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Praise for death machines?

5 December 2017

nitschke and musk
​Philip Nitschke and Elon Musk. Nitschke (May 4, 2009 - Source: Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe), Musk (ullstein bild | Getty Images) 

Newsweek compares death-machine-maker Nitschke to SpaceX-founder Musk.

A Newsweek article from earlier this month has compared Dr Philip Nitschke, designer and proponent of ‘death-machines’, to renowned maverick inventor and technology magnate, Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal, and founder of SpaceX and Tesla motors.

In the headline of a review of Dr Nitschke’s work and ideology, Newsweek invites readers to "Meet the Elon Musk of Assisted Suicide". Elon Musk is prolific in the world of technology, having given a number of TED talks and public interviews on a variety of subjects, including his business ideas and his expectations for the future of travel, artificial intelligence and the internet. Newsweek reports Dr Nitschke was drawn to the issue of euthanasia by the work of Dr Jack Kevorkian as a young medical school graduate, and has since set out to develop newer and more “aesthetically pleasing” suicide machines, building on Kevorkian’s work.

Not enough palliative care

The Newsweek article was published less than a day after Ontario Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff is reported to have proposed a bill that would mandate the province to focus on improving access to hospice palliative care. The bill comes as euthanasia and assisted suicide rates continue to climb steeply across Canada, according to LifeSiteNews, due to there being "not enough palliative care to meet the need".

"The Canadian Palliative Care Association estimated only 30 percent of Canadians have access to good palliative care, and that’s simply insufficient," said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, to LifeSiteNews.

Euthanasia advocates insist euthanasia is "all about choice and autonomy, which, of course, is a big lie," he added. "But to suggest that, and not give access to good palliative care doesn’t make a lot of sense." 

"Rational" Suicide? What about treatment?

Similar problems are to be found elsewhere, including in New Zealand; David Seymour MP (Act) is optimistic his End of Life Choices Bill will be read for the first time in New Zealand’s Parliament this month. Commenting on the situation in New Zealand, columnist for local publication Stuff, Mike Yardley, writes: "At a time when Canterbury – and the wider nation – is rightly distressed about our shameful, unshakeable suicide epidemic and the clamour for effective mental health services, the notion of sanctioning assisted suicide seems crudely incongruous… legalising euthanasia would saddle New Zealand with the grey area of "rational" suicides and "irrational" ones. The Care Alliance soberly warn that it would lead young people to think suicide was an acceptable response to suffering." 

The Care Alliance brings together organisations and individuals from "a variety of different backgrounds, interests, and experiences" who "share an understanding that a compassionate and ethical response to suffering does not include euthanasia and assisted suicide" (from the Care Alliance Website).

Yardley points out that the New Zealand Medical Association is "steadfastly opposed" to euthanasia, reporting the NZMA chair, Dr Stephen Child, as observing, "Doctors were not always right in forming a patient's prognosis. 10-15 per cent of prognoses are deemed incorrect, during autopsies… the scope for error is too large given the irreversible consequences."

Already on the slippery slope

In September of 2016, the BBC reported on the first minor in Belgium to be granted euthanasia. Similarly, in the Netherlands, children can be euthanised under the Groningen protocol, and a Canadian committee of advisors to the provinces came to the conclusion that terminally ill children as young as 12 should be given the option of physician-assisted death in 2015. Children who, in their countries, can’t enter into legal contracts, get tattooed, or be licensed to drive a car may request that they be assisted in committing suicide.

In this context of relaxing safeguards, the substitution of euthanasia for palliative care, and the incongruence of a genuine concern for the depressed and suicidal with provision of suicide as a "legitimate" response to suffering, it is concerning that the inventor of 3D-printable assistive suicide devices should receive such high praise and promotion.

News in brief:

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