THE PROGRESSION OF DEATH RHETORIC

Me

Rhetoric can be used to convince people of either truth or falsehood. Purveyors of the “right to die” are like the snake oil salesmen of old. These groups all make claims that appeal to the emotions, but that are not backed by facts. They use nice sounding words like rights, compassion, dignity, self-determination, and choice, but every one of them sprang from the Euthanasia Society of America and the Hemlock Society—deadly names for deadly organizations. They know their agenda won’t sell if accurate language is used, so they continually change their names and rhetoric to peddle imposed death.

1938The Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) was founded to promote legalization of both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, but was unsuccessful in changing laws until changing tactics in the 1960s.
1967ESA established the Euthanasia Educational Council (EEC) which introduced the “Living Will,” a document drawn up by lawyer Luis Kutner and regarded by ESA as the first step toward winning social and legal acceptance of euthanasia.
1969The Indiana Law Journal published Kutner’s “Due Process of Euthanasia: The Living Will, A Proposal.” Kutner, spelling out the “right to die” agenda, presented the living will as “limited in its initial creation to adult patients who are capable of exercising their will” and as a means to “permit inaction termination of a patient’s life.”
1975ESA changed its name to the Society for the Right to Die (SRD).
1976The California “Natural Death Act,” the first Living Will law in the U.S., was enacted.
1979EEC changed its name to Concern for Dying (CFD) and split from SRD.
1980Derek Humphry founded the Hemlock Society (HS) to promote death-on-demand—both euthanasia and assisted suicide. (Hemlock was the poison used in ancient Greece for executions and state-approved suicides.)
1986 At a conference named “A New Ethic for the New Medicine,” the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs endorsed imposing death by starvation and dehydration: “Even if death is not imminent, but a patient’s coma is beyond doubt irreversible...it is not unethical to discontinue all means of life-prolonging medical treatment (including) medication and artificially or technologically supplied respiration, nutrition and hydration.”
1987 32-year-old Nancy Ellen Jobes—who, according to the testimony of two neurologists, was aware and responsive—died of starvation and dehydration after the NJ Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that surrogates may refuse medical care without clear evidence of a patient’s wishes. Within a few years, similar court decisions would set “right to die” precedent in a number of other states.
1990 The U.S. Supreme Court, in its first termination of food and fluids case, Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, upheld Missouri’s requirement that there be “clear and convincing evidence” of an incompetent patient’s wishes. Nevertheless, 33-year-old Nancy Cruzan is starved and dehydrated to death after a lower court finds new evidence—an alleged conversation she had 12 years prior—to be “clear and convincing.”
1990The federal “Patient Self-Determination Act”—forcing healthcare providers to promote Living Wills—was enacted. Most states had already enacted Living Will laws. (By 1994, all states would have advance directive laws.)
1991SRD and CFD—having merged in 1990—renamed themselves Choice in Dying.
1991The influential New England Journal of Medicine lent an air of legitimacy to physician-assisted suicide (PAS) by publishing Dr. Timothy Quill’s article detailing how he assisted the suicide of a 45-year-old woman with leukemia. He would be neither convicted for this criminal act nor held accountable for his breach of medical ethics.
1993Compassion in Dying (CID), an HS spin-off, was created to provide information and assistance to sick people who want to die and to promote so-called “aid-in-dying” laws.
1994Oregon voters approved the “Death With Dignity Act” and the Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) was born. The DDNC works alongside CID promoting PAS laws in other states.
1997Dr. Timothy Quill, the lead plaintiff in Quill v. Vacco, challenged laws against PAS as being “unconstitutional.” This case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Quill.
1997After wending its way through court challenges and another popular vote, Oregon’s assisted suicide law took effect—doctors legally began to write prescriptions for suicide.
1997Last Acts, a coalition of more than 100 prominent organizations, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was established purportedly to improve the quality of end-of-life care. (“Improving care” is often code for hastening death.)
1999Choice in Dying became Partnership for Caring (PFC). PFC managed the Last Acts program.
2003HS started End of Life Choices, a political action committee, in Denver, CO.
2004Final Exit Network (FEN) was started by disgruntled former HS and End of Life Choices members, including HS founder Derek Humphry. FEN counsels people on ending their lives and its “exit guides” have attended hundreds of suicides.
2004PFC—tracing its roots back 66 years, through numerous name changes, to the ESA—merged with Last Acts to form Last Acts Partnership, which soon folded. Its assets went to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the largest organization representing Hospice and Palliative Medicine programs and professionals in the U.S. The President and CEO of NHPCO (2002-2016), J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD, also served as PFC’s Vice-Chair for Public Policy. Thus, the Euthanasia Society of America’s agenda infiltrated Hospice and Palliative Care.
2005On 3/31, Terri Schiavo died by starvation and dehydration in a Florida hospice after exhaustive efforts by her parents, siblings, disability rights and pro-life groups, and individual concerned citizens failed to overturn a FL judge’s decision that Terri’s husband could order her food and water stopped.
2005Compassion in Dying and End of Life Choices joined to form Compassion & Choices (C&C). C&C describes itself as “working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life,” but its actual efforts have been directed at only one “choice”—suicide. C&C facilitates PAS deaths and vigorously leads campaigns to legalize PAS in state after state along with the DDNC.
200814 years after OR legalized PAS, WA became the second state to succumb when voters approved the “Death With Dignity Act.”
2009The Montana Supreme Court created a defense for a physician charged with assisted suicide, but prosecutions still remain possible in MT.
2013The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine included Dr. Timothy Quill, a board member of the DDNC in Oregon, on a list of “Hospice and Palliative Medicine Visionaries.” Quill, proponent and self-admitted perpetrator of assisted suicide, was celebrated by his HPM peers as a visionary. Frightening!
2013–16Three more states and the nation’s capital succumbed to the seductive rhetoric of “right to die” activists: VT (2013), CA (2015), CO (2016), Washington, DC (2016). PAS laws are hyped with words like choice, options, control, and dignity, which all sound good for patients. But what these laws really do is protect doctors, like Timothy Quill, who provide lethal drugs to suicidal people with no oversight.
2017The “visionary” Dr. Timothy Quill again sought to overturn NY’s law against assisted suicide as a plaintiff in Myers v. Schneiderman—a case initiated by End of Life Choices New York. In September, NY’s highest court, in a unanimous decision, thwarted his vision by finding no constitutional right to assisted suicide: “As to the right asserted here, the State pursues a legitimate purpose in guarding against the risks of mistake and abuse. The State may rationally seek to prevent the distribution of prescriptions for lethal dosages of drugs that could, upon fulfillment, be deliberately or accidentally misused.” Yes, indeed.