Insurance companies could easily offer euthanasia in the future

The Oireachtas Committee on ‘assisted dying’ continues to hear expert testimony on the matter. Last week it heard from a Dutch academic who was once a supporter but has now turned into a critic. He spoke of how insurance companies in his country are already funding the procedure for one provider, which is a chilling possible glimpse of the future.

The Dutch expert, Theo Boer, who is a professor of healthcare ethics, said the legalisation of euthanasia in the Netherlands has turned our view of suffering, ageing and taking care upside down. The numbers are speeding up and the biggest increase is now in illnesses that are not terminal.

He was initially supportive of euthanasia legislation and now, having reviewed 4,000 cases on behalf of the Dutch government, has become critical of it.

He told the committee that in 20 years the numbers availing of it in his country have quadrupled and, in some neighbourhoods, medically assisted euthanasia account for 15pc to 20pc of all deaths. These figures are underestimated, he said, as a governmental evaluation has found that between 10pc and 15pc of doctors do not report their participation in the programme.

He noted that there has been an expansion in the reasons for euthanasia — from those at the end of a terminal illness, to people today fearing loneliness, alienation and care dependency. Once euthanasia is introduced, why should it be provided only for terminally-ill patients, or for those suffering from physical illness and pain, he asked. Sometimes it is the absence of hope that provokes the suffering, he said.

“That is why we have now a law in parliament that legalises euthanasia for all people over 74 years, with or without an illness. Their age is the only reason they can have assisted dying. That in turn is why we now have a regulation that allows parents to request euthanasia for their young children aged from zero to 11 years old. I am convinced it is only a matter of time before we take the next hurdle, namely, allowing children of dementia patients to request euthanasia for their demented parents”, he told the committee.

The second expert who spoke was Silvan Luley, representing Dignitas, a group that facilitates assisted suicide in Switzerland, where it has been legal since 1942. Currently, about 1,700 per year avail of it. He claimed that Dignitas has almost 100 Irish members and 12 people from Ireland have been helped to kill themselves by his organisation.

Dignitas offers assisted suicide not only to those who are terminally ill but also to anyone who has an “endurable incapacitating disability” or suffers ‘unbearable pain’. Mr. Luley told the committee that fewer than 50pc of those who avail of their assistance are terminal. He explained that they offer a professional alternative to violent suicides.

“It is about having an emergency exit door that provides emotional relief and can prevent people from using rough, violent do-it-yourself suicide methods. The people in Ireland should have what everyone deserves: a legal way to exercise the human right of freedom of choice on all options of professional care to soothe suffering and end life at their home” he said.

Luley was challenged by Prof Boer who referred to new studies presented at a congress of 250 psychiatrists he attended recently. One study found that since the Netherlands allowed euthanasia for reasons of psychiatry, dementia and long-term chronic illnesses, the number of violent suicides has risen against expectations by 35pc, while it went down by 10pc in neighbouring Germany.

Moreover, another new study showed that “in places where there is more euthanasia, there is also a slightly higher suicide rate. … It cannot be proven that if one provides euthanasia, it will bring the suicide numbers down”, according to Prof Boer.

(Previous research from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre found similar results

Prof Boer said that there is a general societal pressure that makes feel the patients a burden to their families and to their country.

He also pointed out that in the Netherlands, one organisation, funded by insurance companies, offers euthanasia. The cost is €3,300, of which the performing physician receives €2,000. “For some of these physicians it is kind of a profit thing. I have heard several of them say that they need this money for several reasons, even though most of them are retired. However, it is officially not for profit. … they only offer euthanasia. They do not offer any other help. They do not offer psychiatric or social help. They can only refer the patient back to where they came from.”

The Swiss group Dignitas, which is also not-for-profit, charges the equivalent of about €11,500, plus VAT, for the complete service, which includes funeral and administrative costs.

As the population ages, and healthcare costs mount, it is easy to envisage insurance companies offering to pat their customers for euthanasia. Think of all the money they would save.


A new organ donor bill is ethically questionable

If a proposed new law is passed, after you die your organs can be removed from your body for medical purposes unless you expressly say beforehand that you do not want this to happen. Consent is otherwise assumed. As usual, the law is going through the various parliamentary stages without proper debate, even though the proposal is ethically questionable. An Organ Donor Register, instead, should be established.

The proposed law is called the ‘Human Tissue 2022 Bill’. It covers issues such as the donation and transplantation of organs from deceased persons.

At present, an opt-in system exists. This means that only those who have expressly declared their intention to donate organs after they die will have them removed from their bodies, and even then only with the final approval of the family.

The new regime will mean consent is assumed, although final authorisation from a designated family member will still be needed.

The proposed regime is motivated by the good intention of addressing the problem of a shortage of organs for transplant in Ireland, but it is still ethically questionable as donation should arise only from an informed and deliberate decision on a person’s part.

Presumed consent is based instead on the assumption that we are all aware that our organs are available for transplantation upon death and we are happy with that. But what is this assumption really based on?

The HSE’s own consent policy says: “Consent involves a process of communication about the proposed intervention in which the person has received sufficient information to enable them to understand the nature, potential risks and benefits of the proposed intervention”.

It is very unlikely that the new system of presumed consent will meet these criteria.

To make the new system more ethical, patients should be explicitly asked to express their opinion on the matter when attending a hospital or their GP. This will prompt awareness and provoke conversation about donation, which must remain a choice freely and explicitly made and not assumed. Taking without asking is not giving.

As suggested by the Irish Kidney Association, there should be an Organ Donor Register, where all wishes – to opt in or out – are explicitly recorded. “Knowing that a loved one had proactively recorded their wish to be an organ donor makes the family decision to consent a much easier proposition”, a representative of the Irish Kidney Association told the Oireachtas.

What is positive in this new Bill is that it is not inspired by a principle of absolute bodily autonomy of the patients, but it requires the involvement of their families, who could even overrule the decision of the deceased and veto the donation.

There are many reasons why the ultimate word should be with the families rather than with the individual.

While it is important to honour the wish of the deceased, we need to consider that personal decisions affect others, particularly the family. Some cultures place special importance on respecting the integrity of the body after death. Moreover, when organ donation happens against the wish of the family, they might refuse to cooperate, or their discontent could also affect the work of the health-care staff.

A proper ethical system in this area should follow two basic principles: explicit (not presumed) consent from the individual, and approval from the family following the death of the person. The second principle is still followed, but not the first and more important one.

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

CW Long post. Original content.

How parents of DS children are subtly directed toward abortion

There has been little reaction to the news that 95pc of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome before birth at the Rotunda hospital are subsequently aborted in England.

The response to these horrendous figures has been silence or fatalism. For some, it is an individual “choice” to be respected. There is nothing to be worried about or, even when people find the figures regrettable, little can be done.

“I don’t have a view on whether that is the right thing. We don’t advocate for it, that is just the lived experience”, said prof Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda.

Is it true? Is it really a purely personal choice, without outside influence or expectations from others? Two recent studies on the experience of parents of children with DS indicate otherwise.

Irish research published last year interviewed eight people following the birth of a child with DS. Some praised the doctors and nurses, but others said the information they received was too medically focused and too negative. It is very hard to believe the same does not happen to couples who are told their baby has DS before it is born.

“Don’t come in with a list of negatives, all the negatives that were put in your head initially we never expected her to be this good now”, said one of the interviewed mothers.

She recalls: “We received purely negative information that she could have this or that, …”

A father said, “Doctors should show compassion when they are delivering the news, have patience and don’t be rushing in and out”.

A Danish study spoke to parents who were told their babies had Down Syndrome before they were born. In Denmark, almost all children with DS are aborted.

The study notes: “Following the diagnosis, the couples were generally critical of the information provided by the hospital. Some felt that the health professionals had painted an unnecessarily grim picture of Down Syndrome based on what couples perceived as outdated information. … Some felt that there was an unnecessary focus on potential diseases and additional diagnoses when the couple was more interested in their potential for living a fulfilling life.”

Participants in the study report feeling pressure from health professionals they encountered to abort, or else that they were presented with overly negative information about their babies.

The research found that “couples felt that termination of pregnancy had been taken for granted following the diagnosis: ‘As the obstetrician sat down, she put those abortion application forms on the table in front of her’”, recalls a mother.

Even conveying apparently neutral information, such as presenting what other couples generally do, can condition parents. We tend to imitate others. Social expectations can be subtle and unconscious.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with me since I don’t just do what 98pc of all people would do”, said a Danish mother in the study, who decided to have the baby.

“The high percentage of terminations in Denmark was a source of doubt and uncertainty during the decision-making process. This left the couples feeling vulnerable”, it notes.

“Why is Down Syndrome the disability [considered] socially acceptable to terminate? And how do we come back from that?”, asks actress Sally Phillips in her documentary “Prenatal Genetic Testing” where she investigates how Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests have increased the number of babies with DS, and other genetic or chromosomal anomalies, who are being aborted. Phillips has a son with Down Syndrome.

These tests, which can take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, are becoming more affordable and available. They can be used to prepare families to welcome a child with medical anomalies, or they can be used to get rid of them, as almost always happens when a diagnosis of DS is given. A proper ethical debate about those prenatal tests has still to happen in Ireland.

In a society that has normalised abortion, the main way to fight the progressive elimination of children with DS is for doctors to portray life with the condition, and life for the parents of such a child, in far more positive terms than seems to be the case at the moment. The medical professionals claim to be neutral about their use, but being not directive isn’t enough when society goes in one direction only.

Certainly, a national debate is called for.

These are all my non-academic articles published in 2022


4th January 2022

‘An important voice is raised up against Assisted Suicide’

7th January 2022

“The deadly inaccuracy of many prenatal tests”

11th January 2022

“Countries requiring vaccine passport to attend worship”

14th January 2022

“The female victims of anti-Christian persecution”

19th January 2022

“In Austria pharmacies are now allowed to sell suicide drugs”

26th January 2022

“A big victory for the rights of parents”


1st February 2022

“Officials warn against commercial overseas surrogacy”

4th February 2022

‘How during the pandemic couples have changed their plans to have children’

8th February 2022

“Radical assisted suicide organisation opens in Ireland to almost no reaction”

22nd February 2022

‘Here is a little science: religious practice is good for you’

23rd February 2022

‘Vendesi pillola per il suicidio fai-da-te nelle farmacie austriache’


4th March 2022

‘A new Irish law will allow for deliberate creation of semi-orphans’

9th March 2022

‘The review of the operation of Ireland’s abortion law’

10th March 2022

““do-it-yourself” Selbstmordpille in Osterreichischen Apotheken verkauft’

11th March 2022

‘Una soluzione alla “maternità surrogata” c’è: divieto totale’

22nd March 2022

‘A landmark victory for a pro-life doctor’

29th March 2022

‘A non-debate in the Dail about the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill’


5th April 2022

‘Europe’s growing anti-Christian intolerance problem’

12th April 2022

‘Oireachtas Committee told harsh facts of life about commercial surrogacy’

20th April 2022

‘An extreme exclusion zone law is debated in the Seanad’

26th April 2022

‘Yet another study confirms the benefit of religious practice’


9th May 2022

‘Marriage in Ireland continues its decline’

13th May 2022

‘How religious sisters are the real founders of modern nursing’

17th May 2022

‘Catholic healthcare better than the secular alternative’

24th May 2022

‘The poor state of marriage across the EU’

31st May 2022

‘Forcing religious run health centres to allow assisted suicide’


7th June 2022

‘Conscientious objection to abortion remains strong in Irish hospitals’

24th June 2022

‘Number of abortions in England hits new record of 214,869’

28th June 2022

‘Why Roe vs Wade was overturned’


5th July 2022

‘Ireland plays along another charade at the UN’

11th July 2022

‘The appalling recommendations of the surrogacy committee’

14th July 2022

‘More than 7,000 Irish women had abortions last year’

18th July 2022

‘The appalling recommendations of the surrogacy committee’

20th July 2022

‘Pro-choice campaigners no longer care how many abortions take place’

26th July 2022

‘The radical approach to sex education backed by the HSE’

29th July 2022

‘L’Irlanda sta legalizzando l’”utero in affitto”’

‘Italy to legalize uterus for rent’

31st July 2022

‘L’Irlande va légalizer la location d’utérus’


10th August 2022

’10,000 Canadians died by euthanasia last year’

12th August 2022

‘Archie Battersbee case was not black or white’

19th August 2022

‘Liberals still ignore the fact that family structure matters’

26th August 2022

‘Political ideology as a substitute for religion’


14th September 2022

‘Why governments should pay more attention to family stability’

17th September 2022

‘Più l’eutanasia è legale, più ammazza senza motivo’

21st September 2022

‘Exploring the link between family breakdown and anti-social behaviour’

23rd September 2022

‘Exploring the link between family breakdown and anti-social behaviour’

24th September 2022

‘The more euthanasia is legal the more it kills for no reason’

27th September 2022

‘Plus l’euthanasie est légale plus elle tue sans raison’

‘Government’s latest legislative programme bad news for pro-lifers’


3rd October 2022

‘The coming depopulation bomb’

6th October 2022

‘Je legaler die Euthanasie, desto mehr Menschen werden ohne Grund getötet’

10th October 2022

‘A partial victory for the right to life in European court’

15th October 2022

‘The happiness gap between conservatives and liberals’

21st October 2022

‘HSE pushes for exclusion zones outside abortion facilities’

28th October 2022

‘Poor mental health among young people linked to decline of religion’


11th November 2022

‘Extreme pro-abortion measures passed in three US states’

18th November 2022

‘How Covid curbs on church going harmed public health’

23rd November 2022

‘An Ireland without Down Syndrome’

28th November 2022

‘New report highlights worsening persecution of Christians’


7th December 2022

‘Canada slides right down the assisted suicide slippery slope’

16th December 2022

‘Government recognising commercial surrogacy in all but name’

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