I had heard it described as the “clash of the titans” and other similarly grand claims evocative of gladiatorial contests of one kind or another. But for those who have known or observed Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Professor Peter Singer in any previous forum, a titanic battle was never really on the cards.
Marketed simply as “The Euthanasia Debate: Singer v Fisher” the event at the Sydney Town Hall last week was described by one journalist as an event where: “arguments flew in both directions but rarely met”. It was a respectful exchange from two well-credentialed people whose views were never really expected to coalesce upon common ground.
Fisher’s was a straightforward approach. In his opening remarks he drew moral distinctions between killing in response to suffering and actively supporting and engaging in answering the needs of the sufferer until death summarizing that the latter “demands more from us”…
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“Of all the arguments against voluntary euthanasia, the most influential is the ‘slippery slope’: once we allow doctors to kill patients, we will not be able to limit the killing to those who want to die. There is no evidence for this claim.” [Italics added.] So wrote one of the world's leading defenders of euthanasia, Australian philosopher Peter Singer, in 2009.
Some more recent reports agree. A group in the UK which called itself the Commission on Assisted Dying declared in 2010 that there was no evidence of a slippery slope. Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada explicitly rejected the idea of a slippery slope when it legalised assisted suicide.
Sorry, we missed this euthanasia story from the Netherlands. It deserves to be more widely known.
Cobi Luck on the day of her death.
An 80-year-old Dutch woman suffering from dementia was euthanased on April 24 after a sternly-worded court order addressed to her nursing home.
The woman, who was later identified as Cobi Luck, had a stroke two years ago. She became paralysed and totally dependent on carers in Ter Reede dementia specialist care home in Flushing. But when she asked her son to get the nursing home to organise euthanasia, the director refused. In his opinion, supported by the woman’s own doctor and a psychologist, she was not mentally competent.
Many a comedian fears “death on the stage”. Not loss of life, exactly, but that split second when a joke misfires and he loses the audience.
Jenny Kleeman, a journalist with The Guardian, has been following Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke as he enters a new career as a stand-up comedian at the upcoming Edinburgh Comedy Fringe Festival in Scotland.
Much of her video report (above) comes from a workshop in London where Nitschke has been road-testing his show in front of members of Exit, his assisted suicide information group. Kleeman’s comments are telling: “Is Philip about to change the way we view the ‘right-to-die’ or is he about to ‘die on his feet’?”
As I watched the Exit crowd I found myself thinking of “the four Ws”, as many in the disability community would say. Indeed, the audience was “White, Well, Well off and Worried”. One participant interviewed parroted the…
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A TV show called “If Katie Hopkins Ruled the World” debuts next week in Britain. Ms Hopkins, a 40-year-old reality TV celebrity and a columnist for The Sun newspaper is what envious journalists call a “professional troll”. Whenever she opens her mouth, she hogs the headlines. The "queen of quotes" recently called for gunships to deter illegal migrants into Europe, calling them “feral humans” and “cockroaches” who are “spreading like norovirus”.
Now she has swiveled her guns to take aim at the elderly. In a radio interview promoting her new show, she declared “We just have far too many old people”. If she were in charge, she knows what to do: “It's ridiculous to be living in a country where we can put dogs to sleep but not people,” she told her 69-year-old interviewer. She believes that the problem is readily solved.
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.
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 email@example.com.