Saturday, November 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska man pleads not guilty to assisted suicide

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

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

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

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

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

Huston is due back in court in February.

Link to the article:

French parliament rejects Euthanasia

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

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

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

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

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

Link to news article:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Abbotsford BC opposes euthanizing cats with gas.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

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

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

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

The poll asked four questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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