Saturday 12 November 2011

Why legalising assisted suicide inevitably also legalises euthanasia

The Falconer Commission on ‘Assisted Dying’ is about to be put out of its misery when it reports later this month.

Having been suggested by Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), paid for by one of its patrons and stacked full of euthanasia sympathisers by Lord Falconer’s own admission (and also for these reasons discredited by the BMA) the Commission is expected to recommend that assisted suicide for mentally competent terminally people be legalised with so-called ‘strict safeguards’.

The arguments that will be used to support this proposal however (compassion and choice) apply to many people outside this seemingly narrow category and if euthanasia is ever legalised, given DID’s support for legally binding advance directives, you can be sure they will later be pushing for mentally incompetent people (including dementia patients) to have euthanasia on the grounds that they have previously signed a directive and it is ‘what they would have wanted’.

This is probably why Falconer has said he is planning a ‘gradualist’ approach – legalizing assisted suicide for a small group and then incrementally broadening the criteria once people have got used to it.

But another practical reason why assisted suicide leads inevitably to euthanasia, even without activists’ encouragement, is that it often doesn’t work, leaving doctors to wade in with a lethal injection to ‘finish off’ a comatose patient who has vomited or for some other reason is not yet dead after self-administering a cocktail of lethal drugs.

The following is excerpted from an article appearing at ‘True Dignity Vermont :Vermont Citizens Against Assisted Suicide’

In 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine featured an article on the clinical problems of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The article, titled Clinical Problems with the Performance of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands, is still available on line.

This study analyzed data from 649 cases and found that complications (such as myoclonus or vomiting) occurred in 7% of the assisted suicide cases, and that problems with ‘completion’ (such as a longer-than-expected time to death, failure to induce coma, or induction of coma followed by awakening of the patient) occurred in 16% of assisted suicide cases.

According to the results of the study, ‘The physician decided to administer a lethal medication in 21 of the cases of assisted suicide (18 percent), which thus became cases of euthanasia. The reasons for this decision included problems with completion (in twelve cases) and the inability of the patient to take all the medications (in five).’

This study shows how the legalisation of assisted suicide will inevitably lead to euthanasia because a significant number of assisted suicides fail. In Holland those failed assisted suicides have been completed by lethal injection (ie. euthanasia) which is also legal there.

Of course we know that patients who have experienced a failure of an assisted suicide sometimes change their minds, because, of the three people in Oregon who took the poison and did not die in 2010, none decided to attempt suicide again.

We wonder if the other people, those whose relatives may have finished them off with a plastic bag or whose doctor, if present, may have finished them off with a lethal injection, would have also changed their minds, if given a chance. We will never know how many of these people there were. The dead tell no tales.


  1. You're logic is backwards. Regarding your evidence from the Netherlands, you fail to explain that both voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are both legal. If only assisted suicide were legal, it would not inevitably mean that failed cases of assisted suicide would result in euthanasia, because this would still be against the law.

  2. Read Francis Scaeffer's "Whatever Happened To The Human Race". He was arguably the greatest philosophical mind of the 20th century. In this book (and film series) he clearly predicts that DNR's lead to voluntary assisted dying leads to euthanasia leads to compulsory euthanasia. When we begin to devalue human life - in any way - we can easily and gradually justify devaluing it in every way. Take Abortion.....the Acts legalising Abrotion were brought in to secure the health (mental and physical) of the Mother. We now (as predicted) have Abortion on demnad, with even early Abortion pills that we can pick up at our local pharmacy. We now have ample research that suggests that the mental health of a woman who undergoes and abortion is significantly negatively affected, perhaps for life (excuse the pun). All of us will get old. In a rapidly increasingly aging population, how long do we think our economically driven society will tolerate this burden of care. Euthanasia is already here. Doctors are already slipping DNR's into patients records without either the patients consent or the next of kin's consent. We already have special care homes for our elderly so that they don't inconvenience our own micro family. Out of site is often out of mind. We are seeing more and moer cases of nurses who feel they are "helping" patients out of a valueless life by injecting insulin; GP's who inject their patients with lethal doses without the patient knowing or giving consent. We should be deeply concerned by this. Money drives everything in our society. If you have read this far, as k yourself....."How will THEY choose to end YOUR life?".
    C Whitla


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