Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Minnesota nurse may have encouraged Canadian student's suicide

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article published in the in Minneapolis - St. Paul Minnesota and written by Pam Louwagie tells the horrific story of a Minnesota nurse may allegedly counselled Nadia Kajouji (18) from Ottawa Ontario Canada to commit suicide by drowning.

The article states:
Nadia Kajouji, 18, disappeared in Ottawa last March after telling her roommate that she was going skating. For weeks, police and community members searched for her, finding her body more than a month later in a river.

The girl's mother, Deborah Chevalier, told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper in an article published today that the Minnesota police investigation is focusing on online chats between her daughter and a male nurse, whose name has not been released, and that charges may come soon.

St. Paul Police spokesman Peter Panos confirmed this afternoon that the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is working on the case along with the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"They are in the middle of the investigation," Panos said. He said he believes authorities have some specific charges in mind, but may be looking at other state and federal statutes in addition.

"It's an unusual case, so there's some different laws they're looking at to see exactly how they would charge him," Panos said.

Ottawa Police confirmed to the Canadian newspaper that they have been cooperating with Minnesota law enforcement on the case for about three weeks
This is an incredibly sad case for all involved. The article explains the story from the point of view of the family:
The girl's father, Mohamad Kajouji, said in a tearful telephone interview this morning that transcripts provided to the family of internet chats didn't include the name of the nurse, but showed he posed online as a female who had been depressed for nine years, lived with her mother and a younger brother, and was planning her own suicide.

"She told my daughter ... she was going to hang herself. She was going to make sure her mother got insurance money... she told Nadia that she was going to meet her in heaven," Mohamad Kajouji said. "She told my daughter that she had tried every medication there is" and that nothing worked, he said.

He said the internet chatter, whom authorities later learned was a man and a nurse, talked about having a lot of experience with seeing gunshot wounds and other injuries.

The online chatter asked Nadia for a picture, Mohamad Kajouji said, and his daughter sent one.

He said Nadia Kajouji talked online about dying of hypothermia. Her body was found in the Rideau River near St. Paul University in Ottawa.

Chevalier told the Citizen newspaper she had also read the transcript and "he was trying to convince her to hang herself and he told her what type of rope to buy and how to tie it, and the size of the rope you need to be successful."

Nadia Kajouji had been battling depression and struggling in school at Carleton University in Ottawa in the months leading up to suicide, the Citizen reported, adding that she was undergoing counseling and had been prescribed anti-depressants. Her case ignited a debate on student privacy versus what duty school officials should have to relay information about students' struggles to their parents.
The article explains that this was probably not the first time this nurse has counselled someone to commit suicide. It stated:
Mohamad Kajouji said after talking with Canadian authorities, "I'm pretty sure he did these things before ... he prey on vulnerable kids like my daughter."

Chevalier said that her daughter's laptop computer may be seized as evidence by U.S. investigators. She said she was relieved to hear about the possibility of charges in her daughter's death.

"If you read the messages, he was a monster," she told the Citizen. "I just can't believe people would do that ... I can't believe a human being can be like that."
The time has come for all Western nations, especially Canada to outlaw aiding, abeting and counseling suicide via the internet. We cannot sit back and allow suicide predators to take advantage of people who are experiencing depression. We must protect the vulnerable from sick people such as the alleged nurse in Minnesota.

Link to the Nadia Kajouji Tribute:

Link to the original article in the Star Tribune:

Link to the article in the Ottawa Citizen:

Link to the article in the Globe and Mail:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Financial Despair Turns Deadly

When clearing out my emails I came across an interesting article that was published on January 30, 2009 in Canada's Globe and Mail entitled: When a family's financial despair turns deadly.

The article pertains to the number of recent cases of murder-suicide in cases where the family was facing financial despair. These are very sad cases and do not directly connect to the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide, other than the fact that when this recently happened in Thunder Bay (Fonteese case) the media inappropriately treated it as a possible precedent case in favour of assisted suicide.

I am also concerned that in jurisdictions where euthanasia and assisted suicide become common that reasons for the act, might in some circumstances, might be related to the emotional and psychological stress that is caused by the economic downturn. Especially in jurisdictions where concern for the mental health of the person has become secondary.

The article states:
As the economic downturn deepens, some individuals are resorting to murder-suicide to escape job loss, foreclosure and bankruptcy

It is a grim indicator of the depth of despair the economic downturn has wrought: a rare spate of murder-suicides in which entire families have been killed by desperate parents suffocating beneath hopelessness and debt.

This week alone, the United States witnessed the gruesome demise of two more households in which an executive decision was made to give up on fighting against the depressing cycle of foreclosures, bankruptcies, evictions and layoffs.

The article then referred to several Canadian cases:
On New Year's Day, a couple in Chicoutimi, Que., struggling with bankruptcy, joblessness and bleak financial prospects, allegedly plotted a family suicide that left the 46-year-old father, and three children, ages 12, 7 and 4, dead. The mother, 34-year-old Cathy Gauthier-Lachance survived; she is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and assisting the suicide of her husband.

In Toronto, a father under pressure to meet increasing health-care bills for two ailing kin snapped in November, a day after a steep stock market drop. He killed himself, his wife and two grown children.

The article then looks into the growing problem of murder-suicide related to financial distress:
While researchers have long pointed to a connection between financial hardship and the onset of mental disorders, mental health experts are concerned that a new trend in extreme familicide - in which entire families sometimes lose their lives - may be emerging, with strong ties to the economic meltdown.

"When we look back at the end of 2009, I would be surprised if we did not see an increase. All the fundamentals are there," said John Bradford, associate chief of forensic psychiatry with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and a professor of psychiatry and criminology at the University of Ottawa and Queen's University.

By fundamentals, Dr. Bradford means "the bleak economic news, people losing their jobs, losing their homes, having nothing to look forward to."

The feelings of failure, insecurity, guilt and shame that accompany the items on that list often lead to stress, which in turn leads to depression, even in people with no history of mental disorder. For some people, Dr. Bradford said, financial pressures can transform depression into a form of desperation that can lead to suicide.

However, only among a rare few do suicidal thoughts morph into the nihilistic delusion, that an entire family should be killed.

"You basically have this delusional idea that somehow the world is coming to an end, there is great suffering, there is nothing we can do about it," said David Bloom, director of psychotic disorders at Montreal's Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "The best thing to do is leave the world and take those you love the most with you to avoid further suffering on their part."

Dr. Bloom said that males more often exhibit the nihilistic delusions that push them over the psychotic edge, although rarely are the murders committed out of anger. "It's a hopelessness," he said. "I have no more means with which to fight this problem. The only solution is suicide. They wouldn't even see it as murder. They would take it as 'I'm saving them from a terrible thing.' "

As for what triggers "the switch" that enables psychotic behaviour, that is more difficult to pinpoint. The key problem is that in most cases, the only people who know the answer are dead.

Link to the original article:

Coroner calls for ban on suicide manual

As much as I am happy that a representative of the Dignity in Dying group in the UK has stated that the banning of these suicide manuals is acceptable to them, the reality is that this is simply a ploy by Dignity in Dying to appear moderate.

It is interesting that Derek Humphrey, the founder of the Hemlock Society, has stated that Dignity in Dying sold thousands of his book: Final Exit in the 1990's. Final Exit is a suicide manual.

The text of the article that was published in the Manchester Evening News reported on Feb 16, 2009 and written by John Scheerhout and Stan Miller

A Coroner has called for a ban a suicide manual used by a Manchester club boss to kill himself.

Nigel Meadows has written to the Home Secretary expressing concern about the book.

He called for ministers to ban the book along with websites that show people how to take their own lives.

The book, which the M.E.N. has chosen not to name, has been published in America since 1991 and its latest edition can be ordered through the post for around 11 pounds. Paul Benson, who owned Aqua bar in the city, used the book to set up a 'sophisticated' method of killing himself, an inquest into his death heard.

He had a history of depression and was receiving psychiatric treatment. However, he was not terminally ill.

The author of the book has defended it saying it was written to help the terminally ill end their lives, not people suffering from mental illness.

The inquest heard Mr Benson, 43, was found dead by his brother in the loft of his home on Mardale Avenue, Didsbury, in May. He used a method detailed in the book.

Before he killed himself, Mr Benson wrote a note inside the cover of the book to defend the publication. He wrote: "This book didn't encourage me to kill myself. But it stopped me doing it in a way which was dangerous to others: e.g. in front of a train.

"This book is good unless the technique fails in which case I shall be suing."


Mr Benson died from suffocation and gas inhalation. Recording a verdict that he killed himself, Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows said he took 'elaborate' steps to end his life.

"He had done some research probably on the internet and this book," said Mr Meadows. "I will write to the Home Secretary about the book. I have to think about people who might be more vulnerable and much younger.

"Other coroners have called for the banning of this book and others of a similar ilk, but the government can take steps to stop distribution.

"I will be asking if any steps can be taken to stop ready access to this material and I would like a ban on websites that provide information about methods of self-harm."

Mr Benson, a bachelor, had been an outpatient at Wythenshawe Hospital receiving psychiatric treatment. The court heard he had tried on two previous occasions to kill himself - jumping from the Menai Bridge in Anglesey in 2006.

He landed in the river and spent six weeks in hospital with back injuries.

Mr Benson's family declined to comment. Friend Andrew O'Dwyer, chairman of Manchester Pub and Club Network, said: "He was a very caring person. He would go out of his way to help anyone."

Jo Cartwright, for the campaign group Dignity in Dying, said: "We would not object to banning the book because we don't encourage suicide without safeguards. It can be dangerous for vulnerable people."

Misplaced compassion can lead to merciless killing

Jakki Jeffs has written an excellent article that essentially connects the historical and philosophical consequences of euthanasia and connects them to the current cultural pressures that have created a push for legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. This is an article that is worth reading.

Text of the article that was published in the Guelph (Ontario) Mercury on February 23, 2009 by Jakki Jeffs:

I believe it appropriate to begin this column with the words of Dr. Leo Alexander, who served with the office of the Chief Counsel for War Crimes, in Nuremberg.

"Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first, were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick.

"Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans. But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedge-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the non-rehabilitable sick."

In 1985, Alexander remarked that America was becoming a mirror of Germany in that the "barriers to killing are coming down."

Here in Canada, the barriers against killing are also coming down. Since 1991, no less than five private member's bills have been introduced at the federal level, each wishing to legalize euthanasia and/or assisted suicide in Canada.

Francine Lalonde, MP for La Pointe-de- l'Ile, is the author of the two most recent attempts and has given notice to Parliament of her plans to introduce another bill regarding "the right to die with dignity."

Lalonde's last effort would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide for people suffering from chronic physical or mental pain; for people suffering from, but not limited to, terminal illness.

The proposed law was not limited to Canadian citizens, which could have made Canada the second most popular country for "suicide tourists."

Her bill did not even require that a person attempt to access effective treatment first, neither did it limit the option to "competent" patients -- leaving room for third-party assisted suicide consent. It actually appeared to allow euthanasia by someone other than a doctor.

These bills, including ones introduced at the Ontario provincial level addressing "natural death," show the subtle shift in attitude by medical professionals and the public regarding the non-rehabilitable sick.

In the Library of Parliament, Current Issue review 91-91E Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada, it notes that in the past, the tolerance for suicide developed from a disdain for weakness, illness and the inability to contribute to society.

Is this happening again today?

The growing numbers of chronic diseases -- experienced as people live longer; the increasing costs of health care expense; the refusal to prosecute or convict; and the war cry of "choice" have all tempered our Canadian society into the belief that the cold-blooded murder of disabled or dying persons can actually be compassionate or merciful.

I know from personal experience with my mother that dignity is not upheld by abandonment of the vulnerable to those who would kill them, nor by hiding behind our own fear of disability, illness or death.

Neither is it upheld by denying our own prejudice toward those who communicate differently, whose methods of mobility is alien to us or whose body might be missing some fundamental elements we consider essential.

Dignity is never upheld when we forgo the sacrosanct nature of human life by accepting that there is life unworthy to be lived. We must know where this path will lead. The Nazi experiment showed us that misplaced compassion leads to merciless killing.

Human dignity requires our presence, our service and our commitment to walk with and lament the loss.

We hear the plea that begs us to help, to make sense of, relieve and share the suffering.

I pray that Canadians will reject Lalonde's latest "Parliamentary Act of Abandonment" and continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the dying, disabled and sick. In solidarity with them until the lament of life has come to completion.

Jakki Jeffs is a member of the Mercury's Community Editorial Board.

Link to the article in the Guelph Mercury:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lodi woman facing assisted suicide charge

This case in California may be important but it is important to refrain from commenting further until information is available. If she assisted in the suicide of her brother, then she has broken the law. But until it can be proven, these issues should be left up to the prosecutor to decide whether enough evidence exists to proceed. Ir is interesting that she was also charged with causing a gross bodily injury.

It is important to note that she is receiving sympathy for possibly being involved with the death of a person with a disability

This is an edited version of the text from Keith Reid that was published in the Stockton Record on February 21, 2009.

A Lodi woman could serve up to six years in prison for allegedly assisting the suicide of her ill brother, a charge law experts say is extremely rare.

June Hartley, 42, appeared in San Joaquin County Superior Court on Friday, charged with helping her brother, James, 45, inhale enough helium to suffocate on Dec. 7.

Assisted suicide cases are a rarity in California and elsewhere, said University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law Professor Michael Vitello.

"The only headline case is that of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in Michigan who advertised it, taped it, and served time in jail as a martyr for those wanting to end their suffering," said Vitello, who has been teaching law for 32 years. "You might come across a handful of cases of assisted suicide charges, but it's literally very few across the country each year."

If convicted, June Hartley could serve up to three years on a count of assisted suicide and another three years on an enhanced charge that she caused gross bodily injury to her brother, Deputy District Attorney Sherri Adams said.

"The additional charge was made because of the nature of the crime, and because there was a death involved," said Adams, who also called the case the first she'd ever seen.

June Hartley's arraignment was continued to Feb. 27 because her attorney, Randy Thomas of Woodbridge, is on vacation and could not represent her. Attorney David Wellenbrock filled in for Thomas but declined to comment on behalf of Hartley and her family.

Prosecutors say James Hartley, a blues musician, was suicidal after he suffered a series of strokes in 2006 that caused him to lose much of his mobility, speech, eyesight and hearing. June Hartley became a suspect after she reported her brother's death to police on Dec. 8. Her brother's disabilities and lack of mobility prompted police to question how he came to obtain a helium tank and inhale the gas by himself.

"This is a tragic incident for all involved," said Adams. "There are two elderly parents that lost their son, and their daughter may now go to jail."

Judge Franklin M. Stephenson released Hartley on her own recognizance. Adams said she did not object because the Lodi resident and her attorneys have been very cooperative in their investigation.

"I don't think she's a flight risk," Adams said.

Link to the original article:

Pope warns on New Eugenics

I have spent the last few days in Rome at the Pontifical Academy for Life Congress on Eugenics. These are some basic comments I have made about the Congress. A further report will be available later.

The Pontifical Academy for Life Congress focused on the problem of Eugenics. The Congress explored the historical reality of Eugenics and they delved into the New Eugenics that has become a common problem with relation to genetic screening, eugenic abortion - of all types, and eugenic attitudes towards people with disabilities that are leading to euthanasia and medical descrimination related to end-of-life care.

It is important to note that the Pontifical Academy for Life is attempting to examine how the New Eugenics are related to a specific negation of the nature of the human person as a being with true dignity. Equality and human dignity will only effectively be maintained when the human person is respected as a unique individual who is not judged by his/her utility, but rather for their innate nature as a human person.

When we judge the individual based on utilitarian ethics, we ignore the reality that each person is unique and deserving of respect.

My concerns are related to euthanasia, assisted suicide and end-of-life care and how the new eugenics is changing attitudes.

The Congress examined the growth of discrimination in relation to the care or lack of care that is often provided for newborns with disabilities. There appears to be a growing reality that newborns with disabilities are not treated with equality, even when their conditions can be effectively treated. This has led to the acceptance of the Groningen Protocol in the Netherlands that allows for the euthanasia of newborns with disabilities.

If we consider the growing attitude that is leading to the non-treatment of children with disabilities and the social shift towards euthanasia, it is clear that organizations that represent people with disabilities will need to refocus their efforts from primarily being concerned with life opportunities to becoming more concerned about the opportunity live.

Text of the article in Reuters concerning the Pope's speech to the Congress:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters)- Feb 21, 2009

(Writing by Deepa Babington; editing by Robert Woodward)

Pope Benedict said on Saturday there were worrying signs of a new type of eugenics based on perfection and physical beauty.

"Certainly, the eugenistic and racial ideologies that in the past humiliated man and provoked immense suffering are not being proposed again, but a new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity," the pope said in a speech to the Pontifical Academy for Life.

"So it tends to privilege the capacity to operate, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty at the expense of other types of existence considered unworthy."

Eugenics is a belief in the possibility of improving the human race by weeding out those with what are considered undesirable traits and encouraging procreation by those with desirable traits.

The pope also spoke out against reducing humans to an object of "experimental manipulation" and allowing biotechnology to "surrender to the will of the strongest."

Pope Benedict has condemned genetic engineering and other scientific practices that allow people to select so-called "designer babies" by screening them for defects.

The Vatican considers pre-implantation diagnosis of embryos to avoid genetic defects or select for qualities like gender morally unacceptable. It is also against genetic enhancement for purposes other than medical treatment.

Link to the article on Reuters:

Nursing home workers arrested in fatal druggings

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Another sad story about how people are abused when they are vulnerable. Elder abuse is a growing problem within society. Some people suggest that it has always been part of our society but it is now being uncovered or exposed. I personally think that there is proof that Elder Abuse is on the rise, not only in its instances but also in kind.

Elder abuse directly relates to the level of respect and dignity that society and the culture have for elderly people. Many elderly people become dependent. These people go from a respected place in society to becoming vulnerable and they need to be protected.

Within the context of euthanasia and assisted suicide, I am concerned about the most vulnerable in society which has led to my absolute opposition to legalizing these acts. The facts are clear, will we ever be able to protect the vulnerable elderly from having their lives taken against their consent?

NO - The safeguards in every jurisdiction are illusions at best.

When we consider the vulnerable nature of many of these people and we consider the cultural trend that has led to more elder abuse, I suggest that we reject assisted suicide and promote compassionate care. Care is what our culture should uphold, killing is what we should disdain.

This is the text of the article about an Elder Abuse case:

Story Created: Feb 18, 2009 - Story Updated: Feb 19, 2009

By Staff

Three high-level employees at Kern Valley Hospital District were arrested Wednesday for elder abuse and other charges.

The suspects worked for KVHD's skilled nursing facility in Lake Isabella and are accused of forcibly administering psychotropic drugs for staff convenience rather than the patients' medical needs.

Former director of nursing Gwen Hughes, former pharmacist Debbi Hayes and current staff physician Dr. Hoshang Pormir were arrested following a two-year investigation, according to a news release from California Attorney General Jerry Brown's office.

Eyewitness News broke the story about the investigation last June.

Medical complications, including lethargy and the inability to eat or drink properly, resulted from the forced medications, and three of the facility's residents may have died as a result, according to Brown's office.

Twenty-two patients were given high doses, and one surviving patient was greatly harmed, the investigation determined.

The patients who died were Mae Brinkley, 91; Joseph Shepter, 76; and Alexander Zaiko, 85.

Hughes, starting in 2006, allegedly ordered staff to give high doses of psychotropic medications to Alzheimer's and other dementia patients to make them more tranquil and easier to control. Hughes allegedly ordered the medications be given to patients who argued with her, made noise or were otherwise disruptive.

Brown's office alleges two patients were held down and forcibly given injections.

"We believe these people maliciously violated the trust of their patients by holding them down and forcibly administering psychotropic medications," said AG spokesman Scott Gerber.

KVHD CEO Rick Carter issued a statement in response to the arrests, saying his organization cooperated fully with the investigation and that the skilled nursing facility in Lake Isabella is operating in compliance with state health and safety standards.

All three suspects have been booked into Kern County Jail, and criminal charges have been filed in Kern County Superior Court. Hughes and Hayes were each charged with elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. Pormir was charged with elder abuse.

Link to the article:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

'Right to die' can become a 'duty to die'

The insightful Wesley Smith has directly connected euthanasia and assisted suicide to the Duty to Die. Wesley is always clear. People need to heed his warning.

Vulnerable people can be bullied into assisted suicide, believes Wesley Smith.

By Wesley Smith
Daily Telegraph - Feb 21, 2009

Imagine that you have lung cancer. It has been in remission, but tests show the cancer has returned and is likely to be terminal. Still, there is some hope. Chemotherapy could extend your life, if not save it. You ask to begin treatment. But you soon receive more devastating news. A letter from the government informs you that the cost of chemotherapy is deemed an unjustified expense for the limited extra time it would provide. However, the government is not without compassion. You are informed that whenever you are ready, it will gladly pay for your assisted suicide.

Think that's an alarmist scenario to scare you away from supporting "death with dignity"? Wrong. That is exactly what happened last year to two cancer patients in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal.

Barbara Wagner had recurrent lung cancer and Randy Stroup had prostate cancer. Both were on Medicaid, the state's health insurance plan for the poor that, like some NHS services, is rationed. The state denied both treatment, but told them it would pay for their assisted suicide. "It dropped my chin to the floor," Stroup told the media. "[How could they] not pay for medication that would help my life, and yet offer to pay to end my life?" (Wagner eventually received free medication from the drug manufacturer. She has since died. The denial of chemotherapy to Stroup was reversed on appeal after his story hit the media.)

Despite Wagner and Stroup's cases, advocates continue to insist that Oregon proves assisted suicide can be legalised with no abuses. But the more one learns about the actual experience, the shakier such assurances become.

At a meeting in the House of Commons on Monday night hosted by the anti-euthanasia charity Alert and Labour MP Brian Iddon, I hope to bring home to MPs and the British public just how dangerous it would be to legalise euthanasia. The Oregon experiment shows how easily the "right to die" can become a "duty to die" for vulnerable and depressed people fearful of becoming a burden on the state or their relatives. I know that a powerful and emotive campaign is being waged in the UK media – using heart-rending cases such as multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy – to inveigle Parliament into changing the law.

Miss Purdy, who lost in the Appeal Court on Thursday, wants to secure a legal guarantee that her husband would not be prosecuted if he accompanied her to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland – one of the few places where euthanasia is legal. Much as I sympathise with her plight, such a guarantee would lure us on to the slippery slope where the old and the sick come under pressure to end their lives.

A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine last year, for example, found that doctors in Oregon write lethal prescriptions for patients who are not experiencing significant symptoms and that assisted suicide practice has had little do with any inability to alleviate pain – the fear of which is a chief selling point for legalisation.

The report said that family members described loved ones who pursue "physician-assisted death" as individuals for whom being in control is important, who anticipate the negative aspects of dying and who believe the impending loss of self and quality of life will be intolerable. They fear becoming a burden to others, yet want to die at home. Concerns about what may be experienced in the future were substantially more powerful reasons than what they experienced at that point in time.

When a scared and depressed patient asks for poison pills and their doctor's response is to pull out the lethal prescription pad, it confirms the patient's worst fears – that they are a burden, that they are less worth loving. Hospices are geared to address such concerns. But effective hospice care is undermined when a badly needed mental health intervention is easily avoided via a state-sanctioned, physician-prescribed overdose of lethal pills.

Do the guidelines protect depressed people in Oregon? Hardly. The law does not require treatment when depression is suspected, and very few terminal patients who ask for assisted suicide are referred for psychiatric consultations. In 2008 not one patient who received a lethal prescription was referred by the prescribing doctor for a mental health evaluation.

As palliative care physician Dr Kathleen Foley and psychiatrist Herbert Hendin, an expert on suicide prevention, wrote in a scathing exposé of Oregon assisted suicide, physicians are able to "assist in suicide without inquiring into the source of the medical, psychological, social and existential concerns that usually underlie requests … even though this type of inquiring produces the kind of discussion that often leads to relief for patients and makes assisted suicide seem unnecessary."

Oregon has become the model for how assisted suicide is supposed to work. But for those who dig beneath the sloganeering and feel-good propaganda, it becomes clear that legalising assisted suicide leads to abandonment, bad medical practice and a disregard for the importance of patients' lives.

Wesley Smith is a lawyer, associate director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute

Link to the article:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Death With Dignity Bills Should Not Be Fast-Tracked Through Hawaii Legislature

Dr. & Mrs. Joseph DiCostanzo, Jr. (M.D.) who live in Kailua, Hawaii - had an excellent letter published in the Hawaii Reporter concerned about the proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide in the state of Hawaii.

Link to the letter in the Hawaii Reporter:

This is what they stated:
The Democratic leadership of the Hawai‘i House of Representatives has just fast-tracked the so-called “Death with Dignity” bills, HB 587 and HB 806, re-assigning them from both the Health and Judiciary committees to just one, Judiciary. It seems Rep. Calvin Say and others are afraid of giving these bills the scrutiny they deserve by the medical community in Hawai‘i, which is largely opposed to physician-assisted suicide.

Physician-assisted suicide is an issue that intimately involves the medical community in addition to affecting the general public. Bypassing the health committee and not allowing this legislation to be considered for its merits, or lack thereof, by health experts shows ignorance, if not disrespect, for the healthcare community and people of the state of Hawai‘i.

Legalization of physician-assisted suicide irrevocably transforms the role of the physician-healer from one who preserves life to one who takes life. This will inevitably lead to a rapid deterioration of the physician-patient relationship and adversely affect the entire healthcare delivery system.

We know from observation of locations such as Oregon and the Netherlands that physician-assisted suicide leaves society’s most vulnerable—the poor, sick, elderly, and disabled populations—subject to abuse and coercion, regardless of the proposed safeguards.

Once the door to doctor-facilitated death is opened, there will be an expectation by some that certain segments of the population have a “duty to die” because they may be seen as “less useful” or “over-users of resources”.

This is the kind of thinking that leads to genocide, eugenics, and abuses of the worst kind. Please do not be party to ushering it into our state.

We need to take comments from physicians very seriously. To allow one person the legal right to directly and intentionally take another person's life will create a duty to die for many and will change the medical profession for ever.

Francine Lalonde to introduce bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada

Francine Lalonde
The other day I sent out an alert stating:
BQ MP Francine Lalonde gave notice on Thursday Feb. 11 that she will be introducing a Private Members Bill to legalize assisted suicide. Bills require at least 2 days notice before they are officially introduced.)

February 11, 2009 — Ms. Lalonde (La Pointe-de-l'Île) — Bill entitled "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity)".
I was quoted by Lifesite News in this way:
Alex Schadenberg
Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, commented to about Lalonde's most recent attempt, saying, "We are very concerned about the bill.

"Our primary concern," he said, "is that euthanasia and assisted suicide directly threatens the lives of the most vulnerable in society. We should not be focused on how to take the lives of the vulnerable but rather how we should be caring for them.

"To legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide represents the right of one person to take the life of another person. Our society should not be going there."
As soon as the bill is available we will publish a commentary on it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Congress to examine modern eugenics.

Asianews.It is reporting about an upcoming Congress to be held in Rome - February 20 - 21, 2009 about modern eugenics, or as I usually call it - The New Eugenics. The Congress is entitled: The New Frontier of Genetics and the Risk of Eugenics.

I usually refer to Peter Singer, the Princeton University chair of bioethics, as the father of the New Eugenics, but it is possible that this new type of discrimination pre-dates Singer's philosophy.

Monsignor Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life was reported to state to the media today:
"No one can decide what is a “normal” life. Yet breakthroughs in genetics, as positive as they might be, are giving rise to the idea that “some people are less valuable than others”, because of the conditions in which they live, such as poverty or lack of education, or because of their physical state, for example people who are disabled, mentally ill, people in a 'vegetative state', or the elderly who suffer serious disease."

Eugenics, a word no one uses because of its association with experiments carried out by the Nazis, will be the subject for the Pontifical Academy for Life Congress.

Fisichella stated:
Genetic breakthroughs, resulting from technological progress, have effects on the diagnostic and therapeutic fields. But “the danger that genetics might drift [in the wrong direction] is not mere theoretical. Sadly it belongs to an outlook that is slowly but inexorably spreading.”

“Eugenics was once thought to be a thing of the past. Just mentioning the word still evokes horror. But as it is often the case, underlying dangers have been lost from sight as a result of a subtle linguistic formalism coupled with advertising backed by big economic interests. An outlook that can no longer recognise objective evil and formulate corresponding ethical views is the result. Thus, whilst the word eugenics has no place in democratic societies that in principle are respectful of human rights, the idea has for all intents and purpose found its way back into our consciousness without much angst.”

"eugenics today shows the “reassuring face of those who want to physically improve the human species.” Such practices “find expression in various scientific, biological, medical, social and political projects, all of them more or less interrelated. These projects require an ethical judgement, especially when it is sought to suggest that eugenic practices are being undertaken in the name of a 'normality' of life to offer to individuals, which still needs to be defined and requires undisputable ways to determine who can claim the power to establish the rules and purpose of a person’s ‘normal’ life. Whatever the case, such an outlook exists, however short-sighted it may be, and tends to view that some people as less valuable than others, either because of the conditions in which they live, such as poverty or lack of education, or because of their physical state, for example people who are disabled, mentally ill, people in a 'vegetative state', or the elderly who suffer serious disease.”

With reference to the Eluana Englaro case, Monsignor Fisichella stated:
"when it comes to people in “vegetative state” we must “distinguish between the medical act of inserting the tube” and the processes of “hydration and feeding which we view as therapies.” Since water and food “are basic elements in a person’s life, we believe they must be guaranteed” and cannot be considered “futile medical care”.

Mgr Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life, stated:
Eugenics “represents the main discriminatory use to which discoveries in genetic science can be put. This is what the congress wants to examine. Obviously, the main objective is to call people's attention to the considerable benefits we may obtain from genetic research if, as seems correct and appropriate, it attracts the efforts of researchers and public and private investments, while overcoming any temptation to follow the deceptive shortcuts presented by eugenics.”

Link to the article in asia news:

P.S. My good friend, Dr. Mark Mostert, publishes a very insightful blog on eugenics, euthanasia and disability rights. He also has a website entitled: "Useless Eaters". He is worth checking out.

Cases like Eluana Englaro can have happy endings. Missionary Rejects Award in Protest of Italy's Euthanasia death - Eluana Englaro

Aldo Trento, an Italian missionary priest in Paraguay, is returning the honour he received from the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano because he refused to protect the life of Eluana Englaro, the woman who was recently dehydrated to death in Italy.

Zenit is reporting that Trento told the Italian newspaper I1 Foglio:
"I have more than one case like Eluana Englaro."

He continued: "I think of little Victor, a child in a coma, who clenches his fists. All we do is feed him through a tube. Faced with these situations, how can I react to the case of Eluana?"

"Yesterday they brought me a girl who was naked, a prostitute, in a coma, who had been dumped in front of a hospital. Her name is Patricia and she is 19. We washed her. Yesterday she started to move her eyes."

"Celeste is 11; she suffers from a very grave form of leukemia; she was never taken care of and they brought her to me just to bury. Today she is walking. And she laughs."

"Cristina is a little girl who was left in a garbage dump, she is blind, deaf, she trembles when I kiss her, she lives with a feeding tube like Eluana. She does not respond except for the trembling but little by little she will regain her faculties."

"I am the godfather for many of these sick people. I'm not bothered by their decaying bodies. If you could see with what humility my doctors care for them."

Trento says that he feels "immense sorrow" for Englaro: "It is as if you were to say to me: 'We're going to take away your sick children now.'"

For the missionary, "man cannot be reduced to chemicals."

Link to the text of the Zenit article:
In 2004 I attended the International Congress in Rome on Persistent Vegetative State. One of the interventions was by a physician in Italy who worked at an "Awakening Center".

There were two aspects to the awakening centers.
1. The people were treated in a dignified manner, like human beings,
2. The people in Vegetative State were given physio-therapy in a machine that stood them upright - on their feet - and exercised all parts of their body. They were having significant success in bringing people out of vegetative state.

I do not know whether these Awakening Centers have continued to improve the methods or not but I do know that the attitude was that certain types of brain injuries can be healed, or at least partially healed.

Finally, those who read the report that indicated the level of care Eluana was receiving, you could only conclude, why did her father want her dead? She was lovingly and incredibly cared for in a dignified and compassionate manner.

When reading the report my reaction was: Who could think that her life had no value?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Peter Fonteece ordered to undergo 30-day psychiatric assessment

The CKCO television news is reporting that Peter Fonteece was charged with counseling suicide. The Canadian law forbids aiding, abetting and counselling suicide. He was also charged with criminal negligence causing death.

Link to the CKCO television report:

The following text is from the Canwest News Service

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — A Waterloo, Ont., man charged with assisted suicide was ordered Friday to undergo a 30-day psychiatric assessment.

Peter Bernard Fonteece, 46, appeared Friday morning in court in Thunder Bay, Ont. for a bail hearing, police said.

Fonteece has also been charged with criminal negligence causing death charged in connection with the death of his wife, whose body police found on Friday.

Yanisa Fonteece, 38, was found dead in a room at a Super 8 Motel in Thunder Bay, about 600 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

Peter Fonteece's next court date is scheduled for March 13.

Link to article from the canwest news service:

Second-International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Second-International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide - Never Again.

Be part of the Strategy and learn how to stop the euthanasia lobby in America and world-wide.

The Second-International Symposium is designed to build an effective, unified and focused group of organizations and individuals to stop the euthanasia death lobby.

The Second-International Symposium is May 29 - 30, 2009 at the National Conference Center - 18980 Upper Belmont Pl. Landsdowne Virginia 20176, near the Washington DC - Dulles Airport.

The Co-Sponsors of the Symposium are:

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, Compassionate Health Care Network, (American groups - Not Dead Yet, Physicians for Compassionate Care, Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics, Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care), (UK groups - ALERT, Care Not Killing Alliance, No Less Human).

The Speakers for the Symposium include:

Rita Marker, Wesley Smith, Diane Coleman, Stephen Drake, Dr. William Toffler, Dr Bob Orr, Dr Mark Mostert, Dr Ian Dowbiggin, Randy Richardson, Bobby Schindler, Eileen Geller, Margaret Dore, Elizabeth Wickham, Alison Davis, Dr Peter Saunders, Colin Harte, Lionel Roosemont, Nancy Valko, Alex Schadenberg.

The registration cost for the Symposium is $199 regular or $139 for a student or a person with a disability. Due to credit card costs, we prefer that you pay for your registration by check. You are able to register online by going to the International Symposium page at:

The room rate at the National Conference Center is: $139 regular room, $179 for a suite (plus all taxes). Online registration can be accessed online by finding the link at the registration section of our website at:

The registration and room rate includes the cost for all meals and refreshment breaks on May 29 - 30. The room rate will change at the Conference Center on days before or after the International Symposium.

At the First-International Symposium we were able to register many students, people with disabilities and others, who were unable to pay the registration fee. Once again, for those who are unable to attend the Symposium, but are willing to donate the cost of registration please send either $199 or $139 to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. We have already had several requests for subsidy.

In order to operate the Symposium at a breakeven financial basis we are seeking groups and individuals who are willing to advertise in the Symposium booklet. Supporters will be acknowledged in the Symposium booklet based on the level of support. Supporter levels are Gold supporter - $500, Silver supporter - $250, Bronze supporter - $100.

A webpage dedicated to the Second-International Symposium can be accessed at:

The unified direction that will be unveiled at the Second-International Symposium requires the involvement of people everywhere, including you.

For more information contact the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at:
Phone toll free: 1-877-439-3348

Analysis of Hawaii's Assisted-Suicide Proposal (Bill H.B. 806)

This is the analysis of the Hawaii Bill H.B. 806 that would legalize assisted suicide in Hawaii. The analysis is written by Rita Marker, the excellent leader of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

The Analysis of Hawaii's Bill H.B. 806

Currently, assisted suicide is a crime in Hawaii. Any person who intentionally assists another to commit suicide commits the offense of manslaughter, a class A felony. [Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-702 (1)(b)]

H.B. 806, called the "Death with Dignity" Act, is modeled on Oregon's assisted-suicide law. It would transform the crime of assisted suicide into a medical treatment.


◊ Does not require that the lethal drugs be self-administered.

Unlike Oregon's assisted-suicide law, the Hawaii bill requires a "monitor." The monitor "shall be present at the time of the actual administration of the medication to the patient." [§ 41 (a)] [Emphasis added] According to the proposal, the monitor will have the power to "stop the administration" if it hasn't been carried out and if it seems that the patient has had a change of mind. [§ 41 (a)] This provision implies that someone other than the patient may administer the lethal drugs.

◊ Allows someone who will benefit from the patient's death to play a key role in signing the patient up for an assisted-suicide prescription.
A patient's written request for assisted suicide must be witnessed by two people. [§ 22 (a)] One of those witnesses may not be a relative or a person who would inherit the patient's property or an owner, operator or employee of the health care facility where the patient is being treated. [§ 22 (b)] But this means that one of the witnesses may fall into those categories. Then, that person could select a personal friend or acquaintance to be the second witness.

It allows those who will benefit from the patient's death to play a key role in facilitating an assisted-suicide prescription, setting the stage for elder abuse and premature transfer of assets.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, between 1 and 2 million Americans, 65 and older, are abused each year by someone they depend on for care and protection. 1

◊ Lets doctors help depressed or mentally ill patients commit suicide without providing any type of counseling or psychological evaluation.

A referral for counseling is only necessary "if, in the opinion of the attending physician or the consulting physician, a patient may be suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder causing impaired judgment." [§ 33] [Emphasis added] So, while a person may be depressed or mentally ill, a referral for counseling is necessary only if the physician believes the patient's judgment is impaired (i.e., the patient is unable to make decisions regarding personal, interpersonal, financial and/or medical affairs). Many people who are depressed or mentally ill are capable of making such decisions.

According to Oregon's tenth annual assisted-suicide report, not one patient was referred for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation before receiving an assisted-suicide prescription. 2 Yet a recent Oregon Health & Science University study found that one in four Oregonians who request assisted suicide are likely to be clinically depressed, and the assisted-suicide law may fail to protect these patients. 3

◊ Lets a doctor help a patient commit suicide even after the patient is found to have impaired judgment.

If a patient is found to have impaired judgment, the assisted-suicide bill does not prohibit a health care provider, family member or other person from arranging for the patient to be evaluated by other counselors until one is found who will declare the patient qualified for assisted suicide.

In Oregon, it has been noted that "a psychological disorder - senility, for example - does not necessarily disqualify a person" from receiving assisted suicide. An Oregon woman who was suffering from early dementia died of assisted suicide even though her own physician declined to provide the lethal prescription. When counseling to determine her capacity was sought, a psychiatrist determined that she was not eligible for assisted suicide since she was not explicitly seeking it, and because her daughter seemed to be coaching her to do so. She was then taken to a psychologist who determined that she was competent but possibly under the influence of her daughter who was "somewhat coercive." Finally, a managed care ethicist, who was overseeing her case, determined that she was qualified for assisted suicide, and the drugs were prescribed. 4

◊ Gives government health programs, managed care programs and others the opportunity to cut health care costs by encouraging vulnerable patients to request assisted suicide.

Tragically, elder abuse is a common occurrence in today's society. Elderly patients could easily be pressured by family members or unscrupulous health care providers into requesting assisted suicide. Although the bill specifically states that it prohibits coercing or using undue influence on a patient to request the deadly drugs [§ 52 (b)], nothing in the bill prohibits managed care providers, insurance companies or others from suggesting assisted suicide to a patient or from encouraging a patient to request a lethal prescription.

During debate on a similar proposal in California, Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) cast the deciding "No" vote to defeat the bill because the "power of money" would influence HMO's, health insurers and the state to save money while cutting back on patient care. 5

In Oregon, some patients have been told by their health insurance provider that a costly drug prescribed by a doctor to treat the patient's illness would not be covered but inexpensive lethal drugs for assisted suicide would be. 6

◊ Lets a doctor write an assisted-suicide prescription for a patient without seeing the patient in person after diagnosis of a terminal condition is made.

The bill requires patients to make three requests for assisted suicide - two oral requests which do not need to be witnessed and one written witnessed request. [§ 36] However, none of those requests must be made in person. The two oral requests could be made by telephone and the written request could be sent by mail or fax.

◊ Allows prescriptions to be mailed to pharmacies which can then dispense the lethal drugs to a family member, friend or designated agent.

The bill does not require that the drugs be provided directly to the patient. [§ 31 (12) (B) (ii)] In one known Oregon assisted-suicide death, the patient received his lethal overdose by Federal Express. 7 Under Hawaii's proposal, Federal Express could be the "expressly identified agent" to bring the drugs to the patient.

◊ Forces hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities to allow assisted-suicide referrals on the premises.

The bill states that providers shall not be under any duty to participate in assisted suicide. [§ 51(a) and (b) (1) (2)] However, the bill specifically states that referral does not constitute participation. [§ 51 (b) (3) (2)(C)]

◊ Does not contain any provisions to investigate inaccurate, incomplete and misleading reports or to investigate abuse surrounding assisted-suicide deaths.

Although assisted-suicide advocates claim that Oregon's official reports about the practice of assisted suicide prove that there have been no problems or abuses, those claims are, at best, misleading.

According to data provided by Compassion & Choices - the assisted-suicide advocacy group that is the chief promoter of "Death with Dignity" bills - the organization has participated in three quarters of Oregon's assisted-suicide deaths. 8 Oregon's largest newspaper characterized this as a situation in which "essentially, a coterie of insiders run the program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know." 9

As with Oregon's assisted-suicide law, the Hawaii bill requires doctors who write prescriptions for assisted-suicide drugs to report those cases to the state [§ 42] but, as in Oregon's law, there are no penalties for non-reporting or for inaccurate or incomplete reporting.

From the time that Oregon's law went into effect, state officials have acknowledged that "it is difficult, if not impossible to detect accurately" whether reports are complete. 10 State officials have acknowledged that they "assume, however, that physicians were their usual careful and accurate selves" when filing reports about their involvement in assisted suicide. 11

One Oregon official explained that investigation into potential assisted-suicide irregularities cannot take place since "not only do we not have the resources to do it, but we do not have any legal authority to insert ourselves." 12

1 Nation Center on Elder Abuse, "Fact Sheet: Elder Abuse Prevalence and Incidence" (2005), page 1.

2 DHS, "Tenth Annual Report on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act," March 18, 2008, Table I.

3 Linda Ganzini, Elizabeth Goy, Steven Dobscha, "Prevalence of depression and anxiety in patients requesting physician' aid in dying: cross sectional survey," British Medical Journal, Oct. 8, 2007, pp. 973-975.

4 Erin Barnett, "A family struggle: Is Mom capable of choosing to die?" Oregonian, Oct. 17, 1999.

5 Greg Lucas, "Committee votes down assisted-suicide bill," San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, 2006.

6 KATU TV; Portland, OR; July 31, 2008.

7 Erin Hoover, "Dilemma of assisted suicide: When?" Oregonian, Jan. 17, 1999.

8 "Compassion & Choices of Oregon Summary of Deceased Patients, 1/1/98 through 9/25/08" distributed by George Eighmey, Executive Director of C & C of Oregon, Vancouver, WA Public Library Forum on I-1000, Sept. 25, 2008.

9 Editorial Board, "Washington state's assisted-suicide measure: Don't go there," Oregonian, Sept. 20, 2008.

10 New Eng. J. Med, Feb. 18, 1999, p. 583.

11 OHD, CD Summary, vol. 48, no. 6, March 16, 1999.

12 Testimony of Dr. Katrina Hedberg before the House of Lords Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill [HL], Volume II: Evidence. Apr. 4, 2005, p. 266, question 615.

Updated: February 13, 2009

International Task Force
on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide
P.O. Box 760, Steubenville, OH 43952
740-282-3810 or 1-800-958-5678

The link to the analysis by the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide for the Hawaii bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suciide is at:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Death in Thunder Bay - Fonteece Case

Sometimes the media gets it right and other times, like the Fonteece case, where I just need to scratch my head and wonder. The media called me for quotes on the Fonteece case appearing to be creating an issue rather than reporting.

What is known about the Fonteece case?
We know that Peter and Yanisa Fonteece were unemployed and traveling west with the hope of finding employment in British Columbia.

We know that their car broke down in Thunder Bay and they stayed at the Super 8 Motel for 4 days.

We know that Mr. Fonteece called 911 in the early morning of February 6. Emergency services arrived and found Mrs Fonteece dead. Paramedics did not attempt to resuscitate her because she had been dead for awhile.

The police gathered information questioned Mr Fonteece and charged him with criminal negligence causing death and assisted suicide.

The Kitchener/Waterloo Record reported that the Fonteeces moved out of a low-rise apartment building on January 31 after living their for more than 1 year. The building superintendant sated that ‘they had given two months’ notice and seemed healthy as they packed up.’

The UPI International reported that the autopsy found ‘There was no immediate indication Yanisa Fonteece suffered from any sort of disease.’ Results from the toxicology tests could take several weeks.

The National Post quoted Martin Frith from Dying With Dignity, a group that is dedicated to legalizing assisted suicide, as saying: “It’s really problematic that in the absence of a law that would actually allow for assisted dying we have situations where well intentioned family members who are supporting a mature, competent adult runs the risk of being charged with assisted suicide.”

The Toronto Sun quoted EPC’s Alex Schadenberg as saying: “It’s understandable in the current “economic downturn” that people would become desperate.”

The National Post quoted Alex Schadenberg as saying: “the law is there to protect vulnerable people. “Nobody should be allowed to directly and intentionally take another persons life, That is a line we should never cross.”

Wesley Smith commented on his blog: “Let’s assume...that Yanisa was just sick of living because of hard times and asked her husband to help her die: If it would be okay for him to do the deed ... After all, isn’t the “right to die” about a purported sacrosanct liberty to determine the time, manner, and place of one’s own death? Once that principle is accepted, the details become minutia, because one person’s bearable difficulty is another’s unbearable suffering.

It is difficult to make a comment on the Fonteece case, until further information is released. Nonetheless it is clear that this is not a typical assisted suicide case and it is more likely that Yanisa Fonteece lost hope in difficult economic times.

Cashing in on despair

Is the Dignitas Suicide clinic a profit obsessed killing machine.

An article written by Allan Hall and published in the UK Daily Mail investigates the claims of former Dignitas nurse Soraya Wernli who has accused Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas of being obsessed with profit and not with dignity.

Link to the article on the Mail online:

Soraya Wernli
When Wernli accepted a job with the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland she thought she was being hired to be a ‘companion’ to assist people in their final journey to the ‘other side’.

She anticipated that her work would involve paperwork, words of comfort, a gentle hand for those about to end their pain-filled lives. This is the work that she was signing up for when she agreed to work for Minelli.

Wernli claims that:
‘just a few days into the job, he (Minelli) asked me to sort through the stuff in these plastic bin liners clogging the stairs.’ Minelli told her to ‘empty the sacks onto a long table ... and sort through everything.

In the sacks Wernli found - Mobile phones, handbags, ladies’ tights, shoes, spectacles, money, purses, wallets, jewels, and more.

Ludwig Minelli
Minelli had his “patients” sign forms saying the possessions were now the property of Dignitas. He then sold everything to pawn shops and second-hand shops.

Wernli stated that she felt disgusted. As a nurse and a former care worker for the elderly, she was no stranger to death and she supported assisted suicide.

Wernli worked for the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Zurich for 2½ years. During that time she came to believe that Dignitas was less about ethical euthanasia for the terminally ill and more of a money-making machine for Minelli.

Since leaving the Dignitas clinic in 2005 Wernli has launched lawsuits, acted as an undercover informant for the police and she is now writing a book to expose the ‘production line of death concerned only with profits’ at the Dignitas clinic.

Dignitas has been involved in at least 1000 assisted suicide deaths since its founding. Minelli was operates the Dignitas clinic is the book-keeper, the secretary general-chief accountant and gatekeeper of the organisation.

While working for Dignitas, Wernli assisted the suicides of 35 people and she was well paid making ₤4,500 a month.

The first location for Dignitas was a small apartment in Gertrudstrasse, Zurich where access was only possible via a small elevator. This mean’t that people going into the apartment building and bodies going out of the apartment building needed to use the same elevator.

Wernli stated: ‘The room where people were to die was often filthy, because Minelli skimped on the cleaning bills. Often there would be shoes or underwhere or some other deeply personal item of an earlier victim lying beneath the bed or around the room. It was shameful.’

Wernli stated that Reginald Crew was her first assisted suicide. She stated: ‘Mr. Crew arrived in the morning and was dead just hours later. ... I argued that it wasn’t right that people land at the airport, are ferried to his office, have their requisite half-an-hour with a doctor, get the barbituates ...and are then sent off to die.’

She said that she told Minelli: ‘This is the biggest step anyone will ever take. They should at least be allowed to stay overnight, to think about what they are doing.’

Wernli said that Minelli would have none of it. She claims that he once said that if he had his way, he would have vending machines where people could buy barbiturates to end their lives as easy as buying a soft drink or a bar of chocolate.

When asked about the assisted suicide of Daniel James, Wernli said that he was by no means the first person to have been helped to die who wasn’t terminally ill.’

Wernli then described the case of Robert & Jennifer Stokes from the UK who were in their 50's, both had a history of mental illness and failed suicide attempts. They did claim to be suffering from chronic conditions but neither one of them were dying and yet Dignitas assisted their suicides.

Wernli claims that she argued with Minelli that double suicides should never be sanctioned. She told him that one partner may want to die simply because he or she cannot cope with being alone. Later she learned that Minelli continued the practice of double suicides with another of the workers caring out those assisted suicide deaths.

The case of Martha Hauschildt was another concern that Wernli expressed. She explained that Hauschildt paid Minelli 200,000 Swiss frans for her assisted suicide whereas most of the time the people were charged ₤7,000 for an assisted suicide and funeral. Many wealthy people bequeathed ‘vast sums’ to Minelli in their Will. Minelli paid the doctors 500 Swiss francs for each assisted suicide prescription.

The gruesome 70-hour death of Peter Auhagen was the case that ended Wernli’s career with Dignitas and caused her to agree to be a secret informer for the police who were investigating Minelli.

Usually Minelli used a lethal dose of barbiturates to assist suicides but in the case of Auhagen, Minelli decided to test a “suicide machine” that the patient controlled the administration of drugs. Wernli said that: ‘the machine had a fault which meant it couldn’t pump all the poison into his system. The man was partially poisoned, in agony and thrashing around in a coma, frothing at the mouth and sweating. ... It was a terrible thing to witness, and I knew it could not go on.

Wernli recounts that Auhagen was still alive. She called Minelli who then came by and after a heated discussion he told the family to go for a walk and then someone administered the drugs by injection. Wernli claims that Minelli kept a supply of drugs in his personal office in case of an emergency.

Nearly four years after leaving her employment with Dignitas, the assisted suicide clinic remains open. Current employees are made to sign a privacy agreement to end any further leaks of information.

Wernli has not given up on her hope to close the Dignitas clinic. She stated: ‘this is Switzerland, and things move slowly, if at all. All I can promise is that I will not stop speaking out because Dignitas is an organisation that must be stopped.’