“Is it time we talked about euthanasia?”, an Irish Time article asks. Yes, it is and it is also time to show what happens when a country legalises euthanasia or assisted suicide. We can see, for example, how the number of deaths by assisted suicide has been rapidly escalating in Belgium and the Netherlands.
We can, in addition, see that euthanasia or assisted suicide are usually introduced on seemingly very limited grounds and in a short matter of time these grounds are widened to non-terminal conditions such as “unbearable pain and suffering”. This is a common pattern.
These developments should be taken note of in months to come when they are presented with a Private Member’s Bill by John Halligan TD in favour of assisted suicide.
In the Netherlands, the number of cases of assisted suicide increased by 10% in just one year in 2016 with 6091 reported deaths by euthanasia/assisted suicide. Since 2006 there has been a huge 317% rise in cases of assisted suicide. In recent years the rate of increase has accelerated. This is true not just for the overall number but also for non-terminal cases.
In 2016, 141 people were killed because of dementia (564% increase since 2010), 60 for psychiatric reasons (428% increase since 2012) and 244 for “advanced age”. Non-voluntary euthanasia, without an explicit request from the patient, is also permitted.
In Belgium euthanasia was legalised in 2002 and in 2014 it was extended to children!
These trends have raised serious concerns regarding the changing role of health care professionals, who are now required to kill rather than cure and take care. Moreover, there is a suspicion that in some cases euthanasia is performed with the purpose of getting organs from the patient. For instance, in Belgium almost a quarter of transplanted lungs are from euthanised patients.
In Belgium and Switzerland mental illness can itself be a basis for euthanasia or assisted suicide. A study published in 2015 in the British Medical Journal shows that of 100 patients who requested euthanasia for psychiatric reasons not even one was terminally ill. They suffered of mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders, autism, etc. The most frequent diagnosis was depression.
The official report from Oregon shows that the most frequent end of life concerns cited by people requesting assisted suicide are psychological rather than medical. They relate to disability and increased dependence. Being a burden on others is more significant than fear of pain.
The problem with euthanasia is that once we accept the idea that we have a right to die, which in fact means a right to be killed, it becomes difficult to limit this right. Moreover, what is the point of campaigning against suicide, in school for instance, if the state offers it as an opportunity?
These laws “normalise” suicide and they are in fact associated with an increase of suicide in the general population because they tell them that it is an appropriate response to the burdens of life. With time, those practises becomes acceptable, creating social pressure and also expectations on the most vulnerable patients and families.
More information about euthanasia can be found here.
A delegation from the Irish State’s foreign aid organisation, Irish Aid, is currently in Vietnam promoting gay rights. Interestingly, Irish Aid seems to have nothing to say about the suppression of religious freedom in the Communist dictatorship, never mind other crucial freedoms. Why?
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam controls all aspects of the lives of its citizens, including religion. Government oversight and repression of religious activity, and persecution is very common. Last year, for example, 108 protestant pastors were imprisoned. Vietnam’s most famous religious leader, Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuán was arrested in 1975 and spent 13 years in prison – including nine years in solitary confinement.
Vietnam’s appalling record on human rights includes no right to life for the unborn. Vietnam ranks first in Asia for abortions, and among the top five in the world. Every year one million abortions are carried out, corresponding to a rate of 59 cases to 100 live births.
According to its website the purpose of Irish Aid fight global poverty and hunger. It also promotes “equality and respect for human rights”. As an article on its website explaining its visit to Vietnam promoting gay rights says: “Equality and respect for human rights are key values of Ireland both at home and abroad, and remain at the heart of the work of Irish Aid and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Vietnam is one of Ireland’s key partner countries receiving support through the Irish Aid programme. As part of Irish Aid’s Civil Society support programme, Ireland has been supporting a number of initiatives to facilitate the realisation of rights of the LGBTI community in Vietnam.”
The question arises: if Irish Aid sees fit to promote LGBT rights in Vietnam, why not the rights of religious believers there? Why is Irish Aid being so selective? Are human rights divisible?
Another question arises: why is it that a single-party, authoritarian State like Vietnam finds it less threatening to promote gay rights than freedom of religion? It permitted gay marriage in 2015. The Vietnamese Government knows this will make it appear ‘modern’ and ‘tolerant’ to the Western world. It is part of the official propaganda and Irish Aid certainly seems to be taken in by this.
LGBT rights don’t challenge the hegemony of the State whereas religion does by pointing to a source of moral authority independent of the State. The Vietnamese Government will be well aware of the role religion played in helping to bring about the fall of European communism. Indeed, the Catholic Church also helped to bring down military dictatorships in South Korea and the Philippines.
Little happens in Vietnam that is not approved and controlled by its dictatorial State. It is very wrong of Irish Government agencies to go along with the agenda of the Vietnamese regime in promoting what suits it while continuing to suppress fundamental human rights.
Following a meeting between Catholic bishops and Government representatives last week, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, who was not present, told the Catholic Church that it has no right to determine our laws, and that its own teachings ought to recognise a right to abortion. That is quite a double whammy.
According to The Times Ireland Edition, she said: “I absolutely do want to see a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, I think it is really integral to a social justice agenda in order to enable women to have greater choice in relation to the issue of their pregnancy. The Catholic Church has a very strong social justice tradition, and so I would think that in our negotiations discussion with them we need to draw on that social justice tradition to ensure it extends to women’s ethical choices in relation to their reproductive capacity. I respect the tradition, I think they need to voice their views, but I also believe and know that those views were to influence their own members. They cannot determine the laws of the land,” Ms Zappone said.
These comments raise a number of questions.
If Ms Zappone believes that the Bishops should influence only their own members, why were they invited by the Taoiseach to present and discuss their views with representatives of the Government, including the Taoiseach. Does she believe the meeting should never have happened?
Would Minister Zappone tell any other part of civil society that they cannot attempt to influence the laws of the land? Would she say it to Amnesty Ireland, for example, which is campaigning to have abortion made legal on wide-ranging grounds? If not, why single out the Churches? Are religious groups less entitled than others to contribute to democratic debate?
Additionally, if the Minister wants the separation of Church and State then it is not her role to tell the Catholic Church what to believe. (On the other hand, as citizens we all have a right to seek to determine our laws, whether we are religious or not). To demand that the Catholic social justice tradition should extend to women’s ‘ethical choices in relation to their reproductive capacity’, which is another name for abortion, is an unjustifiable interference in contradiction with the principle of separation.
Moreover, suggesting that the Catholic social justice tradition could somehow justify the legalisation of abortion negates the long established Catholic teachings on the profound injustice that abortions imply.
It is at the same time ironic but also tragic that the person calling on Catholic bishops not to stand up for unborn children is the Minister for Children.
In the USA, the country of origin of Ms Zappone, abortions can be performed until birth. As she is actively promoting a referendum to liberalise abortion, it would be interesting to know if this is the model that Minister Zappone is advocating.