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

European Court of Human Rights rejects assisted suicide case

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Today, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a case to overturn Britain's assisted suicide law.

The case was brought to the Court of Human Rights by Jane Nicklinson, the widow of Tony Nicklinson, a man had who lived with locked-in syndrome and Paul Lamb who had become paralysed in an accident.

In rejecting the case, the European Court of Human Rights stated that:

the UK Parliament was "best placed" to rule on such a sensitive issue.

On June 25, 2014; the UK Supreme Court also rejected an attempt by Nicklinson and Lamb to overturn the laws protecting people from assisted suicide. Not Dead Yet UK spokesperson, Kevin Fitzpatrick, responded to the UK Supreme Court decision by stating:

Euthanasia and assisted suicide is profoundly dangerous, irrespective of such hard cases, not least because they pose a very grave risk to thousands of disabled people who have been made vulnerable by cuts in health and social care services and welfare benefits, making some feel they would be better off dead and no longer a burden on their family and friends.

The British House of Commons will be debating a bill to legalize assisted suicide this fall.

Not Dead Yet UK recently sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron explaining why they oppose assisted suicide and organized a rally featuring an excellent speech by disability leader and actress Liz Carr.

Not Dead Yet - UK: Open letter to David Cameron

The following letter was written by Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick on behalf of Not Dead Yet UK to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister,

We are hugely grateful for your stated personal opposition to legalising assisted suicide, especially in light of the forthcoming ‘Marris Bill’ (September 11, 2015) in the House of Commons. We are however deeply concerned about the intention to have a ‘free vote’ at that time. That such that a law might be passed with such consequences, especially for vulnerable and disabled people, on the strength of ‘individual conscience’, is very worrying indeed.

We imagine that you already know that no Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) has favoured a change in law to permit third party intervention in any individual’s end-of-life decisions. Not Dead Yet UK is the lead DPO speaking out in Britain, and for example in the US disabled colleagues have been clear in rejecting such laws, for reasons of their consequences. Legislators there have almost universally turned away from their intentions to legalise assisted suicide once they are fully informed of those consequences.

Through rigorous research, we have gathered a body of evidence that such laws are not only dangerous, leading to the deaths of disabled people, but they also fundamentally depend on the stated views of their ‘architects’ in other jurisdictions, that our disabled lives are ‘not worth living’. This is paradigmatic disability discrimination – fatal discrimination in this instance.

Certainly some disabled individuals, like some non-disabled people, do come to seriously consider dying early, but disabled people will sometimes reflect their communities, discussions in the public domain and other factors. While we respect their views, we are at pains to distinguish a very few individual voices, supported by a wealthy pro-assisted suicide lobby, from our collective view. The effect of any law is to cover every citizen. Extension of the law’s reach, once passed, is almost immediate to those supposedly never intended to be ‘beneficiaries’ of them. 

We see the lack of universally available best palliative and social care, and critically the right kind of human support, as core to what leads many people to despair of their futures, however long or short they may be. When the only choice available to someone in despair is death, we count that as no choice at all. The rhetoric around choice an autonomy is just that – rhetoric. Choice is an illusion, and the proposed law places all the decision-making power in the hands of doctors anyway, removing it from patients.

Link to the full letter

Opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide based on evidence of disability discrimination

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the director of Hope Ireland.

The inaccuracies and elisions in the Economist article:Doctors should be allowed to help the suffering and terminally ill to die when they choose came as a shock. I thought that the Economist held to finer standards of journalism.

Canada recently wrote into law that disability is, in and of itself, sufficient reason for a euthanasia death. Professor Em Etienne Vermeersch declaimed (Goethe Institute, November 13, 2013): Belgium's euthanasia law was written for disabled people, who quite rightly in in his view, would want to die: a transsexual deeply failed by family and ‘healthcare’, an anorexic woman sexually abused by her treating psychiatrist, a woman being treated for depression with medication known to bring suicidal ideation, deaf twins who found they were also becoming blind who were deeply afraid of being institutionalised? Now a young 24 year old woman who thinks euthanasia is a 'nice idea’, finds planning her own death and funeral 'fun' is granted a euthanasia death because 'life is not for her'. She formed this idea after a friend committed suicide eighteen months ago. All of them would absolutely qualify for protection under disability discrimination law in the UK. What they are getting is a false positive: 'of course we understand. Yes, we have the solution for you at the end of a syringe.’

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