Sunday, August 21, 2016

We all have a role to stop euthanasia. But the task is monumental. Be ready.

By Charles Lewis

Over the past few years many of us have written and spoken about the evils of euthanasia. Part of me always has wondered why this was such tough sell. After all, our basic instincts tell us that those who are hurt and sick should be cared for.

There is nothing radical in this. Even in war enemy combatants will often tend to the enemy's wounded out of a sense of some basic decency.

Those healing instincts are born of morality. It does not have to be religious morality but some code that is ingrained that, like a compass, always points in the same direction.

So perhaps the problem is that we are becoming immoral. Whatever foundation was there is crumbling under the weight of cynicism.

A moral society assumes certain things: When we talk to each other we are more or less speaking the same language based on the same basic ethos of our community. Anyone who has tried in the past few years to argue against euthanasia, even among religious people, will know that this commonality is fading fast.

In most of the discussions I had ended I ended up feeling as if I was speaking in a strange tongue. This was not a case of simple disagreement but something far beyond that. It was as if two separate conversations were going on with nothing linking the participants except animosity and confusion.

In other words it was two people coming from different cultures without either side being able to relate to the other.

For those of us of a certain age and persuasion it is akin to feeling lost. I ask myself all the time how did we slip so far into an abyss in which basic morality, a clear definition of what is right and what is wrong, has become so muddled.

When I was growing up, in the 1950s and 60s, there seemed to be some things that were considered wrong: these were premises agreed on by people who were Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and even those thoroughly secular.

The idea of killing someone who was sick would have seemed barbaric. All these were seen as failures against the common good. There was a sense of a community standard that everyone had a stake in. No doubt this could turn judgmental and possibly even cruel but those attitudes were the extreme.

My own view it is the decline of religion and a belief in God. That cannot be the only answer, however.

We grew up in Brooklyn. Their history was typical of the people I grew up with. Our grandparents and parents lived through the Depression. Our fathers fought in the Second World War. In the 1950s they were happy to be alive and enjoyed a success that in the midst of the 1930s or at the height of the war were impossible to imagine.

Those experiences forged comradery. People were pro-life, in the broadest sense of the term because they knew what misery looked like especially those who survived the war. Everywhere there were European refugees; many with numbers on their arms who were simply thankful to not have the state classify them as subhuman and unworthy. And many families, like mine, had relatives that did not come back from the war, a constant reminder of sacrifice for all.

Now we have a society, in general, that has little time for religion. It sees morality as artificial and a hindrance to freedom. We live in a culture that has more gadgets that is causing isolation. We are bombarded with tons of information that is essentially useless for leading a good, moral life.

Try to be serious and someone makes a joke because being serious gets in the way of fun.

Of course, there are many people who are the exception to what I have described and thank God for them.

For those of us who believe the battle against euthanasia is not over, as I do, I write this as a reminder of what we are up against. It is not just a matter of disagreement over an issue. If only it were so.

We can still stop people from being abandoned to death by assisted suicide and euthanasia. We must see each person who opts for the needle as a personal defeat. Nothing is in isolation. A man who is killed with the help of a physician will have sent a message to friends and family that medical murder is fine.

We all have a role to stop this. But the task is monumental. Be ready. Otherwise you will be speaking into the wind.

Charles Lewis is an anti-euthanasia speaker and writer. He writes a column twice a month for Toronto’s Catholic Register newspaper.

21 comments:

Tony Burns said...

"After all, our basic instincts tell us that those who are hurt and sick should be cared for." Yes and when all attempts to alleviate suffering in a terminal patient fail and the person experiencing the suffering begs you to bring the inevitable just a little closer please tell me what is caring about telling them you would rather see them suffer as long as possible?

"Those healing instincts are born of morality." How many terminally ill people within sight of the end are healed? This is not about people who are going to be healed. What is morally right about allowing more suffering?

"The idea of killing someone who was sick would have seemed barbaric." And it still is. Your attempt to build an uncaring psychopathic straw man to support your position is fallacious.

You claim to want to lead a good, moral life. What is moral or good about ignoring the plea of someone whose only future is insufferable pain that will only end with death and who begs to have that cure brought closer? How is it moral to prefer that they suffer? Where is your compassion?

Cheryl, CHN said...

I am a senior who suffers with debilitating chronic pain due to a number of serious health problems. I've flatlined a number of times. Opiods help but does not eliminate the pain. My family knows how much I suffer. I am not terminally I'll, but I've been suffering serious pain for over a decade & its gotten worse. With the law as it is in some places all that has to be wrong for me to ask for euthanasia & qualify is if I'm simply tired of life.

So you think the doctor who agrees to kill me is compassionate? If the family also agrees are they compassionate?

Well I do not wish to be killed for many reasons. I believe anyone who thinks I'd be better off dead offers pseudo compassion. Most deaths by euthanasia have little to do with terminal illness...many deaths are non & involuntary euthanasia.Euthanasia is not medicine, its medical murder, and abandonment. And that is immoral.

Ak Rhodes said...

"all attempts to alleviate suffering..." That is a fallacious argument: you know that all attempts have been made, or allowed. How do we know that someone hasn't been denied care in the background - "We will pay for this euthanasia, but not for care..." or "We will pay for this euthanasia, but not for pain medication..." Ontario just delisted pain medication on the claim that it was addictive.

Healing is not always physical. There are other dimensions. And allowing more suffering - as in your not taking every step to alleviate that or the person wouldn't be in pain - is immoral.

Uncaring psychopathic straw man...10% of the population has some form of psychopathy. (Bakan, 2005: Psychology Today...) Ref the nurses who kill their patients because patients or their families were annoying (Italy, 2015) Or the nurse who killed her patients because she needed the beds. (England, 2014) Don't forget your sympathy for the euthanasia activist Charles Curran...

"...whose only future is insufferable pain..." You claim to be able to see into the future in all respects in this statement. Again, if you are in hospital and in pain, then your pain is not being managed properly. And that, at its most basic is unethical and a failure of care, not a need for euthanasia.

Tony Burns said...

Cheryl, CHN

“Well I do not wish to be killed for many reasons.” Medically assisted dying is not about anyone wanting to kill you. It is about choice. I respect your choice and will fight to protect it. What gives you the right to deny the choice to others?

“Most deaths by euthanasia have little to do with terminal illness ... many deaths are non & involuntary euthanasia.” Please provide citations for those claims with some actual statistics. “Most” is not believable without numbers to back it up and “many” is too vague to be meaningful.

We all must do what we can to minimize, and if possible eliminate, abuse of assisted dying but outright denial is not the solution. If a person with only a short time to live requests a dignified end how is it compassionate to abandon them by denying their request?

Ak Rhodes

“you know that all attempts have been made, or allowed.” Sorry but I don't know how to parse that. Is it a statement? A question? Have some words been left out?

“And allowing more suffering - as in your not taking every step to alleviate that or the person wouldn't be in pain - is immoral.“ You do realize that not all pain can be alleviated don't you? If not I refer you to Cheryl's post above.

Your reference to rare cases (Italy, England, ...) is an argument for regulation and oversight to minimize abuse and not an argument to deny people choice. However, from what you've written, I bet you would still be against medically assisted dying even if all possibility of abuse or error were eliminated. If so your argument has little weight.

“Again, if you are in hospital and in pain, then your pain is not being managed properly.“ If you really believe that it is possible to manage all pain you need to do some fact checking or scroll up and read about Cheryl's “debilitating chronic pain”.

In general, no longer addressing specific statements from Cheryl and Ak:

It is time to address this issue without the paranoia, fear mongering and conspiracy theories that too often accompany these discussions.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Tony:

There are many assisted deaths without request.
Try this link: http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca/2015/03/almost-1000-deaths-are-hastened-without.html

Tony Burns said...

Thank you for the link Alex and for trying to give a quantifiable number to the term "many". Your data says 1.7% or maybe 1.8%. I agree that that is too much and would encourage those responsible for oversight and legislation to see what can be done to reduce that number. While I would strive to improve that statistic I would not want to deny a peaceful end to the other 98.3 or 98.2%.

Is 1.7% the same as many? That is very subjective. I would love to know what Cheryl thought the percentage was when she made the statement I questioned. Too late now as the cat is out of the bag although I note this is only one example. I'm curious to know what number you would sadly and reluctantly accept. I assume that you do not think any law/guideline can be expected to be perfect. Is there some number greater than zero that would be, at some level, reluctantly acceptable to you?

Ak Rhodes said...

Since Tony isn't going to respond to specific statements from me, I know he'll agree with this: he admits that abuse and error will never be eliminated, which is why we cannot ever agree to medically imposed death. However, since Tony's position is my death when I want it for you on demand without apology...and parsing things out to specifics when it suits him is simply bad rhetoric, constructed to push his pro-death position as inevitable. Again, bad rhetoric.

If I were to push things, I'd want to know how many people Tony helped to die...

But he's not going to respond to specific statements from me.

I win. Euthanasia is bad in all its forms.

Tony Burns said...

Dear Ak:

Where to begin? Maybe responding inline.

A: Since Tony isn't going to respond to specific statements from me,

T: My post had 4 paragraphs responding to what you had previously written

A: I know he'll agree with this:

T: How do you know that?

A: he admits that abuse and error will never be eliminated,

T: I do but will work to minimize.

A: which is why we cannot ever agree to medically imposed death.

T: Please explain. Do you approve of people driving and riding in vehicles? Lots of death and pain associated with transportation. Would you ban cars?

A: However, since Tony's position is my death when I want it for you on demand without apology

T: You will have to explain that sentence. Who is the my referred to in “my death”? “when I want it for you” is equally ambiguous. Who are “I” and “you” referring to? Please clarify.

A: ...and parsing things out to specifics when it suits him is simply bad rhetoric, constructed to push his pro-death position as inevitable. Again, bad rhetoric.

T: Are you accusing me of not addressing every word in your original post? Guilty. If there are specific points you would like to discuss please present them and I'll be happy to do so.

A: If I were to push things, I'd want to know how many people Tony helped to die...

T: Push all you want. I have helped no one to die. I am not qualified or in a position to do so. However, if I were and received a request that was lawful I would do so out of compassion.

A: But he's not going to respond to specific statements from me.

T: Please present the statements you are disappointed that I missed. Perhaps while you are at it you will take the time to answer the questions I posed to you.

A: I win. Euthanasia is bad in all its forms.

T: It would seem that in your world all those who request a dignified death lose. See Alex's statistics showing that more than 98% of requests were handled compassionately.

Do you have any other arguments against compassionately responding to a dying persons request other than the possibility of error?

ParaTir Quebec said...

Dear Tony,

I am guessing that you are not disabled, or in any kind of physically challenging situation, as in pain, reduced wakefulness etc. etc. Of course I might be wrong and stand willing to be corrected.

In any case, the problem for those of us who are, is that we are unwillingly included in a list of people who, depending on your vocabulary, "have a right to die" "fit the criteria for assisted death" or simply "should be dead".

I know you said to Cheryl that this is not about pressuring her to die. But how can that be true ?

Assuming, once again, that you are not in the category, should YOU ask for death, you would immediately be paired up with some sort of suicide prevention.

If on the other hand I should ask for death, or Cheryl, we would be killed.

Do you not understand that there is a difference there ? How about if we both live on the thirtieth floor of an apartment building. WE both have balconies. My balcony has a guard rail. Yours does not. How do you feel about that ?

You say that I have a choice not an obligation. But the reason I have that right is because an arbitrary decision, to which I am not a party, has been made that my life is less valuable than that of another person to whom the right has been denied.

This is patently discriminatory.

Your argument only holds true if EVERYBODY has the right.

In which case we don't need any medical evaluation or doctors to do the deed. The service could be offered in bars, convenience stores and gas stations. Vending machines in High Schools.

And no. I am not kidding. Such a regime would be more just, more honest. more moral. more human. and generally much less dangerous for the fiber of society than ANY system which singles out particular groups as more legitimately apt to die.

I appreciate your compassion but it is misplaced.

Feel the Love !

Gordon from Montreal

P.S. Pain can ALWAYS be controlled. There is a continuum between pain relief and anesthesia. Allowing a pain-ridden patient the equivalent of a pharmacological open bar is not the same thing as killing them. Think about it.

Jule Koch said...

Tony,
If someone asks you to do something for them - say, for example, to bring them something - whose choice is it whether they get what they asked for, yours or theirs?

Tony Burns said...

Dear Gordon,

Thank you for your input to this discussion. You will not be surprised to know that I do not agree with all you have said. I'll try to explain why and to answer some of your questions.

I am not disabled but I am intimately associated with those who are as a friend in some cases and as primary care giver in one case. As such I cannot speak from first hand experience but I'm closer to it than many.

I find your use of “should be dead” insulting. The conspiracy theory implying the Dying with Dignity supporters want to murder people is fear mongering at its worst. I understand the temptation to go with the worst case scenario but it does nothing to further the discussion. We live in a society that does not condone let alone promote that kind of thinking.

I'm sorry that you, and maybe Cheryl, feel people are pressuring you to die. Anyone who is doing that is a disgusting excuse for a human being. I don't believe that you want people to suffer needlessly yet that is the implication by those who, when talking about medically assisted dying, couch it in terms of euthanasia, killing and murder. Just as those you claim want all disabled people dead, those who want to deny a dignified end to life should be ashamed of themselves.

No one has the “right” to die. We will all die. This a about the right to dignity and compassion. It baffles me how hard it is to get many people in these discussions to understand that. Maybe they do understand it and just choose to ignore it as it does nothing to support their position.

I see nothing in the current Canadian position or that of those who support it that leads me to believe you or Cheryl would be killed, please stop using that word, more easily than anyone else who asked for an assisted death. Just because you might be able to argue a stronger case for your decision it would be your decision. Why do you want to deny such requests out of hand? Why is my decision about how to handle my suffering of such importance to you? Cheryl, and perhaps you, do things to alleviate your symptoms. Where would you stand if I lobbied to ban all medication, physio therapy, etc because I thought it better if you suffer?

.. Blogspot just told me there is a 4K character limit. I will try to continue in a new entry.

Tony Burns said...

.. continued from above due to blogspot 4K character limit.

The 30th floor argument is a very poor example. You say that you have a guard rail while I have none but the anti-choice lobby is asking for a solid floor to ceiling wall not a guard rail. A guard rail minimizes accidental falls. Read my posts. I am in full support of doing everything that can be done to protect those who may be pressured but this is about choice, free choice. I'll help you build the guard rail to ensure, as much as possible, that the choice is a free one. I will not help you build a wall.

I'm very sorry that you feel others think your life less valuable. I am not one of those people. I'd be an idiot to think there are no people like that but they are the people that cause us to put up guard rails. I also believe they are an extreme minority and looked down on by all decent people. Please don't let these imagined people affect your self esteem. If they are real people in your life please distance yourself from them. Get court orders if need be.

“In which case we don't need any medical evaluation or doctors to do the deed. The service could be offered in bars, convenience stores and gas stations. Vending machines in High Schools.“ You were doing well until this point. This argument from imagined extremes does nothing to support your position. Let's just forget it happened.

“Pain can ALWAYS be controlled.” If by controlled you mean can be modified then I accept your statement. If one finds their modified condition acceptable I imagine they would not choose to request MAID and this issue is about choice. Not all “control” of pain is acceptable. Sometimes the side effects are worse than the condition trying to be controlled. The choice is made by the person suffering not others choosing for them. Denying them the right to choose is making the choice for them and I object.

I've asked before and ask again, what do those who want to make that choice for me think gives them the right to do so? If you would rather see me suffer than deny my dying wish how do you sleep at night? How do you justify that position? Look at the statistics Alex provided earlier. Yes, they indicated that as much as 1.8% of those studied fell through the cracks and that indicates that we need to be more vigilant. How would you explain to the other 98% that you prefer they suffer? How do you explain that to their loved ones who, while fully grieving their loss, know this is what granny wanted and that she didn't continue to suffer? Please tell me how you deal with that.

Tony Burns said...

Dear Jule;

I don't know what your point is. So far in this discussion I have been talking with people who don't want to allow choice.

ParaTir Quebec said...

Dear Tony,

You are a very brave man, coming on to get tag teamed in a place like this. You are not just a drive by troll. You stick around to field the second and third round. I respect that.

We have covered a lot of ground. The discussion must become more detailed.

Gordon :
“In which case we don't need any medical evaluation or doctors to do the deed. The service could be offered in bars, convenience stores and gas stations. Vending machines in High Schools.“

Tony:
You were doing well until this point. This argument from imagined extremes does nothing to support your position. Let's just forget it happened.

On the contrary. This is the heart of the matter. Why would you object to a random person putting a dollar in a vending machine, taking the dose and dying right there ? If it is, as you say, simply a matter of choice, what objection could you have ?

At the risk of putting unwarranted words in your mouth, I will answer this rhetorical question myself :

You MUST believe that some people are justified in killing themselves and others are not.

Society agrees with you. Under the current scheme, if YOU ask for MAID you will be paired with suicide prevention resources and if need be, you will be sequestered, and restrained.

In my case, the request will be approved and I will be KILLED.

This means that society (if not you personally), does believe that I, in the abstract general case, would be justified in killing myself. Indeed so much so, that budgets and professionals will be provided to kill me if I make the request.

So why will society protect you, even against yourself, but actually PAY other people to kill me ?

Look for the answer back at at the vending machine : Why am I different from any other random person who might use that machine ? Why does it seem ludicrous or unseemly of me to suggest that some OTHER random person be allowed access to that machine ? Why should I have access or Cheryl, but not you or anybody else ?

This is clearly discriminatory.

Tony:
The 30th floor argument is a very poor example. You say that you have a guard rail while I have none but the anti-choice lobby is asking for a solid floor to ceiling wall not a guard rail.

Gordon:
This is actually an excellent example. I gave you the apartment without a guard rail so that you would get a feeling for the situation I am in. Because, as should now be clear, it is actually I that has no rail. If I want to walk out and jump off, I have a perfect freedom to do so. In fact, if I make the request, society will actually pay a professional to come around and THROW me off.

You, on the other hand, have the wall you were talking about. And NOBODY working on the public dime is going to assist YOU in offing yourself. Sorry. Your choice is denied !

That would be MURDER under the law and yet (according to your linguistic sensibilities) I would not be allowed to use that word were I speaking of EXACTLY the same thing happening to me.

Once again, this is clear discrimination. Society is telling me that your life is worth protecting but mine is not.

(Or alternatively that I am a grown up person possessed of responsible choice whereas YOU are an incompetent who requires social protection from your own folly !)

(Believe me, there is no wiggle room here. And you could make this a lot easier on yourself by just conceding this one point : The sick and handicapped are faced with potentially fatal abuse by the mere existence of this discriminatory law).

-to be cont'd

ParaTir Quebec said...

part 2 (Dear Tony)

Now that said, I am not necessarily anti-choice. I simply believe the issue is a lot more complex than people think. This is not about MAID. MAID is a red herring. This is about a societal response to suicide. ANY social acceptance of suicide (let alone state assisted suicide) involves risks. Fine. Are you ready to SHARE my risk ? It would make me a lot happier if you were. Then I would feel EQUAL before the law.

Please. Please. Pretty Please ? All you have to say is that you, Tony, accept the idea that people exactly like you, (including yourself of course, right now) should have the right to be killed by the state. Show a bit of solidarity for heavens sake ! Otherwise, I can not possibly forgive you for supporting a law that says that people exactly like ME, have the exact same right to ask to be killed by the state. (clarity in vocabulary helps not hinders. After all, we ARE talking about killing people and it is idiotic to pretend otherwise.)

So how about it. Are you willing to put yourself at the exact same risk as you wish to put me ? or have you suddenly joined the Anti-Choice Lobby ?


Tony:
It baffles me how hard it is to get many people in these discussions to understand...

Gordon:
Hmmm. Perhaps that should set alarm bells ringing in your head right away, no ?

Feel the Love

Gordon from Montreal

Jule Koch said...

Tony
Sorry to repeat my question, but if someone asks you to do something for them, whose choice is it if they get what they want, yours or theirs?

Jule Koch said...

Tony.
You state, "..this is about choice, free choice".
According to Statistics Canada, from 2008 to 2012, 19,386 sadly exercised their right to free choice and killed themselves without any "help" from doctors.
1. How does opposing the deliberate killing of people deprive them of their right to choose death?
2. If someone asks you to kill them, whose free choice will it be if they die? Your choice or their choice?

Tony Burns said...

Dear Gordon;

It's nice to see someone who is actually interested in the discussion rather than disappearing at the slightest challenge.

Sorry to start the in-line response thing I don't think it is necessary in most cases. It was responding to Ak that prompted it in hopes he(?) would take part in a productive discussion.

I can't see us making any headway with your 30th floor or suicide vending machine scenarios. If not there already they verge on the reductio ad absurdum fallacy.

Let's see if we can simplify this admittedly complicated topic.

You said:

“Please. Please. Pretty Please ? All you have to say is that you, Tony, accept the idea that people exactly like you, (including yourself of course, right now) should have the right to be killed by the state. Show a bit of solidarity for heavens sake ! Otherwise, I can not possibly forgive you for supporting a law that says that people exactly like ME, have the exact same right to ask to be killed by the state. (clarity in vocabulary helps not hinders. After all, we ARE talking about killing people and it is idiotic to pretend otherwise.)

So how about it. Are you willing to put yourself at the exact same risk as you wish to put me ? or have you suddenly joined the Anti-Choice Lobby ?”

I disagree with your wording “killed by the state” because it implies there is a conspiracy for which there is no evidence I'll take it as your way of describing MAID. I am all for equality so yes you and I have the exact same right to make the request and have the exact same right to expect the guidelines to be followed and that those guidelines will not be abused.

I don't know what your medical issues are but it's safe to assume that I don't have those. If I find myself in the position where all I can expect is unbearable suffering for the rest of my days I will be most happy to find a doctor with enough compassion to bring that day closer. So, yes, I will be more than happy to take the exact same “risk”.

You have implied that if you requested MAID there would be no counselling. Do you have evidence to support that?

I want to know that we all have the choice. If anyone does not want MAID that's perfectly fine with me they can choose to not ask. When the end is that close I'd rather get it over quickly than refuse treatment and food. Why would I starving to the list? Would you prefer that I starve? Why do you not want others to have a peaceful death?

I have no way of knowing if your fear about others wanting you dead is the result of actually having people around you who do or if it is imagination fuelled by the fear mongering that often accompanies the anti-choice brigade. If there are people in your life that are pressuring you in a direction you don't want to go please seek help. I'll be surprised and disappointed if EPC cannot provide such council.

I would be proud you share your risk and be equal before the law.

Tony Burns said...

Dear Jule;

What are you trying to do by quoting suicide rates? All compassionate people are saddened by those numbers. How many people do you think lived with unbearable suffering for longer than they wanted to in the same time frame? Oh, and not by choice.

There are some people with unbearable suffering who choose to die but are physically incapable of doing so alone. There are others who do not have the confidence to do it properly and know that failure will make their already unbearable suffering worse. Helping those people who pass the oversight supplied by legislation is the compassionate think to do.

In your second scenario there are two choices. The one who is suffering unbearably and choice of the person who chooses to help or not. I still don't see where you are going with this whose choice it is. Are you trying to back me into some imagined corner?

Jule Koch said...

Alex, Thank you for posting my comments, but I left out the word "people" when citing the suicide statistics. Could you amend it to:

Tony,
You state, "..this is about choice, free choice".
According to Statistics Canada, from 2008 to 2012, 19,386 people sadly exercised their right to free choice and killed themselves without any "help" from doctors.
1. How does opposing the deliberate killing of people deprive them of their right to choose death?
2. If someone asks you to kill them, whose free choice will it be if they die? Your choice or their choice?

ParaTir Quebec said...

Hi Tony,

Sorry about the delay, I thought this thread was dead.

Reductio is not a fallacy if the argument is indeed absurd.

But that was not my intention. I was just looking for vivid images to demonstrate my point.

So let's take it bit by bit, in a Socratic manner:

Do you agree that the existance of MAID places me in a position of risk, right now (not in some other hypothetical case) which any typical, such as yourself, is not exposed to ?

If not, please try to explain why.

I think this should be a difficult thing to do, as I am (now) eligible for death, and you are not.

Feel the Love

Gordon from Montreal