Alex Schadenberg

The eugenic philosophy is alive in our culture

Alex Schadenberg

The Vatican’s newspaper has published an article by historian Lucetta Scaraffia concerning the translation into Italian for the first time of the 1920 book by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, titled, Allowing the destruction of life unworthy of life. The article, “If Life is ‘unworthy of being lived” (see below) offers an historical evaluation of the importance of the book and then it concludes that the basic ideology of the book - i.e. eugenics, or in other words, the elimination of people who are genetically “inferior” or mentally ill - is alive and well in this culture.

Many people wrongly suggest that this book was a result of the Nazi movement in order to minimize the negative reality of the concepts that are promoted in it. Binding and Hoche published this book in 1920, before the founding of the Nazi movement. We know that the book sold well and the ideology within this book strongly influenced the Nazi movement towards its destructive ideology: but the book is not a Nazi text but rather a text that influenced Nazi thought. In fact, Alfred Hoche rejected the Nazi party.

The book was based on the concepts that it is compassionate to kill people who are “suffering” and that it would cleanse society to kill people who are genetically inferior.

I have read the English translation of this book several times. This book is proof that modern day social Darwinism leads to a belief that some human lives are not equal to other human lives, and that killing these people is necessary for the health and welfare of society and is a means of compassionately “dealing with” people who “live lives unworthy of life.”

People who question the statement that eugenics is alive in well in our society only need to read the writings of philosopher Peter Singer. For the longest time people have written critical comments about Singer’s philosophy without recognizing that his philosophical principles have now become the primary philosophy of our time. People trained in philosophical principles need to attack the very foundation of Singer’s philosophy.

If you are not yet aware, Singer defines “personhood” in relation to the ability of a human being to have “self awareness.” This philosophical principle leads to the approval of euthanasia for: children born with disabilities (Groningen Protocol), people with cognitive disabilities, people with dementia or Alzheimers disease and others. Singer also promotes in his philosophy a concept that society needs to maximize happiness by ensuring the greatest level of happiness for the greatest number of people. Therefore the elimination of suffering is a paramount focus for society. This can only be ultimately achieved by eliminating the sufferer.

A prime example of Peter Singer’s philosophy being presented as mainstream philosophical thought is the Royal Society of Canada report: End of Life Decision Making. It is shocking how the one-sided, intentionally chosen authors of this report were allowed to publish a philosophical section that would make Singer, Binding and Hoche proud. They even thanked Peter Singer for helping them edit the report.

Further to that, the recent Quebec government Dying with Dignity report justifies its conclusions with references to the fatally flawed Royal Society of Canada report.

The following is the article written by Lucetta Scaraffia as it appeared in the L’Osservatore Romano:

If life is ‘unworthy of being lived’

The book by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, Die Freigabe der Venrichtung lebensunwerten Lebens(allowing the destruction of life unworthy of living) which came out in Germany in 1920 has at last been translated into Italian (in English it is: Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life: Its Extent and Form, translated by W.E. Wright, in Issues in Law and Medicine 1992, 8:231-265).
I say “at last”, because this is a text that marks a watershed. It has inspired many important reflections that are only partially explained in the introduction on 19th-century history – very concentrated at the legal level – by the two editors, Ernesto De Cristofaro and Carlo Saletti.

It reveals, in fact, that as well as the good fortune enjoyed in Germany in the first half of the 20th century – at the time of the rise of Nazism the definition of euthanasia in the well known Brockhaus Encyclopedia was inspired by their work and quoted them – reflection on eugenics, taken to its extremes, was widespread and was shared even before the Nazis came to power thanks to learned academics which the Nazis were not. Binding, a jurist who died in 1920 and Hoche, a psychiatrist and a pupil of Ernst Haeckel, the scholar who brought Darwinian evolutionism to Germany – even resigned from the university when the Nazis came to power. Therefore, although the Nazis were later to make great use of this book, spreading the basic opinions found in it, it treated ideas that had germinated in a previous culture: eugenic Darwinism, very widespread in Europe in the first half of the 19th century.

The book may be interpreted in two ways: as an irremediably outmoded text linked to the Nazi ideology, if the accent is put on the theme – developed especially by Binding – of the power of the State over human lives. The idea of the German people, in fact – conceived as an ethnologically homogeneous unit constituted by strong individuals in good health – was raised to a powerful body to which the interest of every individual life must be subordinate. Yet, it is a very topical text; in the essays of the two authors the excessive power of the State over the individual, present without any doubt, constitutes solely one aspect – now obsolete – in the reasoning. In the reasons used to justify – indeed, to express the hope for – the elimination of people seriously ill or affected by psychological ailments we rediscover reasoning and words that are still in use today among the supporters of euthanasia or of the selection of foetuses.

Binding and Hoche, in fact, maintain that life cannot be considered life in the full sense of those who, because of diseases, are exposed to a painful and hopeless agony, or the life of incurable idiots whose existence drags with no purpose or usefulness, imposing on the community a heavy and pointless burden. With regard to these people, the two scholars invented a new definition which was to enjoy great success even after the defeat of Nazism: “lives unworthy of being lived”. A definition which paved the way to the elimination of the sick and the unfit, permitting these homicides to be justified with a morally appreciable motivation: they in fact spoke of “charitable death” (Gnadentod). These are the same words that recur today recur in the writings of many contemporary bioethicists, and of many politicians who support legislative proposals of a euthanasic type. As the editors write in the introduction, “the notion of life as a good that deserves protection is henceforth cast off from the anchor of any metaphysical postulation, any doctrine of natural law, and is led towards a semantics of concreteness and immanence: life has value as long as it procures pleasure and is free from pain”. We therefore see that this book, precisely because of its grimly up to date characters, must strongly embarrass those who champion euthanasia in the belief that it has nothing to do with Nazism.

Hoche also proves to be a representative of the scientistic attitude, still alive today, which holds that science is never wrong and is therefore as deserving of faith as a dogma. Indeed,  in proposing the elimination of the mentally ill, he holds that the medical science of the time is perfectly able to establish, without any margin of error, whether or not a psychologically sick person is incurable.

Contempt for imperfect human life, over estimation of the abilities of science are two attitudes that are still firmly present in our time, to show that eugenics is still alive and has not been wiped out together with the Nazi past. And this is also because people only partially identified with the latter. As the book of Binding and Hoche proves.


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Euthanasia in Canada: Letter writing campaign

Alex Schadenberg
Alex Schadenberg
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The Québec euthanasia Bill 52 will be voted on very soon, possibly today (June 3). 

Steven Fletcher is busy promoting his private members bills to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the Carter case on October 14. The Carter case seeks to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

On June 2 the National Post published a page of letters, with the majority of the letters supporting euthanasia. This means that the euthanasia lobby asked their supporters to write letters.

To write a letter to the editor you need to keep your letter short and focused. Choose one topic to write about. We have provided a link to an example or to further information on that topic that you can access by clicking on the topic. Suggested topics: Euthanasia/Bill 52Euthanasia/Personal story, Euthanasia/Elder Abuse, Euthanasia/Medical Error, Euthanasia/Disability rights, Euthanasia/Palliative care, Euthanasia/Assisted suicide are not safe, Euthanasia/Belgium, Euthanasia/Netherlands, Assisted Suicide/Oregon, Assisted Suicide/Switzerland, etc.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is asking you to write letters to the editor. This following list contains most major newspapers in Canada. It is of great benefit to also write letters to other local newspapers.

National Post: http://www.nationalpost.com/contact/letters/index.html?name=Letters&subject=Letter+to+the+editor

The Globe and Mail: nhassan@globeandmail.com

The Gazette: letters@montrealgazette.com

Le Journal de Montréal: jdm.transmission@quebecormedia.com

La Presse: debats@lapresse.ca

Le Soleil: opinion@lesoleil.com

Le Journal de Québec: commentaires@journaldequebec.com

Le Devoir: redaction@ledevoir.com

Journal Metro: opinions@journalmetro.com

Halifax Chronicle Herald: letters@herald.ca

Ottawa Citizen: letters@ottawacitizen.com

Toronto Star: lettertoed@thestar.ca

Toronto Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/letter-to-editor

Hamilton Spectator: letters@thespec.com

London Free Press: letters@lfpress.com

Winnipeg Free Press: letters@freepress.mb.ca

Calgary Herald: letters@calgaryherald.com

Edmonton Journal: letters@edmontonjournal.com

Vancouver Sun: sunletters@vancouversun.com

Vancouver Province: provletters@theprovince.com

Victoria Times Colonist: letters@timescolonist.com

Resource articles for letter writing:

● Québec's euthanasia bill 52 is imprecise and open to abuse

● Euthanasia is not healthcare, it is lethal and it is not safe

● Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is not safe.

● Belgium euthanasia deaths increase by 26.8% in 2013.

● Netherlands 2012 euthanasia report.

● Oregon's 2013 assisted suicide report.

● Disability: Assisted suicide: Full of Dangers.

● Legalizing euthanasia threatens people with disabilities.

● Physician assisted suicide: A recipe for Elder Abuse.

● Medical error, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

● Swiss group to assist the suicides of healthy elderly people.

● Palliative care leaders oppose Québec euthanasia Bill 52

● Stephen Sutton lived everyday with dignity

● Euthanasia undermines protection in law for me.

Reprinted with permission from Alex Schadenberg


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Belgian euthanasia deaths increased by 26.8% in 2013

Alex Schadenberg
Alex Schadenberg

The 2013 Belgian euthanasia report indicates that the number of reported euthanasia deaths in Belgium increased by 26.8% in 2013 to 1816 reported deaths

Sign the EPC - Europe Petition demanding a moratorium on euthanasia in Belgium.

In 2012 the number of reported euthanasia deaths in Belgium increased by 25% to 1432 reported deaths

The Belgian euthanasia reports indicate that the number of reported euthanasia deaths continue to grow at a faster rate. In Belgium, there were 1133 reported euthanasia deaths in 2011 and 954 reported euthanasia deaths in 2010.

At the same time Belgium has recently extended euthanasia to children. The child euthanasia bill was passed after protests against the bill were held in Brussels and 160 Belgian Paediatricians denounced the child euthanasia bill.

Studies concerning the Belgian euthanasia law that were published in 2010, from the Flanders region of Belgium found that: 32% of all assisted deaths were done without request, 47% of all assisted deaths went unreported, and nurses were euthanizing patients even though the Belgian euthanasia law prohibits nurses from doing euthanasia. There has never been an attempted prosecution for abuses of the Belgian euthanasia law.

In Canada, the Quebec government should be very concerned about the practice of euthanasia in Belgium since they have based euthanasia Bill 52 on the Belgian euthanasia law.

In January, the Belgian media reported that a euthanasia doctor admitted to not reporting his euthanasia deaths. The article confirms that many euthanasia deaths in Belgium are not reported and the actual number of euthanasia deaths is much higher than 1816.

In February, Dr. Tom Mortier launched an official complaint against the doctor who euthanized his healthy mother who was living with depression. Mortier questioned:

"how it is possible for euthanasia to be performed on physically healthy people"

In April 2014, a 20-year-old Belgian woman, named Margot, launched a second official complaint against the same euthanasia doctor in response to the euthanasia death of her 47-year-old mother who was physically healthy but living with depression. Margot asked

"How could someone who has not even received treatment for depression, get euthanasia?"

There are also serious questions being asked concerning the purpose and effectiveness of the Belgian euthanasia control and evaluation committee. The President of this committee is the leading euthanasia doctor in Belgium who also operates a euthanasia clinic with half of the membership of the committee composed of members of the euthanasia lobby.

In November 2013, I debated Dr. Jan Bernheim, one of the pioneers of the Belgian euthanasia law. During the debate in Brussels I quoted from the earlier studies showing that euthanasia deaths were occurring without request, that euthanasia deaths were not being reported and that nurses were ignoring the law and euthanizing their patients. Bernheim responded to those statements by saying:

"There are problems with the Belgian euthanasia law."

I responded by saying:

"That is cold comfort for the dead."

The safeguards and controls in the Belgian euthanasia law do not work. The Belgian government needs to establish a moratorium on its euthanasia program and re-evaluate its euthanasia law, or the number of euthanasia deaths will continue to grow exponentially.

Reprinted with permission from Alex Schadenberg's blog.


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Medical error, euthanasia and assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg
Alex Schadenberg
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A power point presentation developed by Christine Koczmara RN BSc and Cathy Isman RN(CPN) (C) for the Institute for Safe Medication Practices states that it was estimated in 1999 that 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical mistakes which is almost equal to the number of combined yearly deaths from Car Accidents, Breast Cancer, and Aids (Link).

A Canadian study from 2004 found that 7.5% of patients in Canadian hospitals are harmed from their care, 37% of the adverse events were preventable and more than 9250 Canadians died every year from medical errors (Link).

The same power point presentation estimated that only 3% – 6% of all medical errors are reported (Link).

In April 2013, Pietro D’Amico (62) from Calabria Italy died at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland after receiving a wrong diagnosis. Many medical errors will lead to negative health conditions, some medical errors will lead to death, assisted suicide always leads to death (Link).

In July 2013, a Swiss regional court found Dr. Philippe Freiburghaus guilty of assisting a suicide without properly diagnosing his patient. On April 23, 2014, the Swiss court of appeal overturned the conviction of Freiburghaus (Link).

In September 2013, Nancy Verhelst asked to die by euthanasia in Belgium after experiencing a “botched” sex change operation (Link).

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Statistics from Belgium indicate that up to 32% of all assisted deaths are done without explicit request (Link) and up to 47% of all assisted deaths go unreported (Link). In the Netherlands the rate of assisted death without explicit request is lower than in Belgium and the rate of unreported assisted deaths is 23% (Link).

Since acts of assisted death cause the direct and intentional death of the person, and since the “safeguards” that are designed to protect patients, in the law, are not followed, can legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide ever be safe?

Considering the problem of medical error, the reality that human beings fail, the reality that many physicians have been taught to believe that certain human lives are not worth living (Quality of Life) and considering the regularity of medical error and the reality, can legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide ever be safe?

These facts and many more speak for themselves.

Reprinted with permission from Alex Schadenberg


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