Major victories for anti-euthanasia activists–and the development of a suicide gas chamber

By Jonathon Van Maren

With suicide activists pushing hard around the world for the right to doctor-assisted self-extinction on demand, assisted suicide and euthanasia have been nearly omnipresent in the news lately. The Finnish Parliament just voted 128-60 to reject euthanasia entirely, and instead approved a committee that would study legislation to improve palliative care. Legislation to legalize assisted suicide on the British isle of Guernsey has also been defeated. The proposal would have created the so-called Oregon model in Guernsey, with assisted suicide offered to those who have less than six months to live and the mental capacity to consent to the procedure. Among those opposing the legislation were the British Medical Association, the Guernsey Disabilities Alliance, Christian leaders, and key government committees, who stated that assisted suicide was not a priority.

In California, suicide activists also faced a setback when a Riverside County judge overturned the state’s assisted suicide law last week Tuesday, giving the attorney general only five days to launch an appeal to keep the law in place. California legalized suicide for terminally ill people in 2015, the fifth state to do so, but Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia noted that the California Legislature had violated the law by passing the End of Life Option Act during a session that was supposed to be dedicated to healthcare issues. Matt Valliere of the New York-based Patients Rights Action Fund called the court decision a “tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices.”

In Canada the euthanasia regime that is being implemented in the wake of legalization is also facing pushback. As CTV reported on May 16:

A lawyer representing a man who has been stuck in a London, Ont., hospital for two years is demanding that Canada’s justice minister halt all medically assisted deaths until legislation is changed to ensure that all necessary services to help patients live are provided first. On behalf of his client Roger Foley, Ken Berger has sent a letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, requesting the “immediate moratorium” and a public inquiry on all assisted deaths provided in the country so far.

“Persons suffering with severe disabilities require necessary health care, assistance and compassion,” Berger wrote. “These crucial services are not always provided at times of most need or in such a way that relieves suffering; instead, persons with disabilities are being assisted to their death rather than being assisted with life.”

Foley, who suffers from an incurable neurological disease called cerebellar ataxia, recently filed a landmark lawsuit against a London hospital, several health agencies, the Ontario government and the federal government. He alleges that health officials will not provide him with an assisted home care team of his choosing, instead offering, among other things, medically assisted death. Foley said that although his disorder qualifies him for medically assisted death, he simply wants to live at home.

But according to his statement of claim, the only two options offered to him have been a “forced discharge” from the hospital “to work with contracted agencies that have failed him” or medically assisted death. Refusing to leave the hospital and unwilling to die by a doctor’s hand, Foley claims he has been threatened with a $1,800 per day hospital bill…In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Berger said he believes that his client is not alone in his suffering and frustration.

“There are many individuals that are not being offered alternatives,” Berger said. “They are not being supported or not having the necessary services put in place in a way that relieves their suffering.”

In his letter to Wilson-Raybold, Berger said the government must ensure “all necessary health services are provided before persons are misled into premature and inappropriate deaths because of their belief that they are a burden to society with no alternative to death.”

Berger and Foley argue the current assisted death legislation violates the Charter’s right to “life, liberty and security of the person” when assisted death is offered before other care options. “(Foley) is substantially suffering,” Berger said. “He is going to fight this, not only to protect his own constitutional rights, but also the constitutional right of all Canadians.”

…Trudo Lemmens, a professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, said Foley’s case should be taken seriously.

“We focus too much on stories of empowered people who want to use medically assisted death, often with the message that access should be easier,” he told CTVNews.ca in an email. “We rarely hear stories about (often unconscious) pressure and inappropriately conducted MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying), but that doesn’t mean this doesn’t happen.”

Lemmens wants to see governments and other regulators impose more specific procedures, better legal guidance, and greater oversight to ensure patients receive proper treatment and are not pressured into choosing death. “People who are dead don’t complain,” he wrote.

Lemmens is precisely right—assisted suicide is permanent, and despite recorded instances of misuse wherever euthanasia regimes become entrenched, it is very difficult to determine wrongdoing. This lawsuit does indicate the beginning of a process that those of us who oppose assisted suicide have been warning about—when killing is considered healthcare, those with limited time left or those who are considered too much of a burden on the healthcare system will be encouraged to choose “death with dignity,” which translates to “kill yourself.” Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, a lightning fast “suicide machine” is in the final stages of development:

In April 2012, Tony Nicklinson was seven years into a battle to kill himself. The father of two suffered from locked-in syndrome – the result of a severe stroke in 2005 that had left him unable to speak or move. In search of assisted suicide options, his lawyer reached out to euthanasia activist Dr Philip Nitschke. The resulting conversation triggered an idea: what if it was possible to kill yourself with the blink of an eye?

Six years later, Dr Nitschke—also known as Dr Death—is close to finalising the development of a “suicide machine” called Sarco. The device is intended to offer people the option of peacefully ending their life without assistance, in a way that is not just effective, but also dignified. “Death shouldn’t be something you do hidden away in a back room somewhere, it should be stylish and elegant,” Dr Nitschke told The Independent.

The machine works by filling a capsule with nitrogen, which induces hypoxic death to the occupant that researchers say avoids the anxiety and discomfort usually associated with non-nitrogen induced suffocation. Despite this relatively humane form of death, Dr Nitschke says it still faces opposition.

“Gas may never be an acceptable method for assisted suicide in Europe due to the negative connotations of the Holocaust,” said Dr Nitschke, who serves as the director of Exit International – the non-profit organisation developing the machine. “Some have even said that it’s just a glorified gas chamber.”

Once the hypoxiation process is complete, the biodegradable capsule can then be detached from the machine’s base in order to serve as the person’s coffin. The futuristic design of the Sarco – short for sarcophagus – is meant to look as though it’s “taking you to the future,” though concerns have also been raised that it is glamourising suicide. A virtual reality experience of the Sarco was on display on 14 April in Westerkerk church in Amsterdam for the city’s annual Funeral Expo, which prompted worries among the church’s board about how the machine would be received.

This is the endgame of suicide activists—suicide on demand for everyone. They will try to make it “stylish and elegant,” and they will try to distract people from the fact that their “service” is the killing of human beings. And so they have begun to create a glorified gas chamber, which is so much quicker and more humane than a lethal injection. For now, people are still shocked by the idea, but that will fade with time.

At least for now, the suicide activists are still experiencing both pushback and setbacks. The last several decades have proven that they are relentless in pursuit of their goals.

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For anyone interested, my books: The Culture War, Seeing is Believing: Why Our Culture Must Face the Victims of Abortion, and How To Discuss Assisted Suicide, are available for sale here

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