Euthanasia in Belgium: Dateline special report: Allow me to die

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

This article was published on the HOPE Australia website on September 16.

By Paul Russell

The documentary filmed by the Australian Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and made by their highly regarded European Correspondent, Brett Mason looked at the Belgian euthanasia regime through the lens of personal stories.

As the documentary unfolds we hear clearly from Mason, a voice of concern. To his credit, both in the documentary and in his blog story, he doesn’t put his own views nor conclusions. Clearly, however, the reality of euthanasia is very different from his initial conceptual thoughts as evidenced in these comments from the blog:

“I was taken aback - not for the first time in recent weeks - by just how mundane and unremarkable euthanasia is to those who perform it.” 
“I’m unable to bury a burning sense of anguish in the pit of my stomach. While I fully accept and respect that this decision was the patient’s and the patient’s alone, over these last nine months I’ve been filming in Belgium questions have repeatedly been asked about how this nation’s euthanasia laws are safeguarded.”

Reflection during the program came in the testimonies of Belgian, Tom Mortier, whose mother was euthanased without his knowledge and Dutch Professor, Theo Boer, who had formerly been a member of one of the Dutch euthanasia review committees. Both had formerly supported their countries laws. It would be wrong to suggest that Professor Boer is now totally opposed, but Tom Mortier most certainly is so. Both raised concerns that the Belgian and Dutch laws had moved far beyond any initial sense and remit as being only for terminally ill people and only at the end of life when all else had failed.

The documentary then follows two people contemplating euthanasia. Neither, it should be said, are terminally ill.

Link to the full article

Assisted suicide promotion has led to more youth suicide in Australia

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Judith Taylor, the mother of Lucas

Judith Taylor, the mother of Lucas

Philip Nitschke has been promoting assisted suicide for many years. Recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that Nitschke's is promotion of suicide techniques has led to many younger people dying by suicide.

The Sydney Morning Herald featured the story of Lucas Taylor (26) who died in 2012, after receiving suicide assistance from Nitschke and his group.

Judith Taylor, the mother of Lucas, told the Morning Herald:

Twenty-six-year-old Lucas Taylor took his own life by taking Nembutal more than three years ago, but he still gets Exit International's email newsletter. 

Judith Taylor, the mother of Lucas.

After his death in 2012 his mother Judith went through his emails looking for answers and found he had been a paid up member of the organisation. 
the deaths among younger people were an "unintended consequence" of the voluntary euthanasia movement putting out information online on suicide methods.

Nembutal is a veterinary euthanasia drug. 

According the Sydney Morning Herald:

New data from the national coronial information system shows 120 people died by taking Nembutal .. between July 2000 and December 2012. 
The deaths included one person under the age of 20, 11 people in their 20s and 14 people in their 30s. 
Voluntary euthanasia campaigners say the actual number of Nembutal deaths is even higher, as many deaths are not reported to the coroner and people who use the drug to take their lives take steps to make it look like the death is of natural causes.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact Your Life Counts.

Nitschke is also fighting to keep his Australian medical license. There have been 12 complaints to the Australian Medical Board concerning Nitschke and his group Exit International.

Link to the full article

Belgian newspaper defends death doctor - Wim Distelmans

This article was published on the HOPE Australia website.

By Paul Russell, Vice Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - International

Tom mortier

Tom mortier

We reported recently about the excellent expose written by Rachel Aviv and published in the prestigeous The New Yorker journal.

Written around the story of Tom Mortier and the euthanasia death of his mother who was not ill but, rather living with depression, Aviv adds skillfully the details and comments from two other Belgians who also lost mothers to euthanasia in similar circumstances to Mortier.

The New Yorker does not engage in 'click bait' cheap journalism. Moreover, with such a detailed article on such a sensitive subject, their 'fact checking unit' will surely have examined Aviv's offering thoroughly before publication. That in itself is reason enough to consider the article in full - even if the reader is unsure or supportive of euthanasia in theory.

The truth, as Aviv uncovers, is that theory and practice in Belgium are miles apart. Any wonder that the expose on the main characters involved in these euthanasia deaths has touched a raw nerve. Never fear: the Dutch-language Belgian newspaper, De Morgen, has jumped to the defence!

De Morgen gives voice to the two medicos involved in the three deaths; Wim Distelmans in two cases and neurologist, Peter De Deyn. Both are dismissive of The New Yorker report but neither offer anything more than oblique criticism and, interestingly, neither mention Tom Mortier and the death of his mother.

Consider also that both cases involving Distelmans have been the subject of official complaints; so subjudicy is not the consideration here.

Link to the full article

New Zealand the assisted suicide debate changes venues.

This article was published on June 12 by Mercatornet.

By Paul Russell - Director of Hope Australia.

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

On June 6 Justice Collins handed down his judgement in the High Court of New Zealand in a case brought by Lecretia Seales. Ms Seales had asked the court whether it would be an offence under the Crimes Act for her doctor to be able to help her die and whether a ban on assisted dying contravened the New Zealand Bill of Rights. In rejecting her application Justice Collins observed that:

"Ms Seales’ doctor would have been at risk of being prosecuted for either murder or manslaughter if she administered a fatal drug to Ms Seales intending to kill her. She would have been at risk of being charged with assisting suicide if she provided Ms Seales with a fatal drug, intending for Ms Seales take that drug and if Ms Seales died as a consequence."

This decision has significant implications in the wake of the Robin Stransham-Ford case in South Africa, where Judge Fabricius approved euthanasia or assisted suicide for the appellant, and the Canadian decision in the Carter case that declared effectively that the prohibition on assisted suicide and euthanasia were contrary to provisions in the Canadian Bill of Rights.

In all three cases the appeals have been based on a false premise that the disabilities of advancing illness would render people unable to commit suicide at a time of their choosing and that their rights were being denied on an equal basis with other citizens. This is emotional blackmail. As a colleague of mine expressed it recently: 

"If you won't promise to kill me later when I ask you to then I will kill myself sooner ... and you will have killed me!"

This is all predicated on the false assumption that, because suicide has been decriminalized that it is legal; if it is legal, then it is a right; if it is a right then it should be accessible to all, including people with a disability.

Let's be clear: suicide was decriminalized because it is not in the best interests of a suicide survivor. Suicide is not legal. There is no right to suicide.

I use the word 'disability' deliberately in the context of all three appellants because this is precisely the basis upon which their claims were made. In fact, the Canadian Supreme Court directly identified disability as one of the reasons why someone might ask for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Link to the full article

A plea from the son of a euthanised Belgian woman

Tom Mortier

Tom Mortier

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The recent 2015 HOPE International Symposium opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide featured many excellent speakers, including Professor Tom Mortier, who's depressed mother died by euthanasia in Belgium.

Rebecca DiGirolamo interviewed Mortier at the Symposium in Australia for the Southern Cross news.

DiGirolamo's article begins by expressing Mortier's purpose for speaking at the Symposium in Australia.

The son of a clinically depressed woman euthanised under Belgium’s liberal laws has warned Australian politicians against legalising euthanasia. 
“I want to warn people by telling my story,” said Mr Mortier, a chemistry professor in Belgium. 
He said his mother was a 64-year-old woman in perfect physical health with a treatable illness when she was killed by lethal injection in 2012 following a relationship break-up. 
He said he was not involved in the decision making process nor was he contacted by the doctor who euthanised her, Dr Wim Distelmans.

Link to the full article

There’s always hope - brain tumour treatment breakthrough

By Paul Russell, the director of HOPE Australia.

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

To discourage or deny hope must be one of the cruelest things any one person can do to another.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide enthusiasts peddle a wide range of slogans to further their goals and to influence the public towards the thought that perhaps being legally able to help someone to die or to kill them is a benefit both to the individual and to society at large.

That they should ‘sloganise’ their campaigns is entirely unremarkable; it’s what every organisation pushing for some change or some recognition would do. That their slogans are paper-thin veneers over precisely the opposite outcome is where the danger really lies.

Take for example the slogan of ‘choice’. This modern concept of ‘choice’ is closely aligned to autonomy – our right to self-determination and self-direction. Its use is beguiling precisely because ‘choice’ in general terms is prized as an integral part of freedom broadly understood.

However, in the context of euthanasia or assisted suicide, the ‘choice’ to be made dead is not really a choice at all; it is the end of choice precisely because it excludes all other possibilities in such a definite and irredeemable fashion. It excludes any and all other choices.

How many times have we heard stories of people who have ‘defied-the-odds’ and outlived a difficult prognosis by months and years and even experiencing remission to return to a full ‘normal’ life? There have even been cases of misdiagnosis resulting tragically in assisted suicide. Making the ‘choice’ to be dead denies any other possibility and extinguishes both life and hope.

Link to the full article.

Brittany Maynard - Don't rob them of hope

Denis Strangman

Denis Strangman

Brittany Maynard is a 29-year-old woman who learned not long after her wedding that she had an aggressive brain tumour. She has announced that she has chosen to die on November 1, by assisted suicide in Oregon. A video that she made by the leading assisted suicide organisation in the US, Compassion and Choices, has been a huge hit on YouTube. Dennis Strangman is an Australian whose wife died of a similar disease.

By: Denis Strangman the former chair of the International Brain Tumour Alliance. 

I am very sorry to read that you have a brain tumor, and especially that you plan to kill yourself.

Although we live on different continents thousands of miles apart, and belong to different generations, I sympathise with your situation, though not with your plans. I am glad that you say your proposed suicide date is not “set in stone.” I sincerely hope you will quietly forget about it and choose life. Do not be stampeded in trying to meet your “deadline” by “Compassion and Choices” or other advocates for assisted suicide.

Link to the full article