Standing firm against euthanasia and assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Two weeks I published an article titled ‘Is assisted suicide a suicide?’ based on the ongoing debate in the Psychiatric Times between psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Komrad, and long-time euthanasia activist, Margaret Battin, Ph.D.

Yesterday I published an article by Dr. Komrad responding to Battin’s assertion that there is no proof of a slippery slope in jurisdictions that have legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Dr. John Maher

Also on Tuesday, eminent psychiatrist Dr. John Maher responded to the ongoing debate with his article in the Psychiatric Times, titled “Why Stand Firm Against Physician-Assisted Suicide.”

Dr. Maher who is president of the Ontario Association for ACT & FACT and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health also responds to Battin by stating

The letter [from Battin] objects to slippery slope arguments, saying that allowing medical aid in dying (MAID) will not lead to abuses. In response it must be said that there are already unequivocally widespread abuses in the Benelux countries (euthanasia without consent, euthanasia without standard treatments tried first, euthanasia with psychiatrists’ objections on eligibility being overruled/ignored, doctor shopping to get the desired outcome) and these abuses could not have occurred without the original practices being allowed, paving the way. The slippery slope is indisputably real, and the reality is that given an inch, proponents of MAID in those nations took a mile…

The letter claims that, “it is deeply contentious whether euthanasia for patients who regard themselves as having had a complete life, or who find that they are tired of living, is itself wrong.” This statement completely undermines the claim that slippery slopes are not a concern. Once assisted suicide is allowed for some, it will be allowed for others, for increasingly dubious reasons.

Dr. Maher then responds to Battin’s assertion that legalizing assisted death does not negatively affect people with disabilities:

The letter also claims that “thus far there is no compelling evidence that aid-in-dying legislation in any country is causally associated with worsened treatment of patients with disabilities.” Is the repeated, passionate testimony from individuals with disabilities who were offered medical suicide before care not compelling? The 7-minute testimony of Gabrielle Peters before the Senate of Canada is particularly poignant and compelling in this regard. The stories and experiences of individuals with disabilities are being ignored.

Dr. Maher concludes his article by stating:

If you substitute the word suicide for MAID in this sentence what is apparent is that the important questions are really: can rational suicide be morally acceptable? And should psychiatrists do only selective suicide prevention? I believe the answer, to both questions, is no. Either psychiatrists have a unique and sacrosanct duty of care (that inextricably entails the preservation of life) or they do not. Our job as psychiatrists is to help bring meaning, purpose, and hope and to be unfailing in our efforts to do so.

Margaret Battin has been a promoter of euthanasia and assisted suicide for most of her professional life. I thank these imminent psychiatrists for challenging Battin’s false statements and beliefs.

The euthanasia lobby has created a false reality by redefining suicide and by denying the slippery slope. These false notions are now being challenged by experts who illustrate that, philosophically, the emperor (Battin) has no clothes.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with his permission.