Friday, December 19, 2014

The final seduction: Belgian euthanasia doctors become tourists at Auschwitz

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE
Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International.
Spokesperson - Not Dead Yet UK Campaign.

(Link to a PDF of the article)

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Belgium’s leading euthanasia practitioner recently conducted a ‘study tour’ of Auschwitz (reported in Der Spiegel Nov 21, 2014). His group of seventy included doctors, psychologists and nurses from Belgium, all in favour of euthanasia; with no-one to challenge their world-view that they are right in taking the lives of other human beings. One is a psychiatrist, deliberating a request for euthanasia by a man with bi-polar disorder who loses thousands gambling during his manic phases. That such a request can be considered at all shows just how far they have travelled already in Belgium under Wim Distelmans.

Since Belgium’s law was introduced in 2002, Distelmans is reportedly responsible for the euthanasia deaths of hundreds of people - a physician who kills people. He is constantly in their media proffering his ‘morally superior’ leadership. He is also co-chairman of the Belgian government's Euthanasia Commission, which has never found even one of the cases presented to them worth investigating. He sees no conflict in regulating himself. Morally superior indeed. Now, as the psychiatrist’s mulling shows, terminal illness is long-past being a restrictive criterion for euthanasia in Belgium. They say they are acting out of ‘unconditional love’.

Although we have no special sense of his worry from the Der Spiegel article, the prospect of visiting Auschwitz apparently makes Distelmans feel uneasy. Maybe it has to do with the fact that a concentration camp survivor who was to accompany the group has called off her trip at the very last minute because she has ‘come down with a cold’. Perhaps the cold is real.

Distelmans promoted his tour of Auschwitz as an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of ‘death with dignity’. Genuine horror at what happened there might help us reflect, he says; but on what? That killing someone by lethal injection in a hospital room is therefore more dignified, perhaps? As a great philosopher once put it:
...I suppose there might be a man who ‘passes brilliantly’ every part of the medical course, and of whom you’d [still] feel that he never ought to be... [in] medical practice…he may make some remarkable diagnoses and cures. And yet…[while] you do not mean that he will never be properly qualified [it is] almost as though his practice in medicine was bound to corrupt him in some way; by which I do not mean he will break down or fail or suffer a decline in his powers. If he develops a sort of cynicism in medicine; or he regards it chiefly as a field in which to show prowess – this would be worse than any failing in brilliance.
The cynicism Rush Rhees speaks of, including the ‘evil of thinking oneself to be God’s agent’ (not in a necessarily religious way), is a deep corruption: of course many practitioners do not want to be involved in making end-of-life decisions for many reasons, religious and moral amongst them, or from the sheer ‘primitive horror of taking another person’s life’.

So it is not what they commonly do that qualifies doctors in any special way to make moral judgements about end-of-life situations. What they commonly do may, in fact, disqualify them, may in fact prove them to be the worst of people to act as judges, if they have become inured to deep consideration of each individual human death, seeing life as a bus to jump off when we please, or when the going really gets too tough.

If that last, most desperate situation can be understood in some ways that does not make their position and responses any the less shallow; a medicalised approach to death is yet emotionally void. Some doctors are cynical, some are self-absorbed, or have fallen into the trap of their god-complex.

Is it really necessary to visit the site of the worst excesses of cruelty and murder to learn something about the depths to which human beings will fall? How is that supposed to actually inform anyone’s deeper views about euthanasia?

The world is beginning, rightly, to question Distelmans’ purpose. As the journalist poses the question: is a physician who practices euthanasia ‘allowed to gaze into the abyss to assure himself of the moral fortitude of his actions... Is that cynical? Absurd?’ Is that what he is doing? His moral fortitude? What could possibly set his moral position above anyone else’s? Being a doctor is simply not enough and may be exactly the opposite, what rules him out of making such moral decisions, because he has become so inured to death, treating it so clinically.

Distelmans’ moral fortitude is my moral disgust, where any possible majesty in human passing from life is buried with his victims, reduced to a sterile, passionless injection of lethal substances – by a doctor convinced of his own moral rectitude – where have we heard this twisted moralizing before? O yes, was it not in this very place, Auschwitz, where doctors played such a huge role not just in practice but in developing the ideology which brought about the very conditions for Menegele , and his type, to practice and to pretend this was medical science, not the worst degradation and unthinkable torture? Pretend, until the last moment when they destroyed all records there and in Berlin, knowing the reality of what they had done.

German ethics committee rejects the legalization of assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The German media has portrayed the decision by the German Ethics Council to reject the legalization of assisted suicide in a confusing manner.

According to Deutche Welle news the German Ethics Council rejected a change in the assisted suicide law, today, but suggested that in certain circumstances, the principle of confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship should prevail. The article stated:
A majority of the members of Germany's Ethics Council rejects organized assisted suicide carried out with the help of doctors or other professionals, a statement issued on Friday said. 
Such services should be banned "when they are designed for repeated use and occur in a public context, giving them the apparent status of social normality," the statment said. 
However, although the council supported the view of the German Medical Association that helping a patient to die was not part of a doctor's duties, it said in exceptional circumstances a doctor's decision to assist in the suicide of a terminally ill person should be respected as part of a "confidential doctor-patient relationship" - even if the decision contradicted this principle.
The article then quoted Eugen Brysch, the chairman of the German Foundation for the Protection of Patients, who criticized the interpretation of the ethics body statement he stated:
"Hintze and Reimann have twisted the recommendations of the Ethics Council in their favor," he said, saying that a majority of the council's members rejected the idea that a patient had a right to a doctor's assistance with suicide.
Peter Hintze and Carola Reimann, who are members of the Bundestag, are introducing an assisted suicide bill in the German Bundestag in February.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rabbi Testifies Against Assisted Suicide Bill to New Jersey Senate Health Committee

This article was published on December 17 by The Yeshiva World News.

Rabbi Avi Schnall
he “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” passed the State Assembly with 41 votes – the minimum needed – last month, and is now up for a full vote on the Senate floor. In the event that it passes the Senate, the decision would fall to Governor Chris Christie on whether to sign or veto the bill.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill.

On Monday, Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director of Agudath
 Israel of America, expressed Torah Jewry’s vehement opposition to the proposed law to the Senate Health Committee members. Rabbi Schnall told the Committee of Agudath Israel’s long history of representing Torah observant Jews in America – and why this battle is particularly important: “Informed by classical Jewish tradition which teaches that all human life is sacred, and possessed of the firm view that laws that undermine the sanctity of human life send a message that is profoundly dangerous for all of society, Agudath Israel’s interest in the issue of legalizing suicide is especially keen.”

In addition to articulating the religious-moral opposition to physician assisted suicide, Agudath Israel’s testimony laid out a clear legal case for the government to ban the practice, and noted that even some that are pro the bill from the medical community oppose the idea of allowing physicians to participate in patients’ decision to end their life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John Kelly Reports on New Jersey Senate Committee Assisted Suicide Bill Hearing

This article was originally published on the Not Dead Yet blog.
John Kelly
y John Kelly
New England coordinator - disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

The New Jersey state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed its assisted suicide bill, S382, out of committee on December 15th. Senate President and co-sponsor Steve Sweeney initially said that a full Senate vote would be held on Thursday, the last scheduled full session of the year, but later indicated that the vote would not be called this week. Susan K. Livio of reported that “Sweeney said he and other supporters would embark on an ‘educational campaign’ to discuss the matter with colleagues.”
It isn’t known if it has the 21 votes to clear the Senate, though Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has come out in support of the bill. In a statement, he said he believes there “needs to be an honest discussion about this option.”
Speculation is that Sweeney plans to twist some arms – as he may have done in the committee itself – in order to pass a bill and score points against Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has pledged to veto it.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill.
The good news for the people in the crosshairs is that great disability rights activists showed up to testify against the bill, including reportedly a dozen in wheelchairs. From Philadelphia ADAPT and Not Dead Yet came German Parodi and Alan Holdsworth. German said that when he was unconscious after his spinal cord injury 21 years ago, doctors urged his grandmother to “put him down.” We are so glad she didn’t!
Holdsworth was quoted at the bottom of Racioppi’s article:
“What we have is palliative care for the rich and death for the poor. Is that the road we’re really going down here?” said Alan Holdsworth, a member of the group Not Dead Yet.
Meghan Schrader represented Second Thoughts Massachusetts and the millennial generation (which she says is opposed to assisted suicide 54%-45%) in describing disabled foster kids’ distance from the Brittany Maynard idea of personal “autonomy.” Stephen Mendelsohn drove from Connecticut to call out the incredible me-me-me selfishness of Compassion & Choices, the arch-proponents behind the bill.  Making assisted suicide just another medical treatment option doesn’t only affect the C&C elite, but also thousands of elders and people with disabilities who must deal with a cost-cutting health care system and sometimes face cruel abuse from family members and caregivers.
Opponents of the bill vastly outnumbered proponents, but it appears that Compassion & Choices, who was not present, was privy to the plan settled before the hearing even began: that amid concerns about safeguards and teen suicide, the bill would be passed out of committee “without recommendation.”  That piece of information was revealed by Republican Sen. Bob Singer, who cast his “no” vote.
Two Democrats who voted to pass the bill out of committee, Chair Sen. Joseph Vitale and Sen. Robert Gordon, said they would vote against the bill on the floor.
Fortunately, the strong turn out of disability rights advocates opposing the bill gave everyone a chance to see how we live with dignity while we fight the insultingly named “death with dignity” bills.  The C&C zealots don’t care about assisted suicide deaths due to mistakes, coercion and abuse, which they seem to consider as acceptable collateral damage.  But none of us are expendable.  We’re Not Dead Yet and nothing about us without us!

More information:

The Bentley "spoon feeding" case has been appealed to the BC Court of Appeal.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On February 3, 2014; the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) was elated when Justice Greyall of the BC Supreme Court decided that Normal Feeding is basic personal care and not medical treatment in the Bentley case.

The Bentley family has appealed the decision to the BC Court of Appeal arguing that Justice Greyall erred in his decision. They are arguing that normal feeding by spoon and cup is a form of medical treatment and Mrs Bentley's is being fed against her prior wishes which they define as "assault and battery."

The Bentley case concerns a woman living at the Maplewood Care Facility in Abbotsford BC. Mrs Bentley is living with dementia. She is being fed normally by spoon and drinks from a cup. Her family claims that she would not have wanted to live this way. The family wants normal feeding to be discontinued and that Mrs Bentley be allowed to die from dehydration.

In August 2013, the family of Mrs Bentley launched a lawsuit against Fraser Health and the BC government ordering that feeding by spoon and cup be discontinued. The Bentley family defined normal feeding as medical treatment. They claimed that feeding was being imposed on Mrs Bentley against her prior wishes and that it constituted a form of "assault and battery."

Mrs Bentley is not being fed by a feeding tube and she is not being forced fed.

It is interesting that, in August 2013, the Bentley family claimed that Mrs Bentley was living with "end stage" dementia and yet in December 2014 she continues to be fed normally.

EPC intervened in the Bentley case. We argued that normal feeding by spoon and cup is not medical treatment but rather constitutes normal care and a basic necessary of life.

The EPC is once again seeking to intervene in the Bentley case. The EPC intervention, among other arguments, will prove that normal feeding is recognized internationally as basic care and not medical treatment.

If normal feeding is redefined as medical treatment, then people with dementia will be at risk of family members deciding to stop feeding or hydrating them, even when they are still eating normally. 
EPC believes that people should have the right to be fed normally. 

Assisted Suicide poll - shows that Canadians are divided on the issues.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Angus Reid Institute completed an assisted suicide poll  in late November that shows that Canadians are divided and conflicted on the issues, and that a negative experience with palliative care directly effects the opinion of people on the issues.

In its description of the survey results, the Angus Reid Institute states:

Canadians express moderate to strong support for changes in legislation that would allow physicians to help patients who want to commit suicide, but the specific circumstances that might justify this course of action suggest deep divisions in public opinion. 
Canadians’ views on doctor-assisted suicide vary significantly based on the perceptions of recent experiences with loved ones receiving end-of-life care. 
Those reporting a negative experience with palliative and hospice based care are significantly more likely to support physician-assisted suicide.
... In the middle is the largest group of Canadians who are open to the arguments in favour of a new overall approach in law, but who remain highly uneasy about specifics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Jersey Senate will vote on assisted suicide bill.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New Jersey assisted suicide bill narrowly passed (4 - 3) in the Senate Health Services and Senior Citizens Committee yesterday after hearing four hours of testimony on the bill.

Contact the New Jersey Senators and tell them to reject assisted suicide bill 382. It is not safe.

Assisted Suicide Bill 382 will likely go to a vote in the New Jersey Senate on Thursday. If the Senate passes the bill, Governer Chris Christie will need to veto the bill.

* The article originally stated that Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) would call a vote on the bill this Thursday. claims that was a typographical error.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill. published a good article concerning the Senate committee hearing. The article stated:
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted 4-3 to let the “Aid in Dying” bill proceed to the full 40-member Senate, but did so in a way that registered committee members concern and uncertainty by approving it "without recommendation." 
Sens. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) and Chairman Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) voted yes to allow to the bill to move forward, but agreed they would have voted no had it come up for a vote in the full Senate today. 
"I'm not sure there are enough safeguards in place" to prevent the law from being abused, Vitale said
John Kelly from Not Dead Yet.
The Senate committee held a hearing last week with only two speakers from each side of the bill. The disability rights community were left out of that hearing. The second hearing occurred after the outcry of disability rights leaders who demanded that their voice be heard. The article stated:
The bill has drawn the ire of many people with physical and developmental disabilities and their advocates. Curtis Edmonds, a managing attorney at Disability Rights New Jersey, a federally-funded legal advocacy organization, warned that such a law would define "what is perceived as an acceptable quality of life... and death as an obligation rather than autonomy."
Senator's Sweeney (D) and Scutari (D) who co-sponsored the bill promised a vote on the assisted suicide bill in the New Jersey Senate in the new year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Former British Psychiatrist admits to assisting 7 suicides.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg
The British Daily Mail  has reported that Colin Brewer, a former psychiatrist who lost his right to practise medicine in 2006, has admitted to assisting 7 suicide deaths at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland in the past two years. Brewer also admitted that only one of the people was terminally ill.

The Daily Mail reported that Brewer made these revelations in his book. The article stated:
Among the seven people were Marjorie, a former businesswoman in her nineties, who lived in severe pain that could not be diagnosed or treated. 
A man in his sixties called Eddie, a retired professional, was going blind and wanted to die before he lost his sight.

Then there was Henry, in his eighties and with early Alzheimer’s, and Charlotte, a WI chairman with Alzheimer’s, who wanted to die before she had to leave her home.
The article then focused on Jacques, a retired academic:
... Jacques, a retired academic in his seventies who suffered arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure, Dr Brewer said: ‘It sounds no worse than in most people of his age. But he dreaded the possibility of a sudden deterioration … that would deprive him of the mental capacity to decide on the manner of his death.’

Organ donation after assisted suicide in Switzerland.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director/International chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

For the past few years doctors in Belgium have linked organ donation to euthanasia. Recently the Dutch Minister of Public Health, Edith Schippers proposed guidelines for euthanasia/organ donation.

Yesterday, published an interview with ethicist, David Shaw, concerning organ donation / assisted suicide. Shaw specialises in the ethics of organ donation and transplantation in the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel. He is also a member of Britain’s Donation Ethics Committee, which advises the Department of Health on organ policy.

In the interview, Shaw questions why Switzerland doesn't have a national donor registry. Shaw believes that donor cards alone aren't enough. He comments on assisted suicide:
... I'm not saying that we should be killing people to take their organs. But Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world where several hundred people use assisted suicide every year. This is a situation where you have people who want to die, you know when they're going to die, and many of them are probably registered organ donors. So it's also more respectful to the people to let them do this final kind of parting gift to humanity.

Labour Party drops euthanasia bill (New Zealand)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Iain Lees-Galloway for resisting sponsorship of the ex-Maryan Street voluntary euthanasia bill.

The End-of-Life Choice Bill proposes legal assisted suicide and euthanasia for anyone over 18 who has either a terminal condition which could end their life in 12 months, or an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that the person feels makes their life unbearable. It would effectively legalise euthanasia for anyone with a chronic physical or mental illness, disability, ageing-related condition or any condition for which a person refuses further treatment.

Renée Joubert
Public support for voluntary euthanasia is overestimated and based on unscientific online polls that ask an uninformed public to respond to leading questions couched in euphemisms”, says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
“Hence, many people confuse “assisted dying” (a euphemism) with switching off life support, withdrawing or refusing treatment and ‘do-not-resuscitate’ orders. However, euthanasia actually involves a doctor administering lethal drugs by injection in a way similar to overseas executions. Assisted suicide involves a person swallowing lethal drugs prescribed by their doctor.”