The following is a summary of notes I took and materials presented and discussed at the Stealth Euthanasia Conference held on November 23, 2013 at Biola University, La Mirada, California.
What is Euthanasia: An action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. Euthanasia’s terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used. There is a trend in the United States to legalize euthanasia. Three states have already legalized it: Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The euthanasia lobby is very savvy and has as their goal to legalize euthanasia throughout the United States. Their method is one of gradualism. They pour all their recourses into one state and after passage in that state, move to another state until all states legalize euthanasia. The euthanasia advocates do not like to use the word, euthanasia, they prefer terms like “death with dignity, assisted dying, compassionate choices, etc. LMU Professor Christopher Kaczor, one of the speakers, states that euthanasia is driven by a worldview of human life, one that does not value the dignity of life. There is no moral difference between active or passive euthanasia; they both accomplish the same thing: death. He also explained ordinary and extraordinary means of extending life. The main issue is whether the treatment is burdensome or beneficial.
Abuse of Euthanasia: Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada, another conference speaker, talked about the slippery slope that is euthanasia. In Oregon, for example, the only reports made to the state on legal euthanasia are provided solely by the doctors who perform the euthanasia. Reports are voluntary. There are no controls on how euthanasia is administered. He pointed out that if there are abuses, no one knows about them because the doctors do not self-report abuses. The principal goal of legalized euthanasia is to protect the doctors, not the patients. It is estimated that depression is the prime factor in choosing euthanasia. Since assisted suicide became legal in Oregon, state officials have been candid about offering suicide in lieu of costly medications. In refusing to approve requests for expensive drugs that could prolong several residents’ lives, Oregon Health Care officials reminded them that the cost of suicide pills would be fully covered. Schadenberg commented that the most likely person in our society to kill you is a doctor.
In Belgium, a 37 year-old college professor got a call one day telling him that his perfectly healthy 64 year-old mother, had chosen euthanasia and had died. It turned out that she was depressed after a 10-year relationship ended so she chose to end her life “legally.” Also, in Belgium, two Belgian identical twins, both born deaf, Marc and Eddy Verbassem chose euthanasia after they started losing their sight. Not wanting to be a burden to others they both elected euthanasia and died together. Recent studies concerning the Belgian euthanasia law found that: 32% of the assisted deaths are done without request and 47% of the assisted deaths go unreported in the Flanders region of Belgium. Another recent study found that even though nurses are prohibited from doing euthanasia, that in fact nurses are euthanizing their patients in Belgium. There has never been an attempted prosecution for abuses of the Belgian euthanasia law. In Oregon since 2009 there has been a 30% increase in euthanasia deaths. Furthermore, the Oregon suicide law does not prevent elder abuse; the lethal dose can be administered without oversight. There are many pitfalls in euthanasia laws. Some people are counseled to take euthanasia for no good reason.
Another conference speaker, Jennifer Hamman, related a story about when she was hospitalized and in a coma due to epileptic medicine that proved to be totally wrong and put her in a coma. While in a coma in a hospital she could hear the doctors discuss her case. One doctor complained that her husband had not agreed to stop all treatments and that her organs could go to some needy persons. The woman eventually recovered and today is perfectly healthy. I’m a witness since she spoke at the conference and looked perfectly healthy. In Oregon, in 2012, only 2 of the 77 people who died by euthanasia were referred for a psychiatric evaluation. This is significant because a study conducted by Oregon researcher, Linda Ganzini, found that 15 of 58 participants in her study were either depressed or experiencing feelings of extreme hopelessness. Of the 58 participants in her Oregon study, who had asked for assisted suicide, 18 died by assisted suicide with three of the assisted suicide deaths being persons who Ganzini found had questionable competency due to their depression/feelings of hopelessness.
Medical experts, like Herbert Hendin, MD, in his book Seduced by Death. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998, notes that nearly 95% of those who kill themselves have been shown to have a diagnosable mental illness in the months preceding their death – the majority suffering from treatable depression. Several studies have found that, especially among the elderly, more patients kill themselves out of fear of having cancer than do patients actually diagnosed with cancer.
Margaret Dore, a Washington State Attorney on Euthanasia Abuse: The Washington euthanasia bill was sold as “promoting patient choice and control,” instead the bill is a recipe for elder abuse. The law allows an heir or another person who will benefit financially from a patient’s death to help the patient sign up for the lethal dose. The law allows an heir, or someone else who will benefit financially from the death to pick up the lethal dose at the pharmacy. Once the lethal dose is in the house, there is no oversight. Washington law applies to patients with a “terminal condition” defined as having a medical prediction of less than six months to live. Such patients are not necessarily dying and may have years to live. This is because doctor predictions of life expectancy can be wrong because the requirement of six months to live is based on the patient not being treated. Consider Oregon resident, Jeanette Hall, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and wanted to do assisted suicide. Her doctor convinced her to be treated instead. In a 2012 affidavit, she states: “This July, it was 12 years since my diagnosis. If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.”
Patient control is an illusion. Washington law does not require a witness to the death. Without the disinterested witness, the opportunity is created for the patient’s heir, or for another person who will benefit financially from the death, to administer a lethal dose without his consent.