Euthanasia Campaigner shows signs of wavering on the issue

Editor’s note. This fascinating piece appears on the blog of Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Margaret Battin, a long-time researcher and promoter of legal euthanasia and assisted suicide appears to be showing signs of wavering on her position while caring for her husband, Brooke Hopkins, who experienced a traumatic bicycle accident in November 2008.

In one video interview Battin re-affirms her support for euthanasia and assisted suicide while questioning how legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide would be applied. In another video presentation she says that: “part of me wants to look back at everything I have written on this topic. I don’t know if I would tear it all up”.

Last week I wrote an article concerning research by Battin that was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2007 that falsely concluded that vulnerable persons are not adversely effected by the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I found that Battin’s research article was either written as propaganda or with the intention of blindly proving her hypothesis. I consider Battin’s article to be a “false study.”

Since publishing my article I was informed by a supporter of the special circumstances that Battin and her husband, Brooke Hopkins, are living with since Hopkins accident.

Hopkins lives with significant paralysis and is living with quadriplegia.

In a TV interview, last December, on the Ted Capener show (KUED Channel 7) in Utah, Battin makes some very interesting statements, even though she does not recant support for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

In reference to the condition of her husband, Battin says that it is only a tragedy if we want it to be… it is a difficult event with both tragic and positive consequences… when the care-givers do wonderful, gentle and courageous things, you need to take notice of it.

In reference to her husband, Battin states:

‘His desire to live fluctuates. Often he says that he is happy to be alive. Sometimes he says this is too awful, just let me go… Sometimes when his pain is intense or the world looks bleak… those moments are very hard. He thinks that this has been a tremendous burden on me… but this has put the relationship at a much deeper level.’

It is interesting to note that research that was done by Dr. Harvey Chochinov, a Canadian psychiatrist, found that the will to live fluctuates in people. Chochinov et al, found that:

“a significant correlations between the will to live and existential, psychological, social, and, to a lesser degree, physical sources of distress. Existential variables proved to have the most influence, with hopelessness, burden to others, and dignity entering into the final model. Health care providers must learn to appreciate the importance of existential issues and their ability to influence the will to live among patients.”

From his research Chochinov developed the Dignity Model or therapy that is oriented to increasing the value or dignity that a person has for oneself. ….

The research by Chochinov proves that euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be legal. When a person is suffering emotionally, psychologically or spiritually, they need to have their “dignity” affirmed, not be offered death or killed out of a false understanding of autonomy.

Battin also commented on serious disability as a reason for suicide. Battin stated that in some jurisdictions her husband would be eligible for euthanasia. She said, one can imagine insurance companies pressuring people to protect their “bottom line”, one can imagine greedy family members or a physician wanting to get rid of a difficult patient. She then says they have not experienced that.

Just because Battin and Hopkins have not been pressured by others, does not make the experience of people such as Barbara Wagner any less of a concern. Wagner, who was a resident in Oregon, was denied, by the Oregon Health Plan, life-extending medical treatment for cancer, but offered “assisted suicide.” …

It is interesting that Battin would continue to imply support for euthanasia for those who are “tired of living” considering the fact that she stated in her 2007 article in the Journal of Medical Ethics that there is no proof that a slippery slope occurs when euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized. To allow euthanasia for those who are “tired of living” is definitely proof that a “slippery slope” will occur.

My hope is that Battin continues to question her support for euthanasia and assisted suicide and that one day soon, she will join the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition to oppose giving doctors the right to directly and intentionally cause a person’s death

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