Back in the 70s, those of us who were in the pro-life movement warned that euthanasia would follow abortion surely as night follows day. We were laughed at and called radicals. They're not laughing anymore. Here's a brief update on what's been happening around the world.
During the last 20 years, officials in the Netherlands have looked the other way as physicians practiced active euthanasia. In the beginning, eight carefully crafted guidelines were issued by the Dutch Minister for health to prevent abuse. Physicians had to abide by them to avoid prosecution.
One by one, each and every protective guideline was eventually ignored until the carefully structured voluntary euthanasia program degenerated into patients being killed without their knowledge or consent. I have lectured in Holland on several occasions and have spoken with physicians who relayed first-hand situations where patients were being killed contrary to their wishes. The Dutch Patients Association is now hired by patients in the hospital to make sure they don't fall victim to euthanasia.
A Dutch government study showed that of 130,000 annual deaths, 25,306 (20%) involved euthanasia. Of the euthanasia cases, 14,691 deaths (58%) involved involuntary euthanasia. Of these, 1,000 died by active injections, 4,941 succumbed to morphine given in increasing doses to cause death and 8,750 died when their life-prolonging treatment stopped with the intention to cause death. Contrary to these findings, the Dutch Parliament recently officially legalized euthanasia.
Belgium soon followed the lead of the Netherlands and also legalized euthanasia. The new law, which passed 86 to 51 with 10 abstentions, allows the killing of patients who are either terminally ill or simply depressed.
Switzerland may be the next country to kill its weak and dying citizens. There has been an aggressive push to make it legal there also. Australia flirted with death when the Northern Territory legalized euthanasia, but was later reversed by the federal government.
Pro-euthanasia forces have also made alarming gains right here in America. California and Maine narrowly defeated referenda on assisted suicide. Tragically, Oregon passed a physician-assisted suicide law and, to date, over 90 people have been legally killed. Of those opting for suicide, only one has indicated physical pain as the reason.
Very recently, Hawaii barely avoided legalizing euthanasia. The house had passed the bill, the senate echoed its support during the first two readings, and the governor was an outspoken proponent of the pro-death legislation. The outcome looked inevitable. Only after considerable lobbying by anti-euthanasia forces did three senators reverse their previous votes in favor. The euthanasia bill went down to defeat during the third and final reading - a very close call.
Contrary to what you might think, pain is not the most common reason people request euthanasia. The number one motivation is psychological pain, which can now be successfully treated 95% of the time. Our answer to depressed and terminally ill patients should not be syringes of poison and lethal pills. Science is well equipped to relieve their emotional and physical pain. As a result, we should concentrate on killing the pain, not the patient. This can be done with effective and compassionate palliative care. When we effectively address the physical and psychological needs of a dying patient, the desire for euthanasia fades away.
The recent international victories of pro-death forces should serve as a sobering wakeup call to millions of Americans. As we have witnessed, pro-euthanasia organizations in our own country, encouraged by the success of their international counterparts, are determined to pursue their quest for a "good" death.
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