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An Interview with Pascal Landa on Real Successes and Honest Failures, Bad Things in History, and Book Recommendations (Part Four)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/01


Pascal Landa is the Founder and President AAVIVRE (Association qui Accompagne la Volonté des Individus a Vivre selon leur Ethique – Association that Accompanies the Will of those wishing to Live according to their personal Ethics). He discusses: real successes in the international community, honest failures in the international community, and the ways in which people can build on the successes and learn from the failures; bad things that have happened in history; and books recommended for people interested in the right to die, dying with dignity, euthanasia, and medical assistance in dying.

Keywords: AAVIVRE, dying with dignity, early life, euthanasia, France, medical assistance in dying, religion, right to die, Pascal Landa.

An Interview with Pascal Landa on Real Successes and Honest Failures, Bad Things in History, and Book Recommendations: Founder and President AAVIVRE (Association qui Accompagne la Volonté des Individus a Vivre selon leur Ethique – Association that Accompanies the Will of those wishing to Live according to their personal Ethics) (Part Four)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let me think. In an international context, given that we have the history, given that we have the organizations, given that we have the progress in France. What have been real successes in the international community? What have been honest failures in the international community? How can people build on those successes and learn from those failures?

Pascal Landa: You are asking that question in the relationship of the right to die or in general?

Jacobsen: Yes. Right to die policies being implemented or furthered in some way.

Landa: The Oregon law, for example, and the Swiss practice and Holland practice that has now been there for the last what, 20 years, practically, those are major advances that have influenced the world. Every country, I think, today, is considering this question and understanding that this is an important issue.

We are no longer, at all, in the same situation as I remember it being in 1980. 1980, we were looking at death and dying and we were all studying Elisabeth Kübler-Ross books and fabulous reflections on death and dying.

Today, there are still some battles being fought. Look at our president of the World Federation who is being attacked in South Africa for having presumably murdered three persons while in fact, he just helped people die. Look at how hard it is in France to get legislation voted even though people have been asking for this for the last 30 years.

I am not sure how to answer your question clearly. I am just saying that there are some momentous decisions. There are some situations that have made us backtrack a lot. I am thinking of Doctor Death in America.

I believe, personally, that Philip Nitschke, for example, is not doing any good to the movement. That is a very personal feeling. He is interested in his own personal interest and his own personal glory but it is not helping the society evolve. I cannot abide by what he is doing even if his last “invention,” the death capsule, is a marketing beauty. I do not know everything he is doing, but the few exchanges I have had with him have not made me confident in his approach.

I think the Canadian government recently enacted an important law. I have cousins who are in the medical profession over there and who are saying that it is working out quite well, that people are getting to it. But again, we see that for the medical doctors trained in a “scientific way”, it is going to be a slow process for them. They were not educated for caretaking, only scientific knowledge. You must understand that medical doctors were never educated to help people die. It was never considered as part of their profession even if every doctor learned during his practice to accompany people all the way to their death.

It is like a mother raising her daughter and saying nothing about sex. Obviously, the girl must discover it by herself and it may take some time. She may have some bad experiences. The real fault is her mother not having a frank discussion with her about it. That can be dramatic. She can get pregnant without knowing that she is going to get pregnant and have consequences for the rest of her life.

The same thing with a man, a father that doesn’t tell his son that ejaculation is not a bad thing, and that becoming a person who’s copulating all over the place, you’d better well protect yourself otherwise you might get AIDS. Those are important things to tell people.

That is the case with dying with dignity. We do not teach doctors to face death, which poses big problems. We must remember doctors are human beings, first. They may be good and professional people, but if they cannot face their own death, then facing a patient who’s dying is a traumatic experience. In medical education in France, we are fighting to get doctors to have more than just a 2-hour course in 5 years on death and dying. To protect them we must limit their realm of the decision to medical decisions and not allow them to substitute themselves to their patients in deciding about treatment or care.

You might consider 3 periods for your life. One-third you are being born and growing up, one-third, you are being an adult in the achievement processes, and one-third you are declining physically heading towards death. [Laughing] That is basically what life is all about.

We can discuss and segment life much more, but really life is a series of phases in which we can live fully and each is important. I spend a lot of time working with people, helping them to understand that. This is the reason I am writing that book on the end of life. When you are 30, 40, you are in full expansion. You buy a house, you have a big house because you have got kids, you have got lots of friends coming over. When you get to be 60, 65, the kids are gone. You have this house with five bedrooms and three bathrooms, or whatever. You do not need all that. All it is is keeping you down. All those things, those things that you have around you that are just encumbering your life, you do not need them anymore. You better adapt your environment to your needs and live now if you want to live, daily, your own life. Too many live in an imagined life and not an experiential daily life of discoveries, pain, pleasure, emotions.

Younger generations know that much better. For example, they do not like old furniture. You know why? Because they can go to Ikea, buy the brand-new stuff for real cheap, and they can throw it away in 3 years and not worry about it. The new generations have learned, and are learning every day, I think, still, to get rid of stuff, to unburden their lives.

The old generations do not know that. The old generations just accumulate, accumulate, accumulate. One of my favourite statements is, “Why in the hell when I die, should I leave a bunch of shit behind me for my kids to deal with?”

Jacobsen: The Egyptians were the biggest example of this, in history, the pharaohs. They brought their slaves with them, sometimes their cats.

Landa: The Chinese, as well. Look at their armies.

Jacobsen: Right [Laughing].

Landa: To answer your question about what the biggest advance is. What is interesting in France is that you have had terrible cases, obvious cases of people suffering, and people eventually helping somebody die in a terrible situation, et cetera. Each time that those cases have come up, somehow or another, we have had legislators make a law, a good or a bad law, it doesn’t matter, but make a law to try to deal with it.

I think that is not the way to make laws. Laws should be long-term reflections and should envision all the systemic repercussions. That is why we have a lot of laws that are manipulated by rich people. When you are rich, you can have a good lawyer. If you have a good lawyer, he can have thousands of people working for him. You can always take all the texts of law and transform them because they are contradictory, and present to a judge a reading of the law that suits you. If you are poor, you cannot do that.

I think one of the biggest problems facing society today is that as we have computerized, we have become more and more complex. As we become more and more complex, we become more and more contradictory or we open loopholes for people to pass through beyond the will of the majority. Therefore, some people are getting rich on the backs of others without doing anything.

What is your next question, doctor?

2. Jacobsen: If an academic, or researcher, works on these specific topics and even potentially works with people at the end of life, what are some bad things that have, in the history, happened to their academic careers? Have they been torpedoed?

Landa: That is an interesting question. I am not sure I am competent to answer that. You are hitting the limits of my knowledge, there. I think I could answer that by taking the ball in another way. I have, in the last 30 years of working on this movement, been torpedoed by big bosses of the medical profession who have tried to ridicule me because I was a young punk, a 30-year-old, talking about something that was important. With their stature and their maturity, they simply dismissed me and I did not have the guts or assurance to tell them they were abusive.

I have had ministers basically tell me that I was a shit. Even though I am a courageous guy, and so forth, it is true that when you are 30 and you have got a 65-year-old guy who is a minister saying, “What does he know about this?” “Yes, it is true. I have only 30 years’ worth of knowledge about life. You have 65. You should know better, but you shouldn’t be such an asshole, either.” [Laughing] That is basically my encounters.

I think one of the things, to answer your question about intellectuals looking into subjects and being torpedoed initially and then veneered later.  It is true of any subject that you open and then you achieve progress in. I made my career out of doing things that IT professionals were too scared of doing. I had the intuition things could be done because I had the right human contact with the knowledgeable people, I knew sufficiently the subjects through my readings, to know that what I proposed was possible and I had perseverance and essential quality for success. I had a successful career due to that.

When Windows 95 came out, which was a brand-new operating system, I was asked if it should be deployed. Apple, up to then, was considered the most user-friendly but in 1995 had been taken over by financiers with no vision. Windows 3.11 was just a piece of shit in terms of end-user interaction, but it worked well. It was just no longer viable. I had to put people who were using Macs into a Windows environment.

I went to Windows 95 and migrated 1700 people into that environment in 6 months, even though Windows 95 only had three or four months of age and was unproven. I became a hero because of that. I did it because I knew the guys who developed 95 and I knew the tests that had been made and I had confidence, but people around me were scared as hell.

In any profession, when you go into uncharted grounds, when you go into situations where you say things that are not the common way of saying things, you get to sometimes have broken careers and sometimes be put into the cupboard.

Look at the way the people who have revealed the Panama Papers, how they’ve been destroyed, or their lives have been impaired, it was the same thing in our movement, I think. When you are honest and you say things, clearly, you are putting souls who are dishonest into bad situations and they’ll use all their power to try to get to you.

Jacobsen: Why?

Landa: Because you are undermining their power. Simple. Their stature. What does a person have? He has money, or he has recognition. If you attack one of those two elements, you are attacking the individual. You cannot help but attack the individual on those bases if he is being an asshole saying stupid things, or if he is making money off the back of people that he is exploiting. There’s just no way you can avoid it.

The biggest war tomorrow is between the rich and the poor. The rich tomorrow are going to consider that the poor are using too many natural resources, so the survival of their well-being is going to dictate to eliminate the poor. It’s a natural selection process.

Jacobsen: We see this in many contexts, just in terms of clean water, drinking water.

Landa: Absolutely.

Jacobsen: There are places like Gaza. About one million kids, 70% identified as refugees since the 1948 situation. 97% of the water is unfit for human consumption. It is contaminated. In other words, of the approximate two million people there, one million who are children, one million children are being slowly poisoned by contaminated water. That is a microcosm of probably a larger context and concern around clean drinking water.

Landa: Sure. The Jewish extremists are happy to kill off as much as they can and contain the Gaza Arabs so that they can continue their expansion. It is a war between two populations. That war is being supported by the authorities that are in power all over the world, which is completely ludicrous but that is the way it is.

Which doesn’t mean that I am against the Jews! I am Jewish myself. My name is Landau originally, but during The Inquisition in the 1470’s, and they changed it to Landa to try to avoid being killed by the extremist Catholics.

3. Jacobsen: Just being mindful of time. With respect to becoming more informed in the international lingua franca, in terms of reading, what are some articles or books you would recommend for people interested in the right to die, dying with dignity, euthanasia, medical assistance in dying, and so on?

Landa: I would refer you to Derek Humphry for all his writings. I think he covers a large spectrum. I would recommend going to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and to quite a few of the philosophers who have written on the subject, the social workers or the philosophers. Specific ones, I would not remember off hand. It depends on your culture, depends on your ability to read in different languages. I think there are thousands and thousands of books on the subject today.

I think also I would recommend films. There are some, good films at the end of life decision and why people have done it and taken it, Million Dollar Baby. Some are more big, public and big show kind of stuff, and others… but they’re all putting together this question about, “What is the meaning of life?”

I have put together in the past, and it can be found on most internet sites from associations on this subject, a bibliography for the French people. I would go to the World Federation web site WFRtD.

With the Internet today, it is so easy to get good reading material, and there’s so much of it. The problem is there’s too much of it. [Laughing] That is probably my answer to there’s too much of it, so anywhere you pick, you probably will fall, 80% of the time, on the good stuff.

Obviously, those who are more recognized philosophers, more recognized social workers, more social scientists, those who are more affiliated to a movement, probably have written most of the most accessible, easy material. The film “Jean’s way”, or Derek’s own autobiography is interesting. Finally, there is a landmark book that I would recommend. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, that is a fabulous book.

Jacobsen: How?

Landa: That is an immemorial book that one should have read as it dwells into the dimensions of life. But again, you can also read some of the religious philosophers of the 17th century, or 18th century – 18th century more likely, who have good questions about this stuff. [Laughing] It is a vast subject. What is life about?

Boudewijn Chabot wrote an interesting book on dying painlessly from hunger, another method I recommend for those who have time.

4. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Pascal.​

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder and President AAVIVRE (Association qui Accompagne la Volonté des Individus a Vivre selon leur Ethique – Association that Accompanies the Will of those wishing to Live according to their personal Ethics).

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 1, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020:


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