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The Exit Internationalist

June 5, 2022

Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope says Dr Anthony Latham

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Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope says Dr Anthony Latham in the Scotsman.

Not so fast says Exit International!

When an opinion piece appears in the right to life press, my tendency is usually to dismiss it.

Because it is written for a specific, one-eyed readership, it is to be expected that the arguments will be built upon lies and untruths.

But this is not the case when an opinion article appears in the mainstream press.

That is why last week’s piece in The Scotsman by retired GP Dr David Latham cannot be let pass.

Must have been quite a coup for the pro-life lobby to get the article up!

Note – Dr Latham is also Chair of the pro-life Scottish Council on Human Bioethics.

It is more than ironic that the stated first core purpose of the Council is:

‘To collect and evaluate evidence and information relating to ethical issues from which to inform public debate.’

Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope says Dr Anthony Latham

Dr Latham is entitled to be concerned about, and opposed to, assisted suicide for terminally ill people.

What he is not entitled to do – especially in The Scotsman – is to invent lies and bullshit to put his argument forward.

The following takes issue with just a few of the many untruths he puts forward as ‘facts’ in his opinion editorial.

Dr Latham opens his article with the contention that in countries where assisted suicide has been legalised, euthanasia follows soon after.

While he does not explain what he means by these terms, it can be assumed that the act of voluntary assisted dying quickly becomes non-voluntary dying.

Or does he mean that voluntary euthanasia replaces assisted suicide.

If assisted suicide means a doctor prescribing a drug that the patient must then take themselves and that voluntary euthanasia means a lethal injection, Dr Latham is wrong.

No country, state or place that has ever legislated for assisted suicide has then legislated for voluntary euthanasia. It simply has not happened.

Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope says Dr Anthony Latham

Nor has there been a slippery slope of those who seek help to die being replaced by people who do not want to die.

The slippery slope is a historic argument, long used by Christian right, to do what Dr Latham says he is not doing, namely ‘scaremongering’.

In the Netherlands, Dr Latham says that assisted suicide is now allowed for the ‘over-70s who are “tired of living”’.

A quick look at recent media would have educated the good doctor that this is precisely what is NOT (at least not yet) lawful.

Indeed on 20 May 2022, the Dutch Council of State sent the proposed legislation back to the drafters of the bill, saying that more safeguards needed to be included before the bill could come before the Dutch Parliament.

This is not just slopping writing, it is dishonesty.

Dishonesty has no place in a respected newspaper such as The Scotsman.

Dr Latham also argues that ‘increasingly, euthanasia requests in the Netherlands are from people with dementia’.

But did he bother to look at the statistics.

In 2021, around 7500 in the Netherlands received euthanasia. Of those, six had advanced dementia.

There is no tidal wave of demented people being put down in Amsterdam, no matter what Dr Latham would like to think.

And no, David, infants can’t get euthanasia in the Netherlands. You have to be over the age of 12 in the Netherlands and have your parents’ consent.

You are confusing the Netherlands with Belgium.

For heaven’s sake man, do some basic research before you put those fingers to the keyboard. Or did your secretary do the typing for you?

And, then there is the vexed issue of making a voluntary euthanasia request part of one’s advance health directive.

While a person in the Netherlands can make a written request ahead of time that they would like to receive euthanasia at an unspecified time in the future (should they become, for example, demented), this is controversial.

The case which Dr Latham refers to in his desperation to prove that this is a clear sign that the Netherlands has ‘gone too far’ actually cleared the doctor of any wrong doing.

In 2020, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that doctors can provide voluntary euthanasia to demented patients, even when the patient can no longer express an explicit wish to die.

The woman was held by her family, not the doctor. There was no forced lethal injection.

21st Century Netherlands is not Nazi Germany and to suggest otherwise, is deeply offensive.

Finally, Dr Latham is unhappy about people with psychiatric illness having access to assisted suicide.

He says these situations are very similar to “traditional suicide”.

By traditional suicide, it is intimated to the reader that we are talking about irrational suicide.

Such as when a young person jumps in front of a train or falls from a tall building?

But let us be clear, there is no comparison between a person with mental illness’ making  considered decision for a lawful, assisted suicide and the irrational act described above.

This is because the countries that allow mentally ill people to get help to die all have strict safeguards.

A mental illness does not, by definition, strip a person of their capacity to make decisions.

Assisted suicide for the mentally ill is permitted in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. It will also be permitted in Canada from March next year.

None of these countries have a slippery slope.

All of these countries mandate mental capacity as the first qualifying criteria before a person can use their end of life laws.

In my mind, this opinion article by Dr David Latham should serve as a wake-up call.

The medical profession has an exclusive pedestal which it uses to preach to the rest of us.

Sometimes this is abused.

Such blatant lying by medical professionals – even if they are retired – is a consequence of this exulted status.

Dr Latham has breached the professional standards and ethical obligations of his profession.

Whether by incompetence or malice, the outcome is the same with lies, confusion and a dumbed-down public debate.

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