Friday, July 30, 2010

Not Dead Yet Montana organizer suggests that advocates for assisted suicide are not doing so out of a concern for the suffering

The following is the latest blog comment by Not Dead Yet researcher, Stephen Drake. This blog comment focuses on the quotes by Bob Liston, who is a Not Dead Yet organizer in Montana, in the article entitled "Selling Assisted Suicide" that was recently published in the National Catholic Register.

Stephen Drake offers a very compelling perspective and I was pleased to read the comments by Bob Liston who has offered an equally compelling perspective. Please read the following comments.

NDY Organizer Bob Liston Quoted in "Selling Assisted Suicide" in National Catholic Register

Elenor Schoen has written a good analysis of the recent efforts of Compassion and Choices (aka "Conflation and Con Jobs") in several states. I recommend reading the whole article, titled "Selling Assisted Suicide, State by State," ( but I'll share the last part of the article, devoted to disability concerns, as articulated by Montana NDY and ADAPT ( organizer Bob Liston:
Bob Liston is disabled and has problems with the idea that those advocating for assisted suicide are really doing so out of a true concern for the suffering.

Liston is an organizer for Not Dead Yet in Montana, a group officially opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia, and works for Adapt, a national disability-rights organization. He told the Register, “I think that in Montana it is unnecessary for an assisted suicide law to be written because we already have laws on the books that allow a physician to provide palliative care up to and including efforts that might hasten death.” He added: “So, I have a really hard time seeing why we need to go beyond this.”

It is the faulty assumptions about those whose lives it will affect that he finds upsetting. “Compassion & Choices … seems to think that taking one’s own life is dignified, often using the example of [a disabled person’s need for assistance with personal care and hygiene] as a reason to not go on living.” But he adds that some disabled people need this kind of total assistance on a daily basis “and are grateful for it.”

Compassion & Choices “puts forth the argument that so few people in Oregon have chosen assisted suicide [because] the guidelines are so strict. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he insisted, adding: “We have no idea what is really going on in Oregon because recordkeeping is not required.”

Liston stated: “As a person with a disability, I would say that not only is this the wrong law [favoring assisted suicide] to pass — it is definitely the wrong message.”

“If [the citizens of Montana] put as much effort into suicide prevention for people wanting this, or services for people with disabilities to live in their communities, not just have a life in a nursing home,” Liston concludes, “we would be a much greater nation.”
Bob believes we can be that greater nation. He - like many other disability activists - has devoted a large portion of his life to advocating for that vision of a greater nation. He believes this country is capable of offering people with disabilities and seniors other options than warehousing or a "compassionate" death.

I think it's pretty essential we all grab onto that vision - it could be a matter of life or death. Maybe your own or someone you care about.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Teague Johnson's life was astounding

Tracy Latimer
By Alex Schdenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

My previous blog comment concerning the fact that Robert Latimer, who killed his 12-year-old daugher Tracy, was denied extended day parole by the National Parole Board. 

Some "Human rights" experts argue that Latimer was treated unjustly while disability groups have stated that Latimer should be treated like any other person who was convicted of first degree murder.

I agree with the groups representing people with disabilities.

People often change their mind about euthanasia and the death of Tracy Latimer when they understand life from a disability perspective.

That brings me to Teague Johnson. Teague wrote this profound article that was published in the Vancouver Sun on page A1 on December 9, 1994. 

Teague Johnson's life was astounding.
My Name is Teague

My name is Teague. I am eleven years old, and have really severe cerebral palsy. The Latimer case in Saskatchewan has caused me a great deal of unhappiness and worry over the past few weeks.”

I feel very strong that all children are valuable, and deserve to live full and complete lives. No one should make the decision for another person on whether their life is worth living or not.

I have a friend who had cerebral palsy, and he decided that life was too hard and too painful. So he really let himself die. I knew he was leaving this world and letting himself dwell in the spiritual world. I told him that I understood that the spiritual world was really compelling, but that life was worth fighting for.

I had to fight to live when I was very sick. The doctors said I wouldn’t live long, but I knew I had so much to accomplish still.

I have to fight pain all the time. When I was little, life was pain. I couldn’t remember no pain. My foster mom, Cara, helped me learn to manage and control my pain. Now my life is so full of joy. There isn’t time enough in the day for me to learn and experience all I wish to. I have a family and many friends who love me. I have a world of knowledge to discover. I have so much to give.

I can’t walk or talk or feed myself. But I am not “suffering from cerebral palsy.” I use a wheelchair, but I am not “confined to a wheelchair.” I have pain, but I do not need to be “put out of my misery.”

My body is not my enemy. It is that which allows me to enjoy Mozart, experience Shakespeare, savor a bouillabaisse feast, and cuddle my mom. Life is a precious gift. It belongs to the person to whom it was given. Not to her parents, nor to the state. Tracy’s life was hers “to make of it what she could.” My life is going to be astounding.

Parole board denies Robert Latimer expanded parole privileges

Tracy Latimer
This article was in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and reprinted in the Regina Leaderpost. It explains that Robert Latimer, who gassed to death his daughter Tracy (who had Cerebral Palsy) in the cab of his truck in 1993, was denied expanded parole privileges.

I have avoided commenting on the Latimer parole stories because I believe that his second-degree murder conviction was just and he should be treated like any other person who was convicted of second-degree murder.

I had some concerns when he was released a few years ago on early parole, but this article shows that the Parole Board is treating him like any other person convicted of second-degree murder.

To treat him differently would devalue the life of Tracy Latimer and any other person with a disability who deserves to have their life protected in the same manner as an able-bodied person.

Board denies Robert Latimer's request for expanded parole privileges
Robert Latimer
A request for expanded parole privileges for Robert Latimer has again been denied by the National Parole Board.

Latimer has continued to request parole conditions that would allow him to be away five nights a week from the B.C. halfway house where he is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

Latimer, 57, was convicted in 1997 of killing his severely disabled daughter in 1993. He has lived in a Victoria, B.C., halfway house since he was released on day parole in March 2008.

Though he has continued to appeal for "five and two" parole, which would allow him to report two nights per week while on day parole, the board has ruled his case does not warrant the "exceptional circumstances" required for this type of leave.

"The issue of whether there are 'exceptional circumstances' has already been resolved by the appeal division, and the board has nothing to indicate that the Federal Court has reversed this decision," says his pre-release decision sheet.

Latimer's day parole will be continued under the same special conditions as the last time it was granted. He is to not have responsibility for or make decisions for any severely disabled individuals and he must follow psychological counselling to prepare for his reintegration into the community.

Latimer has monthly leave privileges of 120 hours per month in order to visit his family in Wilkie, about 160 kilometres west of Saskatoon.

The July 21 report from the parole board says Latimer continues to pursue vocational training and is of low risk to reoffend. He is eligible for full parole on Dec. 8.

Latimer began serving a mandatory life sentence for second-degree murder on Dec. 1, 1997, in the 1993 death of his disabled daughter, Tracy.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I’m grateful I wasn’t allowed to end it all!

Alison Davis the Co-orinator of No Less Human in the UK commented on the case of Tony Nicklinson, a man who has locked-in syndrome, who is pressing the courts to override the law to give his doctor the right to kill him by euthanasia.

Davis, who was born with spina bifida and lives with extreme pain on a daily basis stated that for many years she wanted to "end it all". She stated:
“If euthanasia had been legal, I would certainly have requested it and I wouldn’t be here now,”

But after several serious suicide attempts, blocked by the intervention of Alison’s friends, she began to change her mind.

Alison met the children with disabilities in India that she had been sponsoring through a charity that she founded. The experience led her to think, for the first time in over ten years, “I think I want to live”.

Alison stated:
“I’ll always be grateful to the friends who saved my life (though I wasn’t at the time). And I’m especially thankful there was no possibility of persuading my doctors to legally help me die.”

She believes that people with disabilities “deserve the same kind of help routinely given to those who do not have a physical condition but who feel suicidal”.

Further testimony about the Will to Live was given by Richard Rudd, a man who was paralysed in a motorcyle accident and who almost died after the family had decided to turn off his ventilator. Rudd changed the doctors minds about his condition when he began to move his eyes. Rudd indicated by responding to questions by blinking that he wanted to live.

Kate Wilson, Rudd's girlfriend stated:
“He’s a fighter and he wants to live, so I am praying for a miracle. I just want my boyfriend back and I still can’t believe how close I came to losing him.”

The euthanasia lobby will suggest that people who oppose euthanasia, which is legally giving the right to a physician to intentionally and directly cause the death of a patient, are heartless.

My heart goes out to Tony Nicklinson and Alison Davis equally, but I recognize that when you legalize euthanasia the collateral damate is that a woman like Alison Davis would now be dead, and not enjoying life. I also recognize that society does not have the right to kill its citizens, but it does have the obligation to care.

The real question is: Why does Tony Nicklinson want to die? Once that is established then the answer is what can be done to make a difference in his life.

Link to a video news report on Locked-in Syndrome:

Euthanasia lobby continues to engineer language.

Wesley Smith
Wesley Smith published a blog article last Thursday, July 22, 2010 on the continual Word Engineering by the euthanasia lobby. Compassion & Choices (C & C), that Stephen Drake from Not Dead Yet refers to as Conflation and Con Jobs, has published a new glossery of terminology.

We must not use word engineered terms by the euthanasia lobby such as: "Aid in Dying" or their previous term "Assisted Death".

The fact is that we all want Aid in Dying or an Assisted death but we do not want to be killed by someone who lethally injects us or who gives us a lethal dose when we are depressed or feeling abandoned.

I have always said that if there is nothing wrong with assisted suicide, then why do you need to lie to me about it?

Here is the reprint of Wesley's blog comments:

Compassion & Choices Word Engineering

Proponents of assisted suicide are ever trying to fool all the people all the time. One method is word engineering. Ever since euthanasia advocacy began over 100 years ago, advocates have continually sought the perfect phrase or advocacy term that will convince society to swallow their hemlock. Indeed, the first such word was “euthanasia” (good death) itself, which before early mercy killing advocates co-opted it, meant dying naturally and peacefully in a state of grace.

Compassion and Choices (formerly, Hemlock Society), even uses euphemisms in its name. And now, the organization has published a glossary pitching assisted suicide as “aid in dying,” a euphemistic term if one was ever invented. From C & C’s website:
"Aid in dying" – aid in dying is a practice, legal only in Oregon, Washington and Montana, that allows mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request a prescription for life-ending medication from their physician. This medication must be self-administered. Always use aid in dying instead of assisted dying, physician-assisted suicide or death with dignity. This phrase is hyphenated when used as a modifier. Example: In Washington we passed an aid-in-dying bill. Or, aid in dying has been legal in Oregon since 1994 and Washington and Montana since 2008.
Has there ever been so much gobbledygook pitched? But C & C claims that the accurate and descriptive term, physician-assisted suicide, is the inaccurate phrase:
Physician-assisted suicide – An inaccurate and biased term often used to describe a terminally ill, mentally competent person’s choice to control the manned and time of death by self-administered life-ending medications prescribed by a physician. Preferred language is aid in dying.
What propagandists. The opposite is actually true–as a Connecticut judge recently ruled when C & C tried to legalize assisted suicide there by simply redefining the term. (

And the moral of the story? When movement uses euphemisms and obfuscation to convince the people that there is nothing wrong with its agenda–there is something very wrong with its agenda.

Link to the original blog:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Final Exit Network Billboards: Trying to Take Spotlight Off Group’s Criminality

There has been a lot of controversy about the Final Exit Network's billboard campaign. The Final Exit Network is a euthanasia lobby group that includes Derek Humphrey, the co-founder of the Hemlock society as one of its leaders.

The other day Wesley Smith, the bioethicist from California, wrote a blog concerning the Final Exit Networks billboard campaign. He hit the nail on the head. Here are his blog comments:

Final Exit Network Billboards: Trying to Take Spotlight Off Group’s Criminality

I have been repeatedly asked my views about the Final Exit Network advocacy billboards that push assisted suicide. I was going to post on it, but I was interviewed by Fox News Network on the issue, and I think my comments to Fox’s reporter will suffice. From the story:

A national right-to-die organization has launched a controversial billboard campaign to inform terminally ill and elderly adults that they have a right to end their own lives — but critics say the group is simply preying on vulnerable senior citizens and mentally unstable people.

Well, FEN has never advocated restricting assisted suicide to the terminally ill. Moreover, they have assisted suicides of people who were not dying–a point I made abundantly clear:

But others say Final Exit’s mission is unethical … and illegal. “The signs communicate a pro-suicide message that sends a dangerous message throughout society, including to people like the young who would not legally qualify for a lethal prescription,” said Wesley J. Smith, a California-based bioethicist who opposes assisted suicide. “I think they are trying to make themselves seem like an advocacy group rather than one in which some of its members engage in criminal suicide facilitation,” he said.

The story details allegations and pleas of FEN activists assisting suicides of people who clearly were not dying–which I covered here when it happened:

But Final Exit members, including Egbert, also are alleged to have been involved in the 2007 death of an Arizona woman, Jana Van Voorhis, who suffered from a serious mental illness, not a debilitating physical illness. Wye Hale-Rowe, then 79, and retired college professor Frank Langsner, who provided her guidance, as well as two other senior Final Exit officials — Egbert and Roberta Massey — were charged in the case that will go to trial next month. Hale-Rowe pleaded guilty in January to facilitation to commit manslaughter, a felony. She struck a plea deal with county prosecutors and agreed to testify against the three remaining defendants in the case…

Smith says the Voorhis case “shattered” the “pretense that the minions who participate in the Final Exit Network are mere counselors — rather than mobile assisted suicide clinics.”…Smith questions Final Exit’s judgment of “suffering” individuals and asks people to “take the time to look beneath the political posturing and the true agenda — death on demand for people with more than a transitory desire to die — comes clearly into focus.” “I think it is worth pointing out that the logic of these ideologues is impeccable. Once you accept the belief that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering, assisting the suicides of the mentally ill — whose suffering is often far worse than those with physical illnesses — can become compelling,” he said.

Proof of my points are found in the last paragraph from an “alternative” suicide counselor–who is clearly pro suicide–wants people to be able to choose not to burden others by being made dead:

But Carolanne Cortese Barton of Alternate Group Counseling in Bayonne, N.J., says she sees the logic behind the billboard campaign, “because in life everyone has a choice, this really is all we have.” “Family traditions have changed and children are no longer able to take their elderly parents into their homes for care anymore and therefore have to send them to nursing homes,” Barton said. She said the billboards create awareness that there are options out there for people who are suffering and do not want their families to suffer further by paying for treatment and care.

Wow. Honesty. How unusual in the drive to legalize assisted suicide. Whether she is right is the debate we should be having.

Link to Wesley Smith's blog comment:

Link to the article from Fox news:

Nursing Ethics and Euthanasia

Recently the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association published a study from Belgium concerning the role of nurses within the Belgium euthanasia law. The study questioned nurses on their role and it found that of the 248 euthanasia cases that were carried out by nurses that 120 of those cases were done without request or consent.

Susan White sent me this short article on Nursing Ethics and Euthanasia. I have published it without changes.

Nursing Ethics and Euthanasia

By: Susan White

Nowhere is the issue of ethics more relevant than in the field of medicine - the world of drugs and surgeries and other curative and preventive techniques that seeks to cure our ills, is also, in what is one of the greatest ironies of life, capable of wreaking much destruction on the human body, psyche and soul. Like any other weapon, its use and misuse lies in the way we wield it, and of late, the issue of euthanasia is a thorn in the flesh of many an ethical dilemma.

To kill or not to kill, that is the question! There must be a pretty straightforward answer because we all know that killing is morally, ethically and legally wrong. But when it comes to a life that is no longer a life or one that is in too much pain with no chance of survival, do we get to decide when and how that life should be extinguished? Euthanasia, for all its medical roots, is actually a very personal decision. In any situation that deals with life, suffering, pain and death, even if the patient wants to end it all, the law must first permit it. And even if the allows it, there must be a doctor who believes it is right and carries it out for you.

The role of nurses in euthanasia has not really been documented in great detail; perhaps this is because they are more bystanders than actual participants, but the burning question in this issue is if the personal ethics of the attending nurse allow him/her to be a willing part of the process. Nurses don’t have to take an oath like doctors do before they start to practice medicine. But they too are bound by the ethics of their profession. Unlike doctors’ ethics, nurses are more concerned with the personal aspect of patient care. For them, it is important that they establish a personal relationship with the patient that will allow them to provide the best care possible. Doctors on the other hand are bound by their ethics to do what is professionally right even though it may not be what the patient wants.

This is where the dilemma sets in – if the patient wants to be euthanized and if the doctor is against the process, what does the nurse do? Can they support the patient or are they bound to abide by the instructions of the doctor? Ethics in the field of nursing is on a very sticky wicket when it comes to euthanasia. The law of a country may allow or disallow it, and when it is permitted legally, how do nurses take stand when they’re personally against taking a life for any reason whatsoever? Do they follow their own ethics or are they bound by the law to honor the ethics of the medical profession?

Euthanasia by itself is a sticky wicket – there are varying opinions from all quarters. In the end however, nurses are mere pawns in the process, following orders and going about their routine no matter what their personal stand on the issue is.

By-line: This article is contributed by Susan White, who regularly writes on the subject of online radiology technician schools ( 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Ladies Of The View Don't Know Jack About Kevorkian.

Yesterday, Jane St. Clair, who wrote the book - Walk Me To Midnight wrote a blog article about Jack Kevorkian and how the ladies from the View got it wrong.

St. Clair quotes what the ladies of the view had to say:
Whoopi Goldberg described Jack Kevorkian as a “doctor who had invented a machine to help terminally ill people voluntarily end their lives painlessly.”

“It’s a very lonely thing to take your own life. You need help with that. When you’re very ill, and you’re in pain, and the life quality is horrifying, you need help with that,” said Joy Behar.

Barbara Walters talked as if Kevorkian had been hounded by the law unfairly and was heroic in his efforts to stand up for what is right.

“They took his medical license away,” she said. “They prosecuted him three times. They finally found him guilty and he served seven years in prison. I interviewed him four times. He was interesting and rather weird. He fully believed people should have this right. He didn’t have to go to jail. He could have copped a plea.”

Then we were treated to a clip from the HBO movie in which Kevorkian explains how he turned away 90% of the people who want his help, and how he demands a second and third opinion before he “helps” them die.
St. Clair does a reality check. She writes:
Kervorkian did not help terminally ill people end their lives voluntarily and painlessly. He took over the job of killing himself, which is why he got convicted of homicide.

Jack Kevorkian claims to have killed 130 people. According to the New York Times on “At least half of the people whom Dr. Kevorkian helped to die were not terminally ill. And a number of those driven to seek his help probably could have had their suffering eased.” (”Depressed? Don’t Go See Kevorkian,” The New York Times, September 16, 1995).

The vast majority of Kevorkian’s victims were women. Some were in their 30’s and 40’s, not terminally ill but suffering from multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, spinal cord disorders, and so forth. Many were not in chronic pain. They were often lonely, isolated depressed women who could have benefited from counseling and anti-depressants.

Kevorkian killed two people by his own hand with lethal injections. When he did this on national television, even the Michigan courts had enough. (”60 Minutes,” November 22, 1998). It was not an assisted suicide because the patient did not administer poison or gas to himself, although he gave permission. Under the law, it was a homicide.
St. Clair then explains how the HBO movie with Pacino got it wrong:
Kevorkian never got “second” and “third” opinions about his victims. He did not have his victims seek out psychological counseling before they died.

Some families of his victims complained about this to authorities and to the fact that Kevorkian never consulted them before “assisting” their loved ones. In any video of any “suicide,” you can see for yourself that Kevorkian is cold and offers no emotional support to anyone. He is nothing like the warm person Pacino portrays.

Psychologists did not determine if Kevorkian’s victims were competent to make the decisions to end their lives. One woman had been in a psychiatric hospital twice in the year before Kevorkian killed her (”Suicide’s Partner,” The Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1992).

The doctor of Kevorkian’s first patient, Janet Adkins, testified: “I felt Kevorkian’s plan was totally inappropriate, and that, in my opinion, Mrs. Adkins could expect several more years during which she would be able to maintain self care and enjoy the types of experiences (spending time with her grandchildren, outdoor activities, etc.), she was currently enjoying.” (Inventor of Suicide Machine Arrested on Murder Charge, The New York Times, December 4, 1990.)
St. Clair then explains how Barbara Walters got it wrong, even though she is right that he is weird. St. Clair writes:
Barbara Walters said Kevorkian was “rather weird.”

This man “chopped out” the kidneys of 45-year-old Joseph Tushkowski, according to Oakland County (MI) Medical Examiner L.J. Dragovic, after he died of poison from an intravenous injection. The death was ruled a homicide. Kevorkian took out this man’s kidneys even though he knew there was no chance that they would be assigned to a living donor. [UPI, 6/8/98]

As a medical student, Kevorkian wanted to be around death as much as possible, and liked to take pictures of dying people’s eyes. He used cadaver blood in his paintings. Go look at his paintings at this PBS website:

The ladies of “The View” present themselves as caring individuals. They reach millions of people every day. It’s time they stood up for the most helpless among us, or at least made sure they get their facts straight about Jack Kevorkian.
Go to Jane St. Claire's blog at:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A humane health-care system is what's needed - not euthanasia

This is a reprint of an excellent article that was in the Montreal Gazette on July 19, 2010 by Ramona Coelho and Daniel Cere.

Why is the Quebec government suddenly so interested in euthanasia? Why are advocates eagerly fuelling public anxiety by fostering the belief that many Quebecers will eventually face the desperate prospect of hopeless suffering or uncontrollable pain, a plight that only euthanasia can remedy?

We now have better mechanisms for controlling pain than in any period in human history. Palliative-care units can offer patients good pharmaceutical pain control, psychological support, stress-releasing massage therapy, spiritual counsel, and music and art therapy. Palliative care units attract numerous volunteers dedicated to providing patients company and friendship to ward off loneliness. If effective pain-control, care and support are available, why is euthanasia so attractive?

The issue, of course, is that most people's experience of the hospital system is far more negative. Pain, fear, isolation, and loneliness often seem to plague our hospitals. How many patients are terrified of the "emergency-room experience"? How many wait far too long for someone to answer their call for attention? How many patients linger alone without visitors?

The question then becomes: Why is there such a stark discrepancy between what the hospitals can offer, especially to those facing death, and what is actually offered?

Denys Arcand's film, Les Invasions barbares, makes a convincing case that the attraction of euthanasia is directly related to these problems. The film presents euthanasia as an escape from the malaises of a public health-care system. The main character, Remy, is a retired professor, a "sensual socialist," who had lived his life chasing his prettiest students, savouring fine wines, and propounding the fashionable philosophical and political "isms" of the day.

We meet him dying, isolated and alone, trapped in an impersonal and uncaring health-care system that is riddled with corruption and bureaucratic control. Remy's suffering is deepened by his own brokenness and alienation from family and friends.

However, in the midst of these trials, Remy's estranged son and his ex-wife begin to draw near to him. Remy eventually finds a way to flee from the public system to die among friends and family. And a dose of illegal heroin, acquired by his affluent globe-trotting son, brings his life to an end.

It seems clear now that the Quebec government, which has setup a National Assembly committee to hold hearings on euthanasia, is gearing up to close this "under-the-table" escape route. It seems to want to be intimately and actively involved with our dying.

That would mean that instead of using our resources to bolster personnel, improve our hospitals, increase palliative-care knowledge among physicians, the government would supervise and control our dying with the usual thicket of bureaucratic regulations, codes and protocols.

In Arcand's film, Remy's real solace comes not from heroin but from finding friends and family to accompany him in his dying. Far from being an answer to the loneliness and pain in dying, euthanasia promises to only exacerbate the malaises of the health-care system.

The abuses we observe in countries that have legalized euthanasia should give us pause. Studies indicate that the fear of the future is far more likely to drive an individual to choose euthanasia than uncontrollable pain.

In the Netherlands, it is not uncommon for the physician or the family to "suggest" euthanasia to the patient. We can only imagine the psychological pressures that such a suggestion puts on a person who is vulnerable and suffering. The dying and the elderly generally fear being a burden on loved ones. Legal euthanasia sends out a loud and clear message that there is a publicly approved way to cease being a burden: Let the government take your life.

What people with terminal illness need love, care, and support, not government mercenaries waiting for the signal to take lethal action.

It is possible to provide palliative care that respects the human dignity and rights of those who are most vulnerable, but it will require constructive reforms to our health system and, ultimately, a change of our own hearts in response to family members or friends who are dying.

Ramona Coelho is a doctor and a lecturer in McGill University's faculty of medicine. Daniel Cere is an assistant professor of religion, law, and public policy at McGill.

UK disability group opposes euthanasia

Tony Nicklinson, a man who lives with disabilities in the UK has launched a case to legalize euthanasia in the UK. Disability rights group, No Less Human, has responded by opposing Nicklinson's case.

Janet Thomas of No Less Human commented: "The killing of vulnerable, innocent people, whether able-bodied or not, is never right, even when those people ask to be killed. The deliberate killing of any innocent person damages the interests of us all."

Mr. Nicklinson feels he wants to die because of his disabilities - as if human value and worth are to be measured by physical ability. Human worth lies not in what people can do but in what they inherently are. Each human life whether damaged or not whether a short one or a long one is a gift of incomparable value"

Mr Nicklinson says he is fed up with his life and can see no purpose to it, but this is also said by many able-bodied victims, often teenagers or young adults who leap off bridges, hang themselves or jump under trains."

Many people in No Less Human have found that coping with their disabling conditions can be improved. These improvements come via positive help and support from family, friends and the community, and by a refusal to accept that there is any life which is worthless."

Society, through its laws against murder and assisted suicide, comes down in favour of life. Every time someone decides that there are lives not worth living, he or she damages the security of all of us", concluded Mrs Thomas.

Link to media release:

Letter sent to Idaho paper concerning murder-suicide

I was cleaning up my email and found this article that I recently sent to the Couer D'Alene press in Idaho.

Re: Idaho doctors can offer a compassionate option, June 25, 2010

Dear Editor:

I am the Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and Chair for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, International. I was dismayed to see that Kathryn Tucker, Legal Director for the suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices, is now targeting your state to legalize assisted suicide. Moreover, her column, suggesting that legalization will prevent murder-suicide, is spurious.

Donna Cohen
According to Donna Cohen, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, the typical murder-suicide case involves a depressed controlling husband who shoots his ill wife. "The wife does not want to die and is often shot in her sleep. If she was awake at the time, there are usually signs that she tried to defend herself."

The typical wife in these cases does not “choose” her death. She is a victim of spousal abuse. Legal assisted suicide, regardless, fails to guarantee “choice.” These laws instead empower doctors, family members and new “best friends” to legally pressure people to take their lives.

In Canada, a bill that would have legalized assisted-suicide was recently defeated in our Parliament, 228 to 59. When I spoke with lawmakers who voted against the bill, many voiced the opinion that our government’s efforts should be focused on helping our citizens live with dignity, rather than developing strategies to get them out of the way.

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

Link to the original article:

Friday, July 16, 2010

South Korea did not legalize euthanasia.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) wrote a letter to the AFP news service stating that their report: S Korea legalizes euthanasia for terminally ill was wrong.

This is the statement that we sent to the AFP news service:
The following article from your news service is not clear, it says that South Korea will legalize euthanasia and then the article is about removing life support from terminally ill people. The article states: "They agreed that doctors could stop prolonged life-sustaining treatment, based only on prior written or oral statements from patients." 
It appears that South Korea has approved the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment which is not euthanasia. Euthanasia is the direct and intentional killing of a person for reasons of mercy. This has not been legalized in South Korea. 
The article doesn't refer to the issue of fluids and food, and therefore until I see the actual guidelines I must say that euthanasia has not being legalized in South Korea, but rather discontinuing life-sustaining treatment has been approved. 
You need to be more careful with your reporting because these ethical issues effect many people and if you incorrectly report on an issue you create confusion. 
Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Today I received the South Korean – End-of-life guidelines from a Korean physician. It is clear that S Korea did not legalize euthanasia. The guidelines concern the rules that must be followed before a physician can withdraw or withhold medical treatment.
The guidelines state:
  • They are for terminally ill patients, but do not apply to PVS patients, unless the PVS patient is terminally ill.
  • They are for extraordinary treatments only (eg. Respirators, CPR). Ordinary treatments such as fluids and food should be maintained.
  • Apply to adult patients, based on prior written statements. 
  • The statement should be prepared after counseling with doctor(s) with a 2 week mandatory deliberation period.
  • Oral statements of patients are accepted, when it can be proven.
  • Can be withdrawn anytime.
  • A national review committee on end-of-life care will be established.
  • Hospital ethics committees on end-of-life care will be established.

The guidelines did not approve:
  • Surrogate decision making is not allowed for adult patients, but partially allowed for minors and people with mental disabilities.
It is clear that euthanasia has not been legalized in S Korea. The guidelines do not approve of euthanasia by dehydration either.

It is also clear that the South Korea guidelines are more cautious than most national end-of-life guidelines in the western world. While I share the concern about how "terminally ill" may be defined, these guidelines do not appear to be designed to open the floodgate.

It appears that the AFP news service is intentionally confusing the public or it does not understand what euthanasia is. AFP also wrongly stated that the German court recently approved euthanasia. AFP needs to publish a retraction of their incorrect news article.

Link to the article - S.Korean legalises euthanasia for terminally ill:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Edinburgh man is sentenced to jail for attempting to kill his disabled wife

An interesting article in yesterdays BBC News concerns John Millar (67), from Edinburgh, who has been convicted and sentenced for four-and-a-half years for attempting to kill his wife, Phyllis Millar (65), who has multiple sclerosis.

This is an interesting case because Mr. Miller claims that his wife, Phyllis wanted to die, while Phyllis denies that she wanted to die. Similar cases of homicide/suicide are often reported by the media and the euthanasia lobby as acts of mercy but the reality is that most of these cases have nothing to do with compassion.

In fact, in Idaho, Kathryn Tucker from Compassion & Choices is using a similar story, except that the husband did kill his wife, to argue that they need to legalize assisted suicide.

The story stated:
John Millar, 67, claimed he was trying to end her suffering when he attacked Phyllis Millar, 65, at their home in Ravelston on 28 June 2009.

Mrs Millar, who has multiple sclerosis, denied claims by her husband that she said she wanted to die. ...

He attempted to smother his wife with a pillow.

On sentencing, Lady Smith said: "On 28 June 2009, far from acting in a caring fashion towards your wife, without provocation and for no apparent reason, you quite deliberately tried to kill her.

"Preying on her vulnerability, you picked up a pillow and held it over her face in an attack which lasted for about five minutes.

"Fortunately your wife was able to get one of her hands between her face and the pillow so as to enable her to breathe and to shout for you to stop. You eventually did so."

Millar himself dialled 999, telling police: "I tried to kill my wife."

While being questioned later, he told officers: "She would be dead and out of the way.

"When I say out of the way, you know, she would be, perhaps, not having to put up with, you know, her life and it was my life too, I suppose, really."

Suicide researcher Donna Cohan has found that cases of murder-suicide or spousal homicide are rarely acts of mercy.

Although each murder-suicide among older people is different, researchers say there is a typical pattern:

• The man kills the woman in their bedroom with a gun -- an act he has thought about for weeks or months.

• The woman has Alzheimer's disease or another illness, and the man is depressed, often exhausted, perhaps sick himself, and under strain as the primary caregiver.

• The woman is rarely a willing or knowing participant. She usually is killed in her sleep.

• The man almost always mistakenly believes he is acting with mercy, putting the woman out of her misery. Instead, he is ending his own misery.

• There may be warning signs that can help families prevent the tragedy.

Links to original articles:

Links to articles about homicide-suicide:

South Korea did not legalize euthanasia.

This is the letter that I sent to the AFP news service who incorrectly reported that South Korea legalised euthanasia.

The following article from your news service is not clear, it says that South Korea will legalize euthanasia and then the article is about removing life support from terminally ill people. The article states: "They agreed that doctors could stop prolonged life-sustaining treatment, based only on prior written or oral statements from patients."

It appears that South Korea has approved the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment which is not euthanasia. Euthanasia is the direct and intentional killing of a person for reasons of mercy. This has not been legalized in South Korea

The article doesn't refer to the issue of fluids and food, and therefore until I see the actual guidelines I must say that euthanasia has not being legalized in South Korea, but rather discontinuing life-sustaining treatment has been approved.

You need to be more careful with your reporting because these ethical issues effect many people and if you incorrectly report on an issue you create confusion.

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Link to the article - S.Korean legalises euthanasia for terminally ill:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Montana: Opposing bills will be debated in legislature.

Articles were published today in the Montana media concerning the fact that Democratic Rep. Dick Barrett plans to present a bill in the Montana legislature to legalize assisted suicide. Senator Greg Hinkle announced last January his intention to introduce the Montana Patient Protection Act to protect Montana citizens from Elder Abuse while closing the loophole that was opened in the Montana court Baxter decision.

Senator Hinkle was quoted as stating:
“It’s basically to prevent elder abuse,” Hinkle said. “They talk about choice, but in many cases, there is no choice made. Once the decision is made to commit suicide, they put the decision in the hands of other people — the doctor and the family.”

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide “opens a Pandora’s box,” Hinkle said, and “I don’t believe the people of Montana want to go there.”

While Representative Barrett was quoted to have said:
“My sense is that terminally ill Montanans really do want to have this choice available to them, not that large numbers of people take advantage of it,”

“I think the Supreme Court said it would be consistent with the rights of the terminally ill that Montanans are currently given in the statutes. Terminally ill Montanans and most Americans have the right to hasten their deaths by refusing treatment, food and water.”

It is interesting to note that Compassion & Choices have claimed that assisted suicide was legalized by the Baxter decision while Barrett is saying that he believes that Montanans want to have assisted suicide legalized.

The fact is that the Baxter decision did not legalize assisted suicide, but rather stated that physicians who are prosecuted for assisted suicide could use a "defense of consent."

Therefore assisted suicide remains illegal but if charged with the crime, the physician will say that the person consented to their death.

Barrett claims that:
The evidence from Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide has been available since 1998, shows that this concern is unfounded, Barrett said. Oregon law provides a number of safeguards to ensure that only willing patients make the requests.

The reality is that Compassion & Choices has cornered the assisted suicide market in Oregon. Last year 97% of all assisted suicides in Oregon were facilitated by Compassion & Choices.

Compassion & Choices is a lobby group that promotes assisted suicide and at the same time facilitates the law. No wonder the information that we receive from Oregon proves little more than what condition the person had before requesting assisted suicide and the age of the person when they died, etc.

Further to that, Philip Nitscke, Australia's Dr. Death, quickly moved into Washington State after they legalized assisted suicide through a voter initiative. Nitschke is known for marketing suicide manuals, devices and drugs via the internet and for organizing suicide workshops for people over the age of 50.

It was also interesting that Compassion & Choices in Washington state had more information than the Washington state government, when the first government assisted suicide report was released.

Does Montana want Representative Dick Barrett to introduce a law that will give Compassion & Choices control over their deaths and Nitschke a new place to tour with his death devices and manuals?

Link to a recent article about the Montana Patient Protection Act:

Link to an article concerning the Montana Baxter decision:

Link to the original article:

Nitschke appears to be trolling the internet for death clients.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I was googling stories on assisted suicide when I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The first link in the search engine was the link to Philip Nitschke's suicide instruction manual. 

To make it worse, when I clicked the second group of articles the link for the suicide instruction manual was first again.

I understand how google works. Organizations and individuals can pay a fee for advertising on google or to have their product or website - come up first - in the search engine when certain words are google searched. It appears that Exit International, Nitschke's organization, must be investing serious money to have the link to Nitschke's products appear as the #1 and the #11 link on the google search engine.

I should not be surprised. Assisted suicide and euthanasia represent Nitschke's livelihood. Every online sale of his suicide manual gives Nitschke approximately $75 in his jeans. He appears to be selling thousands of his online maunuals.

Recently Barbara Coombs Lee, the leader of Compassion & Choices, wrote an article that suggested that she hoped that, internet suicide predator, William Melchert-Dinkel, will be convicted of assisted suicide in Minnesota for counseling and abetting, via the internet, at least five people to commit suicide.

One of Melchert-Dinkel's victims was Canadian Nadia Kajouji who was a first year student in Ottawa at Carlton University. Kajouji was very depressed and seeking advice for her depression when she bumped into Melchert-Dinkel who was trolling the internet looking for someone like Kajouji who was thinking of commiting suicide.

Is Philip Nitschke different than Melchert-Dinkel?

Last February I wrote about a report of 51 people in Australia who died from Nembutal use that was in the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

The report stated that of the 51 people who were known to have died from Nembutal, 6 people were in their 20's, 8 people were in their 30's, 5 people were in their 40's, 14 people were in their 50's, 3 people in their 60's, 10 in their 70's, and 5 people were over the age of 80.

Further to that, the report found that of the 38 known deaths that were investigated by a coroner, only 11 had a significant physical illness or chronic pain with the remaining 27 cases showing no signs of physical problems.

The report suggested that the 27 otherwise healthy people who died from Nembutal use were most likely depressed or mentally ill.

Even though the report only referred to 51 Nembutal deaths, Nitschke stated that he knew of between 250 - 300 Nembutal deaths.

The further problem is that Nitschke craves the media attention. Everytime the media publishes a report on his antics, he gains attention that creates greater awareness of his products, and in turn he sells more suicide manuals.

Melchert-Dinkel, who was a nurse, admitted to counseling and abeting the suicide deaths of at least 5 people who were depressed, whereas Nitschke has been involved, even if indirectly, with the deaths of many people who were depressed or mentally ill.

The only real difference is that Melchert-Dinkel was motivated by wanting to watch the suicide deaths, like a voyeur, via his webcam. Nitschke appears to be motivated by the fame he has gained and the financial windfall he is making from his online sales of his suicide manuals.

Link an Australian news article on the issue:

Links to previous blog articles:

Switzerland planning to control assisted suicide?

BBC News reporter, Imogen Foulkes, had an article published on July 2, 2010 suggesting that the Swiss government will establish controls on the assisted suicide business. The article is very convincing that the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic is out-of-control in Switzerland, but I am not convinced that the government will establish effective rules to curb the assisted suicide business in Switzerland.

It is accurate to refer to assisted suicide in Switzerland as a business. There are groups in Switzerland who provide death to their clients for a fee. They are running a business.

Dignitas, the assisted suicide business that is operated by Ludwig Minelli, a retired lawyer, is more controversial than the other assisted suicide businesses, but only because of the actions, attitude and apparent motivation of Minelli, not because of what the actual business does.

Let me quote from the article by Foulkes that was published in the BBC:
Urns in the lake

The discovery of dozens of urns containing human ashes in Lake Zurich has served to focus attention once again on just what exactly assisted suicide groups are allowed to do.

It remains unclear who put the urns into the lake but there have been claims that Dignitas may have been involved: all the urns bore the label of the crematorium used by the organisation.

One German woman has come forward to say her stepmother's ashes were put in the lake by Dignitas, despite her wish to be buried next to her husband.

Soraya Wernli
And at least one former employee of Dignitas claims she was present when urns were dumped in the lake. Soraya Wernli says she left the organisation five years ago, after becoming concerned that Dignitas had become profit-motivated.

"Dignitas has become a business worth millions," she told the BBC.

Mrs Wernli, who says she remains a firm supporter of the right to choose the moment of death, has taken her concerns to the police, and she is in favour of more regulation for assisted suicide organisations.

More transparency

The founder of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli, is firmly opposed.

Mr Minelli will not comment on the case of the urns, because it is the subject of an investigation, but, in a rare interview, he did agree to talk about how Dignitas works.

"There are no state rules but we have our own rules," Mr Minelli told the BBC. "The first is that we never precipitate an assisted suicide, every step must be initiated by the member and not by us."

Dignitas has helped more than 1,000 people die in the past 12 years, many of them foreigners who come to Switzerland precisely because their own countries do not permit assisted suicide, Mr Minelli explained.

Each individual pays an initial membership fee, typically around $200 (£133), followed by annual membership fees of $80 (£53). Further fees for the consultation and the assisted suicide itself run to around $7,000 (£4,700).

Some clients, however, are believed to have donated much larger sums.

This is all perfectly legal under Swiss law, as long as Dignitas and Mr Minelli are not making a profit out of it.

But there have been allegations in the Swiss media that Mr Minelli has become a millionaire since he founded Dignitas.

Mr Minelli refuses to discuss the organisation's finances.

"This is a private organisation," he explained. "Only the active members have a right to know the facts, and the public has no right at all. We are not working with public money, so there is no reason for us to answer questions."

The active members are Mr Minelli, and one other who prefers to remain anonymous.

Right to die for all

Mr Minelli and one of the doctors working for Dignitas, Alois Geiger, also defended the organisation's policy of providing services not just to the terminally ill, but to those with chronic illnesses and even mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Dr Geiger, for example, provided the prescription for the young British man Dan James, who committed suicide in Switzerland in 2008 after being paralysed in a rugby accident.

"Most people who come to me don't just say 'I want to die'", explained Dr Geiger. "What they say is: 'I don't want to live THIS life anymore.'

"If you have a person who is mentally ill, and it has gone on for years, never getting better, always getting worse, a person who has tried eight times to kill himself, why not give him the possibility to end this horrible life? Schizophrenia is a horrible illness."

Dr Geiger is referring to the case of a 39-year-old Spanish man with paranoid schizophrenia who died two years ago with the help of Dignitas.

The Zurich authorities have now ruled that Dr Geiger, a gynaecologist by training, did not have the required competence to assist his suicide and have removed his power to prescribe for the mentally ill.

Mr Minelli and Dr Geiger are now challenging that decision in court.
So then, what is the Swiss government actually preparing to do? Foulkes states in the BBC article:
Meanwhile the Swiss government has put forward two draft papers on assisted suicide, one of which would ban the practice altogether, and a second - the more likely to be approved - which would limit the practice to the terminally ill.

Patients would have to provide evidence from two independent doctors that their illness is incurable and that they are likely to die within months.

They would also need to show that they have made an informed decision, over a period of some time, to end their lives.

All these conditions would effectively end or fundamentally change the practices of Dignitas, whose foreign patients typically arrive in Switzerland, see a Dignitas doctor and die within 24 hours.
In other words, they hope to curb the business practises of Dignitas by attempting to assure that all those who the business provides death to are people who are at least dying and supposedly "choosing to die". These regulations would fail to protect people who are depressed and they would fail to protect people who are experiencing elder abuse.

But don't expect regulations soon. Foulkes states:
But any change to existing Swiss law is likely to be a long process.

Ludwig Minelli says he will take the government's proposals to a nationwide referendum if necessary.

"I am persuaded that we have to struggle in order to implement the last human right in our societies," he says.

"And the last human right is the right to make a decision on one's own end and the possibility to have this end without risk and without pain."
What Switzerland needs to do is commit itself to focus on: improving palliative care and the care and equality for people with disabilities, implement suicide prevention and elder abuse prevention programs.

Link to the article by Imogen Foulkes in the BBC:

Link to previous blog articles about Ludwig Minelli and Dignitas: