Andrew Denton on Assisted Dying

Earlier this month Andrew Denton presented what might be called his findings on the need for assisted dying, or voluntary euthanasia in Australia. Without this legislation one Victorian per week suicides to escape pain. Just one state. These mainly “elderly violent suicides” are composed in the book Denton released on August 10th titled The Damage Done.

Denton has travelled to Belgian, The Netherlands and Oregon where assisted dying legislation exists in law. Whilst there are differences and similarities in these laws it was what such legislation is not that is most striking to the Australian situation at present. There is no sign that the many horrors organised opponents insist will accompany such legislation exist.

No slippery slope. No sanctioned killing of the disabled, the elderly, the sick or the frail. No sign of greedy family members metaphorically marching a family member to an early unwanted demise. The legislation itself presents this from happening by ensuring the decision is that of the individual in question.

An individual must be of sound mind, enduring intolerable suffering, aware of the consequences of their decision and checked and double checked by separate, independent physicians. There are many reasons why the fear conjured by self-appointed moral guardians is simply fallacious. Not least, in their own words, organised planning to distort facts and feed the public and legislators unrealistic images as to what assisted dying would mean.

Denton presents the primary four “myths” that sustain opposition to the much needed and compassionate legislation that would see assisted dying a right in Australia. These are demolished with more than enough hard evidence gleaned from where assisted dying is legal. Furthermore these points and many more are embellished. Australians it seems, are fed deception. With over 80% in favour and under 10% in opposition to assisted dying the orchestrated abuse of power denying public will is thunderously immoral.

It’s important Australians understand that we were once world leaders in such legislation. Assisted dying existed in N.T. under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The Liberal Party’s Kevin Andrews (“a leading member of the conservative Lyons Forum, dubbed by some ‘The God Squad'”) and Labor’s Tony Burke, assisted by powerful fellow Catholic busnessmen undermined the will of the N.T. public, ultimately having the law repealed. Their harmful work continues today. 28 attempts have been made in the last 20 years to pass assisted dying legislation.

Denton argues the two politicians have “engineered” a denial of evidence. He covers this dynamic, the reality of assisted dying legislation and the importance of palliative care. A significant number of patients who meet eligibility requirements and whose cases satisfy safeguards for assisted dying ultimately do not take life-ending medication. In Oregon this figure is 40%. What this tells us is that the peace of mind that comes with knowing one has control over their end is powerful indeed.

What we often call euthanasia is not “killing”. It is assisted dying. It is dying with dignity. I do urge finding the time to listen to Denton’s material.

 – Andrew Denton: The Damage Done. The price our community pays without a law for assisted dying

© National Press Club of Australia, 10 August 2016

© ABC Lateline, 10 August 2016


Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia – because there is no law to help them.

Advertisements

‘No Jab No Pay’ Success: Government will not profit financially

It has been widely reported today that the Turnbull Government’s “No Jab, No Pay” legislation has led to an increase in childhood vaccination rates.

This is excellent news and a Parliamentary Budget Review indicates conscientious objectors are not being roundly exploited to fill government coffers. Unless of course, they choose to be.

The success of the policy means a great number of Australians who previously registered as conscientious objectors, no longer do so. Therefore they are not being denied Child Care Benefit (CCB), Child Care Rebate (CCR) or Family Tax Benefit (Part A). It follows then that the government is not guaranteed financial profit from this policy.

The policy was implemented on January 1st this year. 5,738 children whose parents had previously denied them the protection of immunisation have been vaccinated since then. Social Services Minister, Christian Porter stated that 148,000 children who were not up to date with immunisations were now meeting requirements.

The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register indicates increases in immunisation for one, two and five year olds. For one and five year olds there has been an increase from 90% to 93%. The ABC reported:

Vaccination rates had fallen to such a historically low level, that we were seeing the re-emergence of diseases that we had been free of for years,” Mr Porter said.

“Of course, that was a matter of major concern to the overwhelming majority of parents who aren’t vaccination objectors and just want their kids to be safe.

In the Parliamentary Budget Review 2015-16 Michael Klapdor and Alex Grove published ‘No Jab No Pay’ and other immunisation measures. They note that No Jab No Pay involves closing off:

… some exemptions from the immunisation requirements for eligibility for the FTB-A [Family Tax Benefit, Part A] end-of-year supplement, Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) payments stating that it was extremely concerned at the risk non-vaccinated children pose to public health. […]

On 12 April 2015, the Government announced that it would remove the conscientious objector exemption but retain the medical and Christian Scientist exemption. On 19 April 2015, Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, announced that after discussions with the Church of Christ, Scientist, their specific exemption would be removed as the Church advised it was no longer necessary.

Also reported today is that families may lose up to $15,000 per year if parents fail to have their children vaccinated. As readers may well be aware, and as is evident in the above paragraphs from the Budget Review, “failing to have their children vaccinated” would be an insistence to deny one’s children vaccine induced immunity, by remaining “conscientious objectors”.

There is no sound reason to make this choice. There never has been, and it is most regrettable that the anti-vaccine lobby has worked feverishly to further distress those who hold misguided anti-vaccine beliefs. One theme has been that the right to make “health choices” has been removed. Or, promises of court action to challenge the legislation on the back of donations scammed by The Australian Vaccination-sceptics Network. Another, that the government would profit financially from discriminating against conscientious objectors.

However a close read of Klapdor and Grove’s Budget Review shows this claim loses credibility as more children of conscientious objectors are vaccinated. Conscientious objectors make up “a minority of the total number of children not up-to-date with their vaccination schedules”. Only 20% of one, two and five year olds not up to date with vaccinations [citation]. The authors cover in depth a number of “other immunisation measures” aimed at raising and maintaining immunisation levels, and finish their review with:

Through these efforts to improve coverage rates, coupled with financial penalties for non-compliance with immunisation schedules, the Government believes that it is taking a ‘balanced “carrot and stick” approach’ to encouraging vaccination. Of course, the sizeable savings expected from the ‘stick’ element may not be realised if these policies succeed in significantly lifting childhood immunisation rates.

The question then, is what percentage of conscientious objectors does the 5,738 children vaccinated since January 1st represent? Using Klapdor and Grove’s reference we may take the figure on page iv. 14,869 children aged one, two or five years were recorded as conscientious objectors in 2012-13. Klapdor and Grove state that whilst there has been an increase in immunisation rates since 1998 overall rates have remained static in recent years [citation].

Thus with some degree of reasonable confidence we may view the 5,738 children of conscientious objectors reported by Social Services Minister Christian Porter, as a percentage of 14,869. This figure of 38.6%, in light of the historical data cited in the Budget Review, might reasonably be viewed as “significantly lifting childhood immunisation rates”, to quote from Klapdor and Grove. And as these authors reasoned a lift in immunisation rates would mean that, “the sizeable savings expected from the ‘stick’ element may not be realised”.

Thus the antivaccinationist claim that they would be exploited to fill government coffers is at this stage seemingly without merit. More to the point if antivaccinationists wish to retain their status as conscientious objectors they are making a conscious choice for financial hardship.

Immunise Australia have provided the below summary and catch up recommendations for children 10 – 19 years.

No Jab No Pay New Immunisation Requirements For Family Assistance Payments

From 1 January 2016:

  • Only parents of children (less than 20 years of age) who are fully immunised or are on a recognised catch-up schedule can receive the Child Care Benefit, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement. The relevant vaccinations are those under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), which covers the vaccines usually administered before age ve. These vaccinations must be recorded on the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR).
  • Children with medical contraindications or natural immunity for certain diseases will continue to be exempt from the requirements.
  • Conscientious objection and vaccination objection on non-medical grounds will no longer be a valid exemption from immunisation requirements.
  • Families eligible to receive family assistance payments and have children less than 20 years of age, who may not meet the new immunisation requirements, will be notified by Centrelink.
  • To support these changes, the ACIR is being expanded. From 1 January 2016, you will be able to submit the details of vaccinations given to persons less than 20 years of age to the ACIR.1. Free catch-up for children less than 10 years of ageFrom 1 January 2016, all states and territories will be providing free catch-up NIP vaccines for all children less than 10 years of age on an on-going basis.2. Free catch-up for young persons 10 to 19 years of age, of families who currently receive family assistance paymentsFrom 1 January 2016, parents who wish to immunise their children in order to continue to receive family assistance payments will have access to free catch- up vaccines for a time-limited period (1 January 2016 to 31 December 2017).

Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

Audio: Examining the anti-vax movement

Preamble…

Recently with the decision by Robert De Niro to pull the dangerous and fraudulent film “Vaxxed…”, from the Tribeca film festival, antivaccinationists have been amusingly “outraged”.

The film appears to be a collation of misleading to bogus claims, deceptively produced to appear as a “documentary”, with the aim of selling the ludicrous claim by one Brian Hooker that CDC scientist William Thompson had blown the whistle on CDC fraud. The fraud purportedly being an increase in autism in African-American boys receiving MMR “on time”. This nonsense brings us to the final card that the film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, is not only innocent of the fraud that saw him deregistered but an ethical hero “working to make vaccines safer”.

The hilarity of deceit at play here requires length and focus. The facts are examined here, here and here. This blog’s Wakefield tag is here. What has been predictable is the conduct of the anti-vaccine lobby. The film’s producer Del Bigtree reached new heights of conspiracy laden fallacy in an interview on USA’s ABC. It was “censored” (it wasn’t) because Big Pharma didn’t want “you” to see it. To accept that, one must accept the whole global Pharma-vaccine conspiracy.

Supporters believe this rot without seemingly questioning a jot. But why? How do they reach a state of intellectual helplessness and gullibility? Why are they incapable of discerning reputable information? As it turns out there are many sources discussing conspiracy theory mindsets, cognitive bias, distrust of authority and more. But for now I’ll avoid such in favour of the audio narratives below. I’m sure I’m not alone in musing about the conduct of antivaccinationists, particularly the similarities in spreading deception and abusing those who hold them to account for such dishonesty.

Here in Australia last January saw the acceptance of a PhD thesis from antivaccinationist and conspiracy theorist Judy Wilyman, by the University of Wollongong. This has rightly attracted wide criticism with respect to academic rigour as the work advances a conspiracy theory by advancing incredulous and debunked claims, citing criticised authors and works.

What is of note here is the contribution of her supervisor Brian Martin who has written that Wilyman has been unfairly attacked by critics. This is not an accurate portrayal of the intellectual and academic challenges Wilyman was met with by any means. Martin goes on to accuse Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN) of making complaints to “official bodies” and of seeking to prevent anti-vaccine talks.

This is quite true but I note that SAVN has never been so much as cautioned for vexatious conduct. Complaints are made with good reason and can only take shape thanks to the irregular conduct, or worse, of those complained about. Preventing the abuses of free speech that opponents of evidence based medicine and antivaccinationists engage in is essential to the defence of sound public health.

So what would drive an educated individual to work to enable the scurrilous conduct of his student, rather than encourage critical thought and intellectual honesty? This got me thinking of a worthy production.

Audio…

In August 2015 the BBC broadcast an inquiry, What’s behind the ‘anti-vax’ movement? [© BBC] It could dig a little deeper if we consider the abuse of grieving parents and vile threats that pepper social media. However I think the building blocks of such anti-vax conduct is presented.

  • Listen with the player below…

The four part programme features Dr. Dyan Hes, Brian Deer, Juniper Russo and Heidi Larson. The producers take the view that the so called debate surrounding vaccination has not only been settled, but in view of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud, is a misleading claim. Thus the programme is introduced with the promise that false balance will not be entertained.

Be sure to catch Juniper Russo (Part 3 – The Crunchy Mom) at the 11:15 mark. Juniper was the ideal nature loving mom from Tennessee, convinced Big Pharma had conspired to silence Wakefield. She was wired into the online anti-vax movement and chose to keep vaccines, and other awful medicines, away from her daughter. Juniper’s vaccine beliefs changed when her daughter was diagnosed with autism.

Juniper now takes an evidence based approach to lifestyle and is the author of the blog, Back From Nature.

Enjoy.

Don’t Mess With Anti-Discrimination Laws

A fortnight ago Australians learned that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was urging the federal government to set aside anti-discrimination laws during the marriage equality plebiscite. This would facilitate free speech for the “no side” which was, according to ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton, fearful of being prosecuted if they expressed their views on same sex marriage.

According to Fairfax, Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission described it as “a disgraceful way of dealing with the issue”. Suggesting the ACL failed to understand how the anti-discrimination law worked, she added. “It’s an outrageous proposition and it’s highly misguided.”

In a radio interview with Jon Faine on Melbourne’s ABC 774 Shelton raised the example of the rather unambiguously titled “Pastoral letter” Don’t Mess With Marriage (below at 1 minute mark).

… at the moment we’ve seen the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference taken to the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission because someone felt offended by a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage.

Speaking to Fairfax about the same case Shelton is quoted as saying those who argued against same sex marriage faced a “constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action”. Apparently as Shelton sees it these laws are not fair. State anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold” and thus, according to Shelton, the ACL is very concerned about fairness during the campaign.

The “gentle and respectful booklet”, as Shelton labelled Don’t Mess With Marriage was published in November last year. It points out on p.13 that:

Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to a mother and a father. And there are countless reliable studies that suggest that mothers and fathers enhance – and their absences impede – child development in different ways.

[…]

‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them.

Lyle SheltonLyle Shelton

A few pieces of this “gentle and respectful” wisdom require an entire paragraph in large font. Don’t think the fact that many children are happily raised in single parent families might get in the way of the ACL “Christian teachings on marriage”.

There is a big difference, however, between dealing with the unintended reality of single parenthood and planning from the beginning artificially to create an ‘alternative family’ that deliberately deprives a child of a father or a mother. (p.13)

Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve. (p.9)

Under a photo of a sad child staring expressionless into space with disheveled hair and wearing a singlet is the heading Consequences of redefining marriage. Large font paragraphs sum up:

But if the civil definition of marriage were changed to include ‘same-sex marriage’ then our law and culture would teach that marriage is merely about emotional union of any two (or more?) people. (p.14)

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be seen to be wholly interchangeable social constructs as gender would no longer matter. (p.14)

As always with such bigotry we’re reliably informed there is “sociological research” or simply research to back the claims. One citation mentioned on page 16 is M. Regnerus (2012): How different are the adult children of parents who have same sex relationships? His methodology and conclusions are condemned by a number of experts in this fact check from Equality Matters.

Indeed there was no comparison of same sex couples raising a family to heterosexual couples raising a family. Rather the criteria used is whether a parent had ever had a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. The parent subjects were in fact part of a failed heterosexual union. Only a minor part of the sample spent “more than a few years living in a household headed by a same sex union”.

D. P. Sullins’ Emotional problems among children with same-sex parents: difference by definition is cited. It is also the subject of Emma Green’s Using Pseudoscience To Undermine Same-Sex Parents. Green notes:

This is not a new argument. Especially in the past decade, as gay marriage has been legally recognized in many states, a small number of scholars have claimed that kids of same-sex parents are exposed to more potential harms than kids of straight parents. This, in turn, has been used to argue against gay adoption and marriage.

In 5 Things to know about the new “gay parents are bad for kids study” Democratic Underground lay out how poorly data collation was conducted by Sullins, and note a lack of controls or adjustments for ambiguous variables (Point. 2). They ask in point five, So why bother authoring a study that is very obviously flawed?

This is essentially the problem with the deeply offensive Don’t Mess With Marriage. Children are the innocent victims of same sex marriage. They are to endure a “grave injustice”. Also the booklet is sprinkled with apparently awful outcomes for individuals and institutions across the globe. Again the tone is that same-sex marriage has a victim count.

So why would any objection be raised against Don’t Mess With Marriage, if Shelton deems it “a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage”? We find out in this Australian Women’s Weekly article that the “anti-gay” scribe was handed out to Catholic school children. 56 schools in Canberra according to Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse. Students discovering sexual orientation and gender or aware they are gay attend these schools. One mum stressed she was “furious”.

Referring to “sociological research” to quietly pass the buck to justify emotionally destructive and psychologically harmful biases might be intended to lend academic integrity to organised bigotry. Yet it appears any such consensus as put forward doesn’t exist.

The American Psychological Association published a statement on June 11th 2012. It includes:

On the basis of a remarkably consistent body of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, the American Psychological Association (APA) and other health professional and scientific organizations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation. That is, lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children. This body of research has shown that the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.

[…]

In fact one study which did have the religious right unsettled was the 2014 University of Melbourne (Australia) study by Crouch et al. Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey (Full paper). Abstract Conclusions read:

Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health. Perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health. Through improved awareness of stigma these findings play an important role in health policy, improving child health outcomes

Lyle Shelton’s appeal to antiquity is one for those who love to dig through history. In defending the request for an “override” of anti-discrimination laws Shelton claimed,

…those in the “no” camp were not seeking to say anything bigoted, but to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

A History Of Same Sex Marriage by William Eskridge Jr., offers a markedly different view of marriage, history and culture. There are the fascinating accounts of fourth century Christian martyrs and Roman soldiers St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. Perhaps married lovers as John Boswell concluded – to much criticism. Or simply “made brothers” via adelphopoiesis. Or as others postulate was the Christian tradition of adelphopoiesis the ideal vehicle to allow a same sex union in all but name? Nonetheless the real answers would lie in a firm grasp of history and anthropology.

Still, it matters little what is “millenia-old”. Appeals to antiquity are regarded as logical fallacies because in all their forms they are bankrupt of evidence to persuade. Today in our present social climate the denial of same sex union requires discrimination and frequently, bigotry. Expecting “override” of anti-discrimination legislation hints at the tone of argument the conservative religious movement would like to get away with.

The ACL should be ashamed they feel justified in making such a request.