Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prosecution guidelines in the UK may open the door to assisted suicide.

Last July, Britain’s highest court told the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) that he must publish a set of guidelines concerning the application of the assisted suicide law in the UK. The decision by the Law Lords was in response to a challenge by Debbie Purdy, a woman who has multiple sclerosis (MS) who has stated that if she decides to go to Switzerland to die at an assisted suicide clinic that she wanted to have assurances that her husband would be free from prosecution for accompanying her.

The new guidelines were published today by Keir Starmer, the DPP. They will likely make it easier for people who are terminally ill or who have chronic or degenerative disabilities to die by assisted suicide without their family members or others being prosecuted under the Assisted Suicide Act.

Starmer stated that the assisted suicide law has not changed. To aid, abet, procure or counsel suicide remains an offense that is punishable by up to 14 years (no minimum sentence) and that there are no guarantees that someone will not be prosecuted.

The interim policy outlined the following factors that would effect prosecution. They were as follows:
The public interest factors in favour of prosecution identified in the interim policy include that:
* The victim was under 18 years of age;
* The victim’s capacity to reach an informed decision was adversely affected by a recognised mental illness or learning difficulty;
* The victim did not have a clear, settled and informed wish to commit suicide; for example, the victim’s history suggests that his or her wish to commit suicide was temporary or subject to change;
* The victim did not indicate unequivocally to the suspect that he or she wished to commit suicide;
* The victim did not ask personally on his or her own initiative for the assistance of the suspect;
* The victim did not have a terminal illness; or a severe and incurable physical disability; or a severe degenerative physical condition from which there was no possibility of recovery;
* The suspect was not wholly motivated by compassion; for example, the suspect was motivated by the prospect that they or a person closely connected to them stood to gain in some way from the death of the victim;
* The suspect persuaded, pressured or maliciously encouraged the victim to commit suicide, or exercised improper influence in the victim's decision to do so; and did not take reasonable steps to ensure that any other person did not do so.

The public interest factors against a prosecution include that:
* The victim had a clear, settled and informed wish to commit suicide;
* The victim indicated unequivocally to the suspect that he or she wished to commit suicide;
* The victim asked personally on his or her own initiative for the assistance of the suspect;
* The victim had a terminal illness or a severe and incurable physical disability or a severe degenerative physical condition from which there was no possibility of recovery;
* The suspect was wholly motivated by compassion;
* The suspect was the spouse, partner or a close relative or a close personal friend of the victim, within the context of a long-term and supportive relationship;
* The actions of the suspect, although sufficient to come within the definition of the offence, were of only minor assistance or influence, or the assistance which the suspect provided was as a consequence of their usual lawful employment.

The Care Not Killing Alliance reacted to the interim guidelines by stating:
“We are pleased to see that the draft guidelines emphasise that assisting suicide will remain illegal and that any person who gives such assistance, whatever the circumstances, will remain liable to prosecution. We are also pleased to see a recognition of the potential for external coercion in cases of assisted suicide and of the need to ensure that those so assisted are not suffering from mental illness or incapacity and of the need to discourage internet promotion of assisted suicides.”

“On the other hand, there are some features of the draft guidelines that are disturbing. In particular, it is envisaged that prosecutions for assisted suicide will be less likely where the deceased was terminally ill or suffering from a severe an incurable physical disability or a severe degenerative physical condition from which there is no possibility of recovery. Not only does this classification cover a very wide swathe of medical conditions, including such illnesses as chronic heart disease and most kinds of physical disability, but it also implies that the lives of a whole group of people - those who are seriously ill or disabled – are less deserving of the law’s protection than are others.”

“We are concerned also that prosecution of spouses, partners, or close friends or family members is envisaged as less likely than of others who might assist a suicide. There must be a real danger that this will be seen as giving the green light to assistance from close relatives or friends, who in many cases might be those who would stand personally to gain from the death of the deceased.”

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A dance of death

By Jean Echlin, Special to The Windsor Star - September 22, 2009

The Carillon concerts from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill may soon ring out with Saint-Saens' symphonic poem Danse Macabre (Dance of Death). Bloc MP Francine Lalonde has introduced her third private member's bill (C-384) to allow legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Discussion and voting will take place this fall.

Scientific advances give us longer life and better quality of life as we age, providing our society a "hint of immortality." Meanwhile, the cults of death, Dying with Dignity and Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) are pushing their agenda of death for either mental or physical discomfort/suffering, creating a confusing paradox. The opportunity to live longer is offset by what will become an imposed duty to die sooner.

Persons at highest risk will be the elderly, especially women 55 and older (misogyny still exists) and more elderly men due to the issues of ageism and elder abuse; those with mental or physical disabilities, especially those suffering depression with suicidal ideation; partners in scenarios of domestic violence; babies and children born with disabilities and birth anomalies; persons who are poor and disenfranchised; members of minority groups and individuals unable to speak for themselves.

Lalonde's bill states that "medical practitioners" will perform the death procedures. We have no right to ask our professional caregivers to provide us with death. Neither should they ever feel obliged or forced to comply with this request that goes against our essential humanity.

How would anyone know if the person coming into their hospital room with needle and syringe was intent on curing or killing?

This would destroy the trust relationship between patients, families, health care providers and institutions.

Programs of hospice/palliative care provide real hope for those with life-threatening or terminal disease. The cornerstone of excellence in these programs is the management of pain and other distressing symptoms (physical, psycho-spiritual and social). Quality end-of-life care is a priority. Unfortunately only 15 to 20 per cent of Canadians can access this care. Before any discussion of euthanasia or assisted suicide, all Canadians, regardless of age or disease, must have access to palliative care. To do otherwise simply provides a means of health care cost containment.

Recently in Oregon, Barbara Wagner, a 54 year old woman, was denied treatment for lung cancer because of cost, but was offered assisted suicide ($75) by the Oregon department of health. Barbara wanted to live. She has since died.

According to Canadian medical ethicist Margaret Somerville, "The proper goal of medicine and physicians is to kill pain. It is not their role to kill a patient with pain -- to become society's executioners -- which is what euthanasia entails, no matter how merciful our reasons. Physicians (and nurses added) must provide adequate pain relief. Leaving a person in pain is really 'torture by wilful omission."

Too often people believe that morphine is killing the patient when in fact the underlying disease causes death. Careful titration of opioids is not euthanasia.

Mark Pickup, another outstanding Canadian author, who suffers late stage multiple sclerosis (MS), writes: "There will always be suicidal people, but a civilized society does not acquiesce to the darkness of the abyss by participating in anyone's suicide. By definition, civilized people have rejected the barbarism of killing their weak and sick. Euthanasia is cheap compassion. It requires so little of us. It is a form of murder masquerading as mercy."

The five major world religions reject killing of another. Citing from the Judeo-Christian and Islamic world views comes the command: "You shall not kill," (Exodus 20:13), "Do not take life," (Qu'ran 17:33).

In general, both Hinduism and Buddhism oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia as acts of destroying life and disrupting the cycle of life and death. These words of life are wisdom.

Jean Echlin RN, MSN, is a nursing consultant, palliative care, in Windsor. Jean was awarded the Dorothy Lea award for excellence in palliative care by the Ontario Hospice Palliative Care Association in 2004.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Arizona Daily Star Romanticizes the Suicide of a Disabled Woman in a "Tribute"

This is the most recent Blog comment by Not Dead Yet. To connect to the Not Dead Yet Blog commentaries go to:
Please read the blog comment:

Well, now that National Suicide Prevention Week is over, I guess the field is wide-open when it comes to romanticizing the suicides of people with disabilities in the popular press. Scary thought.

Just when I get to the point where I think I've seen everything in terms of sensationalized coverage that condones and sympathizes with the suicides of people with disabilities, something new comes along that shows me we haven't hit bottom yet. That "yet" is a scary thought, too.

Just today, the Arizona Daily Star published "Helping others lightened the darkness in nurse/counselor's life," part of a series titled "Life Stories." The series "chronicles the lives of recently deceased Tusconans." Here are the first few paragraphs about Shari Hope Kelly:
There's no telling how many souls Shari Hope Kelly escorted into the world during her decades as a labor and delivery nurse.

Nor can one quantify the innumerable psyches she soothed as a rape crisis counselor and an instructor in social science at Pima Community College.

And Kelly treated herself as compassionately as she did all others. She spent years thoughtfully formulating a plan. She long suspected the day would come when the physical pain of her disability and the emotional anguish over the abuses she suffered in childhood would outweigh her enjoyment of life.

Kelly wrote long letters to family and friends. She called people she knew to tell them how much they meant to her. She got the minutiae of her life in order. And she found a loving home for her service dog, John Denver, and her eight rescue cats. Only then did she release her spirit from her damaged body and troubled mind in an act she considered euthanasia. Kelly died at her own hand Aug. 11. She was 59.

"Treated herself compassionately?" "Release her spirit?"

In other words, Shari Kelly's life, unlike most, was a second-by-second act of heroism. When she could no longer be the hero, she did the understandable and "compassionate" thing.

But here's a little more info:
Kelly spent the first nine months of her life in a children's hospital ward in Brooklyn, N.Y. An orthopedic deformity required multiple surgeries that left her with clubbed feet, fused ankle bones and the need for leg braces when she learned to walk.

Kelly's parents divorced when she was 7 and her mother remarried. It was around then that a relative began physically abusing Kelly, said her brother, Ron Reddock of Tombstone, who was three years younger than his sister. He was the only person who knew the depths of torment she suffered.

A few friends and family describe the ways in which she reached out and enriched the lives of others. But I have to wonder - because the reporter doesn't - was maybe Kelly a better friend to others than others were to her?

I ask that, because I have to wonder if anyone - anyone at all - asked why Kelly was giving away her cats. Or why she gave away her service dog. That is really really rare - I personally don't know anyone who has done that. It takes something extraordinary for it to happen.

I also went to her online memorial and the guest book. For all the lives she touched, people she helped, people she reached out to -- there are only four entries in the guest book.

The article mentions that Kelly's mobility issues had increased over the past couple years and she used a scooter. Did that make friends less ready to make time for her, worrying about the accessibility of whatever meeting place they chose for a social gathering? Other people who use mobility devices have written of having limited social circles and one wonders what happened to Kelly's social supports as her mobility impairments increased.

But, in the framework of this story, no one is encouraged to think along those lines. Kelly's death is seen as almost inevitable and as a deserved act of compassion toward herself. Kind of like a hot bubble bath at the end of the day. (yes, that's sarcasm)

In retrospect, it's not surprising that the Arizona Daily Star would treat Kelly's death this way. The paper has a lousy track record. It ignored the the 2007 story of the investigation into the death of Janet Van Voorhis (allegedly facilitated by the Final Exit Network) and published a factually inaccurate and self-serving op-ed by Final Exit Network member Earl Wettstein earlier this year. Given this, I won't predict that the the paper can't sink any lower - I'm betting it can and very well may in the future, although I hope not.

Interestingly, groups such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) have published guidelines for covering suicide deaths, which this article departs from in important ways. But I won't bother linking to it, since it's clear that the AFSP doesn't mean for the media advisory to apply to media coverage of women with disabilities.

Euthanasia bill will be defeated

Deborah Gyapong has written an excellent article about Bill C-384 and the reactions of members of parliament. The article is below my comments and it is well worth reading.

I am convinced that we are going to defeat Bill C-384. Since the wind is in our sails that doesn't mean that we should rest, but rather it means that we need to turn up the heat.

I am incredibly pleased with the number of people who have contacted their members of parliament and that work needs to continue, but I am concerned about how few letters have been written to newspapers across Canada.

Please consider writing a letter to your local newspaper. Letters to the editor are often read and many times other readers will respond to those letters.

When writing a letter to the editor you need to try to tell a personal story. This is an important approach because many people are inclined to softly support euthanasia because they fear dying in pain or feeling lonely and abandoned in their final years or days of life. Personal stories will often influence a large number of people who currently fear death, making them understand how legalizing euthanasia is in fact a threat to their life or the life of a friend or a family member.

The contact information for newspapers across Canada can be found at:
If we can continue to speak to our members of parliament and begin to write articles in our newspapers we will be able to effect the culture and create a greater long-term opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide

The article by Deborah Gyapong:
Opponents say few MPs back legalization of assisted suicide
Deborah Gyapong - Sept 17, 2009

OTTAWA - Opponents of assisted-suicide and euthanasia bill C-384 express confidence the bill will be defeated if it comes to a vote this fall.

That is if an election does not kill Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde's private member's bill first. Elections in 2006 and 2008 killed Lalonde's two previous attempts to legalize assisted suicide.

"In the sense that it might happen, I'm quite confident that the vote's actually going to go the right way," said Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge, who chairs the parliamentary pro-life caucus. "On this one, there's clear lack of support in our party."

Bruinooge predicted many Liberals would also vote against the bill, as well as some in the New Democratic Party. Most of the support for Lalonde's bill will come from within her own caucus, he said.

Private member's bills, especially those dealing with conscience issues, are free votes, though the justice minister and opposition justice critics may recommend a position.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government has not taken a position on Bill C-384. Nor is it planning to remove assisted suicide and euthanasia from the Criminal Code.

NDP justice critic MP Joe Comartin said he is going to recommend his caucus vote against the bill.

Comartin said Canada needs to establish a cross-country network of good palliative and hospice care, including training in cutting-edge pain management techniques for frontline doctors. Otherwise, there is no real choice when someone is offered either intractable pain or assisted suicide.

When excellent palliative and hospice care is available, the issue of assisted suicide does not arise, he said.

However, Comartin doubts there will be unanimity in the NDP caucus.

Liberal MP John McKay said he did not expect the Liberal Party to support the bill. "I think there's a lot of caution to be exercised in this area."

Bill C-384 is scheduled for its first hour of debate in late September or early October. Its second hour of debate and a vote would not happen until later in the fall.

If the bill passes second reading, it must go to committee, then back to the House, then on to the Senate, pushing its passage well into the spring.

Canada's Catholic bishops, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) and other groups mounted a campaign, urging Canadians to contact their MPs.

That campaign has been successful, according to EPC executive director Alex Schadenberg who has urged the defeat of Lalonde's bill on second reading. He predicts at least 155 MPs would vote against it.

"I'm cautious, obviously, because you never know before the final vote is taken."

Schadenberg differs from activists who hope an election will kill the bill. "I'm actually wanting to defeat this bill.

"We need to have members of Parliament send a strong message that this is not the way Canada should be going."

He urged caution because a segment of the intellectual elite, with access to the media, is pushing euthanasia. "We cannot let our guard down."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poll: More than half of the people in Scotland oppose assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg

The media in the UK has been reporting that 80% of people support the legalisation of assisted suicide and now a new poll shows that 49% of British people and 42% of Scottish people support assisted suicide.

I am shocked.

People in the UK have been pressured by the media with stories that should be making them more supportive of assisted suicide but in fact the people are becoming more opposed to assisted suicide.

This is fabulous.

Considering the fact that many people confuse assisted suicide with the act of removing life-sustaining medical treatment, it is likely that the actual opposition to the direct and intentional involvement with causing death (assisted suicide) is probably even higher.

Margo McDonald
Opposition to assisted suicide is even greater in Scotland where Margo McDonald has been pushing for support for a bill that would legalise assisted suicide (direct and intentional involvement with causing the death) that I hope this poll gives parliamentarians in Scotland the courage to reject her call for assisted suicide.

The article by David Maddox that was published today in the New Scotsman stated:
Research conducted by pollsters ComRes found 49 per cent of people across the UK support legalisation while 42 per cent oppose.

However, in Scotland, where a bill by Independent Lothians MSP Margo McDonald allowing assisted suicide is due to be tabled at Holyrood, 52 per cent were against legalisation compared to 42 per cent in favour.

The poll of 1,001 people was ... following the decision by the Law Lords to force the Crown Prosecution to issue guidelines when it would prosecute people for taking terminal ill relatives or friends to a clinic where they could end their lives.

The case was brought by Diane Pretty, who wants her husband to be protected when she decides her own medical condition has become unbearable.

It also followed the death of Dan James late last year, whose parents took him at his own request to Switzerland to end his life after he had become completely debilitated following a rugby injury.

However, pro-life groups and organisations representing disabled people have fiercely opposed the move, which they fear will become a charter to end the life of a relative who has become too much of a nuisance to look after.

The question put forward was: "In principle, do you think it should be legal or illegal to help end the life of a suicidal person?"

Brevard man charged with assisted suicide

An article on Fox news is reporting that a man in Florida has been charged with assisted suicide in the death of his wife. The facts of this case are not completely known, but the case appears to be one that does not actually fall within the regular pervue of the assisted suicide law.

If the current story is correct, the man did not intentionally aid or encourage or counsel her to commit suicide. The reality is that this report may be very different from the reality and it is important to wait and see. The police may have very different information than this report entails.

This is another tradgedy within a family dispute that ended with a terrible loss of life. We need to remember that as sad as these cases are, the assisted suicide laws are not restricted to cases where the person is terminally ill. The law applies to everyone.

The original article from (WOFL Fox 35) on September 15, 2009 stated:
A Brevard County man has been charged with assisted suicide after police say he helped his wife kill herself. Investigators say this is one of the more bizarre cases they've ever seen.

A 4-year-old child was left without his mom after she took her own life and now he could lose his father too. Kevin Ragan was arrested for helping his wife commit suicide.

In the frantic 911 call he told a dispatcher his 30-year-old wife was depressed and had been drinking. He says she threatened to kill herself and admits offering her some loaded guns.

Ragan on 911 Call: "I was being a smart a** and threw like three guns on the bed. I'm like, then do it. And, she just picked the 40 caliber hand gun up."

The rest of the 911 call on that sad day is too graphic to air, a distraught ragan crying and asking for an ambulance.

Deputies say Ragan and his wife were having marital problems and his wife was on anti-depressants. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Now more than three months later, after deputies got confirmation from the medical examiner that the death was in fact a suicide, they charged Ragan with assisting a suicide. He was arrested and bonded out.

No one was home on Monday when a FOX 35 crew went to the Ragan home but neighbors say they are stunned.

FOX 35 checked and found that Ragan has no criminal record.

Link to the article:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Euthanasia debate reignited

The Canadian Medical Journal (September 11, 2009) has published an article on the Quebec physicians debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide and the issues related to Bill C-384.

The article comments on the false concept that was presented by the Quebec physicians which is the use of analgesics to control pain is the same as euthanasia. The article states:
The task force, which does not support assisted-suicide clinics, is expected to release its specific recommendations in November in an effort to pressure the federal government to change the Criminal Code to legalize euthanasia. This is necessary, according to the College, because terminally ill patients sometimes suffer from pain so intense that the dose of painkillers required to control it can be fatal; therefore, in effect, euthanasia is already commonplace and the law should be changed to reflect that.

They then state:
That argument, however, is seen by some opponents of euthanasia as not only weak but nonsensical. Causing deaths through efforts to reduce pain, they argue, is very different than administering overdoses with the intent to end lives.

The article then correctly quotes Margaret Somerville who stated:
“Pain relief treatment is not euthanasia and giving increasing doses of narcotics can be incompetent medical practice ­ at a certain point different pain relief modalities can be required. Unfortunately, some physicians' medical knowledge is substandard in this regard,” Margaret Somerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University and author of Death Talk: The case against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, writes in an email to CMAJ.

I am then quoted in the article as stating:
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, likewise argues that the rationale offered to support the Quebec College of Physicians’ proposal is lacking. Providing comfort has nothing to do with intentionally ending a life, he says, and physicians are not charged for improper use of opioids if a patient dies as a result of accepted pain-relief practices.

“If we were to go down the route they are talking about, it would create more confusion,” says Schadenberg, who believes, if the College’s proposal became law, doctors would be under more scrutiny when patients on pain medication die. “Why did they use that high amount? Did they use it to kill the pain or kill the patient?”

The article then refers to Bill C-384:
Also expected to drive the euthanasia agenda this fall is Bill C-384, a private member’s bill introduced by Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde, that seeks amendments to the Criminal Code to permit the “right to die with dignity.”

The bill states that medical practitioners would not be considered to be committing homicide when they assist the deaths of people who are at least 18 years old, have severe “physical or mental pain without prospect of relief” and have “provided a medical practitioner, while appearing to be lucid, with two written requests more than 10 days apart expressly stating the person’s free and informed consent to opt to die.”

It then reports my comments by stating:
Schadenberg forecasts that, as with two previous attempts to legalize euthanasia, the bill will fail, in part because its language is too broad. He also takes particular issue with the phrase “appearing to be lucid.” That is quite different, he says, from actually being lucid, which in itself can be difficult to assess.

The fact is that the Quebec College of Physicians are using a straw man argument. The proper use of large doses­ of analgesics to kill pain is not the same as intentionally and directly causing the death of a person by a lethal dose. If a person dies from the proper use of analgesics to kill pain, the death is unintentional and should not be confused with euthanasia which is the direct and intentional death of a person.

Also, Bill C-384 is a bill that is really about giving physicians the right to directly and intentionally cause your death.

Canada needs to focus on Caring for people, not killing people.

Link to the article by Roger Collier, CMAJ at:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Incidence of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide continue to increase in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Recent reports from the Netherlands and Belgium prove that there is a growing number and percentage of people who are dying by euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The report from the Netherlands stated that there were 2331 cases of euthanasia in 2008 up from 2120 cases in 2007 and 1923 cases in 2006. This represented an increase of 10% each year.

Mr. J.J.H. Suyver who is the coordinating chairman of the reporting committee suggested that the increase was due to a higher level of reporting. He suggested that another reason for the increase is that Dutch doctors are now aware that there is greater room within the law for euthanasia than previously thought.

Suyver stated that the government has announced that their will be an investigation in 2010 as to the number of cases and the use of the law.

A study was completed in Belgium concerning the number of euthanasia cases in the Flanders region. This study was not a national survey of euthanasia in Belgium but it did compare the instance of euthanasia to a similar study in 2002.

The Belgium study examined 6202 death certificates in the Flanders region and found that 137 were euthanasia deaths. This represented more than 2% of all deaths in that region which is a massive increase since the last study.

Alistair Thompson, speaking on behalf of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK commented on the Belgium study by saying: 
“We are facing a concerted effort across Europe to have euthanasia legalized but ... in the UK what we tend to see is a drop in support for euthanasia as more people understand the arguments against state-backed euthanasia.”
It is important to note that neither study reports the number of deaths without explicit request.

The last major study in the Netherlands showed that 550 people died by euthanasia without explicit request in 2005. It is important to note that those deaths are not counted in the 2331 reported cases because euthanasia is defined as a death by request.

It is also important to note that neither reports the number of intentional deaths by dehydration that occur each year. A study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that 7.1% of all deaths in the Netherlands in 2005 were related to terminal sedation, which is often done to cause the death of the person and not simply to relieve intractable pain. Since than several reports have indicated that at least 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands are related to terminal sedation.

It is also important to note that neither study referred to the incidence of infant euthanasia. Netherlands and Belgium allow infant euthanasia based on the principles in the Groningen Protocol.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stephen Drake's blog - Montana Court to rule on Assisted Suicide Case

Not Dead Yet is following the Montana Court case closely. It is important to note that people from all political persuasions oppose assisted suicide when they analyze how it will effect people with disabilities and other groups of vulnerable people.

The recent article about the euthanasia deaths during the Katrina Hurricane prove that vulnerable people will be killed against their consent.

Alex Schadenberg

NY Times: Montana Court to Rule on Assisted Suicide Case

Tomorrow (Sept. 2, 2009) the Montana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Montana Attorney General's challenge of a lower court ruling that defined assisted suicide as a "right."

Today's edition of the New York Times contains a fairly good account of the stakes - and stakeholders - in the current legal battle in Montana. Kudos to reporter Kirk Johnson for going beyond the "usual suspects" and giving a richer picture of the players and arguments in play against legalization of assisted suicide:

Some people speaking out about the case, like Bob Liston, are also expressing sentiments that one might not expect.

Mr. Liston, 54, a research associate at the University of Montana who has spent most of the last 40 years in a wheelchair because of an auto accident, has been a passionate advocate for the disabled in arguing for autonomy and respect.

But this time he is arguing just as passionately on the other side, contending that aid in dying could backfire on people with debilitating conditions, leading not to more autonomy, but less. Mr. Liston, an organizer for a national disability-rights group called Not Dead Yet, said he envisioned people like himself being nudged toward life-ending choices by their doctors or families, out of compassion or perhaps convenience.

“People with disabilities don’t get to live with dignity, let alone die with dignity,” he said.

Other opponents of a “right to die well,” as some are calling the argument made by Mr. Baxter and the group of physicians who joined him as plaintiffs, say that rural Montanans could be left out, too.

In places like Scobey, in the state’s far northeast corner, where Julie French lives, the population density is about one person per square mile. Minimal health care is hours away.

“Before we deal with assisted suicide, we should make sure first and foremost that everybody has equal access,” said Ms. French, a Democratic state legislator who opposes an expansion of death rights. “It is not simply whether everyone has a right to choose; it’s whether they are given all the choices.”

More news as it develops over the coming days, weeks and months...