By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The Press Association reports that a recent two-part documentary marking ten years since the suicide of serial killer Dr. Harold Shipman refers to his actions as “euthanasia.”
In 2000 Shipman was given 15 life sentences for murder, “although many more were suspected,” as the Press Association so cautiously phrases it. (According to The BBC, “police believe he may actually have killed up to 215 patients.”)
The documentary examines some of the deaths attributed to Dr Shipman and interviews some of the family members of his victims. The article reports:
Jack Shelmerdine, whose father – also called Jack – died at the hands of the GP, said he and his family had a greater suspicion that there was a problem with hospital care than their doctor being at fault.
The son of one of serial killer Harold Shipman’s victims still maintains he was a “good doctor” and said he views the killing as “euthanasia”.
He had been present when Shipman delivered the lethal injection. Mr Shelmerdine recalled: “I was concerned that my father was still unconscious, still asleep as we were thinking, and I rang Dr Shipman and I remember his words were, ‘Oh, he might well make it’. But those words, ‘he might make it’ seemed odd to me.
“And I just wondered whether questions ought to be asked. I wasn’t thinking in terms of Dr Shipman having done anything. We were more inclined to think that the hospital had done something wrong rather than Shipman.
“It is murder, but I would like to think of it as euthanasia. Twisted logic. That’s life.”
Beyond the problem of family members who agree with euthanasia, another major difficulty with euthanasia is that most family members are typically unaware of what is actually happening, or that comments from a family member are misconstrued, resulting in that person’s death. Putting these two components together helps explains why statistics from Belgium indicate that up to 32% of all assisted deaths are done without request.
Reporting on Part One, The Press Association states
In the first programme, “Harold Shipman: Driven To Kill,” a former colleague from his early years practising medicine at Pontefract General Infirmary, the then ward sister Margaret Sivorn, said he was a “brilliant doctor”.
“The consultants liked him. He got on well with his colleagues. The patients absolutely couldn’t ever say a bad thing about him,” she said.
“They felt calm and comfortable with him and knew that he was looking after them properly. He was always professional, always, and you always felt at ease with him. He’d have a smile with them, a little joke with them, but professional to his fingertips.”
Another difficulty with modern euthanasia (besides uncritical media sympathy for it) is that the attitude or the intention of the doctor is often unknown. Unlike the movies, the euthanasia doctor doesn’t wear a dark hat or Jack boots.
The second part of the documentary is titled: “Catching Dr Death.”
Dr Harold Shipman is possibly the best known serial killing doctor, but other, less known doctors have also been prosecuted.
If euthanasia is legalized, it would be nearly impossible to protect people from a doctor intent on killing patients based on his or her own attitudes, personal desires, addictions, or need for control.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Alex’s blog.