Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Euthanasia's Double Standard

Frankly, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

A Canadian soldier has just been thrown out of the military for actions he took in Afghanistan – demoted and discharged for actions on the battlefield.

After a firefight, Captain Robert Semrau happened upon a severely wounded Taliban fighter. Because of the remoteness of the area and the severity of the man’s wounds, Captain put the fighter out of his misery with two quick rifle rounds to the chest.

Cue uproar in the Canadian press who are astounded that the officer avoided jail time and charges of at least manslaughter (if not murder).

But there is a terrible irony here.

What Captain Semrau did was exactly what the pro-death crowd in Canada are currently trying to make legal.

The pro-death crowd go on and on about how people should be allowed to be euthanized when they (a) have a poor quality of life, (b) when there is no hope of recovery, (c) when the condition is terminal, (d) to end suffering and (e) have someone close by willing to euthanize them.

These are the exact criteria Semrau used to kill.

Oh, there was one difference, you say: The Taliban fighter didn’t ask to be euthanized.

Nice try – there are thousands of people all over the world, but especially in the Netherlands and Belgium, who fulfill all the criteria above and who never asked to be euthanized.

Killing is killing, no matter where it happens, and painting it as compassion is unacceptable.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pro-Death Lobby Not As Powerful As They Think

There seems to be more conversation about assisted sucide and euthanasia now more than several years ago.

Currently, there are governmental hearings on euthanasia all over Quebec, a parliamentary debate in the Scottish Parliament, and a resurrection of the euthanasia debate in Western Australia.

The Dignitas death-clinic in Switzerland continues unhindered in spite of the Swedish Government tut-tutting that the clinic is giving Swiss euthanasia a bad name.

Even in parts of the developing world, including India, are being sucked in to this horror, to say nothing of New Zealand, Spain, and Tasmania.

I’d love to report that these are informed, serious debates that would show, quite obviously, that killing people for whatever reasons the pro-death lobby can manufacture is wrong.

Just wrong.

However, that’s hardly the case. The pro-death lobby is in high gear shaping most of these “debates” as nothing more than pro-death spin. Our side has been represented, to be sure, but it’s hardly a well-matched battle.

However, if you read reports from all these places carefully, there is a distinct shrill quality about the pro-death position.

It’s easy explained: The moment the pro-death lobby faces opposition they become startled and somewhat even more unreasonable.


Because they know, deep down, that what they are promulgating is killing, not “dignity” or “deliverance."

We need even more people to oppose the pro-death lobby; they’re not anywhere as powerful as they would have us believe.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tony Lived Before He Died

Two years ago, on a visit to South Africa, I met a most extraordinary man. Tony had lived in a hospice for several years completely immobilized by Motor Neuron Disease, except for being able to move his eyes, talk, and swallow.

Tony’s extraordinariness didn’t come from his disease, but how he coped with it. It wasn’t possible to ignore that he was in a hospice, or that his disease was degenerative, and that the room in which we talked would be the place of his death. However, that all faded into the background very quickly. We talked about old times (we discovered that we had been raised in the same neighborhood), politics (we argued quite a bit, as I recall), and of course, sport.

There were jokes, both light and decidedly dark while Tony enjoyed a cocktail or two.

He was a gentleman.

I visited Tony as often as I could, but soon it was time to return to the US. I vividly recall my last visit. Tony had a beer and toasted our friendship. I could tell that he wanted me to linger, and I did as long as I could before going on to a dinner appointment.

My last words to Tony were: “I promise you, I’ll see you again.”

I revisited South Africa this summer, but Tony was dead.

Several months ago, I learned, the final deterioration began, but Tony was ready for his death.

Quietly, over a period of about three weeks and at the end surrounded by those he cared about most, he succumbed.

I was several months too late to fulfill my promise.

I’ll bet Tony’s chuckling at that.

“Timing,” I think he would have joked, “is everything.” Or perhaps “Thanks for nothing Mark, a miss is as good as a mile!”

Tony didn’t volunteer for his terminal illness. However, in his witty biography, “Happy Chappie,” finished just before he died, he explains that he made the decision early on after diagnosis to live with his illness until he died rather than waiting to die because of his illness.

He’s bequeathed to us a profound lesson in what it means to be human, and how he coped, in “Living With Motor Neuron Disease.”

Go watch it. Share it.

That’s what Tony would have wanted.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Healthcare Rationer Cometh

President Obama has just made a recess appointment that, in my opinion, confirms what many of us have been saying for quite a while: That the current administration is committed to, and is acting to implement, a ghoulish system of government deciding who will receive medical treatment and who will go without.

The pieces of the puzzle continue to fall into place, most significantly having Zeke Emanuel as senior healthcare advisor behind the scenes. Emanuel and some of his colleagues suggested several years ago that it made the best economic sense to concentrate the vast majority of healthcare dollars on those older than 15 (because they have their whole productive life ahead of them) and those younger than 40 (because thereafter medical care generally starts to become more expensive all the way to the end of your life).

After a presidential campaign that went to great lengths to spin public perception away from healthcare rationing and socialized medicine while vilifying the opposition, now the truth emerges. The President’s recess appointee, Dr. Donald Berwick, is an unabashed fan of healthcare rationing.

Berwick has just been appointed (in recess because the President is well aware that getting this appointment approved by congress wouldn’t happen) to head the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Here’s what we’re getting, in Berwick’s own words:

In an interview last year in Biotechnology Healthcare:

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom and also, to some extent, the Institut National de La Sante in France have developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn. . . . Indeed, those organizations are functioning very well and are well respected by clinicians, and they are making their populations healthier and better off.

And, in the same interview, referring to NICE:

NICE is extremely effective and a conscientious, valuable, and — importantly — knowledge-building system. The fact that it’s a bogeyman in this country is a political fact, not a technical one.

And just in case you miss the point, Berwick goes on to say:

The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.

And here’s what Politico reported:

His comments on Britain’s NHS are drawing the most scrutiny. Berwick calls the system “far” from perfect, but he also describes it in glowing terms, citing elements that the American system lacks: universal coverage, “centralized stewardship” and guaranteed care regardless of income.

“I fell in love with the NHS,” Berwick said in a 2008 speech of the system that he had worked on since the 1990s. “To an American observer, the NHS is such a seductress. ... Like any lover, it took me a while to see the blemishes of my beloved, though I soon had help from people quite willing to point out the warts. . . .The NHS is one of the great human health care endeavors on Earth,” Berwick said in the speech on file with the Senate Finance Committee and circulated by Republicans. “It can be an example for the whole world — an example, I must say, that the United States needs now more than most other countries do.”


Only one problem: The UK’s National Health Service is a healthcare nightmare, where in the name of making healthcare equitable, people die unnecessarily by the hundreds of thousands, where many hospitals are only a step above cesspools, and is too often the last haven of many incompetent medical personnel.

We’d better wake up before we have to get in line for months for critical care, or be denied treatment because we’re too old, or too young, or just because the government won’t let us have it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Euthanasia Escalates In The Netherlands

Ahead of the official release of last year’s euthanasia stats in the Netherlands, the Dutch press is reporting that euthanasia is on the increase over previous years.

What surprises me is that the Dutch authorities continue to be surprised by the increase.

Let’s see:

Take the social taboo of euthanasia, allow it to happen undercover, then tut-tut that instead of happening behind closed doors, it should be regulated and ‘transparent.” This doltish idea was meant to ensure that undercover euthanasia was stopped and only happened under very rare and highly controlled circumstances.

It hasn’t turned out that way, as some of us predicted years ago.

Here’s the slippery slope:

First, euthanasia was meant for only those adults who were terminally ill and in unbearable and uncontrollable physical pain.

Then, euthanasia was allowed for those with unbearable physical pain, even if it could be controlled, and even f they were not terminally ill.

Then euthanasia was allowed for those who were not only not terminally ill, but for people in no physical pain whatsoever – psychological pain, controllable or not, was enough.

Then the age limit was extended to adolescents.

So, from DutchNews.nl:

The number of reported deaths by euthanasia rose 13% last year to 2,636, following an increase of 10% in 2008, the NRC reports, quoting figures due to be published at the beginning of July.

The 2008 increase led the health ministry to set up an investigation into the increase. That investigation is due to start this month.

This is not the whole macabre picture, either: These stats reflect ONLY patients who requested to be killed.

It does not include hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who are euthanized even though they never requested it.

It does not include the hundreds of newborns with disabilities that are murdered under the so-called Groningen Protocol.

It does not include legalized assisted suicides.

Here’s the truth: Euthanasia is now increasingly accepted as just another medical procedure. The social constraints have collapsed.

Need any more proof?

A recent survey in the Netherlands showed that there was strong public sentiment for making euthanasia available for anyone over 70 even if the only reason to die was because they were “tired” of living.

One final point: No, we’re not at the bottom of the slippery slope. It will get worse.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Final Exit Network Spin: It’s Not Killing, It’s Dignity

The Final Exit Network (FEN) is a radical pro-death group that counsels people and then helps them to kill themselves.

That’s why several of its members have been indicted by the Feds for their activities in Arizona and Georgia. Other investigations are ongoing.

No matter, FEN continues to spin the charges as unfair, harassing, and, well, un-American.

What twaddle.

The latest pro-death propaganda appeared in the Baltimore Sun a few days ago penned by Jerry Dicin, FEN’s president.

It’s a tour de force of manipulation, arrogance and outright dishonesty.

After noting that his FEN colleague Dr. Larry Egbert, is awaiting trial related to assisted killing in both Arizona and Georgia, Dicin launches into how Egbert was not complicit in murder, but was actually doing what doctors are supposed to do, and that this abominable behavior is a solution for people with Alzheimer’s Disease – both for the victims themselves and because it will spare their loved ones watching the progression of the disease:

By talking to these folks, Dr. Egbert was fulfilling his responsibility as a medical professional.

To understand why, consider the plight of those suffering from Alzheimer's [who] . . . can expect a slow, painful descent into advanced dementia . . .. Friends and family who are forced to witness their fall into oblivion suffer indescribably.

Given this bleak outlook, it's easy to see why some Alzheimer's patients choose to hasten their own death. It's also easy to see why Dr. Egbert was determined to help patients suffering from conditions like Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease make this difficult decision.

It is time for the world to recognize the right and the rationality for mentally competent adults in such circumstances to take their own lives.

Just in case you missed it: How many people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be judged mentally competent? Well, they can’t, but that’s of little consequence to Dicin – making people dead is the ultimate goal, no matter what. In truth, the pro-death crowd don’t care about mental competence – they just care about death on demand.

Dicin then trots out the old horror line of pain and suffering:

That's your mother screaming in that bed, dealing every day with some terrible disease like Lou Gehrig's. She can look forward to a body that can't move, speak or swallow food, a life of total dependency on others for every act of maintenance.

Well, what’s the evidence here? The truth is that very, very few people’s pain at the end of life cannot be controlled by good palliative care and pain management. No matter, it’s the horror that’s meant to goad people into killing themselves.

Solution? Why, the good folks at FEN, of course!!!

That's where my organization, Final Exit Network, comes in. We provide information and counsel to patients who approach us seeking to deliver themselves from torture and make informed choices. The impetus comes from within them; we do not "encourage" anyone. We go to great lengths to ensure that the person is capable of choosing rationally.

Oh yes, those rational Alzheimer’s guys!!

But the preliminary reports of the Fed undercover sting showed much more: FEN advocates not even asking for proof that the victim had a terminal disease (or any disease, for that matter), and the inconvenient fact that the undercover agent was assured that once the assisted killing had begun, his FEN “guide” would hold his hands tightly enough so that he couldn’t change his mind and rip the gas mask from his face.

Without coercion, lies, spin, propaganda, and a healthy dose of narcissism, the pro-death crowd won’t win.

Unless, by remaining silent, we let them.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dignitas: Kill Them All

The Swiss death clinic, Dignitas, is in the news again.

You’ll recall that Dignitas has gained notoriety as a fee-for-service killing venue for those who wish to die via assisted suicide. Dignitas has been most exposed by high-profile visits from UK citizens who travelled to the clinic to die because in the UK assisted suicide is illegal, and allows for the prosecution (at least on paper) of those who help people kill themselves.

However, there’s a very ugly underbelly to all the spin that Dignitas is a haven of care and a celebration of human autonomy.

There have been reports of dingy and dirty surroundings, less than dignified treatment of those who come to be killed both before and after they die, and the nagging fact that this is all offered at a rather exorbitant fee.

It gets worse. Several months ago hundreds of urns with the cremated remains of Dignitas’ victims were discovered dumped in Lake Geneva. This matter is currently under investigation.

Dignitas is again in the news, and I’m not sure why this latest issue so surprises the media, because Dignitas is doing exactly what it has always said it was doing: Helping anyone who wants to to kick the bucket.

The latest flap involves Dignitas’ providing a suicide kit to a 39 year-old Spanish man with severe psychological problems. From London's Daily Mail:

Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas is under investigation over claims that it ignored a patient's distressed mental condition to give him drugs to end his own life. . . . But now details have emerged of a patient who was allegedly given a DIY suicide kit prescribed by a Zurich gynaeologist despite suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. . . . But a Dignitas report on the 39-year-old Spanish man's mental state was a few lines that barely covered half a page of A4 paper, say local media reports on the death.


Or maybe not.

Here’s why: All the chatter about “transparency,” policies to “protect,” rigid controls to ensure that no “mistakes” are made is all smoke and mirrors on the way to the only goal the pro-death crowd have always wanted: Assisted suicide and euthanasia on demand and available for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Don’t take my word for it, take those of Dignitas’ owner Minelli:

'Every person in Europe has the right to choose to die, even if they are not terminally ill.'


Friday, May 28, 2010

Toothless Brit Law Against Assisted Suicide

The pro-death crowd in the UK has hammered away at laws criminalizing assisted suicide for the last several years.

They have been very successful.

From high-profile advocacy among activists such as Debbie Purdy, whose fight to commit assisted suicide at the Swiss death clinic Dignitas without her husband being charged in the UK; to the drumbeat of assisted suicide as a dignified and ethical way of killing; to the in-your-face “heroes” who have publicly flaunted UK law by assisting suicides in the UK, the law itself is beginning to falter.

It began after Purdy forced UK legal authorities to issue a “clarification” on laws allowing for the prosecution of those who assist in another’s suicide. The “clarification” actually muddied the waters even more and certainly left an impression that prosecution was unlikely.

This has just been reinforced by Michael Bateman, who assisted in his wife’s suicide and then went public, essentially calling the law’s bluff.

Unsurprisingly, the law faltered. After much staring at their collective legal navels, the Brit authorities have decided not to prosecute Bateman, who openly admitted breaking the law.

The message is now clear in the UK: It’s OK to kill people because the law will look the other way - not even look the other way – but to come out siding with the criminal.

From London's Evening Standard.

Husband who helped wife to die will not be prosecuted.

A devoted husband will not be prosecuted for assisting the suicide of his 62-year-old wife, Crown prosecutors announced today.

They said there was sufficient evidence to take Michael Bateman to court over his wife Margaret's death last October but a trial would not be in the public interest.

Mr Bateman helped place a plastic bag over the head of his wife who died from inhaling helium at the family home in Birstall, West Yorkshire. more

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If You Love Obamacare, You'll Hate This Story

If there’s anything at all we know about the forthcoming tsunami of Obamacare, it’s that it’s going to completely wreck the finest medical care system in the world. We’re starting to see the fallout already. Here’s just a sample:

a. The “I want therefore I deserve” class turning up at doctors’ offices the day after the law was signed looking for their “free care.”

b. CBO numbers, available but ignored before the law was signed, now trickling out to tell us that the rationale of Obamacare making things less expensive and more efficient is basically, well . . . a lie. It's actually going to be massively more expensive than the administration’s spin led us to believe.

We already know how this goes – look at the UK, where complete and utter medical incompetence captains the grand ship National Health Care.

Here’s another case that illustrates what you get in a system that focuses on bureaurocracy, union rules, and the concomitant disregard for the welfare of patients.

Five years ago in the UK, 35-year-old Cindy Corton went to a party. Drank way too much. Fell in the bathroom, landing on the upright handle of the toilet plunger. About 6 inches of the serrated plastic plunger handle snapped off in her buttocks. Friends called an ambulance.

Enter the National Health Care system. You know, the one some many Obamacare acolytes point to as how we might “improve.”

Cindy’s fairly minor injury should have ended as a stupid-drunk-tricks story with the added wink-and-nod about the site of the injury.

Instead, it was her death sentence.

The ambulance took Cindy to the Lincoln County Hospital. They were apparently none too happy at having to transport some drunk who fell in a bathroom. (I guess it's only sober people who can get hurt falling in bathrooms).

That set the ball in motion among caregivers’ attitudes towards Cindy, because none believed her story. At Lincoln, after explaining what had happened, she was “examined” and sent home with some painkillers.

Yes, you read right. Sent home with a 6-inch serrated plastic handle still inside her, but hey, at least she got something for the pain:

Husband Peter, 61, said that when his wife first attended A&E at Lincoln County Hospital she was sent home with painkillers, despite showing them the wound on her bottom. . . . "She wasn't properly examined by the doctor at Lincoln.”

Unsurprisingly, Cindy’s injury got worse, so several days later she went to a different hospital, Grantham, in the hopes that someone would take her story seriously.

They did. Kind of.

At Grantham she was actually x-rayed (imagine that!). However, the x-ray turned up nothing.

Problem solved. Home she went with her embedded plunger handle.

Fast-forward two years, to 2007.

Cindy still has the handle in her buttocks, and is finally able to convince a doctor to take a closer look.

Hey presto!! Still there!!

Now it’s more complicated: The handle has migrated and embedded itself in her pelvis.

No more funny drunk story.

Cindi undergoes two unsuccessful operations and is left in intense pain to the extent that she agrees to another risky operation in June last year.


Cindy of Sleaford, Lincs, spent more than ten hours in surgery at Nottingham's Queens Medical Centre but died from massive blood loss.

Can medical mistakes happen? Sure, no profession’s perfect.

This went way beyond mistakes. It smacks of incompetence, arrogance, and a failure to attend to duty that is, at the very least, unconscionable. Paramedics who treat drunks differently, hospitals that apparently can’t do some very basic procedures, and certainly doctors who for years didn’t even bother to investigate properly.

I can even give the doctors the benefit of the doubt (barely) for the initial admission, that Cindy in her inebriated state might have been embarrassed and made up the story.

But not even check? Or check later when she turns up sober with the same story?

I submit that the chances of this story happening in a US hospital is near zero.

At least for now.

Maybe coming soon to an Obamacare-run hospital near you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Media Attack on the Schiavo Foundation: Let’s Make Disability Go Away

Killing defenseless people with disabilities is not very difficult. They can’t fight back and, in many instances, either they have no advocates, or those advocates are overwhelmed in the unrelenting drumbeat for death.

It’s this latter point that Terri Schiavo’s family has had to live with since her untimely and completely unnecessary legal execution in 2005.

They fought as hard as they could, and were helped by many people who knew how dangerous the situation was. There were several disability organizations as well as faith-based groups who all saw that what was happening, and then did happen to Terri.

They all knew that it was a precursor of very bad things to come.

Terri’s family did everything they could, everything they knew how, but the pro-deathers prevailed.

Since Terri’s death, her family have lived and breathed her memory in a constructive and positive way – by establishing a small foundation to spread the word and also to help others in similar predicaments.

No good deed goes unpunished, apparently.

A TV station in Florida ran a piece yesterday headed “Terri Schiavo’s Family Profiting From Foundation.”

Now, with a lead like that, which way do you think the story was going to go?


All innuendo and spin. Why would we expect anything else? Even all these years after her death, Bobby, Suzanne, and Mary spend countless hours trying to correct misleading reporting about the circumstances of Terri’s death. This is just one more media attack in a long string of animus posing as “news” and comes just a few weeks after Fox’s The Family Guy made horrible fun of Terri and her disabled condition.

Now this.

Let’s be clear – the media and others with less than unbiased interest are hammering the Foundation for one reason and one reason only: Its existence reminds them that people with disabilities are worth less than the rest of us and are easily disposed of. They’d rather not be reminded of their part in shaping this view, now widely held across the country.

At another level, they understand that it takes only a split second for any of us to be in the same state as Terri.

And that they, too, could be legally executed.

The Schiavo Foundation reminds them of their own fragile mortality.

They’d rather not have to be reminded about it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Is What Government-Run Health Care Looks Like

Those of us who see Obamacare as a distinct step backwards are often branded as alarmist and out of touch. When we point to the regular horrors of government run systems, especially the UK, we’re shouted down with healthy dollops of “it-can’t-happen-here-because-the president-said-it-won't.”

Read on.

But before you do, look at this photo from London’s MailOnline:


Not pretty.

It’s a photo taken in a UK (government run) hospital of 84-year-old Clara Stokes. The photo was taken by her outraged daughter who discovered that her mom was living a nightmare – starved, dehydrated, and lying in her own feces.

Apparently, the ward was very short-staffed, to the point that Clara's family members were not only forced helped her, but also other patients who were in similar circumstances.

Here's a partial list of horrors. If this isn't clear, cold abuse of a person with a severe medical disability, I don't know what is:

Maltreatment 1:

Doctors and nurses who misplaced health notes even thought Mrs Stokes was a man for the first two days, after she was admitted on December 16.

Maltreatment 2:

A temporary nurse misread Mrs Stokes' notes and forced uncrushed tablets down her throat, almost causing her to choke to death.

Maltreatment 3:

She [Clara's daughter] added: 'We finally walked in and my daughter said what is that under her arm? We lifted it up and she was covered in her own diarrhoea.

Maltreatment 4:

Helpless and confused after suffering a stroke, the 84-year-old was left dehydrated, hungry and lying in her own faeces in a hospital bed for six hours. . . . 'She was paralysed and couldn't call for help. This was after 3pm in the afternoon and the last time she had been checked was at 9am.'

Maltreatment 5:

Just 24 hours later the family found a stricken Mrs Stokes' foot trapped between bed posts caused by a faulty bed pump. It was not known how long she was trapped and had to be freed by the matron.

The hospital, of course, denies, denies, denies. Here’s part of the snippy statement issued by the hospital spokesperson:

'We regret that Mrs Stokes' family have felt the need to complain about her care while she was on ward 17 and ward 15 and the hospital has apologised for any distressing circumstances recognising how upsetting some aspects of personal care can be for relatives.

Stay tuned, because I’ll bet my last dollar that the pro-death crowd will spin the horrible photo above as a case of people dying “without dignity,” and use it as a propaganda tool, captioning Clara’s abuse with: This is not dying with dignity: Support legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Euthanizing Children in the US – Yes, it’s Here

The latest edition of a prestigious medical journal, The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, has published a very disturbing piece of research. While the study is very small, the fact that it was done at all suggests that there might be a larger problem across the country: Euthanizing children right here in the US.

The study, of course, doesn’t talk about euthanasia. Here’s the title: “Considerations About Hastening Death Among Parents of Children Who Die of Cancer.”

I see. It’s not euthanasia, it’s hastening death. Sounds so much more, well, clinical, don’t you think?

Essentially, the researchers wanted to know, in terms of actual cases and presented possible scenarios, what parents’ attitudes were toward euthanasia when a child was terminally ill with cancer. No surprise, the more the actual case or scenario involved high levels of pain and suffering, the more likely parents were to consider euthanasia

Sorry, I meant “hastening death.”

Now, if the study only used contrived scenarios, the findings would be important, because they show, among other things, that parents are ignorant of palliative measures that can make terminally ill children comfortable in their final days.

However, among parents interviewed who literally had terminally ill children with cancer, there were several who actually discussed euthanasia for their child with their doctor, and, in three instances, where parents reported that the euthanasia was carried out.

Frightening, and even more so when you consider how small the study was.

And, it’s absolutely probable that if it‘s happening in the two hospitals covered by the study, it’s going on all over the country behind closed doors after whispered conversations.

Killing children because the are sick.

Here in these United States.

This is how things started in the Netherlands.

Let’s so all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Martyrdom of Terri Schiavo

Since 1990 in the state of Florida, persons condemned to death have a choice of how their death sentence will be carried out. The condemned have the option of electrocution or the less spectacular (and presumably less painful) lethal injection.

One thing is certain: People are executed by the state as punishment for heinous and reprehensible crimes. Nobody gets the death penalty for speeding or shoplifting. Or for being sick, for that matter.

Well, maybe for being sick. Read on.

There was one execution in Florida that transcended the electric chair or the fatal needle, and, equally, had the full weight of Florida law. That legal weight came from Florida Judge Greer, who declared from the bench that Terri Schiavo must die.

Judge Greer issued a death sentence just as effectively lethal as any handed down for murder. It was a legalized medical execution for the crime of being severely neurologically disabled.

But unlike condemned criminals in Florida, Terri was not permitted to choose her method of execution. Instead, Greer, with Terri’s husband and lawyers cheering from the sidelines, imposed execution by starvation and thirst.

I think one could make a compelling argument that the electric chair and lethal injection are less painful ways to die. They are certainly shorter than the 16 days it took Terri to lose her battle against a stacked deck.

As with Florida’s criminally condemned, Terri was surrounded by uniformed law enforcement officers, vigilant lest someone give her a sip of water. They were Greer’s proxies on the scene. They’re not called “law enforcement officers” for nothing.

Terri’s appeals were denied. The people who spoke for Terri were overwhelmed by the pro-deathers.

So, Terri is dead. Executed.

Terri’s dad, Bob Schindler, is dead. His collateral sentence was a broken heart.

Mary Schindler, Terri’s mom, presses on. How, I have no idea.

Bobby and Suzanne labor in the trenches at the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation. If you know them, as I am so very privileged to do, you know that they, too, are broken-hearted, their wounds bound by their love for Terri and their family, and the incredible commitment to never, ever, let Terri’s execution be forgotten.

They labor against things they shouldn’t have to.

Like prominent disability organizations who sanctimoniously gather their hurt feelings around their memberships, pouting about how they think they were treated when they went to the aid of a desperate family, yet still comment on everything Terri to bamboozle their membership that they were the good guys and the Schindlers nothing more than unsophisticated hicks – both then and now.

Like President Obama, who, on February 26th, 2008, in a presidential candidate debate, had this to say about his time in the US Senate:

When I first arrived in the Senate that first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo, and I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families. It wasn't something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.

So, Mr. President, you regret that you’re on record saying that executing Terri was wrong, but then tell us that it really wasn't wrong. Saying it was wrong was a mistake.

Thanks for nothing, Mr. President.

OK, at least we know you’re a pro-deather.

Still, here we are five years later.

Disability groups trash the Schindlers.

The President of the United States thinks intervening to help avoid Terri’s execution was a mistake.

Now what?

Here’s what:

Never, ever, let Terri’s memory and her martyrdom be forgotten.

Contact the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation and at the very least encourage Mary, Suzanne, and Bobby.

Better still, they need your financial and volunteer help – don’t wait to give it to them.

We can’t save Terri, but we sure as heck can save others in her situation, and there are thousands.

Bob, Mary, Bobby, Suzanne, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Without your love for Terri, without your very special roles as advocates for those with disabilities, the world would be a bleaker and more dangerous place for the disabled.

Terri’s is home. We are here.

We will always remember.

We will never forget.

We will fight on.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Media Brutality Still Hounds Terri Schiavo 5 Years After Her Death

Terri Schiavo, legally deprived of nutrition and hydration, died five years ago March 31.

Whatever the causes of her collapse on that fateful night in 1990, Terri was instantaneously transformed from a vibrant young woman to a daughter, sibling, and wife with a significant medical disability. Over the years, and against the wishes of her parents and siblings, her rehabilitation was reduced and any possible chance of progress was lost.

In time, Terri became a burden to her husband. No doubt about it, Michael Schiavo wanted Terri dead. He didn’t quite put it that way, of course. Instead, Michael and his pro-death brethren talked about “rights,” “what Terri would have wanted,” and her “poor quality of life.”

Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, just wanted to take her home and care for her. Instead, black-cloaked Judge Greer condemned Terri to death.

Her crime?

She needed to be cared for because she was severely brain damaged.

A legal sentence of death for having a disability.

Aside from the unspeakable personal tragedy of Greer’s decision for Terri’s family, a very clear message emerged from the media: If you are disabled, you don’t matter as much as people who are not disabled.

That message is stronger today than ever, because wherever we turn people with disabilities are demeaned, insulted, and hurt.

Case in point: A recent episode of Fox’s Family Guy opened with Terri Schiavo: The Musical. Aside from ludicrous fabrications (Terri hooked up to a battery of machines, including a ventilator) there are these little gems:

Michael Schiavo: She’s a vegetable!

Chorus: We hate vegetables! (Audience laughs).

Also in the musical’s ditties are references to pulling the plug, Terri’s mashed potato brains, and that she’s the most expensive plant you’ll ever see.

Yes, starving and dehydrating someone to death, very funny. Ha-ha.

Severe brain damage? Let’s throw in a cartoon depiction of pouring her mashed potato brains into a bowl. LOL . . .

And the more disabled they are, the funnier the cheap shots are meant to be.

Despicable, but not surprising.

And picking on Terri was no mistake. It was because she can’t fight back.

It’s the schlock humor of media cowards.

Why cowards? Because they don’t have the you-know-what to deride people who would most certainly fight back. You know, like those suffering with HIV/AIDS or breast cancer.

It’s OK to make fun of people with disabilities.

It's all in fun. Surely they won’t mind.

They’re disabled, after all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Swedish Poster Person for Euthanasia

Those of us who can clearly see the slippery slope from human exceptionalism and the nurturing of life to assisted suicide and euthanasia on demand for any reason are often taken to task for being alarmist and illogical.

Don’t believe that for a minute.

As I have often written, the Netherlands pretty much led the way down the slippery slope beginning in the late 80s. Since then, we’ve seen assisted suicide legalized in several European countries and three US states.

I think it’s fair to say that the UK will likely follow sooner or later. In the UK, the poster person for the right to assisted suicide was Debbie Purdy, a woman with MS who has campaigned for several years to have her partner help her commit suicide without any legal penalty. Purdy’s persistence eventually resulted in an official clarification of UK penalties for those who aid and abet suicide. The clarification is quite vague, ambiguous, and potentially opens the door to all kinds of abuse.

Now Sweden’s own version of Purdy is asking that she be euthanized, and in her case, it will be euthanasia, because she is completely paralyzed and therefore cannot physically be assisted to kill herself by taking lethal meds, as is the case for assisted suicide.

From Sweden’s Radio International:

Swedish Woman Demands Euthanasia

A letter to the Swedish Social welfare board has rekindled the debate here on mercy killing – or euthanasia – at present banned by Swedish law.

The letter has come from a 31-year-old woman who has been tied to a respirator since the age of 6 – growing constantly worse from a neurological disease from birth.

Unable to take a single breath on her own or to move, she is asking to be put to sleep and that the machine be shut off so that she can end her life in what describes as in dignity.

She wants this to be done now – while she still has full mental capacities and before she gets worse.

Her Swedish doctor insists that her request must be respected – otherwise this is forced treatment against her will, and he is asking the association of doctors for a ruling.

The head of the association’s ethical committee says he agrees, that the social welfare authorities have in general agreed with the committee’s line, but now has make a clear decision lifting the ban on euthanasia to make it easier for the patient and the doctors to make their decisions.

Earlier Swedish headlines have been captured by some Swedish terminal patients travelling to euthanasia clinics in Switzerland and elsewhere – to get the help they are denied here in Sweden.

I predict months of handwringing, the pro-deathers loudly commandeering the media for their nihilistic propaganda, and the beatifying of this woman with significant medical disabilities.

I further predict that sooner rather than latter the Swedish legal system will be cowed into going along with euthanasia.

And along the way, trust me, we’ll be told repeatedly what a good, compassionate, and loving idea this is.