Archive for the 'Euthanasia' Category

Blatant promotion of assisted suicide by ABC TV

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you wanted to euthanise someone with a drug or provide a drug for self-administered suicide, which drug would you recommend?

Pentobarbital (trade name Nembutal) is the lethal drug recommended and made available through Australia’s Dr Philip Nitschke of Exit International for euthanasia or assisted suicide.[1] Nitschke is a former medical doctor who also has a PhD in laser physics.[2]

clip_image002
(image courtesy The Guardian)[3]Image result for image of Nembutal public domain
(image courtesy OAK, public domain)

What would you do if your national TV network, funded by tax payers’ dollars to the tune of approximately $1 billion Australian annually,[4] deliberately promoted only one side of a highly emotional contemporary issue? ABC TV’s 7.30 programme in Australia did just that on Thursday, 20 October 2016, with its advocacy for assisted suicide. How could one possibly describe it other than pursuing the role of an activist promoter?

What did it do? It provided video of euthanasia advocate, Max Bromson’s, giving himself a lethal dose of Nembutal, obtained from Philip Nitschke’s Exit International, to end his life. This was from video that the family filmed of his taking this lethal dose and then released to the ABC and the public.

The ABC gave only one side of the euthanasia controversy (with a small exception). It was grossly imbalanced in its coverage.

Therefore, I considered the place to begin was to …

1. Lodged a complaint with the ABC

This was my online complaint sent on 21 October 2016:

clip_image004(image courtesy Wikipedia)[5]

 

I viewed your story in support of euthanasia on the 7.30 programme, Thursday 20 October 2016. The story is titled, Family releases video of euthanasia advocate’s final moments, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2016/s4560443.htm. It includes video and transcript. This shows the dark side of what Philip Nitschke will do illegally.

I protest at the way 7.30 did not provide balance in this story. As a $1 billion tax payer-funded broadcaster, we deserve balance in programming. That is not what I viewed last night.

In this entire story, the only words against euthanasia were from South Australian Labor MP, Tom Kenyon:

TOM KENYON, SA LABOR MP: Some of us are Christians in this Parliament and we have views that are formed and informed by our Christian upbringing and our faith.

There’s nothing wrong with that….

TOM KENYON: The idea that the state should assist in the deaths of people, to contribute financially through resources, the allocation of resources to the deaths of people, is not something I’m prepared to counter [the video said ‘countenance’].

This was an emotionally charged story to support euthanasia, even though it is illegal in Australia. There was not a word on issues such as:

clip_image006 These are the possible deleterious consequences for a nation that legalises the killing of people under any circumstances and assists in their suicides.

clip_image006[1] All human beings have a right to life and palliative care during their painful sicknesses and dying years.

clip_image006[2] The medical profession’s role is to help control the pain and not organise the death or killing.

clip_image006[3] Reasons why killing of human beings should not be legislated.

clip_image006[4] What a death culture of euthanasia and assisted suicide will do to the culture of the nation.

I am not writing as a theoretician. My wife is dying of leukaemia. I have two severe disabilities.

I refer you to retired Australian anaesthetist, Dr Brian Pollard’s, assessment of the dangers of euthanasia: ‘Why safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth‘ (published in Quadrant 2011).

What will you do to bring balance to the 7.30 programme’s advocacy for euthanasia that was evident last night?

Yours sincerely,

Spencer Gear PhD

I asked for a response via email but my experience with the ABC in the past is not to be hopeful of any lasting change in journalistic policy in obtaining balance in reporting. Unless the government demands such balance for funding and signs a contract with the ABC and SBS to that effect, it will not happen.

2. The mass media jumped on board with this story

clip_image007
Herald Sun front page 12 December 2005, reporting on the 2005 Cronulla riots (image courtesy Wikipedia).[6]

 

Especially the News Corp media took the opportunity to challenge the content of this story. The Herald Sun on 21 October 2016 published, ‘ABC criticised for showing final moments of euthanasia advocate Max Bromson’s life[7]. The article stated that its original edition was published as ‘ABC accused of “death voyeurism”’. ‘Death voyeurism’ was a term used by former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in responding to the ABC story.

This Herald Sun article made these points:

clip_image009 Immigration Minister Peter Dutton accused the ABC of being “taken over” by political activists.

clip_image009[1] Tony Abbott: ‘Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there have to be standards of reporting. This is death voyeurism, not journalism’.

clip_image009[2] Neil Mitchell: ‘I strongly support voluntary euthanasia, but this was a blatant and irresponsible piece of attention-seeking by the ABC,’ the 3AW Mornings host said. He also called it ‘self-serving, self-indulgent journalism’.

clip_image011(photo Philip Nitschke 2016, courtesy Wikipedia)[8]

clip_image009[3] Bromson, a passionate and outspoken supporter of voluntary euthanasia, wanted to end his life his own way so he went to Philip Nitschke’s euthanasia advocacy group, Exit International, and secretly obtained the illegal euthanasia drug, Nembutal. Then at his chosen time when his bone cancer was severe, he asked family to take him to a motel room where he took the dose of Nembutal while his family filmed his last moments.

clip_image009[4] There are two bills before the South Australian parliament seeking to introduce voluntary euthanasia. This kind of political manoeuvring has been going on for two decades.

clip_image009[5] ‘The latest bid for change was launched on Thursday with the 15th bill since 1995 put before the lower house by advocate and Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge…. Dr McFetridge said his Choices and Dignity at the End of Life bill had embraced previous concerns from many MPs, making voluntary euthanasia only available to people with a terminal illness whose suffering had become intolerable’.

McFetridge claimed of his euthanasia legislation that ‘it also provided for seven clear steps before voluntary euthanasia would become available and barred people with a disability or mental illness from seeking euthanasia on those grounds’.

‘This is a choice that is wanted by those few people for whom palliative care does not work,’ Dr McFetridge said.

The Sun Herald article continued: ‘Let’s give those people the democratic right to make the decision about how they leave this life’.

‘Labor MP Steph Key, who introduced the 14th bill [into the South Australian parliament] in February, said the new measures had tightened the eligibility and assessment processes. “We have continued to consult widely on the proposed voluntary euthanasia laws and this new Bill will encompass all the checks and safeguards sought by our colleagues,” she said’.

3. Responding to secular arguments favouring euthanasia

clip_image012 The Herald Sun’s article included a poll, ‘Should the ABC have shown footage of a euthanasia advocate ending their own life?’[9] Here it provided opportunity for comments. Two supporters of euthanasia responded:

3.1 Human beings compared with animals

This person compared euthanasia of human beings with what the RSPCA would do with animals that were suffering in a similar way. She[10] compared animals found in poor state with people being prosecuted for euthanasia. However, we allow human beings to suffer, she said.

Those offended by the ABC 7.30 video should understand that ‘YOUR level of discomfort is nothing compared to what they are inflicting on these poor people. We need to stop and think for a minute about this. Making assisted suicide legal is different to making it compulsory! If YOU find the thought unpalatable, FINE don’t do it’.

She went down the standard line that ‘you do not have the right to impose your beliefs onto another human being. Making it legal will NOT result in more people dying, it will just help them die with dignity. We, collectively, as a society need to get OUR bloody noses out of other people’s business.[11]

Another replied:

3.2 Pray to your mythical god

This fellow was in agreement with the animal comparison by Pat but he took the opportunity to give God a secular slam in the religious gut:

I agree with Pat. If Max was a animal his carers would be prosecuted. As for the Liberal Senator Knoll, you can pray to your mythical god and suffer if he wishes you to me. I will die with dignity at my own hand where I want and when I want.[12]

3.3  I chose not to be silent

clip_image013This support for euthanasia and assistance in suicide, comparing with animals, needs a response. This is how I countered:[13]

The difference is that we are not animals. We are human beings. Promoting the killing of anyone is endorsing a mighty cultural shift.

There are important issues that need to be addressed before becoming gung-ho advocates of killing and assisted killing:

clip_image014 What are the possible deleterious consequences for a nation that legalises the killing of people under any circumstances and assists in their suicides?
clip_image014[1] All human beings have a right to life and palliative care during their painful sicknesses and dying years.
clip_image014[2] The medical profession’s role is to help control the pain and not organise the death.
clip_image014[3] We need much more detailed discussion on the reasons why killing of human beings should not be legalised.
clip_image014[4] What would a death culture of euthanasia and assisted suicide do to the culture of Australia, especially for those who are vulnerable?

I do not write as a theoretician. My wife is dying of leukaemia and I have 2 severe disabilities. I would never ever place my wife and me in the category of being animals that are so diseased and need to be put down. Life is given by God and he determines when our end should be.

clip_image016Job 1:21 (NLT) reminds us: ‘He (Job) said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”’ Psalm 139:16 (NIV) confirms that ‘Your (God’s) eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’.

Ronald, in shaking your fist at God and declaring that ‘you can pray to your mythical god’ you have committed an appeal to ridicule logical fallacy. We cannot have a logical discussion on such an important topic as end of life issues when you resort to this fallacious reasoning.

3.4 We choose what is right for each other

It was interesting to see how a non-Christian, relativist and secularist would respond to my challenge. She came back with a predictable promotion of autonomous reason:

clip_image018 She understood ‘exactly’ what I said. Her point was ‘that your choices are right for you under your circumstances’. However, living in our ‘wonderful democracy’ means I have the right to make my choice and others have the right not to share my ideals and beliefs.

clip_image018[1] They have as much right to an opinion and choice as I do.

clip_image018[2] There is ‘a difference between making something legal and making it compulsory’.

clip_image018[3] If I’m opposed to assisted suicide, she was confident that ‘nothing will change if it is made legal’.

clip_image018[4] She is not optimistic about the level of palliative care in hour health care for pensioners, veterans and terminally ill.

clip_image018[5] Who’s at fault? The politicians drop the ball as there are not enough votes in them. We can’t rely on good care being available for these people.

clip_image018[6] She wished me well in dealing with the personal tribulations of my wife and me.

clip_image018[7] In spite of my opposition, she will remain steadfast in her beliefs as stated.[14]

4. Logical consequences of ‘it’s right for you and not right for me’

What are the consequences of accepting Pat’s worldview and its values on euthanasia? This was my assessment of her use of autonomous reason in our democracy.[15]

I also understand what Pat says and the values driving her statements. It means that since we live in this wonderful Australian democracy we can make choices that are right for you and right for me. What’s the logical conclusion of this worldview driven by autonomous reason?

clip_image020Why stop with Pat choosing euthanasia and my opposing it because of choices in our democracy? There is no reason you can stop people making the right decision for them to break into your property and flog whatever they want. I don’t share that value, but who am I to stop them in a democratic society that allows choices?

Let’s press her worldview to another logical conclusion: Who am I to say that people should not murder human beings and lie about what they did when they are the choices they make? You may disagree in a democracy but neither of us should be forced to agree that stealing and murder are wrong if democratic values are maintained. Neither of us would have to agree that paedophilia and the rape of children is wrong. If it’s good for him to do that, who are we to oppose that value.

However, why are murder, theft, lying and rape illegal as absolute values in Australia? It’s because they are wrong, based on God’s transcendent standards in, say, the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17 NIV; Matthew 5-7 NIV). There are those who disagree and break the law in our democracy but they suffer just consequences.

She said, ‘If you are opposed to the concept of assisted suicide, then nothing will change if it is made legal.’ This is a false premise. Introducing voluntary killing of another person into our culture will change the very fabric of our society. There will be fear for the elderly, severely injured and others to enter hospital.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at what is happening in the Netherlands right now following legalisation in 2002. It started with Drs who could euthanise patients if they were competent, conscious, repeatedly asked for euthanasia, and were suffering unbearably as a result of an incurable disorder. What are they up to now? According to Reuters’ news agency of 12 October 2016, the Dutch government is drafting legislation to legalise assisted suicide for people who sense they have ‘completed life’ (the elderly) [Sterling 2016].

I refer you to retired Australian anaesthetist, Dr Brian Pollard’s, assessment of the dangers of euthanasia: Why safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth (Quadrant 2011).

I agree that more money needs to be spent on palliative care. That is one value on which Pat and I agree. However, autonomous reason in a democracy leads to chaos because no reigns can be placed on any moral values. It’s the natural outcome of relativism in action.

What is relativism? ‘The term “ethical relativism” encompasses a number of different beliefs, but they all agree that there are no universal, permanent criteria to determine what may or may not be an ethical act. God granted no divine command, and human nature displays no common law. Consequences have no bearing because each person or society may interpret the “rightness” of each consequence differently. Ethical relativism teaches that a society’s ethics evolve over time and change to fit circumstances’ (Got Questions 2002-2016).

We need absolute standards of right and wrong: It is wrong to steal, kill and tell lies. God provides those standards in Scripture (see Ex 20:1-17; Matt 5-7). Without God’s unchanging standards, there is no way to objectively determine if murder is anything different to euthanasia. The Canadian Law Reform Commission got it right in 1983 when it concluded that mercy killing (euthanasia) should not be made a separate category to homicide (reference below).

5. Other issues from the secularists’ responses

The secular responses from Pat and Don raise some other disturbing concerns about euthanasia.

5.1 Dying with dignity at my own hand

clip_image022Don stated: ‘I will die with dignity at my own hand where I want and when I want’.

As retired anaesthetist, Dr. Brian Pollard indicates, (see below), safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth. That Don wants to die with dignity at his own hand when he wants is a pleasing objective for a person using his or her autonomous reason. However, I have some questions:

(a) How does he know he will have a disease that will allow him to die with dignity at the end of life?

(b) History demonstrates that not all Drs can be trusted to implement the wishes of the patient.

(c) We know from the history of humanity that laws against murder, theft, rape and lying do not prevent those crimes from being committed. Therefore, to die with dignity could fall into the category of the Drs who lie about maintaining the law to euthanise human beings who voluntarily decide when they do it, without permission.

(d) A greater issue than the human side of dying is what lies beyond death. God has told us what that will be: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27 NIV).

Don as a secularist wants to give God a kick out of his life by assigning him to this place of imagination: ‘You can pray to your mythical god’. One minute after his last breath he will know he is dead wrong. How do I know? Truth is that which matches reality. I take Scripture and examine its description of what is happening in our contemporary world and I see an exact description of reality. Truth is that which matches reality. God’s truth in Scripture lines up with the reality of human experience in our contemporary world.

It demonstrates why doctors and human beings in general want to violate God’s way of life. Romans 1:18 (NLT) states it clearly: ‘God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’. In practical terms in the euthanasia discussion, God will show his anger towards all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth about whose responsibility it is to take life. They suppress this truth because of their practices of wickedness – sinful actions that violate God’s truthful rule in people’s lives and in our society.

I recommend to Don that he deals with something more serious than ‘dying with dignity’ and choosing the time, place and manner of his own death.

My article: “Will you be ready when death comes“, should give him food for thought.

5.2 What I’m inflicting on the suffering

Pat wrote some of the most provocative comments in her/his support of euthanasia. Here is another one:

Pat: ‘Anyone who took offense at the video should realize that YOUR level of discomfort is nothing compared to what they are inflicting on these poor people’.

Let’s get something clear. My opposition to euthanasia and my offense at the ABC 7.30 programme’s support of euthanasia with the film of Max Bromson’s death by assisted suicide, has zero to do with inflicting suffering on poor people in their distress.

My opposition to euthanasia is spelled out in detail in my article, based on my debate with Michael Moore MLA, Voluntary Active Euthanasia – a Compassionate Solution to Those in Pain?

My views are informed by:

  • Who gives and takes life – God – and that role should not be usurped by autonomous people who reason that killing or assistance in the killing of people is appropriate for a democratic culture. ‘The LORD gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up’ (1 Sam 2:6 NLT).
  • Many doctors cannot be trusted with obeying the euthanasia law (see below).
clip_image024

5.3 You don’t have right to impose your beliefs

Pat: ‘But you do not have the right to impose your beliefs onto another human being. Making it legal will NOT result in more people dying, it will just help them die with dignity’.

Notice the hypocrisy in this statement. I don’t have the right to impose my pro-life beliefs on another human being. What is she doing? She is imposing her pro-euthanasia views on Australian society and I am included. It is paradoxical that someone doesn’t want my values but is brazen enough to push her values on me without seeing the hypocrisy.

I have as much right to oppose euthanasia in this democracy as I have to oppose murder, theft, rape and lying. I have every right to uphold God’s absolute standards of justice for a just society. For the Old Testament people of Israel, moral standards were contained in the Ten  Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 (NIV). Since the time of Christ, they have been the commandments of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 NIV). I have every right to promote the Sermon on the Mount as God’s absolutes for a society that brings justice.

It is a furphy (untrue or absurd) statement to say that I don’t have the right to ‘impose’ beliefs. A better way to put it would be: In this democracy, I have the right to demonstrate that adhering to God’s absolute laws of right and wrong leads to a society where justice is practised.

There is a further dimension: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people’ (Proverbs 14:34 NIV). For the Hebrews, ‘righteousness’ was synonymous for ‘justice’. God’s justice will exalt Australia and breaking God’s law by sinning against his righteous standards will condemn Australia to chaos and destruction. If Australia legislates in favour of euthanasia, it will be promoting injustice and condemning the country to God’s punishments.

Pat’s view was that making euthanasia ‘legal will NOT result in more people dying; it will just help them die with dignity’. This has been demonstrated to be false in the Netherlands. Will that also happen in Canada which also legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016?[16]

5.4 Keep OUR bloody noses out of another person’s business

clip_image026Pat: ‘We, collectively, as a society need to get OUR bloody noses out of other people’s business’.

She writes with some anger with his capitalisation of OUR. There are many good reasons why people should have their noses in other people’s businesses. That’s the responsibility of living in a caring, compassionate society. If my neighbour’s house is on fire, I’ll stick my nose into his business and call 000. If a thief breaks into the house, I’ll go to help him and do the best I can to catch the thief and hold him down.

To my dying day I’ll violate Pat’s command. Why? It IS my business if somebody is being murdered, raped, assaulted, or theft is taking place on anyone’s property that I know about. I have a duty of care and love for my neighbour, based on my Christian worldview: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31 NIV). Therefore, rejecting the deliberate killing or assistance in killing of another person through euthanasia for assisted suicide IS my business. I’ll stand up for life and not for murder. The right to life is one of God’s absolutes. It is His responsibility to take like when He is ready and not when autonomous reason says so.

Counselling people has been my business for 34 years (until retirement). I will not change my language from, ‘I’ll be available to help you with your depression or suicidal ideation’ to ‘I’ll be here to assist you to know that life is not worth living and I’ll refer you to a euthanasia doctor’. That changes the ethics of a caring professional. I will not buy into butchering ethics in that manner.

The Canadians got it correct in their 1983 Law Reform Commission on euthanasia. It concluded, following an inquiry, that ‘the Commission recommends that mercy killing not be made an offence separate from homicide and that there be no formal provision for special modes of sentencing for this type of homicide other than what is already provided for homicide’ (Parliament of Canada 1995, emphasis added).

5.5 Lack of good palliative care

Pat: ‘As for your reference to palliative care, I, sadly, do not share your optimistic view. In a perfect world, we would have excellent health care for our pensioners, veterans and terminally ill. The sad reality of it is, we do not. Our politicians continually drop the ball on these issues, guess there just aren’t many votes in it for them, so we cannot rely on the fact that good care will be readily available’.

This is one area where I agree with Pat. If politicians continue to oppose euthanasia (and I pray that they will), I ask them to pump more medical dollars into better palliative care and hospices for the suffering and dying.

6. We cannot trust all doctors to obey euthanasia laws

If we cannot accept that Australians will abide by laws against murder, lies and theft, why should we expect doctors to obey the parameters of euthanasia in any legislation that is passed into law?

See my article, An Aussie Way of Death: Euthanasia.[17]

I do not reject euthanasia because of the results it is likely to cause. We have international evidence that doctors cannot be trusted to abide by a euthanasia law.

clip_image027Steven Pleiter is the director of the Levenseindekliniek – End of Life clinic – in The Hague, The Netherlands. Angela Neustatter (2015) reported for The Guardian that in spite of his Christian upbringing, he wished he could have helped his mother his mother to die after she suffered a stroke. He’s aware of the arguments that people need to be protected from the chance they may improve in the future. However, he those who are really suffering and want help to die. He considers it morally right to give help in that situation.

Where does this lead? Neustatter (2015) reported that this kind of thinking extends to anyone over the age of 18 who fits the criteria. Pleiter told of a 22-year-old male who was paralysed from the neck down in a sporting accident and considered life unbearable as he began to go blind. ‘At this point, he was adamant he did not want to go on. We agreed to help and his parents were utterly supportive’. However, it was more controversial when a 47-year-old woman with incurable tinnitus (like train brakes constantly shrieking in her head) who convinced the clinic ‘her suffering was unbearable’.

The Levenseindekliniek clinic does not charge because it receives funding from the Holland government’s health system. Pleiter acknowledged that ‘we go to the borders of the law, but never outside. We are a professional organisation but one that believes you look at the fact that some people want to die as enabling them to accept responsibility for their choice. It is about using compassion to give them the dignity to go when they wish’ (Neustatter 2015).

An assessment of what is happening in Belgium was published in 2015 by the British Medical Journal (BMJ Open, ‘Euthanasia requests, procedures and outcomes for 100 Belgian patients suffering from psychiatric disorders: a retrospective, descriptive study’. It does not have an outcome that is optimistic for the legalisation of euthanasia.

Luke Gormally, director of London’s Linacre Bio-Ethics Centre (now called Anscombe Bioethics Centre), when in Australia warned of the message sent to youth with legalisation of euthanasia:

Legalizing euthanasia in Australia would send a ‘wholly negative message’ to young people and might even encourage teenagers to consider suicide, a British bioethics expert warned. Luke Gormally, director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics in London, told a Sydney news conference Friday night that new research has shown that lobbying to legalize euthanasia generally occurs during economic slumps. The government of Northern Territory has already legalized euthanasia, and Australian philosophers Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse have called for the legalization of so-called mercy killing. Gormally said Singer and Kuhse had ‘no coherent concept of justice,’ and said the underlying philosophical reason for legalizing euthanasia is the judgment that certain lives were not worthwhile. ‘Not only is that concept subversive of the foundations of justice in society, but it would be an educational message of the kind Australian society just does not need,’ he said. He said legalizing euthanasia would send young people the message that suicide is an acceptable solution to problems. ‘Now it seems to me that a society that, through the law, is underwriting the notion that certain lives are not worthwhile is positively validating a perception that young people can lapse into at critical moments in their lives,’ he said. ‘It’s sending a wholly negative message about human life and human worth,’ Gormally said. He added, ‘I gather that the rate of teenage suicide in Australia is rather high,’ although he did not provide statistics. Gormally, in Australia to give public lectures in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, said a study by U.S. researchers had shown that calls to legalize euthanasia increase during times of economic depression (Anderson 1995).

See Gormally’s article, ‘Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Seven Reasons Why They Should Not Be Legalized’ (CAN).

The British Medical Association’s report against legalising euthanasia has been reviewed by Luke Gormally. These are the main points he makes (Gormally n d):[18]

clip_image029 Euthanasia must not be supported because of the value of the individual;

clip_image029[1] It is important to have an unambiguous rule against euthanasia’s killing in order to maintain the true character of the doctor’s commitment to patient care.

clip_image029[1]  The insensitivity of euthanasia needs to be acknowledged.

clip_image029[1]  Which human beings are of `inestimable value’ and why are they?

clip_image029[1] What counts as intentional killing?

clip_image029[1] It creates limits of the duty to treat.

We know that when we support voluntary euthanasia, it can go beyond the person’s choice. Holland is the most evident, contemporary example for which we have clear evidence. That country has permitted voluntary, active euthanasia as far back as 1973 and made it legal in 2002.

Dutch medical doctor, Dr. Karel Gunning, on his 1992 visit to Australia said: ‘Holland has indeed become a very dangerous country, as patients may have their lives ended without their request and without knowledge of the authorities. The doctor thus has become a powerful man, able to decide on life or death’. Dr Gunning wrote that ‘whatever our own position, we have to admit that euthanasia in the Netherlands is completely out of control. If you define euthanasia, as the Dutch Physicians’ League does, as “Consciously causing a patient’s death,” then it occurred in some 20,000 cases in the Netherlands in one year. Of a total annual mortality of 129,000, this amounts to over 15 percent of all deaths’ (Gunning n.d.).

clip_image030

[Photograph of 91-one-year old, Nel Bolten, showing her tattoo on her chest that says: ‘Do not reanimate, I am 91+’. It was taken on Nov. 15, 2014 in The Hague, The Netherlands (Ross 2015)].[19]

 

At a special presentation, Dr Gunning stated:

The government-installed Remmelink Committee, which issued a report on the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands in the year 1991, speaks of 2,300 cases of euthanasia, that is 1.8 percent of all deaths! They used another definition of euthanasia, to wit “life-ending treatment at the patient’s explicit request.”

Using our own definition we have to include, besides the 2,300 cases called euthanasia by the Committee, the 400 cases of assisted suicide and the 1,000 cases of ending a patient’s life without his request, also mentioned in the report. That makes together nearly 4,000 cases. But the report speaks also of cases where high doses of medicine for pain and symptom control were given or where treatment was omitted with the implied or explicit intention to hasten the patient’s death. And these cases are called “normal medical practice”. That is most frightening. Refraining from treatment which burdens the patient and cannot prevent his death is, of course, very good medical practice. But if it is done with the intention to end life, then it is not medical practice at all, but consciously causing a patient’s death, which we call euthanasia. On the basis of the numbers given in the Remmelink report the Dutch Physicians’ League had estimated the number of these cases at 16,000. Together, the League estimated the number of cases where the doctor had the intention (implied or explicit) to end the patient’s life at nearly 20,000 per year, that is over 15 percent of all deaths. These are huge numbers.

Now these conclusions and estimates of the Physicians’ League have been hotly contested. But in a recent letter to the editor of Medisch Contact (MC, April 29,1994), the official organ of the Royal Dutch Medical Association, the investigators of the Remmelink Committee themselves say that abstaining from treatment was done with the explicit intention to hasten the end of life in 11,000 cases. And high doses for pain and symptom control were given with the implied or explicit intention to hasten the end of a patient’s life in 6,500 cases. So, according to their estimates there must have been over 21,000 cases where the doctor had the intention (implied or explicit) to end the patient’s life, which is over 16.4 percent of all deaths, even more than the estimates of the Physicians’ League.

I mention these facts as a warning, because they show that we have no reason at all to tell the world to follow our example. They show how rapidly the Netherlands has slipped down the slippery slope. They show that, once you accept killing as a solution for one problem, you soon find a hundred problems for which killing can be regarded as a solution. First you kill at the patient’s request, then without request, a comatose patient or a handicapped newborn baby, then you help a healthy but depressed person to commit suicide, etc. (Gunning n.d.).

Dr K F Gunning is president of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life; Board Nederlands Artsenverbond – Dutch Physicians’ League (Gunning n.d.).

Of Holland, ‘We have no reason at all to tell the world to follow our example. They show how rapidly the Netherlands has slipped down the slippery slope’.

The New Scientist magazine (20 June 1992)[20] confirmed this alarming situation in an article titled, ‘The Dutch way of death’ (Rachel Nowak).[21] It stated that ‘doctors and nurses in the Netherlands can practise euthanasia if they stick to certain guidelines. Yet many patients receive lethal injections without giving their consent’. It went on to say:

In some hospitals, doctors routinely approach patients who are terminally ill, offering to inject them with lethal doses of barbiturates and curare. But Dutch euthanasia has its sinister side, too. Involuntary euthanasia of sick and elderly people is commonplace in the Netherlands, and that when patients do opt for euthanasia, it is frequently out of fear of being a nuisance rather than to avoid unnecessary physical suffering.

The details are alarming. At least a third of the 5000 or so Dutch patients who each year receive lethal doses of drugs from their doctors do not give their unequivocal consent. About 400 of these patients never even raise the issue of euthanasia with their doctors. Moreover, of those who willingly opt for euthanasia, only about 5 per cent do so solely because of unbearable pain.

New Scientist concluded that ‘these revelations strike a blow at the two central canons of the worldwide euthanasia lobby: that euthanasia should be used only as a means to end pointless physical suffering, and that the patient alone should make the decision’. As one Dutch doctor put it: ‘Everywhere doctors are terminating lives. The only difference in Holland is that here we talk about it’.

6.1 Latest news out of Europe

As I was writing this article on 22 October 2016, , I was alerted to an article in The Washington Post of 19 October 2016 (Lane 2016). Its title was, ‘Europe’s morality crisis: Euthanizing the mentally ill’, and contained this disturbing information:

Once prohibited — indeed, unthinkable — the euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia, is now a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands.

This profoundly troubling fact of modern European life is confirmed by the latest biennial report from Belgium’s Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, presented to Parliament on Oct. 7.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for patients suffering “unbearably” from any “untreatable” medical condition, terminal or non-terminal, including psychiatric ones.

In the 2014-2015 period, the report says, 124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a “mental and behavioral disorder,” four more than in the previous two years. Tiny Belgium’s population is 11.4 million; 124 euthanasias over two years there is the equivalent of about 3,500 in the United States.

The figure represents 3.1 percent of all 2014-2015 euthanasia cases — and a remarkable 20.8 percent of the (also remarkable) 594 non-terminal patients to whom Belgian doctors administered lethal injections in that period.

What’s a bit different about this Belgian report, however, is that it’s the first to appear since journalists and psychiatric professionals, inside Belgium and outside, began to take notice of what’s going on — and to raise questions about it.

Recent newspaper articles and documentaries focused on cases in which psychiatrists euthanized or offered to euthanize people with mental illnesses, some still in their 20s or 30s, under dubious circumstances.

In December, 65 Belgian mental-health professionals, ethicists and physicians published a call to ban euthanasia of the mentally ill.

Seemingly stung by these criticisms, the commission spends two of its report’s pages defending the system, explaining that all is well and that no one is being euthanized except in strict accordance with the law (Lane 2016).

This article again confirms the slippery slop with euthanasia legislation and how voluntary eventually becomes involuntary with euthanasia – even to killing young people with mental illnesses.

7. Why voluntary euthanasia cannot be controlled: Dr Brian Pollard speaks

Dr Brian Pollard is a retired Australian anaesthetist and palliative care physician, who founded and directed the first full-time palliative care service in a teaching hospital in Sydney at Concord Hospital in 1982 and directed it for five years. He is author of The Challenge of Euthanasia (Pollard 1994).[22] In this article, Pollard demonstrates why ‘every law to permit euthanasia will be inherently and unavoidably unsafe’ (Pollard 2011). These are some of his reasons:

clip_image032 ‘I believe that MPs, who have sole responsibility for making safe laws, should direct their attention to ensuring that draft euthanasia bills cannot imperil the lives of innocent people who do not wish to die’

clip_image032[1] ‘A common feature of those who advocate euthanasia bills is their touching faith that certain things will happen, just because the draft prescribes them. If that were true, no crime would ever be committed because all crime is currently forbidden by some law’.

clip_image032[2] He cited Yale Kamisar, an American professor of law in this field, who wrote a ‘seminal paper’ in 1958 in which ‘he listed these basic difficulties [with euthanasia laws]: ensuring that the person’s choice was free and adequately informed; physician error or abuse; difficult relationships between patients and their families and between doctors and their patients; difficulty in quarantining voluntary euthanasia from non-voluntary; and risks resulting from this overt breach of the traditional universal law protecting all innocent human life’.

Pollard observed that all of these problems ‘still exist and others have been added, such as the critical role of depression in decision-making and the evolution in the moral basis for requesting death from the relief of severe suffering in the terminally ill to reliance on respect for personal autonomy’.

clip_image032[3] Pollard observed that definitions are often vague or at odds with ordinary meanings. What about pain and suffering? He rightly pointed out that ‘both highly subjective experiences; neither can be measured or compared between persons’. He added that according to draft euthanasia bills, they ‘have to be simply accepted as the person describes them, even when this may raise serious doubt. And, as most now allow, if the symptoms are said to make life “intolerable”, even though it is recognised that what one person finds intolerable others can bear’,

There are many other factors he raises that need to be taken on board by legislators.

Voluntary euthanasia cannot be practised with integrity (my word) because:

clip_image032[4] ‘Wherever voluntary euthanasia is practised, legally or not, non-voluntary is also found, including in Australia. Many find this difficult to credit because, whatever their failings, doctors surely would not take life without any request. In fact, they do it because it seems logical’.

See also Dr Pollard’s interview with Robyn Williams on ABC’s Radio National, ‘Safe legalised euthanasia is a myth‘ (4 April 2004).

This happened in Holland. See my comments now on the Dutch Remmelink Report of 1991.

8. Doctors killing without explicit request in Holland: The Remmelink Report

What has been happening in The Netherlands where euthanasia has been practised since 1973 but only legal since 2002?

By eliminating the prosecutorial review of all cases, the government hopes to lessen doctors’ fears of possible prosecutions and encourage more doctors to actually report induced deaths. Reporting noncompliance is a major problem for the government. A Dutch study, published in 1996, found that the majority of Dutch doctors (59%) do not report voluntary euthanasia and assisted-suicide deaths, and cases of involuntary euthanasia (without patients’ knowledge or consent) are rarely if ever reported. [van der Wal et al., “Evaluation of the Notification Procedure for Physician-Assisted Death in the Netherlands,” New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 11/28/96:1706-1707]….

In a more recent Dutch study, researchers found that 55% of the Dutch doctors interviewed in 1995 indicated that “they had ended a patient’s life without his or her explicit request” or “they had never done so but that they could conceive of a situation in which they would.” [van der Maas et al., “Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide, and Other Medical Practices Involving the End of Life in the Netherlands, 1990-1995,” NEJM, 11/28/96:1701] (Patients Rights Council 2013).

An earlier official Dutch Government report (The Remmelink Report, 1991) gave conclusive evidence of abuse. The report showed clearly that doctors are killing without the explicit request of the patient. Doctors have violated the ‘strict medical guidelines’ provided by the Dutch courts (in Fleming 1992). See also Fleming (2003), ‘Euthanasia by omission in Australia: What the parliament does not allow, the courts allow’.

 

clip_image034

8.1 EUTHANASIA IN HOLLAND: CRITERIA LAID DOWN BY THE COURTS

(Although officially illegal at the time of the Remmelink Report in 1991), the courts provided these criteria:

1. The request for euthanasia must come only from the patient and must be entirely free and voluntary.

2. The patient’s request must be well considered, durable and persistent.

3. The patient must be experiencing intolerable (not necessarily physical) suffering, with no prospect of improvement.

4. Euthanasia must be a last resort. Other alternatives to alleviate the patient’s situation must have been considered and found wanting.

5. Euthanasia must be performed by a physician.

6. The physician must consult with an independent physician colleague who has experience in the field.[23]

8.2 BUT WHAT WERE THE RESULTS IN HOLLAND?

The Dutch report in the British medical journal, The Lancet, stated that ‘in cases of euthanasia the physician often declares that the patient died a natural death” (p. 669). This report indicated that 0.8% of the 38.0% of all deaths involving euthanasia were ‘life-terminating acts without explicit and persistent request’ (p. 670) [van der Maas, et al 1991:669). The abstract of this article stated that it:

presents the first results of the Dutch nationwide study on euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life (MDEL). The study was done at the request of the Dutch government in preparation for a discussion about legislation on euthanasia. Three studies were undertaken: detailed interviews with 405 physicians, the mailing of questionnaires to the physicians of a sample of 7000 deceased persons, and the collecting of information about 2250 deaths by a prospective survey among the respondents to the interviews. The alleviation of pain and symptoms with such high dosages of opioids that the patient’s life might be shortened was the most important MDEL in 17·5% of all deaths. In another 17·5% a non-treatment decision was the most important MDEL. Euthanasia by administering lethal drugs at the patient’s request seems to have been done in 1 ·8% of all deaths. Since MDEL were taken in 38% of all deaths (and in 54% of all non-acute deaths) we conclude that these decisions are common medical practice and should get more attention in research, teaching, and public debate (van der Maas et al 1991:669).

This means that the deaths of about 1,000 Dutch people in a single year were caused by a doctor who hastened the death of a patient without the patient’s explicit request and consent.

But there is more. Another assessment is that the real number of physician assisted deaths, estimated by the Remmelink Committee Report is, in reality 25,306 which is made up of (they’re on the overhead projector for you to see):

  • 2,300 euthanasia on request (Remmelink Report, 13),
  • 400 assisted suicide (ibid.15),
  • 1,000 life-ending treatments without explicit request (ibid.),
  • 4,756 died after request for non-treatment or the cessation of treatment with the intention to accelerate the end of life. cf, ibid, 15; there were 5,800 such cases but only 82% (i.e. 4,756) of these patients actually died. (cf Dutch Euthanasia Survey Report, 63ff).
  • 8,750 life prolonging treatment was withdrawn or withheld without the request of the patient either with the implicit intention (4,750) or with the explicit intention (4,000) to terminate life.[ibid., 69; There were 25,000 such cases but only 35% (i.e. 8,750) were done with the intention to terminate life. Cf ibid., 72; cf also Remmelink Report, 16).
  • 8,100 morphine overdose with the implicit intention (6,750) or explicit intention (1,350) to terminate life. Of these, 61% were carried out without consultation with the patient, i.e. non-voluntary euthanasia.
  • There were 22,500 patients who received overdoses of morphine, [cf Remmelink Report, 16. 36% were done with the intention to terminate life, cf Dutch Euthanasia Survey Report, 58. See ibid., 61, Tabel 7.7 (“Besluit niet besproken”)].

8.3 THIS TOTAL OF 25,306 PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED DEATHS AMOUNTED TO 19.61% OF TOTAL DEATHS [129,000] IN THE NETHERLANDS IN 1990.

‘To this should be added the unspecified numbers of handicapped newborns, sick children, psychiatric patients, and patients with AIDS whose lives were terminated by doctors according to the Remmelink Report’ (pp. 17-19).[24]

9. What about euthanising infants?

clip_image036

(close-up of Richard Jenne, the last child killed by the head nurse at the Kaufbeuren-Irsee euthanasia facility, Nazi regime).

 

The Dutch programme of euthanasia has moved quickly to go beyond the adult parameters of the law and legalisation. In fact, while there was no legislation but legal protocol for adult euthanasia, killing of children was happening.

This demonstrates that, like with laws against murder, theft, lying and rape, no legislation can curtail the boundaries when autonomous human reason, freedom, and sinful human beings are involved in determining the values of a culture.

‘For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard’ (Rom 3:23 NLT). What is sin? ‘Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God’’ (1 John 3:4 NLT). So anyone who breaks God’s law, ‘You shall not murder’ (Ex 20:13: Matt 5:21 NIV) is sinning. This latter verse states, ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment’’’. God’s view is that anyone who commits murder through euthanasia is violating His law and also will be subject to God’s judgment. We are not told explicitly in this verse what that will be but warning about judgment from God should be given to everyone promoting euthanasia. They may not believe in God but will come under his judgment whether they accept it or not, just as a person will face judgment in Australia for breaking the law against perjury.[25]

The following is an example of euthanasia of infants in Holland. It was done at what was formerly the Academic Hospital, Groningen, but is now associated with The University Medical Center, Groningen:[26] The Weekly Standard report stated:

IN 2004, Groningen University Medical Center [The Netherlands] made international headlines when it admitted to permitting pediatric euthanasia and published the “Groningen Protocol,” infanticide guidelines the hospital followed when killing 22 disabled newborns between 1997 and 2004. The media reacted as if killing disabled babies in the Netherlands was something new. But Dutch doctors have engaged in infanticide for more than 15 years. (A Dutch government-supported documentary justifying infant euthanasia played on PBS [Public Broadcasting System USA] in 1993. Moreover, a study published in 1997 in the Lancet determined that in 1995, about 8 percent of all infants who died in the Netherlands—some 80 babies—were euthanized by doctors, and not all with parental consent; this figure was reproduced in a subsequent study covering the year 2001.)

As far back as 1990, the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) published a report intended to govern “life-terminating actions” taken against incompetent patients, including severely disabled newborns. The KNMG approved of pediatric euthanasia if the baby is deemed to have an “unlivable life,” a concept disturbingly close to Binding and Hoche’s “life unworthy of life”[27] (Smith 2006).

clip_image037In 1984 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled voluntary euthanasia was acceptable, provided doctors followed strict guidelines. But, under Dutch criminal law, physicians could still face prosecution.

In 2002, the Dutch parliament voted to formally legalise the practice, making the Netherlands the first nation in the world to do so.[28] Belgium did it in that year as well. However, examine what has happened in the Netherlands:

 

clip_image039 Originally when The Netherlands legalised euthanasia [2002], it was for adults. Doctors could kill a patient if that person ‘was competent and conscious, had repeatedly asked for euthanasia, and was suffering unbearably as a result of an incurable disorder’ (Murray 2016).

clip_image041 Although Belgium had legalised euthanasia in 2002,[29] ‘in 2014, the Belgian parliament passed a bill that allows the euthanizing of children, no matter how young, so long as they are terminally ill. In Holland, the lower age limit for euthanasia is currently twelve with parental consent, though euthanasia advocates are pushing to eliminate any age limit’ (Murray 2016).

clip_image043 ‘In Holland today, it is accepted that people who are suffering unbearably from mental illness may be killed’ (Murray 2016).

clip_image045 On October 12, 2016, Reuters newsagency reported: ‘The Dutch government intends to draft a law that would legalize assisted suicide for people who feel they have “completed life,” but are not necessarily terminally ill, it said on Wednesday (12 October 2016)…. Health Minister Edith Schippers wrote in the letter that “because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly, the new system will be limited to” them. She did not define a threshold age’ (Sterling 2016).

The slippery slope has happened in Holland. Euthanasia and assisted suicide cannot be contained.

10. Case studies of euthanasia

A Belgian physician and euthanasia activist, Wim Distelmans,[30] has released details of what he has done in Belgium:

In September [2013], the 60-year-old physician gave a lethal injection to Nathan Verhelst, 44, depressed over a failed sex-change operation. Last year [2012], he oversaw the double euthanasia of Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old deaf twins who chose to die after learning they would lose their eyesight. Also last year [2012], he euthanized a despondent Godelieva De Troyer, 64, whose children learned of her death after the fact. And he acknowledges there are many more “borderline” cases that the public never hears about.

To some, Dr. Distelmans has come to embody the dangers of legalized euthanasia. “What is he? Is he God or something?” Ms. De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, asked in a recent interview (Hamilton 2013).

Charles Lane reported another case by Dr. Distelmans:

Frank van den Bleeken, imprisoned for 30 years for rape and murder, sought euthanasia from Distelmans, citing his incurable violent impulses and the misery of life behind bars. Belgian officials and Distelmans initially agreed; a lethal injection the murderer might have gotten as punishment in the United States would be supplied as therapy in anti-death penalty Europe.

In January, however, Distelmans backed out just before the scheduled procedure — there was still hope for van den Bleeken to get treatment at a facility in the Netherlands, he said (Lane 2016).

Dr Karel Gunning was a medical doctor in Holland. He gave examples of how doctors violated the Dutch euthanasia law:

An internist, called to see a lady with lung cancer who breathed with great distress, told her that he could help her, but that he would prefer to admit her to his hospital. The patient refused, as she feared to be euthanized. But the doctor told her that he would be on duty during the weekend and would admit her himself. She did go on Saturday. On Sunday night, she was breathing normally. On Monday morning the doctor was off duty. In the afternoon, he came back to the hospital but the patient was dead. A colleague had come in that morning and said, “We need that bed for another case. It makes no difference for her whether she dies today or after a fortnight!   So, the patient was euthanized against her explicit will.

I, myself, had a discussion with a colleague about administering morphine. I maintained that large [doses] are needed to kill a patient. At first he denied this, but suddenly said, “You are right. I remember a case of an old man who could die any day. His son came to see me. He was booked for a holiday and did not want to come home for his father’s funeral. He wanted the funeral to be over with before he left. So I went to see the old man and gave him a huge dose of morphine. In the evening I came back to declare death, but the patient was happily sitting on the edge of his bed. At last, he had gotten enough morphine to kill his pain.” My colleague told this story as if it were the most normal thing to do: to kill a patient in order to please the family (Gunning n.d.).

These examples from people in the medical profession demonstrate that some doctors cannot be trusted to obey the law, whether that relates to laws enacted by parliament or by court decisions. Voluntary, active euthanasia becomes involuntary killing of people who have not agreed to this killing.

Gunning (n.d.) rightly pointed out that two kinds of ethics are being promoted in the medical fraternity:

10.1 Humanitarian ethic

This ethic adheres to the universal principle in the Hippocratic Oath (formulated by Hippocrates in 400 BC). He was not a Christian but believed that doctors were powerful people who could decide on life and death issues for humanity. By this ethic, medical doctors swear that they will not use their knowledge or expertise to kill a person, before or after birth, not even with the patient’s own request. With the humanitarian ethic, the well being of the individual person is central (Gunning n d).

The classic version of the Hippocratic Oath contains this affirmation: ‘I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art’ (MedicineNet.com 2016).

The Christian-informed humanitarian ethic is practised by doctors and others who are opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide and promote palliative care instead. They love their neighbour as themselves – as human beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7).

10.2 Utilitarian ethic

Act and rule utilitarianism is one of the best known and most influential moral theories. It deals with the consequences of actions,

Its core idea is that whether actions are morally right or wrong depends on their effects….

Utilitarians believe that the purpose of morality is to make life better by increasing the amount of good things (such as pleasure and happiness) in the world and decreasing the amount of bad things (such as pain and unhappiness). They reject moral codes or systems that consist of commands or taboos that are based on customs, traditions, or orders given by leaders or supernatural beings. Instead, utilitarians think that what makes a morality be true or justifiable is its positive contribution to human (and perhaps non-human) beings (Nathanson n.d.)

Apply this to the euthanasia and assisted suicide debate and what do we get? It does not commit to the patient’s well being but to the well being (consequences) of others. Who judges whether the patient’s life is going to be a burden or of benefit to society? The doctor does!

Dr Gunning explained how this was captured in an article in California Medicine (September 1970, ‘New Ethic for Medicine and Society, pp, 67-68) which showed that historically the lives of all human beings had equal value. That cannot be maintained now with over population and people were no longer accepting the quality of life ethic (humanitarianism) for all people. Doctors were now making medical evaluations. Intentional killing of adults was too abhorrent so they started with abortion and have now moved to voluntary euthanasia. Gunning’s assessment was that ‘in the end, we would have death control as well as birth control, and we doctors should prepare ourselves for this new task’ (Gunning n.d.).

That’s the utilitarian ethic in action, all in the name of voluntary euthanasia that has moved to involuntary euthanasia or assisted suicide in a number of countries.

11. Where is euthanasia legal?

BBC News (Lewis 2015) reported that these were the countries and USA states that have legalised assisted dying:

  • The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg permit euthanasia and assisted suicide
  • Switzerland permits assisted suicide if the person assisting acts unselfishly
  • Colombia permits euthanasia
  • California has just joined the US states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana in permitting assisted dying
  • Canada permits euthanasia and assisted suicide from February 2016 (slightly earlier in the province of Quebec)

At the time of writing this article in October 2016, euthanasia and assisted suicide were illegal in Australia. However, there is advocacy by groups involved in university departments such as Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Australian Centre for Health Law Research. See its activist site, End of Life Law in Australia, at: https://end-of-life.qut.edu.au/. Within the next month, I hope to prepare a review of this site and note its ideological emphases. However, a brief overview seems to indicate that it is pushing for the reform of Australian law to accommodate euthanasia and assisted suicide. There also are activist groups such as Dying with Dignity Queensland[31] (my home state). Its theme is, ‘My life, my voice, my choice’. I have critiqued that worldview of autonomous reason above and its harmful consequences.

This also was indicated by this Law School’s invitation to Canadian Professor Jocelyn Downie to deliver the lecture, ‘The legalisation of medical assistance in dying – Lessons from Canada’ at the Gardens Theatre, QUT Gardens Point Campus, Brisbane, 19 October 2016, 6pm. I attended this lecture. This was an enthusiastic promotion of the Canadian law that has legalised euthanasia and to recommend a similar procedure in Australia. Professor Downie is Professor of Law at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.[32]

She was not a neutral person on the euthanasia issue at this lecture. Some Canadians have described her as a ‘pro-euthanasia prof’ and a ‘long-time advocate for the legalization of euthanasia’ (LifeSite News 2015). After the lecture, I spoke with one of the QUT professors, Professor Ben White, who promoted this lecture. I challenged the QUT censorship of the opposing view in this public presentation. He brushed the objection aside and considered the opposing view was covered adequately at Q&A at the end of the lecture and they have had other panel presentations that included a pro-life person. The Q&A at the lecture on 19 October 2016 was not an opportune forum to present a counter proposal, as there was not opportunity to challenge Downie’s responses and there were few who opposed Downie. It is an unfair imbalance to have a Professor of Law make a public presentation (with PPTs) in support of euthanasia in Canada and expect people in the audience to present the alternate view in the Q&A. That is destined to lead to an unfair exposure for euthanasia at the expense of the anti-euthanasia view.

At the lecture, I heard Prof. Downie state that ‘the feared slippery slope didn’t eventuate [in Canada]’. At Q&A after the lecture, I challenged her on this, providing evidence from Holland and Belgium. She resorted to denying this and using a genetic logical fallacy with her sprouting the superiority of peer-reviewed journals to my information from mass media sources. I had no right of reply to challenge her genetic fallacy. I hope I’ve presented enough information in this article from Dutch, Belgium and other medical sources to demonstrate that there definitely has been a slippery slope in euthanasia legislation in Holland from the legal system prior to 2002 and in legislation from 2002 to 2016.

12. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) on end of life care

clip_image047

The AMA’s ‘Position Statement on the Role of the Medical Practitioner in End of Life Care 2007 (amended 2014)’ states that ‘The AMA believes that while medical practitioners have an ethical obligation to preserve life, death should be allowed to occur with dignity and comfort when death is inevitable and when treatment that might prolong life will not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or will impose an unacceptable burden on the patient’ (10.1).[33]

In section 10.5 of this Position Statement, it is stated: ‘The AMA recognises that there are divergent views regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.[34] The AMA believes that medical practitioners should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life. This does not include the discontinuation of futile treatment’.[35]

What should an Australian doctor do if euthanasia or assisted suicide is requested by a patient? The AMA’s Position Statement is:

Patient requests for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should be fully explored by the medical practitioner in order to determine the basis for such a request. Such requests may be associated with conditions such as a depressive or other mental disorder, dementia, reduced decision-making capacity, and/or poorly controlled clinical symptoms such as pain. Understanding and addressing the reasons for such a request will allow the medical practitioner to adjust the patient’s clinical management accordingly or seek specialist assistance (10.6).[36]

Therefore, the Australian Medical Association’s current policy is against the practice of medical doctors’ involvement in euthanasia and assisted suicide, with the view of ending a person’s life. However, as of 06 October 2015, the AMA was engaged in a ‘Review of AMA Policy on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide’. This is ‘part of a five year position statement review cycle’.[37]

13. Conclusion

Two of Australia’s major institutions are actively promoting euthanasia and assisted suicide, even though it is illegal. They are: (a) ABC TV’s 7.30 programme, and (b) Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Health Law Research. However, other mass media (e.g. the Herald Sun) exposed the ABC’s ‘death voyeurism’ by showing film of the assisted suicide of a client.

In responding to secular arguments favouring euthanasia, it was shown that human beings are not animals and to choose what’s right for me must allow me to allow you to choose what’s right for you in the breadth of ethical issues, including murder, theft, lying, rape and euthanasia. One person’s assault on the Christian’s ‘mythical god’ was an appeal to ridicule fallacy. Pushing these secularists to the logical conclusions of their ethical relativism demonstrates the chaos that results when God’s ethical absolutes are abandoned

If I don’t have the right to impose my Christian beliefs, why are they imposing their secularist values? It’s a hypocritical value system that wants to censor Christian beliefs while promoting secular beliefs. If I’m to keep my nose out of another person’s business, then it will tear the fork out of altruistic values of caring for one another in a democratic society.

Illustrations were given of how medical doctors violate euthanasia laws when euthanasia is illegal or legal. Some doctors cannot be trusted to obey the law and voluntary euthanasia becomes involuntary euthanasia for unfortunate individuals who are killed without their permission. Retired Australian anaesthetist and palliative care specialist, Dr Brian Pollard, has provided evidence to demonstrate that any effort to achieve safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth. Euthanising infants is already taking place, outside of the law.

Several case studies were provided to demonstrate that euthanasia cannot be controlled by legislation or the legal profession. Dr Karel Gunning, a Dutch medical doctor, showed how this demonstrated two contrasting ethics in action: (a) The humanitarian ethic of caring for patients and valuing life, and (b) A utilitarian ethic where the end justifies the means.

The Australian Medical Association has affirmed that it does not support euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, it is examining this policy in light of its customary 5-year review.

The position demonstrated and advocated in this paper is that God gives life and it is his responsibility to end life in His time. It is not for autonomous human beings to decide when time is up and to murder them or assist in their committing suicide. This is how it is with God and human life: ‘You [God] saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed’ (Psalm 139:16 NLT).

There are sound biblical, practical and philosophical reasons for demonstrating that the relativistic, utilitarian ethic of euthanasia and assisted suicide is wrong for individuals and societies. Australia will be exalted as long as it promotes God’s absolutes of justice in its ethics. As soon as it promotes the sinful evil of euthanasia and assisted suicide it will bring disgrace and God’s judgment on Australia.

‘Justice exalts a nation, but sin is a people’s disgrace’ (Proverbs 14:34 NAB).

14. Works consulted

Anderson, T 1995. Euthanasia sends young ‘negative’ message. UPI (online), 10 November. Available at: http://www.upi.com/Archives/1995/11/10/Euthanasia-sends-young-negative-message/3926815979600/ (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Binding, K & Hoche, A n.d. Allowing the destruction of life unworthy of life. Athanatos Christian Ministries (online). Available at: http://lifeunworthyoflife.com/ (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Breen, J 2015. Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke sets medical certificate alight, rejects Medical Board’s conditions. ABC News, Brisbane Qld (online), 27 November. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-27/philip-nitschke-sets-medical-certificate-alight/6981522 (Accessed 23 October 2016).

Fleming, J 1992. Euthanasia, The Netherlands, and the slippery slopes. Bioethics Research Notes Occasional Paper No.1, June. Published by the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, PO Box 206, Plympton SA 5038, Australia. It is now associated with the Adelaide Centre for Bioethics and Culture at: http://www.bioethics.org.au/index.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Fleming, J I 2003. Euthanasia by omission in Australia: What the parliament does not allow, the courts allow. Bioethics Research Notes 15(2), Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, Adelaide, South Australia . Available at: http://www.bioethics.org.au/Resources/Online%20Articles/Opinion%20Pieces/1502%20Euthanasia%20by%20omission%20in%20Australia.pdf (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Got Questions 2002-2016. What is ethical relativism? Available at: https://gotquestions.org/ethical-relativism.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Gunning, K F n.d. Practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands. CHN (Compassionate Healthcare Network). Available at: http://www.chninternational.com/Gunning%202006.html (Accessed 23 October 2016).

Hamilton, G 2013. Death by doctor: Controversial physician has made his name delivering euthanasia when no one else will. National Post (Canada), 22 November. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/death-by-doctor-controversial-physician-has-made-his-name-delivering-euthanasia-when-no-one-else-will (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Lane, C 2016. Europe’s morality crisis: Euthanizing the mentally ill. The Washington Post, 19 October. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/europes-morality-crisis-euthanizing-the-mentally-ill/2016/10/19/c75faaca-961c-11e6-bc79-af1cd3d2984b_story.html?utm_term=.bf3082d3e044 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Lewis, P 2015. Assisted dying: What does the law in different countries say? BBC News, 6 October. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-34445715 (Accessed 24 October 2016).

LifeSite News 2015. Pro-euthanasia prof: Supreme Court ruling allows doctors to do lethal injections (online), 5 March. Available at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pro-euthanasia-prof-supreme-court-ruling-allows-doctors-to-do-lethal-inject (Accessed 24 October 2016).

MedicineNet.com 2016. Definition of Hippocratic Oath, 13 May. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20909 (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Murray, D 2016. Grim Reaper, M.D. National Review.(online), 25 April. Available at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434446/euthanasia-belgium-netherlands-slippery-slope (Accessed 19 October 2016).

Nathanson, S n.d. Act and rule utilitarianism. Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Available at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Neustatter, A 2015. Assisted dying: how does it work in a Dutch end-of-life clinic? The Guardian (online), 12 September. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/11/assisted-dying-dutch-end-of-life-netherlands-unbearable-suffering (Accessed 24 October 2016.

Nicholl, D 2011. Lundbeck and pentobarbital: pharma takes a stand. The Guardian (online), 1 July. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/01/pentobarbital-lundbeck-execution-drug (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Nitschke, P & Stewart, F 2006. The peaceful pill handbook. Lake Tahov NV: Exodus International US Ltd.

Normally, L n.d. The BMA Report on Euthanasia and the Case Against Legalization (1994): A review of the Report by Luke Gormally. Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford UK. Available at: http://www.bioethics.org.uk/view_article.php?view=View&type=0&article_title=The%252BBMA%252BReport%252Bon%252BEuthanasia

%252Band%252Bthe%252BCase%252BAgainst%252BLegalization%252

B%25281994%2529 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Parliament of Canada 1995. Special Senate committee on euthanasia and assisted suicide: Of Life and Death – Final Report, Appendix D, June. Available at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/sen/committee/351/euth/rep/lad-a2-e.htm (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Patients Rights Council 2013. Dutch Parliament votes to legalize euthanasia. Update 022: Volume 14, Number 3 (2000) [online]. Available at: http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/update022/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Pollard, B 1989. Euthanasia: Should we kill the dying? Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Little Hills Press.

Pollard, B 1994. The Challenge of euthanasia. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Little Hills Press.

Pollard, B 2011. Why safe voluntary euthanasia is a myth. Quadrant, January-February. Available at: https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2011/01-02/why-safe-voluntary-euthanasia-is-a-myth/ (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Ross, W 2015. Dying Dutch: Euthanasia Spreads Across Europe. Newsweek, 12 February. Available at: http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/20/choosing-die-netherlands-euthanasia-debate-306223.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

Smith, W J 2006. Killing babies, compassionately. The Weekly Standard (online), 26 March. Available at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/killing-babies-compassionately/article/13146 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Sterling, T 2016. Dutch may allow assisted suicide for those who feel life is over. Reuters (Amsterdam), 12 October. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-euthanasia-idUSKCN12C2JL (Accessed 22 October 2016).

Van der Maas, P J; Delden, J J M; Pijnenborg, L & Loom, C W N 1991. ‘Euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life’, The Lancet, September 14. Abstract available at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PII0140-6736(91)91241-L/abstract (Accessed 22 October 2016).

15.  Notes


[1] See Nitschke & Stewart (2006:137).

[2] Exit International n.d. Philip Nitschke. Available at: https://exitinternational.net/about-exit/dr-philip-nitschke/ (Accessed 25 October 2016).

[3] Nicholl (2011).

[4] The 2016-17 budget for the ABC (post-efficiencies) is $1.009 billion. Then add the SBS budget (post-efficiencies) for the same year of $274.5 million and we see that approx. $1.27 billion is given to the ABC/SBS consortium by tax payers to present a one-sided euthanasia story (as an example). For these budgetary figures see, Malcolm Turnbull MP, ‘FAQs on the ABC and SBS’, 19 December 2014. Available at: http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/media/faqs-on-the-abc-and-sbs#budget (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[5] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_(Australian_TV_channel) (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[6] Wikipedia 2016. Herald Sun, 23 October. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herald_Sun (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[7] Available at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/television/abc-criticised-for-showing-final-moments-of-euthanasia-advocate-max-bromsons-life/news-story/c395200bcdc98bace24044e148f20f51 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[8] Wikipedia 2016. Philip Nitschke, 23 October. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Nitschke (Accessed 23 October 2016). Nitschke set fire to his medical certificate, rejecting the Medical Board of Australia’s conditions placed on him. ABC News Brisbane, Qld., reported Nitschke’s statement: ‘Today, and with considerable sadness, I announce the end of [my] medical career,’ he said. He maintained that ‘the conditions the board has sought to impose on me … amount to a heavy handed and clumsy attempt to restrict the free flow of information on end-of-life choice’ (Breen 2015).

[9] Poll results as of 22 October 2016, 6.18am Qld time. Available at: https://polldaddy.com/poll/9557482/?view=results (Accessed 22 October 2016). The poll is at Herald Sun, 21 October 2016 at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/television/abc-criticised-for-showing-final-moments-of-euthanasia-advocate-max-bromsons-life/news-story/c395200bcdc98bace24044e148f20f51 (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[10] Her name was Pat and I’m unsure if this person was female but her writing style seemed to fit more for a female than a male in the caring way she responded to me, but that is only a ‘seemed so’ as my subjective interpretation.

[11] Pat, 21 October 2016. Available at: https://polldaddy.com/poll/9557482/?view=results (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[12] Ibid., Ronald Spencer, 21 October 2016.

[13] Ibid., Spencer, 21 October 2016.

[14] Ibid., Pat, 21 October 2016.

[15] Ibid., Spencer, 21 October 2016.

[16] Canada drafts law to allow euthanasia 2016. SBS News, 15 April. Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/04/15/canada-drafts-law-allow-euthanasia (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[17] The following information is taken from that article.

[18] Even no date was given for this review, it had to be in 1994 or shortly thereafter.

[19] This photograph is courtesy Pinterest at: https://au.pinterest.com/pin/389631805241360807/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[20] New Scientist, June 20; 1992. vol 134 (1826): 28-30.

[21] Accessed 2 January 2010. However, on 22 October 2016 this article was available only by subscription.

[22] These biographical details are from Pollard (2011).

[23] Summarised by Mrs. Borst-Eilers, Vice-President of the Health Council (a body which provides scientific advice to the Dutch government on health issues). In I.J. Keown, “The Law and Practice of Euthanasia in The Netherlands”, The Law Quarterly Review, Vol. 108, January 1992, p. 56.

[24] Source: Dutch-speaking Dr. Daniel Ch Overduin, Vita, Vol. 7, No. 1, March 1992, pp. 2-3].

[25] Perjury is ‘The offence of wilfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2016. s v perjury).

[26] Information gained from: https://www.umcg.nl/EN/corporate/The_University_Medical_Center/Paginas/default.aspx (Accessed 22 October 2016).

[27] See Binding & Hoche (n.d.). This relates to the ideology of two non-Nazi academics that led to the Nazi Holocaust and its practice of involuntary euthanasia of those with ‘life unworthy of life’.

[28] David Johnson 2000-2016. Legalized euthanasia. Infoplease. Available at: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/euthanasia1.html (Accessed 19 October 2016).

[29] ProCon.org 2016. Euthanasia & Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) around the World. Available at: http://euthanasia.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000136 (Accessed 19 October 2016).

[30] This article states that Distelmans is ‘a cancer specialist, professor in palliative care and the president of the Belgian federal euthanasia commission poses in Wemmel, Belgium’ (Hamilton 2013).

[31] See: http://dwdq.org.au/ (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[32] See: https://www.dal.ca/faculty/law/faculty-staff/our-faculty/jocelyn-downie.html (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[33] Australian Medical Association, Position Statement, available at: https://ama.com.au/sites/default/files/documents/ps_on_the_role_of_the_medical_practitioner_in_end_of_life_care_2007_amended_2014_0.pdf (Accessed 24 October 2016).

[34] At this point in this ‘AMA Position Statement’, there was the footnote, ‘Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient for the purpose of ending intolerable pain and/or suffering. Physician assisted suicide is where the assistance of the medical practitioner is intentionally directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life’.

[35] AMA Position Statement, loc cit.

[36] AMA Position Statement, loc. cit.

[37] See Australian Medical Association, Australian Medicine 2016. Available at: https://ama.com.au/ausmed/review-ama-policy-euthanasia-and-physician-assisted-suicide (Accessed 24 October 2016). This statement on the Review of euthanasia and assisted suicide policy is made ‘by Dr Michael Gannon, Chair of the AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee’.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 October 2016.

Voluntary Active Euthanasia – a Compassionate Solution to Those in Pain?

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Hypodermic Needle 1 Clip Art
clker

DEBATE: MICHAEL MOORE, MLA (Australian Capital Territory) & REV. SPENCER GEAR. This is Spencer Gear’s presentation. [1] 8.00 pm Thursday 10 June 1993, Erindale Theatre, McBryde Cr., Wanniassa ACT, Australia

EXAMPLE

“Jennie was only forty-eight when she found the breast lump. The surgeon had been hopeful, but the pathology report showed the cancer was very aggressive and had already spread to the lymph nodes. Radiation and chemotherapy were completed.

Before long, Jennie’s cancer had spread to her spine. It galloped through her bones, liver and lungs. She lost weight very rapidly, became depressed, and required large doses of morphine. The medication only partially relieved her severe pain. Any movement was excruciating.

Eventually her husband Sam asked the doctor to give Jennie one large injection of morphine so that she won’t suffer anymore? She’s been in so much pain for so long. She just wants to get it over with… All involved were ready for Jennie to die” (Orr, et. al., Life & Death Decisions, 151-152).

IF THE LARGE INJECTION OF MORPHINE HAD CAUSED DEATH, THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN VOLUNTARY ACTIVE EUTHANASIA.

DEFINITION OF EUTHANASIA

I must define my terms.

Euthanasia is “the intentional killing of a person, for compassionate motives, whether the killing is by a direct action, such as a lethal injection, or by failing to perform an action necessary to maintain life” (from “Euthanasia: killing the dying. ‘It’s OK – isn’t it?’ Foundation For Human Development, Site 4A, 32 York Street, Sydney 2000)

Voluntary active means that the person asks to be killed. It must be realised however that those who promote euthanasia do not use the word “kill”, but it is the only accurate word to describe the reality of what happens. Besides, it is the word the law uses.

People are sometimes confused by the current debate on “the legality of disconnecting mechanical life support systems for long-term comatose patients or the patients’ right to request that no extraordinary means be used to keep them alive when all hope is gone.” This is often called passive euthanasia, but it is not euthanasia

This refers to the common law right of all Australians to decide which treatments they want to have for themselves.

But I must insist that this is not euthanasia.

The Canadians got it correct in their 1983 Law Reform Commission when, following an inquiry, they concluded that “mercy killing not be made an offence separate from homicide” (in Brian Pollard, Euthanasia: Should We Kill the Dying?, p. 45).

Tonight when I use the term euthanasia, I will be referring to voluntary, active euthanasia.

OVERHEAD NO. 1

Euthanasia is not a compassionate solution to those in pain for the following reasons:

1. The first reason for not supporting voluntary active euthanasia is that: We already know the consequences of a permissive approach to euthanasia. We have glaring examples before us of where permissive euthanasia laws will lead us.

a. GERMANY

In Germany in 1920, there was a publication by a lawyer, Karl Binding, and a psychiatrist, Alfred Hoche, called The Permission to Destroy Life Not Worth Living, that opened the floodgates and led to open discussion and legislation to permit euthanasia in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Initially, it was seen to have a beneficial social effect in dealing with the so-called “useless” sick.

Why did they do it? For the very same reasons that are being advocated today: compassion, quality of life, and to cut the cost of caring for these so-called “useless people”. They stressed the cost of caring for the handicapped, the retarded and the mentally ill. They were called “useless eaters”.

This led to experimentation on human beings and genocide. It was a small step from euthanasia to the Nazi government’s killing of 6 million Jews, and it is estimated that about 6 million others also were killed.

Dr. Leo Alexander, a Boston psychiatrist at the Nuremberg trials after World War II (in 1946 and 1947) says: “it started with the acceptance of the attitude basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived “Medical Science Under Dictatorship”, New England Journal of Medicine 241:39-47, July 14, 1949. (This was also covered in Newsweek magazine, July 9, 1973)].

It started when doctors, lawyers, legislators and even clergy–against their professional and ethical obligations to respect all human life, decided to destroy life that they considered not worth living

Michael, there is no way to control voluntary euthanasia.

We have a much more recent example in Holland.

b. HOLLAND

At St. Mark’s National Theological Centre, Canberra on Feb. 26, 1993, Michael, you said that your brief to the Parliamentary Council would be to give criteria (and you articulated them) similar to Holland. What is happening in Holland?

The official Dutch Government report (The Remmelink Report, 1991) gives conclusive evidence of abuse. The Dutch report shows clearly that doctors are killing without the explicit request of the patient. Doctors have violated the ‘strict medical guidelines’ provided by the Dutch courts (John Fleming, “Euthanasia, The Netherlands, and the Slippery Slopes”, Bioethics Research Notes Occasional Paper No.1, June 1992, published by the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, PO Box 206, Plympton SA 5038, Australia).

OVERHEAD NO. 2

EUTHANASIA IN HOLLAND: CRITERIA LAID DOWN BY THE COURTS

(Although officially illegal at the time of the Remmelink Report)

1. The request for euthanasia must come only from the patient and must be entirely free and voluntary.

2. The patient’s request must be well considered, durable and persistent.

3. The patient must be experiencing intolerable (not necessarily physical) suffering, with no prospect of improvement.

4. Euthanasia must be a last resort. Other alternatives to alleviate the patient’s situation must have ben considered and found wanting.

5. Euthanasia must be performed by a physician.

6. The physician must consult with an independent physician colleague who has experience in the field.

Summarised by Mrs. Borst-Eilers, Vice-President of the Health Council (a body which provides scientific advice to the Dutch government on health issues). In I.J. Keown, “The Law and Practice of Euthanasia in The Netherlands”, The Law Quarterly Review, Vol. 108, January 1992, p. 56]

OVERHEAD NO. 3

BUT WHAT WERE THE RESULTS IN HOLLAND?

The Dutch report in the British medical journal, The Lancet, states that “in cases of euthanasia the physician often declares that the patient died a natural death” (p. 669). This report indicates that 0.8% of the 38.0% of all deaths involving euthanasia were “life-terminating acts without explicit and persistent request” (p. 670) (Paul J. van der Maas, Johannes J.M. Delden, Loes Pijnenborg, and Caspar W.N. Looman, “Euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life”,

The Lancet, 338:8768, September 14, 1991, 669).

This means that the deaths of about 1,000 Dutch people in a single year were caused by a doctor who hastened the death of a patient without the patient’s explicit request and consent.

But there is more. Another assessment is that the real number of physician assisted deaths, estimated by the Remmelink Committee Report is, in reality 25,306 which is made up of (they’re on the overhead projector for you to see):

  • 2,300 euthanasia on request (Remmelink Report, 13),
  • 400 assisted suicide (ibid.15),
  • 1,000 life-ending treatments without explicit request (ibid.),
  • 4,756 died after request for non-treatment or the cessation of treatmentwith the intention to accelerate the end of life. cf, ibid, 15; there were 5,800 such cases but only 82% (i.e. 4,756) of these patients actually died. cf Dutch Euthanasia Survey Report, 63ff
  • 8,750 life prolonging treatment was withdrawn or withheld without therequest of the patient either with the implicit intention (4,750) or with the explicit intention (4,000) to terminate life.[ibid., 69; There were 25,000 such cases but only 35% (i.e. 8,750) were done with the intention to terminate life.Cf ibid., 72; cf also Remmelink Report, 16),]
  • 8,100 morphine overdose with the implicit intention (6,750) or explicit intention (1,350) to terminate life. Of these, 61% were carried out without consultation with the patient, i.e. non-voluntary euthanasia.
  • There were 22,500 patients who received overdoses of morphine, cf Remmelink Report, 16. 36% were done with the intention to terminate life, cf DutchEuthanasia Survey Report, 58. See ibid., 61, Tabel 7.7 (“Besluit niet besproken”)].

THIS TOTAL OF 25,306 PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED DEATHS AMOUNTED TO 19.61% OF TOTAL DEATHS [129,000] IN THE NETHERLANDS IN 1990.[“To this should be added the unspecified numbers of handicapped newborns, sick children, psychiatric patients, and patients with AIDS whose lives were terminated by doctors according to the Remmelink Report” (pp. 17-19). Source: Dutch-speaking Dr. Daniel Ch Overduin, Vita, Vol. 7, No. 1, March 1992, pp. 2-3]

Ambulance Car Clip Art
clker

OVERHEAD NO. 4

(Title of Lancet article, “”Euthanasia and other medical decisions concerning the end of life”)

Dr. John Keown, Director of the Centre for Health Care Law, in the Faculty of Law, University of Leicester, U.K., has completed a research project on euthanasia in Holland. He concludes:

OVERHEAD NO. 5

“It appears that the overwhelming majority of cases are falsely certified as death by natural causes and are never reported or investigated… It is clear from the evidence set out in Keown’s research that all that is known with certainty in the Netherlands is that euthanasia is being practised on a scale vastly exceeding the ‘known’ (truthfully reported and recorded) cases.  There is little sense in which it can be said, in any of its forms, to be under control” (I.J. Keown, “The Law and Practice of Euthanasia in The Netherlands”, in The Law Quarterly Review, 108, January 1992, 67, 78).

Yet Michael Moore stated at St. Mark’s that he wants to follow the Dutch guidelines.

2. A second reason why euthanasia is not a compassionate solution is that there is no guarantee it will be limited to terminal illness for those in pain. The recent history of the euthanasia movement demonstrates this.

Michael has made his views clear. On the Matthew Abraham show, Radio 2CN, February 2, 1993, he was asked by:

Matthew Abraham: “What about an old married couple? Maybe in their 80s and they’ve been relatively independent in their own home, they don’t want to be of trouble to their kids, they’ve had a good life… They want to commit suicide as a couple…

Michael Moore: “I think it should be covered in the act and I think that under certain circumstances, given appropriate counselling and appropriate time to make that kind of decision.

He reinforced this at St. Mark’s National Theological Centre, Canberra on 26 Feb. 1993, I heard him say:

“I’m not just talking about the terminally ill, but also a couple, say who have been married 60 years, one of them is terminally ill and they want to die together. I would agree with that, but I don’t expect legislative support for that.”

No civilised society like ours will remain civilised if we endorse this kind or any other kind of homicide.

How can we say where to limit? Chronic illness? Mental illness? Multiple sclerosis? Those crippled with arthritis? Persons who are handicapped? What about some of the people I counsel, like a 16-year-old who is on drugs, severely depressed and suicidal?

This is one of Michael’s core problems–where to draw the line.

The most recent review of the need for euthanasia in Australia was the Social Development Committee of the Parliament of Victoria The report, called Options for Dying with Dignity in 1988 concluded: “It is neither desirable nor practicable for any legislative action to be taken establishing a right to die” (in Pollard, 45).

Those who start with euthanasia for the terminally ill, most often broaden their base:

One of the most blatant examples of how far euthanasia advocates will go is this (HOLD UP) Australian Human Rights Commission Occasional Paper No. 10 (published in August 1985): “Legal and Ethical Aspects of the Management of Newborns with

Severe Disabilities”.

When published, this paper created quite an uproar because of what it recommended for babies with disabilities:

  • one of the main emphases supports euthanasia for deformed newborn babies,
  • Dr Helga Kuhse promotes “a quick and painless injection” (to kill) for a Down’s Syndrome infant with an intestinal obstruction (p. 4).
  • Yet this Human Rights Commission document also cites the United Nations “Declaration of the Rights of the Child” which states: “The child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required for his particular condition” (p. 28).

You can’t have it both ways: kill off the handicapped newborn, and give the handicapped special treatment, education and care. This is a shocking report advocating the killing of the handicapped newborn, all in the name of the Human Rights Commission. I believe this is eugenics (selective breeding).

Do you really think, if we were to legalise euthanasia, that doctors and nurses would stick to the rules?

In 1988, doctors surveyed in the State of Victoria were asked, “Have you ever taken steps to bring about the death of a patient who asked you to do so?”

29% (of 369) replied “Yes”. (Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, “Doctors’ Practices and Attitudes Regarding Voluntary Euthanasia”, The Medical Journal of Australia, 148:12, June 20, 1988, 623-627).

The situation with nurses is just as alarming.

In 1992, “of those nurses who had been asked by a patient to hasten death, 5% had taken active steps to do so without having been asked by a doctor.

Almost all of the 25% who had been asked by a doctor to engage in active steps to end a patient’s life had done so” (Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, “Euthanasia: A survey of nurses’ attitudes and practices”, Australian Nurses’ Journal, 21:8, March 1992, 21-22).

With euthanasia illegal, some doctors and nurses are breaking the law. Do you honestly think they will follow, say Dutch guidelines, if they became legal?

3. The third reason: It is a strange paradox that euthanasia is being strongly promoted at a time when the medical profession has made great advances in the treatment of pain. This is not the time to recommend assistance in the killing of the terminally ill or others.

According to Dr. Bob Allan, president of the ACT branch of the Australian Medical Association, “Modern palliative care ensured that patients should never have to consider euthanasia on the grounds of severe pain. Treatments are available to ensure death with dignity and without pain” (The Canberra Times, Feb. 3, 1993, p. 5).

Medical doctors, Robert D. Orr and David L. Schiedermayer, conclude:

“The hospice movement has demonstrated that physicians should be better educated about pain management and better equipped to treat pain effectively. More than ninety-five percent of cancer patients can be kept virtually pain free if given adequate doses of pain medication at appropriate intervals” (Orr, Schiedermayer, & Biebel, Life & Death Decisions, Navpress, 1990, p. 165).

Retired anaesthetist at Concord Hospital, Sydney, Dr. Brian Pollard, says:

“Most cancer pain is well within the competence of any doctor to treat effectively. It is necessary to regard unrelieved pain as a medical emergency to be dealt with as energetically as possible and to address also the emotional turmoil which is usually present” Euthanasia: Sould We Kill the Dying? Little Hills Press, Bedford, U.K. 1989, pp. 9-10, 65).

At a time when there is every reason to offer caring, compassionate palliative care to the sufferer, Michael wants to eliminate the sufferer rather than eliminate the suffering.

4. A fourth reason is that it debases the medical profession and has harmful effects on the doctor/patient relationship.

The standard form of the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by many medical doctors, dating back to the time of the Greeks, says:

“I will follow that method of treatment which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel” (in Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, 207).

Dr Bob Allan, president of the ACT branch of the Australian Medical Association confirms this position. He stated in The Canberra Times that “the association’s position, and that of the World Medical Association, was that euthanasia, even if requested by a patient, was unethical.

“Dr Allan said doctors would have great moral difficulty in actively bringing about the end of a patient’s life.

“To actively set out to end someone’s life is an enormous break from medical standards” (The Canberra Times, “Euthanasia row fires both sides”, February 3, 1993, p. 5).

Michael Moore has stated in The Canberra Times (Feb. 3, 1993, p.5), “I’m interested in facilitating the right of people to make a decision about their own life. It is the most fundamental of human rights–the right to life and the right to death”.

Michael is fundamentally and legally wrong at this point. He is not advocating the right to die. People can do that legally now by committing suicide. Michael is advocating something much more devastating to our society. He is claiming the right for somebody to be killed on request in certain circumstances. He is also calling for the right of others to assist in the killing of others.

This right does not exist in our society and it should never be introduced if we want to maintain a country with respect for one another.

5. The fifth reason to resist voluntary active euthanasia is: There is a better alternative: promote life and become actively involved in compassionate care for the dying, persons who are handicapped, and other sufferers in our society.

This compassionate care involves a competent doctor effectively treating severe pain, emotional support and caring communication from others. Empathy is needed by the doctor and others.

We need to improve the standards of care for dying patients. I commend the ACT government’s initiatives to develop a hospice. It is urgently needed.

Inter-disciplinary teams will be needed involving doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, other professionals and caring paraprofessionals.

6. The sixth and final reason: human beings are not animals, but unique beings made “in the image of God”.

As a doctor put it to me recently: We put down dogs, why shouldn’t we offer the elderly in a vegetative state the same? The reason is that human beings are not animals. Human beings are unique, “made in the image of God”, according to the Bible.

We could find support for this proposition by referring to Noam Chomsky’s work on the uniqueness of human language, or neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield’s, research on the difference between the brain and the mind—both affirming the difference between human beings and animals.

As God’s image bearers, each of us has the capacity to be personal, rational, volitional, emotional, and moral. Our responsibility is to reflect God’s character and purposes in all that we do.

When we reduce human beings to animals, it logically follows that a whole range of horrendous evils could eventuate.

Human life is sacred and God has forbidden that any life be murdered. To do so it indirectly an attack on God.

Any society that engages in the killing of innocent life will pay a grave price. When we do not respect life before birth, if affects our view of life after birth. If we do not respect the dying, it will affect our attitude towards the living. As the Bible puts it: “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Romans 14:7-8).

Euthanasia is not a compassionate solution to those in pain for the following reasons:

1. We already know the consequences of a permissive approach to euthanasia. We have glaring examples before us of where permissive euthanasia laws will lead us.
2. There is no guarantee it will be limited to terminal illness for those in pain. The recent history of the euthanasia movement demonstrates this.
3. It is a strange paradox that euthanasia is being strongly promoted at a time when the medical profession has made great advances in the treatment of pain. This is not the time to recommend assistance in the killing of the terminally ill or others.
4. It debases the medical profession and has harmful effects on the doctor/patient relationship.
5. There is a better alternative: promote life and become actively involved in compassionate care for the dying, persons who are handicapped, and other sufferers in our society.
6. Human beings are not animals, but unique beings made “in the image of God”.

SUMMING UP

I oppose voluntary active euthanasia because of:

  • Abuse
  • Error
  • The historical examples
  • Distrust
  • Coercion

I CONCLUDE:

The case for euthanasia is based on:

  • intentionally killing or assisting in the killing of innocent human beings.
  • repudiation of the doctor-patient relationship that is meant to promote life.
  • flies in the face of the medical advances made in the treatment of pain and is at odds with compassionate methods of care.
  • does not fully consider the historical examples that show euthanasia cannot be legislatively controlled.
  • rests on presuppositions that do not respect human life.
  • plays God.
  • ethically, rests on self-defeating assertions.
  • it is not in the patient’s or society’s best interests.
  • it eliminates the sufferer, rather than eliminating the suffering.

FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER & C. EVERETT KOOP dedicated their book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race,

” To those who were robbed of life,
the unborn, the weak, the sick,
the old, during the dark ages of
madness, selfishness, lust and greed
for which the last decades of the
twentieth century are remembered”(Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, p. 118).

For further study:

  1. Tony Sheldon, Utrecht, Holland, “Being ‘tired of life’ is not grounds for euthanasia” (British Medical Journal).
  2. Dutch legalise euthanasia” (BBC News)
  3. Deadly diagnosis in the Netherlands” (Concerned Women for America)
  4. Dutch doctors want to kill the healthy” (Christianity Today)
  5. Voluntary euthanasis not under control – the Netherlands.
  6. Dutch euthanasia law should apply to patients ‘suffering from living.” (British Medical Journal)
  7. Who killed Grandpa? (Chuck Colson)
  8. From a slippery slope to an avalanche” (Chuck Colson)
  9. Coming soon to a hospital near you” (Chuck Colson)
  10. Professor of Death: Peter Singer” (Christianity Today)
  11. Interview with Phillip Nitschke: Australian euthanasia advocate
  12. Bishop Fisher & Dr. Phillip Nitschke in Sydney euthanasia debate

 

Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at date: 9 October 2015.

Flower21Flower21Flower21Flower21Flower21Flower21Flower21
Whytehouse designs


An Aussie Way of Death: Euthanasia

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

One Of Four Intensive Care Units (icu) Aboard Comfort. Clip Art
clker

By Spencer D Gear

John is 65 and has been suffering from cancer for many years. The pain is too much. When he asks his doctor to put him to sleep permanently (kill him!), should the doctor agree? Jane is only a few weeks old. She was born with a severe genetic disability that is incurable. Sometimes she is in severe distress with pain. Her chances of being able to enjoy a normal life are minimal. Should she be allowed to live or should euthanasia be performed on her?

Euthanasia was once legal in the Northern Territory (Australia).[1] In the twenty-first century, there is considerable public support for euthanasia to be legalised across Australia. There is a minority group of medical practitioners, called the Doctors’ Reform Society that is supportive of euthanasia in certain circumstances. It stated:

It remains abundantly clear to anyone who listens that there is a small group of people who are not ignorant of what we have to offer, who are not depressed, who are not being manipulated, but who, very simply, wish to be the arbiters of the time of their own inevitable death. They remain genuinely grateful for what we have to offer, and for the promises offered by recent advances in palliative care. However, despite our best encouragement, they simply do not wish to lie there with their symptoms well controlled until such time as circumstances beyond their own control decide when their life will end. Their business on earth is finished, they are ready to die, at peace with themselves.[2]

Thankfully, Bundaberg[3] doctors, led by a representative of the Bundaberg branch of the Australian Medical Association, have rejected this promotion. They know that this means: “putting patients down.”

Let’s get it clear what euthanasia is. We are sometimes confused by the current debate because it seems that some are talking about disconnecting mechanical life support systems. Others think that we are denying the patients’ rights to say, “This is enough. I want no extraordinary means to be used to keep me alive when all hope of physical life seems to be gone.” We don’t need euthanasia for this. It is the common law right of all Australians to decide which treatments they want to have for themselves.

Euthanasia is “the intentional killing of a person, for compassionate motives, whether the killing is by a direct action, such as a lethal injection, or by failing to perform an action necessary to maintain life. For euthanasia to occur, there must be an intention to kill.”[4]

To say that it’s voluntary means that the person asks to be killed. Now, euthanasia promoters don’t use the word “kill”, but it is the only accurate word to describe the reality of what happens. Besides, it is the word that our current law uses.

Worst cases are put forth so that it is made to appear that there is a vast amount of suffering for which nothing less than death is good enough. Yet, I am told that those who practise palliative care with the terminally ill encounter few requests for euthanasia by patients. Too often, the distressed relatives who often feel impotent, sense a lack of support, and may be encountering a financial burden, are the ones calling for euthanasia.

I do not reject euthanasia because of the results it is likely to cause. One has written, “We just don’t trust the law-makers to get such a significant law right.”

Luke Gormally, director of London’s Linacre Bio-Ethics Centre, was in Australia. He warned that legalising euthanasia could lead to “killing the disabled and dependent for economic reasons.” He also warned that euthanasia would endorse youth suicide because of the “wholly negative message” it would send to youth.

We know that when we support voluntary euthanasia, it can go beyond the person’s choice. Holland is the most recent example for which we have a clear evidence. That country has permitted voluntary, active euthanasia for some time, and has recently made it legal.

Dutch medical doctor, Dr. Karel Gunning, on his 1992 visit to Australia said: “Holland has indeed become a very dangerous country, as patients may have their lives ended without their request and without knowledge of the authorities. The doctor thus has become a powerful man, able to decide on life or death.”[5]

The New Scientist magazine (20 June 1992) confirmed this alarming situation in an article titled, “The Dutch way of death.”[6] It stated that “doctors and nurses in the Netherlands can practise euthanasia if they stick to certain guidelines. Yet many patients receive lethal injections without giving their consent.”

“In some hospitals, doctors routinely approach patients who are terminally ill, offering to inject them with lethal doses of barbiturates and curare. But Dutch euthanasia has its sinister side, too. Involuntary euthanasia of sick and elderly people is commonplace in the Netherlands, and that when patients do opt for euthanasia, it is frequently out of fear of being a nuisance rather than to avoid unnecessary physical suffering.

“The details are alarming. At least a third of the 5000 or so Dutch patients who each year receive lethal doses of drugs from their doctors do not give their unequivocal consent. About 400 of these patients never even raise the issue of euthanasia with their doctors. Moreover, of those who willingly opt for euthanasia, only about 5 per cent do so solely because of unbearable pain.”

The magazine concludes that “these revelations strike a blow at the two central canons of the worldwide euthanasia lobby: that euthanasia should be used only as a means to end pointless physical suffering, and that the patient alone should make the decision.”

As one Dutch doctor puts it: “Everywhere doctors are terminating lives. The only difference in Holland is that here we talk about it.”

Even though it is clear from this example that it is impossible to control euthanasia, is this the right kind of morality to follow. By looking to the end results, this is a system of ethics called utilitarianism. A big word, but it simply means that a “good” result (for example, relieving pain of a cancer patient) justifies the means (killing the person–euthanasia). This is a dangerous view.

Two examples show us how bad this view of right and wrong can become. In Germany during World War 2, Hitler’s goal was to develop a more perfect race. A pretty good goal? But his way to attain it was evil (killing six million Jews and millions of others). President Richard Nixon’s goal was a noble one, national security. But the criminal activity of Watergate was not justified to reach it.

There are droves of people in Australia who support this view of morality. We are in deep trouble if this nation follows such an ethical system. The end never justifies the means; the means must justify themselves. An act is not automatically good because it has a good goal.

How do we know what is good? We need a fixed standard of good by which to judge right and wrong, rather than a person’s opinion of what is good. This fixed standard for euthanasia needs to be: murder or assisted murder is always wrong. This is the morality of universal standards of the 10 commandments (the Judeo-Christian worldview).

I have taken this lengthy look at why I do not support euthanasia, based on the end justifying the means, because it is a view of right and wrong that could lead to chaos in our lucky country. Those who support euthanasia and some of those who oppose euthanasia both follow this system of morality.

I reject euthanasia because I support the 10 commandments and believe it is always wrong to murder or assist with the murder of anybody. The foundation of Australian society has been built on this view.

I also reject euthanasia because it is an attack on the sovereignty of God. We must answer two fundamental questions: Who are human beings? Whose right is it to terminate human life? Jesus Christ said, “I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).

Human beings are unique and special. God’s view is that we are not higher animals but made “in the image of God.” If human beings are not special, we can do to them what a doctor advocated to me: “We put down dogs, why shouldn’t we offer the elderly in a vegetative state the same?”

Human life is sacred throughout life and in all circumstances, whether one is strong, independent and healthy or weak, dependent and handicapped.

When we reduce human beings to animals, it logically follows that a whole range of horrendous evils could eventuate. God has forbidden that any life be murdered. There is no need for a commandment that says, “You shall not commit euthanasia.” All deliberate, premeditated killing (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, homicide–war raises some other issues) is covered by the one commandment, “You shall not murder.”

Another reason for opposing euthanasia is because the Scriptures are clear that “just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NET) the time of dying can be a critical time for people to prepare to meet their Maker. Eternal life and death decisions can be made in the “valley of the shadow of death.” We dare not take this from people.

Death is an unnatural intrusion into human existence, caused by sin. We must reject any secular philosophies that want to see death and dying as a natural transition to either non-existence or a higher stage of existence.

In sickness or in health, from the womb to old age and even through the dying process, life is sacred. In a depraved society that is choosing death and violence, Christians need to be shining lights in a world of darkness. We must choose life for ourselves and others. We must love our neighbours and offer them the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

While I reject “the end justifies the means” view of morality, we do reap what we sow. The clear biblical principle is that there are consequences to our actions. Australia already has innocent blood on its hands through the abortion slaughter. What will we reap if we legislate voluntary, active euthanasia? The harvest of a permissive approach to euthanasia is known from recent history and contemporary experience.

In Australia, “support for voluntary euthanasia is on the increase in Australia, with a new survey showing 85 per cent of the country is in favour of it,” according to The Australian newspaper.[7] Another report stated:

EIGHT out of 10 Australians believe the terminally ill should have a right to choose a medically assisted death, according to a new poll out today. The Newspoll research, conducted in February, found 80 per cent of adults surveyed supported the terminally ill’s right to voluntary euthanasia.

Just 14 per cent were opposed and 6 per cent were undecided. The results have renewed calls for further debate.

“I would call on the Victorian Government to permit passage of a private member’s Bill for voluntary euthanasia through Parliament,” Dying With Dignity Victoria incoming president Neil Francis said.

He said the level of public support was an increase on a 2002 Morgan poll, which put support levels at 73 per cent.[8]

However, public opinion should never dictate what is right or wrong.

Euthanasia puts a death wedge between the doctor and patient. It debases the medical profession and has harmful effects on the doctor-patient relationship.

I believe the superior options are to promote life, offer opportunity for eternal life, and become actively involved in care for the dying, persons who are handicapped, and other sufferers in our society. This care should involve doctors, nurses, clergy, counsellors and others who simply know how to care.

We need to improve the standards of care for dying patients, offering medical relief for severe pain, giving emotional support and careful communication. The hospice movement is to be commended for its compassionate care of the dying. Such facilities with concerned staff are urgently needed.

At a time when there is every reason to offer caring, compassionate palliative care to the terminally ill, those promoting euthanasia want to eliminate the sufferer rather than eliminate the suffering.

Any society that engages in the killing of innocent life will pay a grave price. When we do not respect life before birth, if affects our view of life after birth. If we do not respect the dying, it will affect our attitude towards the living. As the Bible puts it: “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Romans 14:7).

Life and death decisions belong to the Almighty God Englishman David Potter, father of a child with handicaps and director of the charity, Christian Concern for the Mentally Handicapped, put it this way: “For euthanasia to receive the support of law, it would make crime respectable and compassion despicable. Our feeble, synthetic way of life would degenerate further into a pit of our own making where values are valueless, love is loveless and life is hopeless.”

Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor imprisoned by the Nazis during World War 2 summed up the need to take action:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”[9]

In this madness at the beginning of the twenty-first century, will you join me in affirming that people are special and human life is worthwhile to human beings and to God? The challenge is to stand up for the young and old, unborn and born, handicapped and fit, and all people of all races.

Endnotes:


[1] “In 1996, the Australian house of Representatives voted to overturn the Northern Territory Euthanasia Legislation. The Senate confirmed this action in 1997. As well, every major Government inquiry around the world in recent years has strongly recommended against legalising euthanasia (Canada 1982, Victoria 1987, Great Britain 1994, New York State 1994)” (Queensland Right to Life, “Euthanasia: What does it really mean?” available at: http://www.qrtl.org.au/Euth%20Meaning.htm[Accessed 2 January 2010]. This link was not functioning on 24 June 2015 and the information could no longer be located online or on Queensland Cherish Life (new name of Right to Life) website.

[2] Dr. Richard Chaney, “Euthanasia and the Duty of Care,” 11 May 2001, Doctors’ Reform Society, available at: http://www.drs.org.au/articles/2001/art12.htm [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[3] Queensland, Australia. This is the city in which I formerly lived.

[4] Pro-Life Victoria. Available at: http://www.prolife.org.au/articles/articles_euthanasia_19.php (Accessed 24 June 2015).

[5] See Dr Gunning’s article, “Why not euthanasia?” available at: http://www.chninternational.com/Gunning%202006.html (Accessed 24 June 2015).

[6] Accessed 2 January 2010.

[7] “85 percent support voluntary euthanasia – poll,” The Australian, 26 October 2009, available at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/per-cent-support-voluntary-euthanasia-poll/story-fn3dxiwe-1225791455181 [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[8] Derek Humphry, Founder of Hemlock Society, Assisted Suicide Blog, “Huge support for euthanasia in Australia,” 4 March 2007, available at: http://assistedsuicide.org/blog/2007/03/04/huge-support-for-euthanasia-in-australia/ [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[9] Cited in The National WWII Museum, available at: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-teachers/lesson-plans/pdfs/when-they-came-for-me.pdf (Accessed 24 June 2015).

 

Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at date: 9 October 2015.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22

Euthanasia: Mercy or Murder?

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Stethoscope 5 Clip Art
clker

By Spencer D Gear

Jenny is only a few weeks old. She was born with a severe genetic disability that is incurable and sometimes causes her severe distress and pain. Rational existence for her to enjoy normal life is expected to be minimal. Should she be allowed to live or should euthanasia be performed on her?[1]

Frank is 65 years old, has cancer and no longer wants to live. Either through witnessed written instructions or witnessed and repeated oral directions, he may request a drug for the purpose of inducing his death, administered or provided to him by a medical practitioner, registered nurse or registered physiotherapist. Such is voluntary, active euthanasia. [This is contained in the “Voluntary and Natural Death Bill 1993”, which has been tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly.]

Euthanasia supporters in Australia are gaining considerable mass media coverage. Between 1946 and 1992, the number of Australians who favoured euthanasia rose from 42% to 73%. There seems to be a ground swell of public support for the active killing of those who are terminally ill and in severe pain. However, I am not convinced those who say “yes” to euthanasia are fully aware of what they are endorsing or of the long-term consequences to a society that introduces such killing into its criminal code.

Worst cases are put forth so that it is made to appear that there is a vast amount of suffering for which nothing less than death is good enough. Yet, those who practise palliative care with the terminally ill encounter few requests for euthanasia by patients. Too often, the distressed relatives who often feel impotent, sense a lack of support, and may be encountering a financial burden, are the ones calling for euthanasia.

In spite of euthanasia being rejected twice by the government of Victoria and once by the government of South Australia, ACT Legislative Assembly independent MLA, Michael Moore, tabled the radical “Voluntary and Natural Death Bill” to introduce voluntary active euthanasia into the Australia’s capital city of Canberra. However, this was the outcome:

The euthanasia question was brought to a head. In September 1996, Kevin Andrews had tabled a bill in the House of Representatives to overturn the Northern Territory’s voluntary euthanasia legislation, which had come into effect on 1 July 1996. The Andrews’ bill also applied to the ACT and Norfolk island. It was widely criticised in the ACT by those in favour of voluntary euthanasia and by those who opposed such,[2]

In a public debate with Mr. Moore, I confronted his secular humanist presuppositions that seem to be driven by an almost utopian desire for autonomy–to be in control of what happens in one’s life. See a copy of my debate, “Voluntary Active Euthanasia: A Compassionate Solution for Those in Pain?”  My submission to “the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on The Rights of the Terminally Ill (Euthanasia Laws Repeal) Bill 2008” is HERE.

WHAT IS EUTHANASIA?

Euthanasia is “the intentional killing of a person, for compassionate motives, whether the killing is by a direct action, such as a lethal injection, or by failing to perform an action necessary to maintain life.”

“Voluntary active” means that the person asks to be killed. It must be realised however that those who promote euthanasia do not use the word “kill”, but it is the only accurate word to describe the reality of what happens. Besides, it is the word the law uses.

People are sometimes confused by the current debate on the legality of disconnecting mechanical life support systems or the patients’ rights to request that no extraordinary means be used to keep them alive when all hope of physical life seems to be gone. This is often called passive euthanasia, but it is not euthanasia at all. This is the common law right of all Australians to decide which treatments they want to have for themselves.

I do not want to suggest that decisions are easy when it comes to the termination of treatment of the terminally ill. When a disease is at the stage where no known therapy is available and death is imminent, in spite of the means used to date, then any treatment that would maintain “only a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life” may, I think, be discontinued or not instituted.

However, as a committed Christian, I do not believe that euthanasia is a compassionate solution to those in pain, for a number of reasons.

 

IT IS AN ATTACK ON THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

We must answer two fundamental questions: (a) Who are human beings? and (b) Whose right is it to terminate human life?

Human beings are unique and special

God’s view is that human beings are not animals, but unique beings made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26-28). A doctor put it to me recently: We put down dogs, why shouldn’t we offer the elderly in a vegetative state the same?

As God’s image bearers, each of us has the capacity to be personal, rational, volitional, emotional, creative, moral and spiritual. Our responsibility is to reflect God’s character and purposes in all that we do. Human life is sacred throughout life and in all circumstances, whether one is strong, independent and healthy or weak, dependent and handicapped.

When we reduce human beings to animals, it logically follows that a whole range of horrendous evils could eventuate. God has forbidden that any life be murdered. To do so is an attack on God.There is no need for a commandment that says, “You shall not commit euthanasia.” All deliberate, premeditated killing (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, homicide–war raises some other issues) is covered by the one commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13, NIV).

Any society that engages in the killing of innocent lifewill pay a grave price. When we do not respect life before birth, if affects our view of life after birth. If we do not respect the dying, it will affect our attitude towards the living. As the Bible puts it: “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom. 14:7-8).

Life and death decisions belong to the Almighty God

Death is an unnatural intrusion into human existence, caused by sin. We must reject any secular philosophies that want to see death and dying as a ‘natural’ transition to either non-existence or a higher stage of existence.

For the unbeliever, death is the prelude to final judgment by God Himself (Heb. 9:27). Since God warns about judgment to come, terminal illness needs to be a time of preparation of the patient spiritually and nothastening physical death by euthanasia.

The philosophy that promotes euthanasia sees people as lords of their own existence. For the Christian, life is a gift from God and the moment of death is God’s prerogative, not a human being’s (Job 14:5; Rev. 1:18).

In sickness or in health, from the womb to old age and even through the dying process, life is sacred. In a depraved society that is choosing death and violence, Christians need to be shining lights in a world of darkness. We must choose life for ourselves and others. We must love our neighbours and offer them the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

WE REAP WHAT WE SOW

The clear biblical principle is that there are consequences to our actions. Australia already has innocent blood on its hands through the abortion slaughter. What will we reap if we legislate voluntary, active euthanasia? The harvest of a permissive approach to euthanasia is known from recent history and contemporary experience.

The German lesson

It was only a short journey from the Germany of 1895 when the book, The Right to Die, was published that advocated voluntary euthanasia. In 1920, The Permission to Destroy Life Not Worth Living, by a lawyer and psychiatrist, opened the floodgates and led to open discussion and legislation to permit euthanasia in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Then came the holocaust under the Nazis during World War 2.

What started out as voluntary euthanasia moved to involuntary euthanasia in a few decades. It was a small step from voluntary, active euthanasia to the Nazi government’s genocide of six million Jews, and an estimated six million others (without the individual’s permission).

Dr. Leo Alexander, a Boston psychiatrist at the Nuremberg trials after World War 2 (in 1946 and 1947) said: “It started with the acceptance of the attitude basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.”[3]

Contemporary Holland

A modern example should rest the case against voluntary, active euthanasia. The deleterious effects are seen in Holland.

The official Dutch Government Remmelink Report of 1991[4] gives conclusive evidence of abuse. The report shows clearly that doctors are killing without the explicit request of the patient. Doctors have violated the ‘strict medical guidelines’ provided by the Dutch courts and about two percent of the euthanasia deaths are without the patient’s permission.

Not just terminal illness

The recent history of the euthanasia movement demonstrates there is no guarantee it will be limited to terminal illness for those in pain. Holland is an example of what will happen when assisted killing enters our hospitals or other medical situations. This is of such concern that a senior citizens’ group has warned that Holland’s liberal euthanasia policy “has many elderly people scared that their lives could be terminated without request”.

The British Medical Journal[5] reported that the Dutch are now considering euthanasia for those with severe dementia. Who will be next? Formerly it was the terminally ill, then the severely handicapped newborn babies, comatose patients, now those with dementia are being considered. The Dutch experience shows there is no way to limit this slide into death.

When asked on ABC radio, Canberra, about an elderly couple suiciding together, Michael Moore MLA, said: “I think it should be covered in [the] act and I think that under certain circumstances, given appropriate counselling and appropriate time to make that kind of decision.”[6]

No civilised society like ours will remain civilised if we endorse this kind or any other kind of killing or assisted suicide.

How can we say where to draw the lines? Chronic illness? Mental illness? Multiple sclerosis? Those crippled with arthritis? Persons who are handicapped? What about some of the people I counsel, such as a 16-year-old who is on drugs, severely depressed and suicidal?

The most recent review of the need for euthanasia in Australia was by the Social Development Committee of the Parliament of Victoria. The report, called, “Options for Dying with Dignity,” in 1988 concluded: “It is neither desirable or (sic) practicable for any legislative action to be taken establishing a right to die.”[7]

Dr Helga Kuhse of Monash University, Melbourne promotes “a quick and painless injection” (to kill) for a Down’s Syndrome infant with an intestinal obstruction.

Treatment of pain

It is a strange paradox that euthanasia is being strongly promoted at a time when the medical profession has made great advances in the treatment of pain.

Retired anaesthetist at Concord Hospital, Sydney, Dr. Brian Pollard, says: “Most cancer pain is well within the competence of any doctor to treat effectively. It is necessary to regard unrelieved pain as a medical emergency to be dealt with as energetically as possible and to address also the emotional turmoil which is usually present.”

At a time when there is every reason to offer caring, compassionate palliative care to the sufferer, the apologists for euthanasia want to eliminate the sufferer rather than eliminate the suffering.

The doctor-patient relationship

Euthanasia puts a death wedge between the doctor and patient. It debases the medical profession and has harmful effects on the doctor-patient relationship.

The standard form of the Hippocratic Oath that is sworn by many medical doctors upon graduation from medical school, dating back to the time of the Greeks, says:

“I will follow that method of treatment which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel.”[8]

Dr. Mark Hurwitz, president of the ACT Branch of the Australian Medical Association, in personal correspondence, has stated that euthanasia “is not consistent with AMA policy” and that the AMA supports the World Medical Association’s statement (adopted at the 39th World Medical Assembly, Madrid, Spain, October 1987):

“Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s own request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. This does not prevent the physician from respecting the desire of a patient to allow the natural process of death to follow its course in the terminal phase of sickness.”[9]

For death to enter the relationship between patient and doctor will violate one of the most fundamental association’s in Australian society.

THE BETTER ALTERNATIVES

The superior options are to promote life, offer opportunity for eternal life, and become actively involved in compassionate care for the dying, persons who are handicapped, and other sufferers in our society. This care should involve a competent doctor and medical team effectively treating severe pain, emotional support and caring communication from others.

We need to improve the standards of care for dying patients. The hospice movement is to be commended for its compassionate care of the dying. Such facilities with concerned staff are urgently needed. Inter-disciplinary teams are recommended, involving doctors, nurses, clergy, counsellors and caring para-professionals.

NEW ETHICS

Essentially, we have the choice between two types of ethics, humanitarian or utilitarian. The Hippocratic Oath and a Christian world view express a humanitarian ethic, where the care of people is central, regardless of the person’s condition or usefulness.

Euthanasia, in the main, promotes a utilitarian ethic where a person’s quality of life and usefulness are put in the foreground. Where this will lead is stated in the editorial of the journal of the Californian Medical Association (September 1970), “New Ethics for Medicine and Society”, which states that “in the future those people will be eliminated whose quality of life does not meet certain medical criteria, and that next to birth control there will be death control. Society will accept euthanasia, voluntary or compulsory, because the ‘new ethics of relative rather than absolute and equal values will ultimately prevail'”.[10]

At the World Health Summit in Edinburgh recently, Dr Andre Wynen, secretary-general of the World Medical Association, said, “Euthanasia for economic reasons is perhaps the most important challenge the medical profession will have to face before the end of the century. Not in the near future, but now”.[11].

Could it be stated any clearer? When the absolute standards of a loving, gracious, sovereign God are replaced by the puny, shifting opinions of fallible people, we have a recipe for disaster in society–what we have in Australia today. In my debate with Michael Moore, he stated: “I think I’m right.” On another public occasion he asserted, “I am so confident in my own view.” The shifting sands of relativism are not the foundation for a just, loving and merciful social order.

With euthanasia, life loses its dignity. It then endangers the life of every handicapped, aged or incurably ill person.

WHERE DO YOU STAND?

Allowing the patient to die his or her own death, without artificially prolonging the dying process seems to be consistent with the biblical revelation. However, voluntary active euthanasia usurps the place given to God in life and death decisions.

When I buried a person who committed suicide, the funeral director stated to me: “I thought the church was supposed to be the moral conscience of the nation.” The Scriptures put it in terms of being salt and light. Will the church make a stand for the life of God’s image bearers from conception to old age, or will we allow the “the new barbarians who know no higher law than self-interest” (Charles Colson) to lead Australia into the “new dark ages”?

Englishman David Potter, father of a child with handicaps and director of the charity, Christian Concern for the Mentally Handicapped, put it this way: “For euthanasia to receive the support of law, it would make crime respectable and compassion despicable… Our feeble, synthetic way of life would degenerate further into a pit of our own making where values are valueless, love is loveless and life is hopeless.”

Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II summed up the need for action by Australian Christians:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. hen they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”[12]

In this madness at the beginning of the twenty-first century, will you join me in affirming that people are special and human life is worthwhile to human beings and to God? The challenge is to stand up for the young and old, unborn and born, handicapped and fit, and all people of all races.

Endnotes:


[1] Proposed euthanasia legislation for such an infant has already been drafted in the Australian Human Rights Commission Occasional Paper No.10, “Legal and Ethical Aspects of the Management of Newborns with Severe Disabilities”, August 1985, pp. 55-61.

[2] Encyclopedia.com, available at: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-20407306.html [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[3] Cited in, “Jewish Law – Legal Briefs,” available at: http://www.jlaw.com/Briefs/vacco8.html [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[4] See Hermina Dykxhoorn n.d., “Euthanasia in the Netherlands,” available from: http://www.euthanasia.com/netherlands.html [Accessed 6 April 2008].

[5] 22 May 1993, p. 1364.

[6] Matthew Abraham Show, Radio 2CN, Canberra, February 2, 1993, from a transcript of the program.

[7] In Brian Pollard 1989, Euthanasia: Should We Kill the Dying? Little Hills Press Pty. Ltd., Bedford, UK, p. 45.

[8] An older version of the Hippocratic Oath is available at: http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:cEMMJ3VBVvAJ:info.library.unsw.edu.au/biomed/pdf/hippocraticoath.pdf+Hippocratic+Oath&hl=en&gl=au&sig=AHIEtbQdJbXeLW0LVt7v6vt9Ns9VXKinJw [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[9] “The World Medical Association resolution on euthanasia”, available at: http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/e13b/index.html [Accessed 2 January 2010].

[10] The Journal of the Californian Medical Association (September 1970), “New Ethics for Medicine and Society”, quoted in a letter by Dr. K.F. Gunning, Secretary, Dutch Physicians’ League, The Lancet, Vol. 338, October 19, 1991, 1010.

[11] The Canberra Times, August 12, 1993, p. 7.

[12] “Martin Niemoeller quotes,” available at: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/martin_niemoeller/ [Accessed 2 January 2010].

 

Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at date: 9 October 2015.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22
Whytehouse designs

Easter and the healthy committing suicide

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

By Spencer D Gear

At Easter seasons, we are faced with a situation where the eternal consequences of death are ignored and the promotion of suicide is glorified. Those of us who have spent years trying to prevent suicide receive a lethal message from this Swiss lawyer.

Here’s the situation. There should be virtually no restrictions on helping people to commit suicide. These are the comments from human rights lawyer, Ludwig Minelli, from the Dignatas Swiss clinic that offers help to people to kill themselves. That is what Minelli told BBC radio in the UK on 2 April 2009. This article stated:

The founder of Swiss right-to-die organisation Dignitas has defended helping Britons, including some psychiatric patients, kill themselves.

Ludwig Minelli told the BBC suicide was a “marvellous possibility” and he wants the assisted suicide law clarified for the healthy partners of dying people.

Former Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said his comments showed the need for a change in UK laws.

More than 100 Britons, mostly terminally ill, have died at Dignitas.

In his first broadcast interview for five years, Mr Minelli told BBC Radio 4’s The Report that failed suicide attempts created problems and heavy costs for the UK’s National Health Service.

He said: “I have a totally different attitude to suicide. I say suicide is a marvellous marvellous possibility given to a human being.”

This controversial comment has come from the organisation that runs a clinic in Switzerland that has assisted almost 900 people to kill themselves, about 100 of them being British. Fortunately, Swiss psychiatrists are not recommending this clinic.

The British newspaper, The Guardian (4 April 2009), reported that Minelli saw assisted suicide as “a very good possibility to escape a situation you can’t alter.” But he went way beyond this recommendation to cold-heartedly suggest that attempted suicide makes good business sense because of its burden on the costs of health care.

“For 50 suicide attempts you have one suicide and the others are failing with heavy costs on the National Health Service,” he told the BBC. “They are terribly hurt afterwards. Sometimes you have to put them in institutions for 50 years, very costly.”

For those of us who have spent many years counselling those who are troubled by the issues of life and the family, Minelli’s kind of comment is like a kick in the guts. This lawyer is advocating that attempted suicide is such a financial burden on the health system that these people should be done away with.

Ultimately, what’s the difference in consequences between the ethics of Minelli and Hitler?

For my exposition on the deleterious consequences of euthanasia, see: “Voluntary Active Euthanasia – a compassionate solution to those in pain?”

Dignatas and the euthanasia advocates in Holland are demonstrating the slippery slope that happens when those who begin with the desire to assist suicide of the terminally ill, ends up advocating much more.

Herbert Hendin MD, Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College, and medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, stated in 1995: “Over the past two decades, the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.”[1]

See also Herbert Hendin MD, The Case Against Physician-Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care (Psychiatric Times, February 01, 2004).

At this Easter season we need to consider another dimension. Among the advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia, an important factor seems to be overlooked.

What happens one second after you die? Where will you be? Is death the very end and the body and soul are obliterated? Talk of heaven or hell seems to be missing from this lethal advocacy for assisted suicide.

Worldviews have consequences. Worldviews of death need to be opposed by those who believe in eternal life and eternal punishment. Death does not end it all and Christ’s resurrection demonstrated this: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (First Corinthians chapter 15).

Endnotes:


[1] “Argument: Euthanasia creates a slippery slope to legal murder,” Available at: http://wiki.idebate.org/en/index.php/Argument:_Euthanasia_creates_a_slippery_slope_to_legal_murder [Accessed 2 January 2010].

 

Copyright (c) 2010 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at date: 9 October 2015.

Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22Flower22
Whytehouse designs