By Jakki Jeffs, Executive Director
Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, wrote “Permission for the Destruction of Worthless Life, Its Extent and Form” in 1920. This laid the groundwork for killing in Germany and for the thrust for Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide today. Their argument was that Germany was faltering with the burden of caring for disabled people who used up a disproportionate amount of resources.
They referred to them as “lives unworthy of life”.Their work was pivotal in fashioning a medical community that would recognize killing as ethical medical treatment. Their arguments echo only slightly differently from modern arguments for medical killing. ‘Life without value for itself or society;’ ‘creatures of no value at all who are quite an obstacle;’ ‘a burden serving no useful purpose;’ ‘a life whose continuation is of no interest to any reasonably thinking person;’ ‘the irretrievably lost;’ ‘weaklings;’ ‘life devoid of value;’ and the ‘mentally dead.’
In 1949 Dr. Leo Alexander noted that the “small beginnings” in Germany started with “the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement that there is such a thing as a life not “worthy to be lived.”
In the public discussion around Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, we are not discerning enough and fall for catchy slogans such as “Who Chooses? Not understanding the concealed agenda. We are fooled by shallow campaign propaganda which warns us that our choices will not be respected. Sadly, biased media reports also feed our emotions, not our intellect.
I learnt recently that the top lobby spender in Montana this year was Compassion and Choices, a “nonprofit” group that spent $160,356 advocating for legalization of Assisted Suicide. That amount would run our office for almost three years! Where does the money come from and why spend so much?
You know if you convince an ill person to end their life early it will save government millions of dollars. Living Wills or Powers of Attorney are used for just that; “the cost savings from a nation-wide push toward “Living Wills is likely to be enormous since the savings would not occur in Medicare alone but would also accrue to Medicaid and the VA defense department.” (Robert Derzen, administrator of the US Health Care Financing Administration of the HEW Department 1977.
Living Wills or Powers of Attorney for Health came into legal force in 1995 in Ontario. If we can convince people to give up something – (appropriate medical treatment) thinking they are gaining something (my choice – my control) government saves money.
Clearly, millions of dollars, are intertwined with Assisted Suicide being marketed as my choice, my control, my life.
Recently in Guelph two events, one run by Hospice Wellington and one by MP Frank Valeriote gave prominence to a group called Dying With Dignity which, like its American Counterpart, Compassion and Choices, advocates for legalization of assisted suicide. At both of these events, Dying With Dignity representatives, “treated” the audience to emotionally charged and heart wrenching hard case scenarios.
Dr. Bowman reassured us that the”vast majority of people have a very gentle and dignified death. Most people’s wishes will be upheld and the family will be happy”.
Dr. Heisel, a specialist in suicide, provided relevant information including the fact that suicide and suicide ideation effects older people more. This demographic is the target for those promoting Assisted Suicide since many, facing real challenges to their health, or independent living, already believe they are a burden.
Dignity at any age, but especially in older age is not recognised by telling the elderly, the chronically or terminally ill or the frail how “undignified” their situation is or how they would be better off dead. Neither is it honoured by abandoning them to Assisted Suicide.
The rhetoric of “choice” hides the reality of coercion that is at the heart of the Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide lobby. Choice is wonderful unless you are making that choice because you fear pain, abandonment, suffering, loss of independence or being a burden. Do we really want to heap this added rejection on such a vulnerable class of citizens?
In a brief from the House of Lords in the UK, it was stated, “Dignity in old age, disability, unconsciousness and suffering is enhanced above all, in knowing that you are respected and loved.”
Dying With Dignity brings its message of despair, under the banner of choice, to nursing and long-term homes, seniors residential centres. What an abuse of our elderly, and frail. If we wish to serve this generation we must value them and their wisdom and provide appropriate medical treatment. Suicide ideation and attempts are made mostly within our young and older communities, could we not encourage one to help the other?
Appropriate treatment for everyone and not discrimination against age or condition should be the order of the day. The medical profession must focus on the patient, not the bottom line. The rest of us must not squander or waste our precious health care services.
Lastly, preciousness of human life not “quality of life” should be our anchor.
If we spent more time helping people adjust to living productive lives in different ways we might find the doors closed to the death brigades and opened to living life to the full and to the end.