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Advocates claim assisted suicide laws will prevent medical killings. Why that’s false

Alex Schadenberg Alex Schadenberg Follow Alex

April 13, 2018 (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition) – The assisted suicide lobby argues that legalizing assisted suicide will prevent "underground" killing. They suggest that legalizing and regulating assisted suicide will protect people from illegal acts. 

Today we are hearing the shocking news of a former Texas nurse, George Davis, who has been charged in the murders of two people and causing significant injury to at least three others. According to KSLA news:

The affidavit describes seven incidents involving patients at the Peaches and Louis Owen Heart Hospital at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances, five of whom suffered significant injuries and two who are deceased. 

The document names one person who died, Christopher Greenaway, 47, and family members confirm that the second person who died is Perry Frank, age 61, of Grapeland. Frank died on June 22, 2017. He was the band director at Grapeland High School

Two others who were left with severe injuries, Joseph Kalina, 58, and Pamela Henderson, 63. It also lists several unnamed patients - a 58-year-old man, a 54-year-old man and a 56-year-old man.

Will assisted suicide laws protect people from medical killers?

In February 2018, Ivo Poppe, a former nurse and Catholic deacon, was sentenced to 27 years after being convicted of killing at least five people, including his mother, but he indicated that he may have killed at least 20 people.

Poppe was arrested in early 2014 after he confided to a psychiatrist that he had "euthanised dozens of people." According to news reports, Poppe allegedly killed his first victim in 1978, and his last alleged victim may have been his own mother, who died in 2011. Most of the deaths connected to Poppe were done while euthanasia was legal in Belgium.

The Poppe case is similar to the Wetlaufer case in Canada because the latter's crimes remained unknown until she told her psychiatrist that she had killed patients.

There is also Niels Högel, the German nurse who was convicted of killing two patients between 2000 and 2005, and suspected in the deaths of at least 102 people. In December 2016, an Italian emergency room anaesthetist, Leonardo Cazzaniga, and nurse Laura Taroni were arrested in the deaths of at least five patients, but prosecutors were examining the medical files of more than 50.

Poppe is not the only medical professional who kills patients in Belgium. 

A study published in the NEJM on March 19, 2015 on the experience with assisted death in Flanders, Belgium found that 1.7% of all deaths in Flanders in 2013 were intentionally hastened without explicit request. Based on the data, more than 1,000 people were killed in Flanders in 2013 without request.

The Associated Press interviewed Belgian ethicist Freddy Mortier:

Mortier was not happy, however, that the 'hastening of death without explicit request from patients,' which can happen when a patient slumbers into unconsciousness or has lost the capacity for rational judgment, stood at 1.7 percent of cases in 2013. In the Netherlands, that figure was 0.2 percent.

The number of assisted deaths without request is lower in the Netherlands than Belgium, but for Magreet, who is featured in the Fatal Flaws film explaining how her mother died by euthanasia without request in the Netherlands, a few deaths are too many.

Why does this occur?

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are designed to cover up abuse of the law. Laws permitting assisted death require the doctor, who completes the act, to also report the act. These laws are based on a self-reporting system. None of these laws requires a third-party pre-death assessment or independent oversight of the law. Based on the data from Belgium and the Netherlands, we can conclude that doctors do not self-report abuse of the law.

Further, studies indicate that as many as 23% of the assisted deaths are not reported in the Netherlands and 40% of the assisted deaths not reported in Belgium.

Legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide does not prevent medical murders or even "underground" killing. Rather, they give physicians the right in law to kill – a right that most physicians do not want to have.

Published with permission from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

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