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射水市民病院の事件

 昨日の夕刊で報道された射水市の「安楽死」事件について,今日の新聞各紙とテレビ・ニュースが争うように様々の報道をしている。この場合,やはり問題なのは末期段階での延命医療打切りについて患者自身の真摯な嘱託があったかどうか,患者が意思表示できなかった場合には,その肉親の「人間的な」申し出があったかどうかだろう。法的にはさまざまな手続きが要請されるにせよ,真に死期が切迫した状態の下では,それが唯一かつ最終的な条件だろう。今回の射水市民病院外科部長の対応が,その条件にかなったものだったかどうか──今後明らかにされるだろう事実経過にそくして,判断されなくてはならない。
 毎日新聞の記事では,末期医療について,延命治療中止を望む国民は7割を超え,医療関係者では8割に達した,という厚生労働省「終末期医療に関する調査等検討会」の03年の世論調査結果を紹介している。おそらくそのようなところが多くの人の実感だろう。とかく元気な人は,自身についても「余命いくばくもないのであれば,無理をして生かしてもらう必要はない」と考えていることが多いものだ。
 この問題には,しかし,もう一つの側面がある。それは高額に上る医療費の問題だ。末期のがん患者の延命に費やされる,基礎的な入院費用に加えての人工心肺装置の使用経費,抗がん剤その他の医薬品代,差額ベッド代等々,気の遠くなるほどの費用負担に誰もが耐えるわけではない。肉親であれば,しかし,生活費を削り高利の借金を重ねてでもそれに耐えねばならないのであろうか。とてもそうとは思われない。では,患者の費用負担の限度に応じて,末期医療の密度と期間に格差を設けるのか。おそらく,医療現場で実際にはそのような「死の不平等」は進行しているのだろうが,しかしそのことが正面から語られることはない。
 ここには関係者すべてが知らん振りを決め込んでいる欺瞞があり,そのことを抜きにした「安楽死」論議にはいささか冷笑的にならざるをえない。

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