Michael Cook

Life is valuable…even for the severely disabled

Michael Cook
By Michael Cook
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August 21, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - There can be no more difficult case for dispassionate discussion than the fate of Tony Nicklinson, a totally paralysed British man who wants to end his life. Last week the UK High Court denied his request for euthanasia.

After a catastrophic stroke in 2005, Mr Nicklinson is paralysed below the neck and unable to speak. He can move only his head and eyes. He communicates by blinking. Swallowing is laborious. He often coughs and needs to have saliva wiped from his face. Once a sports-event manager and rugby player based in Dubai, nowadays he writes his memoirs and watches a lot of television.

He describes his life in the bleakest terms imaginable: “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable. …it is misery created by the accumulation of lots of things which are minor in themselves but, taken together, ruin what’s left of my life.” Since 2007 his mind has been set on euthanasia.

Each of the three justices on the High Court took pains to express their sympathy for his plight (and the similar case of a man named Martin). But they reluctantly agreed that that the existing law on murder had to be affirmed. In England, euthanasia is still a crime. Even passionate supporters of legalised assisted suicide supported the Court’s decision. The head of Dying with Dignity in the UK, Sarah Wootton, commented: “his case goes way beyond what Dignity in Dying is calling for. We campaign for dying people to have the choice of an assisted death if they’re mentally competent and there are legal, upfront safeguards, and of course Tony is disabled, he’s not dying.”

But is death really the only solution to the dependence and limited possibilities of Mr Nicklinson’s existence? Perhaps it takes an extraordinary person, but even with locked-in syndrome, most people want to live. If the media didn’t suffer from congenital short-term memory loss, journalists would remember a French colleague who was even more locked-in than Tony Nicklinson. Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the French edition of Elle when he suffered a massive stroke. He retained his capacity to think and blink (only with his left eye, though).

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Crippled as he was, he wrote an international best-seller, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It was a poetic reflection on his dependency which was drenched with mordant humour and utterly devoid of self-pity. Here is he is describing his meals:

“By means of a tube threaded into my stomach, two or three bags of a brownish fluid provide my daily caloric needs. For pleasure I have to turn to the vivid memory of tastes and smells, an inexhaustible reservoir of sensations. Once I was a master of recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories. You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it’s a restaurant, no need to call ahead. If I do the cooking, it’s always a success.”

He never mentions euthanasia and barely mentions death.

Bauby’s is far from being an extraordinary case. The largest-ever survey of chronic locked-in syndrome patients found last year that only 28 percent were unhappy. Very few of them were interested in euthanasia – only 7 percent—or had suicidal thoughts.

The author of the study, Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege in Belgium, admitted that his sample size was small – only 65 patients in France. But it confirmed other research into how people adapt to calamities. It also suggested ways to care for these patients. For instance, nearly all of them felt that they were not engaged in worthwhile activities. Many of them wanted more social interaction.

Dr Laureys believes that the situation of locked-in syndrome patients will improve substantially as more sophisticated technology becomes available. “I predict that in coming years, our view of this disease is really going to change,” he said. “It makes a huge difference to be able to read a book or go onto the internet at will.”

In the light of stories like these, perhaps we should recalibrate our notions of “worthwhile” and “dignified”. In fact, commented a Canadian neuroscientist unconnected to the Belgian study, “We cannot and should not presume to know what it must be like to be in one of these conditions. Many patients can find happiness in ways that we simply cannot imagine.”

Not that patients delight in their disability. A year may pass before they reach a steady level of subjective well-being, said Dr Laureys. Hence requests for euthanasia soon after a stroke or accident are not well-informed: “Recently affected [locked-in syndrome] patients who wish to die should be assured that there is a high chance they will regain a happy meaningful life.”

A couple of years ago, a woman who has lived with locked-in syndrome for more than 30 years, Maryannick Pavageau, was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civil honour, precisely for leading the charge against euthanasia. (See last year’s article in MercatorNet here.) Mme Pavageau flatly denied that her life was miserable:

“All life is worth living. It can be beautiful, regardless of the state we are in. And change is always possible. That is the message of hope that I wish to convey. I am firmly against euthanasia because it is not physical suffering that guides the desire to die but a moment of discouragement, feeling like a burden… All those who ask to die are mostly looking for love.”

Might that be the case with Tony Nicklinson? Perhaps the money used to promote his case and to pay for his legal fees should have been spent on a trip to Brittany to seek counselling from Mme Pavageau.

Besides, there is a significant detail in his application for voluntary euthanasia. He doesn’t want to die; he only want to be able to die. The judgement pointed out that:

“At the moment he thinks that he would probably wish to end [his life] in a year or two, but he wants to establish the right to die with dignity at a time of his choosing.”

Even though his life is “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable” he still wants to hang on to it. This suggests that he could respond if he were given more affection and stimulation.

None of us – least of all me – would want to be in Tony Nicklinson’s predicament. I fear that I would react more like him than Mme Pavageau. But it would be a heartless society which prefers to respect his “autonomy” by giving him a lethal injection rather than giving him and his family more support, affection and friendship.

In the end, making our own happiness is the supreme choice we have to make in life. As a New Zealand rugby player with locked-in syndrome wrote in the BMJ a few years ago: “It is definitely a crazy, mixed-up world. I’m just glad to still be alive—most of the time anyway… Shit definitely happens; I just have to make the most of each day in my journey towards recovery.”

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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Sandra Cano, ‘Mary Doe’ of Doe v. Bolton, RIP

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By Ben Johnson
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Sandra Cano, the woman whose divorce custody case morphed into a Supreme Court decision extending the “constitutional right” to an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnacy, has passed away of natural causes.

Cano was “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, the other case settled by the High Court on January 22, 1973. In 1970, at 22, Cano saw an attorney to divorce her husband – who had a troubled legal history – and regain custody of her children. The Georgia resident was nine weeks pregnant with her fourth child at the time.

Cano said once the attorney from Legal Aid, Margie Pitts Hames, deceptively twisted her desire to stay with her children into a legal crusade that has resulted in 56 million children being aborted.

“I was a trusting person and did not read the papers put in front of me by my lawyer,” Cano said in a sworn affidavit in 2003. “I did not even suspect that the papers related to abortion until one afternoon when my mother and my lawyer told me that my suitcase was packed to go to a hospital, and that they had scheduled an abortion for the next day.”

Cano was so disgusted by the prospect that she fled the state.

Yet the legal case went on, winding up before the Supreme Court the same day as Roe v. Wade. The same 7-2 majority agreed to Roe, which struck down state regulations on abortions before viability, and Doe, which allowed abortions until the moment of birth on the grounds of maternal “health” – a definition so broad that any abortion could be justified.

All the justices except Byron White and future Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed that “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age” are all “factors [that] may relate to [maternal] health.”

“I was nothing but a symbol in Doe v. Bolton with my experience and circumstances discounted and misrepresented,” Cano said in 2003.

Two years later, she told a Senate subcommittee, “Using my name and life, Doe v. Bolton falsely created the health exception that led to abortion on demand and partial birth abortion... I only sought legal assistance to get a divorce from my husband and to get my children from foster care. I was very vulnerable: poor and pregnant with my fourth child, but abortion never crossed my mind.”

On the 30th anniversary of the case, she asked the Supreme Court justices to revisit the ruling that bears her pseudonym, but they denied her request. “I felt responsible for the experiences to which the mothers and babies were being subjected. In a way, I felt that I was involved in the abortions – that I was somehow responsible for the lives of the children and the horrible experiences of their mothers,” she explained.

By that time, both Cano and Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, opposed abortion and implored the Supreme Court to overturn the rulings made in their names. Both also said their pro-abortion attorneys had misrepresented or lied about their circumstances to make abortion-on-demand more sympathetic.

"I pledge that as long as I have breath, I will strive to see abortion ended in America,” Cano said in 1997.

Priests for Life announced last week that Cano was in a hospital in the Atlanta area, in critical condition with throat cancer, blood sepsis, and congestive heart failure.

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“My heart is broken that Sandra will never witness an end to abortion,” Janet Morana said. “She never wanted to have an abortion. She never had an abortion, and she certainly never wanted to be a part of the Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Bolton, that opened the gates for legal abortion at any time during pregnancy and for any reason.”

“Sandra’s work to overturn that devastating decision that was based on lies will not end with her death,” Fr. Frank Pavone said. “When life ultimately triumphs over death, Sandra will share in that victory.”

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We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

First we killed our unborn children. Now we’re killing our own parents.

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By Jonathon van Maren

In a culture that elevates transient pleasure as a “value,” while reducing “value” itself to a subjective and utilitarian status, I suppose it should not be surprising that the worth of human beings is now constantly in question.

We once lived in a culture that drafted laws to protect “dependents”: the very young, the very old, and the disabled. This was done in recognition of the fact that a human being’s increased vulnerability correspondingly heightens our moral responsibility to that human being.

Now, however, the exit strategists of the Sexual Revolution are burning the candle at both ends - abortion for children in the womb, euthanasia and “assisted suicide” for the old. Both children and elderly parents, you see, can be costly and time-consuming.

We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.

I noted some time ago that the concept of “dying with dignity” is rapidly becoming “killing with impunity,” as our culture finds all sorts of excuses to assist “inconvenient” people in leaving Planet Earth.

There is a similarity to abortion, here, too—our technologically advanced culture is no longer looking for compassionate and ethical solutions to the complex, tragic, and often heartbreaking circumstances. Instead, we offer the solution that Darkness always has: Death. Disability, dependence, difficult life circumstances: a suction aspirator, a lethal injection, a bloody set of forceps. And the “problem,” as it were, is solved.

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We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.

There is something chilling about the intimacy of these killings. As Gregg Cunningham noted, “Ours is the first generation that, having demanded the right to kill its children through elective abortion, is now demanding the right to kill its parents through doctor-assisted suicide.” The closest of human relationships are rupturing under the sheer weight of the selfishness and narcissism of the Me Generation.

The great poet Dylan Thomas is famous for urging his dying father to fight on, to keep breathing, to live longer:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Such sentiment is not present among the advocates of euthanasia. In fact, the tagline “dying with dignity” is starting to very much sound like, “Now don’t make a fuss, off with you now.” Consider this story in The Daily Mail from a few days ago:

An elderly husband and wife have announced their plans to die in the world's first 'couple' euthanasia - despite neither of them being terminally ill.

Instead the pair fear loneliness if the other one dies first from natural causes.

Identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.

The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple's mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.

… The couple's daughter has remarked that her parents are talking about their deaths as eagerly as if they were planning a holiday.

John Paul [their son] said the double euthanasia of his parents was the 'best solution'.

'If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,' he said. 'It would be impossible for us to come here every day, take care of our father or our mother.'

I wonder why no one considers the fact that the reason some elderly parents may experience “mental anguish” is that they have come to the sickening realization that their grown children would rather find an executioner to dispatch them than take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. Imagine the thoughts of a mother realizing that the child she fed and rocked to sleep, played with and sang to, would rather have her killed than care for her: that their relationship really does have a price.

This is why some scenes in the HBO euthanasia documentary How To Die In Oregon are so chilling. In one scene, an elderly father explains to the interviewer why he has procured death drugs that he plans to take in case of severe health problems. “I don’t want to be a burden,” he explains while his adult daughter nods approvingly, “It’s the decent thing to do. For once in my life I’ll do something decent.”

No argument from the daughter.

If we decide in North America to embrace euthanasia and “assisted suicide,” we will not be able to unring this bell. Just as with abortion and other manifestations of the Culture of Death, the Sexual Revolutionaries work hard to use heart-rending and emotional outlier examples to drive us to, once again, legislate from the exception.

But for once, we have to start asking ourselves if we really want to further enable our medical community to kill rather than heal. We have to ask ourselves if the easy option of dispatching “burdensome” people will not impact our incentive to advance in palliative care. And we have to stop simply asking how someone in severe pain might respond to such a legal “service,” and start asking how greedy children watching “their” inheritance going towards taking proper care of their parents.

And to the pro-life movement, those fighting to hold back the forces of the Culture of Death—the words of Dylan Thomas have a message for us, too.

Do not go gentle into that good night…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Luka Magnotta http://luka-magnotta.com
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Gay porn star admits dismembering ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Montreal gay porn actor Luka Magnotta admits killing and dismembering his ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film, but pled not guilty on Monday to all five charges filed against him.

Magnotta shocked the world in June 2012 by allegedly killing and cannibalizing a 33-year-old university student from China, Jun Lin, then posting a video of his actions and the results online. He later hid some of the dismembered parts in the garbage, but also mailed parcels containing body parts to political offices in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.

He was charged with first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a body, publishing obscene material, mailing obscene and indecent material, and criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other MPs.

Magnotta's lawyer Luc Leclair is basing the not guilty plea on the defendant having a history of mental illness, thus making him not criminally responsible.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he intends to prove that Magnotta planned the alleged murder well before it was committed.

"He admits the acts or the conducts underlying the crime for which he is charged. Your task will be to determine whether he committed the five offences with the required state of mind for each offence," Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer instructed the jury, according to media reports.

However, some authorities have pointed out that Magnotta’s behavior follows a newly discernible trend of an out-of-control sexual deviancy fueled by violent pornography.

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Dr. Judith Reisman, an internationally-recognized expert on pornography and sexuality, told LifeSiteNews in 2012 she believes Magnotta’s behavior “reflects years of brain imprinting by pornography.”

“His homosexual cannibalism links sex arousal with shame, hate and sadism,” said Reisman. Although cannibalism is not as common as simple rape, she added, “serial rape, murder, torture of adults and even of children is an inevitable result of our ‘new brains,’ increasingly rewired by our out-of-control sexually exploitive and sadistic mass media and the Internet.”

In their 2010 book “Online Killers,” criminology researchers Christopher Berry-Dee and Steven Morris said research has shown “there are an estimated 10,000 cannibal websites, with millions ... who sit for hours and hours in front of their computer screens, fantasizing about eating someone.” 

This underworld came to light in a shocking case in Germany in 2003, when Armin Meiwes was tried for killing his homosexual lover Bernd Jürgen Brandes, a voluntary fetish victim whom Meiwes picked up through an Internet forum ad seeking “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.”

After the warrant was issued for his arrest, Magnotta was the target of an international manhunt for several days until he was arrested in Berlin, where police say he was found looking at online pornography alongside news articles about himself at an Internet café.

The trial is expected to continue to mid-November, with several dozen witnesses being called to testify before the jury of six men and eight women.

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