Friday, April 9, 2021

Australian murder trial - woman claims she assisted her boyfriends suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Matthew Dunbar with Natasha Darcy
A murder trial in Australia shows how assisted suicide techniques can be a cover for murder. I first reported on this case in November 2019.

Natasha Darcy is on trial for allegedly killing her boyfriend, Matthew Dunbar, who died on August 2, 2017. Dunbar had recently made Darcy the sole beneficiary of his multi-million dollar estate.

The in the death of Dunbar began this week. Darcy is arguing that she did not murder Dunbar, her boyfriend of three years, but admits to assisting his suicide.

According to the trial reports Matthew Dunbar died on August 2, 2017 at around 2 am with an exit bag and helium, one of the suicide methods promoted by Philip Nitschke and Exit.

Laine Sainty reported for the Weekend Australian that Darcy called her ex-husband, Colin Crossman, at 1:14 am, 46 minutes before she contacted the 000 emergency line, on the night of the death.

Sainty also reported that Darcy had searched online for information on how to sedate and suicide methods and that she allegedly used a Magic Bullet, the evening of his death, to blend a cocktail of sedatives.

Jenny Noyes reported for the Sydney Morning Herald that Darcy had obtained sedatives from a veterinarian for the purpose of euthanizing her elderly cat. Darcy says that she didn't euthanize her cat because it would have upset the children.

Noyes reported that the court was told that Darcy obtained anti-psychotic drugs to help Dunbar to sleep. Darcy was told that based on the strength of the drugs, to cut the tablets into one quarter of the size.

Noyes also reported that Darcy had asked a nurse at the Walcha Veterinary Clinic for Ram sedative that is used for sheep. When the veterinarian asked Mr Dunbar about the request, Dunbar had no idea what the veterinarian was talking about.

Emma Partridge reported for 9News that Darcy and Dunbar picked up a helium tank, the day before his death. Darcy had specifically ordered high purity helium.

Partridge also reported that Lance Partridge, Dunbar's best friend and executor of his will, had heard Dunbar tell Darcy that he had changed his will and everything was left to her. Darcy originally claimed that she had no idea that she would inherit Dunbar's estate.

Sainty also reported that Darcy may have attempted to kill her ex-husband in 2009. According to the report, a fire was set in Crossman's bedroom in 2009. Drugs were later found in his system that he did not take. The night before, Darcy had made Taco's for Crossman for dinner.

Natasha Darcy has pled innocent to murder in the death of Matthew Dunbar but she has admitted to the lesser charge of assisting his suicide. 

This may be a classic case of murder that is covered up by admitting to the lesser charge of assisting a suicide.

It is important to note the complicity assisted suicide websites have with murder. Darcy gathered information on how to kill from assisted suicide lobby websites. The method of death is the one preferred by Philip Nitshcke and Exit International.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

France debates legalizing euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The French media is reporting that a bill to legalize euthanasia will be debated on Thursday April 8.

The Local news reported that Olivier Falorni, deputy for the parliamentary splinter group Libertes et Territoires (“Freedom and Territories”), has introduced a euthanasia bill that will be debated during the time allotted to the party.

MP's who oppose euthanasia have filed 3000 amendments to the bill. The Local reported:
MPs hostile to euthanasia have filed 3,000 amendments ahead of the debate which will slow down Thursday’s proceedings to the point of making any vote in the allotted timeframe impossible.
France considers itself to be an egalitarian society. Legalizing euthanasia is not about equality but rather it gives physicians the power to cause another person's death. Further to that, there is abuse of the law and deaths based on misdiagnosis.

Before France votes on the euthansia bill they need to consider what has happened in Canada. Less than five years after legalizing euthanasia, Canada has extended the law to people who are not terminally ill, to people with mental illness alone and to people who are not competent at the time of death.

Don't follow Canada's lead.

Euthanasia law is a matter of life and death for people with disabilities.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Bill C-7 passed into law on March 17, thereby expanding Canada's euthanasia (MAiD) law to include people with disabilities or chronic conditions who are not dying, and people with mental illness alone. It's important to remind people of how Bill C-7 undermines Canada's global human rights commitments.

Dulcie McCallum and Steve Estey who were members of Canada’s delegation to the United Nations when negotiating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, explain in an article published by iPolitics how Bill C-7 is counter to Canada's Human Rights Commitments. McCallum and Estey wrote:
The value of Canada’s stock on the global human rights market is about to plummet. In what could be considered a perverse sense of timing, the House moved for closure on Bill C-7 – which proposes fundamental changes to criteria for medical aid in dying (MAiD) – on the very week that marks the eleven-year anniversary of Canada ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As the special advisers to, and members of, Canada’s delegation to the United Nations when negotiating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we feel compelled to speak out because Canada is on the threshold of committing a serious legal breach.
They then explain why Bill C-7 represented a human rights violation:
Bill C-7 will, if passed, make it entirely legal to end a person’s life simply because they have a disability. The fact that Parliamentarians cannot see that Bill C-7 turns the right to equality and non-discrimination on its head is of grave concern.

This legislative initiative reinforces negative stereotypes and perceptions about people who live with a disability or who are aging, giving us a law that is predicated on discriminatory and harmful ableist and ageist criteria. The legislative drafters have penned a cruel twist into the Criminal Code by deeming ease of access to medical assistance for people with a disability as a benefit.
McCallum and Estey explain that others have warned the government about the violation.
We are not the first to warn the Prime Minister that this legislation is in direct contravention with international law. A cohort of UN Special Rapporteurs and experts have issued a global expression of alarm. Their statement, issued early this year, said in part; “Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly.”

The international experts went on to make the specific point that if the law allows this differential treatment, it would “institutionalize and legally authorize ableism” in direct contravention of the Convention.
McCallum and Estey point out that Prime Minister Trudeau considers himself a staunch supporter of human rights and yet his euthanasia (MAiD) law is in direct contravention of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Dulcie McCallum is a human rights lawyer and was special adviser to Canada’s Delegation to the UN Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Steve Estey is a longtime human rights advocate and activist and was a member of Canada’s delegation to the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee which drafted the CRPD between 2002 and 2006.

Further articles on this topic:

  • Disability is not a reason to sanction euthanasia (Link). 
  • UN disability expert concerned about euthanasia, assisted suicide and the new eugenics (Link).
  • UN disability rights envoy urges changes to Canada's euthanasia law (Link).

I will not publish anonymous or inappropriate comments

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Peter Singer promotes euthanasia for mental illness.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Peter Singer
Long time euthanasia promoter, Peter Singer, has written a commentary on the expansion of euthanasia to include people with mental illness alone and advanced request for euthanasia. His commentary seems factual and dispassionate but in fact he supports more death by euthanasia.

In his article that was published by Project Syndicate, Singer reports on the expansions of euthanasia world-wide. Singer focuses on Canada, which recently expanded euthanasia, known as MAiD, to people who are not terminally ill and to people with mental illness alone. Euthanasia for mental illness alone is "held" for 24 months as Canada devises protocols for killing.

Singer first comments on the issue of euthanasia by advanced request, which the Dutch Supreme Court recently approved. He states:
The issue of allowing advance requests for assistance in dying will become more pressing as populations age and more people develop dementia. Last year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that doctors cannot be prosecuted for carrying out euthanasia on patients who have given written consent, but subsequently lost the capacity to consent.
Singer accurately points out how an aging population creates more pressure on a nation, nonetheless he ignores the fact that not requiring consent at the time of death justifies euthanasia without consent. 

Allowing euthanasia without consent undermines the original sales pitch for euthanasia, that being choice and consent. When consent is not required who chooses?

Singer then comments on the issue of euthanasia for mental illness alone. Singer states:
There can be little doubt that some mentally ill people are not helped by treatment, and do suffer greatly. It is hard to see why, if suffering from an incurable but non-terminal physical illness suffices for assistance in dying, suffering that is as bad or worse from incurable mental illness should not also be sufficient. Moreover, for people who are suffering from untreatable depression or other mental illnesses that do not respond to treatment, merely being judged eligible for euthanasia can in itself make life more bearable.
Singer acknowledges that psychiatric assessments may not determine if the mental illness is incurable, but then he suggests that this doesn't matter because only the patient can determine how unbearable the suffering is.

Euthanasia promoters, such as Singer ignore the reality that there is no proof that certain psychiatric conditions are untreatable and secondly they ignore the fact that a symptom of some psychiatric conditions is suicidal ideation.

We kill them because they want to die, but they want to die because they need treatment. Meanwhile Bill C-7 did not require that the person try effective treatments.

Loneliness and isolation. Have you called an elderly friend or family member today?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I have written about the cultural epidemic of loneliness and isolation and I have explained how loneliness and isolation leads to a higher level of deaths by euthanasia (MAiD). Now that Ontario, and other jurisdictions, have moved back to being "locked-down," will we experience more depression and hopelessness based on cultural loneliness?

CTV medical correspondant, Avis Favaro, reported on a group of teenagers from the Upper Canada College, Bishop Strachan School, Havergal and Bayview Glen who are participating in a virtual pen pal program. Favaro reports:
The program, called Pandemic Pals or Pan Pals for short, has students connect with seniors in long-term care homes via phone and Zoom calls in an effort to combat loneliness brought on by lockdowns in the province.
Pan Pal Sam Shulman states:
“We thought about seniors in long-term care homes who are missing out on this time with their children, their grandchildren their great grandchildren, along with this all encompassing fear of the unknown virus,”

“So we wanted to bring joy to seniors during these trying times,”
Pan Pal Apostolos Zezos points out that many of the seniors have not spoken to anyone in weeks or months.

Long term care resident Irena Caranica told Favaro what the program means to her.
“Like I was talking to a very good friend from my youth. That's how nice it was. I was waiting every week for him to call me so I can talk to him,”
Pan Pal Shulman said:
“Seniors are obviously much older than we are, but we're all humans, and we're all similar and it's another person to talk to you, it's another person to share how our day was… and that relationship kind of transcends age,”
Pan Pal Kate Fitzpatrick recognized how the program has helped with mental health for the seniors who have participated while Pan Pal Justin Lee recognized that loneliness and isolation for seniors is not a new problem. Lee said:
“Senior loneliness isn't something that became real because of a pandemic, it was something that exists before. It just got amplified because of the pandemic. So I think this idea of connection, interaction and building bonds definitely should continue after the pandemic,”

“If I can bring light to someone's day, I really want to take that opportunity,”
Compassionate Community Care provides a training program for visiting and communicating with Seniors and others who live with social isolation.

Contact Compassionate Community Care at:

Thursday, April 1, 2021

I’d be dead if C-7 was law 10 years ago

This article was published in the April 2021 edition of the Interim

Andrew Lawton
Andrew Lawton

Well, this one is personal for me. If Bill C-7 were the law of the land a decade ago, I’d probably be dead.

Bill C-7 is product of the federal Liberal government’s efforts to expand access to assisted suicide. Supporters of the bill argue it’s necessary after the Superior Court of Quebec identified supposed deficiencies in the current assisted suicide regime. While the court’s Truchon decision did raise issues, it’s noteworthy that the federal government opted not to appeal this to the Supreme Court, and has now embraced changes that go far beyond what the court called for.

The most egregious of these is the expansion of assisted suicide access to people suffering solely from mental illnesses. Prohibiting these people from having their deaths facilitated by the state was recognized as an essential safeguard when the existing framework was established nearly five years ago.

Now, this protection is on the way out, along with the mandatory 10-day waiting period and need for two independent witnesses, among other changes.

Inclusion of the mental health provision in C-7 is vile for its own reasons, but all the more so when one looks at the process by which it came to be. The Liberals assured critics it would not be in the bill, which means there was no real study or investigation of it as Bill C-7 made its way through the rigorous committee review stage. It was slipped in by the Liberal-dominated Senate, and summarily accepted by Justin Trudeau’s government with the support of the Bloc Quebecois, despite united opposition from the Conservatives and NDP.

This is precisely what was warned about when Canada was in the process of passing Bill C-14 in 2016, only to be told that concerns about future laxing of the rules amounted to slippery slope paranoia.

As Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said in a recent interview, we’re sliding down that slippery slope right now.

In 2010, I nearly succeeded in committing suicide. My battle with depression was worsening, and I was losing. Miraculously, I pulled through: I count my lack of success in that attempt as my happiest failure, for which I’m grateful to God’s intervention and a team of dedicated healthcare practitioners.

It’s saddening to think that under different circumstances, these practitioners could have been the ones killing me rather than saving me.

C-7 is predicated on the idea that restricting access to assisted suicide is discriminatory. This inherently positions assisted suicide as a right, so it’s not unforeseeable that there will be future challenges if doctors start turning down requests from those with mental illness.

My depression was grievious and, while treatable, technically incurable. I have little doubt I could have rationally and clearly conveyed to a doctor that I wanted out. I had certainly convinced myself that my death was the only sensible outcome – my choice was between death or a life of pain. Recovery and hope were not on the menu.

I was wrong. Here I am living a life I never imagined was possible. This is the tricky thing about mental illness – your mind plays tricks on you, and deprives you of a holistic appreciation for what life can offer.

I was always resistant to the “it gets better” platitude, until I learned in my own recovery that it does. At the same time, I won’t trivialize anyone’s struggles, knowing how hard and long the path is, especially for those whose experiences are worse than my own.

What all mental illnesses have in common is that they exist in the mind. This doesn’t mean they’re not real, but rather that by design they have a way of distorting one’s thinking and sense of reality.

Bill C-7 undermines years of attention and billions of dollars of funding to bolster mental illness treatments and supports, including, ironically, suicide prevention and awareness campaigns and programs.

This bill kills hope and reinforces the flawed belief afflicting those with mental illness, that life is not worth living and that one’s circumstances cannot improve.

This is why lawmakers of all parties previously saw a mental illness exclusion for assisted suicide as not just a good idea, but a given.

Until now, that is.

Previous article by Andrew Lawton.
  • Suicide is a symptom of mental illness. Not a cure for it (Link).

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Latvia rejects euthanasia initiative.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Latvia Saeima
The Latvian public broadcaster LSM.LV reported that, after a long debate, the Latvian Saeima rejected a citizens initiative to legalize euthanasia by a vote of 49 to 38 with 2 abstentions. A citizens initiative collected 10,000 signatures which required the Saeima to debate the issue.

LSM reported that Saeima representatives saw the euthanasia debate as opening the door for better end-of-life care for Latvians. According to the report:
opposition MP Viktors Valainis (Union of Greens and Farmers) said euthanasia would be the easiest way for severely ill people to escape intolerable pain, yet it is “absolutely unacceptable” because it ignores a number of problems in palliative care. At the same time, the Member stated that he was prepared to do everything necessary to improve the medical sector in the country.
The Baltic News Network (BNN) provided an analysis of the debate. BNN reported:
Saeima deputy Anda Čakša said that the topic of For a Good Death is a call for help from residents. She believes there are two important aspects – the accessibility of analgesia and palliative care and what are the people’s rights to refuse aggressive health treatment.

According to Čakša, the topic of euthanasia should not be on the table while the issue of palliative care remains unresolved. The Saeima member said her faction [New Unity] will hold a free vote on this.
BNN also reported that Saeima deputy Andris Skride was preparing to introduce legislation. The report stated:
Saeima deputy Andris Skride, who is a cardiologist, admitted that representatives of the initiative have clearly shown – the problem exists. Working with patients suffering from all kinds of problems has taught him that there may be a need for euthanasia.

Skride agreed with Buks, adding that passive euthanasia in Latvia is not regulated. This is why he believes it is necessary to commence discussions on a legislative level. The deputy said he has prepared a legislative draft, which he plans to submit to one of the parliament’s committees for review.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition promotes caring for people, not killing people.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Australian nurse "Angel of Death" will not face criminal charges for killing a patient, but loses nursing license for two years.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Maura Kathryn Bannister
An Australian nurse who refered to herself as the "angel of death" lost her nursing license on March 19 but will unlikely face criminal charges.

On March 10, the Queensland (Australia) Civil And Administrative Tribunal of the nursing and midwifery board of australia, in the Bannister case decided to:

disqualify her from applying for registration as a health practitioner for a period of two years from the date of this decision, and

prohibit, under the National Law s 196(4), from providing any health service for a period of two years from the date of this decision.
An article by Lydia Lynch published in the Brisbane Times stated:

Maura Kathryn Bannister, 60, administered an unprescribed dose of morphine to an elderly and frail family friend who was receiving palliative care at home after a fall.

Knowing the woman had already taken one dose or morphine that morning, Ms Bannister then gave another dose “greater than that prescribed, without any direction from the general practitioner to do so”.

“Thereafter she did not render or arrange medical assistance for the lady, who passed away later that morning,” the findings read.

Lynch reports that Bannister referred to herself as the "angel of death" and stated that she was proud of what she had done.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) (August 3, 2017) published a Netherlands study titled: End-of-Life Decisions in the Netherlands over 25 years.

The study indicates that in 2015 there were 7254 assisted deaths (6672 euthanasia deaths, 150 assisted suicide deaths, 431 terminations of life without request) in the Netherlands. The Netherlands euthanasia law did not prevent 431 terminations of life without request.

The euthanasia lobby will argue that legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide will regulate and prevent these types of deaths, but in fact it normalizes it as an acceptable medical practise and makes it impossible to prevent or even censure someone who carries out similar acts.

Veterinarian suicide rate should concern physicians who do euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Concern related to the high rate of suicide among veterinarians is once again receiving media attention. An article published by KCTV news concerns the veterinary suicide rate in relation to the COVID-19 lockdown. The news article by Blake Keller for KCTV news states:
the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized this issue. A study conducted by them found female veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to take their lives compared to the general public. Males are up to two times more likely.
Keller interviews Dr Erin Howard who teaches at Baker College who states:
"It's been trending more and more so, especially over the last several years, COVID certainly hasn't helped things," 
"I'm afraid the numbers are going to be even worse the next time a study comes around when it includes what's happened in 2020."
CBC news reported about an online charity campaign called Not One More Vet that seeks to reduce the veterinary suicide rate. Veterinarian, Dr Darrell Stinson tells CBC news that:
"Veterinary medicine, unfortunately, has the highest suicide rate among professionals in the United States, and it's very close in Canada as well,"
An article in Time Magazine written by Melissa Chan looks at the question of veterinarian suicide rates. The article explains that there are several reasons for the higher suicide rate among veterinarians but it also shows how euthanasia has led some veterinarians to leave the profession or become suicidal.

The story Dr Nicole McArthur emphasizes how veterinary euthanasia is leading to suicide. Chan reports:
Dr. Nicole McArthur, a 46-year-old veterinarian in Rocklin, Calif., left the profession twice because of the agony she felt after killing an animal. “There was a period of time when I was essentially Dr. Death,” she says, adding that she’d sometimes have to put down three pets a day. “At the time, I was like, somebody is punishing me for something I’ve done in another life.” The dreams she had to help animals as an aspiring veterinarian quickly clashed with the harsh reality of having to take their lives even when they could have been surgically treated. She quit the field most recently in 2013 and returned in 2015. “We go through veterinary school with the idea that we’re going to save lives,” McArthur says. “To have to turn around and push a plunger is difficult.”
The suicide rate among medical professionals who do euthanasia is important now that Canada has legalized euthanasia and more US States have legalized assisted suicide.

Since physicians already have a high suicide rate, the data may not be noticed until future research is done on suicide rates among physicians who do euthanasia or assisted suicide. It is too early to do suicide research on euthanasia doctors in Canada, but research on doctors in the Netherlands and Belgium is possible.

Friday, March 26, 2021

California assisted suicide expansion bill (SB 380) will force physicians to refer patients to death.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I have written about the Washington State assisted suicide expansion bill (HB 1141) and the assisted suicide lobby's push to legalize assisted suicide in more US States, but the California assisted suicide expansion bill (SB 380), among other concerns, attacks conscience rights for medical professionals and institutions.

The current California assisted suicide law does not require medical professionals who oppose participation with killing their patients to refer their patients to a physician who is willing to prescribe their patients lethal drugs for assisted suicide.

SB 380 requires that anyone who requests lethal drugs from a physician who opposes assisted suicide, that the physician must be immediately refer that patient to a physician or facility willing to kill. SB 380 states: 

“failure to refer upon the individual’s request to another health care provider or health care facility that is willing to provide the information, is considered a failure to obtain informed consent for subsequent medical treatments.”
SB 380 also changes the definition of participation for health care facilities. The original law allowed health care facilities that object to assisted suicide to prohibit their employees from participating in assisted suicide. SB 380 changes the term participation to prescribing, meaning that an objecting facility cannot prohibit their employees from participating in the assisted suicide death of their patients, they can only prohibit their employees from prescribing the lethal drugs.

SB 380 also allows physicians to waive the 15 day waiting period.

The US assisted suicide lobby are promoting assisted suicide by expanding the existing assisted suicide laws to make it easier to obtain lethal drugs and expand eligibility, while also promoting the legalization of assisted suicide in more states.

For further information read:

  • California Bill to force MD participation in assisted suicide (Link) 
  • Preventing the spread of assisted suicide in America (Link).  
  • California assisted suicide deaths increase by 20% in 2019 (Link).

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Assisted suicide bill has foundation of abusive practices.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Daniel C. Schreck who is a bioethicist and a member of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the president, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities wrote a commentary that was published in the Greenwich Time on the Connecticut assisted suicide bill.

Schreck writes:
Assisted suicide, we are told, poses no threat to people with disabilities thanks to statutory safeguards: There is no record of abuse in states where assisted suicide is legal because there is none to be found. We are told that these straightforward laws have narrow eligibility for the terminally ill and are merely codifying the personal choice to end one’s terminal suffering. These are the facts, or so we are told.
Schreck then explains the facts:
The fact is, the Oregon Health Division’s 22 years of assisted suicide reports show that people with non-terminal disabilities receive lethal prescriptions every year and that pain is not even a top-five reason. Rather, a loss of autonomy and feeling like an emotional and/or physical burden to one’s family, consistently rank among the top reasons. Accordingly, those who access lethal prescriptions include those with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, liver disease, and Parkinson’s disease, among many other non-terminal medical conditions.

The fact is, many assisted suicide bills such as HB 6425 define “terminal” as “incurable” and “irreversible,” which greatly expands the eligible population. Would my little daughter Rose, who has Down syndrome, meet the genetic profile that some physicians would deem “incurable” and “irreversible”? As we at the National Council on Disability — an independent federal agency that advises the president and Congress — outlined in our recent report, “terminal” in assisted suicide laws doesn’t mean with treatment. Therefore, people with perfectly treatable disabilities die by assisted suicide every year.

The fact is, despite claims of enhancing autonomy, assisted suicide laws diminish its realization. Under HB 6425, the patient’s long-term doctor does not need to verify a lack of coercion, and the two witnesses required on the written request do not need to know the patient and can be an heir. Nothing in the bill can prevent an outside organization, friend, relative, or heir from “encouraging” a person to make the request, signing as a witness, picking up the prescription, and even administering the drug with or without consent. And, because no objective witness is required at death, who would even know?

The fact is, assisted suicide laws often foreclose rather than expand choice by creating perverse incentives for profit-driven health insurance providers to deny care to patients and to offer assisted suicide instead. Some of those providers are state-funded Medicaid programs, which in states that have legalized assisted suicide have denied coverage for curative treatments while paying for cheaper suicide drugs. In Oregon’s most recent annual assisted suicide report, people dying by assisted suicide who receive state-funded health care increased to an alarming 75 percent. Not being able to pay for expensive curative treatments out of pocket means suicide may be one of the only “treatments” to which one may have equal access. When financial pressures reduce life-giving options, personal autonomy is diminished. As we at NCD can attest to, persons with disabilities are still fighting for equal access to basic health care, and yet assisted suicide bills could give them one lethal choice while precluding others.
Schreck then comments on assisted suicide in relation to other suicides:
Since suicide is a societal and personal tragedy, and never a good, legalizing assisted suicide forces lawmakers to draw arbitrary distinctions between which suicides are “rational” and which should be prevented at all costs. State and federal governments invest heavily into efforts and programs to lower suicide rates among veterans, teenagers, first responders, and clinicians. And yet, just 10 years after the practice became legal in Oregon, the suicide rate was 41 percent higher than the national average. The line between who gets suicide prevention and who gets suicide assistance will always delineate some subset of people with disabilities if the practice becomes more acceptable.
The article concludes with the concern how assisted suicide devalues the lives of people with disabilities.
If law is the teacher, then this bill perversely devalues the lives of those with disabilities. Most assisted suicide laws refer to “dignity,” but suicide does not confer dignity, it undermines it. When assisted suicide becomes legal, lives are ended without consent through mistakes, abuse, societal pressure, and the unjust lack of better options. We should not make policies which see illness, disability, or age as something to be “cured” by death. Instead, millions of Americans with significant physical and developmental disabilities, like my daughter Rose, ought to be protected and loved for the inherent dignity they already possess.

More articles on this topic:

  • Assisted suicide lobby spreads falsehood to promote systematic ableism (Link).  
  • The extreme ableism of assisted suicide (Link). 
  • Federal study finds assisted suicide laws rife with dangers to people with disabilities (Link).

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nunavut mental health crisis: Assisted death provided, mental health treatment not provided.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Beth Brown reported for CBC news that the care of people with mental health concerns in Nunavut was not considered during the Bill C-7 debate, the recently passed bill that expands Canada's euthanasia law to include people with mental illness. 

Brown is reporting on a meeting organized by the Embrace Life Council in Nunavut to discuss Bill C-7.

Brown interviewed Kylie Aglukark the Embrace Life Council President who is concerned that people in Nunavut are currently being sent away to receive treatment. Aglukark states:
"We're required already to leave the territory to access basic services," Aglukark said.

This is especially true for people who have a severe and long-term mental illness that could lead to the level of suffering that would make a person eligible for assisted dying.

"We need more [mental health] services.
Senator Dennis Patterson, who represents Nunavut told Brown that:
...the federal government has failed to bring mental health treatment to Nunavut, and there aren't enough mental health services in the territory for people to get better.

"There are organizations working against suicide and for wellness who are concerned that making it easier to choose to die with a mental illness in Nunavut without mental health supports, than to go on living and become well, is not a fair choice,"
Brown reported that medically assisted dying can be made available in the territory for any patient who is eligible, Nunavut's Health department said in an email.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Beyond C-7 and death on demand -- competent choice is the new frontier, or death with no demand

Gordon Friesen
By Gordon Friesen, EPC board member

Euthanasia has two faces in Canada. The first is Voluntary Euthanasia, which is a practice based upon the assumed right of an individual to control his, or her, own destiny. Medical Assistance in Dying, on the other hand (as defined in Quebec Bill 52, 2014), is a benign medical procedure, objectively indicated in cases involving “intolerable suffering” and “irremediable decline”.

Medical Assistance in Dying, therefore, is not simply a “horse of a different colour”, intruding upon our earlier assumptions. It is, in fact, an entirely different animal. For the desirability of medical procedures is not a function of the patient’s will. Wounds are bound in certain fashions, not because the patient wishes it to be so, but because clinical methods have so evolved through the experience of medical theory and practice. It doesn’t matter whether a patient is “capable”, or even conscious: wounds will be bound in the same manner. More generally: specific medical acts are practiced, in specific circumstances, because that is the correct medical thing to do. And accordingly, in virtue of the political definition of euthanasia (as a benign and high priority medical act): it is now a legal and professional fact that euthanasia is considered the “right” thing to do in cases of suffering and decline.

There was, of course, for a time, another requirement for the medical indication of euthanasia, which was the presence of a “reasonably foreseeable death” (as implied in the Quebec definition of “end of life” care, and as murkily defined in Canadian Bill C-14). With the passage of Bill C-7, however, that requirement is now swept away. All that remains of earlier, socially demanded “safeguards”, at this point, is the requirement that the person be either “competent” or “capable”, to “voluntarily request” or to “give informed consent” to euthanasia (depending in each case, on which line of that legislation we are reading).

I will not embark, here, on a discussion of the intended meaning of these divergent terms (even though they are highly significant), because I do not want to lose sight of this one main point : that it has always been assumed -- as the fundamental justification for legalization -- that Physician-Assisted-Suicide, come Voluntary-Euthanasia, come Medical-Assistance-in-Dying, must be the accomplishment of a fully competent and informed choice.

However, As I began by writing, euthanasia practice has two faces in Canada; and has actually been defined in two different and contradictory ways.

As stated above: clinically indicated medical procedures (to squarely face this unsettling horn of the dilemma) have no dependence upon choice, informed or otherwise. Quite to the contrary. In the case where a person is “incapable” of choosing for themselves, it is our collective duty and sacred responsibility to choose for them. In all probability, therefore, the next stop on the euthanasia train will involve this inevitable showdown between “competent choice”, and what our utilitarian brethren would qualify as “good medicine”; a central conflict within existing law that must apparently be settled by clarifying legislation, or through the courts.

But what are the practical implications of these facts (or, to be plain: So what)?

Simply stated: Euthanasia, in Canada, now provides the conceptual framework for killing the entire population of “incapable” persons among us.

And how so? Because “incapacity” is itself a “grievous and irremediable” condition, normally accompanied by “intolerable suffering” (according to the exterior judgement of those tasked with the care of such individuals). The only outstanding requirement, therefore, would be a judicially sanctioned affirmation of the need to allow substitution of judgement, for competent consent (where this latter is impossible).

And that means what to me?

Sixteen years ago, there was a famous case in Florida, involving a brain injured lady named Terri Schiavo. Concerned people, at that time, either defended, or lamented, the “medical” decision to withdraw food and fluids from Terri from (against the wishes of her parents, but in harmony with those of her husband). My personal opinion, I believe, although different from either faction in the absolute sense, still holds some merit. For I was sensitive to what Terri meant for my life in society. If, as I believed, Terri was in a vegetative state, then removing life-support would cause no harm. However, keeping people like Terri, alive, with simple food and fluid, provides the guarantee that others in a more questionable state would also be cared for. And thus, by degrees, I came to believe that Terri’s survival would guarantee my own survival, should I have the unfortunate luck to find myself hospitalized in an ambiguous condition, and perhaps, faced with professionals of a more determined and “realistic” utilitarian persuasion.

Already, at that time, therefore, essential questions were being asked regarding where exactly to draw the line in protecting the physical and social security of the “most vulnerable”. However, with the idea of Medically Administered Death (MAD) we have taken a giant step beyond the context described. And that is because Terri was already considered as “dead” and therefore could not be “killed”. Euthanasia, on the contrary, as defined in Canada, allows killing dependant people who are clearly alive, in every legal sense of the term. And that represents a quantum leap in both ethics and practice.

A call to proactive mobilization

This question, I believe, is of the greatest possible importance. It is also of the greatest urgency. For we are already arguing the “capability” boundary (mature minors, and advance directives). Indeed, we have already overstepped that boundary in the case of psychiatric patients.

Happily, this time there will be no need to fight a depressing rear-guard delaying action similar to our recent disappointment with “foreseeable death”. In that case, we were clearly doomed to failure because autonomous choice, and utilitarian medical ethics, were fully aligned against us. With regards to the “capability” question, however, we can truly “sock it to them”! Clearly, a reputed “right” of competent choice can NEVER justify the slaughter of the incompetent; we must demand positive legislative clarification of these ambiguities and contradictions. Immediately. Now. What is it to be (we must ask)? Is MAID an affirmation of sovereign personal choice? Or is it a medical scheme to end "suffering" by killing?

Entirely new strategic possibilities are opened with these questions; having now conceded (perforce) the central question of “freedom”, we will now be free ourselves, to reach many well meaning people who have steadfastly ignored our warnings to this point; now, that is, that the dominoes are threatening to fall closer to home. For although it might seem that the medical industry could be rationalized with euthanasia as a safety valve, or that the resources saved on the “irremediable” might be spent better elsewhere, for other interests: sooner or later, such opportunistic calculations will inevitably turn and bite. “Me today, you tomorrow” is how Alexandr Solzhenitsyn recorded the cynical catch-phrase of his Bolshevik tormentors. Or as German pastor Martin Niemoller phrased a similar idea: “First they came for the socialists ...”

It is my belief, indeed, that if we do not defend this bright line of competent choice -- together, right now -- then sooner, or later, we can expect “them” to come for us all.

Gordon Friesen, Montreal,