Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, published an essay today – April 16 – on Huffington Post. His essay uses the tragedies of elderly suicide/homicides to build a case of assisted suicide, a tactic which will be familiar to readers of this blog. Here’s an excerpt from his essay, titled “Getting the Freedom to Die“:
The issue of assisted suicide is in the public spotlight in Arizona following the sentence of probation for George Sanders, who admitted he shot his wife in response to her wishes after she was diagnosed with a gangrene infection that would require hospitalization and subsequent residence in a nursing home. After decades of suffering from a series of medical problems that eventually confined her to a wheelchair, court testimony revealed that Virginia “begged” her husband to end her life after the gangrene was discovered. People on both sides of this case have called it a “mercy killing,” and the judge agreed with a plea bargain that resulted in two years of probation for her husband instead of jail time.
This case and numerous others like it around the country, such as the tragic killing of a dying 83-year-old Pennsylvanian woman by her 86-year-old husband recently reported by Bertel King of The Inquisitor, shows why it’s time for the federal government to recognize that there is clearly a need for a dignified method of assisted suicide in the U.S. We know that in the presence of the current ban, people’s humanistic will to do what is right will lead them to break the law, sometimes in unfortunate ways such as that experienced by the Sanders.
Here is the comment I’ve submitted on Huffpo to the essay. It’s the second comment so far:
Mr. Speckhardt is parotting a campaign launched by Compassion & Choices a couple of years ago, in which they exploited the tragedy of elderly homicide/suicides. Speckhardt was more careful in choosing his examples, in that most of these homicide/suicides happen in the absence of evidence that the victim wanted to die. (It’s almost always men who do the killing, in spite of the fact that women, who live longer than men, end up as caregivers more often.)
Even so, there’s no questioning of whether or not George Sanders’ wife could have received in-home support to avoid a nursing home – or if they’d had more support, whether her gangrene could have been averted.
As I said, though, the idea that somehow an assisted suicide law would avert men killing their wives even though most don’t ask the victim if they want to be killed is ludicrous.
More about the Compassion and Choices campaign (and real research on this phenomenon) here:
Note that the link in my submitted comment is a different link than the one I posted above. That’s because Compassion and Choices kept pushing this tactic. I guess they’re getting surrogates to do their dirty work now – “dirty work” in that this tactic relies in a great deal more exploitation and distortion of available data than their usual means of selling their agenda.
Here’s a “reality check” on elderly homicide/suicides:
It turns out that mutual suicide pacts and motivations of real compassion are rare in such murders or murder/suicides. Julie E. Malphurs and Donna Cohen have conducted several studies on this increasing type of domestic violence.
Donna Cohen, in a media release from Carers New Zealand, shared some of the research findings:
“These are not acts of love. They are not compassionate homicides. They are acts of desperation and depression, other forms of psychopathology, or domestic violence.”
Dr Cohen’s research indicates that older men – who almost always initiate the acts – routinely proceed without their wife’s knowledge or consent. She says true pacts occur in perhaps one half of 1 per cent of elder homicide-suicides.
Of the hundreds of homicide-suicide deaths in the US each year, the rate amongst over 55s is twice that of under 55s. Homicide-suicides now account for about three per cent of all suicides, and about 12 per cent of homicides in the older population.
“One of our most distressing findings is evidence that older women who are killed are not knowing or willing participants,” says Dr Cohen. “Often they are killed in their sleep or shot in the back of the head or chest.”
Her research indicates that about a third of elder homicide-suicides occur in a context of domestic violence, an ugly contrast to the Norman Rockwell image of loving clan matriarch and patriarch.
Note – the last link has been fixed. It now links to a capture of the original page and story courtesy of the Internet Archive.