Thursday, December 31, 2015

Important 2015 articles about euthanasia & assisted suicide.

There were many important articles concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2015. 

These are the 10 most popular articles with five more important articles from 2015.

1. June 24, EPC told the world about “Laura” a healthy 24-year-old Belgian woman who is living with suicidal ideation and was approved for euthanasia by the psychiatrist at the euthanasia clinic (Link to the article).


2. July 8 EPC launched – A Letter of Hope to Laura (Link to the article).

3. Nov 12, EPC learned that Laura is actually Emily, and Emily has decided to live (Link to the article).

4. Feb 6, the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s assisted suicide law. EPC explained the irresponsible and dangerous Supreme Court decision (Link to the article).

5. EPC urged its supporters to oppose the Supreme Court assisted suicide decision (Link to the article).

6. EPC then launched a letter-writing campaign to oppose the Supreme Court assisted suicide decision (Link to the article).

7. Sept 17, EPC launched a campaign urging California Governor Jerry Brown to veto the assisted suicide bill (Link to the article).

8. Aug 10, Dr Jacqueline Harvey wrote about the Subversive Strategies to Sell Assisted Suicide (Link to the article).

9. July 28, EPC urged its supporters to participate in the Federal government consultation on legislative options for assisted dying (Link to the article).

10. Feb 10, EPC had a victory at the BC Court of Appeal in the “Spoon Feeding” case (Link to the article).

More important articles.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Assisted Suicide conviction upheld of former Minnesota nurse.

Mark Dryborough
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

William Melchert-Dinkel, the former Minnesota nurse had his conviction for assisting the suicide of Mark Dryborough (32) of Coventry England, upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeal.


Melchert-Dinkel, who encouraged and counselled people to commit suicide on internet chat sites, was sentenced in September 2014 to 178 days in jail in the deaths of Dryborough and Nadia Kajouji (18) of Brampton Ontario Canada. The Minnesota Court of Appeal upheld his conviction for assisting the suicide of Dryborough but overturned his conviction in the death of Kajouji. The Associated Press reported:
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that there was sufficient evidence to convict William Melchert-Dinkel, 53, of Faribault, of assisting the 2005 suicide of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England. 
It said there wasn't enough evidence to convict the ex-nurse of the lesser offense of attempting to assist the 2008 suicide of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario. 
Authorities have said that Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging, and that he sought out potential victims online, posing as a female nurse and feigning compassion.  
The appeals court said Melchert-Dinkel gave Drybrough detailed instructions on how to hang himself. But it said he didn't give specific instructions to Kajouji when he recommended that she hang herself. She jumped from a bridge into a frozen river in Ottawa, where she was going to college. 
Melchert-Dinkel served nearly six months in jail after his 2014 conviction and remains on 10 years of probation. While he told police he did it "for the thrill of the chase," he apologized at his sentencing and said he had repented.
The Associated Press reported that Terry Watkins, Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer, plans to appeal the conviction to the Minnesota State Supreme Court.

Links to previous articles concerning this case:

Monday, December 28, 2015

A 4-year-old girl in coma is recovering

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Botelho family.
The story of Gemma Botelho, a 4-year-old girl who is recovering after being in coma, is a story of hope and a story of caution.

According to an article in CNN:

Shortly after arriving at the emergency room on December 17, Gemma went into cardiac arrest. For 45 minutes doctors and nurses performed CPR, but her heart wouldn't start. Doctors and nurses filled the room, asking her parents to wait outside the door. 
"We heard beeping, and then no beeping," said her mother, Lejla Szabo, a model in Miami. "She was just flatlining. We really felt that we had lost her." 
Her husband, Alexander Botelho, who works in the hospitality industry, turned to her. "He told me we just had to look back and appreciate those 4½ years we had with her," she remembered. 
On Friday (Dec 18) ... Gemma flew to All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, 250 miles away in St. Petersburg. 
Friday and Saturday Gemma's heart quivered uselessly. Doctors prepared to put her on a list for a new heart but there were no guarantees it would arrive in time to save Gemma's life. 
On the Sunday before Christmas, as their daughter lay in intensive care, Szabo, who is from Hungary, and Botelho, who's from Brazil, organized friends to say prayers for Gemma at Catholic Masses in their home countries as well as in Argentina, Italy, Miami and Boston. 
That night, Szabo and Botelho finally heard good news: Gemma's heart was beginning to beat again. 
Two days later, her heart was working well enough that her pediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, and his team at All Children's Hospital removed her from life support. 
The heart surgeon said he can't explain what caused her heart to start again. 
"Sometimes we don't understand everything that happens in medicine," said Jacobs, director of the Johns Hopkins All Children's Heart Institute.
According to the article, Gemma was given a 1% chance of recovery.

This story is also about being cautious. Often families and medical professionals will give up on a person who is in coma too quickly and agree to withdraw all treatment and care, including food and water causing death by dehydration rather than a natural death caused by the medical condition.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Euthanasia & assisted suicide bill in Irish Parliament

This article was published on the HOPE Australia website on December 23.

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell, the director of HOPE Australia.

Irish Deputy, John Halligan tabled his Dying with Dignity Bill 2015 in the Irish Lower House (Dail) on the 15th of December.

Halligan had been telling the Irish Press that a bill was imminent for much of this last year claiming that he had been working with Exit International’s European representative, Tom Curran and two solicitors to draft the new bill.

Curran was the partner of Marie Fleming who went through the Irish Courts seeking in vain to overturn the statutes on assisting in suicide so that Curran could accompany her to Dignitas in Switzerland without falling foul of the law. Fleming has since passed away.

The Bill, the ‘Dignity in Dying Bill 2015’ would usher in both assisted suicide and euthanasia; the latter only being available if the person could not effectively take the lethal dose without assistance. In a strange insertion, Halligan’s bill also allows for the creation of an unspecified machine that would deliver the fatal dose after being activated in some way by the patient. This sounds very much like Exit International’s ‘stock-in-trade’, its supremo, Philip Nitschke, having developed a number of ‘deliverance’ machines over the years. This is the first time, however, that this writer has seen an attempt to codify the practice in law.

The bill while restricting access to only those with a terminal diagnosis, does not set a time frame for the progress of the illness or disease. Many other bills of this type have tried to restrict access to those with less than six months to live. Halligan’s bill, by contrast, would have a person qualify from the day they receive their diagnosis; regardless of how long they may live, whether or not remission or even cure is possible.

It is hard to know whether Halligan was himself totally clear on what his own bill does and does not do, and one will easily forgive an exaggeration or two by someone trying to make the case. But Halligan’s explanation of his bill in his speech before the Dail last week is a far cry from the reality. He told the parliament:

‘This Bill proposes to introduce legislation recognising the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical suffering to seek medical help to end their lives.’

He mentions pain and suffering a number of other times as well yet, curiously, there is nothing in this bill that says a person must be suffering; nothing. So, this pitch to the heart strings in images of loved ones in pain that conjure up a supposedly justifiable exception to killing people because they are suffering, that suggest – as we have often been told – that assisted suicide and euthanasia are only ever a ‘last resort’ are simply not true in this bill.

Whether by intent, oversight or ignorance, Halligan’s speech mislead the parliament.

The bill seems incomplete in places, including at least one sub-clause that makes no sense at all. Far from being a well-thought out bill worthy of a parliament’s attention and debate, it seems more likely that tabling this effort in December is more about face saving, massaging a constituency and/or an election pitch.

The Irish people are due to go to the polls to elect their next government sometime before early April 2016 at the call of the Prime Minster, the Taoiseach. This leaves little time for this bill to be debated in full.

Even so, Ireland is not immune from these debates and, no doubt, if re-elected, John Halligan or even someone else, will raise the matter again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Medical aid in dying: the Quebec Court of Appeal judgment does not end the dispute


Today, the Quebec Court of Appeal declared that the Criminal Code provisions "that prohibit medical aid in dying cannot by themselves prevent the entry into force and implementation" of the provisions of the Act respecting end-of-life care related to medical aid in dying since they were declared invalid by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision (at para. 44). We take note of this decision but we still deplore this choice as an answer to end-of-life suffering.

It should be noted that the Appeal Court took care to mention that if the Federal Parliament "adopts a valid federal law on medical aid in dying that applies in Quebec, it will be necessary to review the provisions of the Act respecting end-of-life care related to medical aid in dying to determine if they are in conflict ... "(at para. 44).

Thus, the judgment of the Court of Appeal notes "that the respondents will be able to continue to challenge before the Superior Court the substantive constitutional validity of the provisions of the Act respecting end-of-life care related to medical aid in dying for the other reasons they raise in their amended originating motion "(at para. 45), in particular because it is a matter that falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament's criminal law.

The Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia will continue to promote the quality and availability of good health care for all; we will continue our work to ensure the protection of human life, especially for people in vulnerable situations; we will continue our mission for the recognition of the dignity of all citizens of our country until natural death; and we will continue to defend the right of doctors and health care providers to refuse to practice medical aid in dying or to collaborate in any way. 

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition intervened in this case at the Québec Court of Appeal.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mark Pickup: Euthanizing Canada

This article was published by Mark Pickup on his blog on December 18.

Supreme Court of Canada
By Mark Pickup

2016 will see the beginning of a new dark chapter for Canada. Killing off the sick and disabled will receive official government sanction. As you may know, in a UNANIMOUS decision Canada's Supreme Court struck down the nation's laws against assisted suicide and gave the federal government a year to put in place parameters for physician imposed death within a new legal framework.

What parameters?! It's going to be wide open season on the sick, disabled and depressed. In the high court's low decision they declared laws against assisted suicide to be "void insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. "Irremediable" it should be added, does not require the patient to undertake treatments that are unacceptable to the individual."

Translation: It's wide open euthanasia and assisted suicide beginning in 2016. Guidelines will be a ruse, mere formalities to give an air of respectability to murder.

Mark Pickup with Kevin Dunn
Recently I was interviewed by the documentary filmmaker Kevin Dunn as we await Canada's Brave New World to come into its full and hideous bloom. What did I say? I said that by definition civilized, and enlightened societies never endorse or support killing its citizens -- especially those you have despaired of life and are vulnerable to suicide.

Civilized people certainly don't help the suicidal kill themselves. Autonomy is a myth. If I choose suicide it doesn't affect me alone. It will affect my wife, children and grandchildren. It will affect my physician because I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. And in a small way it will impact my nation by helping to further entrench the notion there is such a thing as a life unworthy to be lived. No matter how sick I become I still have a responsible to others, the Common Good and posterity.

You can't have unfettered autonomy and interdependent community too. They are diametrically opposite ideas. You can't have both. You must choose which it shall be.

Canada post-2016 will not only kill its sick and disabled, it may well kill the collective conscience of a nation and gut its soul.

For interviews or bookings to speak contact Mark at HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca

Friday, December 18, 2015

Panel recommends a 'dangerous approach' to regulating assisted suicide.

This article was published by Advocate Daily on December 17, 2015

Hugh Scher
Recommendations in the report of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying are an “irresponsible and dangerous approach” to the legalization and regulation of assisted suicide across Canada, says Toronto health, human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.

The panel’s 43 recommendations, are a “startling display of a lack of informed understanding of the risks and harms associated with measures to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada,” says Scher. “They particularly reflect a complete lack of understanding of considerations such as vulnerability, depression and the requirement for fully informed decision-making based upon clear information and full options being presented to the patient.”

Among recommendations in the 134-page report that was received by federal health and justice ministers earlier this week, is that children 12 years of age or younger be eligible for assisted suicide or euthanasia,and included a series of options around euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The report comes while the Supreme Court of Canada is weighing the federal Liberals' request to delay the implementation of the court's decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, which will be addressed by the top court at a hearing on January 11, 2016. The Feb. 6, 2015 ruling strikes down the country's Criminal Code ban on assisted suicide, but gave lawmakers 12 months to adopt new rules and to implement effective oversight and safeguards.

Scher represents the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which acted as an intervener at all levels in Carter, and is also an intervener before the Quebec Court of Appeal in D'Amico, which is being heard tomorrow.

“The provincial panel has demonstrated a clear bias in its approach to the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide in its recommendations,” says Scher. “This is most clearly demonstrated in its recommendation that 12-year-olds be permitted to access euthanasia on-demand, paid for by the public.”
Scher says the recommendations would represent the broadest available regime of euthanasia of any jurisdiction around the world including where those practices have been in place for many years.
“Even the Province of Quebec in its own legislation has been far more limited and restricted in its requirements in order to access euthanasia. Such restrictions include the requirement to be of adult age, competent, consenting and to be experiencing a terminal illness which is certified by at least two doctors,” he says. 
“The panel recommended broad and sweeping legislation, implementing a regime of euthanasia and assisted suicide available on-demand across the country and paid for by tax dollars.”
In fact, he says the proposed recommendations are more sweeping than those in Carter.
“These measures pay significant attention to protecting doctors from the risk of criminal prosecution and lawsuits, but pay little or no attention to the risk of harm to vulnerable people,” says Scher. “The proposals set out by the panel provide little if any safeguards and absolutely no effective oversight in order to properly and responsibly address and respond to the SCC decision in Carter.”
In particular, he notes there is no consideration of the fundamental requirement of before-the-fact adjudicative oversight to ensure compliance with requirements set out by legislation, in order to ensure that those who are put to death do not have their lives taken from them against their will, and without strict compliance with nationally established safeguards and requirements aimed at ensuring that both an informed and responsible decision can be taken.
“Such measures would have to include universal access to quality palliative care, adequate measures to determine capacity and consent, and assurance that all possible options have been reviewed with the patient in order to enable a fully informed decision.”
Scher adds that such measures would also require the engagement of multiple doctors of different specialties, including palliative care and psychiatric experts, in order to ensure that capacity and vulnerability are appropriately assessed and identified before the fact and that legitimate informed consent is possible in the circumstances.
“The absence of any consideration of the requirement of before-the-fact adjudicative oversight or any meaningful oversight relative to legalized assisted suicide stands in stark contrast to the ruling in Carter and reflects a misguided and dangerous approach to the assisted suicide question,” says Scher. 
“The need for before-the-fact adjudicative oversight, assessment and identification of vulnerability and depression, in order to prevent improper deaths and to ensure compliance with established national and universal safeguards is essential, however, this panel has sacrificed those fundamental requirements in favour of an approach that protects doctors from risk of civil or criminal liability including in cases of wrongdoing,” says Scher. 
“Such an approach is dangerous and misguided. It reflects the clear pro-euthanasia bias of the panel," says Scher.
Scher adds that several organizations, including the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia, are reacting with "dismay and concern at the unbalanced focus of the panel and have raised particular concerns regarding the notion of euthansia on demand for minor children of 12 years old, to the fact of protection of doctors from criminal responsibility, including in cases where strict requirements and safeguards are not adhered to."

Scher has acted as counsel to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in several high-profile cases including Rasouli v. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2011 ONCA 482 (CanLII); Cuthbertson v. Rasouli, 2013 SCC 53, [2013] 3 S.C.R. 341; Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society, 2014 BCSC 165 (CanLII); Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society 2015 BCCA 91; Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2012 BCSC 886 (CanLII); Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) 2013 BCCA 435 (CanLII); and Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5.

Provincial-Territorial Group seeks death on demand for all (even for children)

This article was published by the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia on December 16, 2015

We read with dismay the final report of the Provincial-Territorial Advisory Group that was published on November 30. The 43 recommendations in the report clearly have no other goal than the unfettered promotion of euthanasia and assisted suicide throughout Canada. The report’s authors abandon all caution, make no attempt to prevent harm, and demolish all the safeguards, however minimal, that the Supreme Court of Canada included in the Carter decision, interpreting them all with the undisguised intention of mandating death on demand for everyone.

First, the report errs in its interpretation of the Carter decision by arguing that the definition of "adult" should include children because it “relates to a patient’s ability to give consent rather than a particular age cut-off [to] allow access to patients who are competent, regardless of age.”

Next, it recommends extending to nurses and physician assistants the power to cause death, and recommends obliging persons and institutions who refuse to participate to find someone willing to carry out the act in their place. According to the authors, the State should even finance all procedures for euthanasia and assisted suicide, and life insurance payments should be guaranteed for the relatives of the deceased, opening the doors wide to financial abuse and to pressure on those who are sick or elderly, and afraid of becoming a burden on those around them.

Among the long list of measures proposed to facilitate the path toward suicide or euthanasia for some, and forced compliance for others, we find one that is sufficient to remove any credibility that might remain. In their passion to expand the reach of the law, the authors propose that “Where there is limited physician supply, provinces and territories should enable virtual physician assessments and visits using telemedicine services (or other video-based consultations).” Such a recommendation shows contempt for both the crucial importance of human relations in medicine and the value of people who are living through vulnerable moments, in addition to threatening the lives of those whose symptoms are not well controlled for lack of access to medical treatment.

Finally, while the Belgians express their concern about the havoc caused by their law, the authors of the report seek to open the floodgates beyond anything that occurs elsewhere, even in the most permissive jurisdictions. All the recommendations in this report are open to the most subjective and potentially irrational interpretation, throwing medical expertise into the bottom of a trash can filled with legal vacuum.

In conclusion, this unconditionally pro-euthanasia and pro-assisted suicide report contains such outrageous proposals that Canada would lose all credibility on the international stage if it were to serve as the basis for any federal, provincial or territorial legislation. Its approach, campaigning for universal access to death on demand instead of for high quality health care, relegates the care and safety of sick Canadians to the bottom of the priority list.

In addition to its endorsement of death on demand for all, the report also recommends establishing a national program to actively promote it, so as to sustain the myth of death as a public benefit. Such a policy of death on demand is completely opposed to the political and social optimism announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his promise of "sunny ways" for Canada.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The absurd logic of assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In his National Post column, Andrew Coyne gets to the heart of the assisted suicide absurdity when commenting on the report of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying.

Andrew Coyne
Coyne, a National Post columnist and the former editor of the paper begins his article by asking:

When dispatching a patient by lethal injection, would a doctor be obliged to sterilize the needle?
Coyne continues:
That’s the thing about normalizing suicide. It requires us to set aside all prior assumptions except the most absurd ones. It rushes past all sorts of distinctions that might once have seemed important — between killing yourself and killing someone else, for example — yet clutches wildly at others, as if they were any more likely to withstand the momentum of its logic. 
Here is what I imagine most people think assisted suicide — let us call it what it is, rather than the gentler euphemisms — is about. A patient is in the last stages of an incurable disease. Death is a certainty, but not so swift as to spare the patient unbearable torment — if not now, then in future. Suicide seems the only way out. 
And yet the patient is physically incapable of killing himself — or if he is not now, fears he will be in the future. To insist, nevertheless, that he must perform the act himself will seem to many people an obtuse tyranny. By allowing others to kill him at his request we are only ensuring his choice is real. We are only sparing him unspeakable pain. We are only hastening the inevitable. 
That, as I say, is how most people think of the issue. It is how it is typically presented in the press. An adult, of sound mind, in unendurable physical pain, having made his wishes abundantly and repeatedly clear, agrees to his own execution. 
But that is not, alas, how those most involved in the issue think about it. It was not the basis of last February’s Supreme Court decision: The Court spoke only of a “grievous and irremediable” condition, not a terminal one, and made clear this could be psychological as well as physical.

Coyne then comments on the recent Provincial-Territorial Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying released its report.
The panel defines a “grievous and irremediable” condition as a serious illness or disability “that cannot be alleviated by any means acceptable to the patient,” making the standard essentially open-ended. It dispenses with waiting periods, or the requirement that a doctor be on hand to perform the deed. And, in its most striking finding, it suggests that assisted suicide should be open to children.
Coyne then comments on the philosophy of the assisted suicide lobby:
But that is not how advocates see suicide. They see it, rather, as a release from suffering; not as an evil to be prevented, but as a service to be provided (indeed, the panel recommends it be done at public expense). This presents the right to die, not as a limited one, such as the right to drive, but as an unlimited one, inhering in all persons — rather like the right to life. And, it has to be said, it is by far the more coherent of the two arguments. 
For if assisted suicide is a right to be released from suffering, how can that be restricted to adults? Are we to condemn children to endless torment, where we would not an adult? Likewise for the mentally incompetent: Are we really so indifferent to their pain as to allow their disability to stand in the way of its alleviation? If they are unable to consent to their own death, should they not be assisted, intellectually, in the same way as those physically unable to kill themselves are to be assisted? 
This is not some dire prophecy. It is, as the panel reminds us, the logic of assisted suicide. By making it lawful to euthanize children, we would only be following where Belgium and the Netherlands have led; by applying it to the mentally ill, we would be doing no more than Switzerland has already done. 
If that is where we want to go, so be it. But let us at least be clear that that is what is really at stake.
Sadly, Canada seems willing to drink the Kool-Aid. It's our hope that people wake up before its too late.

A five-year-old girl and family plead with the Prime Minister of Canada: say 'no' to euthanasia.

A five-year-old Canadian girl and family pleads with the Prime Minister of Canada: For the sake of our families say 'no' to euthanasia

Media Release - Montreal - December 16, 2015. (Link to the Canada News wire release)

As Canada moves in the direction of legalizing euthanasia, and some provinces are discussing extending euthanasia to children, Sylvain, Sherley and five-year-old Jolyanne's message to the Prime Minister of Canada is simple. For the sake of families, please do not support euthanasia. Sylvain and Sherley believe euthanasia is dangerous. They are convinced that those who cannot fight will be persuaded to give up too quickly and, in some cases, euthanize their loved ones. As Sylvain says in this heart-touching video, if he had listened to the doctors' advice when everything looked so grim, he would now be alone without the two women he loves most in his life—his wife Sherley and his precious daughter Jolyanne. 

Sylvain and Sherley are a Canadian couple living near Montreal who were faced with many of these pressures. They were discouraged from continuing the pregnancy of their future daughter, Jolyanne, at 27 weeks of pregnancy because they were told she would be a Down's baby (erroneous diagnosis) with a malformed esophagus (esophageal atresia). Despite the many medical challenges, Jolyanne thrives today and is the joy of Sylvain's and Sherley's life.

Only two years after Jolyanne was born, Sherley was in a coma and on life support because of pneumonia. Sylvain was told his wife's chances of survival were extremely poor. He was also told that if Sherley survived, she would have no quality of life. The doctors pressured him to disconnect his wife from life support. Despite the pressures, he fought back to save his wife's life.

Quebec passed a law on June 5, 2014 to permit euthanasia. In 2013, prior to the law being passed, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Commission recommended extending euthanasia to children. A recently released report from an Ontario advisory group is also recommending children be free to "choose" euthanasia.

In this controversy, physicians and patients have been speaking out against euthanasia for many reasons: 
  • Euthanasia is not medical care,
  • Euthanasia contradicts a physician's code of conduct, which does not permit a doctor to intentionally end a person's life even if that person requests it,
  • A person with a serious medical condition is often depressed and has clouded judgment,
  • There are financial and social pressures,
  • There are diagnostic errors,
  • There are errors in predicting outcomes of a medical condition,
  • Euthanasia criteria always expands. It begins with adults, then extends to children. At first only terminal illnesses are allowed, but later chronic ailments are accepted. Initially those suffering physically are selected, but the door opens wide to include the depressed.
  • Palliative care relieves pain and suffering without prematurely ending a person's life but is, unfortunately, not available to the majority of Canadians. Thus, there is no free choice.
Dr Paul Saba
Prime Minister Trudeau, you do have a choice.
Euthanasia is currently being challenged in the courts of Quebec. It is still illegal in Canada. On behalf of five-year-old Jolyanne and her family and many others, please save Canadian lives by saying 'no' to euthanasia.

Source Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice.

For further information:
Dr Paul Saba, (514) 886-3447, pauljsaba@gmail.com

Ian Dowbiggin: A scandal in the euthanasia archives - continued.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Ian Dowbiggin
Ian Dowbiggin's article - A scandal in the euthanasia archives - was published in the Prince Arthur Herald on November 30, 2015. Dowbiggin, who is the author of the book: A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, a history professor at UPEI and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada asks - Why has the euthanasia movement hidden or destroyed its history?

Today, the Prince Arthur Herald has published a follow-up article where Dowbiggin responds to an article by Stuart Chambers, a professor at the University of Ottawa, who challenges Dowbiggin's assertion with ad hominem arguments. Dowbiggin responds:
First, let’s dispense with that old canard, used by euthanasia enthusiasts like Chambers, that opponents of euthanasia are all “sanctity of life” proponents. It simply isn’t true; just ask disabilities groups which oppose euthanasia. Nor is it only Christians involved; Islam, Hinduism and many strands of Judaism condemn both assisted suicide and mercy-killing. 
When the euthanasia movement was propagandizing in favour of involuntary mercy-killing for either the good of the species or the economic welfare of society, there was no consensus supporting euthanasia. 
Quite the contrary; there was widespread opposition to this policy. Yet the movement forged ahead in defiance of experts from across the political spectrum and scripted its sorry history. 
Indeed, that is my very point about the euthanasia archives scandal. Chambers and his allies don’t want to open up the topic of their own shady history. If I were in their shoes, I might feel the same way. Their attempts to change public opinion depend on keeping their past under wraps. 
Lastly, Chambers says that even if euthanasia advocates had made mistakes in the past, all is well today. “Euthanasia lobbyists,” he reassures us, could never “maneuver” around the “checks and balances” of euthanasia laws and kill people with disabilities. 
Except that they can and do. The New Yorker, a widely-read and respected magazine which has never been accused of defending the “sanctity of life” doctrine, recently ran a piece about a 64-year-old Belgian woman whose doctor killed her in 2012. Mercy-killing has been legal in Belgium since 2002. The woman had been living with depression for years and therapy seemingly had not helped her. 
Her doctor, known as Belgium’s “Dr. Death,” had no psychiatric expertise, but he was an euthanasia zealot. Under his “care” she got “tired of life” and eventually asked to be euthanized. Her daughter and son only learned of the act the day after her death. The son is currently challenging Belgium’s law before the European Court of Human Rights.
What the Belgian case shows is that people with disabilities can be swayed by ideological activists in the medical profession, with literally fatal consequences. 
Guidelines drawn up by democratically-elected officials aren’t worth the paper they’re written on when individuals with disabilities are “treated” by militants like Belgium’s “Dr. Death.” 
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: only a historically-informed understanding of today’s debates over end-of-life care can enable the public to see through the arguments of euthanasia advocates such as Stuart Chambers. They are not telling the truth. Could they have their own “secondary motives”?
Ian Dowbiggin had the unique experience of being granted access to the archives from the Euthanasia Society of America, archives that appear to have disappeared after Dowbiggin published his ground-breaking book: A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America linking the euthanasia movement to the eugenic movement, a movement of people who advocated euthanasia for people with disabilities.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Canadian Government reports on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Media Release

The Provincial-Territorial Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying released its report yesterday

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) was not surprised by the one-sided pro-euthanasia approach by the “Advisory Group” knowing that many of its members were known euthanasia advocates.

EPC was particularly concerned about the Advisory Group’s inability to differentiate between the acts of euthanasia and assisted suicide and their recommendations that euthanasia be extended to children, that there should be no waiting period, that there be no effective oversight at the death, and that the reporting procedure is done after-the-death by the physician who caused the death of the patient.

Clearly, children with disabilities would be at risk, providing a waiting period offers people a chance to change their mind, effective oversight at the death should be seen as a minimum requirement and a system where physicians self-report the act after the patient dies provides protection for the doctors and is not a safeguard for the person who dies.

EPC is also disappointed that conscience rights for physicians who oppose killing patients are not upheld.

EPC hopes that the Federal External Panel on options for a legislative response to Carter v. Canada, that is releasing its report today, will take a more reasonable approach by offering Canadians options that provide effective oversight, not just protections for the doctors who participate in the acts.

For more information contact:

Belgian euthanasia ‘dialogue’ continues to grow

This article was published by HOPE Australia on December 15.

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell

‘But let us into the debates play the ball instead of the man.’ Says Dr Wim Distlemans in De Morgen in reply to Professor Theo Boers’ observations in yesterday’s Belgian press about the bungled operation of the Belgian Euthanasia Review Commission under Distelmans’ leadership.

Boer, a Dutchman and former member of the Dutch euthanasia review system for nine years entered the debate by reflecting the Dutch standards against the Belgian laisse-faire operation. Boer is critical of Distelmans’ public advocacy role in promoting euthanasia and sees it as contrary to the role of co-chair of the commission charged with reviewing each and every case – including Distelmans’ own cases.

Distelmans in reply, does what he accuses others of and ‘plays the man’. He then tries desperately to deflect Boer’s criticisms by attempting to refocus the debate in other areas. For mine he fails dismally.

Theo Boer
He seeks to smear Boer by association, claiming that Boer is being intellectually dishonest by not declaring an association with the anti-euthanasia group Euthanasie Stop, which Distelmans describes as ‘an organization made up of well-known Catholic personalities and militants who are almost professional in their anti-euthanasia battle.’

Does the saying ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ translate well into Flemish? Boer’s only 'association’ with that group, if you can call it that, is that they have republished one of his articles. Death by google search!

Distelmans continues his poor form by crying in his Belgian beer over what he claims have been very ‘hurtful’ articles and comments in the local and international press in recent times.

Honestly, if you are going to do senseless and offensive things like take a tour to Auschwitz with your colleagues to proclaim that there is ‘no better place than Auschwitz to reflect on dying with dignity, to ponder the meaning of dignity’ then you need to learn to expect criticism. If you take upon yourself the public mantle of ‘euthanasia-promoting rock-star’ while at the same time taking on the supposedly grave task of reviewing all reported euthanasia cases all the while ignoring known cases of non-reporting, you have to expect criticism. Boer is right to criticize for every good reason; he deserves better in response than a blubbering, emotive, personal attack.

Distelmans’ article appears along with another on the same matter by geriatric psychiatrist Dr An Haekens. She is calling for Distelmans to dialogue on the idea of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. The story does not indicate whether she had the prior opportunity to read Distelmans’ contribution, but I doubt that the opportunity would have changed anything.

Haekens observes that there may be reason to believe that the practice of euthanasia has overtaken the law when considering the many thousands of files that the Belgian review committee has passed over with only one ever being referred to the judiciary. She notes that the consideration of the term ‘medically hopeless’ in Belgian law does not mean that there are no therapeutic options left to consider (as one might expect) but that there are no options that the patient wishes to consider. It has always been the case that no-one can be forced to accept any particular treatments, but in consideration of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, the patient, as Haekens notes, is not in a deteriorating physical situation as they would be with a disease. It becomes a question then of due care.

Like Boer, Haekens points out that the situation over the border in The Netherlands is quite different; the Dutch Psychiatric association having issued guidelines for dealing with assisted suicide requests in psychiatric patients ‘years ago.’ She closes by asking for a new and substantive debate on euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

And in a clear sign that the issue is building, some of the same medical professionals who authored the original open letter on psychiatric euthanasia published only days ago were published again in De Morgen replying to criticism that they were trivializing psychological suffering; a charge they deny.

They provide a more detailed explanation of their reasoning which deserves to be read in full:
‘The person who plunges into a depression falls prey to a real feeling of lack of perspective. Clinical and research experience show, however, that even a succession of major depressive episodes doesn’t imply that the suffering is hopeless. 
‘Suppose someone says, “I have failed in all areas of my life, professional, personal, familial,” and the therapist thinks otherwise on the basis of various specific elements that the patient previously mentioned. Is the only way to avoid being paternalistic or pedantic to simply respond to this patient: “Yes, You are right.”? No, the therapist will both respond to the reality that the patient experiences while also gently suggesting other angles. Clinical care is empathic, indeed, but it is also thoughtful empathy, which involves a gently invitation to entertain a different perspective. Here clinical ethics requires to be receptive to the feeling of hopelessness and to acknowledge it, without abandoning the ethical duty to also explore the horizon of other options. 
‘Not trivializing psychological suffering means precisely this: taking account of its uniqueness. The course of a cancer is indifferent to the way the oncologist listens and speaks. Research shows that with mental problems, the relationship between patient and therapist is a decisive factor for the success of the treatment. That constitutes the fundamentally different reality of mental illness. The patient who suffers psychologically is fundamentally attached to the words of the therapist, while the cancer does not care about what the oncologist says. 
‘This brings us to the crux of the ethical basis of the euthanasia legislation: the centrality of the value of autonomy. Testimonials from euthanasia cases involving patients with purely psychological suffering indicate that patients sometimes ask at the last minute: “You are sure, doctor, aren’t you, that nothing more can be done to help me?” Or “You really can confirm that my disease is incurable, isn’t it doctor? “
They close with a very clear caution about the different nature of euthanasia for psychiatric suffering with a shot across the bow of Distelmans et al who seem to value only diligence and autonomy without any nuance or thought given to circumstance:
‘Obviously, this problem presents itself in the context of every euthanasia request, but in the context of physical conditions there is an unambiguous limitation as a result of objectively determinable irreversibility. This crucial containment factor is missing here. We are therefore concerned about how the law assigns a position of medical expert to the doctor in the context of issues that primarily concern interpersonal relations. The debate about euthanasia on grounds of mental suffering alone cannot be settled simply by referring to the virtue of diligence and the value of autonomy. 
'Moreover, it is precisely because of the importance of autonomy as a core value that we have to be very careful with how we assign in our legislation an exceptional position to experts.'
This debate seems far from over. The Belgian experiment with patient-killing is fast becoming a tragic farce and one, unfortunately, that is making the Dutch experiment look reasonable by comparison when both have significant problems. This has the potential for further embarrassment.

The call, yesterday by Christian Democrat MP, Els Van Hoof, for a parliamentary review needs to be heeded lest the notional and implied negligence of Distelmans’ committee extend ipso factoto the Belgian government. The case for negligence would be made by that silence.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ontario Government euthanasia report seeks to protect physicians but not patients.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition


Jocelyn Downie
The Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying released their pro-euthanasia report, one-day before the release of the report from the Federal Panel on Assisted Dying. Link to the report.

The Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group featured a stacked deck of pro-euthanasia activists. Maureen Taylor, who describes herself, on Twitter, as an advocate of assisted death, was a co-chair, while Jocelyn Downie, Canada's leading promoter of assisted death, and Arthur Schaefer is a long-time advocate of euthanasia and assisted suicide were also members.

There are 43 recommendations in the report. Many of the recommendations are similar to the euthanasia laws in Belgium and the Netherlands and a few are particularly concerning.


The Advisory Group is urging the government to implement regulations that will completely protect physicians, or other medical professionals, that participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide, but the protections for the persons who will die, are weak. 

Alex Schadenberg
The 43 recommendations focus on the provision of death, not the protection of patients. I will focus on the following recommendations:
Recommendation 3: All provinces and territories should ensure access to physician-assisted dying, including both physician-administered and self-administered physician assisted dying. The recommendations set out in Appendix 3 should be implemented through provincial/territorial legislation.
3. The Advisory Group does not recognize a difference between euthanasia (physician-administered) and assisted suicide (self-administered).
Recommendation 4: Provinces and territories should require all regional health authorities to have an effective publicly funded care coordination system in place to ensure patient access to physician-assisted dying.
4. The Advisory Group supports the creation of  a death bureaucracy in every region of the country.
Recommendation 5: Provincial/territorial governments should publicly fund physician-assisted dying.
5. The Advisory Group supports tax-payer funded assisted death.
Recommendation 8: Provinces and territories should request that the federal government amend the Criminal Code to allow the provision of physician-assisted dying by a regulated health care professional (registered nurse or, if applicable, physician assistant) acting under the direction of a physician, or a nurse practitioner. Provinces and territories should in turn ensure that no regulatory barriers exist that would prevent these health care professionals from providing physician-assisted dying.
8. The Advisory Group supports nurse participation in assisted death. Since the majority of doctors do not want to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, this recommendation is designed to expand the number of willing participants in acts of killing.
Recommendation 9: Provinces and territories should ensure that health professionals are protected from liability for acts or omissions done in good faith and without negligence in providing or intending to provide physician-assisted dying.
9. The Advisory Group doesn't want doctors or nurses to face lawsuits when a family member believes that a family member was inappropriately killed. This recommendation will enable abuses of the law to remain covered up.
Recommendation 13: Within one year, provinces and territories, in collaboration with the federal government, should study whether patient declaration forms completed prior to the diagnosis of a grievous and irremediable medical condition might also be considered valid.
13. The Advisory Group is suggesting that the government should study the law to expand the law to people who made a prior request for euthanasia, such as through an advanced directive.
Recommendation 14: Substitute decision makers should not be given the legal authority to consent to/authorize physician-assisted dying on behalf of an incompetent patient.
14. In the future, Recommendation 13 may supersede recommendation 14.
Recommendation 17: Access to physician-assisted dying should not be impeded by the imposition of arbitrary age limits. Provinces and territories should recommend that the federal government make it clear in its changes to the Criminal Code that eligibility for physician-assisted dying is to be based on competence rather than age.
17. The Advisory Group is suggesting that children with disabilities should have access to lethal injection.
Recommendation 18: “Grievous and irremediable medical condition” should be defined as a very severe or serious illness, disease or disability that cannot be alleviated by any means acceptable to the patient. Specific medical conditions that qualify as “grievous and irremediable” should not be delineated in legislation or regulation.
18. The Advisory Group is suggesting that assisted death be limited to very severe conditions while offering no objective criteria to make this a reality. The Supreme Court decision was open to assisted death for psychological suffering, which cannot be defined or limited.
Recommendation 22: Two physicians must assess the patient to ensure that all criteria are met.
22. The Advisory Group is under the illusion that requiring two physicians to assess the patient will ensure that the criteria is met. This "safeguard" does not negate a request when one of the physicians believes that the criteria are not met, it only requires two physicians to agree.
Recommendation 26: We do not recommend a prescribed waiting/reflection period. Rather, the time between initial request and declaration will vary according to the time it takes for the attending and reviewing physician to be confident that the declaration is free and informed and made by a competent individual.
26. The Advisory Group does not recognize the importance of a waiting period as a time of reflection before lethally injection. Often, after a short time, a person will change their mind.
Recommendation 28: There should be no requirement that a physician be present at a self-administered assisted death.
28. The Advisory Group is not requiring physicians be present during an assisted suicide death and yet recommendation 29 requires physicians to file a report concerning the death. When a person ingests a lethal dose, how will we know, for sure, that it was voluntary? This recommendation negates effective oversight.
Recommendation 29: Following the provision of physician assisted dying, physicians should file a report with a Review Committee to support the review of each individual case. This review will ensure transparency and confirm compliance with existing policies and procedures.
29. The Advisory Group is trusting that somehow an after-the-death reporting system, that requires the physician who causes the death, to self-report the assisted death, provides transparency and confirm compliance with existing policies and procedures. Will doctors self-report abuse of the law? 

The only way to ensure transparency and confirm compliance is by instituting a before-the-death reporting and court approval process.
Recommendation 30: Physician-assisted dying should be listed as the manner of death on medical certificates of death across all provinces and territories and the name of the medical condition that qualified the patient for physician assisted dying should be listed as the cause of death.
30. At least the Advisory Group recognizes the importance of accurate death certificates.
Recommendation 33: Conscientiously objecting health care providers should be required to either provide a referral or a direct transfer of care to another health care provider or to contact a third party and transfer the patient’s records through the system described in Recommendation 4.
33. The Advisory Group does not support physicians conscience rights. Physicians who refuse to kill their patients should not be required to refer their patient to someone who will kill their patient.
Recommendation 38: Faith-based institutions must either allow physician-assisted dying within the institution or make arrangements for the safe and timely transfer of the patient to a non-objecting institution for assessment and potentially, provision of physician-assisted dying. The duty of care must be continuous and non-discriminatory.
38. The Advisory Group does not support the rights of faith-based institions. The institution is not required to directly participate in killing patients, but it is required to arrange for their patients to be killed in another institution.
Recommendation 39: Provincial and territorial governments should establish a Review Committee systems to review all cases of physician-assisted dying after the provision of the service to ensure compliance with relevant federal/provincial/territorial legislation and health professional regulatory standards, transparency and accountability.
39. Recommendation 39 relates to recommendation 29. The establishment of a review committee is necessary, but the system of reporting will not ensure compliance with relevant legislation, regulatory standards, transparency or accountability. The data that the committee reviews comes from the reports that  are submitted by the physician who causes the death, after the patient is dead. Physicians, like other human beings, will not self-report abuse of the law.
Recommendation 42: Professional organizations, regulatory authorities and universities should collaborate with each other and with patient groups to develop appropriate curricula and continuing education programs and training for students, physicians and health professionals that are related to the provision of physician-assisted dying.
42. The Advisory Group is urging the continued training of doctors in the killing of their patients.
Recommendation 43: Provinces and territories should provide public education about physician-assisted dying and apply best practices for public engagement to inform the continued development of end-of-life care law, policies, and practices.
43. The Advisory Group is urging the education of the public in the efficacy of the law.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) knew, when the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying was appointed that they would produce a one-sided pro-euthanasia report. There is very little balance in this report and we are concerned by the minimal level of concern for the people who will die, if these recommendations are implemented.

EPC hopes that the Federal panel will publish a more reasonable report on December 15.

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