There seems to me to be a cognitive dissonance in the suicide prevention arena that sets aside concerns about suicides when they are related to advocacy networks such as Exit International. This happens at a number of levels and in a number of ways - some perhaps understandable but none excusable.
Australia has one of the highest incidences of youth suicide in the western world. It makes good sense to focus resources in this critical area of prevention. But there’s something missing in the public discussion that should have become crystal clear from recent media coverage in the Fairfax press, where journalist Craig Butt reported on suicide deaths using Nembutal and highlighted its use by young people:
Brittany Maynard's mother, Debbie Ziegler, flanked by SB 128 authors Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
California’s assisted suicide bill remains on life support after its authors decided it did not have the numbers to pass the Assembly Health Committee. The three Democrats cancelled a scheduled hearing of SB 128 last week, saying they would continue to work with Assembly members “to ensure they are comfortable with the bill.”
The End of Life Option Act, the latest of several attempts to legalise euthanasia in California, would have a huge impact in the US if passed because of the state’s size and political influence.
Shelly Cory, executive director of Virtual Hospice, remembers when a distraught grandmother contacted the web-based resource. The woman was struggling with how to talk to her three-year-old grandson about his mother’s terminal breast cancer.
“Our team worked together not only to provide her with that guidance, but also to help find ways that mother and son could work together on projects to create a legacy for him,” recounts Cory. “We also offered support in how she could help her grandson in the days, months and years ahead.”
An easily accessible resource like Virtual Hospice that serves patients and loved ones is greatly needed. It’s estimated that only 16 percent of Canadians have access to quality palliative care.1 Virtual Hospice exists precisely to address the gaps in information and support.
The name and the story of Belgian chemist Dr Tom Mortier (a MercatorNet contributor) has become known throughout the world. His physically well mother was clinically depressed. Yet in 2012 she was euthanased 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?”
Editor-in-chief of The Economist, Zanny Minton-Beddoes
The world’s most influential news magazine, The Economist, has a new editor-in-chief, Zanny Minton-Beddoes, its former business affairs editor. One of the very first issues on which she has chosen to campaign is the legalization of euthanasia. This week's cover story is "The right to die: why assisted suicide should be legal". It is illustrated by a snuffed candle with a smoking wick.
In a podcast Minton-Beddoes says that there are three reasons for her stand. First, asssisted dying is one of the great moral questions of our time, especially in the light of ageing populations around the world. Second, it fits neatly into The Economist’s philosophy of promoting autonomy and reducing government meddling. And third, public opinion can truly make a difference.
News flash from Brussels, the nihilism capital of the world! A 24-year-old healthy woman named Laura will soon be euthanased. The reason? Leven, dat is niets voor mij, she says: life, that’s not for me.
And Belgian doctors are happy to accommodate her, even though she is young and even though she is healthy. If she’s not really into life, why not check out the alternative?
A profile in the Belgian newspaper De Morgen tries to explain why Laura has scheduled her death.
She grew up in a dysfunctional household. Her father was drunk and abusive and her mother left him when she was only a year old. From then on she shuttled between her loving grandparents and her mother, who was drunk and slatternly.
By the age of six she was already thinking of suicide. She told the newspaper:
Peter Singer is in hot water in Germany again over his controversial views.
The Australian utilitarian philosopher began his royal progress through Europe well. In late May he added another two honorary doctorates -- from the Universities of Athens and of Bucharest -- to his extensive collection of awards and distinctions. From there he went to Berlin to receive the inaugural “Peter Singer Prize for Strategies to Reduce the Suffering of Animals”. He was introduced in glowing terms by Maneka Gandhi, Indian Minister of Women and Child Development, who is president of People for Animals in her own country. A German politician explained why he was so popular: “Peter Singer's ideas are logical, free from religion and easy to understand”.
On June 6 Justice Collins handed down his judgement in the High Court of New Zealand in a case brought by Lecretia Seales. Ms Seales had asked the court whether it would be an offence under the Crimes Act for her doctor to be able to help her die and whether a ban on assisted dying contravened the New Zealand Bill of Rights. In rejecting her application Justice Collins observed that:
"Ms Seales’ doctor would have been at risk of being prosecuted for either murder or manslaughter if she administered a fatal drug to Ms Seales intending to kill her. She would have been at risk of being charged with assisting suicide if she provided Ms Seales with a fatal drug, intending for Ms Seales take that drug and if Ms Seales died as a consequence."
IN a supplement to her testimony to the California Senate Health Committee on assisted suicide bill SB 128, disability rights expert Marilyn Golden looks at the supposed safeguards in the bill to see if the state’s remaining 3 or 4 million uninsured, and masses of underinsured, would be safe.
Under the bill:
* Two doctors must agree the person meets the law’s criteria. But there’s considerable evidence that in Oregon, if your doctor tells you no, you can shop for a doctor who will say yes. An overwhelming number of Oregon’s suicides were facilitated via the organization Compassion and Choices. How often do these referred physicians say no? We don’t know. The reports don’t tell us.
If assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse, argues a US disability rights expert in testimony to the California Senate Health Committee considering an assisted suicide bill. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone,” says Marilyn Golden.
Why? For one thing, it’s a “deadly mix” to combine our broken health-care system and assisted suicide, which would instantly become the cheapest treatment. Direct coercion is not even necessary. If insurers deny, or even merely delay, expensive, life-sustaining treatment, patients are steered toward hastening their deaths. Do we think insurers will do the right thing, or the cheap thing?
Careful! is MercatorNet's blog about end-of-life issues. We respect the dignity of each person from the beginning of life to its natural end. Leave your comments at the foot of our articles. The more the better! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.