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Some years ago I was sitting in the High Court of Appeals in London listening to a euthanasia case. Part of the evidence was that the man had paid a call at the offices of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, in Chelsea. All he got there was information, certainly not assisted death. The defendant’s lawyer argued that surely this was not sufficient this grounds to support a conviction of his client?

To which the judge replied: “When I want fish, I go to a fish supplier. When I want euthanasia I go to a euthanasia office. ” The appeal was denied.

This court cameo occurred to me when I surveyed all the name changes in the world right-to-die movement recently. There is a rush to make their organization’s names more palatable, more acceptable to politicians and governments.

But is it doing any good?

In the last three years, the following have euphemized their names. To what benefit remains to be seen. It has certainly confused a lot of the rank and file supporters of the ‘right-to-die’ movement. I know from experience that it has caused many to abandon their memberships, although not their philosophy of choices in dying.

1. Hemlock Society USA changed name to End-of-Life Choices. 2003. (Considered more palatable name.)

2. End-of-Life Choices changed name to Compassion in Dying (upon merger) 2004.

3. Compassion in Dying changed name to Compasion and Choices (to complete merger.) 2004

4. Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Victoria (Australia) changed name to Dying With Dignity – Victoria. 2005

5. Voluntary Euthanasia Society (London) changed name to Dignity in Dying. (Considered more acceptable name) 2005

6. N V V E (Netherlands) changed name to Right to Die NL (because euthanasia has been legalized) 2005

The re-named London group (Dignity in Dying) has got protests from palliative care groups [hospice], and others (mostly opposed to euthanasia anyway) that because the new name indicates the same compasionate philosophy as theirs, thus it could cause confusion among patients.

Most people don’t even think about ‘euthanasia’ (a generic term for all peaceful, hastened deaths) until they or a loved one has a life-threatening illness. And now they must search around the lists of various organizations with ‘Dignity’ in their titles and find out which is the one they feel they need to know about.

Derek Humphry. His opinion. 29 May 2006

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