The Washington Post has an article today called, “Euthanasia Was the Right Choice for My Wife” http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/euthanasia-was-the-right-decision-for-my-wife/2012/10/22/1b355e96-0bd5-11e2-a310-2363842b7057_story_1.html).
Written by a man from the Netherlands, where assisted suicide is legal, it sees euthanasia through the rose-colored glasses of “choice”. It fails to note the abundant indicators that euthanasia is out of control in the Netherlands. For example, it fails to mention that a significant number of people each year are euthanized without their consent. It fails to mention that some of these people have dementia.
Two paragraphs from the article, however, immediately expose the dangers of legalized assistance in dying.
Here they are:
We called for the consulting doctor, who spent the better part of an hour with Mathilde. Afterward, he called our family doctor and said he was not sure she was suffering enough.
What is unbearable suffering? It is an impossible question. The monitoring committees have given up trying to define it and adopted the view that the patient’s own judgment is decisive, provided the acting doctor is convinced of its earnestness and sincerity. For Mathilde, the prospect of being at the mercy of random infections while permanently dependent on blood transfusions was intolerable. We wrote a letter to this effect and heard no more of it.
So…in the Netherlands the definition of suffering is left up to the patient, terminally ill or not, who can testify to it by means of one letter, to which no one, neither one of the two physicians nor the medical board required to certify that the euthanasia was voluntary, ever replied. “We heard no more of it.” How cold.
No suicide ever occurs without the suicidal person’s perceiving himself to be suffering. The normal individual and societal human response to another human being’s revelation of suffering is to try to make it better. The normal individual and societal response to another human being’s revelation of suicidal ideation is to try to prevent the suicide. That used to be obvious to everyone, but no more.
In this case, one doctor did not think the patient’s suffering met the criteria of being unbearable and irremediable. His opinion was overridden by a letter from a suicidal patient! Let’s be clear. The woman was suicidal. Her suffering was not unlike that of any other suicidal person. Because she was old and sick, she got assistance in dying instead of help. No one, not the husband who seems to have loved her, and definitely not the doctors, told her they wanted her to live.
Another relevant fact revealed by the article is that the doctors were young, that older doctors are the ones in the Netherlands who oppose euthanasia. What does this say about the way in which cultural acceptance dulls the conscience of a generation that grows up with it?
If the doctors’ consciences are being destroyed, so is the author’s. He was party to his wife’s decisions, writing, “We decided the time had come,” and “We set the date”. Afterwards, he felt no emotion. He has been rendered numb, denied normal mourning.
The article quite matter of factly explodes the myth that in Oregon, there have been almost no problems with assisted suicide, which is seen as more acceptable in the US than euthanasia because it is, theoretically, more self-directed. The author explains why euthanasia is preferred in the Netherlands by writing of assisted suicide, “But that is an uncertain method: Sometimes the patient throws up and survives in worse shape than before.” He writes as if this were common knowledge. True Dignity has repeatedly linked a 2002 article on a study that found “problems with completion” in 18% of all assisted suicides in the Netherlands. Assisted suicide is not an easy or certain death.
Lastly, the “loud snoring” that marked the author’s wife’s medically induced coma sounds like the very loss of dignity in dying that the proponents of assisted suicide claim it enables people to avoid. As we wrote here after managing to find an unedited YouTube video of the assisted suicide of Peter Smedley, televised by the BB C in 2011, assisted death is nothing like those peaceful, silent movie deaths. Why does the pursuit of dignity compel us to accelerate our deaths, when an accelerated death is at least as undignified as a normal one?
True Dignity earnestly hopes that the people of Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the other states threatened with assisted suicide, will reject the Dutch model illustrated by this article and retain the model that exists and that works in many, though sadly not all, cases. Individuals and governments should continue to operate from the paradigm of suicide prevention and reject the choice-destroying, undignified, and destructive one of suicide assistance.