Euthanasia and Elder abuse

The more I consider legislation for euthanasia/assisted suicide/medical killing the more concerned I become.

Concerned for whom? – For the elderly, people living with disabilities and all vulnerable people.

Why my concern for them? Because I do not believe assisted suicide can ever be enacted without the possibility of abuse. The measure of a society is its protection of the elderly, people living with disabilities, infants, children: the vulnerable. Assisted suicide weakens the protection and care of our more vulnerable members. This is weakens our society, our community. This is a wrong turn. Do not enter.

“Those who believe that legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted-suicide will assure their ‘choice,’ are naive.”
(William Reichel, MD, Coeur d’Alene Press, June 30, 2010) quoted by Margaret K. Dore who writes,

“These acts (legalizing euthanasia/ assisted suicide) empower heirs and others to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. This is especially an issue when the older person has money. There is no assisted-suicide bill that you can write to correct this huge problem.”
Patients are not necessarily dying
Oregon and Washington’s acts apply to “terminal” patients, defined as having no more than six months to live. Such patients are not necessarily dying. Doctor prognoses can be wrong. Moreover, treatment can lead to recovery. Oregon resident, Jeanette Hall, who was diagnosed with cancer and told that she had six months to a year to live, states:
” I wanted to do our law and I wanted my doctor to help me. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight. I had both chemotherapy and radiation.
” It is now nearly 10 years later. If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.”

See her detailed legal article, Aid in Dying: Not Legal in Idaho; Not about Choice.  This and other comments pro and against assisted suicide/ euthanasia follow the sad article, Suicide like execution.

Among other comment, eg Sue Neales,’Pollies dodge blame’, a letter to the editor in yesterday’s Mercury Hobart newspaper, page 23, by M.E.Klitzke, Midway Point, captured our inability to guarantee protection of the vulnerable members of our community.

Euthanasia trust lost. A vulnerable child unable to be protected by this Government and legal services, a maximum-security prison which is anything but secure built by this Government and now the Attorney-General, along with Greens leader Nick McKim, will try to convince us that this Government can produce sufficiently safe legislation to protect vulnerable members of our community against involuntary euthanasia. I for one have zero confidence they have the ability to offer such protection.

I count myself among the many Tasmanians who “have zero confidence that they (the Government) have the ability to offer such protection.”

For the sake of our society in general and the elderly, people living with disabilities and the vulnerable in particular, please Attorney-General Lara Gidding and Nick McKim, do not go ahead with this legislation.


Euthanasia and Elder abuse — 8 Comments

  1. “Dying with dignity” is a loaded phrase used by various euthanasia advocates. Hard to oppose, and intended to make the default position one of support. (There is a Yes Minister episode looking at the polled support of national service, which seems relevant to the debate).

    My ponder has been what is the right phrase to describe what is being promoted in the euthanasia debate? The words, and key phrases will be significiant as this debate seems to once again be active nationally.

    It is not legislation which brings dignity to dying. More accurately it might be refered to as:

    Doctor assisted suicide
    Death by doctor

    In the end I think the nearest to right phrase I can come up with is

    Doctor initiated death

    It is accurate, not hyper-emotional and covers most (all?) of the activity being promoted. I wish to die with dignity but I don’t support a doctor initiated death.

    It would be a significant contribution to the debate if we could achieve usage of a phrase which was an approriate descriptor of what is actually being promoted.

  2. Hi David and others,
    I picked up a great book from a church garage sale (a little old, now – 1998) called “Dying Well”. It’s by a hospice Doctor in the US, who says he adheres to no particular religious persuasion (though he acknowledges that those who do, often deal with death better than those who don’t). “Dying Well” is literally what the Greek word “Euthanasia” translates to, but this author has no time at all for ‘Euthanasia’. He is writing about the great healing, restoration, and even growth that can be accomplished when people are helped to die NATURALLY, but WELL – something he says is prevented when people are just ‘killed off’, when it’s thought they have no other prospects.

    A great read – not a quick and easy skim, but then it is a complex issue! Not sure if it’s still available. It’s “Dying Well – Peace and possibilities at the end of life”, by IRA Byock, M.D. Published by Riverhead Books/Berkley Publishing Group, New York.

  3. Hi David,
    Re naming this tragic push: all squishy euphemisms hide truth. I suggest:

    1. “Assisted-suicide” as the best.

    2. “Medical killing” although the use of medical or physician tends to legitimize the practice as “medical”.

    3. “Euthanasia” is too little understood and the pro euthanasia groups tend to cloud the real issues of the intent to kill and elder abuse.

    4. “Voluntary” is best avoided even if it’s in the proposed bill’s proper name. A colleague did a rough analysis of one of the Western Australian bills last night. Conclusion: “What a joke. “Voluntary.” Doctor only has to follow patient’s express wishes as “practicable.” No witness required to administration to ensure patient still wants to do it if they ever did. A beneficiary to your will or life insurance can sign you up as long as they are not “related.””

    “Also re ” Voluntary”, if someone brings up “we treat our pets better.” The pet does not get to choose the time, place and manner of his death and neither likely will you if this goes through.”

  4. +John,

    I have am in furious agreement with you 🙂

    Its a topic filled with squishy euphemisms. I have moved away from using “assisted-suicide” as I think the Dutch experience shows that it moves from that to something far more Dr pro-active and less a request for assistance between Patient and Dr.


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