Thursday, July 2, 2015

German Bundestag debates assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Assisted suicide was debated, today,  in the German Bundestag. The issue of assisted suicide has been debated for several years. There have been several high profile cases of German people who have died by assisted suicide at a clinic in Switzerland.

Today, the German Bundestag were presented with four competing draft bills.

According to Deutsche Welle media:
One lawmaker, Ulla Schmidt of the Social Democrats (SPD), voiced a concern that assisted suicide harkens back to the euthanasia program employed during the Nazi era, and called on her colleagues to proceed with caution. 
Katrin Göring-Eckhardt of the Green party said she was a worried about becoming the type of society that expects "the suffering elderly and those in need to bring an end to their own lives." 
Renate Künast of the Greens and Petra Sitte of the Left party, would completely remove legal hurdles to assisted suicide. 
Michael Brand of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Kerstin Griese of the SPD have prepared what they call a "middle way" between punishing those who provide euthanasia assistance and a complete deregulation of the process. 
German Bundestag
Another CDU member, Patrick Sensberg, presented a draft that sought to criminalize any sort of assisted suicide. ... He spoke of the personal burdens some doctors would have to bear if they were required to help any terminally ill patient who wanted their assistance committing suicide.
The article stated that:
The only thing that all parties were able to agree on was the need to strengthen and spread the availability and services provided by hospices and palliative care wards.
In June 2012, the German Medical Association voted against euthanasia, to forbid euthanasia organizations and to urge the government to make the commercialization of suicide a crime.

It is expected that legislation will be passed by November 2015.

Euthanasia memorial
Last December, the German Ethics Council rejected a change in the assisted suicide law while supporting confidentiality between patients and physicians. 

Last November, the majority of the German Bundestag opposed assisted suicide groups such as those in Switzerland.

Last September, the memorial to the T-4 euthanasia program victims opened in Berlin.

Popular articles on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

1. Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Choice  Feb 17, 2011.

2. Healthy 24-year-old Belgian woman scheduled to die by euthanasia June 24, 2015.

3. Euthanasia is out-of-control in the Netherlands Sept 25, 2012

4. Oregon 2012 assisted suicide statistics: An analysis Jan 25, 2013

5. Depressed Belgian woman dies by Euthanasia Feb 6, 2013

6. 5 reasons why people devalue the elderly May 25, 2010

7. Twins euthanized out of fear of blindness in Belgium Jan 14, 2013

24. A petition to Gov. Chris Christie to veto New Jersey assisted suicide bill Nov 19, 2014

25. Euthanasia in Canada: Letter writing campaign Feb 24, 2015

Become a member of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition ($25) membership

More important articles:

Opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide based on evidence of disability discrimination

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the director of Hope Ireland.

The inaccuracies and elisions in the Economist article: Doctors should be allowed to help the suffering and terminally ill to die when they choose came as a shock. I thought that the Economist held to finer standards of journalism.

Canada recently wrote into law that disability is, in and of itself, sufficient reason for a euthanasia death. Professor Em Etienne Vermeersch declaimed (Goethe Institute, November 13, 2013): Belgium's euthanasia law was written for disabled people, who quite rightly in in his view, would want to die: a transsexual deeply failed by family and ‘healthcare’, an anorexic woman sexually abused by her treating psychiatrist, a woman being treated for depression with medication known to bring suicidal ideation, deaf twins who found they were also becoming blind who were deeply afraid of being institutionalised? Now a young 24 year old woman who thinks euthanasia is a 'nice idea, finds planning her own death and funeral 'fun' is granted a euthanasia death because 'life is not for her'. She formed this idea after a friend committed suicide eighteen months ago. All of them would absolutely qualify for protection under disability discrimination law in the UK. What they are getting is a false positive: 'of course we understand. Yes, we have the solution for you at the end of a syringe.’

Your article denies a stark reality.

Assisted dying (why ‘soften’ the language? Assisted suicide and euthanasia should be legal everywhere on grounds on mental anguish is explicitly written into Belgium's 2002 euthanasia law. By this logic gay people, who are deeply distressed by the prejudice and discrimination they suffer, would qualify. Or black people, when so obviously persecuted, older people the evidence of whose abuse is almost daily, those of certain faiths or even shades of supposedly the same faith dying horribly on the shards of ideology.

Disabled people understand discrimination in all its forms and subtleties, from direct experience. In a secular world. To diminish us, our well-researched, well-formed views to that of Stephen Hawking who represents not one disabled person's organisation anywhere, is facile, and the clearest example of the lazy moral thinking that infects this piece, to our great disappointment. With your high-standing and reputation comes a high level of responsibility; it is deeply betrayed here.

We have long argued that pain is not the primary nor even the biggest reason people want to die. Even Lord Falconer, promoter of legislation in the British House of Lords, has admitted this now.: ‘…pain…can be dealt with…it is the sense of people losing independence and being reliant on other people…there’s a small number of people who…find that an intolerable position...’ Yes, 61% of people in Washington State US say they want to die because they feel themselves ‘to be a burden on others’ (Daily Mail 11 June 2014). No small number that.

Even amongst the most worrying of your discussion contributors knows this:

Perrodin posted:
‘It is not always about pain. It is also about being decrepit, disabled, incapable of taking care of oneself anymore, getting blind, getting incontinent, becoming an object of disgust and pity for those in charge of cleaning you up and feeding you. Who wants to go through all that when there is an easy way out?’
There it is: all of it. Becoming an object of disgust and pity for others, being 'decrepit, disabled’ - and when the 'easy way out’ is to hand.

Your article wrapped us all up in anti-religious sanctity of life. Such assumption. There are as many atheist, agnostic, believing disabled people as in any population. We are not a homogenous whole. Ours is not a religious argument in any way. Ours is the evidence of rank disability discrimination - to death.

What happens to people with disabilities when you legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide?

Andy R responded to Kevin Fitzpatrick's article: Assisted suicide for disabled people - democracy in Britain? The comments by Andy R are published below his article. This article is Kevin's response to Andy R.
Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the director of Hope Ireland.

I would ‘loathe me’ too if I ever pressurised you or anyone else to stay alive for such a self-serving reason. I can’t actually see any reason or moment when I would contemplate pressurising someone this way, although I know that when people cannot bear even to imagine losing their beloved, they might allow themselves to go down that road, for love.

Supporting someone in the depth of despair is first and foremost to recognise that – at least some of them – are serious about wanting to die. And many with very good reason - precisely because the kind of support they need is absent. When we are faced with the conviction that there really is nothing left, nothing at all, no person, no event, no medication, nothing but the need to be gone, then speaking about choice (and autonomy) is empty. Empty because what gives life meaning depends on a grandchild’s birthday party, the best cup of coffee in town, the kindness of a smile, all the millions of things we count in a human life, most of all the love of others, the ones for whom we feel we must push the extra mile, the ones we love back.

That is no mere support. Giving it, watching our loved ones not getting enough of it, say in a clinical setting, or not having what feeds our human depths despite the best professional intentions, noticing and coming to fear that absence for ourselves – it is all the stuff of human despair, feeling alien in this world, dying.

The question is not whether you or I or anyone else wants ‘the option’ for surely we all do want a peaceful painless, swift and comfortable death? I would never deny you or anyone else this either. To be clear, I want it too.

The question is what happens when you legalise this as a process. There is nothing to stop anyone committing suicide now, and people do, in exactly the way you describe, but also in more horrific ways. Suicides, like all human deaths, matter.

The problem comes when you say to others ‘This is legal – so go ahead, no questions will be asked.’ The problem then is how do we know - older people, suggestible people, people made vulnerable by facing just the very thoughts you express – how do we know they really did not change their minds or were not so imbued with the idea by weeks months years of subtle pressure that they jumped willingly. Pressure is not one thing in human life.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Belgium’s euthanasia establishment hisses back.

Paul Russell
This article was published by HOPE Australia on June 26, 2015 and Mercatornet on June 30, 2015.

By Paul Russell, the director of HOPE Australia: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide,

The name and the story of Belgian chemist Dr Tom Mortier has become known throughout the world. His physically well mother was clinically depressed. Yet in 2012 she was euthanised without his knowledge in Belgium. He and his sister were left to pick up the pieces.

His experience was recently described in a stunning feature in The New Yorker by journalist Rachel Aviv. Ever since his mother’s death Tom has been campaigning against legalized euthanasia in Belgium, much to the consternation of figures in the euthanasia establishment who have become the darlings of the media.

“I am afraid that the notion of ‘free will’ has become dogma, behind which it is easy to hide,” Tom wrote in a Belgian medical journal. “Wouldn’t it be better to invest in mental health and palliative care?”
The establishment was indignant at this impertinence. Etienne Vermeersch, who has been called the most influential intellectual in the country, complained that Tom was conducting a “smear campaign”. Seven thousand people signed a petition objecting to the criticism. At least he knows who his enemies are…

Tom Mortier in Adelaide.
Tom spoke recently about his experiences at a symposium I organised in Adelaide, South Australia, and two weeks later in Dublin. We have corresponded and talked on and off for the last few years after meeting briefly in Brussels in November of 2013.

Tom is incredibly open and honest about his personal history: his father’s suicide when Tom was small; becoming both child and carer for his mentally-ill mother; their later estrangement; and his own difficulties in dealing with depression and mental health issues.

His mother’s death and the trials that followed as he struggled to understand the how and the why can be easily understood to be stressful and challenging.

Tom and I went fishing for a few days after our event. He’s a warm and intelligent man with a zany sense of humour. He is also a husband and father. We spoke about his grief following his mother’s death, what he has learned since about euthanasia practice in Belgium. Tom says, “I did not ask for any of this.” I am in awe of Tom, his inner strength, his lucid thinking and his drive for justice. He is a survivor, not a statistic.

Tom Mortier's mother
But any suggestion that Tom’s behaviour, the path he has pursued and the questions he has asked of those involved in his mother’s death, are the actions of someone who is not in control of his faculties, who sought, “self-treatment with lawsuits to the European Court of Human Rights” is beyond the pale. But that is precisely what Dr Jan Bernheim and Professor Etienne Vermeersch did in defending their euthanasia colleagues in the De Morgen newspaper after Tom’s story was the focal point of an extensive article in The New Yorker magazine recently.

Bernheim, like Dr Wim Distelmans who killed Tom’s mother, is an oncologist. Vermeersch is a philosopher. Along with Distelmans, they are part of the foundation movement that brought euthanasia to Belgium in 2002. None is a psychiatrist and yet Distelmans cleared a mentally-ill woman for euthanasia while his colleagues “diagnosed” her son as suffering “pathological grief” in a newspaper – no issues of confidentiality for them!

There’s a very distinct empathy deficit here; a deficit, I submit, that characterises the Belgian euthanasia experiment over these last 12 years.

Think of the pain and distress this De Morgen article visits upon Tom and his family. If Bernheim and Vermeersch had the slightest shred of decency they would have taken a more humane and sensitive route in defence of their colleagues.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Disability rights advocates fight California assisted suicide bill.

Anthony Orefice
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

USA Today published a very interesting article by Anna Gorman of Kaiser Health News concerning the role of disability rights activists in the assisted suicide debate in America. For instance Anthony Orefice from Valencia California who had a motorcycle accident when he was 19.
Anthony Orefice hit a telephone pole on his motorcycle going 100 miles per hour. Doctors told his family he wouldn't survive. He did, but the accident left him paralyzed from the chest down ... All you are thinking is the worst, worst, worst – everything you can't do," ... "I wanted to be dead. 
Orefice, who is now 40, is married, has a 7-year-old son, owns a medical supply company and counsels people who are newly disabled with spinal cord injuries. Orefice says that:
"Depression,... is part of the healing process." 
Marilyn Golden (on right)
Orefice is one of many disability rights activists who are speaking up against the California assisted suicide bill. He and others are concerned that:

depression and incorrect prognoses may lead people with serious disabilities to end their lives prematurely.
Marilyn Golden, the senior policy analyst at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, argues that the assisted suicide bill poses "considerable dangers" to people with new disabilities who may have suicidal thoughts. Golden states that:
"It would almost be too easy to make an irrevocable choice,"
Golden added:
many people who initially received terminal diagnoses have "lived full lives (for) years or even decades" longer than expected.
John Kelly
John Kelly, with the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, explained that the disability rights groups were less organized when the Oregon and Washington State and Vermont passed assisted suicide bills, but since then they have effectively defeated assisted suicide bills in many states including Massachusetts, Colorado and Connecticut. Kelly is quoted as saying:

"We have had success after success in stopping these bills," ... they are determined to defeat any bill, including the one in California.
The disability rights coalition is actively opposing the California assisted suicide bill SB 128. Deborah Doctor, a legislative advocate for Disability Rights California, wrote in a letter to State Senator Lois Wolk:
disabled people are vulnerable to abuse and could be coerced by family members not acting in the patients' best interests. Relatives, she said, could put pressure on people to take life-ending medication. 
"Our responsibility is to think of people who are the most vulnerable to coercion, abuse and pressure."
Doctor is also concerned that:
physicians may simply be wrong about how long someone has to live. Insurance companies also might overrule treatment for people with disabilities because of the cost of care.
Laurie Hoirup is another disability rights activist who strongly opposes assisted suicide, based on her personal experience. Hoirup has had spinal muscular atrophy since she was a toddler. She has a curved spine and rods in her back, she cannot eat, bathe or go to the bathroom on her own and has trouble breathing. According to Gorman, Hoirup said that:
Physicians told her family that she wouldn't live past 10 years old.
Anyone could be given the wrong diagnoses, I am certainly the perfect example of that.
Laurie Hoirup
Hoirup, who is now a grandmother, spent many years working in government and other positions on behalf of people with disabilities.

The article concludes:
Orefice, who wished for death when he was 19, said he is now glad for what he calls the years of "bonus time." 
But Orefice said he doesn't dwell on his disability or think much about death. Instead, he focuses on his family and thinks what he's been able to accomplish and what he still hopes to. He paddle boards, plays wheelchair hockey and races specially equipped off-road vehicles. 
"I have affected more lives than I would have if I was walking," he said. "When you are in the trenches, you don't see that."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Parents of cognitively disabled man appeal death by dehydration order in France.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

On June 5, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Germany decided that Vincent Lambert, a cognitively disabled man who lives in France, could have his food and water withdrawn causing his death by dehydration.

Yesterday, the French media reported that Lambert's parents appealed the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. His parents and two siblings intend to protect him from death by dehydration. After the Strasbourg court decision Lambert's mother, Viviane stated:
“It’s scandalous. They are condemning my son. We will remain by Vincent’s side and will continue to fight,"
Vincent Lambert's mother
Lambert's parents referred to death by dehydration as being "akin to torture."

The Strasbourg court decision should concern people who believe in human equality. Lambert is not dying, but is cognitive disabled. This precedent setting court decision may cause other people with cognitive disabilities to be dehydrated to death.

Letter: Collateral damage of assisted suicide

This letter was written by disability rights attorney, Christopher Knauf, and published on June 25 in the Glendale News-Press

Dan Evans' recent op-ed, “Start the presses: Debating doctor assisted death,” avoids any mention of the serious and permanent collateral damage that accompanies physician-assisted suicide laws.

Assisted suicide offers no second chances. Terminal diagnoses are often wrong. Countless patients have been given “six months to live,” only to continue living for years.

Additionally, people who may technically be “mentally competent” but who are experiencing depression and decreased mental capacity are at great risk. Studies have found that a large percentage of those with dementia, for example, remain undiagnosed. Do we doubt that such people are at great risk of greedy family members or caregivers?

Wherever assisted suicide is legalized, too often, patient choice and control over one's healthcare is removed. Assisted suicide pills cost much less than the medical treatment for a chronically ill patient, or someone living with a disability who may need greater-than-average care. Do we really trust insurance companies to do the right thing — or the cheapest thing?

As disability rights advocates, we fear that family pressure, misdiagnosis, doctor-shopping, and meaningless safeguards will put our colleagues, friends and clients at grave risk. The stigma of severe disability — and the desire to die rather than live with a disability - is sadly real and rampant. Every major disability rights organization in the nation that has taken a position on this issue is opposed to physician-assisted suicide. While well-meaning at first glance, the debate loses sight of the very people it claims to help — the ill patients who stand to be permanently harmed.

Twelve states have rejected assisted suicide bills this year alone. California should follow suit.

Christopher Knauf
Santa Monica

Christopher Knauf is a disability rights litigation and special education attorney. He is a board member of the Westside Center for Independent Living, and was a Founding Member and Former Chair of the Santa Monica Disabilities Commission.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Belgium euthanasia promoters attack man whose mother died by euthanasia.

This article was written by Professor Tom Mortier and published on his blog.

Professor Tom Mortier
he Flemish newspaper De Morgen has been discrediting me for three years now. 

Today this newspaper gave Bernheim & Vermeersch the opportunity to publish an ad hominem viewpoint where they show no empathy at all and where they attack me enormously. 

I have never spoken with these two people although I have questioned the work of Bernheim in the scientific literature because I don't think that what he has published is a good example of true science. And yes, I do think now that Vermeersch is not practicing scientific thinking. He has no other arguments than to attack me personally without ever having had a conversation with me. From now one, I will continue to question these nihilistic thinkers who can't bear criticism and I will continue to ask questions about what's truly happening in my country. 

Professor Tom Mortier's depressed mother died by euthanasia on December 19, 2012.
Dr's Jan Bernheim and Etienne Vermeersch are long-time promoters of euthanasia in Belgium.

Belgium: ‘Euthanasia leads to the decline of a society?

This article was published on the HOPE Ireland website.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the director of HOPE Ireland.

Hermann de Dijn, emeritus professor of philosophy at the Belgian University of Leuven, says: ‘Once the law is there, you have people asking themselves new questions… ‘Do I really have quality of life? Am I not a burden on others?’

De Dijn believes that ‘human dignity should include not only respect for personal choices but also for connectedness to loved ones and society.’ The concept of human dignity in Belgium has been ‘reduced to the ability to have certain experiences’.[1]

He is absolutely right of course. The concept has been stretched beyond its limits. It has lost all meaning in Belgium.

We must now, ever more urgently, return to clear ground, to be sure we are really speaking about dignity, not some corrupted notion which has no actual bearing on what should be our proper concerns.

If the questions are not exactly new, the locus of them is: Belgium’s veneration of death – the lazy moral thinking in a whole society which has allowed itself to be led on a leash to accept the idea that death is, and should be, the default ‘treatment’ for all ailments. This is the societal tectonic shift that allows a young woman, just 24 years old, with apparently serious mental health issues, to apply for and be granted a euthanasia death (believed to be scheduled for August this year), and to say she finds ‘euthanasia a nice idea’.