Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ted Goodwin defends the deaths of people with disabilities

Stephen Drake
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article published in the AP Press on March 17 written by Greg Bluestein and Lindsey Tanner and titled: AP Interview: Leader of suicide ring defends work exposed the Final Exit Network's support for aiding, abeting and counseling suicide for people with disabilities who are not dying.

Stephen Drake, the research director for Not Dead Yet a disability rights group, has been attacked for suggesting that the Final Exit Network supports assisted suicide for people who have disabilities, but not dying. I wonder if all the critics of Stephen Drake have apologized to him yet?

The AP Press interview with Ted Goodwin, the former President of the Final Exit Network and the Vice-President of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, a group that includes Compassion & Choices in its membership.

Ted Goodwin
The interview with Ted Goodwin in the AP Press states:
A former assisted suicide network leader being prosecuted in a Georgia man's death is defending his group's practice of guiding people who want to kill themselves because they're suffering but not necessarily dying.

At least three of the people known to have commited suicide through the Final Exit Network were not terminally ill. In his most extensive remarks since his arrest last month, Ted Goodwin told The Associated Press Tuesday that people with just months to live aren't the only ones who should be able to seek help committing suicide.

"These people who are terminally ill are blessed in a small way — there's a finite time for their suffering," said Goodwin, who stepped down as president of the network after his arrest. "But there are many, many people who are doomed to suffer interminably for years. And why should they not receive our support as well?"
The article exposes three cases where the suicide victim was not terminally ill. The article states:
Georgia authorities say John Celmer, the 58-year-old man whose suicide led to charges against Goodwin and three others, was making a remarkable recovery from cancer when the group sent exit guides to his home to show him how to suffocate himself using helium tanks and a plastic hood. And police say that in 2007, the group helped an Arizona woman named Jana Van Voorhis who was depressed but not terminally ill.

The third person, Kurt Perry, a suburban Chicago resident who was to have been the group's next suicide, has a debilitating neurological condition that is painful but usually not fatal. The 26-year-old said frightening breathing lapses prompted him to seek support from the network.
Goodwin disputed the claim by the investigators that he showed them how he would hold down the hands of his suicide victim to prevent the person from removing the "Exit/Suicide" Bag while being gassed with helium. The article stated:
Goodwin, who is not a physician and founded the group in 2004 after his father died of emphysema, says the network helped guide nearly 200 people across the country die to but never actively assisted suicide. He says he was personally involved in 39 deaths.

Goodwin would not comment on the suicide process, but disputed Georgia authorities' contention that guides held down members' hands to prevent them from removing the hoods they placed over their heads while they breathed helium.

"We do not hold hands down. We do not cause them to suffer," he said. "And this will be proven in a court of law — I promise you."
Goodwin realizes that if it is proven that Final Exit Network "Guides" are holding down the hands of their victims then they will be found guilty of homicide and not assisted suicide.

The article also indicated that there are concerns that some of the suicide victims were experiencing mental illness or chronic depression. Goodwin did admit knowledge of one case. The article stated:
Authorities have also questioned how carefully the group, which claims 3,300 members and donors and about 100 volunteers, screened people who want to commit suicide.

Goodwin says the vetting process was tightened in 2007, after questions about Van Voorhis' death.

Goodwin defended the group's involvement, saying Van Voorhis suffered from other illnesses, but people who sought help after her were asked to detail their complete mental history.

About 30 percent of the applications the group received each year were from mentally ill people who wanted to die because of a lost job, lost spouse or other anguish. Those applications were immediately set aside, Goodwin said.

If an applicant's mental history raised a concern, which happened occasionally, one of 10 psychiatrists or psychologists working with the group visited to assess the situation.

But if it didn't, Goodwin said, the applicant got help, even though the group knew its work could one day lead to prosecution.

"We believe that it is the right of every mentally competent adult to determine whether he or she is suffering," Goodwin said. "We do not believe this should be left to the physicians, church leaders or politicians. This is the right of every mentally competent individual to make this decision themselves."
The fact is that the Final Exit Network stated on their website on the day after the passing of the I-1000 assisted suicide Initiative in Washington State that their group would assist the suicides for the people who do not qualify for assisted suicide under the Washington State law. The Final Exit Network was founded to assist the suicide of people who may not be terminally ill.

It doesn't matter how they 'dress it up' the Final Exit Network considers people with disabilities as qualified candidates for assistance with suicide.

Stephen Drake, should not only be receiving apologies from his critics but he should be demanding that every media outlet that has covered the Final Exit Story print an article that exposes all of the truth behind the Final Exit Network.

Link to the article from the AP press:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only God has the right to take a life. I find it hard to believe that the victims did not have their hands held down. The natural instinct of a human being when deprived of oxygen is to fight for air. I think a real medical doctor would verify this.

The motive may start with compassion but there is also a "power high" from giving life or taking of a life. No matter what the initial "good" intention may be.