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When the Witch Asks a Question, I Can’t Resist

4 Nov, 09 | by Iain Brassington

In the replies to this thread, The Witch Doctor asks this:

A Scenario:

Apparently there are some sites on the web just now claiming that the world is going to end in 2012. Some teenagers are becoming agitated.

I don’t want to be around when the world ends, so I’m going to drink some poison and present to my local A and E department on Halloween 2011. If conscious I will refuse treatment but ask to be kept pain free and as comfortable as possible while I make a “dignified exit” anticipating the end of the world.

I will also carry an AD in case I become unconscious before arriving at A and E.

If conscious, I will be assumed to be competent until proven otherwise. I will pass the competency test. I do not have a mental health problem. I have just been spending too much time surfing the web.

Should the medical staff allow me to die when the time comes and if not, why not?

It’s a good question – though I’d rephrase it slightly to “if so, why; and if not, why not?” at the end.

I’m curious to know what the readership here thinks.  Since I’ve posted my reply in the old thread, I’ll keep out of it as much as possible.

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  • Keith Tayler

    Like so many thought experiments (TE) this really does not work.

    If the Witch Doctor has a properly witnessed AD and A&E staff can verify its authenticity, the WD has correctly completed the paperwork. (Let us assume that AD is not challenged after the WD arrives at A&E on the grounds the WD is not of ’sound of mind.’)

    The WD then goes on to say “If conscious, I will be assumed to be competent until proven otherwise. I will pass the competency test. I do not have a mental health problem.” By definition it would appear that the WD has passed all the ‘tests’ of competency and has a reasonable state of mind. But is that possible given the ’reason’ for suicide and the limited time available to make a proper assessment? I accept that it might be possible but this TE does not help us to understand these possibilities.

    So within the virtual world of the TE, if the WD has been properly assessed (as the description of the TE states) and found to be competent and of reasonable state of mind, I think the A&E medical team should respect the WD’s wishes and not intervene. But that is not say much.

    But again, I am with Williams when it comes to TEs. As with his TE where Jim should kill one to save many, we cannot ignore the possibility that Jim might not be able to kill someone himself.

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