Monthly Archives

February 2014

Children shouldn't have to choose to die

By | Recent News

On Line Opinion 26 February 2014
Last week, The Times featured the heart-warming story of Deryn Blackwell, a 14 year-old boy who having been told he would likely die within a short time is now, against the odds, making a remarkable recovery.
After the last of four bone marrow transplants in his treatment for a rare form of cancer, Deryn’s parents were told that he was unlikely to survive beyond 50 days.
Deryn accepted his fate and was planning his own funeral. Today, though, he is relieved at the turn around in his condition and hopeful of a bright future.
The story strikes a chord at a time when British and other European news media are regularly reporting a growth of interest in assisted dying. The Belgian government recently voted to accept the practice for children.
The Netherlands, so often at the vanguard of ultra-liberal policies, was one of the first nations to rule that children could request assisted dying. Its law stipulates that children must be experiencing ‘unbearable suffering’ and that they must have made a ‘reasoned decision’ to die, with the support of their parents.

Physicians are Healers – Not Killers

By | Recent News

American College of Pediatricians 17 Feb 2014
It is the role of every medical professional to deliver care to ailing patients with  compassion, always striving to preserve the patient’s life and dignity. The American College of Pediatricians is appalled by Netherlands’ recent legalization of Neonatal Euthanasia and Belgium’s legalization of euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age, and alerts healthcare professionals to the possibility of similar legislation in the United States.

The concept of euthanasia is based on a utilitarian worldview that defines the value of the individual in terms of that individual’s contribution to society. This ideology relegates neonates, especially those infants with congenital defects, to an expendable status.  Dr. Den Trumbull states, “This belief system underlies many of the current proposals for the allocation of healthcare resources in America.  Even the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prescribes that scarce resources be focused on adolescents and adults under 50. The youngest who have not yet contributed to society and the oldest that have already “lived long enough” are to receive only attenuated interventions.  Under this system, certain newborn infants would be considered the least worthy to be recipient of available medical resources.”  
Physicians are healers not killers. An individual’s future quality of life cannot be predicted by caregivers. The role of the physician is to promote health, cure when possible, and relieve pain and suffering as part of the care they provide. The intentional neglect for, or taking of, a human life is never acceptable, regardless of health system mandates.  The killing of infants and children can never be endorsed by the American College of Pediatriciansand should never be endorsed by any other ethical medical or social entity.

The conspicuous silence from euthanasia activists about Belgium’s horrific child euthanasia law

By | Recent News

LifeSiteNews 19 February 2014
The Belgian Parliament passed a change to their euthanasia laws on the 14th of February making euthanasia available to minors – children. One commentator incorrectly – but nonetheless poignantly called it a ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’. Most, however, questioned the ability of minors to make such grave decisions and/or the problems with euthanasia in general, of which child euthanasia is a savage symptom.
Listed against the proposal were a group of some 200 Belgian paediatricians, a group from within the Assembly of the Council of Europe and the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) who issued a declaration from their international conference in Mumbai in the days preceding the vote. The ICPCN were clear: euthanasia is not part of palliative care and is not an alternative to palliative care.
While our thoughts go out to our Belgian colleagues and friends who fought valiantly against this latest bill, other Belgians, like Bart Sturtewagen, the Chief Editor of De Standaard newspaper – one of Belgium’s largest daily newspapers – seemed more than a little angry at the international attention.
“I’m annoyed at hearing ‘you’ll kill children’ in the foreign media. We don’t use that kind of language anymore. It’s a very different debate on a different level,” he said. Sturtewagen was responding to comments such as this one from U.S. publishing executive Steve Forbes who wrote in an opinion piece last month: “We are on the malignantly slippery slope to becoming a society like that envisioned by Nazi Germany, one in which ‘undesirables’ are disposed of like used tissue.”
And it was the subtle and not-so subtle references elsewhere to the Nazi regime and the pre-war death program for those considered by the regime to be ‘unworthy of life’ that must have rancoured. The group statement from members of the Assembly of the Council for Europe made such an allusion when they said that child euthanasia, “promotes the unacceptable belief that a life can be unworthy of life which challenges the very basis of civilised society.” (Emphasis added)
Sturtewagen also told the Reuters network that after 12 years of legal euthanasia in the country, Belgians had grown used to it as an option for the final stages of their lives.
Australian academics, White and Wilmott, noted pro-euthanasia & assisted suicide authors, tried to dismiss the Belgian news in an article on The Conversation website: “Belgium is literally on the other side of the world in terms of this issue, due in part to a different culture and history in this field.”
All cultures vary by degrees, but one would have thought that the Nazi experience of last century would have informed Belgian culture a great deal – even 60 plus years on. But what is more to the point, and where the difference really lies, is the 12 years’ experience in killing people, as Sturtewagen observed.
Other pro-euthanasia commentators have been less defensive – but most have been utterly silent. Sean Davidson of the pro-euthanasia group Dignity South Africa made the only comments I can find in the Anglophone world from pro-euthanasia groups actually condemning the move. (Davidson was tried and found guilty in 2011 of assisting his mother to die in New Zealand.) He told the Volksblad newspaper: (Google translation from Afrikaans)

“I can understand why the Belgian legislature’s responsiveness to this decision was motivated, but it is hard to believe that a child is able to make an informed decision about his or her life, while there are adults with those difficulty understanding. It often happens that an adult decision to his or her life to end when they are terminally ill, but their lives and clinging to the end unable to deal with the decision to push through it.
“How can it be expected that a young child such a decision?”

But he also told Volksblad that “Adults do not even always understand the concept of euthanasia.” This is something of an admission that even euthanasia for adults includes indelible risks. No, it really can’t be made safe, no matter what the so-called safeguards.

Euthanasia 'fundamentally selfish'

By | Recent News 17 December 2013
I write this submission as the 33-year-old father of a lovely 7-month-old baby girl.
I was born in New Zealand and with the exception of occasional overseas trips have lived my entire life here. I have no intention of living anywhere else.
I work in secondary education and see my role in life as being to contribute to the well-being and development of my country of birth.
For all these reasons I am profoundly disturbed by many of the comments about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) that I have read on this page.
Although it is impossible to read these stories of illness and loneliness without recognising the depth of feeling that underlies them, none of these pro-euthanasia accounts ask why it is that the New Zealand Medical Association has consistently opposed efforts to introduce euthanasia to this country.
The vast majority of physicians do not want to be involved in killing people or in helping them to kill themselves. To require them to do so is to change the primary meaning of medicine as a healing profession. It is fundamentally dishonest to present killing as an act of therapy or healing.

NZ euthanasia campaigner wants euthanasia for children

By | Recent News

3 News 17 Feb 2014
The champion of euthanasia in New Zealand says Belgium’s bold move of euthanising children is already happening here. Lesley Martin says the only difference here is it’s happening covertly, and without official sanction. But she’s keen to see us follow the country that’s now gone the furthest of any when it comes to giving children the right to die. Professor Michel Ghins (anti-euthanasia Belgium) agrees, but believes those rights are to life. He says the Belgian law should sound as a warning to other countries tempted to legalise adult euthanasia. “Once the step has been made it’s very difficult to prevent all kinds of extensions to take place.” New Zealand parliament has debated euthanasia twice and refused to take the first step.

The palliative care council is also opposed, it says treatment to relieve symptoms can have an unintended consequence of hastening death, but this is not euthanasia.

ALSO: Lifesite News reports…
Lesley Martin’s assertion has been contested by Dr. David Richmond, emeritus professor of geriatric medicine and spokesperson for Euthanasia-Free NZ.  He believes that the Australia and New Zealand Society for Palliative Care “would strenuously deny that terminally ill children are deliberately overdosed with medication so as to bring about their early death.” Martin’s allegation, he says, is a deliberate attempt at “trying to convince the New Zealand public that there is already widespread use of euthanasia in New Zealand,” in order “to soften them up for the re-introduction of the End of Life Choice Bill or its successor.”

Why healthy people choose to end their lives in a suicide clinic

By | Recent News

The Australian 19 February 2014 
Women, the rich, the educated and the lonely are most likely to choose assisted suicide, according to a Swiss study.
About 16 per cent of those helped by right-to-die organisations such as Dignitas had no underlying illness, the researchers found, suggesting that “weariness with life” was an increasingly common reason for choosing suicide. However, they said their findings suggested that there was no “slippery slope” on which vulnerable patients were pressured into ending their lives.
Researchers compared data on five million ordinary people in Switzerland with details of 1,300 Swiss residents who ended their lives at three right-to-die clinics. They found that 740 of those were women, and cancer was the most common reason for choosing suicide, accounting for 57 per cent of cases in the under-65s and 40 per cent in the elderly. Diseases of the nervous system were the next most common reason.
Researchers found that 20 people who died in the clinics listed a mental illness as the reason for ending their lives, even though it is legal only for persons judged competent to make the decision.
People with no religious affiliation were about six times as likely to opt for assisted suicide as Roman Catholics and twice as likely as Protestants. Those with the highest levels of education were roughly twice as likely to choose it as the least educated, and the richest twice as likely as the poorest.
Those living alone and the divorced were each about 50 per cent more likely to choose assisted suicide, scientists report in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Professor Matthias Egger of the University of Bern, who led the study, said: “The higher rates among the better educated and those living in neighbourhoods of higher socio-economic standing does not support the ‘slippery slope’ argument but might reflect inequities in access to assisted suicide.
“On the other hand, we found a higher rate among people living alone and the divorced. Social isolation and loneliness are well known risk factors for non-assisted suicides. Also, the observation that women die more frequently by assisted suicide than men is potentially of concern. Interestingly, though, studies from the Netherlands and Oregon in the US reported more men than women among assisted deaths.”
The European Court of Human Rights has called for Switzerland to clarify when people without a terminal illness are allowed to end their lives. Professor Egger said future deaths in such clinics must be registered so that trends in suicides could be monitored.

Belgium’s Euthanasia for Kids Sends Clear Warning

By | Media Releases

Media Release 14 Feb 2014
Family First NZ says that the passing of the child euthanasia law in Belgium sends a clear warning of just where these laws will end up, and NZ should reject any attempts by politicians to decriminalise euthanasia.
“International evidence shows that deaths by assisted suicide and euthanasia have been increasing wherever the practices have been legalised, and that the door is opened to a world of abuse. There is a slippery slope, and the Belgium decision shows just how slippery that slope is,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“And that slippery slope will quickly impact NZ. Labour MP Maryann Street, who intends to reintroduce her bill to decriminalise euthanasia after the general election, was recently quoted as saying: Application for children with a terminal illness was a bridge too far in my view at this time. That might be something that may happen in the future, but not now. This means that she isn’t ready to propose euthanasia for children with disabilities just yet, but that will soon change.”
“The euthanasia lobby always claims that it’s about the issue of choice, but the international evidence and experience prove otherwise. Now the coercion is aimed at children, and at the parents during a very difficult time. A Belgium Senator even admitted that during the debate, euthanasia supporters talked about children with anorexia, mental illnesses, and children who were tired of life.”
“Belgium has the same so-called safeguards in their law as Marian Street is proposing. Nonetheless, a 2010 study found 32% of euthanasia cases were carried out without request or consent. In fact, last month Dr Mark Cosyns, a leading euthanasia doctor, admitted to not reporting the many euthanasia deaths that he has done.”
“Belgium is unable to control or prevent the abuse of the existing law. Now they have expanded it to impact children.”
“It will also send a dangerous message to young people about suicide and the value of life. Maintaining the current laws protects all New Zealanders equally,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“Legalising assisted suicide is a recipe for abuse.  So-called ‘safeguards’ are an illusion because they are unable to prevent the potential for coercion and abuse, potentially resulting in a ‘duty to die’.”
“We should create a palliative care regime in New Zealand that is world class – not remove the protection for vulnerable people including children, and giving doctors the right to kill their patients.”

Belgium votes euthanasia for children – no age limit

By | Recent News

BBC News 9 February 2014
An incurably sick child, a request to die, a lethal injection. For many people this is an unimaginable, nightmare scenario.
Most of us will not experience the cruel reality of seeing a child’s health deteriorate as a result of a terminal illness. But some Belgian paediatricians who have say children should be allowed to ask to end their lives, if they cannot be relieved of their physical symptoms.
“Rarely – but it happens – there are children we try to treat but there is nothing we can do to make them better. Those children must have the right to decide about their own end of life,” says Dr Gerlant van Berlaer, a paediatrician at UZ Hospital Brussels.
He and 16 other Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter in November petitioning senators to vote for the child euthanasia bill.
A senator who voted against the bill, Christian Democrat Els Van Hoof, thinks it is based on a misplaced idea of self-determination – that everyone has the right to make decisions not only about how they live, but also about how they die. She disagrees, and fought successfully, with a group of other senators, to restrict the scope of the bill to children with terminal illness suffering unbearable physical pain.
“In the beginning they presented a law that included mentally ill children,” she says. “During the debate, supporters of euthanasia talked about children with anorexia, children who are tired of life – so how far does it go?”
In the case of adult euthanasia, she fears a “slippery slope” is already in evidence. The 2002 law governing euthanasia allows adults to choose to end their lives, if they:

  • are competent and conscious
  • repeatedly make the request
  • are suffering unbearably – physically or mentally – as a result of a serious and incurable disorder

But two cases of euthanasia that hit the headlines in Belgium and internationally in 2013 left Van Hoof deeply troubled.

The value of human life

By | Recent News 11 October 2013
It hasn’t met with much fanfare, but two weeks ago Maryan Street removed her assisted suicide/euthanasia bill from the private members ballot. Citing the difficulties of discussing such a delicate issue in an election year (which is when the debates in Parliament would occur if it was pulled in the near future), Street vowed to reinsert the bill once the election has passed, so we can expect to see it again in either late 2014 or 2015.

When bills like this come up, we’re often told by their proponents that their purpose is to ensure that people can have access to a “death with dignity.” The assumption being that there are certain conditions or experiences that may afflict the human person that should not and need not be borne: painful terminal cancer, a descent into dementia, the loss of all motor function, or intractable disability. In these situations, the assumption goes on, we should override our usual beliefs and feelings that human life is valuable and worthy of protection, and allow people either to kill themselves or to be killed by another. For these people, human life no longer has value, and thus their lives are no longer either in need of or worth of our protection.

This may all sound palatable for a few isolated cases we may individually know or have read about, but does it make good policy? What would it mean for parliament to legislate that there are some people’s lives that aren’t valuable and aren’t as worthy of protection as everyone else’s?

Currently, the law protects all human life from the moment of birth until natural death. Anyone who either knowingly and willingly, or even negligently or mistakenly, takes the life of another or causes the death of another will be legally held to account to some degree. The assumption in these laws—as they were developed and passed down from England centuries ago—is that all human life is valuable and that it is right and proper for the state to ensure that those who take a human life will be answerable to a court of law. Of course, the courts can decline to punish a person for taking a human life if the evidence indicates, for example, that the death was completely accidental. But still, the principle remains inviolate: there is no human life that is without value and is unworthy of protection.