One in 8 patients had ‘problems with completion’ — either because of an undesirably long time to reach death, or by waking up.
One in 10 patients suffered unpleasant side effects such as vomiting.
As a result, one fifth of the doctors who had initially intended only to assist a suicide ended up having to kill the patients themselves.
In Salem , Oregon , a doctors’ group have issued guidelines for doctors relating to the practice of physician-assisted suicide. Under the heading ‘On The Day Of The Suicide’ there is the following advice:
“ If the patient develops distressing symptoms during or after taking the drugs, the physician may, and should, use good medical judgment to relieve those symptoms. This might include administration of anti-emetics, anti-anxiety agents, oxygen and/or anti- seizure medications. These drugs may be given by injection as appropriate.”
It seems reasonable to suppose that past experiences have made this guideline necessary; otherwise it would be inappropriate. Bouts of vomiting, panic attacks, difficulty breathing and convulsions can hardly be described as an “easy exit.” In other words, physician-assisted death is not necessarily the gentle, distress-free experience anticipated by the patient.
Many people, who support euthanasia, do so because they are genuinely concerned by the prospect that either they, or a loved one, may die in pain or in deeply distressing conditions. They see euthanasia as a means of avoiding a harrowing end, and this is why they find the euphemism ‘death with dignity’ so appealing. The above-mentioned statistics indicate that some who opt for euthanasia will not have a dignified death at all. We will never hear about these deaths, however, because no one who is involved in euthanasia will ever release such disturbing details.
27. THE ‘ECONOMIC’ ARGUMENT
Legalised euthanasia is seen in some quarters as a convenient solution to a lack of resources. In May 2002, a law was passed in Belgium ‘permitting the killing of sick people using medical techniques under certain conditions.’ During the publicity campaign in the run-up to the passing of the law, a number of studies were carried out relating to the final year of people’s lives. The studies apparently proved that the final year of a person’s life was usually the most expensive for the State. It would seem that this morbid financial statistic was being used to justify a change in the law. In other words, it was being suggested to the electorate that euthanasia makes good economic sense.
Suggesting a link between legalised voluntary euthanasia and saving money for the Health Service is not sensational scare mongering. There is a link, and Miss Barbara Smoker, a former chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and a leading figure in the pro-euthanasia movement, confirms this. In an article in the VES Newsletter in September 1991 she said: “…The drain of scarce hospital beds, nursing and other medical resources under the NHS is beginning to convince some of our politicians of the need to amend the law.”
If the government sees there may be an easy way out of the economic problems in the Health Service, and doctors perceive an ‘easy’ way round the unpleasantness of telling somebody that they have to die, then why shouldn’t they work to make euthanasia mandatory? This scenario is not as extreme as it might seem. In a recent poll taken amongst economic students in America , it was found that 90% of the students supported compulsory euthanasia for unspecified groups of people, to ‘streamline the economy.’ Of course, it may be said that America is quite different from the British Isles , and that no one would think this way here. This smacks of the ‘ostrich mentality’ because it is not beyond the realms of possibility that in the not too distant future, our own economic students may also advocate compulsory euthanasia to ‘streamline’ the NHS.
To advocate euthanasia on the basis of an economic argument is despicable and morally indefensible. You cannot put a price on a human life, even though it may be elderly and infirm. Each person is unique and every life is of inestimable worth. A human being cannot be compared to a ‘clapped out’ car, which the garage proprietor condemns as being “an old banger, not worth fixing.”
If euthanasia is legalised in the Isle of Man , it could conceivably lead to residents of the United Kingdom using our Island home as a means of procuring medical help to die. Although Members of the House of Keys are adamant that this will not happen, we would respectfully ask ‘Why not?’ What will prevent people from taking up residence in the Island (for whatever period might be stipulated as a ‘safeguard’), with the ultimate purpose of committing medically assisted suicide?
It would seem that we are not the only ones who see this as a possible future for the Isle of Man. On the day following the debate in the House of Keys, one of the national broadsheets carried an article concerning the Isle of Man ’s move towards euthanasia. The content of the said article is quite revealing: “The Isle of Mancould soon become a haven for those wanting to end their own lives, with Members of the Manx parliament voting overwhelmingly in favour of introducing a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia yesterday. If the law was changed on the island it could end the trip abroad for those wanting to partake in assisted suicide.” [Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 14th May 2003 , page 7].
At present, our Island home has a reputation for being a ‘tax haven.’ If voluntary euthanasia is legalised, it could become a ‘haven’ of an entirely different kind — a safe place to die! In a public meeting convened under the auspices of CARE [ 25 June 2003 ] this chilling prospect was actually vocalised, when the speaker said that the Isle of Man was in danger of becoming “a venue for death tourism.”
29. DOCTORS ARE NOT OMNISCIENT
It is not uncommon for doctors to give a mistaken diagnosis. Even the British Medical Journal carried an article entitled “Patients with ‘terminal cancer,’ who have neither terminal illness nor cancer. ( 1 August 1987 ).” The article may have been written 16 years ago, but we have all read in the newspapers about someone who had been given only months to live, and is then told that he did not have a terminal illness after all. Legalised assisted suicide would therefore send to an early grave, both those who were terminally ill and those who are not!
What happens after death is a matter of faith and cannot be rationally or scientifically evaluated. The person who has had medical assistance to take his own life would, of course, be the chief witness— but he is dead. A doctor’s opinion might be that his patient is ‘better off dead’ but he does not know that he is. Indeed, his claim that the patient’s suffering is over cannot be rationally or scientifically evaluated. No doctor can say categorically, therefore, that knows he is acting in his patient’s best interests when assisting in a suicide, or performing euthanasia.
Our convictions as Christians are not based on scientific evaluation. They are based on the Bible, which is the Word of God, and the Bible makes it clear that there is a Heaven to be won and a Hell to be shunned.
The humanist doctor, who rejects the concept of an after-life, will no doubt argue that Christians cannot know that there is a Heaven and a Hell. By the same token, the doctor cannot know that there is not, and the burden of proof must surely lie with him because he is the one taking a life. Doctors are not omniscient. Their knowledge, even in medical matters, is limited. Therefore, if something worse than his present suffering might possibly await an unbearably ill patient, a doctor should err on the side of caution.
30. DEATH IS NOT THE END
Those who plead for ‘dignity in death’, ease from suffering and release from pain do not begin to comprehend the certainty of Judgement. The Bible makes it very clear that “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the Judgement (Hebrews 9:27 ).” The Atheists and Humanists of this world are of the opinion that physical death is total extinction. This was borne out in the editorial of The Times Newspaper dated 7th June 2003 . Patients seeking to end their lives were described as “being quietly assisted towards oblivion.”
The Biblical truth however, is that eternal suffering awaits all who meet their Creator in an unfit condition. There is no dignity in death. On the contrary, it is an enemy that brings a fearful retribution for sin against all who enter God’s presence without the righteousness of Christ. Death is the wages of sin, and sin’s testimony against man.
We trust that the information contained on this web page will be helpful for those wishing to write to the Select Committee, and the Isle of Man newspapers. It is vitally important that pro-lifers do write, because the pro-euthanasia lobby will be very active. There is reason to believe that groups like the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and EXIT are already mustering their forces and co-ordinating a massive ‘correspondence campaign,’ and we anticipate that the Select Committee will be bombarded by submissions from those who are advocating Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. It is imperative that we redress the balance and put pen to paper.
The correspondence columns in the Manx Press have contained a number of varied contributions relating to the ‘Euthanasia Debate.’ Unfortunately, an impartial observer could be forgiven for thinking that the majority of Manx Residents are in favour of a change in the law. Perhaps this is true. Surely, however,owev there should be a clearer and louder voice raised by those who genuinely appreciate the sanctity- of life, and recognise that all life is a gift from God.
There have been some scathing, vitriolic and decidedly irreligious letters in both the Isle of Man Examiner and the Manx Independent. The reading of same causes one to take a sharp intake of breath, particularly as we are often accused of being unloving and lacking in compassion! Obviously it would not be appropriate to respond to these letters with the same venom. It is needful nevertheless, that we state our case. The correspondence columns are widely read, not just by the populous, but also by the politicians. A Manx resident who buys the Examiner or the Independent will most definitely read the letter page. Writing to the paper therefore is an extremely efficient way of getting an important message across.
Pressure for legalised euthanasia does seem to be mounting, but it is no good just grumbling and worrying about it. The late Mary Whitehouse used to say: “Don’t moan — ‘phone!” The point that she was making was that we should be prepared to do something. The urgency of this cannot be over-emphasised. It was Edmund Burke, the great eighteenth century Scottish philosopher and British parliamentarian who said: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” If we do nothing, and euthanasia is legalised, there is a very real sense in which we will have the law we deserve.
For the benefit of friends contemplating writing to the letter pages of the Manx Press, the address of both the Isle of Man Examiner and the Manx Independent is as follows:
Isle of Man Newspapers
Isle of Man
In addition to writing to the newspapers we should also write to the Select Committee. The Manx politicians dopay attention; not only to the content, but also to the number of submissions and letters they receive. Without doubt, pro life organisations such as CARE, LIFE and SPUC will be presenting written evidence. However, what they do does not absolve us from our responsibilities. The politicians want to hear from the public in general — not just from some sections of society, but from all sections. Not just from one age group, but from all age groups. Let us therefore take up the challenge, ever remembering that the pen is mightier than the sword!
Details concerning the Select Committee’s requirements and also the address to which submissions should be sent are set out in the Government Notice reproduced below:
Government Notice *
SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF KEYS
ON VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA
On 13th May 2003 the House of Keys gave leave to Mr John Rimington MHK to introduce a Bill to enable a competent adult who is suffering as a result of a terminal or a serious and progressive physical illness to receive medical assistance to die at his own considered and persistent request, to make a provision for a person suffering from such a condition to receive pain relief medication, and for connected purposes.
Leave to introduce the Bill was qualified by the requirement that, before it should be introduced, a Select Committee of five Members should take written and oral evidence on the subject matter of the proposed Bill and report to the House.
The Members elected to the Select Committee are: Mr Q. Gill MHK (Chairman), Mr D.M. Anderson MHK, Hon A.F. Downie MHK, Mrs H. Hannan MHK and Hon J. Rimington MHK.
The Committee invites written evidence with regard to the proposed Bill to be submitted to the undersigned no later than 30th September 2003 . In view of the likelihood that many witnesses may seek to give oral evidence to the Committee in addition, it would be helpful if submissions would indicate whether the persons making them wish to give oral evidence and why they wish to do so. The Committee will subsequently decide which witnesses to call for further evidence.
Secretary to the House of Keys
LegislativeBuilding Douglas, IM1 3PW
Suggestions and contributions relating to our Euthanasia Web page have been gratefully received. Especially appreciated is the continuing input from Susan Richardson and Peter Hedditch. Thanks also to Leslie Kaighin for his a regular supply of literature relating to the subject.[Matthew F Else. 26-09-2003]