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News

New euthanasia code illustrates Dutch slippery slope

Doctors in the Netherlands are getting mail. Every single general practitioner in the country – some 14,000 – will receive their own copy of the new national code of practice for euthanasia. An updated edition of the code was published in May by the Dutch committee that oversees euthanasia. The committee reviews each reported instance of euthanasia to ensure the doctor followed the law. This new code of practice is supposed to help doctors understand how they will be evaluated. However, the new code also illustrates how quickly the Netherlands has gone down a slippery slope The Dutch government’s Minister for Public Health, Hugo de Jonge, inadvertently hit the nail on the head when he told a Dutch newspaper, “The new code of practice has to offer guidance because for many doctor it feels unnatural to administer euthanasia.” The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002. The law was written to permit euthanasia for patients with “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement.” Thus, it was not strictly limited to patients with a terminal illness. At the time, critics pointed out that this wording was highly problematic and would eventually lead to euthanasia for people who are still years or even decades away from their natural death. How right these critics were. The new code of practice devotes considerable attention to euthanasia for patients with an "accumulation of old age complaints.” These complaints are described as things like “sight problems, hearing problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, balance problems, cognitive decline.” In other words, these are the degenerative conditions that are a normal part of getting older. The patient does not need to have a terminal illness. In fact, there is not even a minimum age requirement. The only consideration is that the patient has unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement. And the code of practice readily admits this can be subjective. “The unbearability of the suffering is sometimes difficult to determine because the experience of suffering is deeply personal. “ Doctors are instructed to look at “the medical history, biography, personality, values, and pain threshold of the patient.” From there, a doctor should place himself “not only in the situation but also in the perspective of the patient.” The code of practice also talks at length about euthanasia for patients with advanced dementia, even though this practice is highly controversial and many doctors refuse to participate. In January, ethicist Berna van Baarsen resigned from the oversight committee because, as she told a Dutch newspaper, she considers it to be “indefensible.” The new code of practice also discusses euthanasia for psychiatric patients. They are eligible if their suffering meets the criteria of “unbearable with no prospect for improvement” – even if they’re still very young. In January, psychiatric patient Aurelia Brouwers was euthanatized. She was 29-years-old and had no terminal illness. The code of practice says doctors must consider carefully whether there are further treatment options for the psychiatric patient, but it also says the patient is not obligated to try every option. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the oversight committee, told a Dutch newspaper, “You can always argue that there’s another treatment to try. But the question is – given strength of the patient and the odds of seeing improvement – whether it is worth it.” Euthanasia for psychiatric patients has grown at an astonishing rate. In 2011, there were only 13 reported instances. In 2017, that number had shot up to 83. Euthanasia in general has increased enormously in the Netherlands. In 2010, there were 3,316 reported instances. In 2017 there were 6,585. Thus, death by euthanasia has doubled in less than a decade. The chairman of the Dutch Royal Medical Association recently asked the Dutch Ministry of Public Health to communicate to patients that euthanasia not a “right” and that doctors are never obligated to administer it. Even if this is successfully communicated, rates of euthanasia are unlikely to decrease any time soon. As the new code of practice illustrates, the threshold for euthanasia in the Netherlands keeps getting lowered....

News

Euthanasia in the Netherlands: So bad even some supporters are now opposed

The Netherlands is a pioneer in the field of euthanasia. In 2002, it was the first country in the world to legalize physician-assisted suicide, and today it is becoming a case study in the slippery slope that quickly follows. The quick slide down has prompted even some prominent euthanasia supporters to ask, “Where does this end?” One such supporter is ethicist Berna van Baarsen. For the last ten years, she served on one of the euthanasia-oversight committees established by the 2002 law. The committees are supposed to review each reported instance of euthanasia to ensure the doctor followed all the legal requirements. As a member of one of these committees, van Baarsen obviously supports euthanasia. However, she resigned in January because she objects to the way euthanasia is now increasingly being administered to patients with advanced dementia. “That’s my boundary, based on ten years of reflection and reading dossiers,” she said in an interview with the journal Medisch Contact. She is using her resignation to make a public statement…and perhaps to ease her conscience. Under Dutch law, a patient must have unbearable suffering to become eligible for euthanasia. They must also make a request to die that their doctor believes is voluntary and carefully considered. A Dutch person can draft a written declaration stating they wish to be euthanized when they develop advanced dementia and, thus, are no longer able to make an oral request. To date, such written declarations have only resulted in a handful of deaths, but the numbers are likely to rise in coming years. The Dutch Right to Die Society (NVVE) claims that one in twenty Dutch people has a written declaration requesting euthanasia, usually for the case of advanced dementia. It is these written declarations that are giving van Baarsen her moral qualms. “In this phase {i.e., advanced dementia}, it is impossible to determine if the patient is suffering unbearably because they are no longer able to express this,” she told Dutch newspaper Trouw. Van Baarsen is not alone. Last year, 220 doctors published an open letter in a major Dutch newspaper to express their unwillingness to euthanize patients with advanced dementia. “Giving a deadly injection to a patient with advanced dementia on the basis of their written declaration? To someone who cannot confirm that they wish to die? No, we’re not going to do that. Our moral abhorrence at ending the life of a defenseless person is too great.” Patients with advanced dementia typically are not aware that they are being killed. A doctor begins by secretly administering a sedative, usually via the patient’s food. A 2016 case that attracted considerable controversy involved a woman with Alzheimer’s who woke up from the sedative and began struggling. She was restrained by family members so the doctor could administer the fatal injection. Sadly, van Baarsen’s proposed solution is for dementia patients who truly wish to die to orally request euthanasia while they are still able to do so – her solution would have patients killed even sooner. She does not understand that legalized euthanasia in the Netherlands has undermined the valuing of human life. A few tweaks to existing law will never solve the much bigger problem....

Pro-life - Euthanasia

Euthanasia and the folly of downward comparisons

Have you ever heard a euthanasia advocate argue that to force grandma to live in pain is to treat her worse than a dog? The assumption is that if euthanasia is compassionate for the dog, it’s compassionate for the human: “I put my dog down because of horrible pain, so why can’t we put grandma down too?” A simple rebuttal The simple answer: “Because grandma is not a dog.” As Barbara Kay eloquently wrote in the National Post a few years back, …if we applied human standards of compassion in all things to our treatment of animals, our willingness to euthanize them when they are suffering would be “compassion’s” exception, not the rule. Sure, we euthanize animals when their lives are a burden to them (and us). We also line-breed them when we want more of them, neuter them when we want fewer of them, give them away when our children develop allergies to them, control what and how much they eat, when and where they sleep, and when they may go outside to relieve themselves. Those in our care who do have sex with others of their species only do so when we permit it, infrequently and only for breeding purposes. We separate them from their biological families to make them members of our own. Is all that compassionate? Not if they were human. But they’re not human, you see, so there’s nothing unethical in any of those actions. Two understandings of “compassion” Our response to the question of suffering is predicated on our worldview. Two radically different answers to the question of our origin result in two radically different answers to our expiration. If we accept that we are mere animals, then maybe we should only be treated as animals. Social Darwinism has us oriented downward instead of heavenward. But the Judeo-Christian worldview re-orients us. Paradoxically, we are both dust and ashes (Ps. 90:3; Eccl. 3:20) and yet a “little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5) because we are “made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26-28). And so our response to suffering is not to “put down” our fellow man like a dog, but to do everything we can to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man. Ideas have consequences, and societies need to understand those consequences when we decide what ideas we are going to embrace. In the ongoing euthanasia debate we can choose to view every one of our neighbors as just another animal and treat them as such. Or we see them as “little lower than the angels” and treat them as such. Let’s not lose ourselves to the animals. We can do better. André Schutten is the Director of Law & Policy, and General Legal Counsel for ARPA Canada. A version of this article first appeared on their website ARPACanada.ca....

Adult non-fiction, Pro-life - Euthanasia

SPEAKING AGAINST SUICIDE: a summary review of "A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide"

Do you find it harder to make the case against euthanasia than against abortion? That might be, in part, because we have less experience – abortion has been legal in Canada since 1969, and euthanasia only since 2016. Also, in abortion, we have victims who need advocates because they can’t speak for themselves, whereas in euthanasia the victims are also the perpetrators. How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped – who wants to die? And consider how, in euthanasia, many of the cases involve terminal illnesses, and so have the same emotional tension as the hardest cases – those involving rape and incest – have in the abortion debate. That’s why it’s more difficult. JUST TWO OPTIONS But, just as in the abortion debate, the key is to first find the central issue. With abortion, the main question is, "Who is the unborn?" There are only two options. If the unborn is not human, there is no justification needed for “its” surgical removal. But if the unborn is human, then no justification is sufficient for killing him or her. As in Blaise Alleyne and Jonathan Van Maren’s explain in their new book, A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide Similarly, the crux of opposition to euthanasia can also be boiled down to just one question: How do we help those who are feeling desperate enough to want to kill themselves? And again, there are only two options: either we prevent suicide, or we assist it. Alleyne and Van Maren have given us a wonderful tool in this book. Their extensive experience in the pro-life movement is evident as they start by framing the debate. If we’re going to be effective, pro-lifers need to understand the three possible positions that people hold on this issue. They are: the split position – we should prevent some suicides while helping others the total choice position – anyone who wants to commit suicide should be helped to do so and the pro-life position – all life is precious, and all suicides are tragic THE SPLIT POSITION So how do we respond to the split position? Van Maren and Alleyne say that it is the job of pro-life apologetics is to show the split position’s inherent inconsistency. Suicide is tragic sometimes, but to be celebrated other times? The authors then give ways to counter the reasons often used to justify some suicides, given by the acronym QUIT for: Quality of life Unbearable suffering Incurable condition Terminal prognosis They spend 20 pages showing why these are fallacious reasons, so I can’t properly sum up their argument in just a line or two, but one underlying flaw to these justifications for suicide is that they are based on ageism and ableism. So in much the same way we can expose the inadequacy of many justification for abortion by bringing out an imaginary "two-year-old Timmy" (“What if the mother was too poor to have a baby?” “Would that be a good reason to kill Timmy?”) in the assisted suicide debate we can bring out an imaginary able-bodied 19-year-old. If someone opposes this 19-year-old committing suicide, why is it that they are fine with that 90-year-old doing so? Or that wheelchair bound lass? We can expose them for being ageist and ableist – treating people as less worthy of life based on their age or ability – and show them it is wrong to assist the suicide of anyone, of any age or level of health because as the authors put it, "suicide is a symptom , not a solution." TOTAL CHOICE Next, the authors take on those are (sadly) willing to be consistent and advocate total choice for all who desire to be assisted in ending their lives. Our only response is to insist that the suicidal need love even more than they need argument. THE SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES The fourth chapter shows how dangerous it is to accept either the split or the total choice position, because they have always involved a slippery slope toward more and more assisted killings they reduce the willingness to prevent suicide they undermine the morale of everyone who works in any facility that provides suicide assistance THE PRO-LIFE POSITION Finally, the authors show the pro-life position. We know, on the one hand, that life is a gift from God, so it is not to be thrown away, but on the other, that all life ends, and because of Jesus we need not fear death. So the pro-life position is not about continuing life at all costs. It allows for: the refusal of burdensome treatment the use of pain medication, even when that risks hastening death, as long as the intent of such medication is to alleviate pain rather than to kill The pro-life position also offers positive responses to the suicidal: psychological health resources, pain management, palliative care, and dignity therapy. The authors end with two pleas: "Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination." In other words, may no-one ever have their death hastened because we refuse to imagine how we may show more compassion. "As people who believe in the dignity and value of every human life, it is our responsibility to.... persuade people that assisted suicide is wrong." In their Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide Alleyne and Van Maren have done an admirable job of giving us the tools to carry out that responsibility. Given the urgency of the push toward euthanasia in both Canada and U.S., we need to read this book. “A Guide for Discussing Assisted Suicide” can be ordered at lifecyclebooks.com (where you can also find the option to buy in bulk for your pro-life group or circle of friends at greatly reduced prices)....

Pro-life - Euthanasia

Physician-assisted suicide: would it be wrong to refer?

Even before euthanasia was legalized in Canada, Christian and other pro-life medical professionals were being pressured to go along. The final report of the Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying said all healthcare providers should be required to: inform patients of all end-of-life options, including physician-assisted dying, regardless of their personal beliefs. either provide a referral or a direct transfer of care to another health care provider or to contact a third party and transfer the patient’s record. These demands aren't going away. As ARPA Canada's Colin Postma noted earlier this month: "the policy in Ontario requires doctors to provide someone who requests euthanasia or assisted suicide with an effective referral to another doctor, if they refuse to carry out the killing themselves." It's because we're going to continue to hear these demands that we need to have a ready response to them. So should Christian doctors and nurses be willing to advise patients about all their "end of life options"? And may Christian doctors and nurses who would never help patients kill themselves refer patients to someone else who will? Or would that make them partially responsible for the evil that is then done? We need clarity for our own sakes – if Christian doctors and nurses are going to take a stand against even referring they need to know this is what God requires of them. So would it be wrong to refer? Sean Murphy of the Protection of Conscience Project says yes, and as simple as his argument is, it's also compelling. In a piece at Mercatornet.com he noted that before Canada’s Supreme Court legalized assisted suicide, if a physician had made arrangements of any sort to have someone kill their patient they: "…would be exposed to criminal prosecution as a party to the offense of first degree murder or assisted suicide, or conspiracy to commit first degree murder or assisted suicide." In other words, when Canada still recognized assisted suicide as murder, it also recognized that referring for it should be a criminal offense too. Referring meant becoming part of a "conspiracy to commit first degree murder or assisted suicide." Now that Canada no longer condemns assisted suicide, it also doesn't condemn referring. But we know better. We still understand that assisted suicide is murder. So for us it is still clear that even the act of referring is a step too far. The Devil wants to sow confusion on this point, because where there is confusion, it is hard to take a stand – who among us wants to risk our career on a stand we aren't sure of? But if we know we are doing what God wants, then the apostle Peter's encouragement in 1 Peter 3:14-17 can give us the courage we need: "But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.' But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." When we are clear in our own minds, then we can make a clear stand to the world. We can share that we think this murder and want no part in it. We can make a compelling case that the government shouldn't force doctors and nurses to do what it would have prosecuted them for just a few years ago. And we can point out that asking doctors to violate their conscience is only going to lead to doctors without consciences....and who would think that a good development? Standing with God may bring suffering. But we've also seen how He can use such a stand to bring relief to Christian doctors and nurses. In Manitoba, earlier this month, the provincial government passed Bill 34, which offers at least some conscience protection to medical personal who don't want to refer. So let's continue to pray and work. May God give Christian doctors and nurses the freedom to continue their life-saving work, and may He give us all the courage and clarity to speak his Truth to a lost and confused world that so desperately needs to hear it....

News

Saturday Selections - Sept 30, 2017

This edition has been brought to you by the number 6: six items, six actions, and six surprises.... God painted ants on fruit fly wings Some things are just too cool not to share: God has crafted detailed pictures of ants on the tiny wings of a particular fly. Why? Because it is brilliant! Lots of astonishing pictures here. 6 actions to take when grieving the death of a loved one Thought this is a very short post, it has helpful suggestions summarized from the twice-widowed missionary-wife Elisabeth Elliot. 6 surprises every premarital counselor should cover Even the apostle Paul speaks of marriage as a mystery. To minimize some of the surprises, this is a good article for engage or newly married couples to read together. And it's a good reminder for all couples. More on why euthanasia safeguards can't work From the article: "Safeguards are ineffective to prevent slippery slopes. As British moral philosopher Dame Mary Warnock has put it in another context, 'you cannot successfully block a slippery slope except by a fixed and invariable obstacle.' In governing dying and death that obstacle is the rule that we must not intentionally kill another human being." The only flaw in this article is that the Christian ethic, serving as the foundation to Margaret Somerville's argument, is never acknowledged. So we need to take her point as to the weakness of "safeguards" but then be explicit as to the eternal standards we are appealing to. Or, in other words, don't just tear down the lie, as Somerville does here, but also present the full Truth, as founded on God's Word and his Law. How to avoid poverty Everyone wants to reduce poverty, and in the West, the way to do so is clear. But the in the West, our culture doesn't want to hear it if it involves doing what God wants. Now this article doesn't present it quite that way, but the prescription – finish high school, then get a job, then get married, then have kids – lines up nicely with God's will for marriage, and his commandment Don't commit adultery. Around the world, capitalism has helped raise millions out of poverty, but why? Perhaps because at its ideal (ie., not the crony capitalism type) it also lines up with God's commands not to steal or covet. On social justice I've only had a chance to dip my toe in this free resource, but this video series looks fascinating, and solidly Christian. It addresses questions like: "What is social justice today?" and, "What sort of social justice should Christians pursue?" (This does require you share your email address with them.)...

News

Saturday selections - Aug 12, 2017

The best articles this week, from Reformed and others sources.... What is the Shia Sunni divide? Did you know some observant Muslims pray only three times a day? This short summary shares the origins of the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Have smartphones destroyed a generation? This is a longer piece with an over the top title, but worth the read. With new technology these types of scary articles will pop up - you can go back and find articles about how the phone - the good old landline - was going to harm society. So there is an irrational "anti-technology" impulse to watch out for. But new technology does come with its challenges – it's a new tool for us to master. What's a bit different in this case is that this tool is being handed off to kids even as adults are still trying to figure out how to manage it. The result is that many kids aren't being taught about the dangers and trained on how to deal with them. So, instead of mastering the tool, the tool is mastering them. The real story of the “Miracle of Dunkirk” Dunkirk is playing in theaters now, but the film misses out on the real miracle that went on. How to prevent Global Warming? Prevent births! God said children are a blessing, but more and more often global warming alarmists are saying children are the problem. Why does this evolutionary biologist want to euthanize handicapped babies? This article is not written from a specifically Christian perspective - this isn't an example of the best way to argue against euthanasia. But what it does do is document that the slippery slope is real, and in doing so it offers supportive evidence to the Christian thesis that if we ignore God's law, we are left with chaos. 12 questions to ask before you watch Game of Thrones A new season has brought with it lots more hype. John Piper has 12 questions for Christians to ask before the watch Game of Thrones...

News

Why euthanasia restrictions fail - "safeguards” become “barriers to access”

Canada’s doctor-assisted suicide law is barely a year old, and already the safeguards in it are being challenged. The most recent challenge was this June when two Montrealers – Jean Truchon, 49, and Nicole Gladu, 71 – who have degenerative diseases but don’t seem anywhere near death, went to the courts to ask that euthanasia no longer be limited to only those for whom death is “reasonably foreseeable.” As Mercatornet’s Aubert Martin noted, their lawyer is arguing that this safeguard is actually a “barrier to access.” Does that terminology strike you? One man's safeguard is another's barrier to access?  Here is our country's problem in a nutshell: our government no longer views death as an enemy to be fought, but rather a treatment to be offered. So we can talk safeguards all we want, but if assisted suicide is mercy, why would we withhold mercy from some? Why would we set up these "barriers to access"? In turning our back on God’s law and his unchanging, fixed standards, we are not only rejecting what's eternal, but leaving ourselves with only the ephemeral. Instead of absolutes, our law is now based on opinions. And opinions can be changed. So yes, right now minors can’t request assisted suicide. But how long before some 16 or 17-year-old, or maybe even a 5-year-old asks why we’ve put up barriers to his access? If death can be merciful for an 18-year-old, why would we deny that mercy to a 5-year-old? Another “safeguard” is that a person needs to be “capable and consenting.” But this excludes anyone with Alzheimer’s, and will the public stand firm when they're asked: “Why are you withholding this treatment – why are you putting up barriers to access – for these poor people?” The warning cry Christians need to share with the world is this: it’s either God’s way, or chaos. Either we recognize that all life is valuable or we won’t be able to find a good, fixed, unchallengeable, reason to stop anyone from committing suicide....

Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Euthanasia

Euthanasia film highlights horrors, but offers the wrong solution

This 15-minute film explains what's going on in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002. It shows how euthanasia, first offered only to those who were supposed to be near death, has now been expanded. Now nurses can do it. And non-terminal people can get it. And children. And the mentally ill. And people who are sick, but whose conditions are not irreversible. https://youtu.be/r7ME2HKsUd4 This is not how it was supposed to be. But in Belgium they have found as one doctors puts it "The supply of euthanasia, stirs the demands," so the legalization created the pressure to allow more and more to qualify for euthanasia. This is a film that should be viewed by all, and liked and shared, so it can have the widest possible reach. People need to understand where this slippery slope is taking us. But it is also a film that should be critiqued. It was produced by a Christian group – the Alliance for Defending Freedom – and yet it is an entirely secular presentation. They likely thought this approach would allow their film to reach more people. After all, non-Christians who aren’t interested in God might still be horrified if they heard about the man in this film who only discovered his physically healthy mother had been euthanized after the fact. But avoiding mention of God is a huge mistake. Their secular defense can only highlight how euthanasia isn’t happening as it was promised. This secular strategy means their complaint can’t be "Euthanasia is wrong" but only, "Euthanasia is not as it was advertised." By avoiding the moral argument, they have to rely on mere practical objections; they can only show where the system failed. And the problem with practical objections is that they invite practical solutions. The man whose mother was killed? Ah yes, regrettable, Belgian officials might admit, but that could be prevented in the future with a bit more paperwork requiring children to be notified. As a strictly secular objection the film can only be a cry for the system to be tweaked, rather than overturned. But, of course, tweaks won’t work. Our problem isn’t merely the expansion of euthanasia – expansion is a given so long as any euthanasia is allowed. Why? Well, any strict rules we bring forward will always end up excluding someone just on the border of the rules. Then, since their case is not all that different than the cases already approved, on what basis can we exclude this poor suffering individual? That’s why the rules will always be stretched – because so long as no fixed moral standard is applied, there is nothing to prevent the rules being nudged a bit, and then nudged again, and again, until they’ve expanded to include any and all. That’s where we will inevitably end up when we stick to a secular argument. Will it be any different if we share the real reason euthanasia is wrong? Will the world listen when we explain that the reason euthanasia – all euthanasia – is wrong is because all life is precious, and a gift from God? Will they care if we tell them that euthanasia is wrong because our lives are not our own to take and dispose of as we please? Will they be convinced when we explain that our lives belong to God? I don’t know. But God will be glorified by it. And we can help Christians who might be wavering - Christian doctors, and nurses, and sons and daughters with aging parents - we can help them understand what God thinks, and what He demands, and what HE says compassion looks like. God says that putting a light under a bushel is foolish – why then do we insist on making godless argument to combat immorality? The world is only hearing lies, and we do it no favors when we keep the Truth from them. Who knows how God might use us if we but have the courage to be a light?...