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Countering the threat of euthanasia

winter 2013

From triple helix - winter 2013 - Countering the threat of euthanasia [p04]

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New anti-euthanasia coalition launched

Review by Peter Saunders CMF Chief Executive

A new coalition was launched in Brussels on Wednesday 13 November 2013 to combat the growing threat of euthanasia across Europe. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Europe (EPC-Europe) (1) draws together organisations and individuals from across the continent.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE, Coordinator for the group, said, 'EPC-Europe brings people from a wide variety of backgrounds together to oppose the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide, promote the best care and support for vulnerable people and to help people to find meaning, purpose and hope in the face of suffering and despair.' The move came in the same week that Margo MacDonald MSP launched her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament. (2) Both this bill and Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill, (3) which was introduced to the House of Lords on 15 May, have their debate stages in the Spring of 2014.

France and Germany are also currently considering legislation, but overwhelming evidence from jurisdictions where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is legal (such as Belgium and the Netherlands) demonstrates beyond doubt how quickly and easily euthanasia is extended to others, especially disabled people and elderly people.

The number of euthanasia cases has increased by 10-20% per year in the Netherlands since 2006. (4) In Belgium, which is currently considering extending the law to children and those with dementia, there has been an increase of over 500% since 2003. (5)

High profile cases in Belgium have heightened concern: Mark and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old deaf identical twins, who were euthanised by the Belgian state after their eyesight began to fail; Nathan/Nancy Verhelst, whose life was ended in front of TV cameras after a series of botched sex-change operations; 'Ann G', who had anorexia and opted to have her life ended after being sexually abused by the psychiatrist who was supposed to be treating her for her life-threatening condition. Belgium also practises 'organ donation euthanasia', whereby organs are harvested from patients who have had their lives terminated. (6)

Under the 'Groningen Protocol', 22 babies with spina bifida were euthanised in the Netherlands over a seven year period to 2005. (7) This prompted Baroness Tanni Grey- Thompson, Paralympic gold medallist and a member of the British House of Lords, to comment, 'If that had existed in the UK when I was born there is a possibility that I would not be alive now. I would never have been allowed to experience life and my daughter might never have been born.' (8)

The Care Not Killing Alliance, (9) of which CMF is a leading member, is fully involved in EPC-Europe and I currently chair the steering group which led to its formation. Christian doctors need to be involved in, and supporting, such initiatives.


2. Scottish Parliament. Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. 13 November 2013
3. UK Parliament. Assisted Dying Bill [HL] 2013-14. 15 May 2013
4. Saunders P. Euthanasia deaths continue their relentless rise. Christian Medical Comment 24 September 2013
5. Saunders P. Stunning 5,000% increase in Belgian euthanasia cases in eleven years since legalisation. Christian Medical Comment 6 April 2013
6. Saunders P. Belgium becomes world leader in organ removal after euthanasia. Christian Medical Comment 16 March 2013
7. Verhagen E, Sauer PJJ. The Groningen protocol – euthanasia in severely ill newborns. N Engl J Med 2005;352:959-962
8. EPC-E. New European group launched to halt 'growing threat' of state-sanctioned euthanasia. 13 November 2013

Article written by Peter Saunders

More from triple helix: winter 2013

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  • Countering the threat of euthanasia
  • What we can learn from the BHA
  • Universal Health Coverage
  • Caring for ourselves
  • How persuasion works
  • So you've received a complaint
  • Making medical mistakes
  • A chilling story seldom told
  • Being a burden
  • Hope in dark times
  • Faith matters in the global health agenda
  • ICMDA a worldwide family
  • CS Lewis: A Life
  • What happens after I die
  • Making Church Accessible to All Including disabled people in church life
  • Why? Looking at God, evil & personal suffering
  • Rescuing Darwin God and evolution in Britain today
  • The Big Ego Trip Finding true significance in a culture of self-esteem
  • Christians in the Firing Line
  • Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People
  • Eutychus
  • When our hands are willing
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