Safeguards? What Safeguards?

There are no real safeguards when we legalise euthanasia:

When it comes to the issue of euthanasia, here is a truth you can bank on: the more the pro-death folks talk about how “safe” things will be because of all the “safeguards” in their legislation to legalise killing, the more you will see that these safeguards are simply chimeras. They have no substance at all.

Indeed, whenever countries have legalised euthanasia, all the safeguards are not worth the paper they are printed on. The examples of this are endless. Simply consider some recent headlines concerning Belgium. This country and the Netherlands were the first nations to go down this path back in 2002.

“Belgium Euthanizes Over 1,000 Patients Every Year Without Their Consent”

“Belgium gives assisted suicide approval to woman with autism and depression”

And two more recent headlines, this time from Canada, which legalized euthanasia in 2015. These also make for frightening reading:

“Over 750 Canadians demanded to be killed in 2019 due to ‘loneliness’”

“Disabled 41-Year-Old Man is Euthanized After Funding for Home Health Care Runs Out”

There are plenty more such headlines that could be offered here. I devoted a whole section to this matter in my 2016 book, The Challenge of Euthanasia. In it I said this:

For all the talk about “safeguards”, there certainly can be no really effective safeguards in legalised euthanasia. Countries which have legalised euthanasia speak much about stringent conditions and strict safeguards, but the reality is quite different than the rhetoric. These folks have always insisted that this would just be available for hard cases of terminal illness and incurable suffering of the elderly and dying. It would be well regulated and it would not spread to other sections of the populace they insisted. All this has been shown to be utterly false.

Various Australian states already have legalised euthanasia, or are working to have it become legalised. As to the latter, we have moves in both Tasmania and Queensland now under way. Martyn Iles of the ACL warned in an email about what the proposed Tasmanian legislation would involve:

As I write this the Tasmanian Legislative Council is debating Mike Gaffney MLC’s bill to legalise euthanasia. Mike Gaffney’s closing comments today show why his End-Of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill must be defeated. He rightly points out that it would affect the future of all Tasmanians, not least because the bill proposes a review after two years, to consider extending assisted suicide to children and even to those not terminally ill.  

And Queensland will have an election next month, with some stark choices between the main parties. If re-elected Labor will push a euthanasia bill through as one of its main priorities. Cherish Life Queensland says this about the matter:

It’s vitally important to understand that in Queensland we only have about 1/3 of the palliative care specialists that we should, this gross shortage most acutely felt in regional Queensland. Undeniably the state government’s chronic neglect of specialist palliative care, is one of the main drivers behind the push for legalisation of euthanasia in Queensland. Some people have died in pain, needlessly so.

There is presently a push by the Queensland Labor government to legalise “voluntary assisted dying” which, of course is a form of euthanasia. It has instructed the Queensland Law Reform Commission to produce euthanasia legalisation before 31 March 2021. If Labor win the 31 October 2020 election, they will almost certainly legalise euthanasia – it’s something to bear in mind when you vote. Even the language around euthanasia the state government is using is deceptive, the misnomer “voluntary assisted dying” hides what euthanasia really is – intentional killing by lethal injection administered by doctors, or doctors providing poison for the patient to take.

Both states will play down the reality of how other jurisdictions have done so poorly with regard to safeguards. Indeed, they will try to reassure folks that their safeguards will be the best in the world. Hmm, that’s what they all say. That was certainly the pitch made by Dan Andrews and the Victorian Labor government when they rammed through euthanasia legislation late in 2017. As I said at the time:

Premier Dan Andrews has claimed: ‘This is the most cautious, the safest, scheme for assisted dying anywhere in the world.’ Baloney, There is no such thing. Everywhere euthanasia has been legalised, the so-called safeguards have been blown out of the water, and very real slippery slopes are quickly entered into. Every bill like this is said to be fully safe, but all these bills are like a slice of Swiss cheese: riddled with holes that a truck could drive through. In this case there are supposed to be numerous strict safeguards, but they are not worth the ink they are printed on.

Image of The Challenge of Euthanasia (Life and Death Matters)
The Challenge of Euthanasia (Life and Death Matters) by Muehlenberg, Bill (Author) Amazon logo

With all this in mind, a shocking story coming out of Victoria should warn us all of the dangers involved in pushing for legalised killing. Just recently Melbourne writer Madeleine Dugdale penned a sad and important article about the death of a loved one at the hands of Victorian doctors. The piece begins:

My husband’s grandmother took her life yesterday in a Victorian nursing home. After 87 years of a life well-lived, she swallowed state-sanctioned poison to end her life. The “health” professionals here called it medication, but the aim of taking medicine is to improve one’s health, not destroy it. Use all the Orwellian double-speak you like to sugar coat it — suicide is suicide. Her death certificate will most likely read, “cause of death”: cancer. Not suicide. How transparent and honest!

Grandma herself said she was not in any physical pain. In fact, only hours before her death, she said she just feared being in pain. Apparently nowadays, fear of what might occur is a form of intolerable suffering, which ticks the criteria in Section 9 (d) (iv) of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act. That states: “the person must be diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that (iv) is causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable.”

How conveniently subjective and open-ended. So much for tight restrictions. We wax lyrical about removing the stigma around mental health. Yet, in this situation, was it ever put to Grandma that, with the help of the best palliative care and family support, we could all help to alleviate this dear old woman’s fear of pain? Was this discussed on the same playing field as euthanasia? 

She concludes:

Grandma’s “choice” has a far-reaching effect as her choice actually impinges on the freedom of others. So many were forced to play a part in her death, whether they wanted to or not, from pharmacists, to nurses, to the delivery man who dropped off the vial, and even her own son, who was “uncomfortable” with her request for him to stay and watch her take her life.

And it took over an hour for her to breathe her last breath.

Many would insist that the choice for medically assisted suicide, made in advance as part of a well-thought out “end of life plan”, is an empowering and triumphant act of autonomy. They defend the act on the assumption that all personal choices are good, so long as one chooses them, and believes them to be right.

It is this ethical framework that creates the very worst slippery slope and takes us down the most ghastly of rabbit holes, where loving grandmothers consume poison to avoid pain that could’ve been managed and loneliness that could’ve been avoided by the good palliative care available to her, and real compassion from family members and close friends.

Committing suicide is not courageous. It’s an horrendous act of desperation and defeat, brought on by the depression that so many face unnecessarily at the end of their lives.

As a society we are complicit in the legalisation and practice of euthanasia and it puts families in a terrible predicament. These decisions do not unite families; they are divisive. In Grandma’s death, obfuscation and secrecy stymied any intervention. Any questions or conversations on the matter by close family members were silenced. Heaven forbid we really discuss all options.

If it had been a natural death, how different yesterday would have been.

Let this serve as a reality check for those who live in Tasmania, Queensland and elsewhere. When people can be bumped off not for any actual suffering they have, but just for the fear of suffering, then you know that all the “safeguards” in the world don’t mean a lousy thing.

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15 Replies to “Safeguards? What Safeguards?”

  1. EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS signed in 1950 states in ARTICLE 2 Right to life:
    “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.”
    In jurisdictions where they have the death penalty, prisoners are Intentionally kiledl by lethal injection or electric chair!
    When one is euthanased, they may well be condemned to an eternity in hell!
    Politicians have no right to force the Doctors of Australia into such a horrid position of being forced to betray their Medical Oath to PROTECT LIFE!
    The Doctors of Australia should go on strike until the Politicians repeal the Victorian Euthanasia Bill and all Politicians make a PUBLIC PROMISE to PROTECT the RIGHT to LIFE of all Australians including the pre-born murdered in their mothers wombs!

  2. With reference to the quote in the article from Cherish Life about the deceptive language around euthanasia, it shows how far down the tubes we’ve gone if we can actually even use the term ‘safeguards’ with reference to laws that allow for killing people. The very use of the term ‘safeguards’ contradicts what they are trying to convince us of – that choosing when to die is all about personal dignity and that this is just a gentle medical procedure with no significant ramifications to consider. A ‘safeguard’ is something designed to protect from harm. If we need ‘safeguards’ built in around euthanasia laws we are admitting that euthanasia is all about harm – nothing to do with dignity at all.

  3. Thanks for bringing that to the forefront Bill. It is so easy to be caught up in the virus, that we are forgetting other very important issues also, with some changes to legislation even going through very fast and undetected while we are all caught us in the virus issues. All the more reason to stay on the alert at all times. My mother spent many years in age care and I could still remember all the others in age care who did not have loved ones to keep an eye out for them. Many of the age care homes which were once started by Christians/Churches & Welfare organisations are now being run by profit making business’s. So it makes you think really hard about what happens to those poor old souls who have no one who cares about them, when euthanasia comes into being. Just who is going to speak out for these people, when clearly we live in are world that is now ruled by mammon and not God’s love.

  4. Clearly the Labor party’s intention is to make everyone’s life so miserable that they don’t want to live and then help them to die so they can have everything to themselves.

    Very obviously it is very easy to manipulate people’s lives so as to get your own way, especially when you give yourself the power to encourage people to die and then help them to take their own life.

    There is a reason the tenth commandment is against covetousness.

  5. Dear Bill,

    Fruit of a broken society that has turned its back on God.

    As a nurse I know, to my horror, that ‘unofficial’ euthanasia has been happening for a long time – very much longer than my time. To legalize it means a devastating slippery slope, significantly open to abuse. In the case of Madeline Dugale’s grandmother, she was blessed when she made her choice to suicide, that she was a loved and valued person in her family and circle.

    There are very many vulnerable people who are not so blessed. For some of these lonely people, intolerable pressure will be brought to bear by family members determined to inherit soonest (especially in the difficult economic times that we are heading into) – and with no interest to love and care . .

  6. Thank you Bill. My mum is currently in aged care since July here in Victoria and I had to fill out a Advanced care care plan with so many questions. I am her medical attorney and I ticked all the boxes actioning everything to keep her alive. I even inserted by writing a sentence if my mum had C19 use Hydroxychloroquine or Invectimin where there was a question about going to hospital. I ticked all the boxes for resuscitation as well. Days later after i handed in my paperwork i get a call from the aged care in house Doctor asking me is that my mums decision or mine to resuscitate i said as practicing Catholics she and i would want all necessary steps to stay alive. He then said i need to tell you we may crack ribs when pushing on her chest to resuscitate and she may be on life support i said do whatever is needed to help her live. My mum has Lewy Bodies Dementia and has depression plus Parkinson’s and suffered 40 years of domestic abuse from my dad and has told me she has had enough but I encourage her to hang in there and honestly she needs spiritual healing inside as she holds a lot of anger bitterness and hates herself of what she has become i know forgiveness will set her free her mind is still ok it’s just the physical cognitive that cripples her and her trauma crushes her spirit. If anything lucky I am her medical attorney because i ask questions about everything for her and I am able to see paperwork and know what’s going on. I love my mum and have suffered with her domestic abuse whilst I was home for 30 years until I got married but I forgave my dad whom is now 87 and frail and he is sorry for what he did to us but my mum still does not forgive him which i do understand but what can you do what had happened happened.
    Kind Regards

  7. Nietzsche wrote of voluntary death with deep approval but was unable to partake of such a fate himself. It is ironic that many people who loudly condemn capital punishment by medically supervised lethal injection equally advocate forcefully for voluntary suicide by lethal injection.

    It is not clear thinking to confuse palliative care pain management which may unintentionally hasten death while maximising pain relief with the administration of lethal pharmaceuticals to deliberately bring about the untimely death of another human being.

  8. It appears that since 1964 there is no mention of “do no harm” or “harm” at all in the oath. Nazi doctors didn’t take the oath either while they were aware of do no harm principle. While in the 60’s the phrase “utmost respect for human life from its beginning” was added it was not there in the 64 rewrite. It says not to play God but when reading it you get the feeling that is just stuck in there. Much like some legal disclaimers are put in to CYA knowing people will do that very thing.

  9. 40 years is a long time anon. somethings that last a long time can’t be overcome. some pain is too deep to get rid of. Jesus can help yes but sometimes is pain is so great and so deep you can’t bring yourself to Jesus for help. prolonged rape, abuse, or molestation are very hard on ones mind, body and soul and can be crippling and hard to get rid of the effects of. the bitterness and hatred any of these 3 build inside you can be so great one can not see clearly and cannot forgive. sometimes one can’t see life without them. I understand the need for us to forgive those who have wronged us and God forgives us I also know that hurdle can be a high one to get over. forgiveness is never easy but for something like this is very hard indeed.

  10. John I also find it interesting that those who shout for abortion on demand were the beneficiaries of their mothers decision NOT to abort! the only reason they have a voice to call for others to be murdered in the womb is because they weren’t.

  11. Thank you Bill for your courage in addressing this topic. It really touched a raw nerve. My 83 year old father, was at home on oxygen when needed but became a bit disoriented so was hospitalised in the early hours of the morning. Mum and I visited later on at 10am and fed him lunch. He was alert, sitting up – and cracking jokes! We left around 1pm for patient rest time returning around 3ish to find him totally unconscious and we were asked what funeral director we would be using?! It was a shock. He never regained consciousness for the family to say their goodbyes, dying less than three days later. They had put him on a morphine pump. Contrary to popular belief he did not die a peaceful death using this method! That was in the mid 1990’s. We trusted doctors and had no clue at the time he had been euthanised, especially as it was illegal then to ‘hasten a person’s death!’ Even when the doctor told us he promised Dad he wouldn’t let him suffer we didn’t realise for some time he had actually been killed. Fast forward to 2016 and our 100+ year old Mum was in a nursing home and we were informed we should be aware it was becoming necessary to implement end of life ‘care!’ Right from the beginning we let the doctor and staff know we were vehemently opposed to euthanasia (not even legal in WA at that time!). We were told by the doctor he had a ‘duty of care’ to not let Mum suffer; he knew the law and the law was on his side. We ignored the bluff and said it was not Mum’s wish to be ‘put down’ as she described it, or ours and we said an emphatic ‘NO!’ This was met with anger and one of the staff said they could take us to court! It was very unsettling to know she was vulnerable when we weren’t there as we lost all trust in those who were caring for her (not the actual carers but the doctor and clinical nursing staff). As Christians we believe it is GOD Who determines the length of our days and we must trust HIM and die at our appointed time – it when a doctor decides. And as believers we MUST call evil evil. And euthanasia, like abortion, is just that – murder – and pure evil! Bless you Bill. Keep up the good fight.

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