Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Atlantic Boosts Assisted-Suicide Doctors, Pushes Euthanasia

This article was published by National Review online on March 3, 2021

By Wesley J Smith

The media love to boost assisted suicide. They laud people who commit it — witness their swoon over the late Brittany Maynard — and the doctors who are willing to lethally prescribe or give lethal injections.

Now, The Atlantic goes there bigly, describing the experiences of two California doctors who assist suicides. But I want to focus on one: Lonny Shavelson, whose excesses and assisted-suicide enthusiasms I have been writing about for years.

Shavelson was a part-time ER doc and photo journalist. Fascinated with assisted suicide, he wrote a journalistic book about the subject called A Chosen Death. Decades later, when assisted suicide was legalized in California, he went into business, helping to kill people for $3,000.

Of course, the media has gone gaga for him. In the Atlantic piece, byline Katie Engelhart, the scribe mentions Shavelson’s book and the heart-rending situations he reported. But she leaves the most important story out — Shavelson’s witnessing the murder of a disabled man who changed his mind about wanting to die. From A Chosen Death:

His good hand flew up to tear off the plastic bag. Sarah’s hand caught Gene’s at the wrist and held it. His body thrust upwards. She pulled his arm away and lay across Gene’s shoulders. Sarah rocked back and forth, pinning him down, her fingers twisting the bag to seal it tight at his neck as she repeated, “the light, Gene, go toward the light.” Gene’s body pushed against Sarah’s. Then he stopped moving.
Not only did Shavelson not try to stop “Sarah” — a pseudonym for someone described as a Hemlock Society chapter head — but he never called the police about the killing. Rather, he describes just sitting there watching, wringing his hands. (If you want to read that description from Shavelson’s book, hit this link.)

The guidelines are supposed to protect against abuse. But even though Shavelson does not treat his “patients” — his is strictly a suicide “practice” — and even though he is not board certified in treating illnesses such as cancer or ALS, and even though he barely knows the people who come to him, he colors outside the lines: From “I’m the Doctor Who is Here to Help You Die:”

One man had terminal cancer but said he wanted to die now for financial reasons. He was a Vietnam War vet, he said, and he couldn’t stop thinking about the Agent Orange attacks. He wanted all his savings to go to Vietnamese victims—not to pay his way through some awful American nursing home. Another had ALS and didn’t want to lose her mobility. She “hated her disability and she died early,” Shavelson said. “She was still walking.”

Sometimes, Shavelson felt like he was refining the eligibility rules as he went. What if, for instance, a 103-year-old wanted to die but didn’t have a specific illness or condition? Could you assume that he had just six months left to live? Sure, Shavelson thought, as long as he scored high enough on a “frailty index” test.


He also circumvented the self-administration requirement of the law:

Soon, he was delivering the drugs directly into feeding tubes, when patients had them. He would load the medication into a plastic syringe and then hand the plunger to the patient, who would press down on it to “self-administer” and “ingest” the drugs. Sometimes, if a patient was weak, Shavelson would hold the plunger himself and place the patient’s hand on top of his. “If I feel you pushing on my hand,” he would say, “we will push together.” These were legal deaths. And often lovely deaths. But in a way, the whole thing was ridiculous.

Later, Shavelson started administering the drugs rectally for patients with disturbed intestinal systems.
Englehart reports on Shavelson getting final consent for an assisted suicide from a cancer patient. See if you can see what is wrong with this picture.

“What are you dying from?” Shavelson asked. Then again, louder.

“I’d like to know myself,” Bradshaw said.

“Dad, you have to be serious,” Marc said. Bradshaw said nothing for a while and then recalled that something was wrong with his prostate.

“Okay,” Shavelson said, smiling, “We have a bit of paperwork to do.” Bradshaw groaned. “As you can imagine, the state of California doesn’t let you die easily.”

Shavelson held up a document. “This little paper here is called the ‘Final Attestation.’ The state of California wants you to sign, to say that you are taking a medication that will make you die.” Bradshaw closed his eyes.

“Dad,” Marc urged. “Dad, you have to stay awake for a few minutes … Daddy, you need to sign, right?”

“Dad,” Cheryl said. “Sign your name.”

Bradshaw opened his eyes and signed.
Did the man even know what he was signing? How could Shavelson give him a poisonous brew when Bradshaw appeared to be following his children’s orders?

The entire piece is actually a criticism of assisted-suicide guidelines and a pitch for lethal-injection euthanasia:
In other countries, I knew, none of this would be happening: the juice, the labored sips, the shaking hands. But in America, doctors were in a special bind. In almost every place where assisted death is legal, such as Canada and Belgium, euthanasia is also legal. This means that patients can choose between two kinds of dying: a drinkable solution or an injection, delivered by doctors. Patients almost always choose the injection. They want their doctors to take care of things. Also, the shots are straightforward and quick and always work. No stress about mixing the solution. No chance of vomiting or waking up, which can happen, albeit very rarely, with the liquid drinks.
All in all, a splendid dark example of how the media is continually pushing euthanasia and assisted suicide. No opponents’ voices allowed and no doubts about the agenda entertained.

The article says Shavelson is quitting his suicide practice. Good. Go back to taking photographs, death doctor!

Euthanasia deaths almost double in Victoria Australia.

This article was published by the Australian Care Alliance on March 4, 2021.

The State of Victoria in Australia legalised both assistance to suicide by prescribing a lethal poison and euthanasia by lethal injection from 19 June 2019.

The third six monthly official report on this deadly practice, released on 3 March 2021, shows a rapid rise in the incident of euthanasia from 11 deaths by lethal injection in the six months January to June 2020 to 20 such deaths in the following six months July to December 2020 - an 81.8% increase or nearly double.

Total increase in deaths

The total number of deaths by euthanasia or assistance to suicide in July to December 2020 was 94 - almost double the 49 deaths by these means in July to December 2019.

A total of 175 people were assisted to suicide or euthanased in 2020 - already above the 100 to 150 deaths per year Premier Daniel Andrews projected the rate would stabilise at after only 12 such deaths he anticipated in the first 12 months (it was 1000% of that figure - 120 deaths).
Whose keeping count of the dead?

There have now been three different figures given for deaths by assistance to suicide - "medication was self-administered" in each successive report from the Board for the period 17 June 2019- 31 Dec 2019: 43, then 37, now 40.

This highlights the complete lack of a requirement for a witness at the time of the supposed suicide.

If we can't even get a reliable count how can we possibly know that the lethal poison was self-administered by a competent person with full knowledge?
Board promotes a think euthanasia first approach to a terminal diagnosis

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board "continues to encourage people to initiate conversations about voluntary assisted dying [sic = euthanasia or assistance to suicide] early after being given a terminal diagnosis. Voluntary assisted dying is not an emergency medical procedure and, as previously reported, the application process takes time.

Starting early provides greater opportunity to complete the process without additional stress or worry."

This is an extraordinary position to take.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 section 9 sets out a set of criteria for eligibility to access assistance to suicide or euthanasia under that Act. These criteria include that a condition is expected to cause death "within weeks or months, not exceeding six months".

Additionally, the condition must be "causing suffering to the person that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable".
The Board ignores these matters in its advice urging Victorians when first given a terminal diagnosis to start thinking about obtaining a lethal poison to commit suicide or arranging for a doctor to give them a lethal injection.

There is a callousness to this advice that disregards important issues.
What about first getting a second opinion to confirm the validity of the diagnosis and prognosis? Even euthanasia enthusiast Andrew Denton concedes doctors get these wrong? Or available treatment the doctor giving the terminal diagnosis may not be aware of?

What about seeking information about palliative care?

Naturally many people suffer from depression when first given a terminal diagnosis. Is this really the right moment to be encouraging a person to think about suicide or euthanasia?

People with a disability may experience being given a "terminal" diagnosis several times in their lives. Others around them, including doctors, may consider them "better off dead"!

The Board's callous and ghoulish encouragement to think about euthanasia or suicide "early after being given a terminal diagnosis" could reinforce this prejudiced and discriminatory attitude, leading to demoralisation and despair.
Suicide by telemedicine

The Victorian Government appointed Board continues to lobby the Commonwealth Government to change its excellent law prohibiting instruction in the means of suicide and encouragement to suicide over a carriage service (telephone or internet).

If you or anyone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

2020 Belgian euthanasia report. Covid-19 had a minor effect on the number of deaths.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alan Hope reported for the The Brussels Times, that the COVID-19 pandemic had little effect on the number of reported euthanasia deaths in 2020. According to the report, there were 2444 reported Belgian euthanasia deaths in 2020 which was down from 2656 in 2019 but up from 2357 in 2018.

According to the report, the number of euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons also dropped from 26 in 2019 to 21 in 2020 which is a significant drop from 57 in 2018.

According to the report, Wim Distelmans, the chair of the euthanasia commission suggested that some people who are not terminally ill but were approved for euthanasia based on polypathology postponed their death by lethal injection to have the opportunity to say farewell to friends and family.

Hope suggests in the article that the dip in euthanasia deaths may have been related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I suggest that it was connected to the recent controversial court cases dealing with euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

For instance, in 2019 Europe's top human rights court, in agreed to hear the case of a depressed Belgian woman who died by euthanasia and in 2018 three Belgian doctors were charged in a euthanasia death for psychiatric reasons.

The three doctors were acquitted in the euthanasia death, but in September 2020 a retrial was ordered for one of the doctors in the case

Ludo Vanopdenbosch
In 2017, Dr Ludo Vanopdenbosch, a palliative care specialist, resigned from the Belgian euthanasia commission after the commission approved the death of a woman who could not consent to euthanasia. Vanopdenbosch explained in his resignation letter that:

The most striking example took place at a meeting in early September, ... when the group discussed the case of a patient with severe dementia, who also had  Parkinson's disease. To demonstrate the patient's lack of competence, a video was played showing what Vanopdenbosch characterized as "a deeply demented patient."  
The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, was euthanized at the family's request... There was no record of any prior request for euthanasia from the patient.
An Associated Press report, revealed a rift between Wim Distelmans, chair of the euthanasia commission, and Dr. Lieve Thienpont, the psychiatrist who does the most euthanasia's for psychiatric reasons. Distelmans suggested that some of Thienpont's patients might have been killed without meeting all of the legal requirements. After the AP report, more than 360 doctors, academics and others signed a petition calling for tighter controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.

I hope that the Belgian people will come to realize how crazy the euthanasia ideology is and recognize the social and human destruction that euthanasia causes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Preventing the spread of Assisted Suicide in America.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

America continues to be in the grips of a COVID-19 crisis and yet state legislatures are debating the legalization and expansion of assisted suicide.

In 2021, assisted suicide legalization bills are currently being debated  in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota and Rhode Island. Assisted suicide expansion bills are being debated in California, Hawaii and Washington State.

Youtube video by Alex Schadenberg (below): Preventing the spread of assisted suicide.

The assisted suicide lobby is trying to expand current assisted suicide laws by (among other changes) reducing or removing waiting periods, allowing people who are not doctors to approve or prescribe death, forcing medical professionals who oppose killing to refer patients to death, and allowing lethal drugs to be sent by courier or the mail rather than picked up with proper identification.

Some of the legalization bills are similar to the assisted suicide expansion bills, such as the New Mexico assisted suicide bill. The New Mexico bill, among other things, waives the requirement of a second assessor when the person requesting assisted suicide is enrolled in hospice.

It is more difficult to oppose assisted suicide at a online committee hearing, than an in person meeting. For instance, people with disabilities have lived stories about how legalizing assisted suicide threatens their lives. Online witnesses lack the same level of impact than witnesses who are present at the hearing. Nonetheless, there are powerful stories and information to be shared with legislators.

Assisted suicide is not what it appears to be.

Assisted suicide is sold to the public as a quick, peaceful "dignified" death. The truth is different than the theory.

Due to the cost and availability of Seconal and Pentobarbital, the assisted suicide lobby has been involved with lethal drug cocktail experiments to create cheaper, effective ways to kill.

An article by JoNel Aleccia published by Kaiser Health News in March, 2017 examined the lethal drug coctail experiments. The article states:

The first Seconal alternative turned out to be too harsh, burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain. 
The second drug mix, used 67 times, has led to deaths that stretched out hours in some patients — and up to 31 hours in one case. 

These lethal drug cocktail experiments were human experiments. Even though people suffered greatly from the lethal cocktail, the lethal drug experiments were done on 67 people.

According to an article by Lisa Krieger published by the Medical Xpress on September 8, 2020 states:

A little-known secret, not publicized by advocates of aid-in-dying, was that while most deaths were speedy, others were very slow. Some patients lingered for six or nine hours; a few, more than three days. No one knew why, or what needed to change.

"The public thinks that you take a pill and you're done," said Dr. Gary Pasternak, chief medical officer of Mission Hospice in San Mateo. "But it's more complicated than that."

Assisted suicide laws are designed to protect physicians who participate in the act, not the person considering death.

The most recent data from Oregon indicates that in 2019 there were 188 reported assisted suicide deaths up from 178 in 2018. They don't want you to know that in 2019 there were 21 people who received lethal drugs and died, but they have no idea how they died and in 2018 there were 14 deaths with the same circumstance. 

Similarly, in Washington State the 2018 data indicates that there were 203 reported assisted suicide deaths, up from 164 in 2017. They had no idea how 19 people who received lethal drugs died, which was up from 13 deaths in the same circumstance in 2017.

According to the reports, deaths deemed "unknown" means that they have no idea how they died. It is possible that some or all of the 67 deaths, (35 in Oregon and 32 in Washington state over two years) were unreported assisted suicide deaths. Remember, these people are being prescribed lethal controlled substances. 

Does this sound like there is effective oversight of the law when lethal drugs are prescribed and the state authority has no idea how they died? 

We need to create awareness about how assisted suicide laws affect the lives of people at the most vulnerable time of their life. This requires real lived stories and experiences that cross political party lines.

We need to dispel the myth that assisted suicide provides a peaceful death.

Politicians need to recognize that assisted suicide is not a progressive issue. Legalizing assisted suicide gives power over life and death to physicians (expansion bills allow others). 

It is normal for people to fear a bad death, but giving physicians, and others, the power to cause death is a dangerous public policy, that can and is being abused.

We need a culture of care, that does not kill.

More articles on assisted suicide in America.

Monday, March 1, 2021

MAiD (euthanasia) for mental illness ignores safeguards for vulnerable people

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr K. Sonu Gaind
Dr. K. Sonu Gaind who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, a past president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) and a member of the Council of Canadian Academies expert advisory group on MAiD was published yesterday by the Conversation concerning the approval of euthanasia for people with mental illness alone.

Gaind explains why this topic is being considered:
People whose suffering is caused by mental illness alone do not currently have access to MAID. However, the Senate recommended Bill C-7 contain a “sunset clause” that would lift this exclusion in 18 months. The Trudeau government has extended the clause to 24 months but has otherwise accepted it, meaning that in 18 to 24 months, MAID will be provided to those suffering solely from a mental illness.
Gaind examines the known evidence on this topic:
The fundamental underpinning of all MAID requests is supposed to be the presence of “a grievous and irremediable medical condition.” The blunt and indisputable reality is that, unlike for much more predictable medical conditions with better understood biologies, it remains currently impossible to predict whether mental illness is irremediable.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has concluded: “There is simply not enough evidence available in the mental health field … to ascertain whether a particular individual has an irremediable mental illness.”

After 15 months of studying global evidence, the Council of Canadian Academies came to the same conclusion, as did the Expert Advisory Group on MAID. Both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) have also concluded that there’s no evidence to support providing MAID solely for mental illness.

Gaind explains why safeguards are not effective for people with mental illness:
Those who advocate expanding access to MAID propose mitigating this reality with “safeguards.” This ignores the fact that irremediability is itself the primary safeguard built into the MAID framework, and bypassing it renders all other supposed “safeguards” meaningless.

Because we cannot predict irremediability, there is 100 per cent certainty that MAID will be provided to some people who could recover — there is no safeguard against that. Suggesting otherwise is akin to a society that declines to use the death penalty over concerns of potentially executing the innocent, but then implements the death penalty anyway with false “safeguards” to reassure the public even as the wrongly convicted are executed.
Gaind challenges the Canadian Psychiatric Associations for focusing on opinion and ignoring evidence:
Regrettably, while the APA and RANZCP have provided meaningful evidence-based guidance in their societies’ debates on MAID and mental illness, Canadian psychiatric associations have not. After failing to consult members for two years, the Canadian Psychiatric Association released its position statement in 2020 that “patients with a psychiatric illness … should have available the same options regarding MAID as available to all patients.” Remarkably, the association also said that its statement was “never intended to … examine whether psychiatric conditions are irremediable and if so, how this should be assessed.”

Equally remarkably, the president of the Québec Psychiatric Association (AMPQ) responded to concerns about the lack of supporting evidence by saying in recent Senate hearings: “This is not a data-driven question, this is an ethical question.” That sentiment is reflected in an AMPQ document offering guidance on developing a MAID framework for mental illness.
Gaind continues by presenting his position based on the evidence:
Other evidence highlights the risks of providing access to easy death to suicidal, vulnerable and marginalized people who are not dying but suffering from psychosocial life stress. Even the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has raised the alarm that Canada’s pending MAID policy will prematurely end vulnerable lives.

These concerns simply serve as icing on the cake to the indisputable, evidence-based reality that there is no predictably irremediable mental illness for which MAID can be provided. And the government’s 24-month sunset clause is as meaningful as a decree telling coronavirus to disappear — non-existent evidence cannot simply be commanded to appear.
Gaind continues with his concerns based on how common mental illness is:
We are poised to provide death for mental illness to potentially suicidal, non-dying marginalized people suffering from life distress who have the potential to recover — all based on less evidence than is required for the approval of any sleeping pill. Given the ubiquity of mental illness, no family needs to look very far to appreciate the implications.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting our prime minister’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, to present her a mental health advocate award from the Ontario Psychiatric Association. I recall her vibrancy as she spoke of her life experiences and graciously mingled with my colleagues and me after dinner. I also recall the poignancy of her descriptions of despair during her periods of deep depression, including hopeless times she wished to die.
Gaind finishes his article by calling for honesty in the debate:
If Canada wants to provide MAID to people who are suffering but whose illness might get better, we should have an honest debate and our MAID framework should reflect that. But if MAID is meant for irremediable conditions, evidence shows it would be a dishonest and hypocritical deception to offer it for mental illness.

Unfortunately, in Canada’s debate about medical assistance in dying, evidence has already been provided a medically assisted death.
More articles on this topic:

Life insurance and Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia law.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I was recently contacted by a doctor with a patient, who is not terminally ill, but wants to die by (MAiD) euthanasia after Bill C-7 has passed. The patient said that he and his wife have medical issues and if he were to die, then his life insurance would pay for the care that his wife requires.

When euthanasia was legalized in Canada the life insurance industry took the position that legalizing euthanasia would have a minimal effect on life insurance because the law required that a person's natural death be reasonably foreseeable. People who are terminally ill do not qualify to purchase life insurance.

EPC disagreed with the life insurance industry based on the phrase: natural death is reasonably foreseeable was not defined, nonetheless everything changes with Bill C-7, that is being debated by parliament.

Bill C-14, the bill that legalized euthanasia in Canada did not affect insurance contracts. Bill C-14 stated:

Whereas it is desirable to have a consistent approach to medical assistance in dying across Canada, while recognizing the provinces’ jurisdiction over various matters related to medical assistance in dying, including the delivery of health care services and the regulation of health care professionals, as well as insurance contracts and coroners and medical examiners;

Bill C-7 eliminates the requirement that a person's natural death must be reasonably foreseeable, meaning that people who are not dying can be killed by euthanasia.

It is possible that a person who intends to die by euthanasia, qualifies for life insurance, even though the policy would likely be rated, nonetheless, a rated policy would be cheap if a person intends to die soon.

Sign the petition: No to euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people! (Link)

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list:

What about the two year suicide restriction that the insurance industry uses for suicide?

Canada's legislation does not define (MAiD) euthanasia as a suicide. Therefore the two year suicide restriction used by the insurance industry does not affect (MAiD) euthanasia deaths.

I recognize that it would not be common for someone to qualify and purchase a life insurance policy knowing that they intend to be killed by (MAiD) euthanasia, nonetheless it is a concern and it would cause an increase in life insurance rates for legitimate life insurance policies.

As stated before, even a heavily rated policy is cheap when someone who is not terminally ill purchases life insurance with the intention of being killed by MAiD.

I will not publish anonymous or inappropriate comments

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I have received several excellent comments from readers and followers of this blog that I have not published because the person did not put their name on the comment.

A long time ago, I decided that I would not publish anonymous comments from people. I made this decision after receiving comments from people who were attacking others, or attacking me, without the person willing to put their name on their destructive comment.

I also will not publish comments that contain information about ordering lethal drugs via the internet or other inappropriate comments. The euthanasia lobby must think that its funny when they attempt to publish lethal drug ordering information by linking it to one of my blog articles.

I have also received some very good comments from people who have not attached their name to their comment.

Whether the comment is instructive or destructive, I simply will not publish an anonymous comment.

Therefore if you want your comments posted on this blog, please leave your name with the comment.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Toronto Star Editorial: Trudeau government should rethink its flawed changes to assisted dying

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

When the Toronto Star, which is usually a Liberal newspaper, says in its editorial that the Trudeau government changes to the (MAiD) euthanasia law are flawed, then you know that the message is getting out.

Sign the petition: No to euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people! (Link)

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list:

The February 26 Toronto Star editorial stated:
Twelve months ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed our lives and pushed almost every other issue to the margins of public attention, we sounded a warning that Canada seemed to be sliding toward what amounts to a system of death on demand.

We worried that the right to medical assistance in dying, or MAID, was at risk of being stretched far beyond its original conception: to ease the pain of suffering people in the final stage of life, of allowing them a so-called “death with dignity.”

Today, that possibility is no longer a risk but a reality...

As it stands now, Bill C-7 would greatly expand the right to MAID in ways that many doctors, ethicists and even experts from the United Nations find deeply problematic. By eliminating the requirement that a patient’s death be “reasonably foreseeable,” they say the bill will undermine the rights of disabled people and make it more likely they will accept assisted suicide rather than be provided with proper treatment and supports.

The bill even opens the door to extending the right to assisted suicide to people whose only underlying medical condition, their sole reason for seeking death, is suffering due to a mental illness. The potential for abuse is both obvious and frightening.
These comments are from the Toronto Star editorial, not the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. The editorial continued:
Nor is any of this necessary. The federal government is bringing in these changes as a response to a Quebec Superior Court ruling in 2019, in which the judge decided that the law’s provision that death must be “reasonably foreseeable” is unconstitutional.

The government could have, indeed should have, appealed that flawed decision. Instead, it promised to bring the law into line with this one lower-court ruling, launched lengthy consultations on the whole issue of MAID, and eventually came up with a series of proposed changes laid out in Bill C-7. The Commons adopted them, then the Senate weighed in with amendments, and this week the government said it would accept some of those proposals.

One is that the right to MAID would be extended to people who are suffering solely from an underlying mental illness, though that wouldn’t take effect for two years. This is a complete about-face for the government, since its first version of C-7 explicitly excluded mental illness as grounds for demanding the right to an assisted death.

You don’t have to ponder this too long to see the potential for tragic outcomes. No doubt some people suffer in a “grievous” (the law’s language) way from mental illness, but surely those very conditions put an enormous question mark over their capacity to make final, irreversible decisions.
The Toronto Star editorial also disagrees with the euthanasia lobby but agree with the disability groups:
Advocates for the change say it’s discriminatory not to include mental illness, and argue that the law must respect the autonomy of the individual, the right of everyone to decide their own fate regardless of the type of medical condition they are suffering from.

That sounds lofty, but as many psychiatrists and advocates point out, how much true autonomy does a person have if society doesn’t offer them proper support to live their lives as fully as possible, if they are marginalized, unable to earn a living or access treatment, and feel they are a burden to others? Won’t they feel pressure to take advantage of an expanded MAID system just to escape all that? Is that really what we want — to set up a system where more and more people feel disposable, and in fact become disposable?

All that may apply to people with chronic conditions or disabilities as well, which is why hundreds of organizations advocating for them have come out against C-7. Added to that is a team of UN experts who concluded that the bill violates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada has ratified. “Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly,” they wrote. “Such legislative provisions would institutionalize and legally authorize ableism.”
The Toronto Star editorial challenges other parts of the bill and then finishes by urging the government to get it right.
The government’s proposed bill includes other questionable changes as well. For one, it would eliminate a 10-day waiting period between the request for MAID by a person whose death is foreseeable and its carrying-out, a pause designed to make sure there aren’t second thoughts. Only one witness, not two, would be required.

It’s important that we get this right. Better to put up with more delay than to rush through a flawed bill that hasn’t had the full public debate it deserves. The government should think again.

Sign the petition: No to euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people! (Link)

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list:

Friday, February 26, 2021

Peru judge grants death by euthanasia to woman with chronic condition

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Ana Estrada
The Merco Press reported that a Peruvian Judge has approved the euthanasia death of a woman with a non-terminal chronic condition. According to the report:
Judge Jorge Ramirez, of the Superior Court of Lima, said in his ruling that the professional who helps Ana Estrada, 43, to die will not be punished with three years in prison, as established by law. The authorization does not open the possibility of more euthanasias but will only be applicable to Estrada's case.
Estrada lives with polymyositis which is a chronic condition that causes weakening of the muscles. There is no cure for polymyositis but it is not a terminal condition.

The decision must be appealed 

Even though Judge Ramirez stated that the decision only applies to Estrada, based on precedent, it is not possible to permit the killing of one person without opening the law to permitting the killing of other people with similar conditions.

It is concerning that this precedent approves euthanasia for a person with a chronic condition, meaning, if this precedent becomes law it would be a very wide open law.

This decision is contrary to the position of United Nations experts who published a press release on January 25, 2021 titled: Disability is not a reason to sanction medically assisted dying. 

The United Nations experts expressed alarm at a growing trend of nations enacting legislation enabling access to medically assisted dying based largely on having a disability or disabling conditions, including old age (Link to the Press Release). The Press release stated:
“Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly.”

Such legislative provisions would institutionalize and legally authorize ableism, and directly violate Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires States to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others.

Catalina Devandas who was the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities for the UN Human Rights Council published a statement, in March 2020, concerning her report the New Eugenics and ableism in medical practise.

Devandas expressed her concerns on the impact of euthanasia for persons with disabilities. She stated:
"If assisted dying is made available for persons with health conditions or impairments, but who are not terminally ill, a social assumption could be made that it is better to be dead than to live with a disability," the expert warned. 
"People have the right to live and to die with dignity, but we cannot accept that people choose to end their lives because of social stigma, isolation or lack of access to personal assistance or disability-related services." 

The Peruvian decision specifically approves euthanasia for a woman with a disability. 

Conservatives slow down euthanasia expansion bill in parliament. Contact your MP today.

Sign the petition: No to euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people! (Link)

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list:

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, 
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article by Joan Bryden with the Canadian Press reported that the Quebec Superior court has extended the stay of the Truchon decision until March 26, 2021 to give the Liberal government time to pass Bill C-7, the bill to expand Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia law. The Truchon decision struck down the requirement in law that a persons death must be foreseeable.

The court imposed deadline is an arbitrary date. Even if Bill C-7 is not passed before March 26, it really doesn't matter since Bill C-7 is worse than the Truchon decision.

Last week I reported that Canada's Senate passed Bill C-7, the bill to expand Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia law, with dangerous amendments that further expands the law.

A few days ago, I reported that the Trudeau government  accepted the most dangerous Senate amendment, that being expanding euthanasia to people with mental illness alone, but with a 24 month reprieve to enable the government time to develop guidelines. The government did reject the amendment permitting euthanasia for incompetent people who asked for death in their advanced directive.

Bryden reports that the Conservatives are filibustering Bill C-7.
...the bill is stalled in the Commons, where the Conservatives refused for the third straight day today to facilitate debate on a motion laying out the government's response to amendments passed last week by the Senate.
Bryden also reported that the Bloc Québecois have agreed with the Trudeau government decision to extend euthanasia to people with mental illness alone. Therefore, unless back bench Liberal MP's reject euthanasia for mental illness, it will pass.

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list:

Whatever the House of Commons approves, Bill C-7 will once again go back to the Senate for approval or amendment.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Do not follow Oregon’s example. It is dangerous for patients and society. Vote No to Connecticut Bill 6425.

State of Connecticut General Assembly Committee on Public Health

Vote NO on Bill No. 6425, An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients

Dr Kenneth Stevens
Testimony of Dr. Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr., MD,
Professor Emeritus, Radiation Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR

February 24, 2021

To Members of the Committee on Public Health,

I have been a cancer doctor in the practice of Radiation Oncology for 52 years in Oregon, treating cancer patients from 1969 to 2019.

I have studied and closely followed the implementation of Oregon’s assisted-suicide law since its passage in 1994. I have also continued to teach and practice medicine in a society where there exists such a law, taking note of its tragic results. The more I have learned and witnessed, the more I realize the significant harm and danger of assisted suicide to the vulnerably ill and to society. The following includes some of those harms and dangers.

There has been a profound negative shift in attitude towards terminally ill patients in Oregon. The commitment to care has become a commitment to the option of killing. There has been a distinct change of attitude in society and in members of the medical profession to patients who are terminally ill and eligible for assisted suicide. There is reduced incentive to evaluate and provide for the palliative care needs of patients who are eligible for assisted suicide. The legalization of assisted suicide results in a deterioration of caring for patients’ medical needs and symptoms.

Oregon’s assisted suicide law is not necessarily for only patients who are dying. Many who request/use the law are not dying already. The mere presence of legal assisted suicide steers patients to suicide.

As in Oregon, Bill 6425 supposedly applies to patients predicted to have less than six months to live. In 2000, I had a cancer patient named Jeanette Hall. She was referred to me with an inoperable low rectal cancer. She plainly told me that she did not want to be treated, and that she was going to “do” our law, i.e., end her life with a lethal dose of barbiturates. She had voted for the law and it was a very much settled decision for her. Her referring surgeon, who had determined that her cancer was inoperable, informed her that without treatment (radiation & chemotherapy) that she had a six month to one year life expectancy, so she qualified for Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Patients refusing appropriate treatment may be deemed “terminal” under current interpretation of the Oregon law. After consulting with her, I informed her that her cancer was treatable with chemotherapy and radiation and her prospects were good. She was not interested in treatment. She had made up her mind, but she continued to see me. On the third or fourth visit, I asked her about her family and learned that she had a son in his late 20s. I asked her how he would feel if she went through with her plan. Shortly after that, she agreed to be treated, the cancer melted away, and she is alive and active today. Twenty years later, she says “It’s great to be alive”. For her, the mere presence of legal assisted suicide had steered her to suicide. An 18-year-old girl with insulin-dependent diabetes would be eligible, if she stopped taking life-sustaining insulin.

Pain is not the issue. It is very significant that there are many cases of assisted suicide being used to address psychological and social concerns, but it is very rare for assisted suicide to be used in the case of actual untreatable pain.

Depressed people are dying from assisted suicide in Oregon. In 2008, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University reported 25% of terminally ill patients pursuing assisted suicide in Oregon met criteria for depression.  Yet, the Oregon Health Department annual reports for the years 2018 and 2019 reported that only 1% (4 of 366) of patients dying from assisted suicide had a psychiatric evaluation. Your bill dangerously permits social workers to evaluate patients’ mental status.

There is no real monitoring of Oregon’s assisted suicides. When David Prueitt’s failed suicide was made public in 2005, the Department of Health Services (DHS) publicly stated that they had “no authority to investigate individual Death with Dignity cases. The state law authorizing physician-assisted suicide neither requires of authorizes investigations by DHS.”

We are dependent on self-reporting by doctors, and in in most cases the prescribing doctor is not present when the drugs are taken.

There are financial and societal dangers that assisted suicide may be pressured as a cost savings. The Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) pays for assisted suicide and does not pay for some cancer treatment to extend life. In 2008, cancer patients Barbara Wagner and Randy Shoup received letters from the Oregon Health Plan that the Plan would not pay for beneficial chemotherapy, but would pay for [among other things] physician-assisted suicide. Ms. Wagner’s comment to the media was “they will pay for me to die, but won’t pay for me to live.” 

Oregon’s regular suicide rate has increased since the legalization of assisted suicide. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), Oregon had the 2nd highest suicide rate in the U.S. for the years 1999-2010.

I urge you to vote no on this bill. Do not follow Oregon’s example. It is dangerous for patients and society.

Thank you,
Dr. Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr., M.D.

Organ donation following euthanasia (at home procedure)

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A letter published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) clarifies that people who die by euthanasia will often refuse to participate in organ donation because they prefer to die at home. In his letter, Dr Johan Sonneveld explains that a procedure permits euthanasia at home followed by organ donation.

To be clear, Sonneveld explains that the person is sedated at home and then transported to the hospital to have the organs removed. The letter states:
The patient is only sedated at home, which marks the start of euthanasia in legal terms but is medically only intended to remove consciousness while vital functions are maintained and secured. Coma induction and the start of the agonal phase subsequently take place in the intensive care unit after farewells at home and transportation. With the 5 minutes “no touch,” the total warm ischemia time until death decided was less than 7 minutes in this procedure.
By linking organ donation to euthanasia, then euthanasia becomes a "societal good." The advantage to linking euthanasia to organ donation is that the organs are vital, being removed from a person who has not died, and in many cases, is not near to dying a natural death.

But let's not be innocent about this. The question is why kill the person with lethal drugs before removing the vital organs? The plan is to kill the person, so why not kill the person by removing the vital organs?

Second Thoughts CT leader Cathy Ludlum on opposing assisted suicide: “there is no safeguard that can counter the social stigma of needing help with intimate care."

This article was published by Not Dead Yet on February 24, 2021.

By John B. Kelly, the director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

On January 14, Second Thoughts CT leader Cathy Ludlum joined WPLR host John Voket on his show “For the People” to explain why legalized assisted suicide is simply too dangerous to implement. The full transcript is here.

In the 15-minute segment (beginning at 37:20), Cathy meets Voket where he is, and agrees that on its surface, many people would think it’s “a good idea to put the choice of when and how one dies into the hands of the individual.”

But when you start presenting people with other things to think about, a lot of times people may support the theory, but then the implementation worries them and they cannot support it as they had in the past. In other words, talking to one of us or all of us often gives them “second thoughts.” So that’s where the name of our group came from and we’ve been active and mobilized since 2013, as I said.

Cathy pulls the conversation from a narrow focus on individual autonomy to the realities of a society prejudiced against disabled people, who “already have challenges whenever we go to the hospital or we try to get healthcare.”

What those of us in the disability community are trying to get across is, there is no safeguard that can counter the social stigma of needing help with intimate care, of having to rely on others for support, or of seeing your caregivers tired and wondering if the world would be better off without you.

Indeed, Oregon doctors reported that in 2019 “feeling like a burden” motivated more than half of the patients who were prescribed a lethal overdose. Cathy doesn’t get into the details, but the other top four “end-of-life concerns” also relate to psychological distress about the disabling aspects of serious illness, not physical pain as proponents insist.

There is also no possible safeguard to prevent coercion:

with no independent person there at the time of death, how can we ever know that it was the individual’s choice instead of a person who has been threatened or coerced or feels that they have no other choice than to end their own life?

Whenever disabled people point out the dangers of assisted suicide, journalists and legislators routinely ask, as Voket does, whether “legislation can be crafted to carve out the disability community that is so significantly concerned.”

Cathy patiently explains that the legislation “changes the way healthcare is structured” by codifying in law a medical practice that produces death as a beneficial outcome. “And so it changes the doctor-patient relationship. It changes the way insurance and financial reimbursement and such work.”

If some people are understood in state law and medical practice to be literally “better off dead” than alive, “it involves changing the whole way we look at life and death.” I would add that legalized assisted suicide logically leads to doctors and people in a patient’s orbit recommending, persuading, and instigating that death. We have the examples of Kathryn Judson, who overheard her husband’s doctor telling him that he should commit suicide to spare her the trouble of caring for him, or Kate Cheney’s family that was intent on her death.

There is no way to protect disabled people because

there is a tendency in the medical system already to think of us as terminally ill even though we may all live on for years with the right support. I understand the need to try and create some middle ground, and I wish we could do that, but I don’t see a way of making that happen.

It’s long been known that doctors and medical personnel underestimate the “quality of life” experienced by disabled people, who love our lives as much as nondisabled people.

Voket asks whether the legislation has gone terribly wrong in other places, and Cathy refers to a list of abuses and complications compiled by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). Cathy mentions without name the case of Michael Freeland, “with a 40-year history of suicide attempts being given the drug.”

It’s also been true that, once established as a benefit, assisted suicide (or in some other countries, straight up euthanasia) gets extended to more and more conditions, such as non-terminal conditions like diabetes and multiple sclerosis in Oregon, and depression and feeling “tired of life” in other countries. People can become “terminal” because their insurance denies coverage to and people can’t afford necessary treatment, or they stop their life-sustaining treatment.

Voket concludes the interview by asking Cathy if Second Thoughts CT could support “the other potential proposals involving end-of-life legislation that might hit the State House floor this session?”

Cathy affirms Second Thoughts’ support for “palliative care and anything that would support a person as they are nearing the end of life,” and of “good suicide prevention strategies.”

Our question is, how can the State of Connecticut be promoting suicide prevention while possibly at the same time promoting suicide assistance? And the difference is what label you wear, whether you are deemed as terminally ill, elderly, having a “complete” life — which is something they use in other places, or “disabled.”

Cathy loves her life and is upbeat about how supports can meet the challenges of disability. As she stated at the beginning of the interview, the problem isn’t disability but the deadly prejudice against it. And the answer is to remove that prejudice, not the people it targets for death.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Trudeau government agrees to permit euthanasia for mental illness alone.

Sign the petition: 
No to euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people! (Link)

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list:

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last week I reported that Canada's Senate passed Bill C-7, the bill to expand Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia law, with dangerous amendments that further expands the law.

As bad as Bill C-7 was, the Senate passed five amendments to Bill C-7. The primary amendments were expanding euthanasia to people with mental illness alone (with an 18 month reprieve for the federal government to develop rules) and incompetent people who had requested death in their advanced directive.

By passing Bill C-7 with amendments, the bill went back to parliament for debate on the amendments.

Joan Bryden, reported for the Canadian Press that the government accepted the most dangerous Senate amendment, that being, expanding euthanasia to people with mental illness alone, but with a 24 month reprieve to enable the federal government to develop guidelines. Bryden reported:
The Trudeau government has agreed with the Senate that Canadians suffering solely from grievous and incurable mental illnesses should be entitled to medical assistance in dying — but not for another two years.

The two-year interlude is six months longer than what was proposed by senators.

Since this is a minority government, it is possible that members of parliament will reject this amendment.
The mental illness alone amendment felt like a "set-up" after Justice Minister, David Lametti, announced on November 24 that, once Bill C-7 passed, he wanted to expand euthanasia to people with mental illness alone.
With a minority government, parliament is able to reject the Senate amendments.
Sign the petition: No to euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people! (Link)

Bryden also reported that the government has rejected the Senate amendment permitting euthanasia for incompetent people who have requested death in their advanced directive. Bryden reported:
The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed people who fear being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions to make advance requests for an assisted death.

It has also rejected one other amendment and modified two others in a motion that is to be debated today in the House of Commons.
If the House of Commons approves the government's response, the bill will go back to the Senate, where senators will have to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected chamber or dig in their heels.

The Senate had no right to consider expanding euthanasia to people who request death in their advanced directive since the issue was not even studied by the House of Commons or Senate hearings on Bill C-7. The Senate simply reacted to an emotionally compelling speech by Senator Wallin.

What did Bill C-7 do before it was amended?

1. Bill C-7 removes the requirement in the law that a person’s natural death be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for assisted death. Therefore, people who are not terminally ill can die by euthanasia. The Quebec court decision only required this amendment to the law, but Bill C-7 went further.

2. Bill C-7 permits a doctor or nurse practitioner to lethally inject a person who is incapable of consenting, if that person was previously approved for assisted death. This contravenes the Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision which stated that only competent people could die by euthanasia.

3. Bill C-7 waives the ten-day waiting period if a person's natural death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable. Thus a person could request death by euthanasia on a "bad day" and die the same day. Studies prove that the “will to live” fluctuates.

4. Bill C-7 creates a two track law. A person whose natural death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable has no waiting period while a person whose natural death is not deemed to be reasonably foreseeable would have a 90 day waiting period before being killed by lethal injection.

5. As stated earlier, Bill C-7 falsely claims to prevent euthanasia for people with mental illness. The euthanasia law permits MAiD for people who are physically or psychologically suffering that is intolerable to the person and that cannot be relieved in a way that the person considers acceptable. However, mental illness, which is not defined in the law, is considered a form of psychological suffering.

Bill C-7 went much further than the Quebec Superior Court Truchon  decision and now the Senate has made it worse. 

Join more than 52,000 people who have signed the petition: Reject euthanasia Bill C-7 (Link).

Contact your member of parliament to reject the Senate amendments and Bill C-7. Members of Parliament contact list: