Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fatal Flaws: A Must-See Film

This article was written by Nancy Valko and published on her website on June 20, 2018.

With the American Medical Association considering changing its’ long-standing opposition to assisted suicide despite the recommendations of its’ ethics committee and the California assisted suicide law declared unconstitutional now reinstated pending appeal, assisted suicide/euthanasia groups like Compassion and Choices (the well-funded former Hemlock Society) are ramping up efforts nationwide to legalize assisted suicide.

Along with major media outlets overwhelmingly supporting their efforts and a recent Gallup poll showing that the “Majority of Americans (73%) Remain Supportive of Euthanasia”, how do we fight against this and educate the public?

One excellent answer can be found in the recently released 80 minute film “Fatal Flaws”.

“Fatal Flaws” features filmmaker Kevin Dunn who spent three years traveling throughout Europe and North American asking the question “should we be giving doctors the right in law to end the life of others by euthanasia or assisted suicide?”

In the film, Mr. Dunn respectfully interviews people and experts on both sides of the issues and the candid testimonies are powerful and moving. I have viewed the film myself and I believe that showings of this film to senior citizen groups, pro-life groups, churches and clergy, medical professionals, etc. would go a long way in educating the public, many of whom are supportive or unsure of where they stand.

The film was produced in association with The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. For information on purchasing the “Fatal Flaws” film and/or the accompanying pamphlets, please go the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition “Fatal Flaws” site.

There will be an International online preview that you can watch by receiving the code from EPC at:

There will be a preview viewing of Fatal Flaws at the National Right to Life Convention on June 29, 2018 in Kansas City.

On a personal note: I am speaking at the NRL convention myself on the Alfie Evans’ case June 30, 2018 and I would love to meet those of you attending the convention.

Our right to quality palliative care in Québec?

Aubert Martin
This article was published by Mercatornet on June 20, 2018
By Aubert Martin
The Act Respecting End-of-Life Care was sold to us as "first and foremost, a law of access to quality palliative care throughout the territory, at the patient's choice.” When it was adopted – not so long ago – its promoters insisted that it only legalized "medical aid in dying" (euthanasia) as an "exceptional measure for exceptional cases."

However it is now obvious that, almost four years since the day of its adoption and close to three years after its coming into effect, the public authorities have essentially concentrated their efforts on this famous "exceptional measure", giving the impression that the act of killing people to end their suffering – still very controversial – was a cool and trendy way of ending one’s life.
Recently, faced with this regrettable reality, several personalities in the health care community have publicly denounced the fact that, ultimately, the Act Respecting End-of-Life Care does not fulfill its main promise: to guarantee to all of the approximately 60,000 Quebecers who die each year the right to receive quality palliative care if it is needed.

Thus, after the heartfelt appeal of Quebec's two major palliative care associations denouncing the lack of efforts and resources to make quality palliative care accessible in all Quebec nursing homes (CHSLDs), or that of physicians who claimed that some patients are turning to physician-assisted suicide for lack of palliative care options, the Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ) has also expressed its concerns by highlighting the disorderly application of the Act Respecting End-of-Life Care.

In a letter sent to Dr. Gaétan Barrette, the current Minister of Health, the Collège des médecins mentions that, in some cases, “patients, unable to benefit from [clearly identified palliative care], may have had no choice but to ask for [euthanasia] to end their days...".

Even worse, the College reports a disturbing fact that suggests that the exceptional measure may be imposing itself as a supreme: “The College has been told that patients seeking medical aid in dying were becoming the priority for access to available resources (...) to the detriment of other end-of-life patients with similar needs.”

In other words, those who choose euthanasia are entitled to the best support available in the last moments of their lives, while many others – the vast majority – do not receive the care promised to them in the law. Is that really the ideal of justice that we pursue as a society? Or is it for fear of making tomorrow’s headlines that the medical personnel are rushing to satisfy patients who choose euthanasia? Are they trying to avoid being publicly singled out for not immediately providing the act that has been promoted as the new way to die 2.0?

Meanwhile, instead of strengthening palliative care, the current situation threatens its very sustainability, as the College of Physicians also observes, reporting that “doctors are leaving and not being replaced in many palliative care settings, compromising access to such care.”

In conclusion, it is time to step back and reflect on the entirety of the commitments made in the Act Respecting End-of-Life Care. It is also time to listen carefully to what palliative care professionals have to propose as ways to make our end of life comfortable: after all, they are the experts. And it is time to claim the right that has been legally granted to us as citizens to have access to such care. Any delay in that respect abandons citizens to death without the support of the comfort care they were promised.

On the eve of the provincial elections in October, now is the time for the Quebec population to mobilize and demand that the future government finally listen to the vast majority of the electorate who wish to live with dignity until the end of their lives with the help of quality palliative care.

Aubert Martin is the Executive Director of Vivre dans la Dignité (Living with Dignity), a Quebec-based organisation.

Wendi Wicks’ Hard Hitting Not Dead Yet Oral Testimony Against NZ End of Life Choices Bill

This was published by the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet, on June 16, 2018.

Wendy Wicks
Not Dead Yet Aotearoa
By Wendy Wicks (June 11, 2018)

Kia ora koutou, and thank you for the opportunity to present this submission. I am Wendi Wicks and I am the convener of Not Dead Yet Aotearoa, a national network of disabled people opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

We in Not Dead Yet Aotearoa have some of the best personal stories you would ever hear about the brutal realities of living with grievous and irremediable conditions and we live it every single bloody day. Ah the stories…

But this process here should not be a pissing contest to see who’s got the most gruesome headline, the most heart-rending individual story. It’s about a bill for all of us, the law is there to protect us all as a whole.

This bill is about policy, culture systems and justice. That means: you have to see this bill for its entirety, and not just aspects that appeal. You have to think about the public good-thats all of us, and that means you have to pay as much attention to group rights as you do to individual rights.

You have to see what its impact would be on disabled people, who struggle every day to get the help and respect they need to live their one and only life to its best.

You have to see that at the very heart of this bill is a primal fear of becoming disabled. To put it in the words of Baroness Jane Campbell (a disabled peer) “…society’s view of terminal illness and [of] disability I think can be summed up in one word. That word is fear: fear of loss of opportunity; fear of denial of self-determination; fear of loss of control; fear of pain; fear of hardship; fear of being a burden to others”.

Does that attitude of fear and diminution of disability that runs through society and is utterly embedded in the words of this bill offend me? Absolutely, and to the marrow of my bones.

But more than that, it scares the shit out of me that it seems to be taken for granted that how disabled people live everyday lives is dire and dreadful and not worth it. And because if this bill passes it would be Parliament agreeing that people – especially health workers – could look at me and my friends and say “I wouldn’t want to live if I was like you” and sign off a piece of paper to make that legal.

Let me be clear: I don’t want your pity. I want your protection. I demand your protection for disabled people’s right to live in the absence of choice of the privileged.

And let’s be very very clear that there can be no protection, there can be no “safeguards”, in a bill that starts with the implicit proposition that it is better to be dead than disabled. That’s choice? Really?


So the first key message we have for this committee is this: this bill would put disabled people hugely at risk in a society where we are already marginalised, feared and discriminated against. NDYA does not support a bill that ignores our rights, our collective rights, and in doing so puts our individual rights even more at risk.

When we have the NZ government reporting to the international monitoring committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that disabled people in NZ are disadvantaged, discriminated against and have a lower quality of life it should be plain to see that we don’t need any more barriers. It would be far better to see all NZ governments make active and sustained efforts to give equity to our lives. That mean all disabled people can make choices in their living with the supports they need, not just a choice to die.

We do not, will not accept the situation this bill would entail, where “The real question…is how much risk to the vulnerable we are prepared to accept in this area in order to facilitate suicide by the invulnerable.”

Second, and I can’t over-emphasise it -this bill is absolutely about disability. There’ve been concerted messages that the bill is nothing to do with disability, that it’s all about some other people, and would you please move along and behave yourselves?

Those who say it isn’t haven’t read the bill. Clause 4(d) says that to be eligible you have to be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability”. Now ‘decline in capability’ is code for disabled, whether the impairment is from birth, acquired from illness or injury or from ageing.

To put it another way, again using another bit of the bill’s wording of ‘terminal illness’, while not everyone with a disability has a terminal illness, all people with a terminal illness have a disability. Further, the proposed criteria would cover disabled people who are not immediately terminal. So you tell me: how much of my sight or my hearing or my speech or my movement or my memory do I have to lose before a doctor can legally decide that I’m better off dead? Because the bill surely doesn’t tell us.

A third message is that the idea of choice this bill promotes is a sad shabby figment. You need to keep in mind that choice- an underpinning of this bill- will be, to disabled people, like the choice poorer people have in supermarkets- a choice with fewer options; a choice with more illusions than equality.

There’s this idea that choice is unbounded and it must always be a good thing. But choices are much more complicated than just a “choice must always be the best thing” approach. It’s all in the context- what are the actual circumstances where that choice gets made? And why would you think that could possibly get codified into a law to adequately protect everyone?

Am I saying choice is therefore bad? -no indeed. What I am saying is that there are a million squillion things that make what choice means for me different to choice for you, you or you. Here’s a hint: non-disabled people will have more options on the drop-down menu of choices. And as a verbal disabled person, I’ll have more choices than a non-verbal or learning disabled person or someone with autism. So, this bill will codify, enshrine choice? Give me a break! To think one can promote equitable fair and ethical choice in this bill is a figment.

Finally and reinforcing what has just been said, the words the concepts that are used throughout this bill- criteria, definitions are hugely used to describe disabled lives and their use accords our life a lesser value. That is just not adequate.

Assisted dying is the equivalent of a zero-hours contract with life In summary, the bill is unjust, dangerously flawed in thought and in wording. NDYA has not detailed the gaps. A patch-up job on this would not be useful, as it would be bad law, and bad for the public interest. NDYA urges you strenuously to remember that individual choices are not a good basis for legislation that would put the public interest last and make disabled peoples’ lives even more dispensable.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

California appeals court re-instates assisted suicide law.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On Friday, June 15, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside County California, issued a stay of the assisted suicide law to once again permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs in California.

Sign our petition: Saying NO to assisted suicide. (Link).

The Associated Press reported that the plaintiffs in the case have until July 2 to object to the decision of the court of appeals. 

On May 15, Judge Daniel Ottolia overturned the California assisted suicide law by ruling in Ahn vs. Hestrin that the legislature acted outside the scope of its authority when it enacted the End of Life Option Act in 2015.
California passed the state's assisted suicide law in a special health care funding session, in 2015, after the legislature failed to pass the assisted suicide bill in its regular session. Judge Ottolia, held that:
“the End of Life Option Act does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services,” and that it “is not a matter of health care funding.”
On May 23, the Fourth District Court of Appeals upheld the decision by Judge Ottolia  ensuring that assisted suicide remained prohibited in California.
On May 30, Judge Ottolia refused to vacate the decision, that the California assisted suicide law was unconstitutionally enacted.

Bill McMorris reported in the Washington Free Beacon that:

...Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia rejected a motion to vacate his decision declaring the End of Life Options Act unconstitutional. Assisted suicide supporters Compassion & Choices filed the motion on behalf of two terminally ill patients, as well as a doctor who prescribes lethal medication.
Since the California's assisted suicide law was instituted in an unconstitutional manner, therefore the decision by the Fourth District Court of Appeals to stay the decision needs to be appealed immediately. 
California citizens deserve to have their lives protected from assisted suicide and they deserve to have the rule of law respected.

Québec physicians: Shortage of palliative care is pushing people to euthanasia

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A group of Québec doctors held a press conference to explain that the lack of funding for palliative care in Québec is pushing people to seek death by euthanasia.

CTV news reported that the doctors stated that since MAiD was legalized access to palliative care has decreased. The doctors said that:
patients have told them that they’re choosing assisted dying because they can’t find adequate palliative care services.
Dr Paul Saba
Dr Paul Saba, was reported as saying that they want to provide the care and support that people need:

Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician who is leading the group said fewer doctors have entered the field of palliative care since the law came into effect and that patients are suffering as a result. 
“People really are feeling a burden, financial stress, psychological stress and lack of autonomy,” 
“So what we want do is we want to give people what they need, and they need care and support.”
Dr Laurence Normand-Rivest
Dr. Laurence Normand-Rivest, who specializes in  palliative care, told the press conference:

“We were promised that there would be a plan for the development of palliative care in Quebec and the [government] commission asked for five years to develop this plan,”

“We’re in 2018, and for now, there’s no plan.”
Dr Charles Bernard, the President of the Québec College of Physicians, told the Québec government at the end of May that more funding is needed for palliative care. CTV reported that Bernard wrote to the government stating:
“Patients, failing to benefit from such care, could have no other choice but to ask for medical aid in dying to end their days in dignity,” 
“Patients who ask for medical aid in dying are given priority access to available resources to the detriment of other patients at the end of their lives.”
The Canadian government will be receiving reports in December on the extension of euthanasia to children, people with psychiatric conditions and people who are incompetent.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Elder Abuse Awareness

By Sara Buscher

Every year, some 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited to the tune of about $2.6 billion; only about one in five of these crimes are ever discovered.[i]

June 15 has been World Elder Abuse Awareness Day since 2006. The UN International Plan of Action acknowledges elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.[ii]

Elder financial exploitation is widespread, expensive, and even deadly[iii] in the U.S.
  • One in nine seniors reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past twelve months.
  • The rate of financial exploitation is extremely high, with 1 in 20 older adults perceiving financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past.
  • Elder abuse is vastly under-reported; only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.
  • Elder abuse victims are four times more likely to go into a nursing home. As discussed below, they are also more likely to die and become suicidal.
  • 90% of abusers are family members or trusted others.
  • Almost 10% of financial abuse victims will turn to Medicaid, which is funded by tax dollars, as a direct result of their own monies being stolen from them.
Allowing People a Free Pass to Assist or Coerce Others to Suicide Rewards Elder Abuse

Most people who die of lethal assisted suicide drugs in states[iv] giving assisted suicide a free pass are 65 and over,[v] the same demographic at risk for elder abuse. Abused seniors are three times more likely to die than those who are not abused.[vi]

Elder abuse is significantly linked to suicidal ideation.[vii] Here is a real case. A 79-year-old man[viii] attempted suicide after being financially exploited by two cousins. They moved in, forced him to sign over the deed to his house, sold it and spent the money on drugs.

In all states, murderers cannot inherit from their victims.[ix] In the seminal case, a judge refused an inheritance to a man who poisoned his grandfather to avoid being written out of the Will.[x]

Not allowing killers to inherit deters deadly abuse. Ninety percent of abusers are family members or trusted others,[xi] who otherwise stand to inherit from the abused.

When states decriminalize assisted suicide, they allow those who “assist” or abuse the elder into suicide to inherit by treating the death as caused by the deceased instead of a crime committed by the “helpers”.

Assisting Persons with Agendas Should not be Rewarded

Ulterior motives are often mixed with other motives in crimes of assisted suicide.[xii]

Consider Tammy Sawyer, trustee for Thomas Middleton of Oregon, who financially exploited him. According to news accounts,[xiii] after Mr. Middleton moved into Sawyer’s home, he deeded his house to the trust she managed, directing her to rent it, not sell it. Ten days after moving into her home, he died of assisted suicide. Before he died, she had already signed papers to list his house and two days after he died, she listed the house for sale. She deposited the sale proceeds into accounts for her own benefit.

In other cases, reported motives for assisting suicide include: the “thrill” a former nurse got in getting other people to kill themselves;[xiv] a desire for sympathy and attention by a girl who repeatedly texted her 18 year old boyfriend to kill himself;[xv] and “want[ing] to see someone die.”[xvi]

Sara Buscher is a Wisconsin lawyer and member of the EPC - USA board.

[ii] Id.
[iv] Only six states ̶  Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California (law is void per courts, appeals in process), Colorado and the District of Columbia ̶  allow assisted suicide by statute; Montana allows physicians a consent defense to a homicide charge.
[vi] Dong X MD, et al., Elder Self-neglect and Abuse and Mortality Risk in a Community-Dwelling
Population, JAMA. 2009 Aug 5; 302(5): 517–526.
[vii] Dong X MD, et al., The Association between Elder Mistreatment and Suicidal Ideation among Community-Dwelling Chinese Older Adults in the U.S., Gerontology. 2015 December; 62(1): 71–80.
[ix] R Konsdorf, Killing Your Chances of Inheriting…, 39 ACTEC L.J. 399 (2013). Only one state that criminalizes assisted suicide allows those who assist to inherit. In Lemmer v. Schunk, 2008 WIApp 157, 314 Wis.2d 483, 760 N.W.2d 446, the mother and daughter who left their suicidal husband and father alone with the loaded gun he used on himself could be found guilty of assisting a suicide and still inherit.
[x] Supra, note 9 at 403.
[xi] Supra, note 3.
[xii] Model Penal Code Part II Commentaries, Vol. 1. 91 at 101 (1980).
[xiii] Arrest warrant for Tami Sawyer: Indictment lists criminal mistreatment, aggravated theft 7/9/2011 The Bend Bulletin ;
Employee: Investor money paid debts 4/8/2009The Bend Bulletin
[xiv] Associated Press for Minnesota, “ Former nurse helped instruct man on how to commit suicide, court rules,” The Guardian, 12/28/15 (“he told police he did it ‘for the thrill of the chase’)”.
[xvi] Ben Winslow, “ Teen accused of helping friend commit suicide could face trial for murder,” (Deputy Utah County Attorney argued that the defendant “wanted to see someone die”).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

How crazy is it to encourage the mentally ill to kill themselves?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In his article published today in the National Post, Charles Lewis makes the point  - It would be sick to give someone who is depressed and wants to end his or her life the encouragement to jump. But Canada may make such suicide legal.

Lewis begins the article by considering the recent tragic celebrity suicide deaths:
Two celebrities take their lives, two people who appeared to have everything to live for. Though clearly, Anthony Bourdain, a globetrotting chef for CNN, and Kate Spade, the handbag maker who made millions ooh and ah, did not see it that way. 
The reaction in the media was predictable: sadness, regret and questions about why. On Sunday, The New York Times ran an information piece for readers who worry that someone close to them might be suicidal. It was called: “What to do When a Loved One is Severely Depressed.” 
Not one of the many suggestions mentioned helping the person commit suicide or putting them out of their misery in a humane way. 
The Times article was intended to prevent a needless death. That is as it should be. It would be sick to give someone who is depressed and wants to end his or her life the encouragement to jump. 
Imagine if the article said: “When confronted with someone suffering from mental illness, you might suggest they sit in their car, in the garage, and rev the engine till the gas puts them out of their misery.” 
But for how much longer will the idea of abetting a suicidal person like Bourdain or Spade be seen as sick and immoral — especially in Canada?
Lewis then examines the question of euthanasia for the mentally ill
In December 2016, Health Canada struck a committee of experts to look at extending our current laws on euthanasia to teens and the mentally ill. Currently, MAID — Medical Aid in Dying — is limited to those over the age of 18 whose physical health ailments mean that their natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” The committee is supposed to report back at the end of this year. 
Somewhere in 2016 a group of people in the government debated this and there were enough people in favour of extending euthanasia that they thought it was worth studying. That should be the first alarm. 
I think even 10 years ago these types of suggestions would have seemed insane. Even in 2016, the year euthanasia in this country became legal, anyone who worried about the law expanding would have been accused of fear mongering. There is no danger of a slippery slope, we were told.
Lewis then examines the debate concerning euthanasia based on mental illness in Canada.
I would have hoped that even today this type of suggestion would have seemed repugnant. But then last year, in The Globe and Mail, there was a column that made me realize nothing is off limits. 
In 2017, a 27-year-old man named Adam Maier-Clayton took his own life. He suffered from mental illness. The young man had written about wanting a legal way to end his suffering and his life in a Globe essay months before his death. 
André Picard, The Globe and Mail’s health reporter, wrote a column that urged lawmakers to heed to Maier-Clayton’s wish in honour of his tragic death. 
“Other Canadians who want to avail themselves of assisted death shouldn’t have to wait either for legislation to catch up with the court ruling and public sentiment. Most people accept that if someone’s dying anyhow, it’s OK to hasten their death, especially if they’re old,” Picard wrote. “But cases such as Mr. Maier-Clayton’s make us distinctly uncomfortable. He was young, healthy-looking and not suffering from any obvious physical illness. 
“We should not discriminate or deny people rights because it makes us queasy or because of our prejudices. This case reminds us just how severe mental illness can be.” 
The Netherlands and Belgium already dispatch the mentally ill, so Picard’s suggestion is not without precedent.
Lewis concludes his article as it began
In the first 12 months of legal euthanasia, from June 2016 to June 2017, 2,000 Canadian died via lethal injection. To me this is tragedy enough. But I would have thought that there were Canadians who, unlike me, are in favour of euthanasia, but who would balk at killing the mentally ill.
Depression and other mental illnesses should not be a death sentence. As time has gone on, with improvements in medicine, they have become easier to live with. Many people so afflicted can grow out of their illnesses. What it takes is for those of us who are around these people to offer whatever aid we can. We need to ensure they are seeing a doctor. We need to listen carefully to what they have to say, to look for hints that they might go the way of Spade and Bourdain. 
How crazy would it be if we were to encourage them to end their lives? 
How crazy would it be if our government decided that death is a medical option for those who suffer mentally? 
How crazy indeed.