Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Euthanasia's slippery slope becomes a skating rink

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CALGARY -- The slippery slope just keeps on getting longer and steeper. When the debate about euthanasia began in the Netherlands decades ago, proponents insisted it should and would only be made available to terminally ill, elderly people, who were suffering and in full control of their mental faculties. Period.

They insisted then, as they continue to insist now, that no slippery slope exists with regard to euthanasia. The people who say that are, inarguably, bald-faced liars, ill-informed or delusional. There are no other options.

Earlier this week, the annual report cataloguing euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands for 2011 was released. And it's rollicking good news for euthanasia pushers -- deaths are way up.

Last year, 3,695 Dutch citizens opted to end their lives early with the help and the blessing of a physician and the state. That's an 18 per cent increase over 2010 and more than a doubling since 2006. If that were a company's bottom line, its CEO would be on the cover of every business magazine in the world.

While a significant spike in the number of people deciding to check out of life is not proof of a slippery slope, it is proof the idea of doctors killing their patients is gaining wider acceptance.

The proof that euthanasia has slipped to a new depth of depravity and horror is that a total of 13 psychiatric patients were helped to die in 2011, up from just two in 2010. That's a 550 per cent increase.

Remember, in the Netherlands, the initial plan was to make euthanasia available only to suffering elderly people who had total control of their mental faculties. Now, schizophrenics and clinically depressed psychiatric patients are being given prescriptions by their psychiatrists, not to help them get better, but to kill them. That, folks, isn't just a slippery slope, it's Mount Everest in an ice storm.

A July 11 article in The Lancet, titled: Trends in end-of-life practices before and after the enactment of the euthanasia law in the Netherlands from 1990 to 2010, states that in the Netherlands, "euthanasia is defined as the administering of lethal drugs by a physician with the explicit intention to end a patient's life on the patient's explicit request." Take note of the phrase "on the patient's explicit request."

Can someone who is mentally ill -- depressed or schizophrenic -- even give informed consent?

"That's a key question," says Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and a veritable encyclopedia on the practice of euthanasia around the world.

Would a mentally ill person's "explicit request" to, say, sign over all of their earthly possessions to their lawyer, or mailman, be upheld in a court of law? Not likely.

In that same Lancet article, a preceding paragraph states: "euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are, under strict conditions, regulated by law."

Do these authors who write this do so with a straight face? Clearly, by virtue of the fact that psychiatrists are euthanizing their mentally ill patients, the conditions are not very "strict" at all.

Last year, the Royal Society of Canada released a report that urged the federal government to legalize assisted suicide in Canada. A summary of the End of Life Decision Making report states:

"The evidence from years of experience and research where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are permitted does not support claims that decriminalization will result in vulnerable persons being subjected to abuse or a slippery slope from voluntary to non-voluntary euthanasia."

Well, according to this latest report out of the Netherlands, euthanasia among people in the early stages of dementia increased to 49 cases last year, a two-fold increase from 2010. Most reasonable people would define schizophrenics, the depressed and those with dementia as vulnerable.

On average, 550 people are killed without consent by their doctors in something known as "involuntary euthanasia," every year in the Netherlands.

In March, a pro-euthanasia group in that country launched six mobile teams with the hope of helping 1,000 people die.

"The mobile euthanasia teams plan to fill unmet demand for euthanasia for people with chronic depression (mental pain), people with disabilities, people with dementia/Alzheimer, loneliness, and those whose request for euthanasia is declined by their physician," writes Schadenberg on his website.

Maybe instead of killing lonely people, the staff in these mobile units should go around and visit them, give them a hug and take them for coffee rather than hand them a lethal prescription so they can die in lonely desperation. In case you're wondering, they call that dying with dignity.

Schadenberg points out there are three studies published in 2010 concerning euthanasia in Belgium.

They point out, in part, that 32 per cent of euthanasia deaths performed by physicians in the Flanders region were done without explicit request or consent. A similar study that analyzed euthanasia deaths performed by nurses in Belgium found that 45 per cent were done without explicit consent. And a third study found that only 53 per cent of all euthanasia deaths were even reported.

So, if Canadians want to know what will eventually happen here if euthanasia is ever legalized, picture this the next time you're at a hockey rink. Imagine the rink turned on its end. That pretty much sums up the slippery slope that's coming.


Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2012 A11

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