Tuesday, November 30, 2010

assisted suicide lobby targets Vermont.

Now that Peter Shumlin is the democrat Governor of Vermont the suicide lobby has announced their intention to lobby for a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Vermont in early 2011 and throughout the New England states in 2012.

An announcement from the Death with Dignity national center states:
We're currently partnering with Patient Choices at End of Life - Vermont - to embark on a legislative effort in early 2011. We're excited about our shift to New England as it provides opportunities to you and to the Death with Dignity movement to establish a foundation for future efforts in the region as soon as 2012

The suicide lobby ran a successful campaign to legalize assisted suicide in Washington State in 2008 by coordinating a unified national campaign, whereby they put all of their resources into one state initiative. It appears that they are planning a similar effort in Vermont.

The group and individuals who respect the dignity and equality of all people need to work together to oppose the legislative initiative in Vermont.

We will only succeed if we work together.

Robert Latimer is granted full-parole

Robert Latimer was granted full parole after serving his sentence for second degree murder which was 25 years, 10 years before parole in the murder of his daughter Tracy.

Latimer, from Wilke Saskatchewan, has been on day parole since March 2008, after his 1997 conviction for second-degree murder.

Latimer put his daughter Tracy, who lived with cerebral palsy, in his pickup truck and ran a hose from the exhaust pipe into the cabin of the truck. Tracy died of asphyxiation. He claimed it was a “mercy killing” - language consistently repeated in major media outlets. He never expressed remorse for the murder.

After an appeal to the Supreme Court over sentencing, he was imprisoned in 2001. He won early parole after seven years and will receive full-parole on December 6, 2010.

CTV news featured an interview with Laurie Beachell from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities on the full-parole for Robert Latimer. This is the first time that I have seen video footage of Tracy Latimer playing.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has always held that Robert Latimer should be treated in the same manner as any other person who was convicted of second-degree murder.

Our primary concern is the treatment of people with disabilities and other vulnerable people within Canada.

The tradgedy of the Latimer case was that many people, including many media outlets, were willing to describe Tracy Latimer, in a dehumanizing manner in order to defend the heinous crime of her father. It concerns us that my Canadians believe that it is acceptable to kill children with disabilities, while in the Netherlands, the government continues to allow the euthanasia of children with disabilities based on the Groningen Protocol.

Even the Quebec government Dying with Dignity commission has asked the question whether the euthanasia of children with disabilities is an acceptable practise.

A truly compassionate society will care for its vulnerable members, not kill them.

Link to the article by LifeSiteNews on Robert Latimer.:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Man, 27, battles Froedtert Hospital to remove ventilator

Dan Crews
I have just received a link to an article by Tia Ghose and published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The article is about a very difficult case in Antioch Illinois concerning Dan Crews (27), who was paralyzed in a car crash at age 3 and reportedly wants to die by the withdrawal of his ventilator.

Crews is ventilator dependent and has been petitioning the Froedtert Hospital to withdraw his ventilator.

Crews states that:
He is physically incapable of ending his life.
But the facts of the case are a little different.

First: Crews has the right to refuse medical treatment, including the withdrawal of the ventilator.

The story states that:
"Hospital psychiatrists and mental health professionals say he is depressed and must be treated for it before they will consider such an irrevocable step, according to his medical records. Crews said his desire to die stems not from his depression, but from his poor quality of life and the low odds that it will ever improve."
Concerning the right to refuse treatment the story correctly stated:
"Courts have nearly universally recognized that right," said Laura Leitch, general counsel to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

But Crews isn't a cancer patient in hospice care. Other than needing a ventilator to breathe, he is young and has no other life-threatening conditions.

Legally he still has the right to discontinue treatment, Leitch said. But in practice, it can be difficult for non-terminal patients to refuse lifesaving treatment.

Before doctors honor a patient's wishes, they must determine whether the patient is competent, and hospitals have broad leeway in determining competency,
The issue of Dan Crew's quality of life can change.

Hon. Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher, is the Member of the Canadian Parliament and cabinet minister in the Harper Conservative government from Winnipeg (Charleswood - St. James - Assiniboia riding).

Fletcher, at the age of 22, had a car accident. His car hit a moose resulting in a broken (severed) neck leaving him a quadriplegic with no sensation below his neck.

Fletcher has been able to become a respected and important political leader, not by regaining his physical ability but by overcoming his physical limitations. He is truly a remarkable person.

Fletcher is not the only person who has lived a successful life with limited physical capacity.

Dan Crews has the right to refuse treatment. If the psychiatric team considered him mentally competent, his request to have his ventilator turned off would be honoured.

Another concern that needs to be addressed is the fact that the:
Illinois Medicaid often denies requests for the 24-hour care he needs to stay in his home, so he risks being put in a nursing home,
The article is also connected to a suspiciously written poll. The poll states: Should people with high-level disabilities be given the right to terminate their lives? The poll question appears to be asking whether or not euthanasia should be legal for people with high-level disabilities, but this is not an article about euthanasia, but rather the right to refuse medical treatment.

I suggestion that people who read this article should vote NO on this online poll.

We do not oppose the right to refuse medical treatment but because the online poll question can be construed as supporting the legalization of euthanasia, it must be opposed.

Dan Crews needs to be treated for depression. He needs to become active and live outside of the hospital. Just because he is ventilator dependent doesn't mean that his life is not worth living.

Theresa Ducharme
Theresa Ducharme was a friend of mine who died in 2004, at the age of 59. She founded the disability group - People in Equal Participation. Ducharme contracted polio at the age of 8 and lived her life ventilator dependent, requiring a wheel chair for her mobility.

Ducharme was partially responsible for changing how people with disabilities were treated in Canada. She also got married, was politically active, and brought disability cases to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The better answer is to enable Crew to become all that he can be. He is capable of achieving great things in spite of his physical limitations.

The Commission on 'Assisted Dying' in the UK - sham?

Peter Saunders, a leader of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK has written an interesting blog comment about The Commission on 'Assisted Dying' that is being established in the UK by leading pro-euthanasia politician, Lord Falconer.

Many have referred to this quasi parliamentary committee as a sham for its lack of transparency and its one-sided structure.

Saunders stated:
The Commission on 'Assisted Dying', due to be launched on Tuesday November 30, has attracted some more attention in the press today and we are given additional information about the identities of some of the members of Lord Falconer’s ‘independent’ panel.

The Observer has today run a piece with the intriguing title ‘Assisted Suicide Law to be reviewed by Lords’. This creates the misleading impression that this commission is somehow part of the parliamentary process when it is nothing of the sort.

Instead, as we have already learnt, it is a privately organised enquiry which was the idea of campaign group ‘Dignity in Dying’ (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) and is being funded by celebrity novelist Terry Pratchett (who like Baroness Warnock backs legalising assisted suicide for people with Alzheimer’s disease).

It is true that the Commission intends to publish a report in October 2011 which it hopes will be discussed in Parliament but we need to be clear that the pro-euthanasia lobby has decided to take this ‘independent’ route because their attempts to legalise assisted suicide through the standard parliamentary processes have failed by large margins at the last two attempts (148-100 and 194-141 in the House of Lords in 2006 and 2009 respectively).

So what do we know thus far of those involved?

As noted previously, Lord Falconer, who attempted to amend the Coroners and Justice Bill in 2009 to decriminalise taking 'loved ones' to Zurich so that they could end their lives at Ludwig Minelli’s suicide facility, will chair the commission.

Another member of this 12-person ‘independent’ team is revealed today to be Penny Mordaunt MP (pictured), who ten days ago laid her cards on the table as a supporter of so-called ‘assisted dying’.

Further members include Baroness Barbara Young, the former chair of the government's health watchdog, Canon James Woodward of St George's Chapel, Windsor and Stephen Duckworth, who has campaigned on disability issues.

Baroness Young of Old Scone supported Lord Falconer’s move to decriminalise assisting with suicide in 2009 and also spoke in support of Lord Joffe's Bill in 2006. So the two ‘Lords’ on the panel who are to review the law are both already committed to legalisation.

Stephen Duckworth also supports 'assisted dying' according to a statement on the DID website and seems to have no link with any of the main disability rights organisations who oppose any change in the law such as RADAR, Not Dead Yet, UKDPC, NCIL or SCOPE.

We wait with interest to see who the other seven members are but it will be even more interesting to learn how they were selected. Were they nominated or appointed and if so by whom? Did they apply to be included and if so how did they learn about the commission’s existence and what was the selection process? Was there an interview? If so who was on the panel and how ‘independent’ were they?

I do hope that on Tuesday, when the commission is launched there will be full transparency on these questions along with full disclosure about the commission’s funding and any possible financial and ideological vested interests of those selected.

I was interested to read today in the Observer that Lord Falconer felt his 2009 amendment failed because it didn’t contain enough safeguards against abuse. It would be interesting to hear from him more specifically about which safeguards he felt were inadequate and why.

Lord Joffe’s ‘Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill’ also failed on grounds of inadequate safeguards and serious questions have been raised about whether the key safeguards currently being campaigned by Dignity in Dying are adequate (ie. ‘mentally competent’, ‘terminally ill’, ‘persistent well-informed voluntary request’, ‘suffering unbearably’). In fact whereas Joffe used a definition of 'six months to live' for 'terminally ill', Sarah Wootton, the Chief Executive of Dignity Dying, extends this to twelve months.

Baroness Young's comment on Joffe's Bill in 2006, when she supported it in her speech, is most enlightening in this context. She said, 'The Bill is a very carefully crafted set of proposals. I very much admire the thoughtful way in which the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, has conducted the drafting and his commitment to amend it to best meet the widest possible range of views. It contains multiple safeguards against misuse. It deserves our and, indeed, the Government's support.'

I note that Health Professionals for Change spokesperson Ray Tallis was heavily defeated in a debate on assisted suicide this last week in Liverpool by Lord Alton who simply outlined the deficiencies in so-called safeguards mentioned to date.

I see also that Baroness Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine in Cardiff, has now joined John Pring and George Pitcher in expressing misgivings about the independent nature of the commission. She says, ‘I have been told by someone close to this that they are not looking at whether (to legalise ‘assisted dying) but how. It can't be independent?’

I wonder who the ‘someone close to this’ was and what else they said. There are lots of interesting leads here for enquiring journalists to chase.

It’s going to be a fascinating week.

It appears that Lord Falconer wants to legalize assisted suicide through the back-door in the UK.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Scottish euthanasia bill will go to a vote on December 1

On November 18, the majority of the members of the all party committee that examined the End of Life Assistance bill stated that the bill should be defeated and they stated that:
"Overall, the majority was not persuaded the case had been made to decriminalise the law of homicide as it applies to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, termed 'end-of-life assistance' in the Bill."
The committee Convener, Ross Finnie, said members heard evidence from a wide range of organisations. After detailed discusions they concluded:
"there are several flaws in the Bill"
Margo MacDonald
To pressure Scottish politicians, Margo MacDonald, the sponsor of the euthanasia bill, released the results of a euthanasia poll that was conducted between April 14 - 16, 2010 that indicated that 77% of the respondents supported the concept of euthanasia.

MacDonald expressed elation at the poll numbers but stated with frustration that:
some MSPs have allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by a well organised and orchestrated campaign against the bill by Care Not Killing (CNK).
CNK policy officer Gordon Macdonald responded by saying:
opinion polls were not a "reliable guide" on the issue because those asked were not giving an informed view but rather an answer "off the top of their heads".
Macdonald then stated:
there were also problems of definition with the proposed groups who would be eligible - those with "terminal illness" or "permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently".
When polling on the issue of euthanasia, it is clear that the wording and the way the question is asked will determine the result of the poll. The real question is what do the Scottish people actually want?

A recent Environics research survey in Canada showed that 71% of Canadians wanted the government to focus on improving end-of-life care rather than focusing on legalizing euthanasia. It is likely that the Scottish people have similar concerns.

The MacDonald euthanasia bill is now scheduled to go to a vote in the Scottish parliament on December 1, 2010. The vote was scheduled to happen yesterday, (November 25) but was moved back to debate the income tax provisions.

On January 21, 2010; I published an analysis of the Scottish - End-of-Life Assistance Bill where I concluded:
Margo MacDonald's - End of Life Assistance Bill would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Scotland. The bill essentially grants a "blank cheque to kill" people with disabilities, chronic conditions or terminally ill.

MacDonald has attempted to create the appearance of strict safeguards. She appears to have wanted her bill to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for a large group of people, including herself, yet she knew that the bill needed an illusion of protection for vulnerable persons.

The fact is that people with disabilities and those who live with chronic conditions need to strongly respond to this bill because it directly focuses on eliminating their lives.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Côté takes swipe at Somerville.

Dick Côté, the friend of Reverend George Exoo, (who claims to have helped to kill more than 100 people), who was a speaker at the recent World Federation of Right to Die Societies Conference, decided to take a swipe at a comment written by Margaret Somerville in the Marknews.com.

Côté states:
Ah, the old "for millennia, we've thought...." argument: if we've thought that way for a long time, it must have been a great idea to have stood the test of time. For centuries, "the best and the brightest" thought that dark-skinned people were inferior to lighter ones; that slavery, which was ordained by the Bible, was a perfectly respectable idea; that women were too dim-witted to be able to study and practice medicine, be permitted to vote; earn doctoral degrees and teach in universities (as does Dr. Somerville); or receive equal pay for equal work. And for millennia, in places and cultures that still exist, female adulterers are still stoned to death.

Dick, I think Margo Somerville was stating that human beings have in nearly all cultures, considered it wrong to kill other people, other than in self-defense. You seem to be arguing that a society that permitted the hideous practise of shackling people and making them slaves must have been wrong about everything.

If they weren't wrong about everything, then were they right about not killing others? Would society be better if it kills newborns with disabilities, (as some cultures do), if it kills a newborn child if that child was a daughter and the couple wanted a son (like some cultures do), or it kills the elderly because they are useless eaters? I think that a culture that protects its vulnerable is a good culture, one that could treat everyone with dignity and equality.

Côté then went on to say:
Anyone who has no place in their head or heart for a physician who would honor the wish of a terminally ill person who is emaciated, incontinent, writhing in uncontrollable pain (and no, even the best palliative care / medication can’t always control it) and begging for a swift and painless death, even if that person thinks assisted suicide or physician-hastened death is unconscionable to them, has no right whatsoever to enforce that view on anyone who doesn’t agree with him or her. It’s easy to argue these profound questions from the safe, sanitary distance of the intellectual ivory tower. It’s quite another to make the same decision when the sights, sounds, and smell of death is only inches away. Richard N. Côté

What Côté is saying is the answer to human suffering, which we all disdain, is to kill the sufferer, rather than care for the sufferer. Côté suggests that the difference is whether or not the person asks to die.

What about the 2005 report from the Netherlands stated that 550 people were killed, yes killed, without request or consent?

What about the study that was published this year on euthanasia in Belgium that concluded that 32% of all euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were without request or consent? So much for people asking for it, once it becomes legal, I guess some doctors will just do it.

Can society effectively limit euthanasia to only those who are of sound mind and who request and consent euthanasia? Even Philip Nitschke recently stated - There will be some collateral damage. In other words, some people will be killed, who didn't want to die, who never asked to die by lethal injection or who were experiencing treatable depression, and didn't really want lethal injection.

Euthanasia is not done by the person who dies, but rather another person, usually a physician. If legal, society will give the physician the power over life and death. The physician will be trusted as the ethical arbitor of you will be given the thumb up or the thumb down. Is Côté not concerned that some doctors will abuse their power? What about Michael Swango or Harold Shipman?

Côté suggests that euthanasia would only be done to those who are near to death. Which law limits euthanasia to those who are nearing death? Certainly not the Netherlands, not Belgium, not Oregon, not Washington state... I guess there isn't a euthanasia law that only applies to people who are nearing death. In fact, in the Netherlands, newborn babies and people with depression are fair game.

I think Côté and I agree that society needs to treat the effective care of suffering people as a priority.

We will never agree how to do that. Côté would like society to accept the killing of the vulnerable. I advocate for the care of the vulnerable.

Society should be proud of the martyrs of the White Rose Campaign in Nazi Germany who did not turn a blind eye but stood up against the T4 euthanasia program and the other hideous crimes that were permitted by their government. Society should also be proud that those who did not turn a blind eye and gave their life to abolish the slave trade, and won the day.

In the same way, I will never turn a blind eye to killing people, as Côté suggests I should do. I believe that every human being has dignity and is equal and should not be killed by me, my doctor, your doctor, Dick Côté, or anyone else.

1 in 20 hospital deaths in the Netherlands are preventable.

The Dutch News is reporting today that 1 in 20 hospital deaths in the Netherlands are preventable.

The article from the Dutchnews.nl stated:
Around one in 20 hospital deaths are the result of mistakes which could have been prevented, according to new research into patient safety, quoted by the Volkskrant.

Two years ago, researchers put the preventable death rate at 4% - or 1,735 people - but the increase is not considered significant, the paper said.

‘But the figures do show it is a real problem,’ VU university professor Cordula Wagner told the paper. ‘There is something going on. It cannot be solved by separate measures. It needs an integrated approach.'

The article was reporting the response to a recent study. The article stated:
The researchers drew their conclusions after studying 4,000 patient files from 20 hospitals. Most problems relate to operations and medicines and patients often die because post operation complications are not noticed quickly enough.

Patient groups told the paper the figures are shocking. But Wagner said patients themselves are becoming more complicated to treat. ‘They have multiple problems, they are older and weaker. That is why hospital treatment is becoming more complex and the chance of something going wrong increasing.’

When combining euthanasia deaths with the number of deaths caused by medical errors, it would appear that the hospitals are not a safe place in the Netherlands.

It is possible that the statistics that show that 550 deaths without request or consent that occur each year in the Netherlands may be related to physicians covering up medical errors rather than the hypothesis that the euthanasia lobby uses which is that the families requested the deaths.

Choice, in the case of euthanasia, is an illusion.

Nitschke is encouraging people to come to him for death, as he laments the defeat of the euthanasia bill in South Australia

On Wednesday evening, November 24 2010, a bill to legalize euthanasia in South Australia was defeated by a voices vote. The sponsor of the bill, Greens member Mark Parnell, suggested that the vote, if recorded, would have been 12 - 9 against legalizing euthanasia.

Nitschke stated to the Sky News that many people will turn to him to aid their suicide. He said:
he expected a rise in the number of elderly people actively seeking their own options for a peaceful death by either travelling overseas to obtain the best euthanasia drugs or by using one of several mail order services.

'We see this phenomena at Exit every time legislation is defeated,'

Nitschke isn't confident that a bill being presented in the legislature next year will have much hope of passing. The Sky news reported:
In South Australia, the legislative attention will now turn to parliament's lower house where an independent MP will introduce another voluntary euthanasia bill in the new year.

But Dr Nitschke said that unless lessons were learnt form the most recent experience, that legislation was also destined to fail.

'Unless there are some lessons learnt from this experience and changes made, it's hard to hold out much hope for the voluntary euthanasia legislation to be presented to the SA lower house next year,' he said.

Nitschke should be sure of at least one thing. That the group HOPE will continue to defeat the euthanasia lobby in Australia.

Euthanasia bill defeated in South Australia, euthanasia lobby suggests another bill next year

The Parnell/Key euthanasia bill was defeated in the South Australian legislature on Wednesday, November 24, by the voice vote. Parnell pulled the bill from receiving a final vote but admitted that the bill was probably going to be defeated by a vote of 12 to 9.

After the bill was defeated it was suggested that another bill will be brought before the legislature next year.

This is a significant victory.

Last year a similar bill was defeated by a vote of 11 to 9. Since then, South Australia had elections that resulted in 3 of the 11 members who opposed euthanasia being defeated. It was significant that two more Liberal members moved to oppose the bill.

An article by Michael Cook stated:
Liberal Jing Lee, a swinging voter, was not convinced either. "There are many problems with this Bill," she said. "What I am afraid of is voluntary euthanasia will inevitably mean in some cases involuntary euthanasia."

Family First MLC Dennis Hood argued that the bill had too many loopholes. He claimed that it allowed euthanasia for patients without a terminal illness and allowed people to take out life insurance policies shortly before undergoing euthanasia. Referral to psychiatrists was only optional in the bill and the proposed Voluntary Euthanasia Board was “toothless”. “This was a dangerous proposal and I’m glad it is off the table now so that we can get on with serious business for South Australia,” said Mr Hood.

An article by Sarah Martin that was published in Adelaide Now stated:
The Bill, prepared by Greens MLC Mark Parnell and ALP backbencher Steph Key, was defeated "on the voices" and did not go to a vote after debate indicated it would be defeated.

Mr Parnell said some key members had expressed in-principle support for voluntary euthanasia which had "left the door open" for future legislation.

"Of course we are disappointed the Bill didn't pass the Upper House last night, but this by no means is the end of the debate," he said.

"The Bill Steph Key and I have introduced is still very much alive in the Lower House (and) it's time for the Lower House to start doing some heavy lifting on this issue."

The debate lasted several hours, with about 12 members indicating they would vote against the Bill.

Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke said the defeat of the Bill was a "significant setback".

"Unless there are some lessons learnt from this experience and changes made, it is hard to hold out much hope for the voluntary euthanasia legislation to be presented to the SA Lower House next year."

The group HOPE (saying no to euthanasia) needs to be congratulated for the defeat of the bill. HOPE organized an effective opposition and lobbying campaign to defeat the bill.

Thank you to Paul Russell and the team at HOPE. http://www.noeuthanasia.org.au/

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Analysis of the South Australia euthanasia bills

By Alex Schadenberg

On Wednesday, November 24, 2010; there will be a debate and vote on the Parnell/Key euthanasia bills in South Australia. These bills are identical, one being in the upper house and one in the lower house.

The Parnell/Key bills are deceptively titled: Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care (End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2010. What these bills do is they legalize euthanasia in South Australia by amending the Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995.

Legalizing euthanasia means that the law will allow a physician to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patient. These Acts are designed to determine the conditions to allow an act, that is currently recognized as homicide.

These bills are so cumbersome that a physician will likely need to consult a lawyer, or the euthanasia lobby, before deciding to lethally inject a person.

It is possible that the euthanasia lobby intended these bills to be complicated to ensure that physicians would need to consult them on the workings of the law.

Even the rules that are prescribed in the bill related to the establishment of a “Euthanasia Board” are cumbersome.

Definitions are everything.

The bills allows a lethal injection to be given to (35) (1):

(a) an adult person who is in the terminal phase of a terminal illness. The words terminal phase and terminal illness are not defined.

(b) An adult person who is suffering from an illness, injury or other medical condition (other than mental illness within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 2009) that irreversibly impairs the person’s quality of life so that lie has become intolerable to that person.

Section (b) essentially applies to anyone who has a significant physical disability or a long-term chronic condition.

Many people live with an illness, injury or other medical condition that irreversibly impairs the person’s “quality of life”. But when did society decide that people who live with disabilities or chronic conditions are better off dead?

Does this bill limit euthanasia to the “free choice” of a person?.

The bill states that if the physician suspects that the person is not of sound mind, or possible under some form of duress that the physician must obtain a certificate from a psychiatrist before being allowed to lethally inject the person.

This is a similar provision to the assisted suicide statute in Oregon. In the first year of the Oregon assisted suicide law, 11 of 24 people were sent for a psychiatric assessment. In 2009, 0 of 59 people who died by assisted suicide were sent for a psychiatric assessment.

An independent study by Linda Ganzini that was published in 2008 found that 15 of 58 people (26%) who had requested assisted suicide were depressed or experiencing feelings of hopelessness. BMA 2008, 337: a. 1682.

“Safeguards” to prevent people who are depressed from dying from euthanasia are only as good as the people who operate the law. Most physicians are not experts in depression or mental illness, therefore the “safeguard” will be rarely, if ever, applied.

These bills would allow someone, to request in advance of a possible medical condition, that a lethal injection be done , while in a possible future state of health.

The purpose for this section of the bill is to give physicians the right to lethally inject people who have Alzheimer disease or dementia. If people in South Australia are encouraged to sign advanced directives for euthanasia, this would eliminate many people when they are expensive to care for and when their lives are considered not worth living.

In Conclusion:
The South Australia bill is written in a cumbersome fashion to make it appear to protect vulnerable people from euthanasia. The bill states that it is about voluntary euthanasia.

By reading the bill it becomes clear that the purpose of the bill is to eliminate the lives of people with disabilities or long-term chronic conditions. The bill is not limited to terminal illness and further, it doesn’t even effectively define terminal illness.

Therefore the cumbersome nature of the bill is either a smoke screen to convince the public that the bill will ensure public safety, which it doesn’t, while it allows wide definitions to ensure that people who are expensive to care for can be lethally injected.

Once again, the cumbersome nature of the bill will also play into the hands of the euthanasia lobby. In Oregon, the 2009 stats indicate that 57 of 59 assisted suicide deaths were facilitated by Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock society. This means that the euthanasia lobby has become responsible for facilitating the law. The same would be true in South Australia.

Members of the South Australian parliament need to reject these bills and re-commit themselves to providing effective care for all of their citizens and not lethal injections for people with disabilities and chronic conditions.

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
euthanasiaprevention@on.aibn.com

Homicide or Mercy Killing?

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New York Daily News is reporting on a very sad case of homicide, whereby an elderly man shot his wife, reportedly based on compassion.

The daughter of the couple was reported by the newspaper as stating:
"It was a mercy killing," 

"Her mind was gone."
These cases need to be reported very carefully by the media. We do not know the actual intention of the spouse who is the perpetrator.

Research indicates that often a older person who kills their spouse has a history of abuse, has a controlling personality, or is experiencing depression or mental illness. Sadly these acts are almost always done by men.

A recent study entitled: Domestic Homicide and Homicide-Suicide: The Older Offender that was researched by Dominique Bourget and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 38:3:305-311 (2010) found that a disturbing trend exists in Spousal homicide cases among older persons.

The study found:
Most homicides committed by offenders aged 65 and older occur in a domestic context. In Canada, incidence rates of family homicide against people in this age group have increased in recent years, with spouses or ex-spouses accused in 42 percent of deaths of older women and 25 percent of deaths of older men. Most of the perpetrators of spousal homicide (77%) were close in age to their spouses. This finding differs from results in U.S. studies that indicate that female spousal homicide victims are usually younger than the perpetrators, and that the risk of homicide victimization increases as the age difference between spouses increases.

A history of domestic violence is a major risk factor for spousal homicide for female and male victims of any age. Lethal violence is often a result of long-term abusive behavior by a man against his female partner, and some women kill their intimate partners in a severe reaction to longstanding abuse. Spousal violence often continues into old age. In the past decade in Canada, 37 percent of older adults accused of spousal homicide had past incidents of domestic violence. Older male spousal homicide victims were more likely than older female homicide victims to have a history of domestic violence against the accused. While this finding is consistent with those in previous research that indicate a continuation of spousal violence into old age, it is important to note that the perpetrators of previous domestic violence cannot be established from available police reports. It should also be noted that, for various reasons, the prevalence of domestic violence is likely to be higher than reports indicate and that the apparent association with spousal homicide would therefore also be under-reported.
The study continues by promoting the high rate of mental illness among older persons who are prosecuted for homicide. The study states:
In an investigation of psychiatric characteristics of older offenders (65 and older) who had been referred to a medium-security forensic unit in the London area over a 13-year period, Tomar et al. identified diagnoses of schizophrenia and dementia in three of four homicide perpetrators who had offended after the age of 65. Coid et al. recorded index offenses and lifetime diagnoses of mental disorder in 52 older offenders (aged 60 and older) admitted to seven secure forensic psychiatric services in the United Kingdom over a seven-year period. The investigators found that schizophrenia, other delusional disorders, organic brain syndrome, and depressive disorder were the most prevalent lifetime diagnoses for the offenders, most of whom (82%) had committed homicide or attempted homicide. Link to study.
When reading these very disturbing facts it becomes abundantly clear that when a spouse of many years murders their spouse, even when the spouse who died was ill, one should never conclude that the action was based on a "compassionate" homicide.

It is better to speak about the sad reality of the story and not draw conclusions, especially conclusions that suggest that these acts would not occur if euthanasia or assisted suicide were legalized.

Link to a previous article on this topic.

Montana Supreme Court did not legalize assisted suicide.

A recent article that was written by William L. Saunders and published by Engage was wrongly titled: The Montana Supreme Court Legalizes Assisted Suicide, in fact argues that the Montana Supreme Court did not actually legalize assisted suicide.

Saunders points out that:
In Baxter v. State, decided December 31, 2009, the Montana Supreme Court did not "constitutionalize" a "right to die" as the lower court had done (Judge Dorothy McCarter). Rather, the court held that physicians who prescribe lethal drugs upon the request of their patients are not subject to criminal liability under the "consent defense" to Montana's homicide law. Thus technically the court did not "legalize" assisted suicide; rather, someone who assists a suicide simply has a "defense" to homicide.


Link to article.

Melchert-Dinkel pleads not guilty to encouraging suicide

An article in the AOL news article by Hugh Collins, a few days ago, reported that William Melchert-Dinkel has pled not guilty of encouraging suicide in the deaths of Nadia Kajouji, the Carlton University student in Ottawa Canada, who died by suicide in March 2008 and Mark Drybrough, of Coventry England, who died in 2005.

The article stated:
Prosecutors in Rice County, Minn., say that Merchert-Dinkel posed as a female nurse on Internet chat rooms and gave Kajouji and Drybrough advice on how they could best kill themselves. He entered his not guilty plea Friday.

If found guilty, Melchert-Dinkel, who is now a truck driver, could face 15 years in prison, QMI Agency said.

Using online names such as "Cami" and "Li Dao," Melchert-Dinkel allegedly discussed techniques for suicide and even offered to enter into a suicide pact with Kajouji to strengthen her resolve.

Melchert-Dinkel admitted to entering into suicide pacts with about 10 people. He believes that five of these people went on to kill themselves.

Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer failed to have the case dismissed based on communication via the internet being protected as free speech. Judge Thomas Neuville disagreed.

Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer is now attempting to have the case dismissed because the deaths did not take place in the United States.

The article states that:
District Judge Thomas Neuville will take the matter under advisement on Dec. 13. He will then have 60 days to make a decision.

The article stated that:
In one Internet chat, "Li Dao" (Melchert-Dinkel) offered Drybrough advice on how to hang himself without attaching the rope to the ceiling.

Police in Britain and the United States examined Drybrough's computer and determined that he had sought advice online on how to kill himself, Prosecutors say this advice came from Melchert-Dinkel's computer.

Marc kajouji, Nadia's brother stated in the article:
Surprisingly, I don't spend much time worrying what happens to Melchert-Dinkel. I spend my time thinking about how I can help others prevent suicide from hitting their family.

William Melchert-Dinkel needs to be prosecuted for steering vulnerable depressed people toward suicide.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dying man opposes South Australia Euthanasia Bill

Dear Mr Premier,

Re: Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2010

I write this letter to you my own name only and not in the name of my institute, of any Government Committees in which I am involved, or of any organisation. I write because what happens in South Australia on this matter will affect all Australians, particularly those who, like me, meet the requirements of the Bill.

Relevant to this matter is the fact that I am dealing with my own terminal illness (combination of renal failure, advanced ischaemic heart disease and Rheumatoid auto-immune disease) and am dependant on haemodialysis and palliative care. I have undergone 15 angioplasty procedures and the placement of eight stents to attempt to recover some blood flow after the failure of coronary bypass surgery. The last such procedure was unsuccessful as the blocked artery could not be accessed. The Rheumatoid disease causes chronic pleuropericarditis. I mention these matters only to establish that I am no stranger to suffering and disability, and am well aware of the limitations of palliative care. It is particularly difficult to control chronic pain because the effectiveness of most forms of pain relief is of limited duration, given the development of therapeutic tolerance. I have reached the limits of what palliative care can offer.

I cannot speak for all people who suffer from illness and disability, but think I can speak more credibly about suffering, illness and disability than those people who advocate for euthanasia presenting an ideological view of suffering and disability. Facing illness and disability takes courage and we do not need those euthanasia advocates to tell us that we are so lacking dignity and have such a poor quality of life that our lives are not worth living.

Professionally, I have been involved with issues to do with the care of the terminally ill for many years, having been Australia’s first hospital ethicist, twenty-eight years ago, at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, where I was also Director of Bioethics for a period of eight years.

Since then I have been a consultant ethicist in private practice and have taught ethics in the medical faculties of the University of Melbourne and Monash University, before taking my current position at the John Paul II Institute. The Institute is associated with the Lateran University in Rome and is a registered Higher Education Provider in Australian offering accredited specialist graduate courses in Bioethics and in Theological Studies in Marriage and Family.

Also relevant is that recently I had the experience of chairing a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Working Committee preparing guidelines for the care of people in an unresponsive state or a minimally responsive state and receiving a large number of public submissions on that topic. The topic is closely related to the topic of your enquiry. The strength of submissions from people who care daily for Australia’s most dependant and needy individuals was overwhelming and I highly recommend that you read the public submissions on the NHMRC’s web-site or at least read the NHMRC Ethical Guidelines for the Care of People in an Unresponsive State or a Minimally Responsive State (2008). Importantly, the guidelines provide a careful analysis of the way in which care decisions may be made so as to preserve respect for the dignity and worth of people who are so profoundly disabled and to provide care for the families and others who care for people with PCU or MRS.

I have also had a long-term association with a home hospice service that serves the eastern area of Melbourne. I would like to record my own view that it would not benefit seriously ill South Australians, particularly those who are terminally ill and suffering intractably, if the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill became law. The current legal situation in South Australia, while not perfect, does provide a measure of protection against the terminally ill being regarded as a burden. As a chronically ill person I know well what it is to feel that one is a burden to others, to both family and community, how isolating illness and disability can be, and how difficult it is to maintain hope in the circumstances of illness, disability and severe pain, especially chronic pain.

For several years, until I objected, I received from my health insurer a letter that tells me how much it costs the fund to maintain my health care. I dreaded receiving that letter and the psychological reasoning that would seem to have motivated it. Each year I was reminded how much of a burden I am to my community. The fear of being a burden is a major risk to the survival of those who are chronically ill. If euthanasia were lawful, that sense of burden would be greatly increased for there would be even greater moral pressure to relinquish one’s hold on a burdensome life. Seriously ill people do not need euthanasia. We need better provision of palliative care services aimed at managing symptoms and maximising function, especially as we approach death. Rather than help to die, the cause of dignity would be more greatly helped if more was done to help people live more fully with the dying process.

The proposal to make provision for a terminally person who is suffering to request, and a doctor to provide, assistance to die makes it less likely that adequate efforts will be made to make better provision for palliative care services. Legalised euthanasia would give those responsible for funding and providing palliative care a political “out” in that respect.

In Australia, too little is done to make adequate palliative care available to those who need it:
  • Current entry requirements for palliative care usually exclude people with chronic pain and is often limited to people who are in the last stage of cancer with a prognosis of less than eight weeks;
  • The pharmaceutical subsidies for the more effective forms of pain relief are often restricted to cancer patients;
  • People living outside major cities have little access to palliative care facilities.
  • Few doctors are adequately trained to provide palliative care.
  • Such palliative care services as exist are chronically underfunded and struggle to provide the complex range of services that are needed to assist a person to live with pain and disability.
  • Most pain clinics are over subscribed and have long waiting lists. For people who are left suffering, such waiting is unconscionable.
Medical research in this area indicates that the desire for euthanasia is not confined to physical or psychosocial concerns relating to advanced disease, but incorporates hidden existential yearnings for connectedness, care and respect, understood within the context of the patient’s lived experience. Euthanasia requests cannot be taken at face value but require in-depth exploration of their covert meaning, in order to ensure that the patients’ needs are being addressed adequately. In Australia, what is needed is often not available or not available in time. It is distressing to note that in the US State of Oregon in 2009, none of the patients who were lawfully killed at their own request were referred for formal psychiatric or psychological evaluation. It is also distressing to note that two thirds of people lawfully killed under euthanasia laws, in those jurisdictions that permit it, are women.

If euthanasia is a legitimate option with a determined structure, such as was the case in the Northern Territory for a brief period, and is now proposed for South Australia, then life for the chronically seriously ill would become contingent upon maintaining a desire to continue in the face of being classified as a burden to others. Essentially the Bill involves setting up a category for people whose lives may be deliberately ended. Their protected status as a member of the South Australian and Australian communities depends on a contingency. Passage of the Bill would imply that our community considers that our continued survival depends on us not succumbing to the effects of pain and suffering, depends on us not losing hope.

I ask simply that the committee find in favour of the status quo in this respect. We need protection and encouragement from our community, we do not need this form of discrimination. Far from protecting the dignity of those who are seriously ill and suffering, the Bill would undermine dignity by undermining our sense of individual worth as a person, no matter our suffering and disability.

It should also be noted that of the seven deaths that happened under the terms of the Rights of the Terminally Act in the Northern Territory that permitted euthanasia, four did not actually meet the criteria . The legislation was manifestly unsafe and I would argue that legislation that permits euthanasia could never be made safe for those of us who have serious chronic illnesses, because the essence of such legislation is to make respect for our lives contingent upon the strength of our will to survive. Such legislation depends on each of us, who have a serious illness and are suffering, not losing hope. If euthanasia is lawful then the question about whether our lives are overly burdensome will be in not only our minds, but the minds of those health professionals and those family members on whose support and encouragement we depend. The mere existence of the option will affect attitudes to our care, and hence our own willingness to continue.

That desire to live is often tenuous in the face of suffering and in the face of the burden our illnesses impose on others, our families and the wider community. You would gain nothing worthwhile for us by supporting the legalisation of deliberately ending the life of those who request death. Such requests warrant a response in solidarity from our community, a response that seeks to give us more support and better care, rather than termination of both life and care.

I note that the Bill has some safeguards including:
  • REQUIREMENTS for two doctors, including a specialist, to examine the person making the request.
  • DEMANDING a psychiatrist be consulted if either doctor believes the person is not of sound mind or acting under “undue influence”.
  • CREATING a Voluntary Euthanasia Board with powers to intervene if any relevant medical practitioner believes a request for euthanasia should not be granted.
  • There will be strict obligations on witnesses, jail terms of up to 20 years for misleading statements, and a ban on for-profit centres and the promotion of voluntary euthanasia by insurance companies
However there are many problems with the Bill, in summary:
  • The Bill has a very wide scope, it affects not just those who are imminently dying. The definition of “terminal illness” includes people who may be months or years away from their illness causing death. As a person whose life depends on extraordinary care, including haemodialysis for four x four hour sessions each week, on that basis alone, I fit the description. I also have severe angina throughout those sessions, caused by the haemodynamics of the treatment and my own compromised coronary flows, and I have many other episodes of pain throughout the day, including waking at night in pain. Whether that is a profound level of pain and/or distress depends on the support that I receive from those close to me, as much as it depends on my own will. That euthanasia is not offered to me is important to that response. People who are ill and disabled need that support and encouragement and the knowledge that those around them value them.
  • The Bill has not been generated by a broad-based enquiry that took into account the interests of all South Australians, and especially those with chronic or terminal illness. It is a narrow approach that excludes the provision of adequate care and support for those in need, and appears to be more a matter of ideology than a genuine attempt to respond to the range of matters that affect us.
  • The Bill would expect the doctors involved to prescribe a drug not for legitimate purposes that define the medical vocation, such as the care of the patient or the treatment of illness, but to intentionally and actively intervene to end the life of the patient. In that respect, the Bill is not supported by the Australian Medical Association or any of the medical Colleges. The AMA’s policy on euthanasia is to “strongly oppose any bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, as these practices are fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer” .
  • The Bill has not been supported by organizations and institutions directly involved in aged care, the care of the dying or the care of those with chronic illness. Those involved in the day to day care are generally not in favour of being given the capacity to end the lives of those they care for.
  • The Bill would not benefit South Australians who suffer from chronic illnesses. Instead it would make protection of their lives dependant on the strength of their will to continue. The fear of being a burden is a major risk to the survival of those who are chronically ill. If euthanasia were lawful, that sense of burden would be greatly increased for there would be even greater moral pressure to relinquish one’s hold on a burdensome life and to remove that burden from the lives of others.
  • The Bill is based on a notion of unbearable pain. A major part of pain experience and our capacity to tolerate it is what is sometimes called “existential pain”. Pain of an existential nature arises usually from loneliness and a lack of sense of self worth. The option of euthanasia provides an out for families and carers, and the fact that the option exists would be likely to make someone who had a burdensome illness feel even less valued and increase the likelihood that they would choose death over dying alone or being a burden to others. Serious illness and dying are times when a person needs the support of others so that others can share empathy with that person . The possibility of opting instead for a fatal prescription would cast a shadow over those relationships and would be likely to undermine the person’s wish to be wanted and valued.
  • Pain and suffering are complex involving physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual elements. Palliative care seeks to address the needs of those who are suffering in a multi-disciplinary way that reflects the many elements involved . Crucial to good palliative care is the support of the patients socially, emotionally and spiritually. It is not simply a matter of relieving physical pain. For those who continue to live with a burdensome illness, the option of euthanasia would undermine one of the essential elements of good pain relief, the notion that the person is supported, loved and wanted.
  • In other places, such as the United Kingdom, for instance, which have adopted very liberal policies on other social policies, such as reproductive technology, gay unions and abortion, the Parliaments have strongly opposed euthanasia because euthanasia cannot be made safe for people who are seriously ill and thus vulnerable. It is worth noting that jurisdictions such as the Netherlands and Belgium that legalised euthanasia, lacked the availability of the kind of palliative care services that developed in the UK.
  • Euthanasia law cannot be made safe. The Northern Territory briefly had similar law. As discussed above, several of those for whom the legislation was implemented did not in fact meet the criteria of the Act despite the safeguards. This is reflected also in the Dutch experience where much larger numbers than were expected have been subject to the law, raising human rights concerns, see United Nations’ concern below.
  • Euthanasia is contrary to the International Human rights instruments. When the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations considered a euthanasia law enacted in the Netherlands to codify what had become euthanasia practice, the Committee said that where a State party seeks to relax legal protection with respect to an act deliberately intended to put an end to human life, the Committee believes that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges it to apply the most rigorous scrutiny to determine whether the State party’s obligations to ensure the right to life are being complied with (articles 2 and 6 of the Covenant). The Committee expressed the concerns that the new Act (in the Netherland) contains a number of conditions under which the physician is not punishable when he or she terminates the life of a person, inter alia at the “voluntary and well-considered request” of the patient in a situation of “unbearable suffering” offering “no prospect of improvement” and “no other reasonable solution”. The Committee also expressed concern lest such a system may fail to detect and prevent situations where undue pressure could lead to these criteria being circumvented. The Committee was also concerned that, with the passage of time, such a practice may lead to routinization and insensitivity to the strict application of the requirements in a way not anticipated. The Committee learnt with unease that under the present legal system more than 2,000 cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide (or a combination of both) were reported to the Netherlands’ review committee in the year 2000 and that the review committee came to a negative assessment only in three cases. The large numbers involved raise doubts whether the present system is only being used in extreme cases in which all the substantive conditions are scrupulously maintained.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this letter and the matters raised by the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2010 further.

Yours sincerely,
Assoc Prof Nicholas Tonti-Filippini PhD

Link to the original article.

Euthanasia poll, What do the people of Quebec really want?

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

CBC News is running an online poll connected to an article that is titled: Euthanasia: Should it be legalized?

When you scroll down a little on the screen you will notice on the right hand side thepoll asks the question - Do you support the legalization of euthanasia? Link to online poll.

The CBC is reporting the results of a poll that was conducted from November 5 - 15, 2010 and commissioned by the CBC and Radio-Canada. The poll suggests that 83% of the people in Quebec want euthanasia legalized.

The reality about polling is that the results are determined by the question.

A recent Environics research group poll that was conducted between September 15 - 22, 2010 of 2025 Canadians that included a sample size of 500 people from Quebec. That poll found that 69% of the people in supported the legalization of euthanasia.


What do Quebecers actually want?

The Environics poll asked several questions to determine what Canadians actually were concerned about and the poll found.

The poll found that:
63% of Canadians and (75%) of Quebecers were concerned that elderly people would feel pressured to accept euthanasia to reduce the cost of health care.

78% of Canadians and (81%) of Quebecers were concerned that a significant number of sick, disabled or elderly persons being euthanized without their consent.

71% of Canadians and (60%) of Quebecers stated the government needs to improve palliative and hospice care rather than legalize euthanasia.

59% supported legalizing euthanasia, with only 22% strongly supporting. Support was highest in Quebec at (69%) and lowest in Saskatchewan/Manitoba 49%. Since last year, support dropped in Quebec by (6%) and dropped in Montreal by (15%).
Quebecers actually want.
Quebecers want the government to improve end-of-life care, rather than legalize euthanasia.

Quebecers are concerned that people will feel pressured to accept euthanasia in order to reduce health care costs.

Quebecers are concerned, that if euthanasia were legal, a significant number of people would be euthanized without consent. This is a well-founded concern. A study that was published in the CMAJ (May, 2010) found that 32% of assisted deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were done without explicit request or consent.

The Quebec government should not be trying find a way to legalize euthanasia through the back-door, but rather to improve end-of-life care.
Contact Alex Schadenberg at the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - toll free: 1-877-439-3348 or info@epcc.ca

Monday, November 15, 2010

Compassionate Care

Jean Echlin, the past VP of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and a former executive director of the Hospice of Windsor, sent in an article that was published in the Windsor Star concerning the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care.

The article is reprinted below:

Compassionate Care

Jean Echlin, Special to The Windsor Star - November 13, 2010

In April 2010, a new federal parliamentary group was formed. This followed the stunning defeat of Bill C-384, which sought to change Canada's Criminal Code to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Thanks to the vision of some members of Parliament who voted against the bill, a non-partisan, multi-party group called "the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (PCPCC) began deliberations.

The Committee is co-chaired by Windsor-Tecumseh MP Joe Comartin (NDP) and NDP Justice Critic; Scarborough Southwest MP Michelle Simson (Lib); Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht (CPC); founding members, MP Frank Valeriote; MP Kelly Block; and more than 50 MP members, with varying degrees of involvement.

A four-pronged approach developed by PCPCC includes: promotion of the need for palliative care for all Canadians facing end-of-life issues such as pain and symptom management; implications of an on-going mental health crisis and suicide prevention; elder abuse, including lack of compassionate care; and issues encountered by persons with disabilities.

Broad consultations are taking place in every region of Canada concerning present levels of care available to an ageing society and a critical nationwide shortage of expertise and resources in the field of palliative, hospice, home-care and mental health.

As a member of the Advisory Council of The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research's, Toronto, I attended the PCPCC's hearing, in the West Block of the federal Parliament Buildings on October 19.

The deVeber Institute's submission "Proposal for Integrated Palliative Care" was addressed by Dr. L.L. (Barrie) deVeber, founding director of The Institute and myself. The paper points out the need for education in palliative, end-of-life care for all healthcare providers and earlier patient referrals to palliative care specialists.

The existence of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care brings attention to the complex and multi-faceted needs of many Canadians facing the issues and often the chaos associated with acute and chronic pain, debilitating and late stage illness.

Many programs involved with hospice palliative care and pain management exist in Canada, however are accessible to only a small percentage of the population needing these services.

The utilization and effectiveness of these programs make it abundantly clear that there is no need for Canadians to spend much of their lives immobilized by chronic pain or to die in pain, loneliness, anxiety and bereft of dignity. We must keep pushing for appropriate, knowledgeable and compassionate care regardless of a person's diagnosis, (physical or mental illness), age, gender, culture or religious persuasion.

Personally, I am in awe of the enormity of work this parliamentary committee has undertaken. Their commitment to this effort in addition to their parliamentary and constituency workloads is highly commendable. Further, these parliamentarians are showing exemplary non-partisan collaboration in addressing these fundamental issues. It is hoped that this Committee will be a model for future governmental cross-party endeavours.

A favourite proverb: "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act."

Jean Echlin lives in Windsor and is an independent nurse consultant in palliative care and gerontology.

Look beyond the suffering

Alison Davis, the inspired leader of the disability right group - No Less Human in the UK, recently sent a letter that was published in the Herald newspaper in UK.

Davis was responding to Mary Warnock's comments concerning the supposed "safeguards" that would be part of a bill to legalize euthanasia and/or assisted suicide.

Warnock is the same person who suggested in September 2008 that people with dementia may have a 'duty to die'.

Alison Davis wrote:
Mary Warnock makes a fundamental mistake when she suggests that so long as a bill legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide has sufficient “safeguards”, sick and disabled people need not worry that they will be first in the line of candidates for the lethal dose (Why sometimes it’s rational to choose death, Opinion, October 24). There is a more basic problem than relying on “safeguards” which, of course, would be written by the very people who want to legally hasten the end of some people’s lives.

Typical “safeguards” state that the person requesting death must be terminally ill or have an incurable disability; they must be adult, suffering “unbearably and unrelievably” and, crucially,the “choice” must be entirely theirs. All well and good, one might think (that is, if one were not a member of any of those categories).

Let us now consider a person who qualifies under all these “safeguards”.

She has an incurable disability which entails using a wheelchair full time, and her condition is degenerating. It is causing extreme physical pain which the best efforts of many teams of doctors have been unable to alleviate. Her doctors think her life expectancy is very short. An intelligent adult (with a university degree), she says repeatedly, to anyone who will listen, that she wants to die. Feeling unheard by those who could “help” her, she seriously attempts suicide several times, and is saved only by friends. She is furious when she comes around to find herself still in this world.

Legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide would seem to be a boon for a patient like this.

Ten years on, the woman is still disabled, still uses a wheelchair, still has extreme pain. She has moved to a different area where local doctors conclude that since she has lasted 10 years, the prognosis of a very short lifespan must have been wrong. The big change, however, is that she no longer wants to die. She has found that she can use her talents to help others, even more vulnerable than herself, to live and to have better lives than they otherwise would. Fast forward a further 15 years and she is still alive, more determined than ever to live whatever life she has left to the full.

Would the Warnocks of this world agree to add a waiting time – 10 or 20 years – to any bill they draw up, in case of a change of mind? Because human beings are fallible, because life can be good even with great pain, because nobody knows when doctors’ prognoses will be wrong, it is sheer folly to legalise assisted suicide for one group of people because they suffer in certain ways, while spending large amounts of money on “suicide prevention programmes” to prevent the suicides of others who suffer in a different way.

You will have guessed, I’m sure, that I am the woman who wanted to die for 10 years, is still alive today, and who still wants to live. If I had died 25 years ago, I would have missed the best years of my life. Mary Warnock’s mistake is that she seems unable to look past the suffering to see the person, a sad afflication indeed.

Alison Davis - Dorset

Everyone who knows and loves Alison is happy that she is alive. She is truly an inspiring woman.

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