Friday, April 26, 2013

Susan Griffiths, Assisted Suicide and Switzerland.

Susan Griffiths
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The story of Susan Griffiths assisted suicide death at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland has significant emotional appeal. 

If assisted suicide is so caring and compassionate, then why do people with disabilities and other caring and compassionate people oppose the legalization of assisted suicide?

Some media outlets have went from reporting the story of Susan Griffiths death to advocating for the legalization of assisted suicide. Within the media hype over assisted suicide, a few voices were heard opposing the legalization of assisted suicide.

Amy Hasbrouck, the leader of Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet stated in her article titled, Suicide Celebration instead of Suicide Prevention
The reasons she (Griffiths) gives for wanting to kill herself are related to disability, needing help with personal care and other daily activities, having to use adaptive equipment, losing independence. The subtext is that, as a person with a disability, she believes she will be less worthy, less dignified, less than fully human. 
In point of fact, disability is NOT a fate worse than death. When people become disabled, they must grieve the loss of abilities they had, just as a parent might grieve the loss of a child, or one grieves the loss of one's home after a natural disaster. But no one would suggest it's a good idea for the bereaved parent or survivor of a natural disaster to commit suicide, much less that she/he be helped to die.
Ruth Enns, a disability leader from Winnipeg and the author of the book: A Voice Unheard: The Latimer case and People with Disabilities stated to CBC News:
She said assisted suicide allows doctors to choose when their patients will die. 
She added Canada is already a place where disabled people are devalued and doesn't believe any safeguards could help protect the vulnerable and disabled from being pushed to assisted suicide. 
"I grieve for [Susan Griffiths], and my sympathies are with her family. But I also grieve more for the people she has harmed in the process," said Enns.
Winnipeg lawyer, Dean Richert expressed his concerns in a CBC article about the discrimination that already exists against people with disabilities:
legalizing assisted suicide could send the wrong message about the quality of life for people with disabilities. 
"There's already a devaluation of people with disabilities," 
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities questioned in their media advisory:
"why Griffiths has not been offered suicide prevention support. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a national organization of people with disabilities working for an accessible and inclusive Canada."
Amy Hasbrouck & John Kelly
Hasbrouck told CTV news in an interview:
“When a person with a disability wants to commit suicide, everybody thinks, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea, because they’re suffering,’” 
“But when a non-disabled person wants to commit suicide, society mobilizes itself to prevent that suicide even to the point of curtailing their liberty by putting them in a psychiatric facility. 
“And our concern is where that double standard comes from. And that double standard comes from an assumption that life with a disability is a fate worse than death.”
Enns emphasized the effect of discrimination towards people with disabilities in her article: Assisted suicide would jeopardize people with disabilities. She stated:
We recognize bullied teenagers who choose to end their lives have been pushed to that extreme. We do not seemingly recognize people with disabilities are also bullied and often socially isolated. 
Such obvious prejudice in our culture constitutes cultural bullying and emotional abuse leaving many people with disabilities feeling emotionally abandoned, worthless or traumatized. How can we say choosing assisted suicide in the face of such a strong negative bias is any more rational than the "choice" of the bullied teenager? In this cultural script of life, legalizing “death with dignity” would strongly imply that if we become burdensome, we become undignified and unworthy. If we want to be worthy, we should bow out.
Hasbrouck explained how Griffiths case proves how the debate concerning assisted suicide concerns attitudes towards people with disabilities in society. She stated:
We have a policy to prevent suicides, and rightfully so. We apply this policy to people whose despair arises from social as well as psychological stresses; bullied adolescents, LGBT people who’ve been persecuted, Aboriginal people struggling with poverty and loss of cultural heritage, and survivors of domestic violence. 
People with disabilities who lack services and supports to live in their homes and be integrated in their communities face the same discrimination and social stressors. Suicide prevention policies and services should be applied equally to disabled and non-disabled people, without bias or prejudice about the quality of life with a disability. And society must begin to address the underlying discrimination and stigma that create the conditions in which people with disabilities live.
Enns shows out how the issue of assisted suicide becomes more dangerous for vulnerable people based on the fact that doctors in jurisdictions where it is legal, will often ignore the safeguards. She stated:
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has shown that in Belgium the safeguards are routinely ignored, and of those doctors who ignored them, most didn’t even realize they had strayed from assisted suicide to euthanasia and even murder. 
Where was the choice for these doctors’ patients?
Hon Rob Nicholson
The government of Canada continues to recognize the importance of maintaining its laws protecting people from euthanasia and assisted suicide. Hon Rob Nicholson, Attorney General of Canada stated:
even though the issue is “emotional and divisive” for many Canadians, he has “no intention of reopening this debate.” 
He said in a written statement, “The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities.”
Shelly Glover MP
Nicholson was supported by Conservative MP Shelley Glover who stated to CBC:
Parliament voted against allowing assisted suicide in 2010 because they believe they were "doing the right thing." 
She said she understands the difficulty of the issue because her own daughter has terminal brain cancer. 
“I’m deeply affected by this situation, which is why I voted against it in 2010,” said Glover.  
“I’m sorry for anyone who finds themselves in this position, but I believe we’re doing the right thing.”
Hasbrouck, from Not Dead Yet, concluded her article in this way:
Does the media orgy around Griffiths story mean that we believe the everyday realities of living with a disability are reason enough to get help to die? And should the media rise to the bait every time a person with a disability flaunts their suicide in the public square.
Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide intrinsically devalues the person who society has deemed to be "Not Worth Living". Whether it is an individual decision or the decision of a physician who has decided it was in the "best interest" of the person, the act is carried out by another person who carries a social and societal bias towards the lives of people living with certain conditions.

Why has no body asked the question, why did the doctor in Switzerland decide so quickly that Griffiths should be given the lethal cocktail? The article from CBC news stated that the meeting with the physician in Switzerland took only a few minutes. This was a doctor who had never met Griffiths before and decided in a few minutes that she was good to go.

It is interesting that on the same day as the media orgy around Griffiths death at the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic, assisted suicide groups in Switzerland were complaining about a government sponsored study to find out what is actually happening with assisted suicide in Switzerland.

To learn more about the current practice and abuses of the Belgian and Netherlands euthanasia laws, by ordering the book, by Alex Schadenberg ($20 includes shipping): Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Exposing Vulnerable People will prepare you to oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.


Ray said...

This is just a bunch of fear mongering and worst first thinking. Nobody wants to coerce someone else into ending their life. The discussion should be about where society draws the line. Can you not think of any case where it would not be the compassionate, caring, loving and moral thing to do to help someone who asks put an end to needless suffering?

This article is so full of strawmen it is embarrassing.

How dare you try to take away my right to a dignified death.

Rob S Tunny said...

Wow. I had never thought of it that way. Thanks.

Winston said...

A few corrections, Alex.

Disabilities are not ALWAYS a fate worse than death. They can be, as the case of Tony Nicklinson proved.

You're a typical conservative, Alex, only concerned with civil rights that you yourself will personally exercise. That makes you a hypocrite in addition to being a fascist.

Alex Schadenberg said...


I will stop publishing your comments if you continue being so rude.

The fact is that your philosophy led to fascism, not mine.

We believe that every human being has dignity and giving someone the right in law to kill them is a control measure (fascist) that denigrates their dignity.