Death on Demand comes to Germany

by Wesley J. Smith

Editor’s note. This first appeared at First Things and is reposted with the author’s permission.

The 1973 dystopian film Soylent Green featured several shocking moments, including overpopulation riots and men calling women “the furniture” required for sex. But the most disturbing scene showed Edward G. Robinson entering a euthanasia clinic, choosing to be put down rather than live with his existential anguish. What was once fiction is becoming reality. Assisted suicide, unthinkable then, is popular now. Since the movie was released, many have come to view human existence as a relative, rather than absolute, good. The sanctity of life ethic has been replaced by the drive to eliminate suffering, even if this requires eliminating the sufferer. And the raw power of this logic has led directly to suicide clinics and a right to death on demand—since no one can judge what another person considers to be unbearable torment.

Assisted suicide activists insist that euthanasia is only for the seriously ill, and offer vacuous promises of strict guidelines to protect the vulnerable. Such bromides have never made sense to me. If there is indeed a “right to die,” if the most important good is “choice” rather than “life,” how can the right to commit suicide remain limited to the seriously ill? After all, many people suffer more intensely and for a longer time than the sick. Once one accepts the moral propriety of euthanasia, the logic eventually leads to death on demand for anyone who desires to die.

Still, even I never expected full-bore death on demand to arrive in the West for another decade. I was too optimistic. A recent ruling from Germany’s highest court has cast right-to-die incrementalism aside and conjured a fundamental right both to commit suicide and to receive assistance in doing it. Moreover, the decision has explicitly rejected limiting the right to people diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities. As a matter of protecting “the right of personality,” the court decreed that “self-determined death” is a virtually unlimited fundamental liberty that the government must guarantee to protect “autonomy.” In other words, the German people now have the right to kill themselves at any time and for any reason. From the decision (published English version, my emphasis):

The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . . The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.

The court wasn’t done. The right to suicide also includes a right to assist suicide:

The right to take one’s own life also encompasses the freedom to seek and, if offered, utilize assistance provided by third parties for this purpose. . . . Therefore, the constitutional guarantee of the right to suicide corresponds to equally far-reaching constitutional protection extended to the acts carried out by persons rendering suicide assistance.

The court also opined that Germany’s drug laws might have to be changed to facilitate the absolute right to die that “the state must guarantee”:

Sufficient space must remain in practice for the individual to exercise the right to depart this life and, based on their free will and with the support of third parties, to carry out this decision on their own terms. This not only requires legislative coherence in the design of the legal framework applicable to the medical profession and pharmacists but potentially also requires adjustments of the law on controlled substances.

This is stunning and appalling: In Germany, autonomous people now have the absolute right to commit suicide and receive assistance in doing so for any reason or no identifiable reason at all. The court’s ruling is so encompassing that it seems to apply even to children capable of making autonomous decisions, since being underage is a “stage of existence.” While the court stated that minor restrictions such as waiting periods might pass legal muster—the government may also prohibit “particularly dangerous forms of suicide assistance” (whatever that means)—the German constitution now requires, literally, death on demand.

That will not be the end of it, either. One radical court ruling leads to another. The right to commit suicide could soon become a right to be killed outright. After all, everyone isn’t physically or emotionally capable of committing suicide, and homicide can achieve death more swiftly and with less discomfort than a do-it-yourself demise. Since Germany’s absolute right to assist in suicide is open-ended and not limited to doctors, why not permit friends to kill friends?

The ruling also opens the gates to social anarchy. How can the state now restrict the taking and selling of addicting drugs? Drugs may be harmful, but if an autonomous person chooses to spend their days high, how can the state gainsay that decision or inhibit the commercial providers who supply the fixes? How can the state restrict any surgical or chemical sex changes? And on what basis can the state prohibit people who identify as “transabled” (people who have body identity integrity disorder) from amputating their healthy limbs or severing their healthy spinal cords? If suicide is no longer a harm the state has a duty to prevent, how can the state thwart a person’s desire to destroy his bodily functions? Indeed, how can the state restrain any personal behavior or vice, so long as the desired autonomous act does not directly harm an unwilling other?

I am reminded of Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne’s prophetic words more than twenty years ago. Reacting to his country’s strong public support for a father who murdered his disabled daughter as a supposed act of compassion, he wrote: “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.” If we don’t change our current cultural trajectory, we will become “Germany” too. Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. His latest book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine

Pro-abortion Professor changes his mind about fetal pain

The following discussion on fetal pain does not attempt to suggest having an abortion procedure should depend upon whether or not an unborn baby can feel pain or not. Especially since there are thousands of Biology and embryology textbooks, modern DNA studies, Medical Dictionaries, Science professors and medical researchers that all confirm that life begins at fertilization. This is a scientific certainty that alone should discourage abortion. Furthermore, it is also well documented how women suffer emotionally, psychologically and in the long term physically due to choosing an abortion. This discussion of fetal pain is to share new insight on previous thought standards that are now changing because of new research on the cortex. 

British psychology professor Stuart Derbyshire and John C. Bockmann, a physician’s assistant in the U.S. Army, published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics titled “Reconsidering fetal pain.” They conclude that according to several published papers on the necessity of the cortex for pain experience may have been exaggerated, for example, one study demonstrated continued pain experience in a patient with extensive damage to cortical regions generally believed to be necessary for pain experience. A further study has demonstrated activation of areas generally thought to generate pain in subjects congenitally insensitive to pain but receiving noxious stimuli. Those two studies appear to neatly dissociate pain experience from the cortex. In conclusion unborn babies can feel pain at 18 to 20 weeks, and possibly as early as 12 or 13 weeks. 

The Science Behind Preborn Pain

Ingrid Skop, MD Obstetrician from the USA, has seen unborn babies in the womb at 16 weeks gestation, withdraw their limbs when they accidentally encounter the amnio needle as she performs the Amniocentesis procedure (a process in which amniotic fluid is sampled using a hollow needle inserted into the uterus, to screen for abnormalities in the developing fetus.)

When the unborn baby feels pain, the following can be measured in response to pain: 

  • Elevated stress hormones in their blood, 
  • heart rate increases, 
  • & blood pressure increases.

COVID-19 & another population vulnerable to infection:

According to reports by The National Institutes on Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the populations most vulnerable to the coronavirus are individuals who smoke or vape marijuana, or have a history of smoking or vaping marijuana.

NIDA reports that “Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape:”

  • A report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed data from China and found that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 was 6.3 percent for people with chronic respiratory disease, compared with 2.3 percent overall (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020).
  • NIDA also reports that vaping can harm lung health just as smoking can, and as such, people who vape can be exposed to increased risk from COVID-19.
  • In 2019, the country experienced a vaping crisis in which as many as 2,739 people were hospitalized and 68 people died (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). The more than 2,700 people who were hospitalized and suffer from residual complications associated with vaping-related lung illness are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

NIDA concludes: “We can make educated guesses based on past experience that people with compromised health due to smoking or vaping and people with opioid, methamphetamine, cannabis, and other substance use disorders could find themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 and its more serious complications-for multiple physiological and social/environmental reasons. The research community should thus be alert to associations between COVID-19 case severity/mortality and substance use, smoking or vaping history, and smoking- or vaping-related lung disease.”

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/03/covid-19-potential-implications-individuals-substance-use-disorders

https://learnaboutsam.org/covid-19-and-marijuana-what-you-need-to-know/

US PROFESSOR TO TESTIFY IN TRIAL OF PRO-LIFE DOCTOR

Lawyers for Dr Jacques de Vos, who has been charged by the HPCSA for allegedly advising a mother that her healthy 19 week unborn baby is a human being, have given notice to the HPCSA that US professor Priscilla Coleman may be called as an expert witness.

Prof Coleman, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA is a leading international expert on abortion and mental health. According to Prof Coleman, “over the past several decades, the number of peer-reviewed studies identifying adverse mental health outcomes associated with abortion have increased dramatically”.

She states that “hundreds of studies have revealed that women who choose abortion experience increased risk of mental health problems, including substance abuse, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide, among other conditions and symptoms”.

Her research offers the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world. Results (involving 877 297 participants, 163 880 of whom experienced an abortion) revealed that women who aborted compared to women who have not, experienced 81% increased risk for mental health problems. The results revealed that women who have abortions have the following increased risks: anxiety disorders 34%, depression 37%, alcohol abuse 110%, marijuana abuse 220% and suicide behaviours 155%.

After many delays on the part of the HPCSA since 2017, Dr De Vos pleaded “not guilty” to professional misconduct before a HPCSA Professional Conduct Committee in December 2019. The HPCSA prosecutor must now commence with evidence at the hearing scheduled on 2 April 2020 in Cape Town.

Dr De Vos, who is a member of Doctors For Life International (DFL) is supported by DFL and legal team (De Wet Wepener Attorneys and Adv Keith Matthee SC) on a pro bono basis. For more information contact Doctors For Life at [email protected] or 032 481 5550.

EXPERT SUMMARY OF DR CHRISTOPHER WARTON

In the disciplinary inquiry of: DR JH DE VOS

TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE

  1. I am a qualified medical practitioner having qualified in 1975 and have been registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa since 1978 Registration number MP0203882. I have taught anatomy, embryology and neuroscience to the medical students and students of the Allied Health Professions at the University of Cape Town since 1980.
  2. I have written two manuals for the teaching of Embryology which have been used extensively by undergraduate medical students at UCT in recent years.
  3. The information relating to embryonic and fetal development relevant to this case has been very well established for many years and is not a matter of the latest research.
  4. The main question posed to me to address in this opinion is whether it is reasonable for a health practitioner, in the light of her/his undergraduate education in embryology, to regard a fetus as human life when seeking to comply with “doing good, doing no harm” to a patient.

EVIDENCE TO BE LEAD:

  1. TIMING OF THE BEGINNING OF LIFE

5.1 Biologically the life of an independent human organism begins at the time of fertilization (conception). At this time its genetic code is set and as a consequence its future physical characteristics are defined with precision. Thus if one were able to read its DNA at this time one could predict its adult form as accurately as one might by examining it’s adult identical twin if indeed it had one.

5.2 The physical differences between such individuals are the result of differing environmental experiences. Clearly the organism will develop enormously over the subsequent months and years but there is no event during development which fundamentally changes it from a non-human organism to a human organism.

5.3 Various times or events of development have been used to attempt to define the initiation of human personhood for various practical reasons but the life of the organism is one seamless continuous process.

  1. THE NATURE OF A 19 WEEK FETUS

6.1 There is no specific event which defines the developing fetus as being at 19 weeks. Its heart has started to beat by 24 days of embryonic development (3 ½ weeks). Early brain development is present by 5 weeks, fingers at 7 weeks, toes at 8 weeks, early fetal movements from between 9 and 12 weeks and so on. These fetal movements may be felt by some women in their first pregnancy at 18th – 20th weeks of gestation which equates to 16-18 weeks of development of the fetus.

6.2 Different organ systems develop at different rates, partially related to when they will be needed. Thus the heart develops early as the embryo needs a circulatory system very early but lungs will only be needed after birth and so develop later.

Brain function will, of course, continue to develop for perhaps two or more decades after birth. The 19-week fetus is obviously not cognitively advanced – certainly less than a newborn, but structurally he/she has a fully human form and obvious human appearance and her/his movements are already being felt by his/her mother.

6.3 We may debate philosophically or legally her/his status but it is entirely reasonable for a person seeing such a fetus to regard him/her as a small human being. In my experience that is a normal response to seeing such a fetus.

7. In the light of the above in my opinion it is entirely rational and reasonable for a medical practitioner to view a 19 week old fetus as human life to whom she must do good and do no harm. In my experience as a medical practitioner and teacher that is a normal response to seeing such a fetus.

8. SHOULD A WOMAN BE INFORMED OF THE DEVELOPMENT AND APPEARANCE OF HER FETUS WHEN BEING COUNSELLED PRIOR TO A PROPOSED ABORTION.

8.1 It is usual when obtaining informed consent from a patient to tell them all relevant information so they can make a proper decision. It is unethical to hide from them relevant information.

8.2 If a woman has an abortion and later discovers that the fetus was more developed than she realized she could legitimately complain that her consent was not informed. It is thus entirely reasonable for a health practitioner to seek to inform such a patient of the nature of the fetus whose life is to be terminated.

9. The question of whether the fetus is born alive may be of concern to those seeking abortion. If a surgical method is adopted the body of the fetus is dismembered during the procedure and therefore it cannot be born alive. If a medical method is used the fetus may be born alive or may have died during the induced labour. A fetus born at 19 weeks cannot survive even with intensive medical care. The most common cause of its subsequent death is related to the immaturity of the lungs which makes respiration very difficult. While in the uterus the fetus may be active and this is generally felt by the mother. If born alive the newborn may have a heartbeat, breathing movements and some limb movements. It will die within minutes or a few hours.

Dr C M R Warton MBChB LRCP MRCS HPCSA REGISTRATION NUMBER MP0203882

Prof. Chris Warton to represent Doctors For Life Int. in a TV debate on abortion.

Upcoming event:

This week Thursday, 13 February 2020 Prof. Chris Warton will be representing Doctors For Life International (DFL) in a TV debate on the topic of abortion. The debate will be a live broadcast between 06:00am & 08:00am on “Groot Ontbyt” on Kyknet as well as “Groot FM”. (It’s a TV and a radio station combined)

Prof. Warton is a professor in anatomy at the University of Cape Town, and one of DFL’s longest standing members. Please tune in and support Prof Warton and DFL by sending comments to the station’s SMS and whatsApp lines below during the show.

Tune in to Groot FM Live Streaming: http://ndstream.net/grootfm/pc.htm

Comment via WhatsApp: 061 610 4576
Send SMS: 49 905

Start of Doctors For Life International Chikuluma clinic in Malawi – 2019

The process of registering Doctors For Life International’s clinic in Chikuluma Malawi started in 2017 already. The chiefs of this community gave land after DFL conducted a free medical and eye surgery campaign in this region. The need for a permanent health facility became clear and thus DFL started registration. The construction of the clinic was finalised in around October 2019.

Aid to Africa Zambezi Delta Vision Outreach

In September 2019, Doctors For Life conducted a large medical outreach to one of the most remotest areas in Sub-Saharan Africa – the vast Zambezi Delta region of about 18,000sq/km in Mozambique. The focus was curing blindness through cataract surgery but included various other types of eye surgery.

Total number of surgeries were about 136. Organisations and companies that supported DFL included: Medical Mission International, Good Shepherd Hospital, Mercy Air, YWAM (JOCUM) Marromeu, The Kingsley Holgate Foundation (through their sponsors Land Rover, Barrows and Nandos), TEREOS Sugar company in Marromeu, Surgical Opthalmic Supplies (SOS) and many ot her individuals.

A big thank you to all of them, without whom this mission would not have been possible. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the Mozambique ministry of Health, in particular the minister, as well as the Ministry of Health of the three provinces Sofala, Inhambane and Zambezia. A special thank you to the medical specialists, nurses and volunteers who gave their time and expertise to help the needy free of charge.

UNFAIR PERSECUTION OF DOCTOR WHO WANTED TO SAVE UNBORN CHILD, MUST STOP

Claims that the HPCSA Pro Forma Complainant (prosecutor) has finally provided Dr De Vos with the prescribed information for him to prepare for the HPCSA Disciplinary Inquiry on 28 – 30 October 2019, are false. Although the HPCSA sent Dr De Vos some documents on 14 October 2019, none of the documents provided are that which the Disciplinary Inquiry ordered the Pro Forma Complainant to provide no later than 30 August 2019. Dr De Vos, who is a member of Doctors For Life, has been charged by the HPCSA for advising that unborn children are human life. He has also been barred from practising for more than two years now without any form of hearing.

The information required for Dr De Vos to prepare for the hearing against him, has been requested as early as April 2018. Instead of providing the documents, the charges were withdrawn to avoid the hearing scheduled for 3 and 4 August 2018, only to be reinstated but scheduled for more than 12 months later (27  and 28 August 2019). Dr De Vos’ legal team (De Wet Wepener Attorneys and Adv Keith Matthee SC) continuously pleaded with the HPCSA to provide the information so that Dr De Vos can prepare for the hearing. On 27 August 2019, the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr A Swart ordered the Pro Forma Complainant to provide the required information not later than 30 August 2019.

The order included that the HPCSA Pro Forma Complainant was to provide Dr De Vos with:   

1.  How far was the pregnancy of the complainant?

2.  Was the pregnancy terminated?

3.  If so, what method was used to terminate the pregnancy?

4.  Copies of the statement by the complainant(s) about the allegations contained in the charge sheet.

5.  Copies of any other statements. 

6.  A copy of the written complaint addressed to the registrar in terms of section 2(1) of the Regulations Relating to the Conduct of the Inquiries in Alleged Unprofessional Conduct (Health Professions Act)

7.  Copies of the alleged pamphlets and text messages.

8.  More particularity is required as regards where and when during 2015 the alleged conduct happened.  

The HPCSA Pro Forma Complainant has only provided three statements to Dr De Vos’ legal team, some 6 weeks after the information had to be furnished.. None of the other required information has been provided.    Even if all the information is now provided, it would be so late, that it would be impossible for Dr De Vos’ legal team to prepare properly. In line with a recent Constitutional Court decision (Stokwe v Member of the Executive Council: Department of Education, Eastern Cape and Others) delivered in February 2019, the extreme delays in this hearing (all caused by the HPCSA functionaries) now render the hearing unfair.   

Doctors For Life joins the calls of thousands of people who are now calling on the HPCSA to drop the charges and to stop the grossly unjust treatment of Dr De Vos.