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Swiss assisted suicide leader says: Almost no difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg
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An article published today in Australia's Canberra Times concerns a three week fact finding mission conducted by Federal Labor MLA, Mary Porter, who visited the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland concerning the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide in those countries. The article is written by Megan Doherty and titled: Euthanasia: Time to talk.

Paul Russell, the leader of HOPE Australia, has been very effective at explaining to Australians why euthanasia and assisted suicide are not safe.

The article explains that Porter visited countries where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are legal in order to speak with the groups and individuals who support and oppose its legalization.

While visiting Switzerland, Porter spoke with Bernhard Sutter, the Vice President of Exit Switzerland. Sutter explained that the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide is:

    "merely the administration"

Sutter explained:

''Let's say it's administered by intravenous drip: if the doctor opens the switch allowing the lethal medication to flow, it is 'active euthanasia', if the patient opens the switch, it is 'assisted suicide.'"

The article also explained that the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland has assisted the suicide of several Australians at a cost of $8,000 - $12,000.

The article states that the Australian government is not planning to legalize euthanasia:

Opposition health and ageing spokesman Peter Dutton says the Coalition ''does not propose any changes'', while a spokesperson for Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says ''the government is not planning to introduce legislation dealing with voluntary euthanasia into the Parliament''.

Porter says the ACT Government is also not planning any measures to circumvent the Andrews law. She maintains she is simply responding to a concern she recognised among in the community, including from lobby groups such as Dying with Dignity.

Porter states in the article that she favoured legalizing euthanasia before going to Europe but she now thinks that the issue is more complex. The article states:

    ''after going and listening to everybody, I realise that it is much more complex than I thought it was. ... 'What about the mentally ill? Should they be allowed to be euthanased? What about people with disabilities? What about children?''

The article explains that Porter met with people who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, such as Dr Benoit Beuselinck, who is an oncologist in Belgium. The article states:

    ''For me and several of my colleagues, the euthanasia law has been bad for Belgium: the patients are finding less humanity, the doctors have more difficulties in their daily work and finally, I think the image of our country is suffering,'' he says.

 
Beuselinck, who met Porter, says more focus should be on patients being able to manage their disease or condition through palliative care. He also says the euthanasia laws are threatening the patient-doctor relationship.

    ''In my practice it occurred that some family members thought we were euthanasing a patient without her demand. Another patient refused to go to a hospice, because he thought that palliative care would automatically mean euthanasia. A colleague even received a false demand for euthanasia, written by a son on behalf of his father,'' he says.

The article concludes by suggesting that more discussion on euthanasia is needed.

the last person she spoke to on her trip was a 92-year-old professor of cardiology who had worked for many years on a review panel in Belgium scrutinising deaths by assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

 ''And he said to me, 'Mary, you have to have courage','' she said.

 She took that to mean the ''courage to keep on exploring, talking and not losing courage in the face of what is a very, very difficult question''. ...

 And Porter says one of the most telling things she saw on her trip was a sign in Beuselinck's office in Belgium showing the Woody Allen quote: ''I have  questions to all your answers''.

Legislators should deeply question the idea of legalizing euthanasia, especially when considering the abuse of the euthanasia law in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal for 10 years.
For instance, recent studies concerning the Belgian euthanasia law found that: 32% of the assisted deaths are done without request and 47% of the assisted deaths go unreported in the Flanders region of Belgium. Another recent study found that even though nurses are prohibited by law from doing euthanasia, that in fact nurses are euthanizing their patients in Belgium. There has never been an attempted prosecution for abuses of the Belgian euthanasia law.
The book, Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide uncovers data proving that unreported euthanasia deaths and the abuse of the euthanasia laws in jurisdictions, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where it is legal, uncovers euthanasia deaths without request not only occur but represent a threat to vulnerable patient groups.

Reprinted with permssion from Alex Schadenberg

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