Honouring Kevin Fitzpatrick (OBE)

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick (OBE)

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick (OBE)

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick (OBE) passed away two weeks ago.

For me, Kevin was a trusted colleague and friend who I will always miss. I learned a lot from Kevin and I will carry those lessons with me forever.

Kevin accepted many leadership roles and he was an example of what can be done when people work together. Kevin was the director of EPC - International, the director of Hope Ireland and the past director of EPC - Europe.

Kevin was also a key leader with Not Dead Yet - UK and acted as their spokesperson for several of their successful campaigns.

Kevin's professional background gave his approach to the debate on how to care for and support people with terminal and incurable illnesses and disabilities a particularly well-rounded quality. From disability (Disability Wales; Disability Rights Commission; Inclusion21; Not Dead Yet UK) to adoption (the Welsh Government's Adoption Expert Advisory Group; St David's Children's Society), not to mention five years with the Welsh Ambulance Trust, Kevin's outlook was firmly rooted in seeking answers to a single question: 'how can we as a society work to support and uphold the value of every person around us?' This was his life's work, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised. (borrowed from the Care Not Killing Alliance)

Kevin was a great communicator. Kevin wrote many articles, he did many debates, he was interviewed on countless occasions and he provided excellent conference speeches. Here are links to his recent articles:

Kevin was a collaborator. Kevin knew that success came through activating many people who have different perspectives. Kevin knew that there were many reasons to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. He was most comfortable speaking from his personal experience with disability, but he was also incredibly effective at reaching out to multiple political points of view.

Kevin was a leader. Kevin knew the direction that we needed to go and he shared his wisdom with everyone who he worked with. He had a way of listening to perspectives and carefully correcting false ideas. Several leaders have shared with me the way that Kevin would help them and advise them in their advocacy. He was a patient leader, even when he didn't agree.

Kevin was a family man and my friend. My experience with Kevin was that he put the needs of his family, especially his wife Fabienne, before himself. He was proud of his children, Terry, Gerry and Sue. He was sick for sometime, but he shared with me his concern for his family and placed them ahead of himself.

There are so many people who experienced Kevin, as a gifted friend, in their lives. I for one, will always be thankful for the opportunity of having him in my life.

Judgement day in SCC Canada decision revisited – disability discrimination to death

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE, is the director of Hope Ireland.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

February 6, 2015 was a disastrous day for Canadians with disabilities - not just for them - but for all disabled people everywhere, and all people made vulnerable by the fact that they are facing end-of-life decisions. 

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) judgement writes euthanasia into law on the grounds of disability alone. That is archetypal disability discrimination – in this case, to death. 

Disabled people must resist what is the biggest threat we have seen to our lives to date, written into a legal judgement. So must everyone else: this is about the kind of society we all want to live in.

Within the SCC judgment, there are deeply flawed assumptions about human life and living in general, and specifically about what it means to live with a disability. There are significant factual errors also.

Disabled people opposing the legalisation of euthanasia/assisted suicide have never doubted that some disabled people will reach a view that ‘they cannot go on like this’. But despair is not confined to those disabled people, or people who are gravely ill, or people who feel they have ‘lost everything’.

Why then single out disabled people as a ‘special group’ amongst all those who will consider taking their own lives at some point? Disabled people are not a ‘homogenous group’ – we reflect the whole cross-section of society (which is why it is wrong to speak of ‘the disabled’). So some disabled people will absorb and reflect the thinking of their time, of their communities, and simply accept that this very public, and very poor debate conducted in the media, must have some force. Others will reflect more seriously.

Link to the full article

Belgium: ‘Euthanasia leads to the decline of a society?

This article was published on the HOPE Ireland website.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the director of HOPE Ireland.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Hermann de Dijn, emeritus professor of philosophy at the Belgian University of Leuven, says: ‘Once the law is there, you have people asking themselves new questions… ‘Do I really have quality of life? Am I not a burden on others?’

De Dijn believes that ‘human dignity should include not only respect for personal choices but also for connectedness to loved ones and society.’ The concept of human dignity in Belgium has been ‘reduced to the ability to have certain experiences’.[1]

He is absolutely right of course. The concept has been stretched beyond its limits. It has lost all meaning in Belgium.

We must now, ever more urgently, return to clear ground, to be sure we are really speaking about dignity, not some corrupted notion which has no actual bearing on what should be our proper concerns.

If the questions are not exactly new, the locus of them is: Belgium’s veneration of death – the lazy moral thinking in a whole society which has allowed itself to be led on a leash to accept the idea that death is, and should be, the default ‘treatment’ for all ailments. This is the societal tectonic shift that allows a young woman, just 24 years old, with apparently serious mental health issues, to apply for and be granted a euthanasia death (believed to be scheduled for August this year), and to say she finds ‘euthanasia a nice idea’.
I was under the impression that children do not form a concept of death until about the age of 7 years, yet this young woman speaks about wanting to die at 4 years old. I can’t buy that. Language development is essential to intellectual development. We cannot form concepts for which we have no words. Early years’ development in children is sufficiently academically explored to make me very suspicious at least, of this ‘memory’.

Personal experience is not scientific, but it is still evidence. I know the interventions of some psychiatrists actually do more damage than good. I want to ask: is her memory then ‘recovered’ memory – false memory? It is very difficult to be clear. It is entirely possible that she genuinely feels the way the short piece I could read indicates.

But in most other healthcare the first response to suicidal ideation is suicide prevention, not a ‘validating’ white-coated arm around the shoulder from a supposedly trusted professional, a doctor who says; ‘Well we can help. We have euthanasia.’

Link to the full article

Assisted suicide for disabled people – democracy in Britain?

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE, Director of Hope Ireland, and published on the Hope Ireland's blog.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor’s recent research results[1] are extremely important.

As Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said in a public debate (Southbank, January 28 2012), ‘This is about the kind of society we want to live in’.

Cohen-Almagor’s paper reprises a truth Baroness Jane Campbell, founder of Not Dead Yet UK, has spent years trying to help people understand. We have clear evidence that assisted suicide/euthanasia laws are aimed primarily at disabled people. Lord Falconer has now openly admitted this on the Daily Politics show (BBC 9 June 2015).

Pain, we have repeatedly said, is not the primary reason for asking for assisted suicide. Falconer agrees: ‘…pain…can be dealt with…it is the sense of people losing independence and being reliant on other people…there’s a small number of people who…find that an intolerable position…’ Yes, 61% of people in Washington State US say they want to die because they feel themselves ‘to be a burden on others’.[2]  No small number that.

Rob Marris, MP is now determined to bring forward in the House of Commons the Assisted Dying Bill. But this softened language is mere disguise according to page 39 of Lord Falconer’s own ‘commission’ report: ‘assisted dying’ just means ‘Assisted suicide/voluntary euthanasia’.[3]

Marris topped the ballot for a Private Member’s Bill. Falconer came twenty-first. Suddenly, Marris had adopted Falconer’s Bill as his own project. I cannot help but wonder how the other nineteen who came out of the hat before Falconer now feel. Is this really democracy in action? So that people may die if they fear the kind of ‘dependence’ millions of us disabled people accommodate every day?

Link to the full article

Dublin Ireland - new group opposing euthanasia & assisted suicide launched.

Thank you to Paul Russell for writing this article and posting it on the Hope Australia website.

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kevin Fitzpatrick

It was a great privilege to be invited to be present at the launch of the new organisation, HOPE Ireland and to speak at their inaugural conference in Dublin on the 6th of June.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, director of HOPE Ireland, convened the conference in the wake of recent announcements that a bill will soon be tabled in the Dail (Parliament) in the nation's first attempt through the parliament at legalising assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg, head of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International opened the conference and set the scene with the troubling history of both euthanasia and assisted suicide in the few jurisdictions where these practices are approved in law.

William Binchy, Fellow Emeritus, School of Law at Trinity College Dublin outlined the current case law on euthanasia and assisted suicide and reflected on the challenges that these decisions pose to the protection and application of human rights.

Caroline Roux explained the current troubling developments in France including a dangerous decision in the European Court of Human Rights that endorsed a French Court's earlier decision to starve and dehydrate Vincent Lambert.

Henk Reitsema (Holland) and Tom Mortier (Belgium) outlined their personal and family distress at the euthanasia deaths of a family member while Henk also exposed the undercover killing of patients without consent occurring through the specious use of sedation and then dehydration to death in The Netherlands.

Link to the full article

Hope Ireland: Assisted suicide and euthanasia could be discriminatory towards people with disabilities

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kevin Fitzpatrick

HOPE Ireland - Saying No to Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide held its inaugural conference before a "full-house" at the RDS Centre in Dublin. Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick told RTE news that: 'legalising assisted suicide would have catastrophic consequences.'

Link to the video news report.
Listen to the interview on News Talk radio.

The RTE news reported that:

Director of the group, Kevin Fitzpatrick, warned that it was not possible to put enough safeguards into legislation to cover every aspect of human nature and human motivation. 
Dr Fitzpatrick, who is partially paralysed and who uses a wheelchair, said that assisted suicide and euthanasia were discriminatory against disabled people, arguing that while doctors would not hesitate to treat able-bodied people with suicidal ideation, the same was not always true for the disabled or those with other conditions. 
"Too many doctors look at someone like me, or someone with a progressive condition in a worse situation, and they say, "yeah, we can't blame you" [if you are feeling suicidal.]" Dr Fitzpatrick said. 
He went on to say that such a response was based solely on the persons disability, and, he said, that was where the discrimination came in, and that such discrimination "leads to death". 
Dr Fitzpatrick said that evidence showed that "once you open the door and legalise [euthanasia] things change dramatically," and that's what HOPE Ireland wants to prevent.

Conference speakers were from Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Australia including Alex Schadenberg and Amy Hasbrouck from Canada.

HOPE Ireland conference opposing euthanasia

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

On June 6th 2015 the inaugural Hope Ireland conference will take place in the RDS in Dublin. This free-to-attend conference will focus on how euthanasia laws are rooted in discrimination against disabled people of all ages and will highlight the terrible consequences of legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide in other countries.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Director of Hope Ireland Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE said that the current law in Ireland protected vulnerable people and saved lives. ‘Those defences in law cover every citizen of Ireland and must be maintained, strengthened if possible, not overthrown.’

“We must look to the experience of other countries and states where we can see once euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is legalised those laws are very quickly extended to people who are not terminally ill at all, most often targeting vulnerable people. In Belgium one in twenty deaths are now deliberately caused. Euthanasia for children of any age is now legal. A Belgian government adviser stated publicly in 2013, their euthanasia law was drawn up specifically for disabled people who he believed were right to want to die. Now this includes considering euthanizing a man with bi-polar condition, and life-term prisoners who are fed up in jail.

Early this year Canada specifically legalised euthanasia even when the sole criterion was on the grounds of disability. Dr Fitzpatrick said that it was now impossible to deny euthanasia laws were rooted in discrimination against disabled people and were used to end the lives of people who were not terminally ill.

Link to the full article