Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why is there so much suicide promotion during Suicide Prevention Week. Part 1.

Stephen Drake, the excellent policy analyst for the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet published this incredible commentary on September 8, concerning the promotion of assisted suicide during Suicide Prevention Week. He asks very important questions about the direction of Suicide Prevention leaders, but also makes excellent commentary about the direction of the suicide lobby.

This article and the next the other one that he wrote yesterday, that is also excellent. Please read.

You'd never know it's National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4 - 10), or that Saturday, Sept. 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. But then again, as I've written before, it's been increasingly clear that the Suicide Prevention Community has washed its hands of old, ill and disabled people - and surrendered at risk individuals in those groups to suicide and euthanasia advocacy groups.

If that seems a little extreme and overblown, you'll have to excuse me. The week has, from my somewhat skewed vantage, been dominated by suicide news - but not by news dealing with prevention.

For example, yesterday Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley certified an initiative petition for the "Death with Dignity Act" (aka "make assisted suicide legal act"). We'll write more about that later, but the certification allows the petitioners to gather signatures; if successful in meeting the quota, the initiative goes before the legislature. If the legislature fails to adopt the measure as legislation, the petitioners need to gather more signatures in order to put the initiative on the 2012 ballot to be decided by voters. (h/t to Margaret Dore)

Yesterday - September 7th - also saw the publication of a new message from Barbara Coombs Lee on the Compassion & Choices/Conflation & Con Jobs blog.

I'm going to translate liberally here, but Ms. Coombs Lee says that after 14 years (while C & C was controlling the information available about the actual practice of assisted suicide in Oregon, spin-doctoring any unfavorable events, making sure that reporters and film makers have access to the shiningest examples of loving families who went through the "death with dignity process," and keeping media away from the less than shining examples), they have been successful in achieving a 77% approval rate for the law in Oregon. And this was in spite of the observation by editors of The Oregonian that:
Oregon's physician-assisted suicide program has not been sufficiently transparent. Essentially, a coterie of insiders run the program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know. We're aware of no substantiated abuses, but we'd feel more confident with more sunlight on the program. (Emphasis added.) See this link for a full discussion.

The point, though, of this message is that there is one thing that will be changing in their advocacy from now on - the limited amount of documentation that has been required of physicians under the Oregon law is seen as too burdensome by those professionals. So from now on, advocacy efforts won't be pushing for even the illusion of accountability the previous statute includes. Charming. And predictable. Removing the burden of even token accountability will bring more doctors on board. Coombs Lee is right about that. As I said, I've taken some liberties with my own translation here, so please go ahead and read this fascinating warning shot from Coombs Lee here. (h/t Kathi Hamlon)

That's how my experience with major news during Suicide Prevention Week here in the US has gone.

So, some of you might wonder how things are shaping up for World Suicide Prevention Day...

First, there's the news in the UK that at least 10% of suicides in Britain are linked to terminal or chronic illness and account for over 400 deaths every year, according to this report by the DEMOS think tank in the UK. Accompanying this information is the news that out of 44 people suspected of facilitating the suicide of a friend or family member in the past 18 months, not a single one has been prosecuted in the UK, leading to the conclusion by many that there is an unspoken but real legalization of assisted suicide now in the UK.

Finally, Radio Netherlands reports that the Dutch Physicians Association has expanded the guidelines for "eligibility" when it comes to assisted suicide. From the news report:
After almost a year of discussions, the KNMG has published a position paper which says that social factors and diseases and ailments that are not terminal may also qualify as unbearable and lasting suffering under the Euthanasia Act.

VulnerableAt the moment, there are approximately one million elderly people in the Netherlands with multi-morbidity (two or more long-term diseases or ailments) and that number is expected to rise to 1.5 million in the course of the coming decade. According to the new guidelines, vulnerability (or fragility) refers to health problems, and the ensuing limitations, as well as a concurrent decline in other areas of life such as financial resources, social network and social skills.

As people age, many suffer from a complex array of gradually worsening problems, which can include poor eyesight, deafness, fatigue, difficulty walking and incontinence as well as loss of dignity, status, financial resources, an ever-shrinking social network and loss of social skills. Although this accumulation of ailments and diseases is not life-threatening, they do have a negative impact on the quality of life and make the elderly vulnerable, or fragile. Vulnerability also affects the ability to recover from illnesses and can lead to unbearable and lasting suffering.

In other words, this proposal suggests that elderly people experiencing common risk factors for anyone wanting to commit suicide (decline of financial resources and/or social network, for example) should be eligible for assisted suicide or euthanasia. I call this "culling the herd."

I don't know what's makes me angrier - that all of this assisted suicide advocacy goes on during a period in which suicide prevention is supposed to be promoted...

Or the deadly, consistent and determined silence of the (cough) suicide prevention community when suicide is actively promoted as praiseworthy and deserving of "assistance" for old, ill and disabled people.

Would it be too much to ask to just cancel the whole Suicide Prevention Week/Day thing? Right now, all those events are accomplishing is to highlight just how selectively the whole concept of "prevention" is being applied. --Stephen Drake

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