Thursday, December 31, 2009

Assisted-Suicide Lobby Group does not get What it Wanted: The Montana Supreme Court Denies Constitutional Right to "Aid-in-Dying"

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Media Release
December 31, 2009

Baxter v. Montana: Assisted-Suicide Lobby Group does not get What it Wanted: The Montana Supreme Court Denies Constitutional Right to "Aid-in-Dying"

Today, the Supreme Court of Montana issued a split decision in which it denied victory to Compassion & Choices on its quest for a right to "aid in dying" based on the Montana State Constitution. "Aid in dying" is more commonly known as physician-assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court instead focused on issues of statutory construction to determine that Montana state law has no public policy against "aid in dying" because the final death causing act lies in the patient's hands.

This holding ignores the practical realities of ensuring patient safety from over-eager heirs, new "best friends" and others who might benefit from the patient's death. For example, physicians who malpractice and who want to hide their mistakes can now say: "It was what the patient wanted." The evidence against the physician dies with the patient. If the patient has no family or other advocate, who will know?

A bright spot in the decision is that it does not give physicians the "right" to prescribe a lethal dose, but only suggests that circumstances may exist to give them a defense to prosecution for homicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is hopeful that Montana's legislature will now take the lead to protect its citizens in the next legislative session.

Contact: Alex Schadenberg, executive director
1-877-439-3348 or

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Will Bill C-384 ever go to a vote?

Bill C-384, the bill that was introduced by the Bloc MP Francine Lalonde to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide will have its vote delayed again, but this time it is due to a move by Prime Minister Harper.

Prime Minister Harper has just received permission to prorogue parliament until after the Winter Olympic Games are finished. It has been announced that parliament will resume on Wednesday, March 3, 2010; with the budget being delivered on March 4

That means that Bill C-384 will receive its second hour of debate on March 12 or 15 (at the earliest) and be voted on March 17 or 24, depending on whether or not they take a March break (a break was scheduled on the previous parliamentary calendar between March 15 - 19).

Bill C-384 received its first hour of debate on October 2, 2009 and was scheduled to receive its second hour of debate on Nov 16th and go to a vote on November 18, 2009.

Lalonde has traded-backwards in the order of precedence 3 times to delay the second hour of debate and vote on her bill, probably because she knew it was going to be defeated.

Since the Conservative government appears to be setting up an election in May or June, will Lalonde find a way to trade-back again in the order of precedence and prevent C-384 from ever being voted on.

For more information about Bill C-384 go to:

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Toll Free: 1-877-439-3348

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fictional story stickers continue to mislead public.

On December 10, 2009 I wrote about this new website that was promoting the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. At the time I was unsure whether this was a project by a couple of activists who didn't fully understand the issue or whether it was a new group attempting to confuse the public with misinformation. Link to my previous blog comment:

Now I am responding to new information from a Toronto Star article on December 23, 2009 about the Dignity in Death website and park bench stickers. Link to the Toronto Star article:
This new euthanasia campaign is: (1) being operated by two advertising specialists misleading the public concerning our actual law. (2) They are creating an emotional response to a very serious issue by using fictional stories.

The Dignity in Death website misrepresents what the euthanasia and assisted suicide laws state in Canada. The website falsely states that voluntary euthanasia is already legal in Canada. This is not true. What they appear to mean is that refusing life-sustaining medical treatment is euthanasia. But this is not euthanasia.

Voluntary euthanasia is when a competent person voluntary asks another person (usually a physician) to directly and intentionally cause their death. This is usually done by lethal injection.

One of the promoters of this euthanasia campaign (under the title - Greywizard) accused me (in this blog) of trying to rewrite the english language. This person was insistent that he was right and I was wrong. The fact is that the Dignity in Death website that was developed by this person is wrong and irresponsibly misleading.

Greywizard also attempted to discredit me by calling me religious. Instead of dealing with the arguement Greywizard preferred to discredit me by accusing me of being religious. But euthanasia and assisted suicide are not religious issues but rather public safety issues.

Euthanasia is prosecuted under Section 222 of the Criminal Code (homicide) and Bill C-384, the bill that is being debated in parliament to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, would legalize euthanasia by amending section 222 of the criminal code.

The advertising specialists who are promoting the euthanasia campaign stated to the Toronto Star:
"We've both seen cases where passive euthanasia is the right thing to do."

Just because two advertising specialists want to call witholding or withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment euthanasia, doesn't mean that it is euthanasia. This is irresponsible because it is often necessary to withdraw life-sustaining treatment to allow natural death to occur. If good people who oppose euthanasia are falsely convinced that this action is euthanasia, they will refuse and create medical problems.

The issue of euthanasia is very serious. When someone directly and intentionally causes the death of another person, (euthanasia) for any reason, the person dies. This is an irrevocable decision.

To create false sympathy by using fictional stories is irresponsible. The ad campaign attempts to create a situation where people will believe that unless we legalize assisted suicide, people will suffer when they are dying.

It is not necessary to give physicians the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patients in order to prevent suffering. What we need to do is improve access and the availability to excellent care in Canada.

Advertising specialists need to maintain a level of ethics. The fact that these park bench stickers have fictional stories about a serious issue and they have website information that connects people to false and misleading information should be dealt with by advertising standards ethics.

As I stated in the Toronto Star article:
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, agrees that the stories created by McKay and Manson "are very compelling" but calls their website "misleading and inaccurate.

"No one wants to see people suffering in the way they describe," but the pair confuse euthanasia, the debate on whether doctors should be able to actually take a life, with being able to request that a doctor withhold treatment so the disease takes its course, Schadenberg says.

In conclusion, it is interesting that the advertising specialists are now saying that they are promoting living wills. I guess a good technique of dealing with criticism is to change the issue. The advertising campaign doesn't actually promote living wills but rather it promotes euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Let's hope society will reject these advertising specialists for there false representation of a very serious and socially contentious issue.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Final Exit Network - Reframing Themselves and Erasing the Past

This is a reprint from the Not Dead Yet Blog written by Stephen Drake. Drake is covering a significant topic because the Final Exit Network is trying to reframe who they are in order to survive the legal challenge they are facing.

The information that Drake is writing about was also blogged by myself when it first came out in November 2008. It is interesting how my comments at that time correlate with what is actually happening today. Link to my blog comment:

Link to the original blog comment:

Alex Schadenberg

(Note - please read to the end. The main point of this story is that the Final Exit Network seems to have taken some pains to eliminate traces of a November '08 press release that might interfere with current efforts to improve their public image. --Stephen)

Unfortunately, there's been a small rash of elderly men killing - or
attempting to kill - their ill wives in the past couple weeks. One, in Tucson, Arizona, involves a middle-aged man who allegedly killed his wife, who has been struggling with Huntington's disease - a progressive neurological condition that affects the motor and cognitive abilities.

From the latest story in the Arizona Daily Star:

A Tucson man who told police he killed his wife because she was terminally ill likely did so because he felt he could no longer care for her and had no other options, members of a local support group say.

Sanford Garfinkel, 51, is in the Pima County Jail, booked on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 56-year-old Mary Garfinkel, his wife of 19 years.

This isn't the first time the Arizona Daily Star has covered the issue of assisted suicide - and it isn't the first time they've featured the Final Exit Network either.

Unsurprisingly, the portrayal of the Final Exit Network and its agenda is misrepresented in the interview included in this recent press coverage:

Without a law allowing assisted suicide, groups such as Final Exit Network have stepped in to provide access to volunteers who give what they say is "guidance, education and support" to people who intend to take their own lives, said Robert Rivas, an attorney for the New Jersey-based nonprofit organization.

"Final Exit Network would rather never do what they do," Rivas said. "If assisted-suicide laws were in existence in every state we'd be happy to completely be phased out."

What assisted laws would those be, I wondered. As we've mentioned before here, the organization issued a press release in November 2008 that stated the assisted suicide laws in Oregon and Washington didn't go "far enough" and they would be assisting "suffering" people everywhere until there were more expansive laws.

Yesterday, I did what I did in previous instances of this kind of misleading spin - went to the Final Exit Network website to access the press release issued in November 2008.

It's not there anymore. The site has been revised and for whatever reason(use your imagination)it has been removed.

Next, I went to The Internet Archive, which accesses the files on websites across the net and archives them. The site contains the files and material from websites that don't even exist any more. The site is that extensive and that good.

The press release isn't there, either. In fact, there aren't any archives for the site for the whole year of 2008. That is very unusual - I won't even hazard a guess as to why there isn't a set of 2008 archives for the site.

Luckily, though, I printed out several copies of the press release some months ago. In case there is any lingering confusion in anyone's mind, it is the clear statement by the Final Exit Network that the types of assisted suicide laws in Oregon and Washington State don't go "far enough" and that they'll keep facilitating suicides for people until the laws become expansive enough to satisfy them.

Here is a link to a pdf document (scanned document).

Since it's a pdf of a scanned document, it won't be accessible to people with vision-related disabilities. In the interest of full accessibility, the full text of the press release is included below (minus contact info):


Ted Goodwin, President
Marietta, GA

Jerry Dincin, PhD, Vice President

News For Immediate Release

Washington State Passes I-1000!

November 5, 2008
Olympia, WA

Although the supporters of Initiative I-1000 are delighted that
Washington becomes the second state to pass a "Death with Dignity Act", there is much more work to be done.

Ted Goodwin, President of Final Exit Network, said, "We congratulate all those who worked so hard to achieve this important right for Washington's citizens, and we applaud the citizens of Washington State for making the right choice. "Final Exit Network and its members supported passage of this landmark initiative by donating to the advocacy effort spearheaded by Washington Death with Dignity and former Governor Booth Gardner. However, the job is not finished".

Although, like Oregon's "Death with Dignity Act," I-1000 gives doctors the authority to prescribe a lethal dose of medications to terminally ill individuals under strict controls, it condemns to continued suffering as many as 40% of those who desperately want to end their life because of intolerable suffering but cannot under the law because their illness is not diagnosed as "terminal".

"Unfortunately," said Goodwin, "many patients do not meet I-1000's
strict criteria. Individuals with neurological illnesses such as
Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and Alzheimer's disease often lose the reason and will to live long before their disease qualifies as 'terminal'." Goodwin adds, "For these individuals, neither I-1000 nor the Oregon law go far enough. "That is why Final Exit Network pledges, until laws protect the right of every adult to a peaceful, dignified death, Final
Exit Network will be there to support those who need relief from their suffering today!"

"The Network's Exit Guide Program is available nationwide," Goodwin
said. "With the Network's compassionate guidance and support, physically and emotionally competent adults in all fifty states are free to exercise their last human right - the right to a peaceful, dignified death. "Final Exit Network is the only organization in the United States that will support individuals who are not "terminally ill" - 6 months or less to live - to hasten their deaths. No other organization in the US makes this commitment," said Goodwin.

Final Exit Network is a four-year-old volunteer-run nonprofit that is committed to serve many move other organizations turn away! More
information is available from (contact information omitted).


Please feel free to share this. And if anyone from the Final Exit Network is reading this:

If you're proud of what you've done and what you stand for, why do you have to hide documents like this and lie about what your real goals are?

Stephen Drake

Physician-assisted suicide: A perspective from people with disabilities.

The following article is the most important concern when discussing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Too often people discuss euthanasia and assisted suicide without considering the effect on people with disabilties.

Another great source of information is the Not Dead Yet blog that is regularly updated by Stephen Drake with Diane Coleman.


Published in a special issue of Disability and Health Journal

New York, NY, December 23, 2009

Although public opinion in the United States on physician-assisted suicide is evenly divided, about half of states have either defeated bills to legalize assisted suicide or have passed laws explicitly banning it and only two states (Oregon and Washington) have legalized it. In this environment, A Disability Perspective on the Issue of Physician-Assisted Suicide, a special issue of Disability and Health Journal: The Official Journal of the American Association on Health and Disability, published by Elsevier, examines the issues related to assisted suicide and disability, the legal considerations and the Oregon and Washington experiences.

Journal editors Suzanne McDermott, PhD, USC School of Medicine, Columbia, SC, and Margaret A. Turk, MD, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, have assembled six articles from disability advocates and scholars who oppose assisted suicide and thereby add important insights and background information to the debate.

Investigators from the Oregon Health and Science University examine the nature, form and impact of the Oregon Death With Dignity Act (DWD) on Oregonians with disabilities as reported in the peer-reviewed literature and data obtained from the Oregon Department of Human Services, Public Health Division (OPHD). The OPHD reports that in the 11 years since the DWD statute was enacted, 401 persons have died using DWD. The article also presents focus group data from people with disabilities regarding their opinions of the Death With Dignity Act and its impact.

Marilyn Golden and Tyler Zoanni, both disability rights advocates, present an overview of policy arguments against legalization of assisted suicide and provide the reader with a thorough coverage of the opposition view of assisted suicide. This is followed by an article by Carol Gill, PhD that provides an analysis of the media portrayal of the disability rights activists and their position on assisted suicide.

Diane Coleman, JD, the attorney representing Not Dead Yet, one of the oldest and most constant opponents of assisted suicide, provides an overview of the fight against legalization of assisted suicide at the Supreme Court and the arguments and information used to oppose passage of laws legalizing assisted suicide.

Gloria Krahn, PhD, the Director of the Disability and Health Team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides a chronicle of the Disability Section of the American Public Health Association's debate on the issue of physician-assisted dying and her personal reflections on lessons learned.

The issue concludes with an article by Kirk Allison, PhD, MS, from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Allison considers the implications of assisted suicide from a population perspective, a concept central to the public health debate. He also raises some semantic issues that have presented themselves during this debate.

Writing in the Editorial, Professor Suzanne McDermott states, "Almost all people at the end of life can be included in the definition of 'disability.' Thus, the practice of assisted suicide results in death for people with disabilities. People with disabilities have been recognized as a health disparity group (included in Healthy People 2010); they experience substantial discrimination in society, and yet they can live extremely high-quality lives."

"I encourage you to read this important issue of Disability and Health Journal with an open mind…" continues Professor McDermott, "There will be many states in the next decade that introduce or consider the introduction of laws to legalize assisted suicide. The issues are complex and the evidence is not robust…We know there is another side to the debate, and this volume does not present the proponents' arguments, which have been presented in other journals. We thought it necessary to focus on the unique perspective to the disability community."

The articles in this special edition appear in Disability and Health Journal, The Official Journal of the American Association on Health and Disability, Volume 3, Issue 1 (January 2010) entitled A Disability Perspective on the Issue of Physician-Assisted Suicide, published by Elsevier. The entire issue is publicly available online via open access at:

Link to the article at:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Assisted Suicide debate is not a religious issue, but a public safety issue

Dr. Peter Saunders, the Director of the Care Not Killing Alliance is challenging Lord Joffe's assertion that opposition to assisted suicide is only based on a religious perspective. The article states:
Sir, Lord Joffe seems to be suggesting that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should disregard the views of people with religious beliefs who respond to his consultation on assisted suicide. It seems that the euthanasia lobby, which Lord Joffe represents, is now suggesting that if you belong to a faith community, your views should be of less account than those of others. I trust that the DPP will disregard Lord Joffe and give proper consideration to the views of all British citizens. To appeal solely to opinion polls sponsored by campaigning groups is overly simplistic. Assisting suicide is a serious matter and legalisation is a complex question that does not lend itself to simple yes/no questions.

This issue is far more about public safety than personal faith. Lord Joffe has been in the House of Lords on every occasion in the past six years when proposals to change the law have been debated and will have seen that most of those who spoke and voted against changing the law were not arguing from a faith basis but from a concern that such proposals were simply dangerous for the population at large and particularly for the sick, the disabled and other vulnerable people. It is disingenuous to imply that most opposition to his proposals is faith-based. He should instead be addressing the serious charge that his so-called proposed safeguards are illusory.

The DPP opposed the publication of guidelines for prosecution of assisted suicide for reasons that should be obvious. We don’t tell people how much they can steal without being prosecuted for theft or how much injury they can inflict without being prosecuted for assault, so why should we treat assisted suicide any differently? Having been overridden by the law lords, the

DPP has attempted to meet the near-impossible remit given to him without inadvertently encouraging the belief that in some circumstances assisting suicide can be done with impunity. But I am sure it will come as no surprise to him to hear that many people see his interim guidelines falling short of this objective and in need of revision.

That the euthanasia lobby sees them as a “breakthrough” tells us as much about their real agenda as it does about the well-publicised deficiencies of the guidelines themselves.

Dr Peter Saunders
Director, Care Not Killing Alliance

Link to the article in the Times online:

Saunders is correct. People with disabilities understand all too well that opposing assisted suicide is based on their personal safety.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Dinner - January 27, 2010

Join the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition for dinner at the Huron House Restaurant - 1345 Huron St (corner of Huron & Highbury) London Ontario

Speaker - Alex Schadenberg - will speak about the Future Directions for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Contact us to buy tickets - $20 per person.

Contact us at: 1-877-439-3348 or

Bar will open at 6PM, social networking time.

Dinner will be at 7PM

Speaker Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will speak about how we must move forward in the future.

Door prizes will be available.

Invite your friends and family by going to the facebook page at:

Robert Latimer is scolded by parole board

I have avoided writing about Robert Latimer, simply because his case is being dealt with by the parole board.

The recent article from the Canadian Press is particularly interesting considering that Robert Latimer has been denied extended leave on several occasions. Link to the article:

The article states:
Corrections had recommended that Latimer be allowed to leave from Dec. 24 to Jan. 7, but the actual dates the board agreed to have been removed from the final report. It's not the first time Latimer, who is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murder of his disabled daughter, has been granted extended leave.

The board says there weren't any concerns until October, (2009) when he returned to his apartment after an extended leave instead of the halfway house.

A warrant was issued and Latimer was taken into custody - although the warrant was later cancelled when he explained that he had made a mistake.

The boards says it's troubling that Latimer wasn't more diligent in understanding the terms of his leave, especially since he already gets privileges "well beyond the norm for other offenders."

Latimer gets five consecutive days extended leave per month.

Robert Latimer should be treated in the same manner as any other person who is on parole for Second Degree Murder. He does not deserve special priviledges. Tracy Latimer, the daughter that he killed in 1993, deserved to be treated with equality. Her disability should not be treated as a mitigating factor. Robert Latimer killed his daughter. To suggest that her disability is a mitigating factor creates an inequality in our justice system providing less protection for people with disabilities.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is Philip Nitschke - Dr. Death coming to Washington State?

A media release by Exit International yesterday, slammed the Australian government for announcing that it plans to have mandatory internet filtering systems in Australia.

The Australian government has been concerned about how Exit International has skirted the law by providing suicide information, but by also using modern technology to counsel suicide.

Nitschke claims that the "Clean Feed" is the final nail in the coffin for promoting assisted suicide in Australia.

Nitschke then explains that the Australian government amended the Customs Act in 2001 to make it illegal to import printed material that promoted assisted suicide. In 2006 the Australian government introduced the Suicide Related Materials Offences Act which prevented counseling suicide by telephone, fax, email or internet. In 2007 the Australian office of Film and Literature had there decision to allow the distribution of the Peaceful Pill Handbook overturned.

Nitschke's moniker "Dr Death" is not a term of endearment by Australians. His antics in relation to Nancy Crick and Graeme Wylie

When you consider that Nitschke has had his activities completely limited by the Australian government, it should not surprise us that he has set-up offices in Bellingham - Washington State. Bellingham is a border town, giving him easy access to Canada.

All accounts indicate that Nitschke may soon set-up shop in Washington State and regularly go effect the political scene in Canada.

If this doesn't concern you - go to:

Assisted suicide is a public safety issue

A letter in the London Timesonline by Edward Davies in the UK got the issue correct. Davies is commenting on Lord Joffe's statement that being opposed to assisted suicide is based on faith. Since Lord Joffe is unable to defend his position, instead he attempts to claim that the issue is religious rather than debate the issue for what it really is: A public safety issue.

The letter stated:
Sir, Lord Joffe broadly paints the assisted dying debate as one of faith: those with a faith are anti-assisted dying, those without a faith are pro, give or take a few at the margins (“Most opponents of assisted suicide are in a minority driven by faith”, Thunderer, Dec 16).

It is not a Catholic foundation that has driven the British Medical Association to oppose assisted dying, as mentioned in your report (“MPs back doctors’ right to help their patients die”, Dec 16). The Royal College of General Practitioners does not oppose a change in the law because of fundamental Islamic beliefs. And the Royal College of Nursing did not move to a neutral position earlier this year on account of a crisis of faith.

Assisted dying is a patient safety issue, not a religious one. I find it staggeringly naive and deeply worrying that the peer at the very heart of this debate could write an article that does not even acknowledge this, choosing instead to focus on people “encouraged by their religious leaders”. Is this the level of debate on which laws are now made?

Edward Davies
London SW18
Link to the letter:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Euthanasia of infants with disabilities in the Netherlands

Mark Mostert has written an interesting blog comment about the fact that the Dutch are considering allowing euthanasia of newborns based on possible future pain.

Link to his blog posting:

The article admits that infants with disabilities have been dying by euthanasia because of possible future pain since the enception of the Groningen Protocol. I have written about this issue in the past and an article in the Hastings Center Report (Jan-Feb 2008) admitted to the fact that this practise was already happening.

Remember, the Dutch tend to go ahead and push the boundaries, and then they later decide to legalise the existing practise under the guise of regulation.

And they say that there is no slippery slope in the Netherlands! That is only because they are already at the bottom of the slope.

New group misrepresenting Canada's euthanasia law.

I received a call from Stephen Drake, the research director for Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group. Drake asked me whether I knew the group Dignity in Death? I answered no. In fact when I went to the website there was no information about who they actually are, but it did tell me that they either do not understand Canadian law or that they are deliberately misrepresenting the law for their political purpose. Link to Not Dead Yet:

The website states:
Dignity in Death offers information on voluntary euthanasia and the ethical issues that surround assisted suicide. In Canada, voluntary euthanasia is legal and may be used to end the lives of those who are suffering and terminally ill. However, assisted suicide is illegal

Since when was voluntary euthanasia legal in Canada. Euthanasia is to directly and intentionally take the life of a person for reasons of mercy. It is prosecuted under section 222 (homicide) of the criminal code. Voluntary euthanasia is when one person directly and intentionally takes the life of another person, to alleviate suffering, only after the clear informed and competent request by the person who died.

It is not euthanasia to withdraw, withhold or refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. When life-sustaining medical treatment is withdrawn or refused, if the person dies, the death is the result of the medical condition. That is clearly not euthanasia. If you give me a lethal injection (euthanasia) I die from a direct and intentional lethal dose.

If is not euthanasia to properly use large doses of analgesics (morphine) to kill pain. When large doses of analgesics are properly used to kill pain, it may (unlikely) result in death. The death would be unintentional. When you give a lethal injection (euthanasia). The person dies from a direct and intentional lethal dose.

Physicians may abuse the use of morphine by intentionally and directly causing the death of a person. It is euthanasia when the physician unnecessarily abuses morphine with the intention of causing the death of the person.

It is particularly concerning while the Canadian parliament is debating Bill C-384, the bill that would legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, that a new group would become established based on false information.

If there is nothing wrong with euthanasia or assisted suicide, why does the Dignity in Death group need to lie about Canadian law and why does Dignity in Death not have an address or identify the leaders of the group?

Dignity in Death seems to be following the example of other suicide promotion sites/groups who misrepresent the law to deliberately create confusion. Canadians deserve truth not propaganda.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Research into Dutch Euthanasia law casts doubt on who actually decides

Anthropologist and lawyer Anne-Marie The recently published a new study on euthanasia in the Netherlands casts doubt on whether people actually choose euthanasia?

Anne-Marie The asks the question - Do the wishes of the patient always trump those of the doctor?

An article published in the NRC Handelsblad explains the concerns of Anne-Marie The by this anecdote.
The doctor and the patient had agreed to meet on a Friday at 2 PM. When the doctor rang the doorbell the patient was watching the Wimbleton tennis tournament on TV. Did the doctor mind if he finished watching the match first?
The researched the 2331 cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands last year by speaking to doctors, medical specialists, lawyers, ethicists and politicians about how the (2001) Dutch euthanasia law came to be and the application of the law.

Remember, that when we refer to the 2331 cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2008, that number does not include the approximately 550 death without consent and the approximately 400 cases of assisted suicide.

The stated:
"There is the euthanasia law and then there is the euthanasia reality. To think that we have neatly arranged everything by adopting the euthanasia law is an illusion. Reality is more complicated than that: every patient, every situation and every doctor is different."
The article in the NRC Handelsblad states:
The Dutch euthanasia law didn't legalise euthanasia, but it allows a medical review board to suspend prosecution of doctors who perform it under certain circumstances.
This means that the law actually gave physicians the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of a patient, it did not give patients the right to euthanasia.

Anne Marie The found that the reality of the law does not always follow procedure. She interviewed one doctor who told her of a case where the patient had requested euthanasia but since it was a Friday afternoon there wasn't another physician who could give a second opinion. The doctor said that he did it anyway.
"He didn't tell anyone."
The stated:
"In the end it all comes down to people, one doctor will bring it up himself, another will avoid the subject as long as he or she can. When it does come up it is up to the doctor to figure out what the patient really wants. In the end he (the doctor) has to 'feel' if euthanasia is the right solution"
The also recognized that other countries are much more advanced in palliative care than the Netherlands. Anne-Marie The stated:
"by adopting the euthanasia law the Netherlands went the other way. Euthanasia came first, palliative care came afterwards."
The article in the NRC Handelsblad states:
Els Borst, the health minister at the time the euthanasia law was adopted and a doctor herself, told Anne-Marie The that she thought it was wrong to put euthanasia before palliative care. She was not alone in thinking so. Among the general practitioners, who are on the front line of euthanasia, a reluctance against the practise has begun to take root. One of them was Amsterdam general practitioner Joke Groen-Evers, a long-time supporter of euthanasia. Groen-Evers changed her mind after 2001 and began to advise patients and colleagues against euthanasia. She hoped good palliative care would make euthanasia obsolete.

Groen-Evers told Anne-Marie The that she offers "a set of alternative tools." When a patient brings up the subject, Groen-Evers enquires what it is he or she is afraid of. Is it fear of dying alone in the middle of the night? If so, she will try to find a solution. Groen-Evers also calls the patient herself and she regularly visits her patients. In most of her cases the request for euthanasia is never made.

Anne-Marie The agreed with the criticism that the United Nations made against the Dutch euthanasia law. The United Nations has stated that checks and balances should be in place before the death and not after the death. The Netherlands mandates that a report be filed after the person has died.

In Oregon and Washington States reports are filed by the physician who prescribed the lethal dose, after the death of the person. I have two questions: how can any vulnerable person be protected by after-the-fact reporting? and - Since the reporting is done by the physician who prescribes the lethal dose, therefore is the physician going to self-report an assisted suicide of a person who does not qualify under the law?

Anne Marie The stated:
"They have a point there. When the independent commission ... reviews a case the patient is already dead. But doing it (the review) before the fact makes the procedure much more complicated. It is time-consuming when time is of the essence. And there is a good chance that doctors will hide complicated cases from the commission. They already do that when there are questions about mental competence, or in the case of children, demented or otherwise handicapped patients. The law is still pretty vague about that."
When asked about how the research has affected her opinion of euthanasia, Anne-Marie The stated:
"I understand why people want euthanasia, but I don't share that wish myself. Perhaps it is because I have seen so many people die, at the hospital and nursing home where I worked, but also my own grandmother, who was a cancer patient. For her, dying was part of life. On her death bed she simply embraced it. I thought it was quite beautiful that as a child I was allowed to sleep next to her and help her get cleaned up. She was unconscious for three days. When she started retching the doctor gave her a bit of morphine. the next morning she had slipped away. That's the way I would wish to go too."
There are a few very important point made by Anne Marie The:
First: Do the wishes of the patient always trump those of the doctor?
Second: There is the euthanasia law and then there is the euthanasia reality.
Third: the reality of the law does not always follow procedure.
Fourth: other countries are much more advanced in palliative care than the Netherlands.
Fifth: Els Borst, the health minister at the time the euthanasia law was adopted thought it was wrong to put euthanasia before palliative care.
Sixth: The United Nations has stated that checks and balances should be in place before the death and not after the death.
Seventh: And there is a good chance that doctors will hide complicated cases from the commission. They already do that when there are questions about mental competence, or in the case of children, demented or otherwise handicapped patients.

Once again, when we uncover the truth about euthanasia in the Netherlands we learn that it is out-of-control. Further, when people suggest that vulnerable people are not threatened by euthanasia in the Netherlands they are not taking the reality that the euthanasia deaths of people who lack mental competency, disabled newborns and other people with disabilities are under-reported in order to avoid scrutiny.

Link to the article in the NRC Handelsblad:

Vancouver man found guilty of aiding suicide.

Paul Adrian Fraser (21) was found guilty of aiding the suicide death of Robbie Milot (19) who shot himself to death on Easter Sunday in North Vancouver.

Fraser traded Milot, a personal friend, his shotgun in return for a BMW, knowing that Milot intended to use the shotgun to commit suicide.

Michael Murphy, a roommate of Fraser, and a childhood friend of Milot was a key witness for the Crown.

The article from Canwest News Service states that:
Fraser wanted to call off the deal when he saw that the BMW was an SUV and not a sports car.

Milot broke down and cried and asked Fraser to just take the vehicle and he requested that he be taken into the forest and killed. Fraser agreed to take the vehicle, but then Milot was upset that the weapon was a shotgun instead of a handgun.

Fraser told Milot that he could kill himself with the shotgun. Fraser hugged Milot and said to him, see you on the other side, I love you man' and then left the scene with Murphy.

Milot then killed himself.

After a week-long trial, the jury found Fraser guilty of aiding the suicide of Milot and possessing a stolen vehicle. Fraser was also found guilty of assault causing bodily harm in an action Fraser took against Murphy. The charge of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose was stayed.

Prosecutor Phillip Sebellin said outside the court that he would be seeking a jail term against Fraser in addition to the time he has already served. The maximum penalty for aiding a suicide is 14 years in jail.

Daniel Markovitz, the lawyer for Fraser stated: "I expected a different result."

Link to the Canwest News Service article:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alison Davis legally challenges the prosecution guidelines in the UK

Alison Davis, the leader of the disability rights group, No Less Human, has launched a legal challenge to the prosecution guidelines concerning assisted suicide in the UK.

Davis, a woman with multiple disabilities, stated that the legal ruling, that forced the Director of Public Prosecutions to weaken the prosecution guidelines concerning assisted suicide in the UK, was unsound and based on a bias. Davis alleges that Lord Philips of Worth Matravers, now the Supreme Court's President, later expressed strong personal views on the subject of assisted suicide in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Lord Philips stated to the Daily Telegraph:
"I have enormous sympathy with anyone who finds themselves facing a quite hideous termination of their life as a result of one of these horrible diseases, in deciding they would prefer to end their life more swiftly and avoid the death as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives."

Davis's legal challenge alleges that the ruling related to the Diane Purdy case was "vitiated by the principle of bias", and therefore "the decision of the former House of Lords is 'unconstitutional' and usurps the powers of Parliament."

The legal challenge also calls for "a full Supreme Court to be convened to reconsider and hear fresh arguments on the Purdy case."

In a letter to Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions,Davis wrote that: "The guidelines are unfair, unjust, and fatally discriminatory against suffering people, who deserve the same presumption in favour of life as any able bodied person would automatically receive. They (the prosecution guidelines) have no place in a civilised society."

Andrea Williams, the lawyer for Davis, stated: "Disabled people have always had the protection of the law and disabled people are now appealing to the highest court in the land in an attempt to retain this protection."

Peter Saunders, the Director of the Care Not Killing Alliance added: "The Law Lords' decision in July, overturned earlier Judgements in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, was an unusual one to say the least - that those contemplating breaking the criminal law in this area should be advised how far they might go without risking prosecution."

Saunders also stated that: "the prosecution guidelines ... and in particular their suggestion that helping a severely disabled person to commit suicide might be regarded more leniently than helping someone else to kill themselves - we are not surprised to hear that the Law Lords' decision is now being questioned."

"It is not difficult to see why people with disabilities and seriously ill people should now perceive that they are not to be afforded the same protection that the law gives to the rest of us." said Saunders.

The spokesperson for Lord Philips stated: "Lord Philips has not called for a change in the law. He simply expressed sympathy with anyone considering ending their life because they had a terminal illness. He made it clear that this was his personal view."

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition reacted when the prosecution guidelines were issued by stating:
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is particularly concerned about the devaluation of people with disabilities that is evident in the guidelines. A person, such as Alison Davis, the leader of the group No Less Human in the UK would qualify for assisted suicide under these guidelines.

When an able-bodied person becomes significant disabled from an accident or a medical condition they will often be upset by their new physical or cognitive condition. These people need the law to protect them to provide time to learn how to live with their new reality. They need to be protected and not treated with inequality or threatened by the possibility of dying by assisted suicide when they are experiencing a difficult time of life.

We are also concerned about this concept of a person being “wholly motivated by compassion.” It is nearly impossible to determine the motivation outside of the context of their actions. We reject the concept of a “compassionate homicide” and we reject the concept that a person that assists the suicide of another person is acting in a compassionate manner.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is convinced that the temporary guidelines by the DPP have created a new class of inequality within the application of the assisted suicide law in the UK. If these guidelines are not amended in order to equally protect every citizen under the law, then these guidelines are likely to be struck down by the Courts thus further eroding the assisted suicide law in the UK.

These guidelines are simply unacceptable and they directly threaten the lives of people with disabilities and other vulnerable people in the UK.

The Prosecution Guidelines for assisted suicide in the UK must be revoked.

Link to the article:

Link to the original comments by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition concerning the prosecution guidelines in the UK:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Francine Lalonde delays second-hour of debate and vote on Bill C-384

Bill C-384 is the private members bill that was introduced by Bloc MP Francine Lalonde to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. C-384 was introduced on May 13, 2009, it received its first hour of debate on Oct 2, 2009 and it was scheduled to receive its second hour of debate on Nov 16 and to be voted-on Nov 18, 2009.

Lalonde is on the run. First she traded-back her date for the second hour of debate to Nov 19, then she traded-back the second hour of debate to Dec 1, and now she has traded-back the second hour of debate to Feb 2, 2010. It appears that Lalonde has noticed that her bill lacks support among Members of Parliament and that it will be defeated at second reading. When C-384 is defeated at second reading it will be officially defeated/dead.

For those who are wondering what Bill C-384 actually states, go to:

We need to be clear about what C-384 actually does.
- C-384 legalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide by amending sections 222 and 241 of the criminal code.
- C-384 legalizes euthanasia by giving medical practitioners the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patients.
- C-384 legalizes assisted suicide by giving medical practitioners the right to be directly and intentionally involved with causing the death of their patients.
- C-384 is not limited to terminally ill people. It allows medical practitioners to directly and intentionally cause the death of people who are suffering physical or mental pain.
- C-384 defines competency as "appearing to be lucid." Appearing to be lucid does not mean that a person is actually lucid.
- C-384 is not limited to Canadian Citizens.
- C-384 does not define terminal illness.
- C-384 directly threatens the lives of people with disabilities and other vulnerable people who live with chronic physical or mental pain.
- C-384 is a recipe for elder abuse.
Bill C-384 is written in such wide language that you can drive a hearse through it.

Canada needs to care for its citizens not kill those who are vulnerable. Write a hand-written letter to your Member of Parliament today explaining why you oppose Bill C-384. Sample letters can be found at:

Nebraska man pleads not guilty to assisted suicide

Dallas Huston (28) from Lincoln has pleaded not guilty to assisting the suicide of his 22 year old roomate who died of asphyxiation.

Huston entered his plea this week in Lancaster County District Court.

Huston called police Sept. 16 to tell them he found the body of his roommate, who had plastic wrap around his head.

Autopsy results showed the man died of asphyxiation. Toxicology reports showed he had also taken sleeping pills.

Police say Huston told others that he had assisted the suicide.

Huston is due back in court in February.

Link to the article:

French parliament rejects Euthanasia

Parliamentarians in France recently rejected a protocol to legalize euthanasia in there country. The vote was 326 to 202.

It is anticipated that the Canadian parliament will soundly defeat Bill C-384, the bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, when it finally comes up for a vote.

C-384 was received its first hour of debate in the Canadian parliament on Oct 2, 2009 and was scheduled to receive its second hour of debate on Nov 16, 2009. Francine Lalonde who introduced C-384 then traded-back the date for the second hour of debate until Nov 19, 2009 and then again to Dec 1, 2009. Lalonde has now traded-back the second hour of debate to Feb 2, 2010. I think she is running scared knowing that C-384 will be soundly defeated.

The french parliament follows a consistent political reality that legislators will rarely legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide once they have had a chance to fully analyze the issue based on its merits and problems.

Legalizing euthanasia gives physicians the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patients.

Link to news article:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The siginificance of the case of the man who for 23 years was diagnosed as PVS - but was not

Many people will have read the story of Rom Houben, the Belgium man who was diagnosed as being in a vegestative state (PVS) for 23 years but who in fact had a condition known as Locked-in Syndrome. A person in locked-in syndrome is fully aware of all of their surroundings and they hear and remember the conversations that take place around them, but due to their cognitive disability they are unable to respond.

The case of Rom Houben is significant knowing that many bioethicists are attempting redefine the status of people in PVS as being similar to "brain death", meaning that it is being argued that these people have lost self-awareness and therefore should be treated as non-persons or dead people. Non-persons do not have the right to live and in fact many bio-ethicists suggest that these people should be treated as organ donors.

Dr. Steven Laureys, the prominent neurologist from Belgium diagnosed Houben as being in a locked-in syndrome rather than PVS based on a brain scan that indicated that Houben's brain was functioning at near to normal response.

Dr. Laureys, has released a new study concerning PVS stating: 'Anyone who bears the stamp of "unconscious" just one time hardly ever gets rid of it again.' He also stated that: there may be many similar cases of false comas around the world.' and 'patients classed in a vegetative state are often misdiagnosed.'

The concern about misdiagnosing PVS is not new. Professor Keith Andrews in the UK stated several years ago in his study that 43% of people diagnosed as PVS are misdiagnosed. This is a significant concern in the UK ever since the 1993 court decision that determined that Tony Bland could be dehydrated to death, even though he was not otherwise dying. Since that decision, many people in the UK, who were not otherwise dying, have died by dehydation because it had been determined that they were in PVS.

For instance, Terri Schiavo was dehydrated to death in 2005 based on her diagnosis of PVS and the insistence by her husband that she did not want to live in this manner.

In March 2004, I had the opportunity to be at a presentation in Rome by Dr. Laureys concerning people in a vegetative state. At that presentation Dr. Laureys showed us brain scans of people in PVS and compared them to people who were healthy. By analysing the brain scans he was able to show us the injured parts of the brain of the PVS patients. He then compared the brain scans of people in PVS to healthy people who were sleeping. There were incredible similarities between the scans of the healthy people who were sleeping to the people who were PVS. He concluded that other than the identifiable injured areas of the brain, that medical experts know less about PVS than they would like to admit.

At the same Congress I heard a presentation by an Italien physician who operated an "Awakening Centre". Awakening centres are places that focus on recovery for people who are in a coma state. This physician explained how the use of stimulation techniques have resulted in incredible successes at regaining consciousness for their patients. At a similar Congress in Rome in 2007 I listened to a Polish physician explain about his incredible success at awakening his patients who are in a coma state. How many awakening centres exist in the world? How many in North America?

As executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition I have received many phone calls from friends or family members of people who are in coma. My experience is that medical professionals are too quick to give-up on the person in coma or cognitively disabled. Family members are often pressured into withdrawing medical treatment or pressured into removing food and fluids from the person in coma, even before they were given a reasonable opportunity for recovery.

Medical professionals need to be far more careful before diagnosing a patient as PVS. If society rejects hypocratic medicine and accepts euthanasia, the time would come where people in PVS would be treated as non-persons, euthanized out of a concept of false compassion or used as an organ donor based on utilitarian ethics. Since approximately 40% of PVS cases are misdiagnosed, and since the PVS diagnosis is often treated like a death sentence, therefore society needs to reject the current paradigm by once again treating people in coma states as human beings deserving of care.

We must reject the dehumanizing of the PVS patient and develop new techniques to offer them new opportunities for recovery.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Abbotsford BC opposes euthanizing cats with gas.

I read an article that was in the Abbotsford News written by a Joe Millican about the use of gas to euthanize cats. It appears that Abbotsford doesn't approve of the use of gas for euthanizing animals whereby some other places have approved this procedure.

Normally I just delete these articles from my inbox but this one was interesting because it was concerned about the use of gas for euthanizing animals.

The article describes the procedure:
During the procedure, described as inhumane by some animal lobbyists, caged cats lose consciousness and die after being placed inside a box filled with carbon dioxide.
The article then explains that most British Columbia communities don't use gas but euthanize animals by lethal injection. It states:
Most B.C. communities use lethal injection to euthanize animals, and City of Abbotsford spokeswoman Katherine Jeffcoatt said that is the system used locally.

“The City of Abbotsford does not use gas boxes,” said Jeffcoatt. “Cats euthanized by our contractor are done by lethal injection by a veterinarian.”
The article concludes with the statement concerning the use of gas to euthanize cats that:
“It will never, ever happen,”
Link to the article:

Whereas I share the concern about the ethical treatment of animals, I cannot understand why if we are so concerned about the use of gas to euthanize animals that we as humans do not react to the use of gas by the final exit network to euthanize humans. Some of whom are depressed and all of whom need a caring community not wannabe Jack Kevorkians.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Environics poll shows that Canadians want better end-of-life care - not euthanasia.

An Environics group poll of 1014 Canadians done between October 6 - 13 found that while 61% supported the legalization of euthanasia, 69% of the respondents stated that the Canadian government should make palliative/ hospice care a greater priority as compared to 18% who thought that the legalization of euthanasia was a greater priority.

The Environics poll was commissioned by several groups, including the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

The poll asked four questions.

The first question asked the respondents their degree of support for legalizing euthanasia. 61% supported - 25% strongly supported, 36% somewhat supported. The strongest support for legalizing euthanasia was in Quebec - 75%. This response was similar to our last poll.

The second question asked respondents if they were concerned about the elderly feeling pressured to accept euthanasia. 56% were concerned - 30% very concerned, 26% somewhat concerned.

The third question asked respondents if they were concerned that sick/disabled/elderly people would be euthanized without their consent. 70% were concerned - 41% very concerned, 29% somewhat concerned.

It is interesting that 55% of those who strongly supported and 72% of those who somewhat supported the legalization of euthanasia were concerned that people will be euthanized without consent.

The last official report from the Netherlands (2005) showed that 550 people were euthanized without consent that year.

The fourth question asked respondents whether the government should have a greater priority on palliative care or legalizing euthanasia.

69% stated that palliative/hospice care should have a greater priority while only 18% thought that legalizing euthanasia was a greater priority. 5% thought that both should be a priority while the others did not know.

Even people who strongly supported the legalization of euthanasia were more supportive of palliative/hospice care (43%) than legalizing euthanasia (38%).

Similar to previous polls, this poll shows that Canadians do not strongly support euthanasia and they are more concerned about abuses related to legalizing euthanasia and they are far more supportive of improving end-of-life care than legalizing euthanasia.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Switzerland considers implementing restrictions to assisted suicide - possibly banning suicide tourism.

There have been many articles in the mainstream media showing how the Swiss law that allows assisted suicide is out-of-control and causing a concern for the Swiss government.

On October 28, Reuters reported that the Swiss government is looking to change the assisted suicide law to make sure that it is only used as a “last resort” for terminally ill people and that they would like to limit “suicide tourism”.

The issue of “Suicide Tourism” has become embarrassing for the Swiss due to the large number of high-profile suicide tourists from the UK, some of whom are not terminally ill, but simply tired of living and some cases were people who appear to be depressed.

The recent Canadian case of the couple from British Columbia who were seeking permission to die together at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland was particularly distressing. The husband had a chronic health condition and his wife was perfectly healthy.

The Swiss Justice Minister stated at a news conference in Berne:
“We have no interest, as a country, in being attractive for suicide tourism,”
A heated debate on the issue of suicide tourism has erupted in Switzerland due to the rise of suicide tourism and due to a study last year that indicated that many of the people who go to Switzerland for assisted suicide are not terminally ill.

The Swiss cabinet is divided on the issue. In response to their concerns they have made two proposals for a consultation that will continue until March 1, 2010. The first proposal is to tighten regulations and the second proposal is an outright ban on suicide tourism.

The Swiss Justice Ministry stated that the government did not want to change the law but assisted suicide groups have increasingly tested the boundaries of the law creating an urgent need for guidelines.

Assisted suicide groups Dignitas and Exit have opposed the government proposals and have stated that they will seek a referendum on the topic if the law is tightened or if “suicide tourism” is banned.

The proposal to ban suicide tourism is based on the concerns of the Justice Ministry that:
“... individuals working in assisted suicide organisations are never actually motivated by purely altruistic reasons, and may develop a close relationship with the suicidal person.” they added “Suicide must only be a last resort. The government believes that the protection of human life must be uppermost.”

The government has stated that:
“Assisted suicide should be restricted to terminally ill and not be available to chronically or mentally ill individuals.” The government stated that they: “wanted to promote palliative care and suicide prevention.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is hopeful that the Swiss government will restrict assisted suicide. Some media reports have indicated that the Swiss government might severely restrict assisted suicide, but the actual quotes from the Swiss government indicate that they want to eliminate “suicide tourism” and restrict assisted suicide to people who are terminally ill. Nonetheless, this is a step forward.

Join Steve Passmore's on Nov. 16 as he protests Bill C-384

Bill C-384 was introduced by Bloc MP Francine Lalonde on May 13, 2009 to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. This was her third attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide with her previous two attempts dying on the order paper, without going to a vote, after elections were called.

On October 2, C-384 received its first hour of debate. C-384 is tentatively scheduled to receive its second hour of debate on Nov 16and it is tentatively scheduled to be voted-on at second reading on Nov 18.

Steve Passmore, a disability rights advocate who was born with cerebral palsy, will be protesting C-384 near the steops on parliament hill while it is being debated in the house on Monday November 16. His protest will go from 10:30 am to 12:30 (noon).

Passmore protested the first hour of debate of on October 2nd and is hoping that many people with disabilities and others will join his protest of C-384.

We expect that C-384 will be defeated by a significant margin. We are not resting. We need to continue putting pressure on MP’s in order to ensure that we strongly defeat C-384.