Thursday, December 18, 2008

Down Syndrome in Aussie: Get it Early, Get it All

Well, well.

Sibling rivalry in the old Empire has just been raised a notch.

The Brits are hell-bent on assisted suicide show-and-tell. Some Scots are proposing legislation to make available assisted suicide for children. Baroness Warnock charges around the isle hooting about “putting people down.”

Not to be outdone, the Aussies are falling over themselves to do us all a favor and rid their corner of the planet of those pesky people with Down syndrome.

It was the Aussie government, you’ll recall, that refused Dr. Bernard Moeller a permanent residence visa because his son. Lukas, has DS. Those DS kids cost the heath care system lots of money, you know. The powers that be eventually backtracked, but only after a public furor.

I’ll guarantee there won’t be a similar outcry over their latest proposal of eugenic discrimination.

Same syndrome, different tactic.

Problem: Once there are Aussies with DS walking around, they are somewhat protected, even if only by public outrage.


Change tactics: Get ‘em really early. 

Sorry, sorry!! I mean the Aussies are proposing a “National Screening Policy for Down Syndrome.”

The get -‘em-early policy is to institute universal in-utero screening  for DS. That way, DS can be destroyed before seeing the light of day.

Think of it. Proposals for an official, legal, government policy to eradicate people who are genetically different.

Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s 1930s Nazi Germany all over again. Trust me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Scots: Let’s Allow Assisted Suicide For CHILDREN

It’s coming thick and fast now, folks.

Killing people, that is, especially in the UK

If you’re going to be an overachieving country, it might as well be in the realm of assisted suicide.

Dan James. Valerie Grosvenor Myer.

And tonight’s Sky Real Lives channel airing of the filmed assisted suicide of Craig Ewert.

Remember, in all these cases, part of the pro-killing argument was that it wasn’t the act of assisted suicide that was bad; it was those pesky laws in the UK that prevented it.

So, aided and abetted by the largely uncritical media, the clarion call came from the seat of the former Empire: We need to change the law.

Not wanting to be seen as retrograde neanderthals to their English cousins, the Scots have stepped in to take the lead.

Scotland’s The Herald reports today that a Scottish MP, Margo MacDonald, is planning to introduce legislation that would legalize assisted suicide for children.

No, I’m not kidding. Wish I were.

Here’s MacDonald’s rationale: In Scotland, when parents divorce, and the children are 12 or older, the court takes into consideration the child’s choice as to which parent they wish to live with. Under some circumstances, the living choice is offered to younger children.

So, goes MacDonald, why not give the same legal status for choices about living or dying?

Get a load of the proposed legislation’s slimy rationale:

The outlined proposal would allow patients with degenerative, irreversible conditions to approach a doctor who would be specially registered to help terminate life at the patient's request.

OK, that’s standard let’s-kill-you-when-you-have-a-bad-disease language.

But, listen to this:

Assisted suicide would also be possible for patients who unexpectedly became incapacitated to an "intolerable" degree, or who simply find their life "intolerable" - although the latter case would require the doctor to seek a second opinion from another health professional.

So, now, if you think any “incapacitation” you have is a drag, or even if you think your life is just yucky, you have a way out. Remember, because we don't want to be too hasty, for this aspect of the legislation you’ll have to find not one, but two doctors who agree you should be done in. (Shouldn’t be difficult with a little doctor-shopping for medicos who share the pro-killing view of the world).

And now, potentially, in Scotland, you don’t even have to wait until you’re legally an adult.

Children have rights too, you know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The New Reality TV: Assisted Suicide is "Love"

Well Jack Kervorkian must be proud, as must the 58% of Washingtonians that celebrated their win in making assisted suicide legal in their state barely a month ago.

You’ll recall that Kervorkian started a trend in making suicide a living room experience when he filmed killing Thomas Youk in 1998, and paraded the grisly deed on CBS’ 60 Minutes a few weeks later.

It’s baaack!!

Britain’s newspapers are all abuzz today over the planned screening on the Sky Real Lives channel tomorrow night of the documentary Right To Die - The Suicide Tourist, which shows, in part, the assisted suicide of 59 year-old Craig Ewert.

Ewert, from Britain, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease a while back and given a few years to live. The disease progressed fairly quickly to where he was confined to a wheelchair. 

(Sidebar, my good friend in South Africa, Tony, who also has motor neuron disease, and is in much worse shape than Ewert was, has a vastly different opinion than Ewert).

No worries, mate, Switzerland’s Dignitas can help. For a £3000 fee, of course.

Ewert made the decision to end his life before he was in a position where he couldn’t kill himself. As he put it:

Once I become completely paralysed then I am nothing more than a living tomb that takes in nutrients through a tube in the stomach - it's painful. . . . Let's face it, when you're completely paralysed and cannot talk how do you let somebody know you are suffering?

To avoid this difficult situation, he travelled to Switzerland accompanied by his wife.  (Assisted suicide is illegal in Britain). The documentary shows Ewert, his wife at his side, drinking a fatal dose of drugs and using his lips to press the button (helpfully held to his lips by his loving wife) that stopped his ventilator.

He was dead in less than an hour. Just ike that.

Two points among many, if I may:

One: All the buzz is about Ewert’s suicide on TV, there, for all to see, rather than the act of suicide itself, which the British media regularly, and fawningly, presents as a perfectly reasonable thing for people to do. Methinks they protesteth too much.

Two: As with the Dan James case a few weeks ago (courtesy of the same diligent, deadly, Dignitas) the spin of the media is this:

What a shame that this poor man had to kill himself so far from his home and the comfort of his surroundings, without his whole loving family by his side to hold his hand and hug him as he slipped away from his pain and torment. What kind of barbaric society is Britain that it still has laws outlawing this ultimate act of loving sacrifice?

Bad, bad, naughty law. Needs to be changed.

OK, maybe it’s just me, but we’ve obviously moved to seeing assisted suicide as a good thing, and laws and people that oppose it as those nasty intolerants.

Interesting, very interesting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The UN Advocates for the Disabled, The US Should Do The Same

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebrating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Convention and its Optional Protocol were adopted in late 2006 as a treaty whose provisions are considered binding on the member countries who sign it.

The Convention recognizes the plight of the world’s 650 million people with disabilities and is designed to level the playing field so that they, irrespective of their geographical location, might take their rightful place in mainstream society.

So far, 136 of the world’s 192 countries have signed on.

It would be nice if the US signed on—soon.

Why the US hasn’t signed on is pretty much a mystery to most people, especially because the Convention was partially inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act and complements ADA quite well.

In the developed world, social and legal recognition of people with disabilities is far advanced.

Even so, major blind spots abound.            

One: In the two-year run-up to last month’s US elections, people with disabilities were deeply frustrated that they, the largest minority group in the country, were ignored on the national stage. Ironically, when Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin, the mother and aunt of children with disabilities, finally broke the national silence, her advocacy potential was quickly overwhelmed by partisan astonishment that someone other than a Democrat had the temerity to acknowledge people with disabilities. Hence, a potentiality powerful moment of behalf of disability issues was wasted.

Two: Other less visible, but no less important problems for people with disabilities exist. In-utero genetic testing already detects scores of anomalies that result in some form of disability discrimination. Given powerful social pressures for conformity and perfection, many pregnancies revealing genetic irregularity are routinely terminated.

Three: People with disabilities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the growing utilitarian nature of medical care. Facing the reality of a large disconnect between available resources and patients’ expensive treatment needs, people with disabilities are likely to be among the first victims who will be pressured or made to succumb to euthanasia, an idea that is rapidly gaining in acceptance - both here and abroad.

Celebrating the Convention today reaffirms our commitment to fundamental principles of dignity and justice and to ensure that the Convention becomes more than a paper tiger.

Let’s encourage our elected representatives in Congress to consider signing the Convention, not only as an acknowledgement of the needs and rights of Americans with disabilities, but also as an exemplar of US leadership on behalf of the world’s 650 million disabled.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Killing as a Joyful Duty, Part I

The Brits are providing more sympathetic pro-killing stories than many of us can keep up with.

Enter Valerie and Michael Grosvenor Myer, a pretty average couple, apparently.

A chance meeting 52 years ago soon lead to marriage. He became a teacher, and later devoted his energies to being a freelance theatre critic and a folk singer. She, linked to a prominent and wealthy family, engaged in literary pursuits. Valerie and Michael “shared a love of the theatre and literature, particularly Jane Austen and Shakespeare.”

Fast-forward to 1998: Valerie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Chronically degenerative, to be sure, but not a terminal illness.

Valerie’s health got worse, and she began talking of suicide three or four years ago. She tried several times, including a failed attempt in 2005 that left her comatose.

It was the 2005 episode that helped Valerie and Michael set the stage for her eventual death last year. In 2005, Michael, realizing Valerie was comatose, and not dead as planned, panicked and called for help. Here’s what Michael told London’s Telegraph last Saturday:

One of the paramedics said very meaningfully to me: 'It's as well you phoned us as soon as you could or you might have found yourself on a manslaughter charge'. So he obviously knew what the score was and was giving me a hint to be careful."

So now they knew. The next time Valerie decided to kill herself, Michael couldn’t be around because it’s illegal to aid and abet suicide in the UK.

Since 2005, their stiff British upper lips firmly in place, Valerie and Michael dispassionately talked about what needed to happen when she decided to do herself in.

One of their primary concerns was that Michael not be around when Valerie died.

He wasn’t.

Valerie took the fatal dose, shooed him out of the house as if he was late for work, and off Michael went. To the university library:

So, after a day's work at the library, I had dinner at the university centre. I was reading a very interesting article in The New Yorker about the British political situation. And I was thinking: 'I must tell Valerie about this'. Then I thought: 'You great booby. You will never tell her about anything ever again – if she has managed to do it properly this time.'

I’m not making this up.

Is it just me, or is this a macabre truth that trumps most people’s worst nightmares?

Ever fans of death, the Telegraph called it “poignant story.”

I had a different take: Coldblooded. Chilling. Empty.

Stay tuned for Part II.