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Alex Penk, head of the Maxim Institute published a criticism of the End of Life Choice Bill in January. It wasn’t his first. Without exception, all of its published opinions on this matter closely resemble the objections found on the duplicitous “fact sheets” left inside the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton recently.

The Maxim Institute describes itself as a “think-tank”:  usually a group of credentialled individuals with complementary fields of expertise that generates recommendations based on a balance of viewpoints.  

Of balance in its articles, there was none and of the claimed “independence” even less. The entire January column was comprised exclusively of facts and opinions carefully selected to support a biased, socially conservative agenda: get rid of the End of Life Choice bill.

One of Penk’s claims used to bolster his argument that assisted dying is dangerous is that in Oregon, 55 percent of those applying for an assisted death cited “being a burden on family, friends and caregivers” as one of their reasons for doing so.  

Firstly, the independent think-tank omitted to mention the three reasons that were given greater importance. They were: loss of autonomy (91 percent), loss of ability to participate in the activities that make life pleasurable (89 percent) and loss of dignity (76 percent).

Why were these more significant reasons not quoted in our “independent think-tank’s” op-ed?   Because most of the readership would have strongly empathised with them.

Instead, they opted to quote “being a burden”, as if it were an outcome of wrong thinking, hoping the readership would understand thereby some kind of coercion by social pressure.   This in turn could be distorted into a potential “danger”.    

Secondly, one would have to wonder why someone in the “think-tank” didn’t express the thought inside of everyone’s head: “What’s wrong with not wanting to be a burden?”

Most societies raise their children to develop independence precisely so as not to be a burden on others.  The evolutionary value to a community of having as few individuals as possible dependent on others is no lesser prize than the continued survival of that community.  

No wonder, then, that “not being a burden to others” is hard-wired into our human DNA as a desirable quality. 

Alex Penk is the brother of MP Chris Penk who is diametrically opposed to assisted dying as a concept irrespective of how the legislation is written.  He seems to be trying to mislead the uninformed into imagining that the feeling of “being a burden” is sufficient to give a person access to assisted dying. 

It is not.  

The eligibility criteria are very specific.  If they are not all simultaneously present, then irrespective of motive for application, the applicant won’t even get past first base. 

The only cure for ignorance is to read the Bill.    Alex Penk, CEO of Maxim Institute hopes you won’t.

Independent? I don't think so

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