Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Australia's Dr Death, Philip Nitschke, to lose medical license.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Philip Nitschke, Australia's Dr Death, stated in an email update today that the Australian Medical Board plans to de-register his medical license on Thursday, July 24 at midnight.

The decision by the Australian Medical Board to de-register Nitschke is related to several complaints that were filed against him especially the recent complaints that were filed in relation to the suicide death of Nigel Brayley (45) who was healthy, but depressed after being investigated in the murder of his wife.

The issue related to the death of Nigel Brayley began with an article published by ABC news Australia titled: Families and friends concerned about who's being advised by euthanasia advocate Dr Nitschke which uncovered the controversy related to Nitschke advising Brayley on how to commit suicide.

Paul Russell
The article was followed by a media release from Paul Russell, the director of Hope Australia demanding a national inquiry into the suicide deaths associated to Nitschke's work promoting suicide.

Russell is also the Vice Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International

published an article comparing the current news stories related to Brayley's suicide death to previous news stories related to other Nitschke related deaths.

Paul Russell followed up with an article, the next day, reporting the response of suicide prevention groups, BeyondBlue and the Black Dog Institute to the comments by Nitschke related to the death of Brayley.

The Chairman of BeyondBlue and former Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett referred to Nitschke's actions as a gross breach of the Hippocratic Oath while stating:
"As a long-time supporter of euthanasia for the terminally ill, for those for whom the dignity of life has been lost, and under special conditions, I believe Dr Nitschke's latest act has crossed the line of decency and professional conduct. ... 
"I trust the appropriate Medical Board or Boards, and Governments will move quickly to investigate Dr Nitschke's latest act. He has done society a great disservice, and in my opinion should no longer be registered to practise as a medical professional."
Jeff Kennett
A few days later, Kennett and BeyondBlue, issued an official complaint to the Australian Medical Board. In the official complaint Kennett stated:
Dr Nitschke has coined the phrase “rational suicide” to attempt to justify his recent action. There is no such thing as a “rational suicide”. 
What he has supported is death. The taking or ending of a life. Some might even say murder of an able-bodied Australian who was in need of professional help. 
Dr Nitschke has also inferred that anyone of sound mind should have the right to end their lives, regardless of age or condition. How totally reprehensible! Unacceptable.
It goes against everything we at beyondblue and like organisations and governments are working to deliver, a much lower suicide rate.On Thursday, July 17, Paul Russell wrote another article announcing that Philip Nitschke had 48 hours to defend being struck off the medical board.

The Australian newspaper reported that Nitschke defended his actions before the Medical Board of Australia on July 21 by claiming that Brayley was not a patient but was a "serial killer" that was determined to commit suicide because the police were on to him.

Dutch pediatricians want to legalise euthanasia for children under 12 years old.

This article was originally posted on the Living with Dignity blog on July 14, 2014.

Belgium adopted euthanasia for children a few months ago. Anneke Stoffelen tells us in Volksrant that pediatricians in the Netherlands now suggest legalizing euthanasia for children under the age of 12. This suggestion is particularly worrying because the decision for euthanasia would be made by doctors and parents, without needing the consent of the child. We are talking about legalizing involuntary euthanasia.

The Netherlands currently allows euthanasia of newborns (up to the age of one year old). And children over 12 years old are considered competent to make that decision. If they are between the ages of 12 and 16, they must have the permission of a parent to agree to euthanasia.

Of course, they always talk about euthanasia being only for people who are seriously ill, or who have serious birth defects. But there are many abuses of the rules of legal euthanasia in the Netherlands, such as the case of the 45 psychiatric patients euthanized last year. No safeguard can truly ensure that there will be no abuse.

Dutch Professor of Pediatrics Eduard Verhagen said: 
"We all do it, so why draw the line for children up to 12 years old?"
One can find some logic to his argument. In fact, those who support euthanasia in Quebec have already used a similar argument and asked to include minors and incompetent people in Act 52. They used the argument that to exclude these groups would be discriminatory, and would constitute an incomplete answer to the original question.

This indicates that the expansion of laws permitting euthanasia is inevitable. We must stop it before it starts.

Links to similar articles:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Ethics of Food and Drink: Starvation is not Mercy.

Wesley Smith
y Wesley Smith - Published in the Weekly Standard, (Link)

July 28, 2014 edition.

Should the law compel nursing homes to starve certain Alzheimer’s patients to death? This is not an alarmist fantasy, but a real question, soon to be forced by advocates of ever-wider application of assisted euthanasia. The intellectual groundwork is already being laid for legislation or court orders requiring nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to withhold spoon feeding from dementia patients who, though they take food and drink willingly, once requested the withholding of life-prolonging measures in an advance medical directive.

Consider the Bentley case in Canada. A lawsuit was filed in 2013 in British Columbia by the family of an Alzheimer’s patient named Margot Bentley. Bentley had signed an advance directive instructing that she be refused life-sustaining treatment—or be euthanized—if she became unable to recognize her children.

Bentley is now in that lamentable condition. But she doesn’t need life-sustaining treatment like a respirator or feeding tube, and she willingly takes food and water by mouth. Moreover, euthanasia is illegal in Canada. Thus, there is no legal way of making sure she dies immediately.

Margot Bentley
Bentley’s family thinks this is unjust and asked a court to order her nursing home to starve her to death. The trial court refused, in part because Bentley’s advance directive did not specifically reject spoon-feeding. The case is now on appeal. Of all the current litigation aimed at undermining the sanctity of human life, this may be the most dangerous. If successful, it would open the door to what I call VSED-by-proxy. Let me explain.

Suicide itself is not illegal, and patients have long enjoyed the right to refuse medical treatment, even if their refusal hastens death. For decades, moreover, courts have deemed artificial nutrition and hydration to be medical treatment. Removing or withholding unwanted feeding tubes and respirators is a routine part of contemporary medical practice. But euthanasia advocates want more. They argue that people who don’t require medical treatment to remain alive also have a “right to die.”

Already, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont allow assisted suicide: Doctors may prescribe lethal drugs for patients expected to die within six months. Some activists urge that elderly people who are “tired of life,” those with disabilities, and the chronically ill should also have a legal means of obtaining help to end their lives. Here’s how the assisted-suicide advocacy organization Compassion & Choices makes the case in one of its booklets:

Some call us because they feel overwhelmed by the symptoms of chronic and progressive illnesses that fill their days with misery and suffering. There are also those who may not be seriously ill but are simply “done.” After eight or nine decades of life, they want information about ways to gently slip away in a peaceful and dignified manner.

Regardless of their clinical circumstances, these individuals share a common desire to maintain autonomy over their own end-of-life decisions. They want to die as they have lived, making the important decisions that affect their lives with collaboration and support from trusted healthcare providers, family members and other caregivers.
People like these are prime candidates for suicide by voluntary starvation, known in euthanasia parlance as “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” (VSED). A person commits VSED by refusing all sustenance. To ensure that death is not impeded, the suicidal person leaves instructions explicitly refusing any medical intervention to nourish them. Because VSED can cause agonizing symptoms, advocates suggest that the suicidal person find a sympathetic doctor or hospice to provide pain relief.

(It is important to distinguish here between VSED and the point in the process of dying when a patient naturally stops taking food and drink. This is not suicide, and starvation is not the cause of death. Indeed, in such cases it is medically inappropriate to force food upon the patient.)

But what about a Margot Bentley —someone suffering from dementia, who eats and drinks willingly, but who once signed an advance directive calling for the withholding of treatment? Some bioethicists—reflecting the mix of utilitarianism and autonomy-worship that predominates in the field—have leapt to support VSED-by-proxy. Writing in the May-June 2014 Hastings Center Report, Paul T. Menzel and M. Colette Chandler-Cramer argue for allowing people to use an advance directive to order themselves starved if they become incompetent:

Such directives are .  .  . arguably already legal. They follow logically from the intersection of two existing legal rights: directives for refusing life support and VSED. The principle behind [advance medical directives] is that people do not lose their rights when they become incompetent; someone else just has to exercise those rights for them. 
The driving element behind VSED is that forcing people to ingest food is as objectionable an intrusion on bodily integrity, privacy, and liberty as imposing unwanted medical treatment. Thus, if incompetent people do not lose their rights to refuse life-saving treatment, then people do not lose their right to VSED when incompetent either.
This is rank sophistry. Even today, the courts do not deem spoon-feeding to be medical treatment. It is basic, humane care—no different ethically from turning a patient to prevent bed sores or providing hygiene. Just as an advance directive instructing that a patient not be kept clean should be disregarded, so should an order to starve a patient.

Second, VSED is suicide. Legally requiring nursing homes to commit VSED-by-proxy would be forcing them to kill—and to kill cruelly. A legal regimen that did this would drive many doctors and nurses out of medicine.

Third, even in the states where assisted suicide is legal, the person being helped by a doctor to die has to be capable of making decisions. Demented patients are incompetent.

Finally, in cases such as Bentley’s, the patient is not being force-fed. She is taking nourishment willingly.

Some ethicists are dismissing this last objection. Thaddeus Mason Pope in the Spring 2014 Journal of Clinical Ethics argues that Margot Bentley should be starved because she is now incompetent and thus is legally unqualified to change her mind about dying.

National Euthanasia Symposium 2014

October 4, 2014 (9:00 am - 5:00 pm)
Registration Fee: $99 regular, $79 for Students/Persons with disabilities.
Registration includes lunch and refreshment breaks.

Speakers include: 

  • Gerbert van Loenen - author of the book: What happens once euthanasia has become legal, an experience from the Netherlands.
  • Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Not Dead Yet UK.
  • Amy Hasbrouck - Toujours Vivant / Not Dead Yet Québec.
  • Nic Steenhout - Vivre dans la Dignité (Living with Dignity) Québec.
  • Michel Racicot - Lawyer, Physicians Alliance Québec.
  • Hugh Scher - Legal Counsel, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
  • Alex Schadenberg - Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
  • Diana Ford - A personal story about the death of her father.

At the Best Western Plus Gatineau - Ottawa Hotel 
131 Rue Laurier, Gatineau QC.
(less than 1 km from downtown Ottawa)
Book your room for $120 per night at: 1-800-265-8550. Password: Euthanasia Symposium.

Register for the Euthanasia Symposium by contacting EPC at: 1-877-439-3348 or by emailing EPC at:

A donation of $79 will enable a student / person with disabilities to attend the Symposium.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Baroness Jane Campbell: Assisted suicide could lure me to the grave.

Last Friday, the UK House of Lords debated the Falconer assisted suicide bill, a bill that would legalize assisted suicide in a similar way to the Oregon assisted suicide law in the US.

Jane Campbell
Sign the petition against the assisted suicide bill in Britain.

In an article published in the Daily Mail, it was reported that Baroness Jane Campbell who lives with spinal muscular atrophy told her peers that assisted suicide:
'offers no comfort to me - it frightens me.' 
'I did not ask it and I do not want it, but it is about me nevertheless.'
Baroness Campbell spoke about the difficult times in her life. She told the House of Lords:
that in moments of despair, she might be tempted to ask for assisted dying - and if the law changed, doctors would not stop her. 
'It frightens me because in periods of greatest difficulty I know I might be tempted to use it. It only adds to the burdens and challenges life holds for me.'
In response to the criticism that she would not qualify under this assisted suicide bill, Campbell stated:
'Before anyone disputes this, imagine that it is already law and that I ask for assistance to die. 
'Do your Lordships think that I would be refused? 
Tanni Grey-Thompson
You can be sure that there would be doctors and lawyers willing to support my right to die.'
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, refuted in her speech the comment that only 80 people die each year by assisted suicide in Oregon. Grey-Thompson, a paralympic star stated:
Oregon has only 3million people, if the same trend was replicated in the UK some 1,600 people a year could take their own lives in doctors’ surgeries or Dignitas-style clinics.
The Daily Mail article then reported on the speech by Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was paralysed by an IRA bomb. Tebbit said that in moments of despair his wife has stated:
“I would be better dead so that you could get on with your life.”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why euthanasia pioneers are changing their minds.

This article was written by Licia Corbella and published in the Calgary Herald.

Licia Corbella
By Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald columnist - July 18.

Recently, an influential and vocal supporter of euthanasia in the Netherlands changed his mind.

Theo Boer, who not only supported euthanasia, but was a member of one of five Dutch regional euthanasia review committees for nine years — which approved thousands of deaths — now admits that he “was wrong — terribly wrong.”

"I used to be a supporter of legislation. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a different view,” writes Boer (whose column was published in the Herald on Friday, but was originally written for the Daily Mail in the U.K.) to urge British people to not head down the same “slippery slope” that the Netherlands has skated down at an alarming speed.

The numbers of Dutch residents who are seeking euthanasia “show an increase of 15 per cent annually, year after year,” complains Boer.
Theo Boer

“Euthanasia is on the way to becoming a default mode of dying for cancer patients,” he wrote.

Most troubling to Boer is the latest development in which the Dutch Right to Die Society, NVVE, has established a network of mobile euthanasia clinics, with the sole purpose of killing people who ask to die. “Doctors of the End of Life Clinic have only two options: administer life-ending drugs or send the patient away,” writes Boer.

In other words, don’t bother to seek anti-depressants or receive some grief counselling. It’s death or nothing. Nice. The new face of compassion.

In the first years after euthanasia became legal in the Netherlands in 2001, “hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia were killed by their physicians, but those “numbers are now sharply on the rise,” states Boer.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Public support for Assisted Suicide in the UK drops to 43% when arguments against are heard.

This article was written by Dr Peter Saunders and published on his blog on July 18.

Peter Saunders
By Dr Peter Saunders

There is ample poll data showing that the majority of the British public support legalising assisted suicide (AS) in principle.

The former Voluntary Euthanasia Society (now rebranded Dignity in Dying) claims a figure of 80% although I have previously argued that such levels of support are uncommitted, uninformed and unconvincing.

However, there has been very little poll data gauging public attitudes in light of the various empirical and rational arguments against AS. That is, until now.

An extraordinary new poll has demonstrated that public attitudes change dramatically once some of the key practical implications of AS are considered.

In a new Comres/CARE poll published today and reported by the Daily Telegraph respondents were presented with the following scenario:
‘A new Bill is due to be debated in the House of Lords which is designed to enable mentally competent adults in the UK who are terminally ill, and who have declared a clear and settled intention to end their own life, to be provided with assistance to commit suicide by self-administering lethal drugs. Two doctors would need to countersign their declaration and be satisfied that the person has a condition which cannot be reversed by treatment and is reasonably expected to die within 6 months. In principle would you agree or disagree with this proposal?’
73% agreed (38% strongly), 12% disagreed and 14% were in the ‘don’t know’ category.

So far there’s nothing that surprising. It would be odd for people not to be moved by some of the tragic stories of the ‘hard cases’ and to say they support a means of alleviating such suffering.

But then those who supported AS in principle were asked which of the following arguments would make them change their minds. Each statement below was randomised throughout the survey in order to assess which argument moved opinion the most.

The answers were truly astounding.

Overall 42% of those who originally supported the bill changed their mind on the basis of at least one of the arguments.

When these were added back into the original sample, aggregating all who opposed as a result of the arguments put to them, and incorporating all who still supported AS having heard each argument, they found the following:

43% support AS, 43% oppose it and 14% don’t know.
So hearing the arguments against AS causes support for AS to collapse from 73% to 43% - that is, to less than half!

Here are the arguments with the percentage change each cause on those who initially backed Falconer’s proposals.