Thursday, January 15, 2009

Assisted Suicide and Elder Abuse

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Society is learning about the vulnerability of elderly people and people with cognitive disabilities. Society is responding with new laws to protect people from Elder Abuse.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognized the connection between Elder Abuse and Assisted Suicide many years ago. Our group researched and published a document on the issue entitled: Elder Abuse, Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide: Must we consider the link?

The first link between Elder Abuse and assisted suicide is evident by the fact of the rapid growth in cases of physical abuse of the Elderly and the vulnerable. People with disabilities have long experienced increased incidence of abuse in relation to the rest of society but now society is acknowledging a change in societal attitudes toward the Elderly.

Legalizing assisted suicide establishes the primacy of the autonomy of an individual in society. Unfortunately this radical form of autonomy is being expressed in society by a lack of concern for the vulnerable individual who will become the unfortunate victim of societal attitudes that will redefine choice based on the greater good that is accomplished by the duty to die.

In case you think that I am alarmist, consider the case of Kate Cheney in Oregon, who's doctor believed that due to dementia she was unable to choose to die by assisted suicide. Family pressure and the support from the Health Insurance company helped to assure Cheney's death.

The vulnerable in society will never be protected by the supposed safeguards that are being proposed by the euthanasia lobby. Compassion & Choices has effectively controlled the information and referals related to the assisted suicide law in Oregon and the government reports do not provide the social context of decisions to die.

When considering the several studies that have shown a connection between a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of a loss of purpose or depression being connected to assisted suicide, we must question the actual reasons why someone is "choosing" to die.

Further to that, when the social context of a decision is based on either abandonment, a lack of support, or subtle pressure to end life - can there ever be a "free choice".

I am concerned that a culture that is dedicated to radical individual autonomy will not hesitate to encourage people to end their own lives. Society will turn a blind eye or offer an understanding ear to those who felt compelled to end the life of an elderly dependent. The venear of choice will also cover-up the social pressure that created the decision to kill. In fact, abuse will probably become redefined in order to end the involuntary dependancy related to elder-care.

Elder abuse takes many forms, but the ultimate elder abuse is the act of killing a vulnerable dependent person. This ultimate abuse will appear as merciful but will often be cold, calculated killing, just like the many studies are beginning to show is true today.

Link to articles concerning elder abuse:

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