’s like something out of a dystopian novel. But it’s all the more chilling because it is true and is actually being recommended by the medical establishment.”
Pemberton noted that in the test case, the woman recalled in the email that her own father had suffered with dementia before his death.”
The mother wrote to her daughter: “I am still haunted by how he ended up. … Get the pillow ready if I get that way! Love Mum.”
Pemberton explained he supports the best treatment for people with terminal cases, and sometimes that might be ending treatment.
“What I wouldn’t want is some doctor deciding to flip the switch or pull a tube because of something I’d once written in an email,” he said. “We are all prone to hyperbole, exaggeration and overstatement for effect. I’m sure we’ve all said or written, at one time or another, that ‘I’d rather die than do such and such . . ‘’ Of course we didn’t actually mean it.”
He added, “How on earth can some careless posts taken out of context on social media, or flippant emails, possibly be assumed to be real reflections of what we think or feel in a specific, complex life-and-death situation?
“This is euthanasia by stealth. Many of my colleagues feel the same. The new guidelines are yet another horrifying step in that direction,” he wrote.