Paul Russell

Euthanasia is now ‘assisted dying'?

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell

SYDNEY, November 16, 2012, (National Right to Life News) - Discussion about end-of-life issues simmers away in Australia. Reluctant as most of us naturally are to do so, it is nevertheless worthwhile to discuss with friends and family, and in public forums, ideas about health care, advance directives and our choices in such circumstances.

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with a discussion about euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, the discussion will be fruitless if, following the advice of Sydney academic Lyn Carson, we begin to change its terms. In a recent contribution to the Sydney Morning Herald Carson made a case for euthanasia by defining it as “assisted dying”. But holding to recognised terms and definitions is incredibly important to such discussions. If we don’t really know what it is we are asking for we are more likely to be dissatisfied with the outcome. As with decisions of a medical character, informed consent is paramount.

Substitute phrases like “assisted dying” and “death with dignity” might be great marketing slogans to soften the hard edges of this debate (used almost exclusively by those who support legal change), but they will not help us or any parliament debating the matter to make sound judgements.

Recycling a favourite argument of Dr. Phillip Nitschke, Carson attempts to draw us to the conclusion that the law is an ass [Mr. Bumble’s observation in Oliver Twist]: suicide is not illegal–but helping someone to suicide is. Ergo: we should change the law in favour of assisting suicide.

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Suicide is not illegal, true; but assisting in a suicide remains in our criminal code precisely because once a third party becomes involved there is a risk of coercion and abuse. One need only reflect on the growing community concern over abuse of elderly people in Western countries, including Australia, to conclude that assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse. And, while suicide may not be a crime, none of us has a right-to-die; there is no right to kill ourselves.

Carson is correct in her observation that there is something of a “mismatch” between the results of parliamentary debates over many years and public opinion on the issue. She points out that that there have been a dozen attempts “to make laws allowing people to control their own deaths” (euthanasia) but the only one that succeeded was overturned within a year. It is worth reflecting upon the fact that, in respect to such debates, politicians are well aware of the gravity of the situation and in my experience do not take their roles lightly. So why the disparity?

It is in our parliamentary debating chambers that MPs, tasked with informing themselves of exactly what is happening in places such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Oregon, that a thorough stocktaking of all the arguments pro and con is most likely. They are not simply saying yes or no to a phone poll. Indeed, it is when they get past the clever slogans and begin to weigh up the data that the majority see how our most basic responsibility — that of protecting vulnerable citizens — is compromised by allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide. That is why they have repeatedly decided to exercise appropriate caution and support the status quo. It is an informed decision.

The effect of legislating for euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is much broader than the limited models that we are being asked to accept. When we legislate for euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, we are really saying that these solutions are acceptable for everyone – not just the terminally ill with less than six months to live (or however else we want to define it). In law we will be creating a quasi-human right to be killed. The limitations we place (safeguards so-called) are essentially there to salve our consciences and to make us feel a little less queasy about supporting state-sanctioned killing.

My grounds for saying this? Firstly, the move to support assisted suicide rather than euthanasia by the pro-euthanasia groups in the past few weeks is really more about divining what our MPs might tolerate; as one MP admitted a few years ago, it’s seen as a good start. I would be skeptical of any claim to a moral epiphany here.

Secondly, if at some later time one of these groups builds public momentum towards an expansion of who qualifies for termination, would we then be debating whether or not we wanted to allow euthanasia as well as assisted suicide? No, we will already have made this decision. All we would be discussing at this juncture is the relative merits of expanding who qualifies. If by this time Australians are thinking like the Dutch — who see such legislation as a sort of human right – how could we then discriminate against anyone seeking to die?

As the British House of Lords Committee on Medical Ethics concluded, it is impossible to set secure limits “to create an exception to the general prohibition of intentional killing would inevitably open the way to its further erosion whether by design, by inadvertence, or by the human tendency to test the limits of any regulation.”

We must continue to protect all people equally. Risks to vulnerable people cannot be eliminated by weasel-worded legislation premised on a “right to die”. By all means, let’s discuss end-of-life issues openly and forge the way for better care and real choices, but let’s make informed decisions cognisant of our human nature and mindful of the risk to others.

Reprinted from National Right to Life News.


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UK quietly opens the door to genetic engineering, ‘3-parent’ embryos

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By Hilary White

Last month the UK’s Department of Health quietly redefined the term “genetic modification” to open the door to allow certain kinds of modification of human embryos – thus potentially making it the first country in the world to allow genetic engineering.

Scottish journalist Lori Anderson recently raised the alarm over the change in a column in the Scotsman, in which she alleged that the change is designed to “dupe” the British public into accepting “full-scale germline genetic engineering,” using human embryos as test subjects.

Anderson said that in July, the Department of Health “effectively re-wrote the definition of ‘genetic modification’ to specifically exclude the alteration of human mitochondrial genes or any other genetic material that exists outside the chromosomes in the nucleus of the cell.”

“The reason for doing this is that it believes it will be easier to sell such an advancement to the public if it can insist that the end result will not be a ‘GM baby’.”

This change follows a statement from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the government body that regulates experimental research on human embryos, approving the procedure to create an embryo from one couple’s gametes but with genetic material added from a third party donor, a procedure called in the press “three-parent embryos”.

Anderson quoted a statement from the Department of Health comparing this procedure to donating blood. The statement read, “There is no universally agreed definition of ‘genetic modification’ in humans – people who have organ transplants, blood donations, or even gene therapy are not generally regarded as being ‘genetically modified’. The Government has decided to adopt a working definition for the purpose of taking forward these regulations.”

This assertion was challenged by one of the UK’s leading fertility researchers, Lord Robert Winston, who told the Independent, “Of course mitochondrial transfer is genetic modification and this modification is handed down the generations. It is totally wrong to compare it with a blood transfusion.”

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The HFEA, which throughout its history has been known as one of the world’s most permissive regulatory bodies, has been working steadily towards allowing genetically modified embryos to be implanted in women undergoing artificial procreation treatments. In a document issued to the government last year, they called the insertion of mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) into embryos “mitochondrial donation” or “mitochondrial replacement”. mDNA is the genetic material found in the cytoplasm outside a cell’s nucleus, problems with which can cause a host of currently incurable genetic illnesses.

In the statement issued in June, the HFEA said the technique of inserting “donated” mDNA into already existing in vitro embryos, “should be considered ‘not unsafe’ for the use on a ‘specific and defined group of patients.’”

“Mitochondria replacement (or mitochondrial donation) describes two medical techniques, currently being worked on by UK researchers, which could allow women to avoid passing on genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases to their children,” the statement said.

The HFEA admitted that the techniques are “at the cutting edge of both science and ethics” and said that the results of a “public consultation” in 2012/13 were being examined by the government, which is considering “draft regulations”.

In June, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children echoed Lori Anderson’s concern, commenting that the HFEA is attempting to deceive the public. Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said, “Human gene manipulation is being sold to a gullible public on a promise of reducing suffering, the same old con-trick that the test-tube baby lobby has been using for decades.” 

Any manipulation of human genetics, always breaks “several important moral rules,” entailing the creation of “human guinea-pigs,” Tully said. “Human germ-line manipulation and cloning – changing the genetic inheritance of future generations - goes against internationally-agreed norms for ethical science.”

He quoted Professor Andy Greenfield, the chairman of the scientific review panel that approved the techniques, who said that there is no way of knowing what effect this would have on the children created until it is actually done.

“We have to subject children who have not consented and cannot consent to being test subjects,” Tully said.

Altering the mDNA of an embryo is what cloning scientists refer to as “germline” alteration, meaning that the changes will be carried on through the altered embryo’s own offspring, a longstanding goal of eugenicists.

In their 1999 book, “Human Molecular Genetics” Tom Strachan and Andrew Read warned that the use of mitochondrial alteration of embryos would cross serious ethical boundaries.

Having argued that germline therapy would be “pointless” from a therapeutic standpoint, the authors said, “There are serious concerns, therefore, that a hidden motive for germline gene therapy is to enable research to be done on germline manipulation with the ultimate aim of germline-based genetic enhancement.”

“The latter could result in positive eugenics programs, whereby planned genetic modification of the germline could involve artificial selection for genes that are thought to confer advantageous traits.”


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Cable series portrays nun as back-alley abortionist

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By Ben Johnson
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'To depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,' said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The Cinemax TV series The Knick portrayed a Roman Catholic nun as a back alley abortionist who tells a Catholic woman God will forgive her for going through with the procedure.

In its latest episode, which aired Friday night, the series showed Sister Harriet (an Irish nun played by Cara Seymour) telling a Catholic woman named Nora, “Your husband will know nothing of it. I promise.”

“Will God forgive me?” Nora asked, adding, “I don't want to go to Hell for killing a baby.”

“He knows that you suffered,” the sister replied, before performing the illegal abortion off-screen. “I believe the Lord's compassion will be yours.” 

The period medical drama is set at the Knickerbocker Hospital (“The Knick”) in New York City around the turn of the 20th century, when abortion was against both civil and ecclesiastical law.

“It is no secret that Hollywood is a big pro-abortion town, but to depict a nun who performs an abortion is a new low,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said. “The only saving grace in this episode is the real-life recognition of the woman who is about to have the abortion: she admits that her baby is going to be killed.”

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The series is directed by Steven Soderbergh, known for such films as Erin Brockovich, the Oceans Eleven franchise, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. More recently he directed The Girlfriend Experience, a film about prostitution starring pornographic actress Sasha Grey.

Critics have hailed his decision to include a black surgeon in circa 1900 America. But after last week's episode, the New York Times stated that The Knick has chosen to “demonstrate concern for other kinds of progress,” citing the depiction of the abortion. 


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Catholic Malta enacts ‘transgender’ employment discrimination law

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By Hilary White

An amendment to Malta’s Employment and Industrial Relations Act means that employment “discrimination” against “transsexuals” is now officially prohibited in the Catholic country. The provision, which was quietly passed in May, came into effect on August 12th.

The law allows those who believe they have a complaint to make a case with the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, with an industrial tribunal or the courts. A government spokesman told local  media, “Employees do not need to prove that their employer has discriminated against them.”

“They only need to provide enough evidence pointing to a likely case of discrimination. The employer will then need to prove that discrimination has not taken place.”

The amendment defines illegal discrimination against “transgendered” people as, “in so far as the ground of sex is concerned, any less favourable treatment of a person who underwent or is undergoing gender reassignment, which, for the purpose of those regulations shall mean, where a person is considering or intends to undergo, or is undergoing, a process, or part of a process, for the purposes of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.” 

Silvan Agius, Human Rights policy coordinator with the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, told Malta Today newspaper that the new amendment brings Maltese law into harmony with EU law.

“This amendment is continuing the government’s equality mainstreaming exercise. The inclusion of gender reassignment in the Act also brings it in line with the anti-discrimination articles found in both Malta’s Constitution and the Equality for Men and Woman Act,” Agius said.

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Agius is a key member of the homosexual activist apparatus in Malta’s government working to entrench the ideology of gender in law in Malta and elsewhere. In June, he was a featured speaker, with the notorious British anti-Catholic campaigner Peter Tatchell, at a Glasgow conference organised by the Edinburgh-based Equality Network, a group that helps organise and train homosexualist campaign groups.

The amendment to the law follows promises made recently by the country’s equalities minister, Helena Dalli, to a “transgender” congress in Hungary in May. Dalli, who brought forward Malta’s recently passed same-sex civil unions bill, told a meeting of gender activists in Budapest that while her government’s focus had been mainly on homosexuals, that she would shortly be turning her attention to “trans” people.

“The next step now is a Bill towards the enactment of a Gender Identity law. A draft bill has been prepared and it has now been passed to the LGBTI Consultative Council for its vetting and amendment as necessary,” Dalli said.

“Some of you may be thinking that we are moving forward quickly. I have a different perspective though. We are doing what is right, what should have been done a long time ago,” she added.

Since the legalisation of divorce in 2011, Malta has been remarkable for its rapid adoption of the gender ideology’s agenda. In 2013, Malta was named the “fastest climber” on the Rainbow Europe Index, a survey organised annually by ILGA Europe, the leading homosexualist lobby group funded directly by the European Union.

The ILGA Europe report notes (p. 114) that Helena Dalli Helena “was one of 11 EU Member States’ equality ministers to co-sign a call for the European Commission to work on a comprehensive EU policy for LGBT equality.” The report also noted that although the new Labour government has proved cooperative, the Christian Democrat Nationalist Party has “progressively proved more receptive to LGBTI issues, including same-sex unions.”


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