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Death's Door in the Netherlands (4/18/01)
Dutch Legalize Euthanasia--Special Series of Reports (4/11/01)
Dutch Euthanasia Significance Sinks In (12/18/00)
Source: Washington Times; February 26, 2001
by Nat Henthoff
Among the defendants at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial were German doctors who before the Holocaust had euthanized mentally defective, purebred Germans. Dr. Leo Alexander, who worked for the chief counsel for war crimes, had interviewed those physicians before the trial.
In a prophetic article in the July 14, 1949 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Alexander examined the initial causes of the Holocaust. The beginnings, he wrote, were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as "life not worthy to be lived."
The Nazis described the patients they killed as "useless eaters." Not long before Alexander's death in 1984, he warned that the same lethal attitudes were taking root in this country. He cited the rise of the death with dignity movement, which advocated what later became more widely known as assisted suicide doctors providing the means for patients to kill themselves, which is now legal in Oregon.
Recalling his research for the Nuremberg trials, Alexander said of what was happening here: "The barriers against killing are coming down." A new book by Wesley Smith, "The Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America" (Encounter Books, 2001), documents Alexander's concerns more fully and lucidly than any volume yet published on whether humanity will be able to remain humane.
Writing about "The Culture of Death," Dr. N. Gregory Hamilton, president of Physicians for Compassionate Care, points out that prominent bioethicists now claim "the value of each human life can be traded-off in complex cost-benefit ratios. Members of the bioethics elite have quietly convinced many of our judges, hospital administrators and doctors that some human lives have relatively less value, and therefore less right to equal protection."
I have known and read Mr. Smith for a long time, and I have often cited him in this column because of the range, depth and accuracy of his research. His new book names a number of these bioethicists whom I called, years ago, the new priesthood of death. He shows how their influence began and grew, and tells of patients who have been subject to final decisions by doctors often against the patients' wishes and the wishes of their relatives because it was thought that their lives were no longer worth living. It's called involuntary euthanasia.
As Mr. Smith says in his book: "With the exception of assisted suicide due mostly to the widespread media coverage of Jack Kevorkian most people are but dimly aware of what is happening."
Popular culture, he adds, promotes many of these practices as a compassionate response to the trials and tribulations of illness. Like Alexander in 1949, Mr. Smith is trying to alert all of us to the falling barriers against killing. Moreover, he warns that a consequence of this devaluing of disabled and otherwise fragile lives is the creation of a duty to die. "I have debated academics who seriously believe that people who are no longer productive should die rather than expect their families and the rest of society to pay what it costs to keep them alive."
In the Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics last fall, there was this medical advice by Drs. Lawrence J. Schneiderman and Alexander Morgan Capron: "A judge who orders that a severely disabled child be kept alive rarely sees firsthand the long-term consequences of that decision, which remain a continuing vivid experience for the health professionals who must provide care for the child."
Therefore, so that these professionals can be relieved of such a vivid experience, a compassionate judge should order that the child not be kept alive. That is the culture of death.
Mr. Smith ends "The Culture of Death" with the following words: "We all age. We fall ill. We grow weak. We become disabled. A day comes when our need to receive from our fellows adds to far more than our ability to give in return. When we reach that stage of life . . . will we still be deemed persons entitled to equal protection under the law?"
If only in self-defense, you ought to read "The Culture of Death" and discuss it with your doctors and your family. And put your wishes in writing.
Source: Weekly Standard; December 18, 2000
By Wesley J. Smith
[Wesley Smith is a leading author and advocate of the pro-life position on euthanasia and assisted suicide.]
Maine voters' rejection on November 7 of an initiative to legalize physician- assisted suicide was only the latest in a string of defeats for the American euthanasia movement. Granted, the margin was narrow -- 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. And with the Netherlands finally in the process of formally legalizing assisted suicide, no one should infer that this tenacious international movement is dead. Still, its advocates in this country have failed to move the ball since 1994, when Oregon voters passed a legalization initiative. The latest setback should spur the media to give less coverage to killing as "medical treatment" and more to the underreported subject of truly compassionate assistance to the dying, such as pain control, symptom management, and hospice care.
If the assisted-suicide movement was rebuffed in Maine, it was not for lack of investment in the campaign. Euthanasia activists from around the nation had carefully selected Maine as the most promising site for a breakthrough. "Maine is a small state with a small media market, and proponents believed that they could carefully control the message," explains Rita Marker, executive director of the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force. "More importantly, some of the most vulnerable groups who oppose the assisted- suicide agenda nationally -- disability rights activists, minorities, advocates for the poor -- are not as numerous in Maine as they are elsewhere in the country, and thus assisted-suicide activists had substantial reasons to be optimistic about their chances of prevailing."
The practice in Maine of allowing an initiative's proponents to determine the wording that appears on the ballot also favored the measure. Euthanasia activists couched Question 1 in soothing language: "Should a terminally ill adult who is of sound mind be allowed to ask for and receive a doctor's help to die?" And to mobilize support for it, they mounted a national full-court press. Euthanasia organizations from all over the country urged their members to donate time and money to the campaign, with much success. More than 90 percent of the financing for the "Yes on Question 1" campaign came from outside Maine. Many of the nation's best-known assisted-suicide proponents -- including Oregon governor John Kitzhaber -- strove to persuade Maine voters to make it legal for doctors to write lethal prescriptions.
Initially, public support for the measure was high -- 70 percent, according to the Bangor Daily News of February 17, 2000. But as the campaign progressed and voters considered assisted suicide in the context of HMO cost-cutting, the potential for abuse and coercion, and the problems reported in Oregon despite the secrecy surrounding the practice there, public support steadily waned. When the final tally was made, the initiative lost by almost 20,000 votes.
The same pattern of early support for assisted-suicide initiatives, dwindling to eventual defeat at the polls, occurred in Washington state (1991), California (1992), and Michigan (1998). Even in Oregon, where the initiative passed, support shrank from nearly 70 percent at the beginning of the campaign to just 51 percent in the final tally.
The euthanasia movement, moreover, has also been stymied in the courts and legislatures. In 1997, its advocates failed to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an assisted-suicide Roe v. Wade. The vote in Washington v. Glucksberg was unanimous, a rare achievement for our often divided high court. Only a few months later, the Florida Supreme Court refused to rule that assisted suicide was a right under the privacy guarantee in the Florida Constitution.
And in 1999, a court in Michigan sentenced euthanasia's most notorious practitioner, Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian, to 10 to 25 years in prison for the murder of Thomas Youk. Thus ended a macabre career that had helped eliminate some 130 people and made kidneys removed from one disabled victim available to the public on a "first come, first served" basis. Kevorkian had outworn the patience of law enforcement by arrogantly providing a videotape of his crime for airing on the program 60 Minutes.
As for the legislative arena, not one of the many euthanasia bills introduced at the state level has had a realistic chance of passage. A robust coalition came together to fight these bills. In addition to the constituencies mentioned by Rita Marker, this alliance includes hospice professionals, religious organizations, pro-lifers, and medical associations, all of them willing to set aside their differences on other controversial issues in order to unite against the proposition that doctors should have license to kill their patients.
The only prospect euthanasia advocates have for gains in the immediate future is in Alaska, where a lawyer for the misnamed Compassion in Dying Federation has sued under the privacy guarantee of the state constitution to overturn the state ban on assisted suicide. The suit failed in the trial court and was recently argued before the Alaska Supreme Court, where the justices noted the Florida high court's refusal to legislate from the bench. The Alaska decision is expected next year.
Whatever happens in Alaska, assisted suicide won't soon be widely legalized in the United States. Thus, the time has come to look beyond a movement that actively harms the dying and disabled people it purports to help. Not only does it disparage the value of their lives, but it diverts media and popular attention from all that medicine can do to make people's dying days worth living.
It is high time that the issue of end-of-life care be given serious and concentrated consideration. For example, it is a national scandal that only 29 percent of Americans who died in 1999 received hospice services, and those who did often did so for only weeks or days. By contrast, in England the figure is 65 percent, and most hospice patients receive care for many months. For 30 years, the British have been educating the public about care for the dying, making hospice a household word. Nor do they place policy impediments between dying patients and hospice care -- as we do in the United States, where patients are required to refuse all further curative treatment in order to receive hospice relief. According to Dame Cecily Saunders, the creator of the modern hospice movement, this irrational American rule makes patients, families, and physicians far less likely to turn to a hospice, which is seen as the end of all hope.
In an era when the media are addicted to scandal, assisted suicide makes for juicier copy than hospice care and pain control. But the stalling of the euthanasia movement can and should change that. The big story should be the challenge of creating a medical environment in which no American dies alone or in pain.
Source: Reuters 3/21/01
Brussels, Belgium -- Belgian lawmakers have agreed on a draft law to legalize euthanasia in certain cases, subject to approval by parliament later this year. Tuesday's vote was split 17 to 12 with one abstention.
The law, under consideration for about a year, has been subject to public hearings, beginning last May, and to considerable legal wrangling, with the Christian Democrats staunchly opposed to legalisation and the Socialist-Liberal-Green coalition advocating it.
If passed, it would make Belgium the second country after the Netherlands to vote to legalize euthanasia. The Belgian proposal is similar to the Dutch legislation.
Senators from two parliamentary working groups agreed to the final text of a draft law to legalise two types of requests for euthanasia -- by terminally ill patients and by patients with incurable diseases who may have years to live but are in extreme pain.
The draft legislation is expected to be presented to the upper house of parliament within the next month, said Senator Frans Lozea, who took part in the debate. "The lower house will then vote quite quickly afterwards," Lozea told Reuters on Wednesday.
The government has given politicians a free vote on this issue, meaning they are not bound by their party's position.
Under the proposed legislation, requests for euthanasia must be made by a patient who is conscious when making an active, voluntary demand. The request must also be persistently repeated.
Source: National Right to Life Press Release; October 4, 2000 (Pro-Life Infonet 10/5/00 #2268)
Washington, DC -- A study published October 3 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that support for assisting suicide and euthanasia among oncologists (physicians specializing in cancer treatment) declined by more than half between 1994 and 1998, a drop the study authors attributed primarily to "expanding knowledge about how to facilitate a 'good death,' making euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide no longer seem necessary or desirable."
Oncologists, who reported that they could get their dying patients all necessary care were over four times less likely to have performed euthanasia, compared to those who reported that administrative, fiscal, and other barriers allowed them to provide only some of the care needed by their dying patients. Those who reported having sufficient time to talk to dying patients and those who believed they had received adequate training in end-of-life care were less likely to have performed euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. The study authors, Dr. Ezekial Emanuel and seven others, wrote that the date "end some support to [the] concern [that] inadequate access to palliative care might make euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide attractive alternatives."
The study, with 3,299 participants, founds 22.5% of oncologists supported physician-assisted suicide (PAS), compared with 45.5% in 1994. The shift was even more dramatic with regard to euthanasia (here understood to mean the doctor killing the patient, as by lethal injection, instead of providing the patient the means to commit suicide, as in PAS). Only 6.5% supported it, compared to 22.7% in 1994. Of doctors who had actually performed PAS (10.8%), 18% had done so five or more times. Additionally, 3.7% had performed euthanasia, 12% of whom had done so five or more times.
"The significant decline in cancer specialists who support euthanasia demonstrates that the answer to pro-euthanasia activism is not to legalize killing but to redouble efforts to improve care," said Burke J. Balch, J.D., director of NRLC's Department of Medical Ethics. "You don't solve problems by getting rid of the people who have them."
Maine voters will decide November 7 whether to join Oregon in legalizing assisting suicide. A bill now before the U.S. Senate, the Pain Relief Promotion Act (passed by the House in 1999) would end the use of federally controlled drugs to assist suicide, while implementing programs to improve pain relief as a positive alternative.
in the Netherlands by Cal Thomas
Exactly a century ago, journalist Abraham Kuyper
became Prime Minister of The Netherlands. As Mckendree Langley writes in his
book, "The Practice of Political Spirituality: Episodes From the Public
Career of Abraham
Source: Reuters; March 13, 2001
Washington, DC -- Doctors whose terminally ill patients ask for help in ending their lives are often forced by an ``unspoken code of silence'' to decide on the request alone, without the advice of fellow physicians, researchers said last week.
In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers interviewed doctors in Seattle and San Francisco who had received at least one request from a terminally ill patient for help in committing suicide. Half of the doctors had helped a patient to die, while the other half had not -- suggesting that law against assisted suicide are being broken in the 49 states which make the practice illegal.
Dr. Jeffrey Kohlwes, who led the study, said the most surprising finding was that doctors rarely discussed the suicide requests with other doctors.
``Most physicians who received these requests really dealt with them alone. They perceived an unspoken code of silence on the topic among their colleagues,'' Kohlwes, a doctor at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a professor at the University of California San Francisco, said in a statement.
Although assisted suicide is against the law in every U.S. state but Oregon, doctors who care for terminally ill patients regularly hear suicide requests from patients, the researchers said. But there has been little documentation of how these requests are handled, they said.
The study was based on interviews with 20 doctors.
A heavy emotional burden accompanied the isolation experienced by the doctors, Kohlwes said. A few said they were worried about becoming known publicly as the ``local Kevorkian,'' Kohlwes said, referring to Jack Kevorkian , an assisted-suicide crusader convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder in Michigan.
Doctors said they had the most difficulty dealing with requests from patients who wanted to die because their lives had become devoid of meaning, not because they were undergoing unbearable pain or suffering.
Kohlwes said most requests for a doctor's help in suicide could be handled by simply treating physical pain or depression.
``Most physicians we interviewed used these requests as a warning flag to aggressively treat a patient's physical discomfort, and in many cases they felt this was effective,'' he said. Most doctors in the study reported treating their patients with antidepressants.
Source: Associated Press, Reuters;
April 10, 2001
Dutch Pro-Life Leader
Speaks Out About the Vote
Association Laments Dutch Euthanaisa Vote
Dutch Group Cry for Life on
Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Bill Details and Chronology
Chronology: Netherlands' growing tolerance of
November 28, 2000
Source: Cybercast News Service; December 18, 2000
London, England -- A recent decision by Dutch lawmakers to legalize euthanasia continues to generate shockwaves in Holland and around the world, as the implications sink in.
"It is an important moment in western history, which many people don't seem to realize the significance of," said Henk Reitsema, a Dutch pastor, commenting on the parliament's passage of the law.
"I am sure that there will come a time in our lifetimes when many of us look back and wonder 'What were we thinking when we let people decide that it was okay to actively take part in killing people with our medical and legal apparatus involved, while the individuals had committed no crimes?'" he said.
Although it has been technically illegal until now, euthanasia by lethal injection has been practiced in the Netherlands for about 25 years and more than 3,000 people die this way every year.
The new law, whose passage through the Senate next year is considered a formality, provides guidelines doctors must follow to remain within the law.
A patient suffering from unbearable pain must make a voluntary, well-considered and lasting request to die. He or she must also be aware of all other medical options and have sought a second professional opinion. The doctor must send a report to a legal and medical commission that will ensure all conditions have been met.
But Karel Gunning, a Dutch physician who heads a group called the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life, said doctors were unlikely to incriminate themselves when submitting their report after killing a patient.
"That report is sent to a committee that must judge whether the doctor acted correctly, and on the basis of this report the committee must judge," he said. "But the author of the report is the doctor himself. Can we be sure that the report is truthful?"
A doctor would not mention in the report if the patient had been killed against his will, and it would be difficult for the commission to prove that the report was false. The "chief witness" - the patient - would be dead, Gunning said. If there were relatives or heirs on the scene, they may be interested in an expected inheritance.
Gunning said he deeply regretted that Holland was leading this world in this way. He recalled that, half a century ago, Dutch doctors risked their lives by refusing to participate in Hitler's forced euthanasia program, which "killed over a hundred thousand German patients with a mental handicap."
But he expressed optimism that the world would not follow suit.
"I don't think the world will follow the Dutch guide. I think the Dutch example will show too clearly that it is impossible to allow killing patients who want to be killed, without taking away the protection of patients who don't want to be killed.
"That is too high a price for the 'luxury' of being able to choose euthanasia."
The Vatican last week published a document which called the Dutch decision a consequence of a wider "spiritual and moral weakening." It challenged the argument that patients had to be put out of their suffering, saying that now, more than ever, "pain is 'curable,' with adequate analgesic means and palliative care [and] adequate human and spiritual assistance."
Treatment should only be stopped, said the document drawn up by the Pontifical Academy for Life, in the extreme case of imminent and inevitable death. There was a substantial difference, it argued, between procuring death through euthanasia and allowing it. "The first position rejects life, while the second accepts its natural fulfillment."
Earlier, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, Cardinal Adrian Simonis, said he remained hopeful that the Dutch upper house of parliament may reject the legislation next year. In an interview with an Italian newspaper, he decried "the modern sickness of man who no longer adheres to truth but to the subjectivity of his feelings."
Simonis noted that European Union institutions had pointed out that the Dutch law is in conflict with European human rights legislation. Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights upholds the right to life, as protected by law.
Even as the Dutch lawmakers were voting on the bill on September 28, Jonathan Imbody of the Christian Medical Association in the U.S. was delivering a presentation in The Hague, encouraging Christian pro-lifers to continue campaigning against euthanasia.
He cited a report in an American medical journal which found that depression and hopeless, rather than pain, were the dominant reasons for patients seeking euthanasia.
This should alert Christians to the fact that "our battle is not simply over public policy; it is a battle that reaches deep into the hearts and souls of individuals," Imbody said.
Agency Preparing for Assembly on Aging (Zenit 3/13/01)
NEW YORK, MAR. 14, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In rich nations, the elderly are often neglected, something that is not common in poor countries, the Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations said recently.
"Who are these older persons?" Archbishop Renato Martino asked during the meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the second World Assembly on Aging. "Are older persons those who have reached 60, or 70, or 80 years? Maybe it depends upon the direction from which the age is viewed."
The Vatican representative wondered why the elderly in the developed world must end their days "abandoned or forgotten in a care center or nursing home, while so many in the developing world view old age with reverence, and older persons are respected and valued as a treasure of wisdom, tradition and heritage?"
Archbishop Martino added that it "is horrible to think that just as the world begins to make great advances in prolonging the lives of individuals, a reverence and respect for life has been lost. It seems impossible to believe that the taking of life has become, in some places, an acceptable alternative."
Referring directly to euthanasia, Archbishop Martino said that for "many older persons, such changes in legislation or medical practice, or the threat of those changes, have become a new source of fear and anxiety, and can indeed weaken the fundamental relationship of unconditional trust that they have a right to place in those whose mission is to care for them."
To live longer should not be regarded as exceptional, or as "a burden or challenge," but rather as "the blessing that it is. Older persons enrich society," he stressed during the Feb. 26 meeting.
Therefore, the "United Nations must ensure that the world is prepared to recognize and respect the human dignity of older persons and enable them to be full participants in society, rather than viewing them as a challenge to the community," the permanent observer concluded.
The U.N. General Assembly has decided to convene a second World Assembly on Aging sometime in 2002, in part to adopt a revised plan of action and a long-term strategy on aging.
England May Be Next Country to Legalize
SPUC promotes the inherent value and dignity of all human life
from the moment of conception to natural death. SPUC's anti-euthanasia campaign
is spearheaded by its handicap division, which works to stop discrimination
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161:421-430.
New York, NY -- Even when close relatives know what an individual's living will expresses, chances are those treatment preferences will not be followed, results of a study suggest.
A host of prior studies have demonstrated that family members and physicians fare poorly in following an individual's life-sustaining treatment preferences in the absence of a living will (or ``advance directive''), according to Dr. Peter Ditto from the University of California at Irvine, and associates. What has never been tested, though, is whether preferences expressed in a living will are actually honored.
The investigators looked at whether the existence of a living will--with and without thorough discussion of its contents among patients and their relatives--actually improved the accuracy with which an individual's surrogates predicted his or her treatment preferences.
In the absence of a living will, relatives correctly predicted patient preferences less than 70% of the time, the authors report.
Surprisingly, living wills--even with thorough discussions between patients and relatives--failed to improve the accuracy of the surrogates' predictions, the researchers note.
In fact, according to the report in the February 12th Archives of Internal Medicine, there was no subgroup of patients or surrogates and no living will intervention that improved the prediction accuracy over that achieved by surrogates of patients with no advance directives.
Despite these facts, the investigators observe, both patients and their surrogates believed that the living will and discussions improved the surrogates' understanding of the patients' wishes and increased the surrogates' comfort in making medical decisions for the patients.
``The results of the present study clearly challenge the effectiveness of (living wills) as a means of preserving patients' ability to control specific treatment decisions near the end of life,'' Ditto and colleagues write.
``What is less clear is the extent to which the majority of patients and surrogates desire this level of control and the relative value to assign to the goals of accurate surrogate decision making versus psychological benefits in future policy development,'' the authors conclude.
A pro-life alternative to living wills is available called the Will to Live. For more information, contact: National Right to Life, Attn: Will to Live, 419 7th St. NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20004.
Source: World Net Daily; February 20, 2001
by Barbara Simpson
[Pro-Life Infonet Note: Barbara Simpson, "The Babe in the Bunker" as she's known to her KSFO 560 radio talk-show audience in San Francisco, has a 20-year radio, television and newspaper career in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.]
It's a strange business I'm in. I do talk radio and I write. I know about a lot of things and read everything I can get my hands on. I talk to reporters and scientists and experts and citizens with stories to tell.
Most of the time, the subjects we discuss on my programs deal with problems and situations that affect other people. It isn't often that the subject applies to me or my family. That was the case. Not now.
A little over two weeks ago, I interviewed a man on my program whom I'd interviewed before. He had written "Forced Exit," a book about euthanasia, what we used to call "mercy killing."
Wesley Smith has a new book out now. It's called "The Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America," published by Encounter Books.
It's a chilling account of the hidden changes in medical care in this country and more importantly, the deliberate changes in the training of doctors, nurses, ethics personnel and other health-care workers.
Remember how most of us were concerned about the wonders of medical technology keeping us alive artificially, making us slaves to tubes and machines? Remember how we all were advised to have living wills which would designate what we didn't want done to us if we were in final and desperate straits? Remember all the money we paid to lawyers to draw up such documents and how when it was done, we felt safe.
Forget it. You are not safe.
You are more at risk than ever. Not from being kept alive longer than you desire but from having your life ended sooner than nature might dictate and in fact, sooner than you or your family want.
I won't mince words. What I'm saying is that you and your loved ones are now more in danger of having your life ended by doctors refusing medical care than in having it extended artificially.
In his book, Smith describes what is called the "Futile Care Theory." What it means in simple language is that doctors will refuse treatment, any treatment, if they decide that it's your time to die. It won't matter if the patient wants help. It won't matter if the family wants help. The answer will be "no."
When I interviewed Smith, I never dreamed that within days, I would experience exactly that situation. But I did. It is the most devastating experience you can imagine. It left me filled with raging emotions, unbelievable anger and frustration.
It left me with my father dead. He died just a few nights ago.
He was in the late stages of prostate cancer. We knew he would not survive that battle. He had decided long ago that he did not want radiation, chemotherapy or surgery. That was his decision. We treated the illness with hormones and herbs and it was controlled for several years. But it finally did spread, and we knew the end was coming.
One week ago, he was transferred to a larger hospital to have blood drained from his chest. He was conscious, rational, could eat and drink on his own and had minimal pain. His only medication was a blood pressure pill, a baby aspirin, a Tylenol if he had pain, and an IV drip with potassium. Hardly what you would expect of a "terminal" case. He was to be transferred back to his original hospital/convalescent care. That's when it all happened, so fast it made our heads spin.
The doctors decided on their own that we wanted only pain assistance so they discontinued all the medicines he was getting, including the IV drip. They never asked the family; it was an arbitrary decision. My poor mother, who was alone with Daddy, believed them when they said it was the "best" thing for him. They were doctors after all! Besides, she told me, she was afraid to question them for fear they might do something to hurt Daddy.
It was a weekend. When I found out what they had done, I demanded to have a doctor, only to be told he was not on call. They could only take Daddy to the emergency room if it were an emergency and it wasn't and they could not re-insert the IV without doctors' orders. (Catch 22!)
I implored the head nurse and was told that Daddy was going "through a process"! (A process?) Yes, I was told in all seriousness, my dad was "processing." That's the new way of saying that Daddy was dying.
The nurse also said that dehydrating Daddy would be good because it would force his body to produce endorphins to kill pain. I could not believe my ears!
After much discussion, I finally got him to have the doctor call me. He did but refused to reinsert the IV. They coerced my mother to agree to wait until Monday to see how Daddy was. They even told her the IV would do more harm.
Daddy ate and talked, right up to the end. He even ate two desserts with gusto. I talked to him a few hours earlier and he was his old self. Two days before, I'd asked him if he wanted to die and he said no.
You can live a couple of weeks without food but only about two days without water. The doctor removed the IV Friday night. Daddy was dead Sunday night. Two days.
The doctor expressed his regrets to my Mom and said he was sorry I was so upset. He said "that often happens with family members who just don't understand and get very emotional."
I don't know how he sleeps at night. I just can't wait to get his bill. I got more consolation from the vet when my dog died.
Be warned. This is not just my tragedy, this same fate awaits your family because that is what the medical system is teaching their people to do -- to us, their patients, under the guise of medicine. God help us.
Source: Prison Fellowship Ministries; August 18, 2000
by Chuck Colson
On a KLM flight to Amsterdam two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a member of the crew that chilled me to the bone. It illustrates what happens when the church fails to teach the hard truths of our faith.
KLM is the Dutch airline. The flight crew was gracious, but one middle-aged woman called Marget was exceptionally friendly. As she cleared away the breakfast dishes, Marget asked what we were planning to do in Amsterdam. I told her I was speaking at the Billy Graham Conference on Evangelism. I also mentioned that I work in the prisons.
In response, Marget told me she was a practicing Catholic and that she sang in a choir that performed in prisons.
Since I was talking to a Christian, I thought I'd find out what Marget thought about euthanasia, which, of course, is legal in Holland. I assumed she would find it abhorrent, but to my astonishment, she gave an impassioned defense of it. She said she had seen her grandmother waste away in agony. The family wanted to help her die, but before they could arrange it, she died naturally.
I explained to Marget that suffering could be managed without taking life. She replied that she had seen everything tried with her grandmother. I asked if other Dutch Christians shared her views. Yes, she replied--everybody thinks euthanasia is wonderfully humane because it enables us to help eliminate suffering.
I challenged her with every argument I could think of. I told her that God puts our souls in our bodies when life begins and that humans cannot make the decision to take it. Marget, always smiling warmly, stood her ground. She insisted that euthanasia is a kind thing -- that it's consistent with the views of good people.
Well, I didn't change her; needless to say she did not change me.
This woman was sincere about her faith and she really believed she was doing the right, kind, loving, and gentle thing -- yes, in her eyes, a Christian thing.
She brought to mind C. S. Lewis's description of how the greatest evil is done not in sordid dens of crime, or even in concentration camps. "In those we see its final result," Lewis notes. "But it is conceived and ordered . . . in clean . . . warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars . . . who do not need to raise their voices."
I confess, I got off that plane shaken. I realized that so often in a culture war, we're not up against evil people who enjoy killing. Instead, we're up against good, decent people who genuinely think it's humane and right to kill.
Good Christians, like Marget.
Marget's attitude signals a profound failure of the church. Everywhere we look, our culture is promoting euthanasia, abortion, and infanticide as loving, humane solutions. We even hear abortion of poor children talked about the same way.
The challenge of the church is to confront this dangerous philosophy head on. Voluntary euthanasia leads directly to involuntary euthanasia, as is happening in Marget's Holland.
You and I must teach the good people around us that euthanasia doesn't raise the curtain on a more "humane" society. Instead, it's the final curtain call on a culture of death.
Source: Washington Times; January 5, 2000
"The news media . . . often promote death as an answer to the serious problems of grave illness and disability . . . gullibly publishing false assertions of euthanasia advocates without checking the facts.
"A classic example was the episode on 'mercy killing' that aired on '60 Minutes,' a program that led, ironically, to Jack Kevorkian's undoing. Kevorkian videotaped himself as he murdered Thomas Youk, a man with Lou Gehrig's disease [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS]. He then took the tape to '60 Minutes' correspondent Mike Wallace, a vocal pro-euthanasia advocate.
"In the '60 Minutes' presentation, Kevorkian . . . tells the newsman that he killed Youk, with permission, to keep him from choking to death on his own saliva. Wallace accepted the excuse without blinking an eye . . . .
"ALS is indeed a devastating disease. Yet proper medical care prevents people with ALS from choking or suffocating. . . . Accurate information was just a phone call away. Yet Wallace, who became famous for his hard-hitting, acerbic interviews, apparently didn't bother to verify Kevorkian's assertions before airing the program."
-- Wesley J. Smith, from his new book, "Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America" --
Source: Charlotte Observer; January 10, 2001
By Diane Coleman
[Moderator's Note: Diane Coleman of Forest Park, Ill., is president of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights organization.]
Should a guardian be permitted to withhold food and water from a conscious but incompetent person who is not terminally ill and did not ask to die?
Diane Arnder, mother of 29-year-old Tina Cartrette, has asked the North Carolina courts to give her the right to kill her daughter by removing a feeding tube that has provided the majority of her nutrition for several years. Cartrette has life-long physical and cognitive disabilities - disabilities with which many are unfamiliar, since medical professionals have so long recommended institutionalization as the treatment of choice, keeping severely disabled people out of sight and out of mind.
For those more familiar with disability issues, the media reports of Tina Cartrette's situation leave many unanswered questions. Accepting that Dianne Arnder loved her daughter the way most parents do who institutionalize their children, what kind of love spans the distance between them now, after 25 years living apart?
Did Arnder ever become aware of Geraldo Rivera's groundbreaking expose on substandard care, even atrocities, committed against residents of institutions? Did she hear about the many states that have closed all their institutions and moved residents into community settings with in-home support services?
How often did Arnder visit her daughter? Often enough to know whether poor quality of care might explain her joint contractures, and her recurring infections? Often enough to participate in federally mandated meetings to plan her care and discuss her options to move into a community setting?
Though many parents fight the system to enforce their child's rights, perhaps Arnder was kept uninformed. Her words suggest that she accepted the stereotypes about her daughter, and the antiquated institutional system, without question.
But sympathy for the mother, or ignorance about disability, institutions and their alternatives, should not confuse us about the central issue in this case: Is North Carolina prepared to throw out current legal constraints on non-voluntary euthanasia? Such a change could endanger hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people whose families quietly wish they would hurry up and die, including those of us, like Tina Cartrette, who otherwise have years of life ahead of us.
During the 1980s, a right to refuse unwanted extraordinary or "heroic" life-sustaining medical treatment was legally defined, a right initially to be applied only to conscious people deemed "mentally competent." The dangers of allowing other decision-makers - insurance companies, physicians, family members, state guardians - to engage in passive euthanasia seemed obvious at first.
Then, in 1990, in a case upholding a Missouri state law that placed limits on the rights of other decision-makers, the U.S. Supreme Court said that states have the right to ban, or legalize and regulate, such surrogate decision-making as a matter of privacy.
Like most states, North Carolina has decided that food and water by tube constitutes "medical treatment" that can be refused by guardians "on behalf of" an incompetent individual. This has been allowed even though many people in nursing homes and institutions are on tube feeding because there aren't enough staff to feed them, rather than for medical reasons. But the law limits this narrow right to kill by starvation to (a) people who used to be deemed competent and who legally documented or clearly expressed their wish to reject tube-feeding, or (b) people who were never deemed competent who are terminal or permanently unconscious.
Of course, many well-meaning family members may only wish for their ill or disabled relative to be released from suffering. But a major study by the National Center on Elder Abuse estimated 450,000 cases of elder abuse and neglect in 1996, and the majority of known perpetrators were close family.
It doesn't take a PhD in psychology to recognize just whose misery some family members would like to put their older or disabled relative out of.
Add to that a prevalent law enforcement problem: a disturbing pattern of societal failure to identify and prosecute elder homicide.
Are the North Carolina courts being asked, in effect, to decide that some older and disabled individuals are not "persons" entitled to equal protection of the law?
It's bad enough that disabled individuals and families are not getting the in-home support services they need, while the government pays more, on average, to keep individuals in nursing homes and other institutions, often against their will.
It's bad enough that insurance coverage is frequently denied for necessary care, and that doctors don't know or don't disclose important information to patients and families, including the physician's financial conflicts of interest in managed care.
It's bad enough that medical forms are boilerplate, that doctors' predictions are unreliable, and that many people's legal rights in the health care system are violated every minute of every day without
What may look like compassion to some people looks more like contempt to many of us with disabilities who have too often heard that someone else thinks we would be better off dead.
Source: Associated Press; February 22, 2001
Washington, DC -- As Oregon reported that 27 terminally ill people used the state's assisted suicide law to end their lives last year, one of the state's senators urged the Bush administration not to do anything that would thwart the unique statute.
``There is no evidence of a crisis that would compel the federal government to pursue extraordinary means to overturn Oregon's law,'' pro-assisted suicide Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to pro-life Attorney General John Ashcroft, amid indications that pro-life lawmakers may try again to undo the law. ``There has been no substantiated claim of abuse of Oregon's law, nor has there been a rush to use the Oregon law,'' Wyden wrote.
Oregon is the only state that allows terminally ill patients to die with a doctor's help. The state Health Division announced that 27 people used the law in 2000, the same number as the previous year.
At least 70 people have ended their lives through assisted suicide since the so-called Death With Dignity Act took effect in October 1997, according to a report published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
Opponents were dealt a blow in 1998 when then-Attorney General Janet Reno ruled federal drug agents cannot move against doctors who help terminally ill patients die under Oregon's law.
To try to circumvent Reno's order, pro-life Sen. Don Nickles promoted a bill last session, the Pain Relief Promotion Act, that would have revoked the licenses to prescribe drugs of doctors who deliberately use federally controlled substances to aid a patient's death. The bill, stridently opposed by Wyden, never reached the floor for a vote.
During last year's campaign, Bush said he would have supported the legislation. Now, assisted suicide opponents hope he will issue an executive order to make it more difficult for doctors to use the Oregon law.
Pro-life Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) who supported the Nickles bill, called Bush and followed up with a letter in January asking that any executive order ensure that doctors still be allowed to treat excessive pain and avoid retroactive punishment for patients they had previously helped to die.
Smith predicted that eventually the Bush administration ``is going to enforce the law as it had been for 30 years prior to Janet Reno.''
Nickles, the No. 2 Senate Republican, has not reintroduced the bill. His spokeswoman, Gayle Osterberg, wouldn't comment on discussions between the White House and the senator or his staff.
Ashcroft, then a Missouri senator, was not among the Nickles bill's 41 co-sponsors. He has spoken, however, against using government money, such as Medicare or Medicaid, to support the state law.
``We should not hook up Dr. Kevorkian to the United States Treasury,'' he said in 1997, referring to the Michigan man who had performed dozens of assisted suicides.
Every terminally patient who has died under the law took a federally controlled substance, such as a barbiturate. To request a prescription, patients must be 18 years or older, an Oregon resident, capable to communicate health care decisions and diagnosed with an illness that will lead death within six months.
Source: National Conference of Catholic Bishops; February 23, 2001
Comments by Richard M. Doerflinger; Associate Director for Policy Development; Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities; National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Re: Oregon's Third Year of Physician-Assisted Suicide
Today's report from the Oregon Health Division on legally permitted physician-assisted suicides in 2000 provides no adequate information on abuses of the state's guidelines, and is not designed to do so. The 27 assisted suicides reported for this third year of Oregon's 'experiment' in lethal medicine are simply those cases which the physician-perpetrators themselves chose to report. The total number of actual cases, not to mention the number of times various 'safeguards' were distorted or simply ignored, remains concealed in the name of physician-patient confidentiality.
However, even the data released by physicians who assist suicides are disturbing enough. Twenty-seven Oregonians died last year from lethal overdoses of controlled substances deliberately prescribed by physicians, who invoked prescribing privileges granted to them by our federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The most significant changes compared to the previous year are as follows:
These signs of the 'slippery slope' in action, illustrating trends predicted by critics of the Oregon law, underscore the need to end this state's experiment before it claims more lives.
Source: Reuters; December 6, 2000
Boston, MA -- An analysis of 69 assisted suicides supervised by Jack Kevorkian has concluded that 75 percent of his patients were not terminally ill when he helped them to die, and that autopsies could not confirm any physical disease in five of the cases.
The study's findings were reported in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine and were made available on Wednesday.
The journal, which will be published on Thursday, said a team led by Lori A. Roscoe of the University of South Florida at Tampa looked at the characteristics of people who died with Kevorkian's assistance in Oakland County, Michigan between 1990 and 1998.
Kevorkian, who helped more than 100 people commit suicide, is serving a prison sentence of 10 to 25 years in Michigan. He was convicted of second degree murder in April 1999 in a trial that followed an appearance on national television in which he administered a lethal injection to Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, and dared the criminal justice system to stop him.
The study's findings seemed to suggest divorcees or people who had never married were more likely to turn to assisted suicide in the absence of safeguards.
Roscoe and her colleagues said "persons who were divorced or had never married were over-represented among those who died with Kevorkian's help, suggesting the need for a better understanding of the familial and psychosocial context of decision making at the end of life."
They said only 17 of the 69 patients were found after autopsy to be terminally ill and likely to live less than six months.
The wish of the other 52 people to get help from Kevorkian might be explained by the fact that "72 percent of the patients had had a recent decline in health status that may have precipitated the desire to die," the researchers said.
Of the 69 patients, 71 percent were women, which "is noteworthy because suicide rates are usually lower among women than among men," they concluded.
The Roscoe team only looked at the Michigan cases because the procedures of medical examiners in other states may have varied.
Kevorkian's attorney, Mayer Morganroth, dismissed the study. "All they're doing is repeating allegations made by the pro-life people," he told Reuters. "They're not really of any real substance, and they're not really accurate or true."
He also attacked the authors, pointing out that Roscoe and another person involved were not medical doctors, and that a third person involved, Oakland County medical examiner L.J. Dragovic, had testified numerous times against Kevorkian and the two men were "bitter enemies."