Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Texas: Murder of Disabled Spouse Yields Probation for Wife

This is a reprint of the blog entry by Stephen Drake from Not Dead Yet. This is a very important blog entry.

Texas has a reputation for doling out pretty harsh treatment when it comes to murder. Apparently - in Austin, anyway - exceptions will be made if the victim is devalued enough.

Last Friday, Katherine "Kim" Yarbrough received ten years of probation in a plea bargain. Yarbrough had admitted to killing her husband, Lloyd Yarbrough. Nevertheless, she was allowed to plead to "injury to a disabled individual."

From the article in the Austin-American Statesman:

Police say Yarbrough admitted killing her husband, Lloyd, 62, by injecting his feeding tube with an assortment of crushed prescription pills. She then swallowed some drugs of her own, police have said. A police officer found the couple in bed May 27 at their home on Meadowview Lane, near Lamar and Research boulevards in North Austin.

Here is what the authorities have to say about the plea deal:

Outside court Friday, prosecutor Amy Meredith said that considering the facts of the case and Yarbrough's clean criminal history, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not think that a prison term was warranted.

Meredith noted that for years when selecting jurors in murder cases, prosecutors had used an example similar to Yarbrough's — when one spouse kills another to end that spouse's suffering — as a type of murder case that might warrant a probation sentence. (emphasis added.)

The problem with that rationale - and its reported in the article, but not as a problem, is that Kim Yarbrough never claimed to have killed her husband to end his suffering:

She blogged about her frustrations with outside caregivers and a lack of a support system.

"I wonder if I will ever change Lloyd's diaper without feeling the pain of what has been lost," she blogged four days before his death.

Two days before his death, she wrote, "Why should I keep living through all this?"

While in the hospital, Yarbrough was interviewed by police. According to an arrest affidavit, she told an officer that she killed her husband "because she was tired of taking care of him." When an officer asked her if Lloyd Yarbrough wanted to die, she said "no," the affidavit said. (emphasis added.)

There is no way to reconcile Kim Yarbrough's statements to the police with the statements of the prosecutor attempting to explain this plea bargain. I guess they figure in Austin that if you're a "caregiver" you also get to end that role, in whatever way you see fit. I guess they figure that killing someone as disabled as Lloyd Yarbrough isn't the same as a "real" murder.

If you think I'm being too harsh, several of the comments to this story have people praising this woman - evidently they don't know how to read or they don't think what Lloyd Yarbrough wanted mattered. --Stephen Drake

Ontario closes its eyes to elder abuse

An article in the Toronto Star the other day really outlined the lack of concern for the problem of Elder Abuse in Ontario.

The article by Carol Goar on April 26, 2010 concerning the defeat of the elder abuse bill by John O'Toole stated:
Conservative backbencher John O'Toole was puzzled when four Liberal cabinet ministers showed up to vote on his private member's bill.

The provincial government didn't normally devote such high-level attention to opposition proposals. And this one wasn't even controversial. A previous version of the same bill had sailed through second reading (approval in principle) two years ago, but died on the order paper when Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the session.

All O'Toole was asking the government to do was instruct the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (the agency responsible for adults who are mentally incapable of managing their affairs) to set up a public registry of individuals with power of attorney for those who have relinquished control of their finances.

Such a database would allow concerned relatives, friends, bankers, accountants and nursing home officials to find out who is in charge of an elderly person's property. It would also facilitate police investigations into complaints by vulnerable seniors and their caregivers.

“It's a non-partisan issue,” O'Toole insisted. As proof, he pointed out that his bill was at odds with his own non-interventionist ideology. “As a Conservative, I want less government, but this is an area where we need more government.”

His hopes withered when Liberal MPP David Zimmer, parliamentary secretary to the attorney general, spoke. The Willowdale politician said he could not support the bill because it violated the wishes of many aging parents. At the behest of their doctor or a financial adviser, they had designated one of their children or a friend or lawyer to act on their behalf, should they become incapacitated. But they wanted this information to be kept private. Their desire should be respected, Zimmer argued.

A few minutes later, Khalil Ramal, a Liberal backbencher from London, chimed in. “I think this bill does not serve seniors well. I'm not going to vote for this bill, not because I don't like the member for Durham — he's a great member — but hey, it doesn't fit with the direction of the legalities.”

After this bewildering statement, O'Toole was invited by the Speaker to respond. Recognizing the futility of a last-ditch appeal, he acknowledged the inevitable. “This is not going to become law. I fully understand this.”

His bill was soundly defeated. Six MPPs (four Tories and two New Democrats) said yes. Twenty three MPPs (all Liberals) said no.

“I was surprised they wouldn't even let it go to a committee,” O'Toole said afterward. “That's what that I was really hoping for.”

He hasn't given up. But he has no idea how to get elder abuse back on the legislative agenda.

What troubles O'Toole most is the lack of awareness of the extent and seriousness of this problem. He was as ignorant as everyone else, he admitted, until a constituent opened his eyes. It simply wasn't a topic of conversation in business or social circles. Looking back on his 30-year management career at General Motors, he couldn't remember anyone ever mentioning it. Nor did it come up during his four years as a municipal councillor or his nine years as a school board trustee.

He's still no expert, O'Toole stresses. But he's dealt with enough cases of frail seniors losing their homes, savings, investments and possessions to know the problem is real and more prevalent than people think. He's also learned a great deal from the Durham police, who have two officers working full-time on elder abuse, and from the strong coalition of volunteers, social service providers and health professionals working to protect vulnerable seniors in his riding.

For their sake, he wishes his bill had passed. For Ontario's sake, he hopes the government wakes up.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WE WON - Bill C-384 was defeated, 228 to 59

Bill C-384, the private members bill that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada was strongly defeated by a vote of 228 to 59.

We would like to thank every member of parliament who voted against Bill C-384. We would also like to thank all of our supporters who made this victory possible. Months of work have resulted in an incredible victory. But the battle is not over.

We are working to turn the debate on this issue to a debate on how Canadians can live with dignity.

We recognize that many people have raised legitimate concerns.

It is our goal to work with members of parliament and other Canadian leaders to identify ways to:
- improve palliative/hospice care throughout Canada, 
- change attitudes and improve services for people with disabilities, 
- institute an effective national suicide prevention strategy, 
- promote programs that identify and eliminate the scourge of elder abuse.
We must continue to build a nation that upholds the dignity of all its citizens.
We must continue to create a paradigm that protects all Canadians, including its most vulnerable.
We reject the concept that killing can be the answer to problems that are properly solved by a caring society.

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Please enable the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition to continue its successful work by making a donation today.

Our investment of resources to defeat Bill C-384 has left us with a huge financial need.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Responds to Francine Lalonde’s National Post Article

Today, Francine Lalonde published an article in the National Post promoting her private members bill, Bill C-384, which would legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide for those 18 years and older.

Lalonde’s article omits the topic of elder abuse and misrepresents the bill’s provisions.

In Canada, elder abuse is a widespread problem, which is often unreported. Older persons with money are a prime target with family members the usual perpetrators. See e.g. Canada’s official website at:

Perpetrators can also be strangers, for example, Melissa Friedrich, Canada's “Internet Black Widow.”

Contrary to Lalonde’s article, C-384 lacks basic protections for patients. For example, the patient is not required to be lucid at the time of application. A patient must only “appear” to be lucid. C-384 also allows an heir, who will benefit from the death, to serve as power of attorney to approve the euthanasia or assisted suicide. The death is also not required to be witnessed by disinterested persons. Without witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else to administer the lethal agent to the patient without the patient’s consent. Even if the patient struggled, who would know?

C-384 is a recipe for elder abuse. For more detailed information, see memo to parliament:

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Margaret Dore, Lawyer

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life with Dignity is the right of every Canadian.

Every Canadian deserves excellent end-of-life care.

Every Canadian deserves to be treated with equality, especially people with disabilities and those who live with chronic physical or mental pain.

Every Canadian deserves to be protected from undue influence and be provided respect.

Bill C-384 is not limited to terminally illness, it allows euthanasia and assisted suicide for people who experience chronic physical or mental pain.

Bill C-384 defines competency as “appearing to be lucid.” In other words you do not have to be actually lucid, and

Bill C-384 is a recipe for elder abuse, it does not require a witness at the time of death and employs a relaxed standard of competency, “appearing to be lucid”. Considering the prevalence of elder abuse in Canada today, every MP should oppose this bill.

Every Canadian deserves excellent care, not to be killed.

Members of Parliament need to soundly defeat Bill C-384

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Box 25033, London ON N6C 6A8

Friday, April 9, 2010

Physician-assisted suicide is not “legal” in Montana; doctors and others participate at their peril.

From the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Montana State Senator Greg Hinkle:


Euthanasia Prevention Coalition & Montana State Senator Greg Hinkle: Physician-assisted suicide is not “legal” in Montana; doctors and others participate at their peril.

MONTANA. Today, the Missoulian reported that the suicide/ euthanasia promotion group, Compassion & Choices, has claimed that more than one Montanan has used physician-assisted suicide since a Montana Supreme Court ruling was issued on December 31, 2010.

The ruling in Baxter v. State, did not, however, “legalize” physician-assisted suicide in Montana. Baxter instead held that a physician accused of homicide for killing his or her patient would be allowed to assert a “consent of the victim defense.” Read analysis here:

Tellingly, the Missoulian article does not give the names of the doctors or other persons allegedly involved, who if they were involved, face potential criminal and civil liability or professional discipline.

Public policy reasons against physician-assisted suicide include its potential for abuse, for example, by an heir with designs on an older person’s assets.

April 9, 2010.
Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Senator Greg Hinkle
Montana state Senate

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Netherlands study promotes greater access to euthanasia

A study from the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) that was published in the British Journal of General Practice states that:
"The number of requests for euthanasia in the Netherlands has not risen since an act to decriminalise it came into force in 2002."

It is possible that the requests for euthanasia in the Netherlands have not increased but deaths by euthanasia have certainly increased and deaths by sedation and dehydration have sky-rocketed since 2002.

The Nivel study then recommended that euthanasia should be included in a general practitioner's training.

Since most general practitioner's do not euthanize their patients, is the study promoting a euthanasia training module in order to weed out physicians who are not willing to kill their patients?

The Nivel study also suggested that:
"Nursing homes and hospitals should publish policies on euthanasia so patients are able to take it into consideration when choosing their care provider. The researchers say that one benefit of the 2002 act is that it removes any need for secrecy regarding euthanasia."

It appears that Nivel is attempting to increase the availability of euthanasia by promoting nursing homes and physicians who are willing to kill their patients.

Nivel researcher Gé Donker, who is also a physician, was quoted as saying:
"It's (euthanasia) not something any general practitioner enjoys doing. It's always hard to practise euthanasia and it's emotionally taxing for the doctor. You choose the profession to provide optimal care and euthanasia may be a part of it. A doctor only practises euthanasia out of empathy for the patient who requests it."

Dr. Donker should consider that it is difficult for a physician to euthanize their patients because humans appear to have an innate repulsion to killing others. Nivel should be promoting effective care and symptom management for every person in the Netherlands rather than greater access to euthanasia.

Link to the article:

David Cameron will oppose the legalization of assisted suicide in the UK

David Cameron, the leader of the conservative party in the UK, has stated in the UK media that he opposes the legalization of assisted suicide.

Speaking to The Catholic Herald, Cameron stated:
"My personal view is that if assisted dying is legalised, there is a danger that terminally ill people may feel pressurised into ending their lives if they feel they've become a burden on loved ones,"

"I don't believe anyone should be put in this position. So no, I don't support any change in the law."

Now that an election has been called in the UK, the position of a politician on the issue of assisted suicide has become particularly relevant and should be an issue that many people use as a barometer to determine how they will vote.

The issue of assisted suicide is particularly relevant since Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK, released assisted suicide guidelines that make it less-likely that a person will be prosecuted for assisted suicide if they are a family member or if the person who died had a disability.

Cameron is currently the front-runner in the election, but like any political campaign, it is anybodies race until the vote is cast.