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?
Campaigns from California to New Zealand to legalise euthanasia in one form or another have focused on attractive young women with terminal cancer who want to avoid suffering pain or loss of mental function at the end of their lives. Their stories are powerful and persuasive.
But so are the stories that we hear less about, like that of California mother Stephanie Packer. The 32-year old wife and mother of four was diagnosed in 2012 with scleroderma, a chronic connective tissue disease which now makes it difficult for her to breathe and prevents her taking food except through a tube inserted in her arm.
A bill which would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland contains “significant flaws”, according to a report by a parliamentary committee. Although most of the committee opposes the principle of the bill, they have decided to allow it to pass to the whole Scottish Parliament for a final decision.
The bill was introduced by former MSP Margo MacDonald, a doughty campaigner for assisted suicide who sponsored a similar bill in 2009. She died in April 2014, but the bill was taken forward by another MSP.
The language of the committee’s report is restrained but tough.
Compassion: “there are other ways of showing solidarity and compassion with those suffering distress, short of helping them to commit suicide.”
America’s leading assisted suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices, has scored another public relations coup with the release of a third Brittany Maynard video.
Brittany, you will remember, is the 29-year-old woman from California who chose assisted suicide in Oregon last year rather than suffer a slow decline because of a brain tumour.
She made two videos which went viral on YouTube – no wonder, as they were directed by a New York public relations firm which put together a multi-platform media campaign for C&C called “Twenty Nine Years”. A professional story-telling consultant was employed to create the video. The celebrity magazines, the glossy women’s magazines, major newspapers and TV networks were provided with photos and interviews. Brittany became a media sensation.
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.