Kevin Yuill: Me Before You is fiction, but so are most arguments for assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill, a history professor at Sunderland University, wrote an excellent article that was published in the Telegraph today. Yuill's argues that Me Before You is simply one of many fictional stories about assisted suicide, but then he also states that arguments supporting assisted suicide are also fictionally based. Yuill writes:

There is an outbreak of fictional assisted suicides, of which the film released this week, Me Before You, is simply the most recent example. Before, we had Million Dollar Baby, The Sea Inside, One True Thing, and episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Coronation Street, and Hollyoaks. Such a plot-device is neither new nor "taboo-busting" – that taboo has been well and truly busted. 
It is interesting that the case for assisted suicide exists more in the fevered imagination of authors and screenwriters than in reality. Only a handful of Britons kill themselves in Swiss assisted suicide clinics every year; the rate of fictional representations to people actually killing themselves in Switzerland must be nearly 1:1. But Me Before You has sparked protests, mostly from disabled groups, because it implicitly asks the question: If you were quadriplegic (or severely disabled), would/should you kill yourself? 
Of course, the film is fiction and not particularly imaginative fiction at that, but there is a real context to the unease of groups of disabled activists like Not Dead Yet who have protested outside cinemas.

Yuill outlines some of the information from his book: Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization (2015) 

The whole case for assisted suicide is fictional. Rather than empathy, it is based on anxiety in the worried well. “I’d rather die than suffer like you do”, some actually say out loud to disabled people, who, in my experience are a feisty lot who enjoy (and all too often must fight for) their lives. There are real disabled lives – and there is the narcissistic projection of gloomy imaginings onto the disabled. 

Link to the full article

Shakira Hussein: Why I don't support euthanasia (and you shouldn't either)

This article was published by Hope Australia on May 19, 2016

By Paul Russell

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

The Victorian Parliament's Committee looking into end-of-life issues is due to table a report into its 10 month investigation at the end of this month. Time will tell whether or not they have given appropriate weight to the many excellent submissions from professionals and professional organisations working in palliative medicine. I have my doubts.

Recent press from Victoria suggests that the report will recommend some form of 'assisted dying', whatever that means.

Melbourne academic and commentator, Shakira Hussein, in a recent article at Crikey.com notes the momentum behind the push for law change including media focus on particular cases and, of course, the podcast series and other media appearances by journalist, Andrew Denton.

Of these interventions, she observes that, 'they received a sympathetic response from many who fulminated about right-wing religious politicians refusing to allow patients to choose the time and manner of their deaths. And it’s an issue that is gaining momentum' adding that it, 'is widely supported by many who would consider themselves to be broadly left-wing and/or feminist. Yet I would argue that this constituency ought to be very wary of the attitudes and assumptions underlying legalised euthanasia.'

Hussein bursts the bubble of euthanasia mythology that would have us believe that opposition is the sole preserve of the right of politics. There are legitimate arguments and reasons for not supporting euthanasia and assisted suicide from across the full spectrum on political thinking; reasoning that is accessible to anyone with a mind to think beyond the sloganeering.

Link to the full article

Why on Earth is Anyone Surprised By the Rise in US Suicides? Advertising Works.

This article was published by True Dignity Vermont on April 22, 2016.

News sources are reporting with surprise and seeming alarm on the Center for Disease Control’s newly released statistics showing that deaths by suicide in the entire US are on the rise. Why the surprise? It has been common knowledge since the rise of mass media, and even before, that advertising works. 

True Dignity has neither the expertise nor the time to analyze the CDC report’s statistics in detail. A few quotes will suffice to paint the picture of our current situation.

“The suicide rate in the United States increased by 24% from 1999 through 2014…among all groups. The increase in suicide rate has been steady since 1999, before which there was a consistent decline since 1986…” (USA Today, April 22, 2016).

The USA Today article speculates (which is all anybody can do) that the rise is linked to a poor economy. We at True Dignity cannot fail to note that the rise began just as the economic boom of the 1990s was beginning to wind down, and continued through the fairly affluent 2000s, admittedly rising at a higher rate beginning in 2006, on the brink of the Great Recession. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Though the economy may well have contributed to this rise, True Dignity calls everyone’s attention to a fact that is being ignored. 1998 was the year in which Oregon became the first state in the nation to put legalized assisted suicide into practice. This happened after a furious and widely publicized public argument between pro-assisted suicide forces and those opposing it, an argument waged in the courts and eventually decided by the US Supreme Court, which allowed it in Oregon but declined to make it a right nationally. 1999 was the first year for which the state of Oregon issued its annual report on its assisted suicide deaths. Ironically, this supposedly neutral government report called assisted suicide by the attractive name given to the law that made it legal: Death with Dignity.

The World Health Organization has warned the media that: 1) “Language that misinforms the public about suicide or normalizes it should be avoided”, and that the media should 2) “Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide.” Yet, beginning in the period leading up to the implementation of the Oregon law and reaching a climax with Brittany Maynard’s picture on the cover of People, there has been relentless media promotion of suicide, relentless misinformation about laws that allow medical professionals to facilitate deaths of people who could have lived years and that contain virtually no protections against euthanasia or even murder of a person who, believing him or herself to be terminally ill, has obtained a lethal prescription. We have detailed the ways in which the laws allow this to happen so many times that we won’t repeat ourselves here, only urge you to search our topic list.

Bottom line: Compassion and Choices has engaged in an ad campaign, both paid and freely given by the media, and it has been effective. The only thing that should surprise us about the rise in suicide deaths is that it has not been even bigger. We hope that the efforts of many individuals and groups, including ours, have, by calling suicide exactly what the World Health organization has urged the media to call it, “a public health problem”, contributed to that fact, the only silver lining to a terrible cloud hanging over our nation and the world.

Will we be able to hold the line? California has been the only US state to [pass] assisted suicide legislation since the Maynard campaign, but legalization is a threat in multiple states. Canada’s highest court has ruled that assisted suicide is a right, and has ordered Parliament to write laws to regulate it.

How the assisted suicide lobby won in California

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Michael Cook wrote a very insightful article today titled: How the assisted suicide lobby won in California that was published in the online bioethics site Careful. 

Another good analysis of the assisted suicide lobby was titled: Subversive strategies to sell assisted suicide, by Dr Jacqueline Harvey.

Cook bases his analysis on information from the assisted suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock society. Cook writes:

According to Barbara Coombs Lee, the head of America’s leading assisted suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices (C&C), it was Brittany Maynard, the just-married woman who drank a lethal dose of barbiturates on November 1 last year, a few weeks short of her 30th birthday. She died in Oregon because assisted suicide was illegal in her home state of California. 
Brittany, who had an aggressive brain tumour, wanted to use her death to send a message pleading for the legalisation of assisted suicide. A C&C video about her did exactly that. On October 6 last year it was released on YouTube; on October 5 this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill legalising assisted suicide, a measure which had failed six times since 1988.

Defeat in America's biggest state has been a bitter pill for opponents of assisted suicide. But if you're handed a lemon, make lemonade. It’s also an opportunity to learn the lessons in propaganda which are exemplified so brilliantly in Brittany’s video. 

Link to the full article

Ira Byock: We should think twice about assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Ira Byock

Ira Byock

Dr Ira Byock, who directs the Institute for Human Caring of Providence Health & Services in Los Angeles, wrote an excellent article concerning assisted suicide that was published in the LA Times on January 30, 2015.

The timing of his article is critical with the California assisted suicide bill being debated and assisted suicide bills currently being debated in at least 15 US states.

Byock, who identifies with a politically progressive position explains how assisted suicide is not politically progressive.

As someone who supports all those other liberal causes, yet opposes physician-assisted suicide, I'd ask my fellow progressives to shine a cold hard light on this issue. We have been the target of a decades-long branding campaign that paints hastening death as an extension of personal freedoms. We should bring the same skepticism to physician-assisted suicide that we do to fracking and genetically modified food.

Byock continues by explaining how the assisted suicide lobby has created euphemisms to confuse the assisted suicide debate.

Link to the full article.

Debbie Purdy Dies: Case Echoed I Accuse!

By Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

Debbie Purdy, who won a landmark legal case in the United Kingdom requiring the public prosecutor to issue guidelines when assisted suicide would be prosecuted, has died in hospice after refusing to eat. She was 51.

Purdy’s case thrust the legalization of assisted suicide onto the front burner in the UK in 2009, where it remains today. Ironically, even though she wasn’t terminally ill at the time–and died now because she stopped eating–UK assisted suicide promoters continue to pretend that legalization is about terminal illness. 

Considering Purdy’s case–and the support she received for the right to assisted suicide–it clearly is not. Any such limitation is only the proverbial foot in the door.

I am reminded of the 1941 German pro-euthanasia propaganda movie Ich Klage An! (I Accuse!). As in the Purdy case, the plot involved a woman who contracts progressive MS. As she loses abilities, she wants to die. Her physician husband eventually assists her suicide and is arrested. The movie ends with the character looking into the camera, as if the audience were the judges, declaring:

Link to the full article.

Dr Ashe inappropriately promotes assisted suicide after a violent suicide death.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

Sympathy for the man who died by suicide, and his family, for the suffering and loss that they experienced should be paramount but Ashe is using this sad death as advocacy for assisted suicide. 

Dr Gerald Ashe has inappropriately used the violent suicide death of his patient in Brockville to promote the legalization of assisted suicide. Ashe, an assisted suicide lobby activist, suggested that if assisted suicide were legal, that his patient would not have died a violent suicide death.

The facts in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal suggest otherwise. The rate of violent suicide deaths in Oregon has increased, not decreased since assisted suicide became legal. Similar to Ashe, the suicide lobby in Oregon claimed that legalizing assisted suicide would reduce the incidence of violent suicide deaths. 

Statistics indicate that the suicide rate in Oregon was decreasing during the 1990's but since 2000 the suicide rate has increased faster than the national average. In 2007 the Oregon suicide rate was 35% above the national average and in 2010 it was 41% above the national average. These statistics indicate that legalizing assisted suicide does not reduce the suicide rate but rather leads to a suicide contagion effect.

Link to the full article.