Two threads by me.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM, August 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) A recently retired New York Times reporter has penned a book in which she details how she followed through on a shocking pact to help her 88-year-old mother, Estelle, starve to death.
In an excerpt from the book, A Bittersweet Season, published recently in the Daily Mail, Jane Gross describes her mothers increasing dissatisfaction with life as her health deteriorated, and her mounting desire to die, despite the fact that she was not terminally ill.
So here we were, my mother and I, wishing that she were terminally ill and feeling a bit creepy about it, Gross writes about her conversations with her mother about her death wish.
Gross admits that there was no pretending I hadnt been part of her decision [to die], and had arguably even encouraged it, but argues that she made sure that her mother, with whom she had never been particularly close, was doing this for herself, and not out of a desire to spare her children trouble and expense.
Finally, after her mother spelled out the words N-O-W, Gross met with staff at the hospice where her mother was being cared for, and thus began the lengthy and grueling process of her mothers death by starvation and dehydration a process that staff had told Gross would only last a week, but that actually lasted 13 days.
As the days passed, I watched the hands of the clock from my perch in a corner of my mothers room, she writes. They seemed to have stopped moving. She soon became a curiosity, as staff stood in her doorway to watch the old lady who would not die. I accused staff of sneaking her ice cubes when my back was turned. I was twitching with impatience. I wanted my mother to hurry up and die, and was ashamed to admit it.
Finally, Gross writes, On the 13th day without food or water, my mother finally got her wish.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews (LSN), Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, expressed his sorrow at Gross account, saying, Sadly, the concept of dehydrating and starving a person death, whether it is done in a voluntary way or not, is becoming more common.
This sad article about the death of Estelle, is held up as an example of fulfilling the last request or ensuring that a persons autonomy has been maintained, he said. The fact is that Estelle was abandoned in her death.
We need to make it clear that dehydrating people to death, who are not otherwise dying, is not only an abuse of good care, but also euthanasia by dehydration, Schadenberg said. The acceptance of euthanasia by dehydration leads to the acceptance of killing the most vulnerable in society. This abuse of the vulnerable cannot continue.
Schadenberg said that Compassion & Choices, the group that lobbies for the legalization of assisted suicide in the U.S., recently published an article extolling the virtues of death by dehydration.
The suicide lobby is using death by dehydration to break down the resistance to assisted suicide, he said. It is well known that once people have experienced someone dying by dehydration that, out of compassion for the dying, they will demand death by lethal dose.
Jane Gross, a retired reporter for The New York Times, has written a book about helping her mother die. And while euthanasia and assisted suicide are deeply disturbing but hardly new concepts, something about her story is especially upsetting. Perhaps in part its because she chose to write a book about it in the first place. Maybe its because my own elderly parents are suddenly facing serious mental and physical problems that I find Gross story so repugnant.
The book, A Bittersweet Season, was recently excerpted in Britains Daily Mail newspaper. The subheading of the article read, They were never closebut then Jane agreed to help her ailing mother starve herself to death. And that shocking pact brought them together.
Janes mother, Estelle, wasnt terminally ill. She was 88 years old, partially paralyzed, and unable to speak after a series of strokes. By Janes account, she was humiliated by her helplessness. Estelle communicated her desire to die to Jane by using a cardboard alphabet chart. Together they agreed on using a process called VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking).
The nursing home staff agreed to their plan. As the days passed, I watched the hands of the clock from my perch in a corner of my mothers room, Jane writes. They seemed to have stopped moving. She soon became a curiosity, as staff stood in her doorway to watch the old lady who would not die. [It took 13 days instead of the expected week.] I accused staff of sneaking her ice cubes when my back was turned. I was twitching with impatience. I wanted my mother to hurry up and die, and was ashamed to admit it.
The positive blurbs for the book on Amazon probably shouldnt surprise me. In this day and age, such actions, and having the courage to write about them, draw praise. The Boston Globe reports, Gross writes movingly about the toll it takes on her and other caregivers. . . . [S]hes serious about documenting the often hidden workload borne by middle-aged daughters and sons. The Seattle Times praises Gross as an incisive critic of our systems and institutions. Commonweal lauds her for bringing up such a difficult topic, writing, Individuals, families, medical professionals, and our societys institutions have a pressing moral duty to reform our failing systems of care for the fragile old and dying. Jane Grosss excellent book can help us do better on all these fronts.
We can do better on this front, and it shouldnt involve twitching with impatience for someone to die.
Thread by NYer.
Note: H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra who posted this earlier this month on the 70th Anniversary of this Homily. This comes from historyplace.com which has an excellent repository of historical speeches and commentary. This homily, slightly reworded for current leaders is a commentary for our present age. For distributing copies of this homily, the Nazis beheaded three priests, but left the Cardinal alone for fear of making him a martyr. See the link for additional commentary before and after the homily. Now, the commentary and homily:
This is an excerpt of the sermon by Catholic Cardinal Clemens von Galen, delivered on Sunday, August 3, 1941, in Münster Cathedral, in which he risked his life by openly condemning the Nazi euthanasia program.
Code named Aktion T4, the Nazi program to eliminate life unworthy of life began on Hitlers order in October 1939. The program at first focused on newborns and very young children. Midwives and doctors were required to register children up to age three that showed symptoms of mental retardation, physical deformity, or other symptoms included on a questionnaire from the Reich Health Ministry.
A decision on whether to allow the child to live was then made by three medical experts solely on the basis of the questionnaire, without any examination and without reading any medical records.
Each expert placed a + mark in red pencil or mark in blue pencil under the term treatment on a special form. A red plus mark meant a decision to kill the child. A blue minus sign meant meant a decision against killing. Three +++ symbols resulted in a euthanasia warrant being issued and the transfer of the child to a Childrens Specialty Department for death by injection or gradual starvation.
The decision had to be unanimous. In cases where the decision was not unanimous the child was kept under observation and another attempt would be made to get a unanimous decision.
The Nazi euthanasia program soon expanded to include older disabled children and adults. Hitler granted the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such manner, that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable, can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death.
Questionnaires were then distributed to mental institutions, hospitals and other institutions caring for the chronically ill. A total of six killing centers were established including the well-known psychiatric clinic at Hadamar. The euthanasia program was eventually headed by an SS officer named Christian Wirth, a notorious brute with the nickname the Savage Christian.
At Brandenburg, a former prison was converted into a killing center where the first experimental gassings took place. The gas chambers were disguised as shower rooms, but were actually hermetically sealed chambers connected by pipes to cylinders of carbon monoxide. Each killing center also had a crematorium where the bodies were taken for disposal. Families were then falsely informed the cause of death was medical such as heart failure or pneumonia.
Fellow Christians! In the pastoral letter of the German bishops of June 26, 1941, which was read out in all the Catholic churches in Germany on July 6, 1941, it states among other things: It is true that there are definite commandments in Catholic moral doctrine which are no longer applicable if their fulfillment involves too many difficulties.
However, there are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one has the power to release us and which we must fulfill even if it costs us our lives. Never under any circumstances may a human being kill an innocent person apart from war and legitimate self-defense. On July 6, I already had cause to add to the pastoral letter the following explanation: for some months we have been hearing reports that, on the orders of Berlin, patients from mental asylums who have been ill for a long time and may appear incurable, are being compulsorily removed. Then, after a short time, the relatives are regularly informed that the corpse has been burnt and the ashes can be delivered. There is a general suspicion verging on certainty, that these numerous unexpected deaths of mentally ill people do not occur of themselves but are deliberately brought about, that the doctrine is being followed, according to which one may destroy so-called worthless life, that is, kill innocent people if one considers that their lives are of no further value for the nation and the state.
I am reliably informed that lists are also being drawn up in the asylums of the province of Westphalia as well of those patients who are to be taken away as so-called unproductive national comrades and shortly to be killed. The first transport left the Marienthal institution near Münster during this past week.
German men and women, section 211 of the Reich Penal Code is still valid. It states: He who deliberately kills another person will be punished by death for murder if the killing is premeditated.
Those patients who are destined to be killed are transported away from home to a distant asylum presumably in order to protect those who deliberately kill those poor people, members of our families, from this legal punishment. Some illness is then given as the cause of death. Since the corpse has been burnt straight away, the relatives and also the criminal police are unable to establish whether the illness really occurred and what the cause of death was.
However, I have been assured that the Reich Interior Ministry and the office of the Reich Doctors Leader, Dr. Conti, make no bones about the fact that in reality a large number of mentally ill people in Germany have been deliberately killed and more will be killed in the future.
The Penal Code lays down in section 139: He who receives credible information concerning the intention to commit a crime against life and neglects to alert the authorities or the person who is threatened in time will be punished.
When I learned of the intention to transport patients from Marienthal in order to kill them, I brought a formal charge at the State Court in Münster and with the Police President in Münster by means of a registered letter which read as follows: According to information which I have received, in the course of this week a large number of patients from the Marienthal Provincial Asylum near Münster are to be transported to the Eichberg asylum as so-called unproductive national comrades and will then soon be deliberately killed, as is generally believed has occurred with such transports from other asylums. Since such an action is not only contrary to the moral laws of God and Nature but also is punishable with death as murder under section 211 of the Penal Code, I hereby bring a charge in accordance with my duty under section 139 of the Penal Code, and request you to provide immediate protection for the national comrades threatened in this way by taking action against those agencies who are intending their removal and murder, and that you inform me of the steps that have been taken.
I have received no news concerning intervention by the Prosecutors Office or by the police Thus we must assume that the poor helpless patients will soon be killed.
For what reason?
Not because they have committed a crime worthy of death. Not because they attacked their nurses or orderlies so that the latter had no other choice but to use legitimate force to defend their lives against their attackers. Those are cases where, in addition to the killing of an armed enemy in a just war, the use of force to the point of killing is allowed and is often required.
No, it is not for such reasons that these unfortunate patients must die but rather because, in the opinion of some department, on the testimony of some commission, they have become worthless life because according to this testimony they are unproductive national comrades. The argument goes: they can no longer produce commodities, they are like an old machine that no longer works, they are like an old horse which has become incurably lame, they are like a cow which no longer gives milk.
What does one do with such an old machine? It is thrown on the scrap heap. What does one do with a lame horse, with such an unproductive cow?
No, I do not want to continue the comparison to the endhowever fearful the justification for it and the symbolic force of it are. We are not dealing with machines, horses and cows whose only function is to serve mankind, to produce goods for man. One may smash them, one may slaughter them as soon as they no longer fulfil this function.
No, we are dealing with human beings, our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like unproductive people.
But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?
Have you, have I the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognized by others as productive?
If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is allowed forcibly to remove ones unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously disabled, as cripples, as invalids. If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill unproductive fellow humansand even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally illthen as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.
Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other unproductive people, that it should be applied to those suffering from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the unproductive, who in their opinion have become worthless life. And no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.
Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?
He may report his patient as unproductive and receive instructions to kill him. It is impossible to imagine the degree of moral depravity, of general mistrust that would then spread even through families if this dreadful doctrine is tolerated, accepted and followed.
Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if Gods Holy Commandment Thou shalt not kill, which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken, but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go unpunished.
Cardinal Clemens von Galen August 3, 1941