Thursday, April 30, 2009

ISDB Files Amicus Brief Opposing Legalized Physician-Assisted Suicide in Montana

The Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics yesterday joined with the Bioethics Defense Fund, and the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund, in filing a friend of the court brief appealing the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Montana.

Hard on the heels of last November’s ballot initiative legalizing assisted suicide in Washington State, a Montana trial court judge ruled that Montanans had both a right to die and a right to physician-assisted suicide. The judge made it clear that she understood that Montana had no safeguards in place for physician-assisted suicide, and no legal definitions of the crucial terms competent or terminally-ill, conditions legally specified in both Oregon and Washington. Further, the court indicated that the decision for physician-assisted suicide should be the sole responsibility of physicians, despite there being no legal guidelines specifying how doctors might establish whether a person requesting physician-assisted suicide was competent to do so or not.

Read the filed brief here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ISDB & Disability Matters Co-sponsor Second International Symposium on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide

The Institute for the Study of Disability & Bioethics, the home of this blog, is pleased to announce our co-sponsorship of the Second-International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide on May 29th and 30th in Washington, DC. The Symposium will be held at the National Conference Center, near Dulles airport.

I will be a keynote speaker, along with Diane Coleman (Not Dead Yet), Dr. Peter Saunders (Care Not Killing, UK), Rita Marker (International Task Force on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide), Wesley J. Smith (Discovery Institute), Alison Davis (No Less Human, UK), Alex Schadenberg (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-International), and Margaret Dore, (Seattle elder law attorney).

As readers of this blog know, the gathering storm of legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia continue unabated.

Speaking at a conference in Canada this past weekend, it was clear that the general public have very little information about what’s happening right under their noses, in communities large and small.

A piece about my keynote in the Guelph Mercury laid out very accurately what I see to be our current challenges.

Details for the conference are here.

We’d love you to join us!

Friday, April 17, 2009

When Infants Die

Doc over at Mind, Soul, and Body has a thoughtful piece on some of the most difficult circumstances I can imagine – being faced with the prospect of a dying infant.

Dying infants break our hearts for all kinds of reasons, and parents and loved ones face a titanic struggle between what they face and what they believe.

You see, we carry around in our very beings a plethora of expectations around life, especially around the lives of a newborn:

Nobody should die young.

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children.

We don’t care if it’s a boy or girl; we just want our child to be healthy.

But that is not what we find in the pediatric ICU. We find very, very sick babies. We find absolutely no prospect of recovery.

There will be no happy photos of first days at kindergarten, school, or college. There will be no endless, badly filmed video that will be played over and over again across the years, with chuckles all the while.

No first love, no getting married in clothes that years later will look so terribly dated.

All gone.

But not yet gone. Before us, a frail form clinging to what could have been.

Doc explains just how disabled and medically vulnerable these children are. His descriptions don’t make for easy reading, but they’re accurate.

He struggles, as do we all, with where to find the compromise between comfort care and the unrelenting reality that sooner, rather than later, every effort will fail.

But, in the end, it’s really not that complicated, because there are essentially two choices.

We can go the route of Peter Singer, who insists we should euthanize these infants, or, in Baroness Warnock’s harsh world, that they should be “put down.” Or we can take note of what happens routinely in the Netherlands, where dying babies are routinely euthanized because they have no hope of a “good quality of life.”

What hideously casual utilitarian decisions!

But, as Doc suggests, there is another, better choice: Supporting the family, gently explaining every option. Using every medical and palliative tool to provide comfort and ease pain. Being patient as families grieve.

All this, because we are dealing with a human life, an exceptional life, no matter how brief. 

A life worth just as much as anyone more perfect. 

Loving and gentle medical care so that whatever time is left can be spent making the memories, brief as they will be, to warm and console hearts after that Long Slow Goodbye

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dignitas’ Assisted Suicide for Healthy People

I’m often more than a little bemused when naiveté inevitably results in shock and disbelief.

Why? Because there are two groups of people who generate shock among those who listen to them:

First, there are those who deliberately seek to shock our sensibilities for the sheer delight of seeing the reaction produced. Like grown ups who tell potty jokes at polite dinner parties.

Second, a much more dangerous group: people who say things that are not necessarily meant to shock, but are simply said because they are true. These people mean what they say, and say what they mean.

And then act on what they have told us they would do.

Saying what they believe is not the biggest problem, though – it’s that people react by thinking they cannot possibly mean what they are saying, and so either ignore it, or are disproportionally incredulous.

Incredulous is exactly how the UK press have been acting over statements made by Dignitas founder Ludwig Minelli.

You do remember Dignitas, don’t you? In case you missed previous posts about this outfit, see here, here, here, here, and here.

I’m shocked that the UK press is shocked. Minelli is just saying what he believes, how he intends to proceed, and what his actions will mean.  Minelli wants to  stretch the envelope of whom he helps kill.

He's as serious as a heart attack (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Minelli’s comments are also a rare glimpse past the pro-death spin and propaganda of “dignity,” “autonomy,” and “compassion” into the horrific abyss of twisted pro-death values and deceit.

The Times of London fretted that Minelli ". . . now wants to kill people that are perfectly healthy." 

(Sidebar: That’s the ultimate goal of all this pro-death stuff – death on demand anywhere, any time, for anyone).

Let’s look at what Minnelli actually, and accurately, said:

Ludwig Minelli described suicide as a “marvellous opportunity” that should not be restricted to the terminally ill or people with severe disabilities.

Just to make sure you see the spin: Suicide is not nihilistic, selfish, and probably avoidable. It’s a wonderful act that people should embrace. Oh yes, and by the way, we don’t need to be selfish about it – why should only terminally ill people or those with severe disabilities have access to this “marvelous opportunity?”

See how magnanimous? Marvellous opportunities should be available to all, otherwise it’s discriminatory, don’t you know.

On we go:

Mr. Minelli said that anyone who has “mental capacity” should be allowed to have an assisted suicide, claiming that it would save money for the NHS.


If you have “mental capacity,” suicide’s the thing for you. Note, the mental capacity term is not an accident: Even newborn infants have “mental capacity.” Ergo, assisted suicide for all!!!

If what Minelli means is that assisted suicide should be available for people in their right mind, that’s only a stepping stone to killing people who aren’t in their right mind (e.g., Alzheimer’s patients) when others decide that, were they in their right mind, they would want to commit suicide.

The last part is not a joke – it’s how they justify euthanizing people with impaired “mental capacity” in the Netherlands.

But here’s the coup de grace: Killing people saves the state (the British National Health Service) money.


No more pretence.

No more backtracking (as many pro-death people do) that saving money is never the intent, although sometimes an unintended consequence, of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Does anyone really think that the bean counters in any health organization won’t see this as a very tempting idea? Can we say Useless Eaters, anyone?

But, now, finally, to the reason for the fuss (see, nobody these days is too upset about someone spinning assisted suicide & euthanasia as a “marvellous opportunity” or that killing people will save money – that’s old hat).

Everyone got their knickers in a tangle because Minelli was "revealing plans to help a healthy woman to die alongside her terminally ill husband."

Minelli explained:

“The husband is ill, his partner is not ill, but she told us here in my living room that, ‘If my husband goes, I would go at the same time with him’,” he said.

So, Mr. I'll-kill-you-for-any-reason-as-long-as-you-ask is going to do what any champion of a worthy cause would do: He’s going to challenge the Swiss law that bars assisted suicide for healthy people.

Now there’s a really brave, kind man.

Coming soon to a place near you.

Be afraid, be very afraid.