The Euthanasia Drumbeat Gets Louder

The Euthanasia Drumbeat Gets Louder

By Mark P. Mostert

Across the world, the inexorable push for accepting the new culture of death continues unabated.
It’s not a pretty picture, because whichever way you turn, there is pressure for assisted suicide and euthanasia to become an acceptable and even hallowed part of the social fabric.
While the roots of assisted suicide and euthanasia are hardly of recent vintage, the contemporary ground zero in our lifetimes is the Netherlands.
The Dutch pro-death story is the exemplar by which all pro-death efforts should be gauged because it shows how quickly a social taboo can be reversed in the public consciousness to being a desirable and even obligatory behavior.
By the late 1980s, the Netherlands had a problem. It was clear that in medical facilities across the country, hundreds of patients were being euthanized behind closed doors. The rising evidence of medicalized killing was problematic because euthanasia was then (and still is) illegal in Holland.
Predictably, rather than prosecuting medical personnel who were in effect executing their patients, the authorities’ hand-wringing led to the Remmelink Report, which verified that illegal medicalized killing was a fact. Just as predictably, the Dutch solution was to regulate euthanasia rather than prosecute the killing as a criminal offense.
This was the beginning of the end. What started out as a set of guidelines to control euthanasia soon morphed into the current Dutch take of horror:
Initially, euthanasia was meant only for adults who were terminally ill and in unbearable and uncontrollable physical pain.
Soon, euthanasia became available for those with unbearable physical pain, even if it could be controlled, and even if they were not terminally ill.
It got worse. Soon thereafter, euthanasia was allowed for those who were not only not terminally ill, but for people in no physical pain whatsoever — psychological pain, controllable or not, was enough.
And then came the nasty canard that if euthanasia was available for adults, it should be made available for teens. Promptly, the age limit to request euthanasia for just about any reason was lowered to 16.
So the current state of affairs in the Netherlands is that euthanasia is available on request and after meeting some very vague criteria: if you are 16 or older, in some form of (undefined) “unbearable” pain (not necessarily physical), and if it seems that things won’t get better anytime soon.
But that’s not the end of this macabre story.
Under the current Dutch guidelines, euthanasia is reported only after the patient is dead, so there’s no way of knowing whether all incidents of euthanasia are reported. Chances are that there are many more medicalized killings than are actually recorded.
That’s not the end: It’s officially reported that hundreds if not thousands of patients in the Netherlands are killed even though they never requested euthanasia. Furthermore, the euthanasia figures do not include those who die via assisted suicide or the number of newborns with disabilities that are routinely euthanized under the Groningen Protocol. Both of these groups are reported separately.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that as the legal constraints preventing medicalized killing in the Netherlands have been loosened to the point that current criminal statutes are routinely ignored, there has been a corresponding collapse of popular opposition to euthanasia.
For example, a recent Dutch campaign by euthanasia advocates garnered 100,000 signatures petitioning that euthanasia be allowed for anyone over the age of 70, even for the flimsy reason that they are simply tired of living.
Also, “official” euthanasia is on the rise: Government figures from 2008 show a 10% rise in the number of incidents of euthanasia and then another 13% rise last year. The Dutch ministry of Health is apparently “concerned” about the rising kill rate. Given the euthanasia push over the last twenty years, I’m surprised the Dutch are surprised that euthanasia is out of hand.
The slippery slope has gone the same way in Switzerland and Belgium. I predict it will soon be the same in the U.K.
And in the U.S., the story is beginning to mimic these matters overseas. Oregon and Washington both have seriously flawed assisted suicide laws that invite abuse and exploitation, and now there’s word that a psychiatrist is proposing an assisted death clinic in Oregon along the lines of the infamous Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.
Let’s hope looking at the Netherlands will bring us to our senses long before death on demand or involuntarily are considered dignified, brave, and obligatory.
Dr. Mark Mostert lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He can be contacted at his news blog Alive and Kicking or at markpmostert@gmail.com.

Elderly and Expendable

Elderly and Expendable

Posted By Tait Trussell On June 17, 2010 @ 12:01 am In FrontPage | 6 Comments

The Obama Administration and the President’s pals in Congress have been on a deliberate course to write off America’s senior citizens as a lost cause politically. This decision is based on an internal Democrat study indicating that seniors don’t trust Obama.

The Democrats, in fact, have stiffed the country’s seniors: ranging from multi-billion dollar cuts in Medicare [1] to driving physicians to drop seniors as patients by delaying [2] and cutting federal reimbursements to such medical specialists as cardiologists and oncologists, who treat the biggest killers of seniors–heart disease and cancer.

The disdain toward seniors has included cuts in home health care [3] and payments to hospitals to new taxes on medical devices [4] on which many seniors depend. Add to this: increases in the medicare tax [5] on some working seniors and cancellation of the traditional cost-of-living boost to Social Security checks [6] for 2010 and 2011.

During the stretched-out debate over the new health law, seniors  continually heard that Medicare would be slashed by $500 billion. The final bill’s provisions included $132 billion chopped from Medicare Advantage, [7] the enhanced private version of Medicare in which 25 percent of seniors are enrolled.

Implemented over 10 years, it would chip away at their benefits and worry old folks that lower payments will force health providers to stop taking new Medicare patients.

“From all I have been able to tell so far, it’s going to hurt,” said Dalton, Ga., resident Horton Herrin, 72. The retired Georgia state employee has a private Medicare Advantage plan that is targeted for cuts under the health reform package.

Even though Obama’s 2008 election was historic in many ways his performance among seniors [8] (age 65 and over) provided one of the few low points. Exit pools showed that Obama lost to John McCain among seniors 45 to 53 percent.

According to an important 2009 analysis by Democracy Corps, founded by Democrat strategists [9] Stan Greenberg and James Carville, “The central reason that white seniors did not support Obama is that they feared the type of change he would bring. They remained skeptical about whose side Obama was on, distrusted him generally, and specifically were concerned about this level of experience. These feelings that hold white seniors back from Obama were particularly true among white senior men and seniors without a college degree….”

A recent Rasmussen Poll [10] found that 59 percent of voting seniors favor repeal of the ObamaCare law. Well aware of this skepticism of the President’s policies, Obama is certainly not depending on seniors as part of his political support base.

The latest move irking the aging was when the Senate went on Memorial Day vacation without fixing the cut in payments to doctors for Medicare patients. Seniors didn’t know if their doctor bills would be paid. As American Medical Association (AMA) President [11] James Rohack said: “The U.S. Senate turned its back on our nation’s seniors and physicians who care for them by going on vacation…without making a fix in the federal reimbursement rate for doctors who care for Medicare recipients.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) sent letters to doctors informing them that the agency had told Medicare contractors to delay processing Medicare claims for 10 business days. This was to give Congress time to fix the reimbursement legislation. But it left Medicare patients wondering if and when Medicare would pay for a visit to their doctor.

So, some seniors worried from Memorial Day until June 14 when CMS contractors were allowed to begin claims processing [12] since the threatened 21 percent cut to Medicare physicians’ payment rates had been set in the House, but still not determined in the Senate. The American College of Cardiology [13] CEO Jack Lewin branded the Senate’s failure to act “the worst-case scenario for patients and physicians.”

The Administration is further causing seniors to fret in naming a new administrator for Medicare and Medicaid [14] who believes fervently in rationing care. Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama’s choice to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is president of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement and professor at Harvard Medical School. “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open,” he has said.

Dr. Berwick made that statement when discussing duties of the Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). That body was part of the original $787 billion stimulus law. CER was created to evaluate the cost of medical treatments and their outcome.  Dr. Berwick is enamored with the British system of health care, particularly the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), which is, as TIME magazine described it: “a rationing panel for British patients.” Dr. Berwick also has been quoted as saying: “I am a romantic about the (British) National Health Service. [15] I love it.”

He also has been quoted as saying “If I could wave a magic want…health care (would be) a common good—single payer (system) a nonnegotiable starting place.” Britain’s CER model “calculates a treatment by quality-adjusted life years, refusing to pay for a treatment…” costing a certain amount that doesn’t “extend a patient’s life by at least one year.”

Of course, Obama hasn’t given up completely on any possible voters in the next presidential race. His Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius sent out a slick four-color folder in May to all Medicare recipients [16] in the U.S. saying the new health law “will provide you and your family greater savings and increased quality care…so that you, and your family, and doctor—not insurance companies—have greater control over your care.”

Republican Senate leaders called it propaganda and inaccurate. They demanded that Sebelius tell who commissioned the message and approved the money to mail it. A request to CMS for the cost of the folder and it mailing is still pending.