Stealthy Advance Of Euthanasia
Rochester Area Right To Life
Deathly Quiet: The Subtle, Stealthy Advance Of Euthanasia
By Brian Johnston
[Pro-Life Infonet Note: Brian Johnston is an internationally-recognized expert on euthanasia and other end-of-life issues. He is the executive director of the California Pro-Life Council and is the author of "Death as a Salesman: What's Wrong With Assisted Suicide."]
The first of this month, April 1, 2002, marked the official legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands. With the enactment of the Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Control Act doctors who terminate their patients may do so according to statute. But it is widely known that for the last 20 years Dutch physicians have been routinely dispatching their patients with impunity. Therein lay both a lesson and a warning for us. We are well aware that the euthanasia movement seeks to change the laws that currently protect the medically and emotionally vulnerable, but often their methods are to first skirt and violate those laws long before they change them. And that is exactly what is happening in the United States today.
Throughout the United States, physicians who support euthanasia are routinely utilizing a special form of "terminal sedation," not as a means of pain control, but with the explicit intention of intentionally causing death. This is routinely being used on patients who are not in immediate danger of dying, but are in other ways considered "incurable" or "hopeless." (See for example the case of Robert Wendland.) Essential to this approach is the mandatory withdrawal of hydration. It is a form of euthanasia that is particularly difficult to monitor. As David Orentlicher, a pro-euthanasia physician, points out in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Terminal sedation seems consistent with accepted practices however terminal sedation is tantamount to euthanasia, or a kind of slow euthanasia."(NEJM, Vol. 337, No. 17:1237)
Orentlicher, a physician/"ethicist"/advocate, has made a point of traveling the nation instructing sympathetic physicians to not bother with the law or attempts to change it. Euthanasia can safely be practiced under the guise of terminal sedation. "Just do it," he told the California Conference on Physician Assisted Suicide.
Similarly Robert Brody, the Chair of the Ethics Department at UCSF Medical Center (and a board member of the pro-euthanasia group Compassion in Dying), instructs his student physicians that "terminal sedation" is an acceptable and appropriate form of "near euthanasia." He encourages its practice as part of the logical continuum that will lead to the necessary legalization of assisted suicide
But Dr. Rex Greene, a California oncologist and advocate for the medically vulnerable, is alarmed at the highjacking of aggressive sedation. "The insistence that hydration be removed is not valid. It is very rare that its provision is burdensome. In fact I have routinely found that adequate hydration is necessary to alleviate terminal delirium. Insisting that hydration be withdrawn as a form of treatment belies their real intention, which is to kill."
The significance of this ongoing practice should not be lost on those who seek to maintain legal protection for the vulnerable. This gradual acceptance of intentional killing was the cornerstone of the Dutch program, and is an essential tool of euthanasia advocates.
Meanwhile, in the western states Compassion in Dying is in the midst of a public relations campaign to "expand choice at the end of life." They are targeting churches, community groups, media outlets and the elderly community. In California the Hewlett Foundation has funded a think tank that seeks to blend the concept of physician-assisted suicide with end of life care. Other states are also seeing clever, indirect appeals for "compassion" using the emotions and good intentions of uninformed citizens. Pro-life citizens should be aware of, and monitoring these projects.
In Oregon, while Attorney General Ashcroft has sought to prevent the use of federally controlled substances to kill, the "safeguards" in the law itself are routinely being ignored. Reports abound of "suicide"/killings of non-terminal disabled, and "doctor shopping" when an attending physician refuses to agree that killing is warranted. . In Hawaii, Governor Cayetano has personally proposed legalization of physician assisted-suicide, and the bill quickly raced through the lower house. Action awaits in the state Senate.
Last election cycle the citizens of Maine turned back a ballot proposal on physician assisted suicide. But we need to bear in mind that the margin (barely more than 1%) was extremely close. Our work is cut out for us. We need to remember "changing of the law" is only the end game for euthanasia advocates. As in the Netherlands, we must recognize that they are quietly moving ahead with their agenda. Shrouded in subtlety, the euthanasia movement is continuing in advancing its agenda. Talk about it now. Alert others. Remember, the goal of the euthanasia movement is to make changing the law a mere formality.
Source: Pro-Life Infonet; April 15, 2002
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