Founder of American assisted suicide lobby urges legalization of euthanasia

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Derek Humphry

Derek Humphry

Derek Humphry, the "father" of the modern assisted suicide lobby in America and co-founder of the Hemlock Society, now Compassion & Choices, is urging the assisted suicide lobby to extend the criteria for assisted suicide laws and to legalize euthanasia (lethal injection) in America.

In an article published on his website, Humphry states:

Passing these so-called ‘prescription laws’ is a wonderful start but it is not the complete answer. 
The future in the choice in dying movement lies with a deliberate widening of the scope of people for whom we will campaign publicly and whom we will help. (This is already happening in Europe.) Then who?

Humphrey outlines five directions that the assisted suicide lobby in America should go:

1. It is time to consider more seriously offering to help persons with long-term, untreatable, serious mental illness. 
2. Persons with what I call ‘terminal old-age’ whose advanced years and accompanying medical problems no longer make their life worth living. 
3. We should begin to argue for the current Death With Dignity Acts now passed in the four states to be improved. Humphrey suggests that the laws be extended to include people who are likely to die within 12 months, rather than 6 months, and to legalize euthanasia (lethal injection) for people who cannot swallow. 
4. We must think through and tackle the problem of when and how Alzheimer’s patients and persons with long-term degenerative diseases can be helped to die ... 
5. Long-term, we should consider opening a clinic to help the sort of people I’ve just been talking about.

Humphry concludes his article by stating that these are his thoughts only.

Ian Dowbiggin: A scandal in the euthanasia archives

The Prince Arthur Herald published this article on November 30, 2015. Ian Dowbiggin is the author of the book: A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America

Why has the euthanasia movement hidden or destroyed its history?

 

By Ian Dowbiggin 
Imagine for a moment that reporters broke the news that the Vatican had destroyed the bulk of its archival records. Researchers around the world justifiably might accuse the Roman Catholic Church of a deliberate cover-up. 
Well, the Vatican has done no such thing. But it appears as if the right-to-die movement has. If so, one might well ask; why did people in the movement do it? Are they trying to hide something about their past? 
One thing is clear: if the euthanasia movement’s records have indeed been destroyed, a lot of history has vanished, Orwell-like, down a cavernous memory hole. And with it, information the right-to-die movement doesn’t want you to know. 
I should know, because I saw these records and I know what was in them. I wrote up my findings in my 2003 book on the history of the movement, published by Oxford University Press. 
The story of my involvement in these valuable records begins about fifteen years ago when I was given permission to explore the archives of what used to be called Partnerships for Caring, Inc. PFC was a successor organization to the defunct Euthanasia Society of America (ESA). The ESA records, housed in a law firm in Baltimore, consisted of 15 large cardboard boxes holding correspondence, financial records, press releases, published materials and minutes of meetings, much of it uncatalogued. 

Link to the full article

When assisted suicide become banal

This article was published in the CMAJ blogs on November 24, 2015

Dr Rene Leiva

Dr Rene Leiva

By Dr Rene Leiva

I read with interest the CMAJ Editor in Chief’s latest editorial about protecting the right of physicians to conscientiously object to being party to physician hastened death. Principled medicine has dealt with suffering since Hippocratic tenets were first formulated about 2400 years ago. It is only in the last fifty years that causing death has been construed as ‘medical treatment’ for suffering, which I firmly believe to be erroneous. I’m disturbed to see that while Quebec is leading the country on euthanasia only a fraction of its population has access to palliative care. Palliative Care has been around for close to forty years, but Quebec's new law on ‘medical aid in dying’ expects to make that option available to 100 per cent of Quebecers in a matter of months.

In Belgium, hastened death has become part of the culture: despite having initially focused on the competent adult who is terminally ill, it has quickly moved into euthanasia for mental suffering and dementia, and for those tired of living, as well as children; it is commonly practiced by other health professionals such as nurses despite this being illegal. Medically assisted deaths have risen by 640% in Belgium since the law was adopted in 2002 and there are a significant number of deaths without consent as well as under reporting.

When I first met Tom Mortier through mutual acquaintances, he impressed upon me his concerns about the dangers of living in a society that embraces hastened death and shared the sad and tragic account of his mother’s euthanasia under the Belgian law. Her story was the focus of a recent article in the New Yorker and part of an Australian TV documentary. He often forwards me information on euthanasia cases and events that in a different culture or time would have been unthinkable: from the doctor who euthanized his mother leading an ‘educational trip’ to the Nazi camp Auschwitz to leaders in the field celebrating euthanasia as having ‘a life-intensifying and sacred dimension’.

Not all the founders of the hastened death movement have remained convinced they were doing the right thing. Ann Humphry, the late co-founder of the Hemlock Society, now Compassion and Choices, deeply regretted her actions. She was concerned that sick and vulnerable people might feel subtle pressures to relieve their families and friends of the emotional burdens of their lingering death. Is this unrealistic? Last year, a Canadian woman committed suicide while promoting the legalization of hastened death. Part of her manifesto stated that ‘I can live or vegetate for perhaps ten years in hospital at Canada’s expense, costing anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 per year,” she said. “Nurses, who thought they were embarked on a career that had great meaning, find themselves perpetually changing my diapers and reporting on the physical changes of an empty husk. It is ludicrous, wasteful and unfair”. Is this the message we want to communicate about the value of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives as the end approaches?

Link to the full article