Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vancouver Sun and euthanasia lobby activist dissing disability activists

Stephen Drake from Not Dead Yet is not taking the crap from the euthanasia lobby, who are attempting to discount the opposition by people with disabilities to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

All I have to say is go get-em Stephen:

Read his comments:
Ann Neumann, writing on the Otherspoon blog, has stated in the past that she's inclined to shy away from direct criticism of disability rights groups like NDY in the "right to die" debate, seeing it as "a trap."

Neumann found a way around the "trap" last week by quoting someone else's work. Specifically, she quoted a "hit and miss" attempt at analysis of the impact of the disability rights movement in Canada published in the Vancouver Sun.

Here's the relevant portion of the article in regard to assisted suicide and euthanasia, which Neumann also shares on her blog:

The battle for disabled rights has had other unpredicted twists and turns.

One of them is over the so-called "right to die." As advocates for the disabled have continued battling for recognition, they have clashed with people who want laws in Canada and the U.S. permitting assisted suicide for those with severe disabilities and terminal conditions.

Even though polls show the majority of Canadians support regulated euthanasia, disability rights activists have strongly lobbied politicians to make sure no one, regardless of the severity of their disability, should be able to choose an assisted suicide.

In this increasingly bitter debate, disabled activists claim legalizing assisted suicide would be an ethical "slippery slope" that would lead to all disabled people, no matter the degree of their impairment, being devalued as human beings.

In turn, advocates for assisted suicide maintain the arguments of disabled-rights activists are a misplaced over-reaction to their proposals.

American readers should take careful note of the specific wording. The debate in Canada is not limited to advocacy of assisted suicide or euthanasia for the "terminally ill" alone. As I'll get to in a bit, it's not even limited to those who ask to die.

All the more curious that she'd highlight this, since one of her criticisms in her previous post responding (sort of) to Not Dead Yet, contained this:

As to the provision of rights to one group infringing on the rights of another, that's just bad thinking too. Giving a mentally-sound, terminal patient with less than six the right to a lethal prescription that they may or may not choose to take when death approaches has nothing to do with the disabled community. Again, I sympathize with the fear and vulnerability the disabled community feels toward the medical industry, the state, and society. But conflating two separate issues is just bad advocacy. With a little (understandable) paranoia thrown in.

Paranoia? Certainly not in Canada.

See, the reporter at the Vancouver Sun didn't do his homework. The one single case that galvanized the disability community in Canada in regard to this issue was the murder of a disabled 12-year-old girl by her father, who claimed it was a "mercy killing" after failing to pass her death off as a natural one. Robert Latimer, who gassed his daughter Tracy in the cab of his truck, had many defenders - including members of the "right to die" movement in Canada.

Ruth von Fuchs, current president of the Right to Die Society of Canada, had some pretty unambiguous quotes during the trial of Robert Latimer:
Proponents of euthanasia say that, until proper legal and social supports are in place, many people, like Latimer, have to take the law into their own hands. "This law is being written unofficially in emergency rooms and intensive care wards every night," says Ruth von Fuchs, a member of the Right to Die Society in Toronto. Von Fuchs views Tracy's death as part of a "continuum" that begins with brain-damaged infants, some so severely handicapped that doctors quietly remove life support within hours of birth. It is unfortunate, she adds, that because mercy killing has been "criminalized," Latimer felt he had to act alone, without the help of a social worker or medical expert. Von Fuchs, and other members of the euthanasia movement, is calling for a change in attitude to mercy killing. "In our society, we forbid people to give up," she argues. "We say, 'Never say die,' but sometimes you have to stand back and realize that really is a cliché. We cannot fix everyone every time forever."

You want a clearer statement from a leader in the Canadian "right to die" movement? Here is an excerpt from a 1997 NY Times article quoting the late Marilyn Seguin, then the executive director of of the Canadian group Dying with Dignity:

Marilynne Seguin, executive director of Dying With Dignity, a Toronto-based group promoting freedom of choice for physician-assisted deaths, said that the Latimers had already lived under a sentence during the 12 years that Tracy was alive and that to add the 10-year punishment "is quite unconscionable." (emphasis added.)

Going back to the original article, opposition of disability rights activists - and mistrust of the motives of euthanasia advocates - might seem less like an "overreaction" and more an appropriate reaction with more information.

The Vancouver Sun reporter failed to supply a full context for the nature of the real debate here - through laziness, sloppiness or reasons unknown. Whether Neumann found this appealing due to true ignorance or a simple wish to use misinformation is anyone's guess. But even with the limited information available in the article, she certainly can't accuse disability activists of conflating "terminal illness" with "disability." Disability is openly on the agenda of the euthanasia proponents in Canada.

It is here in the US as well. The larger organizations just favor an incrementalist approach and are a little embarrassed by the recently publicized more radical activities of the Final Exit Network. --Stephen Drake

Link to the comments on the Not Dead Yet blog:

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