Friday, August 29, 2008

I-1000 Proposal in Washington State is reckless, unnecessary

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Rheba de Tornyay wrote an excellent guest column on the Washington State I-1000 assisted suicide initiative that was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on August 25, 2008.

Rheba de Tornyay
de Tornyay supported Initiative 119, the failed initiative in the early 90s to legalize assisted suicide in Washington State. She writes about her experience as she cared for her husband Rudy and journeyed with him while he was dying. Through the process of caring for her husband she becomes opposed to assisted suicide.

de Tornyay explains:
"Rudy, my husband for 53 years, was an ideal candidate for assisted suicide. The doctors told him he had only a few painful months to live. He had no religious convictions against suicide and every reason to embrace it. He was old -- in his 90s. He despised pain, dependency and the prospect of becoming a burden on me."
Further to that de Tornyay states:
"He could expect my support because ... I had robustly supported Initiative 119, the narrowly defeated precursor of this November's Initiative 1000, the "death with dignity" proposition.
What happens?
"My husband survived for 28 months and died last year. But at the end, to my astonishment, I realized I could no longer support physician-assisted suicide." de Tornyay asks "How could that be?"
She explains:
"I had not experienced a religious conversion. I prized the right to choose whether to produce new life or end one's own, for the 50 years I had been a nurse. I knew the emotional and financial drain a lingering passing can inflict on loved ones and a community's medical resources. Rudy's slow march to death convinced me that proposals such as I-1000 are reckless and unnecessary."
Why? de Tornyay writes:
"Much of my change stems from my discovery, common to surviving spouses, that life is precious to the end. We would have lost wonderful days recalling splendid and troubled times. But I also saw that we now have the means to end the misery without ending the life."
de Tornyay also comes to realize the wider concerns, she states:
"Lost in the fusillades are those who suffer prolonged problems and people with disabilities who fear -- reasonably I believe -- that a profit-preoccupied medical establishment combined with emotionally and financially stressed families would press them to accept death, regardless of the heralded safeguards laws would contain."
de Tornyay recognizes that their are other answers, she states:
"Support for hospice, the shining light of hope and compassion for the dying, is growing rapidly. Use of this home-based, family guided, comfort-focused care should be the objective for all care of the terminally ill."
de Tornyay asks the question:
"Do we want a potentially dangerous law that fewer than 50 people a year use in Oregon? Do we want to pay for agencies that will monitor the law and provide bureaucratic reports to the Legislature? Or do we want to spend our resources assuring the preservation and expansion of Medicare and private insurance hospice benefits to promote a peaceful end so that all our citizens might truly experience death with dignity?"
Thank you Rheba. You have got it right.

Rheba de Tornyay is dean and professor emeritus of the University of Washington School of Nursing.

Link to column

Deadly Intentions

By Ken Connor

The poison peddled by the euthanasia movement here in the United States continues to take its toll. Assisted suicide was legalized in Oregon in 1997, and pro-death advocates are now pushing hard to make it legal in the State of Washington. Initiative 1000 would allow any competent adult suffering from a terminal illness to make a written request for medication that the patient may self-administer to end his or her life.

The average reader would interpret Initiative 1000 as helping terminal patients commit suicide, plain and simple. But the euthanasia movement has tried to mask that plain truth with soothing euphemisms. Rather than acknowledging that the initiative promotes assisted suicide, the text states the "request" will allow the patient to end their life "in a humane and dignified manner." Then, in a classic example of double speak, the text goes on to state, "Actions taken in accordance with this chapter do not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide, under the law. State reports shall not refer to practice under this chapter as 'suicide' or 'assisted suicide.'" Funny, these "actions" sound just like the dictionary definition of suicide: "the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind."

If passed this November, Initiative 1000 will transform the legal landscape of the State of Washington. The change would parallel Oregon's decade-long acceptance of assisted suicide, a practice that has given rise to a myriad of problems. According to a fact sheet from National Right to Life, Oregon "conducts no independent reviews of assisted suicide deaths." Further, physicians who prescribe lethal drugs "only file required reports about 80.2% of the time." Incredibly, in "76.1% of these cases, physicians said that they had not perceived their act as the ending of life."

Not surprisingly, stories of abuse abound.

In 1998, an Oregonian psychologist decided that 85-year-old Kate Cheney was "cognitively impaired" because she suffered from dementia and, therefore, was not qualified to pursue assisted suicide. Her family then found another psychologist who authorized the suicide. That psychologist did so despite noting the undue influence of Cheney''s family on the decision and that Cheney was so mentally impaired she did not even realize she had cancer.

In 2007, two nurses in Oregon gave Wendy Melcher a lethal overdose. Though this was illegal (Oregon only allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs), one of the nurses said she provided the overdose "because she believed [Melcher] to be in uncontrollable pain." However, the nurse had never noted such pain prior to the day she administered the overdose.

Recently, 64-year-old Barbara Wagner was suffering from cancer, but the Oregon Heath Plan would not cover a $4000 drug that could have helped her. Instead it offered her comfort care, including assisted suicide through drugs that would cost the state far less money than those requested by Ms.Wagner. As the only state that "both allows assisted suicide and tries to ration health care," the state's motivations in this case are highly suspect.

The truth is that the euthanasia movement's ultimate goal is death on demand for everyone. "A dignified death for the terminally ill" is just the first step towards this goal. Philip Nitschke, a well known pro-euthanasia leader and President of the Voluntary Euthanasia Research Foundation in Australia, said in a 2001 interview, "My personal position is that if we believe that there is a right to life, then we must accept that people have a right to dispose of that life whenever they want." Nitschke's view is typical of pro-death advocates. Their belief in a right to commit suicide is based on a hyper-individualism that sees every person as completely autonomous. They ignore any duties a person has to society or to their family as well as the wider social impact of such low regard for human life.

Wesley J. Smith points out in a National Review article, "[Nitschke] has not limited his 'death counseling' to the terminally ill. A case in point involved Nancy Crick who made headlines when she announced on Australian television that she would commit assisted suicide because she had terminal cancer. When her autopsy showed she was cancer free, however, Nitschke admitted that he and Crick had known all along that she wasn't dying. Nevertheless, he deemed that medical fact 'irrelevant' because she wanted to die."

Acceptance of euthanasia in select cases leads inevitably to an ever-expanding circle of those considered "killable." In 30 years of unpunished (and eventually legalized) assisted suicide in the Netherlands, the circle of accepted killings has been broadened to include the depressed, the disabled, and infants born with birth defects. Once a society accepts the right to commit suicide to prevent suffering, the right to kill to prevent suffering follows.

The euthanasia movement's callous disregard for life needs to be unmasked. Behind euphemisms like "death with dignity" and "end of life choices" lies an insidious assault on the sanctity of human life. Euthanasia advocates view "choice" as the ultimate virtue and "freedom of choice" as the ultimate freedom. Stripped of its gloss, however, their position is that unless one has the freedom to kill himself, he isn't really free. That's a perverse view of freedom and a sad view of life.

Ken Connor
Chairman of the Board
Center for a Just Society

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Harsh values of health care rationing

Wesley Smith has written an excellent blog about health care rationing in Oregon.

The Oregon Health plan is attempting to justify their policy of denying medical treatment to people who are very sick, but offering them palliative care or assisted suicide.

The Oregon Health plan can say that their intention in offering assisted suicide rather than effective but expensive medical treatment has been mis-interpreted, but how can you misinterpret being offered assisted suicide in the place of medical treatment.

Link to Wesley's blog comment:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

10 percent more cases of euthanasia reported in 2007 in the Netherlands

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The number of reported cases of euthanasia in 2007 has increased by 10 percent in the Netherlands.

In 2007 the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees received 2120 euthanasia reports, which is up from 1923 reported cases in 2006.

Euthanasia as defined in the Netherlands only includes voluntary actions that are requested by a person who is competent. Any intentional action that causes the death of a person who is incompetent or involuntary are not counted as acts of euthanasia but rather deaths without explicit request.

The report that is published in the Magazine of the Right to Die - NL (NVVE) does not include the number of assisted suicide deaths or the number of deaths without explicit request.

It was reported that their were approximately 550 deaths without request in 2005 and approximately 400 assisted suicide deaths.

It must be noted that these are the number of reported cases. There has been a long-standing problem with under-reporting in the Netherlands.

There were three reported cases that did not fulfill the requirements of the Dutch law. Those cases were reported to the Inspection of Health Care. There is no indication that the three cases resulted in any punishment.

Experts had anticipated that the actual number of reports would decrease because of the increase in deaths by terminal sedation and dehydration. The report from the NVVE does not include the estimated number of cases of terminal sedation and dehydration.

The highest number of reported cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands was in 2000 (2123) with the lowest number of reported cases in 2003 (1815).

There is no explanation in the report as to why the euthanasia rate has increased in the Netherlands.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why be concerned about Bill AB 2747 in California?

AB 2747 represents a new strategy for the euthanasia lobby in the United States.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg (D - Eureka) who sponsored Bill AB 2747, was also the sponsor of three unsuccessful bills to legalize assisted suicide in California.

After failing to legalize assisted suicide in California, Compassion & Choices went to the strategy room and came up with a new idea, that being the codification into law of terminal sedation dehydration.

Earlier in the summer, Sen Gil Cedillo (D - Los Angeles) was able to convince Berg to remove the most controversial language in the bill, but the intention of the bill remains the same even though the language is less insidious.

The California Disability Alliance, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, California League of United Latin American Citizens, La Raza Roundtable de California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, California Right to Life and many others remain opposed to AB 2747.

Remember, AB 2747 is an unnecessary bill because it codifies into law practices that are already regulated by medical bodies. It also defines “palliative care” in terminology that is too broad. Finally, it continues to make terminal sedation and dehydration a medical act for people who are not yet dying, who would otherwise not be considered for such an act.

We need to be concerned if AB 2747 passes in California because this new strategy is sure to be deployed everywhere.

The Hard, Cold, Awful Reality of Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide

Wesley Smith has written an excellent commentary on the story published in the UK's Guardian which is a diary account of the euthanasia death of Mieneke Weide-Boelkes, a woman with brain cancer, written by her son Marc Weide.

Link to article by Wesley Smith:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Infant Heart Transplant Controversy

Last week the New England Journal of Medicine published articles on Organ Transplants that challenged the current dead donor rule and challenged the limits to cardiac death donation.

One of the articles by Boucek et al, entitled: Pediatric Heart Transplantation after Declaration of Cardiocirculatory Death reported on 3 cases from the Denver Children's Hospital Pediatric Heart Transplant Team.

Link to the article:

The Boucek et al article was followed by a commentary by Robert Veatch, a long-time supporter of Organ Donation who questionned the ethics within the Boucek et al article.

Link to the article:

The Boucek et al, article in the New England Journal of Medicine, reports on the decision from the Denver Children's Hospital to remove the heart from an infant at 3 minutes after cardiac death and two infants at 75 seconds after cardiac death. The accepted limit for removing a heart after cardiac death is 5 minutes to ensure that the donor's heart cannot spontaneously restart.

It is likely that the reason the doctors shortened the time interval before removing the heart was to reduce the time that transplantable organs are deprived of oxygen, which would likely increase the success of transplant.

The ethical question is: Are the organ donations done after three minutes or less after cardiac death done on donors who are actually dead or is the removal of their organs the cause of death.

Veatch explains that a heart could be restarted after a period of 5 minutes by means of external stimulation.

The organs in the Boucek et al article may have been taken from infants who were not actually dead. This is a very big concern because the organ transplant may be the cause of death.

Once it becomes acceptable to remove organs from people who may not be dead, or as the Troug and Miller article suggest, from people who are not dead but have consented to the act. How will our system be capable of protecting the most vulnerable in society if we are able to remove organs from people who are not dead?

Link to Troug and Miller article:

Will pushing the boundaries on organ donation result in a society that removes organs from people who are cognitively disabled but not otherwise dying?

Link to the article in the US News and World Report:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Washington State I-1000 Assisted Suicide Initiative

By Alex Schadenberg
Edited by Wesley Smith

Recently I came across a fundraising letter by Faye Girsh, the former leader of the Hemlock Society (renamed, Compassion & Choices) in the United States and now the vice-president of the Hemlock society of San Diego California.

Link to the letter:

Girsh told Hemlock's supporters that the I-1000 assisted suicide initiative in Washington State “is the most important focus of the right-to-die movement in more than a decade.”

For once, I agree with Girsh. This is the most important initiative fronted by the euthanasia lobby in the past ten years and I am concerned that the coalition of groups and individuals who oppose physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have yet to wake up and realize the high stakes.

Since the legalization of PAS in Oregon, fourteen years ago, the euthanasia lobby has attempted to legalize PAS in several states through initiative campaigns, similar to the one in Washington State, in the courts, and through legislation in California, Vermont, and Hawaii, among others.

All of the attempts and strategies by the euthanasia lobby have failed. So why am I so concerned about Washington State?

The euthanasia lobby has made the I-1000 PAS initiative in Washington State a national focus. Right-to-die groups are united in their support for the I-1000 PAS initiative and they are pouring millions into the campaign in Washington State from all over the United States.

Washington State was chosen by the euthanasia lobby to be the location for a nationally focused initiative to legalize PAS based on polling data and the similar demographic make-up in Washington and Oregon its neighbor to the south.

The supporters of the euthanasia lobby have leaped to support their cause. Can we say the same for the opponents of PAS?

Currently, the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide in Washington State is badly losing the fund-raising war. The effect is to enter a prize fighting ring with one arm tied behind their backs.

What's going on?

The euthanasia lobby tend to focus intently on the one issue. In contrast, groups and individuals who make up the coalition against assisted suicide have broad concerns across a wide swath of issues, perhaps resulting in people who would otherwise generously support the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide spending their advocacy dollars in other places.

Moreover, while the euthanasia lobby world is positively buzzing about Washington State, many people who oppose PAS generally are either unaware of the campaign, or since an earlier legalization attempt (1991) was turned down in Washington State, they may be too sanguine about the potential for a Yes vote this time around.

Many among the public have been lulled into a mild acceptance of PAS because they also fear dying with uncontrolled pain. It is a natural human concern to fear pain, but the answer is not to shrug in acceptance of PAS but rather to demand proper care for people who are nearing death or experiencing chronic conditions. Medicine can provide excellent pain and symptom management. We must kill the pain, not the patient.

Some people have bought into the myth that everything is working well in Oregon. Little reported by the mainstream media, the contrary is true.

A recent study written by Dr. Herbert Hendin & Dr. Kathleen Foley, published in the Michigan Law Review: Volume 106: 1613-1640 - May 2008 entitled: Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective, analyses the Oregon assisted suicide law over the past 10 years.

Link to the study:

Hendin & Foley analyzed the practice of the Oregon law and refer to actual cases to determine the validity of the claim that “all is well in Oregon.” What did they find?

- A study at the Oregon Health & Science University indicated that there has been a greater percentage of cases of inadequately treated pain in terminally ill patients since the Oregon law went into effect. However, among patients who requested PAS but availed themselves of a substantive intervention by a physician, 46% changed their minds about having PAS.

- Even though the Oregon law states that those who appear to be experiencing depression or psychological problems and request PAS are to be referred for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation, only 13% were referred for an evaluation between 1998 - 2005 and in 2007 not one of the 49 people who died by PAS were referred for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation.

- In the Oregon law, PAS cases are reported by the prescribing physician. The Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) have admitted that they have no way of knowing how many PAS cases are not reported.

- There is a concern in Oregon about the role of the PAS advocacy group Compassion & Choices (including the groups that previously comprised what is now Compassion & Choices). The advocacy groups have been directly involved in 73% of all PAS deaths in Oregon. How can the OPHD assure people that the law is being followed when the lobby groups are the referral agency for the majority of PAS deaths in Oregon.

Since the release of the Hendin & Foley study a new phenomenon has been uncovered in Oregon. Patients who are not insured and dependent on Oregon Health Services for payment of medical treatment are finding that they are being denied funding for medical treatment and being offered PAS.

Link to the article:

Barbara Wagner (64) was recently denied payment for the cancer drug Tarceva that was prescribed by her physician as an effective treatment for lung cancer. Oregon Health Services sent a letter to Wagner informing her that they would not cover the cost of her treatment but they would provide payment for palliative care and PAS.

Wagner received the “gift of life” from the drug company Genentech, who agreed to provide Tarceva for Wagner for one year at no cost.

Randy Stroup (53) of Dexter Oregon applied to the Oregon Health Services for payment for chemotherapy. He also received a letter explaining that they would not pay for chemotherapy but they would pay for palliative care or PAS.

It appears that the Oregon Health Services now considers PAS to be equal to any other form of medical treatment, except for the fact that it only costs around $50.00 to prescribe.

It is obvious that PAS directly threatens the lives of the most vulnerable people in society. The leaders of the disability movement recognize that giving a physician the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of another person can be abused.

Link to article:

Further to that, the uninsured and the working poor may find themselves experiencing pressure to accept PAS rather than seek expensive effective medical treatment for treatable conditions.

In her fund-raising letter Faye Girsh exclaimed:
“We are concerned about the mobilization of the Catholic Church and Right to Life organizations to raise significant money for its defeat since they also realize that success will have a domino effect. We feel that a victory in Washington is the best hope for California to have such a law. Our board has been consistently unanimous in its support of this effort.”

The euthanasia lobby is united in their effort to use Washington State as a springboard for their goal of legalizing PAS. They have raised an incredible amount of money throughout the country and have sent it to the Washington campaign. Faye Girsh is the prime example, she is raising money in California to legalize assisted suicide in Washington State.

You can help make Faye Girsh’s biggest fear come true.

Please support the Washington Coalition Against Assisted Suicide and ensure that PAS is not legalized in Washington State. Your support will make a difference in Washington State and throughout the USA.

Coalition Against Assisted Suicide
P.O. Box 11794
Olympia WA 98508

Australia's biggest selling daily newspaper against Australia's Euthanasia Bill

The editorial in today's Herald Sun newspaper titled: Deadly debate we must have, states that the euthanasia bill that was introduced by Greens MP Colleen Hartland, "lacks at the very least controls that might prevent accidental deaths."

Sydney Australia's Herald Sun is the biggest selling daily newspaper in Australia.

The editorial also states that:
"Not only are there obvious flaws in this process, which would need to be under far stricter protocols, there are other equally important considerations.

The patients themselves may feel themselves under pressure to end their lives. They might consider themselves a burden to their family or they might have been manipulated by others."

The editorial concludes by stating:
"The only approach to such an issue is to call on an expert panel for its recommendations. What is being put forward is a deadly prescription."

Link to the Editorial:,21985,24214927-24218,00.html

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Joy Hunter fights for euthanasia

Joy Hunter is an elderly woman in New Zealand who has cancer and has expressed her wish to die by euthanasia.

She has attempted to kill herself by suicide three times and is now hoping that euthanasia or assisted suicide will be legalised.

Joy's mother, grandmother and husband all died from cancer. Joy had a terrible experience when her mother died and she fears that she might experience the same type of horrific death.

This would appear to be a near perfect case for the euthanasia lobby in New Zealand but there is more.

Joy is a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand and last month met Philip Nitschke, Australia's Dr. Death. Joy may have been convinced by Nitschke that her campaign will be of benefit to their cause, especially since she is not terminally ill and will have a significant amount of time to influence the public.

Joy also admits that her only child, a daughter, is distressed by her decision. But she is adamant that she doesn't want to be a burden on anyone. Joy should be concerned about how killing herself will effect her daughter.

Joy appears to be a woman who is always in control. She has had a very negative experience with the death of a family member. Joy would do well to find a caring physician and support team who are willing journey with her without killing her. She may learn that she doesn't need to die a horrific death.

In the article in Stuff she states:
"Voluntary euthanasia is for people still cognitive. I can't see that anyone else should be involved. It could be open to abuse but if the law covers it properly it shouldn't be abused."

How can Joy assure the most vulnerable in our society that assisted suicide won't be abused in New Zealand?

Joy needs to reconsider her decision by recognizing how her actions may change the way everyone is treated and how the lives of vulnerable people will be threatened by euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Link to the articles:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Golubchuk case sets precedent

The Golubchuk family have dropped their lawsuit against Winnipeg Grace Hospital, after their father, Samuel Golubchuk died a natural death on June 24, 2008.

Doctors at Grace Hospital had decided that it was futile to treat Golubchuk. They informed the family that they were planning to withdraw the respirator, fluids and food from their father against their wishes and the known beliefs of Samuel.

To read more about the Golubchuk case go to:

The Golubchuk family won a court injunction requiring the hospital to maintain life support until the matter could be decided by the courts.

Neil Kravetsky, the lawyer for the Golubchuk family stated that:
"the injunction set an important legal precedent even though the case didn't run its full course."

Kravetsky noted:
"In similar circumstances one can argue on the basis of this Court of Queen's Bench decision, ... other families can now point to the case to seek similar injunctions."

Commenting on the case going go to trial Kravetsky said:
"To be frank with you, that's most often where most people get to anyway. There haven't been any cases that I know of that got to trial."

Kravetsky commented on the lawsuit by saying:
"the claim is not being pursued because Golubchuk's death made the main point moot for the man's children. The family wasn't into the money. Their main concern was for their father's life."

Kravetsky noted that:
"Had it gone to the final hearing, the court would have made a determination on whether the injunction would continue indefinitely. Intrinsically that would answer who would have the final say (on who decides when to stop or continue medical care)."

Kravetsky outlined the purpose of the case:
"The point of this whole exercise from the family's point of view was two-fold. One was to save their father's life, but what, really, people missed and the media missed was not so much whether they were right or wrong, but whether we as Canadian citizens have a right to mke that decision."

Kravetsky concluded that:
"We'll be in big trouble if a final decision comes down at any time to say we don't have that right."

Link to the article:

Washington I-1000 Initiative is the most important vote in this November's election cycle.

Dear Readers:

I came across this beg letter from Faye Girsh, the vice president of the Hemlock Society of San Diego California.

I agree with Faye Girsch that this is the most important vote in ten years.

Sadly, many of the leaders of pro-life, religious, disability and medical communities, remain unaware of the importance of the I-1000 initiative in Washington State.

If the I-1000 initiative passes in Washington State, the momentum is likely to shift toward the legalisation of assisted suicide throughout the United States in a series of state by state Initiatives.

Washington State was chosen by the euthanasia lobby as the "most likely" place to legalise assisted suicide in the United States. The Euthanasia lobby has combined forces by focusing on Washington State at a national level.

We must hold the line.

I know that you people many other commitments and concerns but the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide in Washington State desperately needs your support.

A recent report showed that the Dying With Dignity campaign in Washington State has raised 10 times more money than the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.

The euthanasia lobby is united in their effort to use Washington State as a springboard for their nationwide goal of legalising assisted suicide. They have raised an incredible amount of money from throughout the USA. Faye Girsh is the prime example, she is raising money in California to legalise assisted suicide in Washington State.

Please help make Faye Girsh's biggest fear come true. Please support the Washington State Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
Coalition Against Assisted Suicide
P.O. Box 11794
Olympia WA 98508

Comment by Faye Girsh:
The Hemlock Society of San Diego, a 501 C4 organization, is convinced that the Washington Death with Dignity initiative is the most important focus of the right-to-die movement in more than a decade.

To this end, and consistent with our past support of every ballot initiative since the first one in Washington state in 1991, we are having a campaign to raise funds to support this initiative. We have already sent $10,000 to Yes on I-1000.

Last month we launched a Matching Fund challenge to our members. We will match all contributions up to a total of $25,000. We have sent out two mailings with the required election law information and have asked our members to send their checks made out directly to Yes on I-1000 to us, with the required information. We will match every cent and send the total to the campaign in Washington.

We have spent our own funds to invite Eli Stutsman to speak to our members on two recent occasions, have had a party to launch the campaign, and, by the end of the month, will have sent out three mailings.

We are concerned about the mobilization of the Catholic Church and Right to Life organizations to raise significant money for its defeat since they also realize that success will have a domino effect. We feel that a victory in Washington is the best hope for California to have such a law. Our board has been consistently unanimous in its support of this effort.

Faye Girsh, Vice President
Hemlock Society of San Diego

Grieving Family Wants Suicide Book Banned

Now that I am getting caught up on my work after vacation and speaking in Winnipeg, I found in my inbox an article that was written about the family of Erin Berg, who are attempting to get the book "Killing Me Softly" banned in Australia.

Philip Nitschke, Australia's Dr. Death and the leader of Exit International, is now being challenged by the family of Erin Berg (39) who was a mother of 4 children (under 9 years old) flew to Mexico and bought Nembutal, after reading Nitschke's book: "Killing Me Softly".

Nembutal is a veterinary drug that is used to put down sick animals.

It appears that Berg was undergoing psychiatric treatment for post-natal depression when she borrowed the book (Killing Me Softly) from a public library and found in it the information that led her to fly to Tijuana Mexico to purchase the Nembutal.

Information from Nitschke's website and workshops show that Nitschke has promoted Nembutal as a euthanasia drug for a long time.

Berg had contacted Nitschke four months before she traveled to Mexico to obtain Nembutal. Nitschke states that Berg did not qualify for assisted suicide and that her death is a tragedy.

Berg's family strongly disagrees with Nitschke's cavalier attitude.

Sally Doyle, Berg's older sister, shows that Erin Berg's actions were identical to the information provided in Nitschke's book "Killing Me Softly".

Doyle said the book:
"included information on the "best" drug for the purpose (Nembutal), the best place to find it legally (vet stores in Mexico), how best to consume it (swallowed, with alcohol)"

Doyle further said:
"at the end of the path was a loaded gun, provided courtesy of Philip Nitschke. It wasn't intended specifically for Erin, but it was there for her to use regardless."

Doyle also warned that the guarantee by Nitschke's book that Nembutal is a reliable and pain-free way to die is not correct. Doyle said:
"As someone who watched Erin die a long death in a country a long way from home, we can say with some clarity that such guarantees should be treated with suspicion."

In the Exit International newsletter from March 2008 it states:
"Exit can now say with 100 percent confidence that Nembutal is widely, cheaply and legally available ... one only needs to know the location of a veterinary supplier and the labeling in use at that location."

Last June, Caren Jenning was convicted of accessory to manslaughter in the death of Graeme Wylie. Wylie died after his partner Shirley Justins gave Wylie Nembutal that was obtained in Mexico by Jenning.
Wylie had late stage Alzheimer disease. Nitschke supported the death of Wylie as an act of self-determination.

Link to my Blog commentary:

Doyle stated that:
"the family is still awaiting a response to the request for the book to be banned. They also hoped that customs officials in Australia and countries like Mexico would become more alert in detecting the smuggling of drugs like Nembutal."

A spokesperson for the attorney general stated that the matter was:
"still under consideration and we hope to have a response soon."
Link to article:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Killing the dead donor rule: Undermining the Ethics of Organ Donation in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Please read Wesley Smith's commmentary on organ donation concerning the Troug and Miller article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Smith concludes by writing:
"The authors resurrect the old false equivalence between removing life support as an action causing death and active killing--which bioethicists spent years arguing was not the case--and correctly so. When life support is removed, the death is natural. If you take someone's heart before they are dead, the person died from their heart being removed! Distinction huge, difference monumental."
Link to Wesley Smith's commentaries:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Janet Rivera - update

You may remember the case of Janet Rivera, the woman in California who was being dehydrated to death with approval of her public guardian Dr. David Hadden without any indication that Rivera would have wanted to die this way and against the wishes of her family.

The courts have temporarily granted public guardianship to Michael Dancoff, Rivera's brother.

A judge has now officially removed Hadden as the public guardian and the family is waiting until a further court decision next month for a final ruling to give guardianship to Dancoff.

Dancoff stated to that:
"I think she's not in a total vegetative state. I think she's in a mentally conscious state ... I'm going to try to wake her up."

Link to the article:

Link to a previous blog entry:

Undermining Public Trust in Organ Donation

Wesley Smith has responded to an interesting article written by Boucek et al, published in the New England Journal of Medicine 359: 709-714 entitled Pediatric Heart Transplantation after Declaration of Cardiocirculatory Death.

Smith explains that the article appears to be reporting on cases whereby the ethical rules were ignored or "expanded" in order to procure organs from these infants. By ignoring or expanding the ethical guidelines these physicians are in fact undermining public trust in organ donation.

This is a very important point of view.

If you undermine the public trust in organ donation, fewer people will be willing to donate their organs.

Smith also comments of Robert Veatch perspective pertaining to the same study.

Veatch agrees that the "protocols" were broken in the cases refered to in the article. Veatch appears to be playing with the idea of changing the rules.

He states:
"It may ultimately be deemed acceptable to amend either the dead donor rule or the brain-based definition of death."

There are further concerns within the article that I am focusing a future article on.

Link to the further concerns:

Link to Wesley Smith's article:

Link to the New England Journal of Medicine article:
Pediatric Heart Tranplantation after Declaration of Cardiocirculatory Death

Link to the Robert M Veatch comments:
Donating Hearts after Cardiac Death - Reversing the Irreversible

The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article written by Robert D. Truog. M.D., and Franklin G. Miller, Ph.D. published in the New England Journal of Medicine 359: 674-675 - August 14, 2008 may turn the concept of brain death and cardiac death upside down for people who respect human life.

Troug and Miller examine the ethics of the application of the dead donor rule. They explain the practise related to Brain Death criteria and Cardiac Death criteria and they determine that in each case the donor is often not actually dead.

Troug and Miller comment on Brain Death by stating:

“The definition of brain death requires the complete absence of all functions of the entire brain, yet many of these patients retain essential neurological function, such as the regulated secretion of hypothalamic hormones. Some have argued that these patients are dead because they are permanently unconscious (which is true), but if this is the justification, then patients in a permanent vegetative state, who breathe spontaneously, should also be diagnosed as dead, a characterization that most regard as implausible. Others have claimed that “brain-dead” patients are dead because their brain damage has led to the “permanent cessation of functioning of the organism as a whole.” Yet evidence shows that if these patients are supported beyond the acute phase of their illness (which is rarely done), they can survive for many years. The uncomfortable conclusion to be drawn from this literature is that although it may be perfectly ethical to remove vital organs for transplantation from patients who satisfy the diagnostic criteria of brain death, the reason it is ethical cannot be that we are convinced they are really dead.”
Troug and Miller comment on Cardiac Death by stating:
“The cardiac definition of death requires the irreversible cessation of cardiac function. Whereas the common understanding of “irreversible” is “impossible to reverse,” in this context irreversibility is interpreted as the result of choice not to reverse. This interpretation creates the paradox that the hearts of patients who have been declared dead on the basis of the irreversible loss of cardiac function have in fact been transplanted and have successfully functioned in the chest of another. Again, although it may be ethical to remove vital organs from these patients, we believe that the reason it is ethical cannot convincingly be that the donors are dead.”
Troug and Miller conclude that the Dead Donor Rule needs to be abandoned and replaced by “requirements for organ donation in terms of valid informed consent under limited conditions of devastating neurologic injury.” They suggest that this new criteria: “optimally respects the desires of those who wish to donate organs, and has the potential to maximize the number and quality of organs available to those in need.”

Please note that I am only commenting on the statements within the article.

This article directly challenges the current accepted notions in relation to brain death criteria and cardiac death criteria, and it does this from a secular, pro-organ donation point of view.

Troug and Miller are suggesting that organ donation is ethical, not because the donors are dead but rather because they believe that directly and intentionally causing the death of a person for the reason of obtaining organs for transplant is ethical when consent in some way is obtained or known and when the person is unlikely to neurologically recover.

This is the same ideology that is proclaimed by Princeton Universities, Peter Singer and this is the same ideology that justifies euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Link to the article:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Older Patients With Cancer at Heightened Suicide Risk

The Washington Post has reported that three recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that people with cancer experience a higher risk for suicide.

The first study that was done at the University of Washington analyzed US data from 1973 - 2002. The study found that the suicide rate among cancer patients was 31.4 per 100,000 people as compared to 16.7 per 100,000 people among the general population.

The second study that was done at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School compared 128 New Jersey residents, age 65 and older who committed suicide between 1994 - 2002 to 1280 people of the same age group who did not commit suicide. The study found that the risk of suicide was 2.3 times greater among people with cancer.

The third study that was done at the University of Edinborough Scotland surveyed 2924 cancer patients and they found that 8 percent of people with cancer had serious suicidal thoughts. A similar survey in Australia found that 2.6 percent of the average population had similar suicidal thoughts.

"The University of Edinburgh team found that suicidal thoughts among cancer patients were associated with having substantial emotional distress or pain, but not with cancer severity. Better management of patients' emotional distress and pain may improve quality of life and reduce suicide risk, the researchers concluded."

Dr. Timothy Quill wrote that:
"It is important to ask about suicidal thoughts regularly, especially when disease is worsening, symptoms are increasing, or the patient is entering a more serious phase of illness ... Creating an environment where these issues can be openly explored without being judged is critical,"

Link to the commentary:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Declaring a "Right to Suicide"

This blog entry is directly taken from Wesley J Smith's blog.

His blog entry is:

I have become so sick and tired of the baloney that swirls around assisted suicide advocacy like gruel in a blender. Assisted suicide is not really about the rare case when nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering--which has not been the case yet in any legalized jurisdiction from the Netherlands, to Switzerland, to Oregon. Rather, it is about establishing the right to what in essence would be death on demand.

This is clearly stated in a speech given by Ludwig Minelli, the suicide zealot who heads Dignitas. Writing about the Swiss Supreme Court ruling granting a right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill--which I wrote about here--Minelli claims that suicide and assisted suicide both are human rights. In other words, the so-called limitations that would limit this killing to the terminally or hopelessly ill are bogus. From his speech (no link):

If the Right to Suicide is a Human Right, and no doubt whatsoever can be raised after this outstanding Swiss decision, we must accept that, in order to make use of this right, there must be no legal requirements other than that the person has the mental capacity needed to decide to end his or her own life. Conditions which insisted that somebody must be terminally or severely ill would interfere with the essence of that Human Right. Human Rights are, inherently, unconditional. They cannot be made subject to conditions – this is fundamental to their being meaningful for the humans who bear them.

But this so-called right is even more that an individual right to do with one's own body what one will--it includes the right to help from others to make sure one gets dead:

Does the fact that there is a risk of about 9 to 1 or even of about 49 to 1 of failure with every suicide attempt have some impact on the consideration of this Human Right? I think it does.

If the European Convention on Human Rights really does guarantee the Right to self-determination and, thereby, the Right to Suicide, this right cannot exist, in reality, while there is such a high risk of failure. This is especially true given that the risk is not only that of failing to die but the far greater risk of ending up in a much more desperate condition than before.

Minelli gives lip service to prevention, but if a patient knows that death is at the end of that process, prevention just becomes a hoop to jump through, indeed a hoop that would fall by the wayside as other so-called guidelines have wherever assisted suicide is legalized.

It is also worth noting that the speech was given to Dutch euthanasia advocates who already live in the most euthanasia friendly country in the world--and yet it is still not enough. That is because it never will be enough.

So this is the future that assisted suicide/euthanasia advocates either explicitly seek, or will bring about whether or not that is there intention since the logic here is impeccable.

The answer, of course, is that there is no "right" to suicide, that societies have the duty to protect all people's lives--even from self destruction--and that, as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life is inalienable. So too with selling oneself into slavery and declaring a right to burn your arms with cigarettes--both "choices" that should also be prohibited. Such actions not only harm the individual, but are profoundly subversive of decency and equal regard for the lives of all people in society.

I have the PDF if people want to see the whole speech.

Murder-Suicide in Apple Valley

This article is about another sad case of murder-suicide.

The article states:
"It appears (Susan) Ellis (42) who had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, was first shot in the Dodge Ram Pickup and (her husband) (Terry Royston) Archibald (57) shot himself outside of the vehicle"

The article continues by stating:
"Investigators are not confirming that Ellis's terminal disease was the motivation for the shooting."

Link to the article:

A research study titled: "A statewide case-control study of spousal homicide-suicide in older persons" published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 13:211-217, March 2005 by Malphurs & Cohen found:

"the husbands in such cases are usually domineering and controlling. ... Also, the greater the age difference between perpetrator and spouse, the greater the risk. Usually the need to control is not apparent to outsiders, who tend to take a relatively benign view of such cases."

Link to the study:

In other words, we should not assume that because a wife is terminally ill that the husband killed her for "compassionate" reasons.

A link to a similar article:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Giving them reasons to live

I have just read an excellent article written by Michelle Martin in MercatorNet published on August 7, 2008

The article recounts Martin's experience with her sister who had attempted to kill herself on several occasions based on the fact that she was suffering from schizo-affected disorder.

Now that her sister is effectively medicated she has now been able to earn a diploma in psychosocial rehabilitation and is employed by a local mental health agency.

Martin then comments on her concerns related to the loosening of euthanasia and assisted suicide laws on a world-wide basis.

She comments on:
- The 79 year old woman in Germany who requested and received assisted suicide because she was lonely and feared ending up in a nursing home. Roger Kusch took advantage of her emotional state by filming and promoting her assisted suicide death.
- The Australian mother of 4, who was suffering from post-natal depression, obtained a suicide book from a library and followed the instructions and killed herself.
- The fact that a Swiss court allowed a man with bi-polar disorder to obtain an assisted suicide death.
- The fact that of the 49 people who died from assisted suicide in Oregon in 2007, none of them received a psychiatric or psychological assessment before being prescribed death.

Martin explains that if her sister had died that much would have been lost. Her sister's life always had intrinsic worth, and now she is giving back to the community.

We need to care for people, not kill them.

Link to the article:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ministry of Justice in the UK seek to curb internet suicide sites

The Ministry of Justice in the UK is proposing to block websites that encourage vulnerable teenagers to commit suicides.

The article in The Independent states that dozens of suicides have been linked to internet chatrooms. At least 30 suicides have been identified in which the internet was a significant contributor to the act.

The article states:
"They are urging internet service providers (ISPs) to veto "harmful and distasteful" suicide sites, and to provide automatic links to such organisations as the Samaritans or ChildLine when users try to find information on suicide. ISPs already warn website managers that "offensive" material will be automatically taken down from the internet."
The Ministry of Justice believes more must be done and is examining whether the legislation controlling assisted suicide websites is strong enough.

The article also states that:
"The Department of Health (DoH) said there were practical problems in policing the constantly changing World Wide Web, but the Government was determined to force ISPs to shut down irresponsible sites."
The suicide prevention strategy in the UK has proven to be successful. The suicide rate has fallen (2005 - 2007) to 8.3 deaths per 100,000 persons from 8.5 deaths per 100,000 persons in the three previous years. The government has set a target of reducing suicide rates by 20% to 7.3 deaths per 100,000 persons by (2009 - 2011).

The department of health is quoted to state:
"We are pleased that the levels of suicide are coming down but we need to be alert to the possible dangers of the internet. ... The work is at an early stage but we are determined to find ways of protecting people at risk."
All of the wealthy nations of the world need to follow the lead of the British by blocking suicide promoting websites.

The Japanese, who have a suicide epidemic, have also moved to block suicide promoting websites and the Australian government passed a law making it a crime to aid, abet or counsel suicide via the internet or other communications methods.

The article:

Previous articles:

Japanese suicide epidemic: