John Jalsevac

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Anti-euthanasia activists launch European coalition in ‘historic’ meeting in Rome

John Jalsevac
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John Jalsevac is reporting from Rome this week

ROME, February 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of nearly 20 leading anti-euthanasia activists representing 11 countries gathered today in Rome to launch a pan-European coalition. 

Their goal? To promote “care, not killing,” said Alex Schadenberg, the Chairman of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International, the organizer of the meeting, who described the event as “historic.”

A survey of the situation in Europe suggests that the creation of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) Europe could not come a minute too soon.

Euthanasia is already deeply entrenched and expanding in several European countries, and with aging populations across the continent, more and more are showing signs of being swayed by the rhetoric of the euthanasia movement. Currently pressure campaigns to legalize the practice are ongoing in the UK and France.

During the wide-ranging discussions at today's meeting, one point repeatedly cropped up: the need to work together and to unite activists from a wide variety of ideological and political backgrounds.

“Everybody who opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide should feel welcome at our table,” Schadenberg said in his opening statement to the meeting, pointing out that opposing killing should be an issue that is owned neither by the Left nor the Right, nor any particular religious denomination. 

“We need each other,” he said. “We’re all facing the same threats, the potential in all these nations that protections that exist in law protecting people from euthanasia are being unraveled, and we need to be able to deal with that effectively.”

The newly minted coalition elected long-time anti-euthanasia advocate Kevin Fitzpatrick from Not Dead Yet in the UK to be their founding coordinator. Fitzpatrick was given a 6-month mandate to steer the nascent coalition into a cohesive body capable of responding to legalization attempts across Europe. 

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For Fitzpatrick the fight against assisted suicide and euthanasia is deeply personal. He himself is disabled, confined to a wheelchair. In an interview with LSN, he said he views the efforts of euthanasia lobbyists as a direct threat to the vulnerable and disabled, since the disabled are typically “in the front line” when it comes to euthanasia.

“It’s very clear to me when people talk about the right to die, it’s very quick for others to start talking about the need to die,” he said.

Schadenberg agreed. “Once you open the door to assisted suicide and euthanasia it always becomes wider and wider and wider, and before you know it what starts as an option for the few becomes what’s expected for the many.”

It is this “slippery slope” argument that is the strongest tool in the toolbox of anti-euthanasia advocates, said Schadenberg.

Already in countries where euthanasia has been legalized, the practice has expanded far beyond the boundaries and “safeguards” that had originally been set and promised. Studies out of Belgium show that a disturbing number of patients are euthanatized without their explicit consent, while in the Netherlands even disabled newborns can now legally be killed, even if their disability is not terminal.

Meanwhile, the arguments being put forward, while often being couched in the language of “choice” and “liberty,” increasingly make mention of the need to save on health care costs, and the “obligation” of aging and ill patients not to prolong their lives.

“It’s not about liberty,” said Scadenberg, “it’s about saying that their life is not worth living. It’s sold as being about freedom of choice, but it’s about giving a doctor the right to cause your death. We need to properly care for people, not to kill people.”

The challenge for EPC Europe is how to educate the public on these issues against a tide of media and political pressure in the other direction. In order to do so the group hopes to put together a broad coalition of academics, lawyers, politicians, journalists, and everyday Europeans who are passionate about the issue of protecting the vulnerable.

For Fitzpatrick the mission for EPC Europe, is simple: first, to repeal the euthanasia laws in Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and second, to create a “groundswell” of opposition to the practice at the grassroots level.

“Euthanasia is an issue that affects everybody,” he said, pointing out that every European country is experiencing an aging population.  

“The older people get the more they will be affected by life-limiting conditions,” he said. “The more they have disabling condition the more vulnerable they will become…to the suggestion that they should leave now.”

“That’s what euthanasia is. It’s killing people. And in that respect every constituent will be affected by this, either directly themselves as they get older, or because family members are evolved," he said. “That’s why EPC Europe will be there to fight on their behalf.”

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