Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Assisted Suicide: A white privilege policy

This article was published by the National Review online on July 29, 2019

Wesley J Smith
By Wesley J Smith

Assisted suicide has always been an issue of white privilege (to borrow a term I generally disfavor), promoted most actively by liberal, highly educated, and very well-off, Marin County types who are already so empowered in society that they need never fear being pushed out of the lifeboat or deprived from receiving proper medical care.

Thus, it is no surprise that in California, 88 percent of those killing themselves through assisted suicide have been white. People of color, on the other hand, are not exactly standing in line for lethal prescriptions, which has the “experts” searching for reasons. From the Capitol Public Radio story:
She [geriatrician Vyjeyanthi Periyakoil] said distrust keeps many people of color from speaking with their physicians about death. These patients also tend to get diagnosed with cancer and other terminal illnesses at more advanced stages, which gives them less time to think about options… 
The skewed numbers are likely due to issues of medical access and philosophical differences. Geriatrician Elana Shpall works at a mostly-Latino senior center called On Lok in San Francisco. She says most of her patients wouldn’t be interested in using the law. “We talk a lot about their end of life choices and planning for the future, and most of them say something like ‘when God wills it, it will be my time’,” she said. “Based on my population, I would say it’s a big cultural barrier.”
Legalizing lethal prescriptions has been opposed by some civil rights organizations (such as LULAC) and disability rights organizers, and has certainly not been high on the agenda list for advocates for the poor — who worry much more about guaranteeing that poor people and patients of color receive ready access to proper care than they do about dying people hastening their deaths via barbiturate overdose.

Of course, Compassion and Choices — whose leader recently said she wants to eliminate waiting periods between asking for and receiving lethal drugs — wants to increase assisted suicide among people of color:
The group has a Latino council and a Hispanic council working on raising awareness about these laws in diverse communities. 
“The information that’s written right now is written primarily for a white audience,” said executive director Kim Callinan. “We need to have messages and materials that will resonate given the culture and the community we’re trying to reach, from credible messengers in that community.”
Let’s hope those communities continue to reject the assisted suicide siren song. All of our attention should be focused on improving access to hospice and palliative care for patients of every race and socioeconomic group — medical programs that are about adding quality to living — than making sure more terminally ill patients obtain poison pills with which to make themselves dead.

Once Again, British Doctors Refuse a Child, Tafida Raqeeb, a Chance at Life.

By Mark Hodges (EPC Researcher)

In a culture of death, British doctors destroy chance for life.

Tafida Raqeeb
Such is the case right now for Tafida Raqeeb, who is dying in a London hospital because her doctors refuse to release her to where she could be cured.

The little five year-old has a rare and fatal blood vessel condition called “arteriovenous malformation.” Specialists in Italy have expertise in treating that very condition, but the Royal London Hospital is keeping Tafida literally imprisoned in their facility.

Sign the citizengo petition to let Tafida go and get the care that she needs. (Link).
The Giannina Gaslini Institute in Genoa has assembled a medical team for Tafida, and is in contact with her doctors in London. The Sun quotes the Institute’s Italian doctors as predicting, “There is a good chance she will emerge from the coma she is in.”

Yogi Amin, a human rights lawyer representing Tafida, assured decision-makers that:

“there is no evidence that Tafida will be harmed during transit or abroad, and her loving parents should have a legal right to elect to transfer their daughter to another hospital for private medical care.”
Still, the UK hospital refuses to even let Tafida’s parents take her for a potential healing in Italy at their own expense.

In fact, the Sun reports that the British doctors are suing to pull the plug on Tafida, saying, “It would be better for her to be left to die.”

And a totally separate lawsuit by Barts NHS Trust seeks to give hospitals the legal right to cut off all medical care if a patient in Tafida’s condition gets worse.

But Tafida’s parents, Shelina and Mohammed, have taken their fight for their daughter’s life to the High Court.

European Union law and Human Rights attorney Jason Coppel QC charged that Tafida’s “confinement is against her will.” He emphasized the key point, that “Her parents are the sole people who currently have the legal right to make decisions for her.”

Despite Tafida’s life or death condition, Justice MacDonald delayed making any decision until the Fall. He only said he will hear both the parents’ and the hospital’s sides in September.

But time is of the essence. Ron Liddle of the Sun opined

“I can understand doctors telling Mohammed and Shelina there is nothing more that they can do for their little girl. What is beyond belief — beyond imagination — is that they would insist on keeping the child there to die when there is genuine hope she might be cured.”
Little stated,
“I am not a medical expert, ...but I do know that if there is hope for Tafida, the longer they wait to treat her, the less likely there will be a good outcome.”
Tafida’s case is similar to the case of two-year-old Alfie Evans. Alfie had a GABA-transaminase deficiency, and his mom and dad wanted to take him to Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù hospital for experimental treatment. That facility in Rome was ready and waiting to care for Alfie.

But Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital refused to release Alfie.

Attorney Coppel (who now represents Tafida) argued in Alfie’s last chance attempt --after his doctors had his ventilator unplugged for two days-- to get Alfie to specialists at Bambino Gesù. At the time, Alfie was breathing on his own and could have made the trip to Rome.

But the judge ruled against parental rights, and little Alfie languished three more days in Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital until he died.

Similarly, nearly one-year-old Charlie Gard was diagnosed with Mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, and his mom and dad sought to get him to the United States for experimental treatment.

British doctors sued to unplug Charlie’s breathing machine so he would die, instead of releasing Charlie to his parents in the hopes that he might be helped by American specialists.

New York’s Presbyterian Hospital was ready for Charlie (as was Bambino Gesù in Rome), but British judges blocked Charlie’s parents, and he quickly died after his air was cut off.

It seemed to many that the Brits --both physicians and judges-- had stepped over the line from “doing no harm” to denying potentially beneficial treatment based on futile care theory.

Another child, eight-year-old Ashya King, was in Southampton suffering from a brain tumor. His parents were concerned about his treatment, and wanted to take him for proton therapy elsewhere.

When the hospital refused to acknowledge parental rights and release Ashya, Brett and Naghemeh King snuck their son out of the hospital --making them fugitives for the sake of their son’s life.

A European continent-wide manhunt was launched against Ashya’s parents. They were finally apprehended in Spain.

But their little Ashya was given treatment --which is what the now "criminal" parents were seeking all along.

The illegally-sought treatment cured Ashya. Today Ashya is cancer-free, with no brain damage from his now non-existent tumor.

The Sun’s Ron Little reported.

“The parents were right. The doctors were horribly wrong,” “Our medical professionals are, by and large, brilliant. But there is sometimes a grotesque arrogance and pigheadedness about them.”
The Anglican church also hasn’t helped. Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster said he would pray for Tafida, but he offered no support for Tafida’s life or for her parents’ heartbreaking plight.

Sherrington even equated the hospital’s lawsuit for Tafida’s death with her parents’ fight for her life. “I hope that all due weight will be given to the wishes of her parents, while also respecting the clinical judgment of the doctors caring for her,” he hopelessly and irreconcilably stated. “Those of us not in possession of all the relevant information might best be reserved in our judgment.”

In Italy, life-support is not withdrawn from children unless they are declared “brain-dead.” Tafida is not “brain-dead,” and may be able to make it --as long as doctors do not unplug her ventilator-- until her preliminary hearing in September.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Oregon removes 15 day waiting period for assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Oregon Governor Kate Brown agreed to expand the assisted suicide law by signing Bill SB 0579 into law. This bill, essentially, eliminates the 15 day waiting period to die by assisted suicide, a safeguard that was designed to assure that the person has an opportunity to change their mind.

Proponents of the bill argued that the bill only applies to people with less than 15 days to live, and yet, it is difficult to know whether someone has less than 15 days to live.

The assisted suicide lobby argued that assisted suicide laws have not expanded in Oregon, therefore there is no fear of expansion in other jurisdictions. But previous to this bill, Oregon Health Authority had expanded assisted suicide by changing the meaning of terminal illness

As Fabian Stahle wrote: 
"So under Oregon's assisted death law one can achieve the status of being 'incurably' sick even if the disease can be treated!".
The Netherlands euthanasia law has also expanded by changing the interpretation of the law. The latest Netherlands euthanasia statistics suggest that the euthanasia law has been re-interpreted to include euthanasia for "completed life."

This bill waves the 15 day waiting period, meaning, a person who is approved for assisted suicide can die within days, and if depressed, loses the opportunity to change their mind.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Massachusetts to debate suicide coercion bill "Conrad's law"

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Conrad Roy
Massachusetts State Senator Barry Finegold and Representative Natalie Higgins are introducing Conrad's Law, a bill to deter suicide coercion.

Lauren Fox reporting for The Boston Globe stated that the bill is named for Conrad Roy who died in July 2014 after his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, pressured him through text messages and phone calls to carry out his suicide.

Conrad's law punishes those who coerce others into committing or attempting to commit suicide, with punishment of up to five years in prison. This bill does not apply to assisted suicide, which is illegal in Massachusetts.

Lauren Fox reported Lynn Roy, Conrad's mother as saying: 
she was honored to support the legislation, called “Conrad’s Law.” 
“Before my son passed, I was excited about so much,” she said. Still, she had never said “I’m friggin’ excited” about anything until she learned the anti-suicide measure was moving forward. 
“My heart is so full,” she said. “And I’m so proud of my son.”
CBS Boston reported Lynn Roy as saying that this is the first time she has felt joy since the death of her son. Roy stated:
“My son was the most kind, warm, compassionate person,” she said. “By passing Conrad’s Law, I truly believe this is the perfect way to honor him.”
Conrad's father told The Boston Globe that he hopes that:
“this bill helps saves some lives and just puts some more awareness out there about suicide and about bullying.”
Fox reported that Carter was convicted, in 2017, of involuntary manslaughter in Roy’s death. Earlier this month, Carter’s lawyers petitioned the US Supreme Court to review the case. 

‘The last frontier in prison reform’: assisted suicide?

This article was published by Bioedge on July 21, 2019

Michael Cook
By Michael Cook

Activist Philip Nitschke once described euthanasia as the “last frontier in prison reform”. His idea has still not caught on. A Belgian prisoner was allowed to take advantage of euthanasia, but it never happened. But the idea refuses to die.

The author of an article in latest issue of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology argues that assisted suicide should be allowed in American prisons.

Kathleen S. Messinger observes that assisted suicide is becoming increasingly acceptable in the US. “The autonomy, self-determination, and pain that a terminally ill patient may feel justifies the decision to die with dignity.” Why shouldn’t terminally-ill prisoners be given the same opportunity?

This is a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment because it is unnecessarily punitive and exacerbates the pain of individuals already suffering. When the state strips individuals of their freedom and denies them their ability to “provide for their own needs,” the government has an affirmative duty to provide for the inmate. Regardless of how we morally feel about aid in dying as an option, and perhaps believe that those incarcerated deserve to suffer, the state must fulfill its obligation to provide for aid in dying because anything less is “incompatible with the concept of human dignity . . . .”
The question is particularly relevant now as prisons are filling up with more and more elderly inmates. By 2030, over 55s will make up a third of American inmates. Some have dementia and no longer even remember why they were incarcerated. A 2017 report warned that the US was moving towards an “Elder Incarceration Crisis.” 

Messinger says that “prisons are overcrowded, underfunded, and ill-equipped to support terminally ill and aging inmates”. Perhaps assisted suicide and/or euthanasia would help governments to reduce costs and improve conditions.

CARP, Wettlaufer and Euthanasia.

By Adrian Rhodes

CARP’s magazine Zoomer published an article in January 2019, on Elizabeth Wettlaufer, the nurse who murdered her patients while working in long-term care homes in Ontario. The article by Alex Roslin is titled: Looking at the Complete System Failure that led to the Wetlauffer Murders. Wettlaufer cited psychological reasons, in part – she was stressed because of poor working conditions. This does not excuse the murders, but it also does not allow for the use of those murders to justify better care.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer
In this political climate, to argue that better care is needed because otherwise patients will be at risk from the Wettlaufers of the world is disingenuous. Patients are already at risk in “…an environment where patients are disrespected, abused – even sometimes murdered.” This environment came about with the legal permission being given by the Canadian government for medical representatives to kill their patients.

The permission to kill is further permission to neglect. One allegation has been made that if one is approved for death, that after approval one’s pain medication is curtailed to ensure that they are competent at the time of injection. The argument has not been made, but I am sure it is in the back of many people’s minds on reading the CARP article – ‘well, at least the patient isn’t suffering’. These statements above are probably shocking, but they are also normalized in our social lives. This is because we are normalizing the act of killing.

It is expected that suffering people will demand death instead of better care. When someone demands care, this is incomprehensible. Consider the Roger Foley case: he was demanding better care and control over his care at home, and he was offered euthanasia instead. In his case, hr publicized the offer and this caused him to become a dubious celebrity as a result. In the meantime, he had doctors and nurses using presence coercion to convince him to die. This was probably because it was good for the organization: he was apparently costing the hospital $1500 per day. So it was all about the money, not the right to care as enshrined in the Charter of Rights. So it is expected that death is preferred over treatment, care or protection of other rights.

So for CARP to be lobbying for changes to care when they are the same organization that sings the virtues of euthanasia comes across as a little precious. Remember, the push is on to save money and to allow those who have dementia – as many of Wettlaufer’s victims did – to get euthanasia. There is a push to kill incompetent people and to kill children by euthanasia. And people have said that this is a virtue, particularly when we consider the responses to Sick Kids Hospital saying they would be willing to euthanize children under 18 without parental consent. The implication is that this organization will kill children in their care – and they argued that killing and letting die are the same act.

The article reported that Wettlaufer’s victim, Maureen Pickering, was given a high dose of insulin – twice. She subsequently died. The coroner’s office representative opined that her death wasn't investigated because “Her death was foreseeable, and it was expected.” Remember, MAiD can be done if “…death is reasonably foreseeable”. So we can argue that Wettlaufer was a euthanasia enthusiast by other means.

Wettlaufer slipped through the safeguards, time and again. She even talked to her friends about the killings. They did nothing. That alone should have triggered charges. The organizations involved did nothing. The care home never told the College of Nurses about Wettlaufer’s shortcomings. They said themselves that nurses were hard to come by and this is why Wettlaufer was kept on. The deaths of elderly people are expected, after all…

The article stated that one relative of a victim said, “It seems to me that all the parties are accessories.” Another family member said, “Nobody is taking any of this seriously.” This is true, but what is also significant about this CARP article is this: CARP is a pro-euthanasia organization. CARP has advocates on staff who decried what happened to those residents while establishing a glaring contradiction with their pro-euthanasia stance.

Wettlaufer got away with these deaths because no one believed that this would happen in such an active way. This is the same reason medical organizations have attempted to impose death on patients such as Candice Lewis and Roger Foley. No one believes professionals would act against the interest of patients, even when they are acting to convince those patients to die.

People aren’t that evil, they just don’t go around killing patients. Except that in Canada, we do. There is one doctor on the West Coast who has already killed over 140 people, skirting the law to do so and without sanction.

To quote the article: “It remains to be seen if the horror of Wettlaufer’s deeds will make a difference.” Yes: people who euthanize will continue, and organizations will become even more monolithic when they attempt to kill. And then the number of deaths will continue to rise.

It is interesting that CARP would deplore the actions of someone who was neglecting patients to the point of euthanizing them. CARP’s advocates: Moses Znaimer and Wanda Morris have stumped for euthanasia, so the two situations – the magazine and its political position and Wettlaufer’s actions – are related. The article says that what Wettlaufer did was ‘shocking’. Canada’s euthanasia law and Carp's pro-euthanasia position is also shocking.

Abandoning hope: Euthanasia for mental disorders.

This article was published by the Australian Care Alliance on July 24, 2019.

Guidelines issued for assessing and executing requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide from people with mental disorders, including addictions such as alcoholism, by the Netherlands Federation of Medical Specialists and the National Council of the Order of Physicians of Belgium essentially authorise doctors to agree with a patient that abandoning all hope - as if they were at the gates of hell in Dante's Divine Comedy - is the only proper response to their mental illness or addiction.

This plaque could appropriately be put on the office door of Dutch and Belgian doctors who give effect to the guidelines.

The Belgian "Guidelines for the application of euthanasia to patients suffering from mental illness as a result of a psychiatric disorder" were issued by the National Council of the Order of Physicians on 27 April 2019.

While these new guidelines show some recognition that there is a problem with the normalisation of euthanasia as a response to persons with psychiatric disorders at the heart of the guidelines there is an abandonment of the patient by formalising a process in which a doctor agrees that his or her life is hopeless, not worth living and that suicide by doctor is the only appropriate response.

The guidelines state that "A determination that the psychiatric condition is incurable and hopeless should not be made unless all 'all possible evidence-based treatment' has been tried. If a patient refuses 'certain evidence-based treatments, the doctor cannot apply euthanasia'. However, 'the doctor must show a certain reasonableness. He must not fall into a therapeutic obstinacy. The reasonable number of treatments to be followed is limited'.
In other words the doctor is authorised to, along with the person struggling with a mental illness or addiction to agree with the person's sense of despair and hopelessness.

Read further on the Belgian guidelines here.

The directive "Termination of life on request in patients with a mental disorder" was issued by the Netherlands Federation of Medical Specialists on 28 September 2018.

The directive states that:

The granting of life termination on request for patients with mental illness is an ultimate and extraordinary medical treatment to eliminate suffering, or an ultimate refuge.
Interestingly the 73 page directive includes information on a survey of psychiatrists in the Netherlands which summarises the views of those opposed to euthanasia for mental illness:
  • Considering a euthanasia request conflicts with the goal of ongoing treatment; 
  • There is a real danger of counter-transference which makes objective assessment of a request for the termination of life doubtful; 
  • There is no ultimate distinction between a desire for euthanasia or assisted suicide and chronic suicidal ideation; 
  • Hopelessness and unbearable suffering for persons with a mental disorder are elastic, subjective concepts; 
  • There is a contradiction between “hopelessness” and the relatively long life expectancy of persons with mental disorders; and 
  • There are many uncertainties in the accurate diagnosis of mental disorders and the assessment of reasonable treatment options.
The directive dismisses this perspective and attempts to maintain that there is a real distinction between "a lonely suicide” and a “dignified” termination of life arranged by the doctor.

However, this distinction unravels as the directive goes on to observe:

the distinction between suicidality and a request for termination of life can fade over time or completely disappear. This situation can occur if:
  • suicidality is chronically present against the background of a long-standing mental disorder; 
  • the patient can form a reasoned opinion about his disorder; and 
  • seeks professional help with the execution of his death wish.
Suicidality can then be the expression of a long-standing and autonomous desire not to live anymore, after many episodes of severe suffering. It can be a rational reflection on the lack of future prospects, lack of treatable suicidality and mental disorder and an inability to endure suffering.

Patients can suffer greatly from their own suicidality, for example when there are endless images imposed of their own future suicide on them. Suffering from one's own suicidality can also be a component form of a considered request for termination of life.
Thus in the Netherlands suicidality can in itself be seen as a reason for a doctor to collaborate with the patient’s mentally disordered desire to commit suicide by providing “professional help with the execution of the patient’s death wish”.

The directive even notes that “suicidal behavior is increasingly expressed by the patient as a request for euthanasia or assistance with suicide. After all, the term ‘euthanasia’ is becoming more and more common in the media and patients are increasingly adopting this language in a completely different context.” This observation is consonant with the danger of suicide contagion – in this case from the context of societal approval of euthanasia and assisted suicide to the thinking of persons with a metal disorder.

Read further on the Netherlands directive here.

Popular articles opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

1. Sick Kids Hospital Toronto will euthanize children with or without parental consent - Oct 10, 2018.

2. Paediatric Palliative Care Symposium and child euthanasia - February 26, 2018.

3Declaration of Hope – Jan 1, 2016.

4. Fatal Flaws film will change the way you view assisted death - June 8, 2018.

5. Margaret Dore: Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Personal Choice - Feb 17, 2011.

6. Kitty Holman: 5 reasons why people devalue the elderly – May 25, 2010.

7. Emily “Laura” the healthy 24-year-old Belgian woman who was approved for euthanasia, has chosen to live. Nov 12, 2015.

8. Kate Kelly: Mild stroke led to mother’s forced death by dehydration – Sept 27, 2011.

9.  The Euthanasia Deception documentary. - Sept 30, 2016.

10. Healthy 24 year old Belgian woman was scheduled for euthanasia - June 24, 2015.

11. Boycott Me Before You - "disability death porn" - May 26, 2016.

12. Depressed Belgian woman dies by Euthanasia – Feb 6, 2013.

13.  Euthanasia is out-of-control in the Netherlands – Sept 25, 2012.

14. Belgian twins euthanized out of fear of blindness. – Jan 14, 2013.

15. Netherlands euthanasia review committee: euthanasia done on a woman with dementia was done in "good faith" -  Jan 28, 2017.

16. Assisted suicide law prompts insurance company to deny coverage to terminally ill woman - Oct 20, 2016. 

17. Judge uphold decision. Assisted suicide is prohibited in California. May 31, 2018.

18. Mother upset after doctor urged her to approve assisted death for her daughter with disabilities - July 26, 2017.

19. Dr Annette Hanson & Dr Ronald Pies: 12 Myths about Assisted Suicide and Medical Aid in Dying. July 9, 2018.

20. Woman dies by euthanasia, may only have had a bladder infection - Nov 14, 2016.

21. Legalizing euthanasia saves money. Jan 23, 2017.

22. Woman with Anorexia Nervosa dies by euthanasia in Belgium – Feb 10, 2013.

23. South Africa Supreme Court rejects euthanasia - Dec 6, 2016.

24. Opposing the Supreme Court of Canada assisted death decision - Feb 17, 2015.

25. Belgium warns - Medical Assistance in Dying - Don't Go There - April 26, 2016.

26. 29-year-old healthy Dutch woman died by assisted death for psychiatric reasons. Jan 15, 2018. 

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