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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

'Euthanasia' - the slippery slope of evil


"Euthanasia 'trivialized' in Belgium: report by European Institute of Bioethics"  -   Michael Cook,  'BioEdge'. 

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, with a law containing strict controls to protect the vulnerable.  The Belgium-based European Institute of Bioethics has just released a study of the experience of ten years of euthanasia. It claims that the results are far from encouraging.
This is the text of the law in English, and this is the English translation of the IEB study.

The central theme of the report is the ineffectiveness and bias of the body - established by the legislation, to allay the misgivings of the public by monitoring and controlling euthanasia. After 10 years and about 5,500 cases, not one case has ever been referred to the police. It is illusory, says the IEB, to expect doctors to denounce their own failings.

Furthermore, nearly half of the statutory 16-member Commission for Control and Assessment are members or associates of the leading Belgian right-to-die society.
This is sufficient to explain, according to the IEB, “the absence of any effective control and the ever-widening interpretation which the Commission intends to give the law”.
A law which permits euthanasia is bad enough, the IEB suggests, but the government is not even enforcing its application.

“As is the case in all penal laws, this law has to be strictly interpreted lest (failing this),  it be seen as stripped of any substance. It is not for the Commission, appointed to control and assess the law, to provide an ever-widening interpretation of its terms, with this going so far as to negate the initial spirit of the text and of doing away with the control of decisive legal criteria.”

As a result, there are on-going abuses in several areas. Here are a few of those which the EIB singles out for criticism:-

•A written declaration of a desire for euthanasia is required, either by the patient or a surrogate. However, the Commission often waives this obligation.

•Initially patients had to have a life-threatening and incurable illness. Nowadays, the illness need only be serious and debilitating
•The pain is supposed to be unbearable, unremitting and unrelievable. However, a patient can refuse medication to relieve the pain. The Commission, says the IEB, has “decided not to carry out its mission - so central to the law - of verifying the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering”.

•The ambit of “psychological suffering” is ever-expanding.

•Doctor-assisted suicide is not authorised by 2002 legislation. However, the Commission has ignored this and regularly signs off on such cases.

•If a patient is to be euthanased at home, the doctor himself is supposed to fetch the lethal medications at a pharmacy from a registered pharmacist and to return left-over drugs. In practice, family members often get the drugs; unqualified personnel hand them over; and no checks have ever been made about surplus drugs.

Some of the consequences of the absence of any real control of the implementation of the law:-

The trivialization of euthanasia.
Initially legalized under very strict conditions, euthanasia has gradually become a very normal and even ordinary act to which patients are deemed “to have a right”.
In the face of certain high profile cases, the evident relaxation of the very strict conditions has caused many reactions, but also a total absence of any sanctions on the part of the Commission and a very conciliatory silence from the political establishment, has given rise to a feeling of impunity on the part of some concerned medical practitioners, and to a feeling of powerlessness in those
worried about where things are leading.

Changing attitudes also concern confusion of terminology.
There is no real need to make a distinction between passive euthanasia and active euthanasia in view of the fact that it is the criterion of intentionally killing a person which is decisive. Consequently, neither halting disproportionate medical treatment nor palliative sedation, which only aims to alleviate pain, is considered as constituting euthanasia. And yet, the idea that euthanasia is an option afforded within the confines of palliative care referred to as 'integrated care', continues to gain ground. This shows the extent of the misunderstanding of what is actually concerned by the term “palliative care” which does not consist in deciding the day and the manner in which death should take place, but to accept this eventuality when it occurs, while at the same time ensuring that care is taken to provide the patient and his/her entourage with comprehensive care and pain management. By its very nature, palliative care does not include any form of euthanasia.

'If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought'
George Orwell

A further associated ethical matter :

Organ donation
The confusion tends to become more wide‐spread as a further step has, on several occasions, been taken from euthanasia to immediate organ harvesting, with a view to transplantation. Indeed there is a new practice of accompanying a request for euthanasia with a form for organ donation to be filled out by the patient.To what extent does this possibility risk weighing on the decision taken by a patient who thinks that their existence is worthless?
Does the patient still meet the conditions required by the law – i.e. without any external pressure – in order to formulate a request for euthanasia, when he/ she is invited at the same time to agree to organ donation ? By suggesting that the patient’s organs would be more useful to someone else, does this not belie a form of utilitarianism?

Has the debate been hijacked?
By 'end of life' doctors and 'right to die with dignity' proponents, who control and influence legislation and the practical application thereof.

Risks of serious transgression.
In some cases where the patient is deemed not to be able to discern matters for him/herself as required for an informed request for euthanasia, because of his/her young age or mental deficiency, the medical teams appear to invoke 'a case of necessity'.
Authorizing the medical team to invoke a 'case of necessity', thereby justifying euthanasia beyond all the conditions provided for by the law, gives the medical team arbitrary and uncontrollable power. Far from strengthening the patient’s rights, since theyare not in a position to give consent, recourse to a 'state
of necessity' gives the medical profession enhanced
powers of decision over life and death issues concerning
the most vulnerable patients. Besides dialogue with
close family members, how is one to assess the degree
of “necessity” invoked and to ensure that the patient’s
interests always come first ? Do not such practices not
bear witness to a form of abdication on the part of the
medical sector when faced with certain pathologies?
'The law shall obey its own nature and not the will of the legislators, and it shall inevitably bear the fruit we have sown in it'
G.K. Chesterton

N.B.  The report notes the recent appeal by the Council of Europe's parliamentary Assembly in favour of an absolute ban on euthanasia.  


I  have this horrible feeling that the more I learn of this type of legislation, the more I become sub-consciously hardened to the evil that it espouses. I totally abhor it, and yet constantly  reading and hearing about it  and knowing that such evil is brazenly advocated and practised, seems to numb that innate sense of horror and anger that arises in me.  I think that this 'anaesthetizing of evil' is deadly dangerous, for inevitably over time, evil will no longer be recognised as such, becoming  commonplace and even the norm in society. A classic example of this is the UK Abortion Act which whilst enacted with  stringent rules and conditions, has over time,  been manipulated by certain medical, scientific, and commercial interests,  to effectively allow  'abortion on demand'. Constantly we hear demands that 'assisted suicide' and euthanasia should be legalised, and should either of these, together with the aberrant 'same-sex marriage' proposals become enshrined in law, our society will be engulfed in a sea of immorality, in which without God's grace, we will surely perish. Thank God for our holy Catholic faith, our priests and religious, our churches and our Sacraments, which offer solace, hope and strength to suffering souls. 
 "Come to Me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light."  
       This is Jesus's invitation and promise to all people, in all ages, until the end of the world.

  'Take and eat; this is my body' (Mathew 26:26) 
 'Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life in you'  (John 6: 53-56)


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