Flip-flop

To use multiple inconsistent or opposed arguments to justify a position: or to change position back and forth.

Bulldust is often advanced by opponents of assisted dying law reform—a reform which most citizens want—to scare or bamboozle us against the reform.

Why is there so much misinformation about? The answer is straightforward: because so far it's worked.

More than academic niceties

This isn't just an academic argument about getting the facts right. It's a fundamental battle between different world views, where misinformation against assisted dying law reform has often held sway. Here are just two real examples:

Examples of real impacts of misinformation

  1. In Australia, in every Parliamentary debate over an assisted dying Bill before them, numbers of opposed politicians have quoted the rhetorical sham "the vulnerable will be at risk" (see why it's a sham here). With the exception of the Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1996, every Bill before Australian Parliaments has been lost or filibustered until the end of the Parliamentary term on this fearmongering. And the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was annulled by the Federal Parliament in 1997 on the same grounds.
     
  2. In Ireland, the High Court made a determination as to whether Marie Fleming, with advanced multiple sclerosis, was constitutionally allowed to receive assisted dying (Fleming v. Ireland and Ors 2012 10589 P). The court rejected Fleming's claim, saying that the "strikingly high" rates of non-voluntary euthanasia in Switzerland, Netherlands and Belgium "speaks for itself as to the risks involved". But sound research shows that the rates in these countries are similar to rates in other countries without assisted dying laws: evidence of the high degree of 'evidential' bull that was served up to their Honours.

It's time to stop the bull in its tracks

DyingForChoice.com believes it's time for the bull, the misinformation, to stop. It is unacceptable for rational citizens to be denied freedoms on the basis of scaremongering and erroneous information. This is the purpose of the F files. It provides citizens, politicians, policy advisors, healthcare workers, media professionals, researchers and others the evidence, arguments and resources to be properly informed and to avoid misinformation.

 

The F Files

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The F files
 

The public conversation about assisted dying law reform has been influenced by misinformation from opponents for far too long. Often, misinformation is simply given in ignorance, but sometimes not. It is mandatory that a conversation as important as assisted dying for those suffering at the end of life is informed by accurate information and evidential and reasoned views. Arguments that deceive or attempt to shut down the conversation have no place.

Whether misinformation is Fearmongering, Filibuster, Flip-flop, Flapdoodle, Fudge, or Fiction or Faith, the F files identifies misinformation and those who are providing it.

You can help by sending records of misinformation claims to us, and asking claimants to correct the errors.

 

Fundamental forms of misinformation

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Fearmonger

Represent something as considerably more sinister or dangerous than it is when judged by objective criteria.

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Filibuster

Artificial and overly-lengthy process used in an attempt to stall or block a political outcome.

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Flip-flop

Multiple inconsistent or opposed arguments used to justify a position.

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Flapdoodle

An argument that superficially seems intuitively attractive, true or real, but is in fact meaningless or nonsensical.

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Fudge

Unscientific analysis (e.g. selective data) used to support an argument that is not supported by proper, full analysis.

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Fiction

A thing that is untrue, or invented or feigned by imagination with no sound or verifiable evidence.

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Faith

An argument that all others should adhere to a particular religion's values, tenets and rules.

 

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Medical group Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice has sent a letter of complaint, criticising the RACP executive for unilaterally cancelling its invitation to Dr Rodney Syme to address its annual Congress.

Dr Arnold Gillespie heads a list of more than sixty doctors who have signed a letter of criticism and censure sent to the Board and Executive of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, in response to their insulting and controversial flip-flop on Dr Rodney Syme giving a key address at its 2015 Congress. This is the letter.

 

Dr Catherine Yelland
President-Elect and Acting President
Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and
Executive Royal Australasian College of Physicians

 

Dear Dr Yelland and Executive RACP

The homepage of the RACP Congress in May 2015 proudly proclaims that the title of the Congress is “Breaking Boundaries Creating Connections”.  It is claimed that the “Diverse Program” will provide opportunities for delegates to” Interact debate and connect”.

The intent of the title of the Congress is amplified a little lower on the page by the statement that “In 2015, we are building on the past theme of Future Directions in Health, and moving forward to reinvigorate Congress and challenge delegates to break boundaries and create connections”.

 More specifically under the heading of “What to Expect”, is the statement” Expand your thinking on gender identity, refugee health, indigenous health, ageing physician and end of life care”.

We hope that the Congress is a successful learning and development experience for delegates and we wish the College success in its aims of moving forward and expanding thinking in the areas of gender identity, refugee health, indigenous health and the ageing physician.  We are certain that the expansive aim will not be achieved in relation to end of life care.  It seems that in this area a decision, more in keeping with a totalitarian authority than a group committed to breaking boundaries and encouraging debate, has been made and instigated. We refer of course to the very late removal from the program of Dr Rodney Syme, an invited speaker.  The theme of Dr Syme’s presentation was to be a discussion of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of palliative care, based on published material. 

It has been claimed that this action was taken because of considerable discontent amongst Fellows of the College regarding Dr Symes’s presentation.  Neither the magnitude of the dissent, nor the composition of the dissenting group, has been clarified.  Clearly the dissenters were not willing to countenance any discussion that might encourage them to move forward, break boundaries, nor even to interact and debate.  Are they so insecure in their beliefs that they are unwilling for them to be challenged openly?  If this is true, why has the Executive of the College acquiesced to a group which has prohibited free thought and whose actions should be anathema to a College which states on its homepage that it is “...striving for excellence in health and medical care through lifelong learning, quality performance and advocacy”?  Only the Executive knows the answer to this question, but it is not only the Executive which bears the burden of the action.  The integrity of other members of the College committed to practicing medicine in accord with the motto of the College has been tainted by those whom they had elected to be their public representatives. 

We are dismayed that this intellectually restrictive act could be perpetrated by our fellow medical practitioners, in Australia, in the 21st century and are appalled by the discourtesy shown to an invited speaker whose credentials in end of life care are widely admired.

Yours sincerely

Associate Professor Arnold Gillespie
For Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice
and 63 other signatories.

 


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The Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) invited reasoned and measured assisted-dying doctor, Dr Rodney Syme, to address its annual conference in Cairns, and then unceremoniously pulled the plug. Cowardice? Flip-flop? You bet.

In February this year, Dr Syme says he was approached by a member of the the RACP 2015 Congress committe to attend and deliver a paper to the annual conference, in Cairns 24-27 May. The title of his paper was "Caring for those at the end of their journey." Dr Syme accepted the invitation and spent considerable time and effort preparing and polishing his paper. He was quite clear that a polemic on assisted dying was not suitable for this occasion, and wrote a paper discussing the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of palliative care: in other words, as is well-established, that despite the excellent quality of pallaitive care in Australia, it simply can't relieve the intolerable suffering of all dying patients. In any case, it would be unrealistic to expect palliative care to be perfect: we live in an imperfect world.

Dr Syme has been in the news recently in regard to providing medication and advice to Mr Ray Godbold, who is dying of advanced gatroesophageal cancer. The medication and advice gives Mr Godbold control over the end of his life.

Then, the RACP dropped a bombshell on 8th May. It unilaterally cancelled Dr Syme's invitation. It claimed to have done so in response to complaints by palliative care specialists.

Given that the RACP congress is titled "breaking boundaries, creating connections", and promises delegates a "diverse program" that facilitates "interaction and debate", this is an appalling development.

Dr Syme responded that:

  1. I personally feel deeply insulted.
  2. I regard the behaviour of those at the highest level of the college, an academic institution of high repute, as being less than expected of an academic body.
  3. For the college to surrender to “significant disquiet” from an unknown and undisclosed number of members in this way is cowardly.
  4. The Lead Fellow who invited me was incensed at the College’s reaction.
  5. The outcome is an act of academic censorship of the worst kind – they did not know the content of my address.
  6. It illustrates the extreme depths to which those opposed to open debate on an important medical and social issue will descend to stifle debate.”

I'm not surprised by that view. If palliative care specialists (and/or others) do not believe Dr Syme's points to be valid or defensible, then let him put them, and then rebut them. To reneg on the original invitation because someone might disagree is academic censorship.

That the RACP would stoop to such insulting flip-flop is not a great endorsement of their stature as an esteemed medical body.  It's time we had open and frank debate about end-of-life matters. Of course there will be disagreements—that is the point of debate.

The RACP owes a full explanation to both Dr Syme and to medical colleagues throughout Australia as to how many people demanded Dr Syme's invitation be withdrawn, and precisely on what basis, not merely that "they might not have liked what Dr Syme may  have to say."

Mr Marshall Perron, former Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, wrote the following to the RACP:

As a supposedly professional body the [RACP] organisation should encourage open and honest discussion on issues of great interest to our ageing citizens.  Instead you demonstrate a cowardly approach of which you should be ashamed.

 

 


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