Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Disability rights leaders oppose assisted suicide bill

Press Conference opposing Massachusetts assisted suicide bill.

At least seven disability rights advocates were prepared to testify on one of two panels. The following are links to three of those testimonies with short excerpts from each.

John Kelly
 John Kelly’s Testimony

Like most progressives, I strongly oppose capital punishment. We simply can’t stomach the fact that at least 4% of people sentenced to die are not guilty. We know that when there is a mistake, there’s no remedy.

H.1926 would in effect sentence to death non-dying people. Doctors misdiagnose all the time, and it’s estimated that 12 to-15% of people will outlive their six-month terminal diagnosis. . . .

And when more than half of suicide deaths in Oregon last year were reported to feel like a burden on others, we can see evidence of bullying, shame, and loss of options. When you read the title of the bill with different emphasis, it doesn’t mean options for the end-of-life but “the end [pause] of life-options.”

Ruthie Poole’s Testimony

Those of us in M-POWER know that depression is insidious in how it affects thinking. Against the new provision, we know that depression does impair judgment. As a therapist once told me, depression does not cause black and white thinking; it causes black and blacker thinking. Absolute hopelessness and seeing no way out are common feelings for those of us who have experienced severe depression. Personally, as someone who has been suicidal in the past, I can relate to the desire for “a painless and easy way out.” However, depression is treatable and reversible. Suicide is not.

We applaud the Joint Committee on Public Health and other members of the Legislature who have worked hard to expand funding for suicide prevention efforts. Passing this bill would be a slap in the face of those efforts. Suicide contagion is real. Any assisted suicide program will send the message to people in mental distress – old, young, physically ill or not – that suicide is a reasonable answer to life’s problems.

Anita Cameron
 Anita Cameron’s Testimony Although assisted suicide requests in Oregon (which this bill and others are modeled on) are lower among Blacks and people of color, that doesn’t mean that this won’t change in more diverse areas, especially as healthcare support lessens and assisted suicide becomes more acceptable due to the efforts of groups like Compassion and Choices. . . . Further, doctors often make mistakes about whether a person is terminal or not. In June, 2009, while living in Washington state, my mother was determined to be in the final stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and placed in hospice. Two months later, I was told that her body had begun the process of dying. My mother wanted to go home to Colorado to die, so the arrangements were made. A funny thing happened, though. Once she got there, her health began to improve! Ten years later, she is still alive, lives in her own home in the community and is reasonably active.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Three Netherlands euthanasia deaths are being investigated.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article, on June 23, by Senay Boztas, for the Guardian outlines several euthanasia deaths that are being investigated or prosecuted in the Netherlands.

EPC supporters will remember the case of the euthanasia death of a woman with dementia, in 2016, who resisted the lethal injection. Boztas explains: August, a Dutch doctor will be the first prosecuted for failings, in a 2016 case, in which sedatives were put in a dementia patient’s coffee and her family asked to hold her down when she struggled against the euthanasia injection.
According to Boztas two other cases were investigated in 2017:
The two other cases, from 2017, involve a woman in her 60s with Alzheimer’s whom an independent consultant did not judge to be suffering badly enough, and another in her 80s with osteoarthritis and other problems who refused other treatment.
Boztas reports about another case in 2018. Boztas reported:
... prosecutors are investigating a doctor for failing to treat the case of a woman with “due diligence” last year. According to the report, a woman in her 70s with depression had been operated on for abdominal problems when surgeons found evidence of lung cancer. She approached her doctor, saying she was experiencing unbearable psychological suffering and wanted euthanasia. Her doctor’s colleague took on the case, but, the review committee said, failed to obtain a second opinion from an independent psychiatrist, as is required.
Recently Wesley Smith wrote about nine couples that were euthanized together.

EPC explained that the 2018 Netherlands euthanasia statistics that the number of reported euthanasia deaths was down by 7%, likely related to the investigations by the Netherlands Prosecutor. We stated our concern that a new euthanasia category indicates that 205 people died by euthanasia based on multiple problems derived from the aging process. We fear that these deaths are based on "completed life."

The Netherlands euthanasia controversy continues. 
In January 2018, we learned that Berna van Baarsen, who had been a euthanasia assessor for 10 years, resigned over cases of euthanasia for dementia. In the same month,  Aurelia Brouwers (29) died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. even though she was physically healthy.

The euthanasia train left the station a long time ago in the Netherlands. Sadly, Canada is quickly riding the same euthanasia track and experiencing the same concerns.

Reject euthanasia. A culture that cares does not kill.

Nancy Elliott letter to Massachusetts politicians to reject assisted suicide.

Dear Senators & Representatives,

Nancy Elliott
Please reject identical bills S.1208 and H.1926, the “End -Of-Life Options Act”. I know there are some that believe we have a right to die. Anyone can kill themselves. What Assisted Suicide laws do is give rights to doctors to make you dead. They are also giving rights to the government to decide who has the right to live and who is deserving of death. Governments should not be trusted with this power.

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia are at their heart eugenist. They seek to eliminate the weak, sick and elderly among us, while promoting what they call autonomy, which is only valuing individuals who are healthy and productive. They seek to morph Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" into, only the fittest are allowed to survive. This thinking was gaining traction in the US until the Nazi's tried their human experiment and Americans were repulsed.

Proponents say the new Euthanasia is not like the earlier form. They claim it is entirely voluntary. While some may think they chose this, how many were actually steered? Steering is the elephant in the room. I was at a hearing for Assisted Suicide in Massachusetts a few years back where a doctor stated that Assisted Suicide laws were something he was in favor of. He continued with his points and ended by saying that He felt it was the responsibility for a good doctor “to guide people to make the right choice”. I do not think he intended to say that but is there any doubt that this pro suicide doctor would try to persuade his patients to follow his wishes, concerning their Assisted Suicide.

Then there is steering done by family and “so called” friends. It is easy to persuade people that they should give up. Perhaps they are tired of caring for a person or are looking to inherit. We see the most egregious example in the Dutch woman, whose doctor had the family hold her down while she fought and was euthanized against her will. Our opponents call this compassionate, caring and choice.[1]


Seniors are at risk and easily fall victim to coercion as the process is open to that. In most states, heirs can be there for the request and even speak. Anyone can pick up the lethal dose. Once in the house all oversight is gone, there is no witness required at the death. Even if they struggled who would know.

Eligible people are not necessarily dying. Think of John Norton who testified to this committee in the past. Diagnosed as a young man with ALS. He stated that had assisted suicide been legal he would have done it. A few years in, the progression of the disease just stopped. He was in his 70’s the last time I heard him testify. He had a grandchild and was happy to be alive. His life would have been wasted. What about new cures that could come up and save a person’s life? Why rush into death? You will always have another opportunity.

What about the 5% of incorrect medical diagnosis? With Assisted Suicide on the table these mistakes are deadly.

This is about disability. If you have a disability you are encouraged to commit suicide. If, on the other hand, you are young and healthy, you are given suicide counselling. This is discrimination. This law is a “special” carve out, for the sick, elderly and disabled. 

Follow the money. There are people and entities that stand to make a profit if "expensive" individuals are euthanized at the earliest moment. Winners would include, insurers, nursing homes, hospitals, government entities and people who are heavily invested in these areas.

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia are not in the public interest. Please keep this bill from passing as it is dangerous to the people of Massachusetts.

Nancy Elliott
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA

Monday, June 24, 2019

More than 1000 New Zealand Doctors sign letter opposing euthanasia.

An Open Letter to New Zealanders

We endorse the views of the World Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association that physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal.

We are committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort, including the provision of effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care.

We uphold the right of patients to decline treatment, as set out in the NZ Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.

We know that the proper provision of pain relief, even if it may unintentionally hasten the death of the patient, is ethical and legal. Equally the withdrawal or withholding of futile treatment in favour of palliative care is ethical and legal.

We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to die would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and respect.

We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and we are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden.

Doctors are not necessary in the regulation or practice of assisted suicide. They are included only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy. Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.

The Washington Post Boosts Elder ‘Rational Suicide’

This article was published by National Review online on June 24, 2019.

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

The media abandoned unequivocal opposition to suicide long ago. Most publications editorially support legalizing assisted suicide, and the news sides — such as the New York Times and the Associated Press — have even gone so far as to run stories lauding suicide/euthanasia “parties,” at which people celebrate the life of the host just before their death by overdose or lethal injection. PARTAY! Friends and family were so supportive, don’t you know!

Now, the Washington Post moves the ball another few yards downfield in a story from Kaiser Health News that furthers the normalization of “rational suicide” for the elderly by treating it as a respectable topic of discussion–rather than lamenting suicidal desires by oldsters as a serious mental health problem requiring unequivocal prevention efforts by a loving community. From, “As Seniors Go into Twilight Years, Some of them Privately Mull Rational Suicide:”

New Jersey recently became the eighth state to allow medical aid in dying, which permits some patients to get a doctor’s prescription for lethal drugs. That method is restricted, however, to people with a terminal condition who are mentally competent and expected to die within six months.

Patients who aren’t eligible for those laws would have to go to an “underground practice” to get lethal medication, said Timothy Quill, a palliative care physician at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Quill became famous in the 1990s for publicly admitting that he gave a 45-year-old patient with leukemia sleeping pills so she could end her life. He said he has done so with only one other patient.

Quill said he considers suicide one option he may choose as he ages: “I would probably be a classic [case] — I’m used to being in charge of my life.” He said he might be able to adapt to a situation in which he became entirely dependent on the care of others, “but I’d like to be able to make that be a choice as opposed to a necessity.”

Quill is deemed a hero in assisted-suicide circles. He’s apparently now expanding his advocacy to include people who are not terminally ill who want to commit “rational suicide.” And why not? Once we accept assisted suicide for the terminally ill, why not others who want to escape current or feared future suffering? Shouldn’t they also have the right to die in the “time and manner of their own choosing?”

In fact, this story reminds me very much of the pieces ubiquitously published about assisted suicide in the 1990s, which would present quotes from opponents (often, yours truly), but focused the emotional heart of the narrative on people who just wanted to “die on their own terms” and the compassionate doctors who wanted to help them, but couldn’t because of the cruel laws. Indeed, the the emotional heart of this story is on seniors who want to kill themselves before falling ill or becoming debilitated:

To Lois, the 86-year-old-woman who organized the [suicide discussion] meeting outside Philadelphia, suicides by older Americans are not all tragedies. A widow with no children, Lois said she would rather end her own life than deteriorate slowly over seven years, as her mother did after she broke a hip at age 90. (Lois asked to be referred to by only her middle name so she would not be identified, given the sensitive topic.)…

Carolyn, a 72-year-old member of the group who also asked that her last name be withheld, said they live in a “fabulous place” where residents enjoy “a lot of agency.” But she and her 88-year-old husband also want the freedom to determine how they die.

A retired nurse, Carolyn said her views have been shaped in part by her experience with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the 1990s, she created a program that sent hospice volunteers to work with people dying of AIDS, which at the time was a death sentence.

She said many of the men kept a stockpile of lethal drugs on a dresser or bedside table. They would tell her, “When I’m ready, that’s what I’m going to do.” But as their condition grew worse, she said, they became too confused to follow through.

“I just saw so many people who were planning to have that quiet, peaceful ending when it came, and it just never came. The pills just got scattered. They lost the moment” when they had the wherewithal to end their own lives, she said.
See what I mean? A story written like this about, say, teen suicide, would evoke outrage.

And here’s a bitter irony: After helping normalize the idea of elder suicide as empowering, the story ends with the phone number of a suicide prevention hotline. That’s just a sop after potentially putting lethal ideas into readers’ heads.

If you doubt me, catch this bit:

Carolyn said when she and her neighbors met at the cafe, she felt comforted by breaking the taboo.
Yes, by all means, we must break “taboos,” as if that’s all opposition to suicide is about.

We are becoming a pro-suicide culture. I predict that in five or ten years, stories about “rational suicide” for the elderly won’t present any opposition voices at all.

Connecticut man charged with manslaughter in supposed "assisted suicide" of his wife

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Connors
Connecticut man has been charged with manslaughter in the death of his wife, in a case that has being referred to as assisted suicide.

Samara Abramson reporting for Fox news  stated that Kevin Connors told police that he held the gun to his wife's head as she pulled the trigger. This is being referred to as an assisted suicide case because Lori Connors had late stage ovarian cancer and Lyme disease and allegedly pulled the trigger. 

The Associated Press reported that:
The 65-year-old retired prison guard initially told police he had been woken up by the sound of a gunshot, but later admitted he helped 61-year-old Lori Conners hold a gun to her head while she pulled the trigger in their bed on Sept. 6, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Conners said he couldn't watch his wife suffer any more.
CNN news reporter Lauren del Valle quoted Connors lawyer, Raymond Rigat as stating:
"Mr. Conners did what any loving husband would do,"
Cathy Ludlum
Cathy Ludlum from the disability rights group Second Thoughts Connecticut told Abramson from Fox news:

“If you don’t have encouragement and support around you, it’s easy to give up”
Manslaughter is the correct charge in this case. Whether Connors was a "loving" husband or not, it is not a loving act to kill or assist to kill your spouse, parent or child.

Society needs to care for people, by killing the pain not the patient.

France's highest appeal court will hear death by dehydration (Lambert) case.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Vincent Lambert
France's top appeals court will hear the case concerning the withdrawal of food and fluids from Vincent Lambert, a man who was cognitively disabled in a motorcycle accident injury in 2008. 

In 2015, Lambert's wife petitioned the court to have all treatment and care ceased including food and water. His parents urged that their son be transferred to a rehabilitation center. The legal battle concerning withdrawing fluids and food from Lambert has continued.

Euro news reported, on May 20, that doctors, at a hospital in Reims France, were sedating Lambert as part of the process to withdraw fluids and food and cause him to die by dehydration, as approved by a court order.

Vincent Lambert's mother.
Later, that day, Euro news reported that the Court of Appeal in Paris ordered that Lambert be fed and hydrated. The decision was in response to the UN Disability Rights Commission appeal. BBC news reported Lambert's mother as stating:

"They are going to restore nutrition and give him drink. For once I am proud of the courts," she said.
According to an article by Juliette Monteese published by AFP news:
the Cour de Cassation will begin examining whether a lower Paris court was within its rights to order that Lambert's feeding tubes be reinserted last month, just hours after doctors had begun switching off life support. 
The Cour de Cassation, which will not rule on the merits of maintaining Lambert's treatment, is expected to give its judgement later this week.
It is a disappointment that the court has limited the scope of its inquiry.

In early May, 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities intervened in the Lambert case stating that causing Lambert's death by dehydration contravened his rights as a person with disabilities. Section 25f of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires nations to:
25(f) Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.
Lambert is a cognitively disabled man who is not otherwise dying or nearing death. To directly and intentionally cause his death by withholding fluids is euthanasia by dehydration. If his fluids are withheld his death would not be from his medical condition but rather, he would die by dehydration, a terrible death.

Care Not Killing responds to Doctors’ Group decision to consult its members about their views on assisted suicide and euthanasia

Press Release issued on behalf of Care Not Killing
Sunday June 23, 2019
Care Not Killing notes the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) decision to consult its members about their views on assisted suicide and euthanasia, but warns that the survey must not “pre-determine” the results or rig the ballot. 
Dr Gordon MacDonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing commented: 
“It is sensible for respected groups like the RCGP to ask its members about their views important medical and ethical issues, but any survey must be independent and not pre-determine the result or try to rig the ballot, as we saw in the recent poll of members of the RCP (Royal College of Physicians).

“Worryingly the RCP decided to change their position unless there was an unprecedented 60 per cent supermajority in favour of retaining their opposition to assisted suicide, which ensured the college now has a neutral position on this issue. Yet that position was supported by just one in four doctors. No wonder there has been large-scale opposition to the way the poll was conducted, including a legal challenge and resignation by senior members of the ethics Committee of the RCP.

“A detailed analysis of the RCP poll results found significant opposition to changing the law among those doctors who care for patients at the end of life. This included 84.3 per cent of palliative care doctors and 80 per cent of trauma doctors.

“Most doctors are clear that they do not want a change in the law on assisted suicide or euthanasia. They recognise the dangers of ripping up long-held universal values that protect the terminally ill, sick and disabled people from feeling pressured into ending their lives because they fear becoming a care or financial burden.

“They also understand the evidence that legalising assisted suicide appears to normalise suicide in the general population. In Oregon, the place often used as a model by those promoting a change in the law, suicide rates are now 45 per cent higher than the national US average. Similar trends can be observed in Holland and Belgium.

“They also understand how changing the law is likely to fundamentally alter the doctor-patient relationship, as evidenced by a recent ComRes poll. When 2,000 members of the public were asked if GPs were given the power to help patients commit suicide it would fundamentally change the relationship between a doctor and patient, twice as many said it would (48 per cent to 23 per cent), while nearly 3 in ten (29 per cent) were not sure.”
Dr Macdonald concluded: 
“Care Not Killing looks forward to setting out the reasons why members of the Royal College of General Practitioner should continue to oppose any change to the law. Something that is shared by a majority of the medical profession, every major disability rights organisation and a majority of UK Parliamentarians who have voted against changing the law more than a dozen times since 2004.”
For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225.