Ian Dowbiggin: A scandal in the euthanasia archives - continued

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Ian Dowbiggin

Ian Dowbiggin

Ian Dowbiggin's article - A scandal in the euthanasia archives - was published in the Prince Arthur Herald on November 30, 2015. Dowbiggin, who is the author of the book: A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, a history professor at UPEI and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada asks - Why has the euthanasia movement hidden or destroyed its history?

Today, the Prince Arthur Herald has published a follow-up article where Dowbiggin responds to an article by Stuart Chambers, a professor at the University of Ottawa, who challenges Dowbiggin's assertion with ad hominem arguments. Dowbiggin responds:

First, let’s dispense with that old canard, used by euthanasia enthusiasts like Chambers, that opponents of euthanasia are all “sanctity of life” proponents. It simply isn’t true; just ask disabilities groups which oppose euthanasia. Nor is it only Christians involved; Islam, Hinduism and many strands of Judaism condemn both assisted suicide and mercy-killing. 
When the euthanasia movement was propagandizing in favour of involuntary mercy-killing for either the good of the species or the economic welfare of society, there was no consensus supporting euthanasia. 
Quite the contrary; there was widespread opposition to this policy. Yet the movement forged ahead in defiance of experts from across the political spectrum and scripted its sorry history. 
Indeed, that is my very point about the euthanasia archives scandal. Chambers and his allies don’t want to open up the topic of their own shady history. If I were in their shoes, I might feel the same way. Their attempts to change public opinion depend on keeping their past under wraps. 
Lastly, Chambers says that even if euthanasia advocates had made mistakes in the past, all is well today. “Euthanasia lobbyists,” he reassures us, could never “maneuver” around the “checks and balances” of euthanasia laws and kill people with disabilities. 

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

Tom Mortier: Surely you’re joking, Mr Denton - Belgian euthanasia is a problem free zone?

This article was published by Mercatornet on their Careful blog on November 4, 2015

By Tom Mortier

Tom Mortier

Tom Mortier

In May 2015 Paul Russell, of Hope, an Australian coalition opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide, invited me to come to Adelaide to speak about my experiences with the Belgian euthanasia law. It is now well known that my physically healthy mother was killed by a lethal injection given by the Flemish euthanasia practitioner Dr Wim Distelmans.

At the conference, Paul told me that someone called Andrew Denton wanted to interview me. I had never heard of Mr Denton, but Paul told me that he was very famous and that it would be a good opportunity to talk with him. So I did. I don’t remember much from the interview, but he did ask searching questions.

I told him that a staff writer from The New Yorker was also working on a piece about the suicide of my mother. When it was eventually published, I forwarded it to him because it gave a good insight into the Flemish euthanasia lobby.

When I spoke with Mr Denton in Adelaide, I didn’t realise that he was so well-known in Australia. He had even been featured pulling faces on the cover of Rolling Stone. I learned that he was both a comedian and a real television celebrity.

But I was very disappointed in his treatment of euthanasia and assisted suicide. He mentioned me during a radio interview but he said that the story of my late mother was sad, but did not prove that the Belgian euthanasia law wasn’t working. Australia needed an euthanasia law as soon as possible and Belgium (and the Netherlands) is the model, he declared.

Most citizens support the law and “only five percent” of all deaths there are due to lethal injections, he claims. For Denton, it is all about “free choice”. He told TV viewers that he had attended a big “anti-euthanasia” conference and that everything that the people had been telling him during that conference was a lie. Belgian euthanasia is a problem-free zone.

No problems, Mr Denton? Really? Are you speaking as a comedian or as a journalist? Perhaps you should watch a bit more Australian television.

Link to the full article

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

Study: Euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, 100 Belgian cases

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) will publish a "study" on July 27, 2015 examining 100 requests for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in Belgium. 

Link to the early release of the study.

Four of the six authors of the study are connected to the euthanasia clinic in Belgium.

Wim Distlemans operates the euthanasia clinic in Belgium, and Lieve Thienpont, Kurt Audenaert, Peter P De Deyn work with the euthanasia clinic. 

Distelmans has been connected to many of the high profile euthanasia deaths, including Godelieva De Troyer, the mother of Tom Mortier.

Thienport is the psychiatrist who approved the euthanasia death in the recent story of "Laura" the 24-year-old physically healthy Belgian woman who lives with suicidal thoughts. 

Thienport was the psychiatrist who examined the 100 people who requested euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. 

Link to a Youtube video of Thienport explaining the outcome of the "study."

The stated objectives of this study are: 

first, to report on characteristics of psychiatric patients requesting euthanasia because of psychological suffering; and second, to describe the formal assessment procedures and outcomes of the euthanasia requests. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the determinants, procedures and outcomes of euthanasia requests in a relatively large group of psychiatric patients with psychological suffering.

The objectives of this "study" should state: this study was written to justify lethal injection for people who are healthy but living with psychological suffering in Belgium. It is possible that Distelmans and Thienport designed the study in defense of the practise of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons after receiving complaints.

What did the study find?

The "study" examines 100 consequtive requests for euthanasia at a psychiatric out-patient clinic between October 2007 and December 2011. The analysis of the data closed in December 2012. The data states:

  • 77 euthanasia requests were woman, 23 were men,
  • 48 of the requests were approved and 35 died by euthanasia, 
  • 1 died by palliative sedation (sedation with withdrawal of water),
  • the average age was 47,
  • 58 were depressed, 50 had a personality disorder,
  • 12 were autistic, (I have an autistic son), 13 had post traumatic stress, 11 had anxiety disorder, 10 had an eating disorder, etc

The study begins by promoting the "safeguards" in the Belgian euthanasia law and explaining how the safeguards for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons follows tighter safeguards. This first section of the study takes pains to convince the readers that euthanasia is carefully done in Belgium.

Link to the full article

Belgium’s euthanasia establishment hisses back

This article was published by HOPE Australia on June 26, 2015 and Mercatornet on June 30, 2015.

By Paul Russell, the director of HOPE Australia: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide,

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

The name and the story of Belgian chemist Dr Tom Mortier has become known throughout the world. His physically well mother was clinically depressed. Yet in 2012 she was euthanised without his knowledge in Belgium. He and his sister were left to pick up the pieces.

His experience was recently described in a stunning feature in The New Yorker by journalist Rachel Aviv. Ever since his mother’s death Tom has been campaigning against legalized euthanasia in Belgium, much to the consternation of figures in the euthanasia establishment who have become the darlings of the media. 

“I am afraid that the notion of ‘free will’ has become dogma, behind which it is easy to hide,” Tom wrote in a Belgian medical journal. “Wouldn’t it be better to invest in mental health and palliative care?”

The establishment was indignant at this impertinence. Etienne Vermeersch, who has been called the most influential intellectual in the country, complained that Tom was conducting a “smear campaign”. Seven thousand people signed a petition objecting to the criticism. At least he knows who his enemies are…

Tom spoke recently about his experiences at a symposium I organised in Adelaide, South Australia, and two weeks later in Dublin. We have corresponded and talked on and off for the last few years after meeting briefly in Brussels in November of 2013.

Link to the full article

Belgium euthanasia promoters attack man whose mother died by euthanasia

This article was written by Professor Tom Mortier and published on his blog.

 The Flemish newspaper De Morgen has been discrediting me for three years now. 

Professor Tom Mortier

Professor Tom Mortier

Today this newspaper gave Bernheim & Vermeersch the opportunity to publish an ad hominem viewpoint where they show no empathy at all and where they attack me enormously. 

I have never spoken with these two people although I have questioned the work of Bernheim in the scientific literature because I don't think that what he has published is a good example of true science. And yes, I do think now that Vermeersch is not practicing scientific thinking. He has no other arguments than to attack me personally without ever having had a conversation with me. From now one, I will continue to question these nihilistic thinkers who can't bear criticism and I will continue to ask questions about what's truly happening in my country. 

See for yourself via: http://www.demorgen.be/opinie/overhaaste-euthanasie-geloof-niet-alles-wat-the-new-yorker-schrijft-a2376922/

Professor Tom Mortier's depressed mother died by euthanasia on December 19, 2012.

Dr's Jan Bernheim and Etienne Vermeersch are long-time promoters of euthanasia in Belgium.