Monday, November 24, 2008

Prediction: Webcam Suicide will Become Part of Pro-Death Spin

According to his sister, 19-year-old Abraham Biggs, despite his bipolar disorder, liked striking up friendly conversations with service people and always looked forward to taking his nieces to Chuck E. Cheese.

Abraham took time off from being a Broward College student last Wednesday.

To kill himself.

Live on the web - death via webcam.

Log on. Adjust the camera. Swallow pills. Lie down.


Abraham executed himself in front of an audience of thousands, who commented, chat-room style, while it was happening.

Some viewers were skeptical. Others joined in merrily in what they thought was a prank.

A few were perceptive enough to get it, and chimed in, trying to dissuade Abraham from what he was doing. A couple of these viewers finally contacted the site moderator.

The cold eye of the webcam ran live for 12 hours, showing, at the end, police entering the room and finally switching the camera off.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that suicide via webcam as happened. Some would argue that it’s simply a digital age way of committing suicide in public, just like jumping off a bridge or building.

Hardly the point, is it?

Bipolar disorder is a significant psychological disability. There’s little doubt that it had an impact in Abraham’s suicide. Published excerpts from his suicide note show that he was clearly depressed, feeling helpless, and bereft of personal worth.

Here’s the caution I’d offer based on Abraham’s suicide:

In the Netherlands, people like Abraham don’t need to die alone on webcam. They can go to their doctor and report that their psychological disability means that they have no hope of any kind of future quality of life.

Under Dutch law, they can request assisted suicide or euthanasia. There are few constraints on Dutch physicians if they agree with the patient’s perceptions.

Ask, and you shall receive.

In the Netherlands, I have no doubt that physicians would have judged Abraham a perfect candidate for assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Here’s a prediction: The pro-death lobby will use Abraham’s suicide to show why we need legal assisted suicide and euthanasia in the US. That way, people like Abraham won’t have to die alone, watched by strangers.

If assisted suicide and euthanasia were legal (so they’ll say), Abraham could have committed suicide surrounded by his loved ones, in comfort, and with happy memories as he fades from this earth.

Death with dignity, you see.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Speaking out Against the Pressure of Being Required to Die

Well, it didn’t take long in Britain.

It’s already a fact of life in the Netherlands.

Feeling that if you have a disability you should somehow feel guilty for not wanting to do yourself in, that is.

Good for Sue Garner-Jones. We need more people with disabilities like her to speak out, to join her and my friend Tony.

We, and they, need to speak out very, very loudly.

For 34 years, following an accident, Sue has been in a wheelchair, pretty much paralyzed from the neck down with only very limited use of her hands. She receives 24/7 care from her 72 year-old mother.

She’s done pretty well along the way. Sue has a PhD, is a part-time lecturer at Liverpool University, and helps out in her community by tutoring school children in English.

She’d had enough after reading about all the fawning press accounts of the assisted suicide of Daniel James. Dan, you’ll recall, was taken by his parents to Switzerland from England where the Swiss assisted suicide Nazis, Dignitas, were happy to help kill him.

Here’s part of what Sue said:

People make their own decisions about how to live their life. But there’s a lot of talk about bravery and courage for people who were opting out of living their lives. I didn’t like the inverse of that. To call this action ‘brave’, ‘courageous’ and ‘selfless’ implies that those of us who battle on are ‘cowardly’ and ‘selfish’, which is unfair and untrue.

Great point, Sue, but that’s what it’s soon coming to in the formerly glorious seat of Empire.

But it’s hardly news, unfortunately.

In the Netherlands, many elderly people carry identification or wear bracelets that read if I am hospitalized, do not euthanize me or I do not request assisted suicide. Not that it means much. There’s very strong evidence that each year in the Netherlands hundreds of people are snuffed out anyway, even if they have never talked about, considered, or requested assistance in dying.

In a nutshell, many people in the Netherlands feel the seeping pressure to get on with it and die – as a community service, of course. Now it's Britain's turn.

Have a disability? Choose "a loving, dignified, and easy death" – or else.

Can the US be far behind?

If you read this blog, you already know the answer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In Washington State, The Doctors of Death Await

Well, Washington state’s ballot initiative allowing assisted suicide, I-1000, passed by a wide margin yesterday.

What that means is that we now have two states in the US (Washington and Oregon) that think it’s ok to allow assisted suicide.

First and foremost this will mean, automatically and unequivocally, that people considering suicide now have the imprimatur of the state to be helped in killing themselves.

Don’t worry, advocates say, it’s nothing nefarious, just the state being compassionate towards those who are suffering and who want to maintain their “autonomy” to end their lives at a time of their choosing.

And, of course, don’t worry, there’s no slippery slope.

Sounds almost reasonable.

But here’s what the pro-death crowd don’t want you to know:

This is how things started in the Netherlands – compassion, dignity, and all. No slippery slope? In a very few short years, the Netherlands moved from euthanasia for a very, very few under very specific circumstances, to now being a country where euthanasia and assisted suicide are available for almost everyone for almost any reason.

Many elderly Dutch people now fear being admitted to a hospital, and with good reason: Holland now routinely euthanizes people who never even asked for euthanasia or wanted to die. Many elderly people in the Netherlands feel that their culture of death puts a lot of pressure on them to assume a duty to die - whether they want to or not.

Here’s another thing the pro-death crowd doesn’t want to get out:

In Oregon, there are widespread gaps in accountability. For example:

Records of assisted suicides are officially destroyed annually.

The only accountability in reporting and tracking assisted suicides comes from the very doctors who are complicit in the death-making. 

On this second point, it seems to me that trusting doctors to faithfully report each and every assisted suicide, or where such procedures went wrong or are abused, is tantamount to having required guards at Birkenau to alert their superiors when murdering Jews didn’t proceed too smoothly.

Too harsh?

If you think so, please answer this question:

Why, in the first place, are physicians ever involved in killing people?