Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A call to compassionate action

The Coalition Against Assisted Suicide in Washington State is responding to the passage of the I-1000 assisted suicide initiative by organizing compassionate care throughout Washington State

From the website:
There is so much to do, so many vulnerable people to protect... And so little time.

The situation here in Washington State is urgent. Hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and physicians across the state are determining RIGHT NOW if they will assist in suicides. The decisions they make will last for years to come. And many don’t know that under I-1000 they have the right to refrain from involvement in assisted suicide. They need to hear from you. So does the Department of Health, which is writing rules that will govern the practice. See our ‘What can I do?’ link directly above. (The ‘What can I do?’ section is updated frequently with timely action items.)

Assisted suicide directly threatens the lives of the most vulnerable people in our culture. People with disabilities, the dependent elderly, those who live with depression and mental illness and the poor are all directly threatened by assisted suicide in Washington State and elsewhere.

Take a moment: write a letter, save a life.

Our Mission
The Coalition Against Assisted Suicide (CAAS) advocates for life-affirming choices, comprehensive community support, and excellence in end-of-life care. We believe that genuine compassion provides life affirming choices for people with serious illnesses and disabilities. Through education, legislation, social policy, and community action, we endeavor to advance true compassion and true choices.

Link to the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide

Maryland Bill Would Require Doctors to Promote Suicide as Option to Patients

Lifenews.com is reporting that a bill is being introduced in the Maryland legislature that will promote suicide as an option for patients.

This would be a similar statute to the California AB2747 that was passed last year.

Link to the article:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Assisted Suicide laws will never be permissive enough

The latest blog comment by bioethicist and lawyer Wesley Smith concerns the insatiable appetite by the death lobby to make euthanasia and assisted suicide an unlimited reality.

Link to Wesley Smith's comment:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Assisted Suicide and Elder Abuse

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Society is learning about the vulnerability of elderly people and people with cognitive disabilities. Society is responding with new laws to protect people from Elder Abuse.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognized the connection between Elder Abuse and Assisted Suicide many years ago. Our group researched and published a document on the issue entitled: Elder Abuse, Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide: Must we consider the link?

The first link between Elder Abuse and assisted suicide is evident by the fact of the rapid growth in cases of physical abuse of the Elderly and the vulnerable. People with disabilities have long experienced increased incidence of abuse in relation to the rest of society but now society is acknowledging a change in societal attitudes toward the Elderly.

Legalizing assisted suicide establishes the primacy of the autonomy of an individual in society. Unfortunately this radical form of autonomy is being expressed in society by a lack of concern for the vulnerable individual who will become the unfortunate victim of societal attitudes that will redefine choice based on the greater good that is accomplished by the duty to die.

In case you think that I am alarmist, consider the case of Kate Cheney in Oregon, who's doctor believed that due to dementia she was unable to choose to die by assisted suicide. Family pressure and the support from the Health Insurance company helped to assure Cheney's death.

The vulnerable in society will never be protected by the supposed safeguards that are being proposed by the euthanasia lobby. Compassion & Choices has effectively controlled the information and referals related to the assisted suicide law in Oregon and the government reports do not provide the social context of decisions to die.

When considering the several studies that have shown a connection between a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of a loss of purpose or depression being connected to assisted suicide, we must question the actual reasons why someone is "choosing" to die.

Further to that, when the social context of a decision is based on either abandonment, a lack of support, or subtle pressure to end life - can there ever be a "free choice".

I am concerned that a culture that is dedicated to radical individual autonomy will not hesitate to encourage people to end their own lives. Society will turn a blind eye or offer an understanding ear to those who felt compelled to end the life of an elderly dependent. The venear of choice will also cover-up the social pressure that created the decision to kill. In fact, abuse will probably become redefined in order to end the involuntary dependancy related to elder-care.

Elder abuse takes many forms, but the ultimate elder abuse is the act of killing a vulnerable dependent person. This ultimate abuse will appear as merciful but will often be cold, calculated killing, just like the many studies are beginning to show is true today.

Link to articles concerning elder abuse:




Friday, January 9, 2009

Peddlers of death look to Africa

This is a copy of Mark Mostert's blog comment on the push by the peddlers of death look to Africa:

For the last several years, ground zero for the promulgation of assisted suicide and euthanasia has been Europe.

The Netherlands now legally sanctions assisted suicide for almost anyone for any reason. There’s also lots of evidence that hundreds of Dutch patients are euthanized against their will every year.

In Switzerland, Dignitas, whose sole purpose is to facilitate the deaths of its clients, routinely hosts patients from other countries where assisted suicide is illegal.

Belgium recently legalized assisted suicide. It’s being seriously considered in almost every European capital.

In the UK, proponents of assisted suicide are waging a fierce battle to have it legalized. A Scottish parliamentarian is calling for legalized assisted suicide for children.

The warriors of the culture of death are now looking to make their ideas mainstream in Africa.

No surprise there.

However, they’re using a novel, utilitarian argument.

From east Africa's Business Daily:

Mr John Hurst, a British investor and the managing director of Dignity International, is the man behind the plans to introduce the Doctor Assisted Suicide (DAS) in Kenya. He says the logic behind assisted-suicide is that since the terminally ill patient will eventually die, it would be better to hasten their death to save the patient from pain and the family from the financial burden that may arise after prolonged treatment.

Note, Hurst is an investor. Could it be that he wants to make money on killing people? (Of course).

Note the logic:

The patient is going to die (so, why not kill them sooner rather than later?)

Killing earlier saves suffering later (no mention that not every terminally ill person is in pain, let alone unbearable pain)

Killing is a cost saving measure (particularly appealing t people in the developing world who are poor).

How crass.

How brutal.

How absolutely predicable.
Africans need to begin mounting opposition to this horrible influence – NOW.

Link to Mark Mostert's Blog comments:

UK director of prosecution appears to be lobbying for a change in the law and not defending the law.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions in the UK appears to be lobbying for change while not simply upholding the law in the UK.

Starmer is quoted as saying:
A change in the law could bring "greater clarity," but it was up to Parliament to decide on any amendment. ...

"The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable.

"If the law is changed it may bring greater clarity, but it's a matter of speculation as to what any change would be.

"Whether there is to be a change in the law is a matter for Parliament not for me."

It is correct for a director of public prosecutions to explain why he has made certain decisions, it is not correct for him to suggest that a change in the law would bring greater clarity.

Dr. Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing Alliance told the Daily Mail that:
'Assisted suicide is a very serious crime and I don't think anybody should be lulled into believing it is all right to assist a suicide. Prosecution is at the discretion of the DPP.

'But we must be extremely aware of the risk of the slippery slope and of the influence of the very well orchestrated campaign for assisted suicide.'

'We have to be aware of the huge danger of people being pressured into feeling themselves a burden, and of people with disabilities putting pressure on their families to help them commit suicide.'

The sad reality about the case of Daniel James is that he lacked the support he needed to be re-assured of the value of his life, and not abandoned to his negative thoughts and depressive mood about his future. Daniel James was injured during a Rugby match, leaving him paralysed.

It is understandable that someone who has experienced significant paralysis will question their purpose in life, but when that person is re-assured and supported by a caring community that does not consider his/her life to be a burden, then they will usually change their mind.

James died too soon after his accident to be given the opportunity to realize that his life had hope.

Alison Davis, the leader of the disability rights group - No Less Human, is the prime example of the need for a supportive community.

Alison had attempted suicide several times and thought that she had no hope in her life. In time, she found a supportive community and she has proven that her life not only has value but that she could be incredibly productive and be happy.

Link to the article from BBC News:

Link to the article in the Daily Mail:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Judicial Tyranny in Montana - Montana Judge forces assisted suicide upon Montana

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Montana's Judge Dorothy McCarter has imposed assisted suicide upon the state of Montana. I am not a legal expert but Wesley Smith has made some very significant statements about this situation.

I will only say that this represents a judicial tyranny upon the people without any consideration of the vulnerable who will become pressured into death, rather than receiving dignified care and loving support.

The other side will say that this decision ensures that a person's individual choice will be honored. That is such a lie. The social and cultural reality will lead to some people choosing death while others will feel the cultural force pushing them over the edge.

Whether it be a subtle pressure or the reality that some people are too stupid not to "choose" death with death becoming silently imposed upon them.

In the end who will know the difference and who will care. The dead do not have a voice.

Link to Wesley Smith's blog comments on Montana's assisted suicide judgement:

Euthanasia comes to Montana courtesy of Judicial Activism:
Previous comment by Wesley Smith on the Montana case:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dignitas under investigation for 'profiteering' from assisted suicide

An article in the Telegraph Newspaper in the UK is reporting an investigation that is being done into the financial affairs of the supposedly "non-profit" Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.

The article reports that the Dignitas clinic that has assisted the suicide deaths of nearly 1,000 people is under investigation amid fears it may be profiteering from its vulnerable patients.

The article states:
The founder of the group (Ludwig Minelli) is reported to have become a millionaire by helping at least 870 terminally ill people – an estimated 100 of whom were British – die. It is said to have taken as much as £61,000 from one woman, 10 times its usual fee. ...

Juerg Vollenweider, state prosecutor in Zurich, said: "We still don't even know what Dignitas does with the 10,000 Francs it is paid (£6,000) or what it is for.

"If we are kept from taking a look into their accounting, we could see that as selfish motives."

"But if Dignitas can also be shown to have selfish motives, it could be in a lot of trouble," a legal source said.

The Swiss law states that it is illegal to assist a suicide for personal gain. If the authorities prove that Dignitas and Minelli are gaining from suicide assistance then they are breaking the law.

The article also quotes from a Swiss newspaper that reported:
According to the Swiss newspaper Blick, the head of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli, has so far failed to hand over the books, claiming he needs to transfer them from old computer software.

He said: "As soon as I find enough time I'll do it. If the state prosecution feels I'm making myself rich, they should start legal proceedings."

The current scandal is simply one of many scandals that has been reported about Dignitas over the past 10 years.

The article stated:
Last year it (Dignitas) was evicted from a flat in Zurich after neighbours complained about dead bodies being taken out in the lift and hearses parked outside.

Swiss officials have also investigated allegations that the remains of dead patients were being dumped in lakes after being cremated. Two Dignitas workers were allegedly caught trying to pour the ashes of 20 bodies into Lake Zurich, but a former employee claimed at least 200 people's mortal remains had ended up in the same body of water.

The operation of Dignitas is creating a significant concern in the UK where more than 100 people have gone to Dignitas to die by assisted suicide.

The UK does not appear to be moving towards legalizing assisted suicide. Recently Gordon Brown the UK Prime Minister said recently:
"It is not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anyone else.

"I think we have got to make it absolutely clear that the importance of human life is recognised."

I am not surprised by the fact that Dignitas is being investigated for financial impropriety. Several years ago I learned that Dignitas required that anyone who wished to die at their clinic needed to first become a Dignitas member. Membership was not cheap and having a membership with Dignitas did not buy you death. You still needed to pay a significant fee to receive approval to die at Dignitas.

I friend of mine has always said that when you follow the money you will learn the true motivation.

Dignitas has also been using the Exit Bag with Helium method to kill their members. Considering the fact that no prescription is needed to employ this method, Dignitas probably also needs to be investigated concerning what kind of cases they are willing to assist a suicide.

Are they killing people who suffer from treatable depression? Are they killing people who are "Tired of Living"? These are questions that need to be answered.

Link to a previous article about Dignitas:

Link to the original article:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baroness Warnock says that: Doctors who refuse euthanasia are wicked

Baroness Warnock, the infamous politician and ethicist in the UK, who stated last September that people with dementia had a duty to die has now stated that:
DOCTORS who refuse to help terminally ill patients to kill themselves when they request to die are "genuinely wicked"

Warnock defended her position the euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legalized in the UK on Monday, January 5 at the Northern Ireland Forum for Ethics in Medicine and Healthcare, a multi-disciplinary group which seeks to promote an awareness of ethical issues that arise in the delivery of health and social care in Belfast.

Warnock further stated that:
doctors and nurses should encourage terminally ill patients to decide, while still relatively healthy, whether to be helped commit suicide when they reach a seriously ill state.

The idea of preparing people for assisted suicide will lead to a pressure upon people who do not have social support to "choose" death.

The article stated that fears were raised that doctors could be asked to become "executioners" for the old and dying.

Warnock re-phrased her duty to die concept for people with dementia by stating:
"I believe that if someone is diagnosed as having the beginnings of Alzheimer's or dementia, at that stage it is a positive duty that doctors should talk to them about what will happen when the moment comes where they reach steep decline." ...

"They can be kept alive and are kept alive, but the question has to be: What is the point of the life at the last stages of Alzheimer's or dementia?"

Link to Warnock's previous statements on the duty to die for people with dementia.

The article stated that Dr Idris Baker, who is a consultant in palliative medicine in Cardiff, gave a speech against euthanasia.

It is interesting that none of the comments by Dr. Baker were published in the article.

The article did state that: A confidential survey of every GP in Northern Ireland by the British Journal of Medical Practice in 2000 found that 70 per cent of GPs would not assist someone to die.

Warnock will speak about voluntary euthanasia in one comment and then state that people have a duty to die in another comment.

Warnock's comments relate closely to the comments by Peter Singer, the Princeton University chair in bioethics who believes that only beings that are self-aware should be considered persons. Thus when you lose a certain level of self-awareness, society stops being responsible for your care or your life.

Baroness Warnock needs to be taken very seriously. Her attitudes promote an acceptance of killing the most vulnerable people in our community and they also create a feeling among the frail elderly that they are not valued and their lives are not worth living.

Society needs to uphold the elderly and treat them with respect and dignity. We need to care for people with dementia, not kill them.

Link to the original article:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Suicide prevention mandatory for national accreditation

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I found an important news article in my archives about the fact that now every hospital and nursing home must have an approved suicide prevention plan in order to receive national accreditation.

The article states:
By making suicide prevention a requirement, Canada is following the United States, where the accrediting Joint Commission requires hospitals and other health-care organizations to do the same.

According to Statistics Canada, 3,614 people died by suicide in 2004, the latest figures available. However, there are no national numbers on how many of those deaths were in hospitals or nursing homes.

In Ontario, there were 114 suicide deaths in hospital, 33 in long-term care homes and 39 in retirement homes, seniors residences and assisted-living centres from 1995 to 2005, according to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario.
The article explains the connection between psychiatric illness and suicide. It states:
Paul Links, who holds the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide Studies at the University of Toronto, said there is a strong relationship between suicide and psychiatric issues.

“If you look at people who died by suicide and you reconstruct their story, nine out of 10 people who died by suicide were suffering with psychiatric illness at the time of their death,” said Dr. Links, deputy chief of mental-health service at St. Michael's Hospital.
The article continued by explaining that many people with mental health issues find themselves waiting in line for care. This only leads to more suicide.

The article concludes that the medical system needs to follow people up after receiving care. People are often experiencing further mental health issues and a follow-up will identify these needs.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is further concerned that the gains that are being made in preventing suicide will be lost if assisted suicide were legalized.

The recent response to the Ganzini et al article explaining that 26% of the people in her study who had requested assisted suicide in the state of Oregon were depressed was simply to say "so what". Depressed people are more likely to want to die by assisted suicide.

Link to the article on depression and assisted suicide:

Link to the globe and mail article:

Frail Elderly Vulnerable to Abuse

An article written by Andrew Conte and Mike Cronin and published in the Tribune-Review explains how seniors are vulnerable to abuse.

The article states:
Police said one was beaten and tormented, another was duct-taped and kidnapped, and that a third wandered off alone and died in the cold after getting stuck outside.

Each of the women in these recent incidents was older than 85, placing them among the region's fastest-growing population segment -- and, experts said, among its most vulnerable.

"The key statistic is the number of people over 85," said Kurt Emmerling, bureau chief of advocacy, protection and care management with the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging. "They are the people abused the most, who are the most fragile."

Western Pennsylvania has one of the nation's highest proportions of seniors, and as they age into twilight, social workers and others say the region's oldest residents need more help and protection than ever.

Statewide, the number of Pennsylvanians who are 85 or older has grown by more than 27 percent, to more than 300,000 people since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state ranks fifth in terms of its percentage of residents older than 85.

Western Pennsylvania has fueled much of that growth. Allegheny County's population of the oldest seniors increased by more than a quarter, to 35,000 residents. It has risen even more rapidly in nearby counties such as Washington, 35 percent; Beaver, 34 percent; and Westmoreland, 32 percent.

"A lot more people 85 and above are more vulnerable," said Michelle Smart, director of protective services for Ursuline Senior Services, which has county contracts to care for the elderly. "It could be because of their medical condition or their mental status, or it could be a lack of support."
The article advocates for the establishment of support networks for seniors. Even when seniors live in nursing or retirement homes, there is a need for support networks to protect them.

The article states:
Even when a patient is in a care facility such as a nursing home or hospital, they still need a support network of family and friends, experts said.

"When you have a patient in a nursing home, the best way for them to have the best care is to have family members who are involved," said Dr. Edward C. Watters III, a Maryland ophthalmologist who wrote a book on the experience of helping care for his mother in a nursing home. "That means going in, asking questions, looking under sheets and seeing what they say."

Nationwide, federal inspectors cited deficiencies in more than 91 percent of nursing homes surveyed in 2005, 2006 and 2007, according to a September report by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

About 17 percent of the 15,000 nursing homes surveyed in 2007 had a deficiency that posed "actual harm or immediate jeopardy" to patients, the report found. Surveys were unannounced and occurred at random hours.
The article promotes the good work of a group called SeniorCare. The article states:
Respect is the key to properly caring for seniors who need help, said Paul Winkler, president and CEO of Presbyterian SeniorCare based in Oakmont.

The nonprofit serves 6,000 people in nine Western Pennsylvania counties with nursing care, assisted living and retirement communities. To avoid the possibility of abuse or neglect, SeniorCare looks for applicants who are "special people who have a passion, and compassion, for seniors," Winkler said. And then they undergo vigorous reviews.

With an open-door policy, SeniorCare encourages families to visit loved ones at any time -- not just during set hours, Winkler said. Families considering SeniorCare for a relative can visit several times to observe interactions between staff and clients.

Top administrators at nursing homes can lessen the chances abuse will occur by setting a tone of compassion and respect, said Larry Frolik, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association elder law section.

"I don't think many people take a job because they want to abuse the elderly," he said. "But they take these jobs and find it's so easy to get away with it, or it's frustrating."
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has promoted the concept of compassionate community care since its inception. We need to protect seniors and other vulnerable people in our communities.

The article concludes by stating:
"If you have a very old person living without a spouse or partner, they're very vulnerable," he said. "They need to find a supporting network for themselves."
Our culture needs to take heed and build the necessary support networks in order to protect the most vulnerable in our community, especially now that people are promoting euthanasia and assisted suicide for those who have become "Tired of Living". Many people will become "Tired of Living" if the people surrounding them view their lives as a burden and not as someone who is worthy of care.

Link to the article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Montreal Gazette: Quebec should condemn assisted suicide explicitly

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Montreal Gazette editorial on Saturday, January 3, 2009 clearly stated why Quebec should condemn assisted suicide.

The editorial began by explaining why the acquital of Stephane Dufour should not represent a precedent on assisted suicide in Canadian law. This is also the position that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has taken.

The editorial stated:
The question of assisted suicide has become an issue in Quebec after a jury, ignoring a judge's clear instructions, refused late last month to convict Stéphan Dufour of Alma, who had admitted playing a role in his uncle's self-inflicted death. ...

That is not a precedent to be followed on this issue. Quebec authorities should condemn assisted suicide explicitly, and explain to Quebecers why helping someone die is not an option individuals should be free to choose at will.

Dufour's case is staggeringly sad. The 31-year-old mentally-handicapped man was browbeaten by his uncle, Chantal Maltais, until he agreed to rig up a contraption which Maltais used to hang himself.

Maltais, crippled by polio, was confined to a wheelchair, but evidently could, and did, end his own life. He was able to get his way by abusing his nephew for weeks until Dufour agreed to help him.

One can easily understand why the jury acquitted Dufour. How could they condemn to jail a man described by a leading psychologist as socially, intellectually and emotionally a child. Under pressure, Dufour was three times more susceptible than a normal person, the psychologist said.

In acquitting Dufour the jury was surely acting out of a desire to spare an intellectually-incapacitated young man, more than from any wish to increase legal access to assisted suicide. But Dufour should never have been tried on this charge; he should have been declared unfit for trial. If supporters of assisted suicide choose this case as a template, they're in trouble.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition thought that charging Dufour with assisted suicide was an inappropriate charge. Now the Crown has decided to retry the case based on the fact that the Crown did emphasize that Dufour had two days to deconstruct the suicide device. The response by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has been that the Crown should only retry the case if they have new evidence.

The article went on to emphasize how assisted suicide can threaten the lives of vulnerable people.

The editorial stated:
In fact, all the arguments we've heard in favour of assisted suicide break down under analysis. What looks at first blush like someone's firmly-held, well-thought-out desire to die often turns out, research has found, to be fear of burdening family or care-givers, a passing moment of despair, or the product of inadequate pain control.

There are also a rather surprising number of cases in which a treating doctor decides to hasten death without the patient's consent, never mind volition. In light of that, extending the power of life and death to relatives or friends seems downright foolish.

When the phrase "slippery slope" is trotted out, this is what it means: Patients being killed when alternatives exist - as they certainly did for Chantal Maltais.

This is not the direction we want our society to take. Political leaders need to show some leadership here, and speak up clearly against assisted suicide.
The fact is that euthanasia began in the Netherlands for people who were terminally ill and suffering uncontrolled pain. It is now available for people who have chronic physical and mental pain, including chronic depression, and infants with disabilities who have conditions that will not lead to immediate death.

The NVVE group in the Netherlands has now decided that their goal is to establish euthanasia for people who are "Tired of Living".

The euthanasia lobby likes to say there is no slippery slope. I guess that is because we have come to the bottom of the slope and when you hit bottom there is more slippage.

Link to the Montreal Gazette editorial:

Fear Mongering for Assisted Suicide in Scotland

Wesley Smith has written an excellent article about the Fear Mongering of the euthanasia lobby. You need to read his comments.

Link to Wesley Smith's article on his blog:

Assisted Suicide - A personal point-of-view

This is an excellent personal blog comment on assisted suicide from a person who understands cancer and pain.

Link to the blog comment: