Euthanasia is not compassion
December 17, 2013
By James Buchok
In the Netherlands, euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal since 2002, but at least 1,000 hospital patients are killed each year without their request or consent, according to a Winnipeg professor of medicine and emergency room doctor.
"In the Netherlands 12 people are euthanized every day, that's six times the motor vehicle deaths in that country," said Dr. Larry Rados, speaking at St. Mary's Cathedral Nov. 30. He said legalized euthanasia has created an attitude among medical professionals in which "the default position is to kill."
Rados is a member of the teaching faculty of the University of Manitoba's Department of Family Medicine and is an emergency and intensive care physician at the Misericordia health centre. He is a past vice president of the Manitoba Physicians for Life and was the recipient of the Winnipeg League for Life Joe Boroski Award in 2007.
Rados' presentation is called Euthanasia, How Did We Get to This Point? He said contraception and abortion started the "anti-life mentality." He said the fears expressed by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae became "eerily true."
Rados said the pope wrote that if contraception became widespread "it would give people the impression they had unlimited dominion over their own body. 'My body, my choice, my money,' in the case of abortions in the U.S. In Canada abortion is paid for by healthcare."
Rados called contraception "the first domino to fall in this idea that we can do what we want with our lives." He quoted C.S. Lewis saying "we are not the owner of our body, we are tenants. Those who know Christ know they belong to him."
Rados said there was a case in the Netherlands of a man in his 70s living with lymphoma for a number of years before being hospitalized. "The next day he was euthanized. When the family asked why, the doctor said the patient seemed to be asking for euthanasia because he said 'help me.' "
Euthanasia carried out by doctors is legal in three European countries, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
In the Netherlands requests have risen steadily since 2003 when 1,626 people applied for medically administered euthanasia, in most cases by a lethal injection, or assisted suicide.
The number of cases, the vast majority of medical euthanasia, has more than doubled over the decade. One explanation for the steep rise of Dutch cases is the introduction last year of mobile euthanasia units allowing patients to be killed by voluntary lethal injection when family doctors refused.
Around 80 per cent of people who request euthanasia die at home and are killed by doctors on the grounds that they are suffering unbearable pain and are making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required.
"A lot of them are depressed and lonely," Rados said. "The solution isn't to kill them, it to treat the depression. The solution to helping someone who is lonely isn't to kill them, it is to be with them."
Or, the aged or ill will say they don't want to be a burden. Rados recalled the case of Terri Schiavo in Florida whose husband wanted her life support removed, but was opposed by Schiavo's parents in a seven year court battle. After her death, Schiavo's brother said, "where there is love there is no burden."
Rados said the aging or infirm often fear they will lose their autonomy, "but euthanasia is a total loss of autonomy."
"The word compassion means to suffer with," Rados said. "We are not being compassionate at all if we resort to euthanasia. We are not suffering with them."