Monday, January 31, 2011

Elder abuse, often unnoticed, growing at alarming rate

An article published in Sign on San Diego reports in the astounding growth in reported cases and prosecutions of elder abuse cases.

The article focuses on the growth of the scourge of elder abuse in society and it refers to the horrific case of Arnold V. "Max" Bauer, a 93 year old Pearl Harbour survivor who was allegedly bilked for thousands of dollars by his live-in caretaker.

The article explains the growth in elder abuse. It stated:
Experts estimate that only one in 13 elder-abuse cases are reported nationwide, based on various surveys and studies.

“We are only getting the tip of the iceberg,” said San Diego County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Varnau, who oversees financial- and elder-abuse crime units for his agency. “It’s a dirty little secret and Mr. Bauer’s case is a very clear example of how someone is isolated and forgotten about.”

In San Diego County, the District Attorney’s Office has seen the number of elder-abuse prosecutions rise in the past five years — from 183 cases in 2006 to 238 last year. The county’s elder-abuse hotline receives nearly 10,000 calls a year

The problem of elder abuse is all encompassing. The article states:
Many cases have both financial and physical abuse, said Paul Greenwood, deputy district attorney and head of the office’s Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit. ...

“We are not able to provide the infrastructure to deal with the avalanche of referrals that are going to be coming in the next five years,” Greenwood said.

An addendum to the national Healthcare Reform Act, which Congress approved last year, would provide money for combating elder abuse. But there has been no funding allocation so far.
Elder abuse is often unreported because it is done by family or friends:
Nearly 95 percent of seniors live at home and almost all elder abuse occurs there, the majority perpetrated by family members, said Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the Illinois-based National Adult Protective Services Association. “Trusted others” — such as home health-care workers, neighbors and friends — make up the next largest group of abusers.

“It’s absolutely an enormous problem,” Quinn said.

Then there is the problem of "New best friends."
“These crimes occur because families are separated by distance and a new “friend” comes into the lives of these elders,” Greenwood said. “They don’t rob elders with guns and knives, they extract the assets through charm and flowers and boxes of chocolates.”

Reporting senior abuse can be difficult for those who may notice something is off: a garden that’s usually lovingly tended becomes overgrown, a once-tidy house falls into disarray, a sociable senior no longer answers the phone or chats over a fence line, an elderly person is confused about the household finances, a caretaker sounds overly defensive.

The article was concluded by a quote from Sgt. Mark Varnau:
“It’s not a question of if they are going to fail,” Varnau said. “It’s a matter of when. People slip away and become completely vulnerable to being victimized.”

Tasmania's new premier supports euthanasia.

Last October I spent two days in Tasmania. I made a presentation in the Tasmania parliament building and at one other location.

While in Tasmania, I was informed that the Tasmanian parliament will debate a bill to legalize euthanasia that will be sponsored by the Greens. At the time, I was informed, that Premier Bartlett (Labor) was opposed to euthanasia, but that he needed the Greens to maintain his coalition government.

On Friday, Michael Cook, from Australia, wrote an Article explaining that the new Premier of Tasmania, Lara Giddings, intends to support the Greens in sponsoring a euthanasia bill.

Last year, I was told, that the issue of euthanasia was debated in the Tasmanian parliament in 2009 and it was defeated by a vote of 15 to 7 in the lower house.

Michael Cook's article is pessimistic concerning the prospect of defeating the euthanasia bill in Tasmania. He stated:
Ms Giddings has a difficult task ahead of her as the leader of a minority Labor government in partnership with the Greens. She can only stay in office by courting them, but she also needs to ensure that her coalition partners do not continue to steal the votes of social progressives who have voted for Labor in the past.

On her first day in office, Ms Giddings appealed to the Greens by confirming that she would support euthanasia. A private bill which proposed by one of the two Green members. ...

With the support of the new Premier, there is a good chance that the euthanasia bill will pass.

Based on the people I met in Tasmania, I am more optimistic than Cook.

The group HOPE, under the leadership of Paul Russell, successfully worked to defeat the euthanasia bill in South Australia and HOPE is working to build contacts in Tasmania.

I encourage the leaders in Tasmania to have hope and work with HOPE.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Physician-Assisted Suicides in Oregon in 2010 Even More Unknown Information

The 2010, annual Oregon Death with Dignity report was recently released.

The most important message is what it doesn't tell us. It doesn't tell us whether the person who died consented when the lethal dose was administered.

Further to that, the physician is rarely present at the time the lethal dose is administered. If the person does not consent, who would know?

The reporting system has a conflict of interest, whereby the physician who wrote the lethal prescription submits the report. The physician will not admit to abuse.

The Physicians for Compassionate Care sent out a press release yesterday concerning the 2010 Death with Dignity annual report from Oregon. Link to the press release

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation

Press Release January 27, 2011

Physician-Assisted Suicides in Oregon in 2010 - Even More Unknown Information

The annual report from the Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) regarding physician-assisted suicides in 2010 has been released this month, and contains information received by them as of January 7, 2011. This release of information is occurring two months earlier in the year than for prior years’ reports. Because of the hastiness in releasing the report, they acknowledge that not all information for 2010 has been received by them. PCCEF is concerned with multiple areas of the OPHD report on Oregon assisted suicides for the 2010 year.

* The report is incomplete. Specifically, they have not received information on 15 patients for whom prescriptions were written in 2010.

* The report acknowledges 65 individuals who died from physician-assisted suicide in 2010, yet concedes there may be others who have died in 2010 for whom they have not received information.

* Not all who attempt to take the [lethal dose] will die. Overdoses failed to cause two individuals to die. One regained consciousness within 24 hours and died of the underlying illness five days later. Another gained consciousness 3½ days after ingestion and died of the underlying illness three months later. Vomiting was reported in both people. These are not easy drugs to take, and they are very bitter and foul-tasting drugs. The report fails to detail why these two people chose not to repeat an overdose. Perhaps they found the experience less pleasant than the promoters led them to believe.

* Only one of the 65 had a psychiatric or psychological referral. OHSU researchers in 2008 reported that 25% of patients requesting assisted suicide were considered to be depressed. There continues to be no protection for depressed patients in Oregon.

* The report has far more unknown information than has ever previously been reported:

Category Unknown Information

* Complications for 37 of 65 patients
* Emergency Medical Services called for 37 of 65 patients
* Minutes between ingestion & unconsciousness for 33 of 65 patients
* Minutes between ingestion & death for 33 of 65 patients

When such a substantial proportion of important information is unknown, how are Oregonians to know what is really happening with assisted suicides in the state?

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation promotes the ethic that all human life has inherent value and that physician-assisted suicide:

* Undermines trust in the patient-physician relationship.

* Changes the societal role of the physician from healing to medical killing.

* Endangers the value that society places on life, specifically for those who are most vulnerable, those who are frail, elderly, and at the end of life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

French Senate defeats euthanasia bill by 170 to 142.

Last night the Senate in France defeated a bill to legalize euthanasia by a vote of 170 to 142.

The euthanasia bill was sponsored in the French Senate by Jean-Pierre Godefroy (Parti Socialiste), Alain Fouché (UMP) and François Autain and Guy Fischer (Parti communiste-Parti de gauche).

The bill would have allowed euthanasia for people with disabilities, those with chronic conditions and people who are defined as terminal.

Prime Minister François Fillon spoke out against the euthanasia bill a few days earlier. Mr Fillion said that:
although he had never had to face the nightmare of living with someone as they died, he was still against a law allowing actively helping someone to die.

He thought such a law would not fit in with the “basic values of our society” and that to legislate giving the right to end someone’s life was a limit “we should not go beyond”. He said it was also “very dangerous” as it did not allow for any consultation with the family.

Mr Fillon said the debate should also take account of the actions taken since 2008 by Nicolas Sarkozy who has made the care of terminally ill people “an absolute priority”.

That had led to the development of a palliative care programme that has seen the creation of 1,200 new beds and the start, last March, of specific financial aid to allow families to care for terminally ill loved ones.

A recent poll in France found that:
- 52% of the respondents thought that legalizing euthanasia would include a "risk of abuse."
- 60% of the respondents thought that France should make the development of palliative care a priority before considering the legalization of euthanasia, while 38% thought that France should legalize euthanasia.

The concerns of the French citizen is well founded. Recent studies in Belgium found in the Flanders region that 32% of the euthanasia deaths were done without explicit request or consent and another study found that 47.8% of the euthanasia deaths were not reported.

Vermont nurse - offers a vision of caring rather than assisted suicide

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has made the legalization of assisted suicide in Vermont a priority for his government.

In response to Shumlin, Lynne Caulfield, a registered nurse from Dummerston Vermont wrote an inspiring letter that was published in the Rutland Herald paper on January 23, 2011. Caufield made several valid points and she referred to her own personal experience in the death of her husband.

Caufield first stated:
It is hard to believe that with all the pressing budget issues facing the 2011 Legislature, Gov. Peter Shumlin has made doctor-prescribed death one of his first priorities.

Funded with money outside of Vermont, the proponents of doctor-prescribed death have targeted Vermont as their next victim. It is a sad day when human beings want to help other human beings to die rather than extending compassionate and respectful care to ease suffering and pain. It is especially disturbing that health care professionals are being called upon to assist patients to die rather than live.

She then brings home her point by writing about the ethical code that she follows as a registered nurse. She stated:
As part of the Florence Nightingale pledge, nurses have sworn an oath to “abstain from whatever is deleterious … to not knowingly administer any harmful drug.” The pledge also says, “With loyalty I will endeavor to aid the physician in his work and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”

Doctors and nurses are expected to exercise beneficence, which is to “do good,” and non-maleficence, which is to “do no harm.” We have pledged to care, not destroy. To expect a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates is the ultimate violation of non-maleficence.

Death is permanent and irreversible. Doctor-prescribed death should not be legalized in Vermont, because it is not needed. The legalization of doctor-prescribed death could lead to potential abuse and is not without complications.

You’ve heard it said, “Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes.” (Some add housework!)... With the advancements in the medical treatment of pain and palliative care, we should assist the chronically ill and dying with compassionate care to make each day comfortable, valuable and precious
She then opened her life to us by telling us about her personal family experience.
My husband, Jack, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2002. Prognosis for patients with pancreatic cancer is often poor. He was treated aggressively with chemotherapy and radiation. In September 2003, he was told the cancer had metastasized to his liver and that there was no hope. He was devastated by the news since he wanted more time to spend with his family and our five children in particular.

If the option of doctor-prescribed death was available to someone in this situation, one might resort to this drastic step with no recourse.

In my husband’s situation, the doctors were horribly mistaken. The cancer had not spread. Jack finished treatment and surgery. He lived two more years before receiving another diagnosis that the cancer had returned. Again, the doctors said he would be gone before Christmas, yet Jack lived until February and was able to savor more time with his family. He had wanted to write a letter to each of the children, and he was able to accomplish his desire. If he had listened to the doctors and chosen a doctor-prescribed lethal dose, he would have lost much precious time. We were present when he breathed his last breath. He was peaceful and comfortable.

Caufield then explained the reality of people dying by lethal dose. She stated:
Doctor-prescribed death is not a pretty picture. The doctor has to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates, which usually means 90 pills. The patient takes the pills home. Can you imagine swallowing 90 pills at once? A spoonful of sugar might have worked for Mary Poppins, but not for those patients who have trouble swallowing. There is no doctor present, no medical assistance. They are on their own.

The side effects from this lethal dose are multiplied times 90. Some of the side effects include gastrointestinal distress such as nausea and vomiting. Another complication is failure to die. It doesn’t always work, and then whom do you call? In the Netherlands, if one fails to die from the oral overdose, it is legal to give a lethal injection. Is this what we want for our fellow Vermonters?

She ended her letter by challenging society to care for the other.
One more important aspect that would be missing if doctor-prescribed death were to be legalized is that rich privilege we have to care for those we love. In our me-first society where we want everything disposable and convenient, caring for the chronically ill, the disabled and the dying is not something we are comfortable with or have time for.

Granted, it isn’t easy to care for your dying loved one. It isn’t convenient or quick, but it is an awesome privilege and a rich experience. My mother died last April after a long battle with breast cancer. She died peacefully at home surrounded with love and music. Each day was a gift as we cared for her and sought to help her experience those things that brought her joy.

We are called as human beings to care for one another deeply. It is one of the richest of human experiences. We don’t need doctor-prescribed death in Vermont; we just need to extend loving care to one another.

Thank you Lynne Caulfield for sharing with us your caring experience.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

France's Prime Minister speaks out against euthanasia

The Connexion news service has reported that Prime Minister François Fillon has spoken out against a proposal that was debated in France's Senate to legalize euthanasia.

Prime Minister Fillon's comments were reported this way:
Speaking on plans going through the Senate today, Mr Fillion said that, although he had never had to face the nightmare of living with someone as they died, he was still against a law allowing actively helping someone to die.

He thought such a law would not fit in with the “basic values of our society” and that to legislate giving the right to end someone’s life was a limit “we should not go beyond”. He said it was also “very dangerous” as it did not allow for any consultation with the family.

Mr Fillon said the debate should also take account of the actions taken since 2008 by Nicolas Sarkozy who has made the care of terminally ill people “an absolute priority”.

That had led to the development of a palliative care programme that has seen the creation of 1,200 new beds and the start, last March, of specific financial aid to allow families to care for terminally ill loved ones.

The Connexion explained the proposed euthanasia bill in this way:
The law, proposed by Jean-Pierre Godefroy (Parti Socialiste), Alain Fouché (UMP) and François Autain and Guy Fischer (Parti communiste-Parti de gauche), is debated in the Senate this evening.

It proposes that “Each capable adult, in an advanced or terminal phase of a serious accidental or pathological terminal ailment, inflicting physical suffering and mental impairment that cannot be eased or that they can no longer bear, can ask for medical help that will allow, by deliberate act, a quick and pain-free death.”

At the same time, 700 protesters from the group - ADV - did a mass "die off" demonstration near the French Senate in Paris. It was reported by LifeSiteNews that:
The scene was played three times between 12:45 and 1:30 pm. local time. While the players – men and women of all ages – were lying “dead,” Tugdual Derville, spokesman for the ADV, called on the French Senate not to legalize euthanasia, arguing that it is never a solution for human suffering, but a way to deny ill, suffering and handicapped people their human dignity.

Derville also called for increased public support, financial and otherwise, for palliative care and for all the volunteers who help to make it possible. At the same time he pointed out that ADV is opposed to “overtreatment,” or intensive care which tends to prolong life beyond its natural course in an overly aggressive manner.

It was reported by LifeSiteNews that:
The French Senate commission, which voted in favor of a pro-euthanasia bill last week, retracted its vote. The Senate is now expected to adopt amendments rejecting the bill. However, the ADV and other pro-life groups are warning that the euthanasia lobby will not stop its efforts to make killing of the ill and suffering legal, all the more so because opinion polls show a majority of French people are now in favor of euthanasia.

Euthanasia and Organ Donation in Belgium

Michael Cook has written an interesting article about euthanasia and organ donation in Belgium. Several years ago I reported on a study that was done in Belgium where a woman who was going to die by euthanasia also consented to donate her organs.

It is interesting how the earliest cases of an unethical act are often done in controversial circumstances. The Belgium woman who died by euthanasia and then had her organs removed was a woman in locked-in syndrome. She was a cognitively disabled woman who died by euthanasia and then had her organs removed.

The concern about organ donation after euthansia in Belgium is made greater by the fact that Belgium presumes consent for Organ donation. The health of organs is often related to the health of the donor, making the prospect of waiting for consent before euthanasia in question. Organ donor rules in Belgium.

It should not surprise us that a recent study of euthanasia in the Flanders region of Belgium showed that 32% of euthanasia deaths were done without explicit request or consent.

Michael Cook wrote in his recent article:

A group of Belgian doctors are harvesting “high quality” organs from patients who have been euthanized. This is not a secret project, but one which they described openly at a conference organised by the Belgian Royal Medical Academy in December.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Dirk Ysebaert, Dirk Van Raemdonck, Michel Meurisse, of the University Hospitals Of Antwerp, Leuven And Liège, showed that about 20% of the 705 people who died through euthanasia (officially) in 2008 were suffering from neuromuscular disorders whose organs are relatively high quality for transplanting to other patients. This represents a useful pool of organs which could help to remedy a shortage of organs in Belgium (as everywhere else).

It is not clear from the presentation how many patients participated in their scheme. However, in a 2008 report, Belgian doctors explained that three patients had been euthanased between 2005 and 2007 and had agreed to donate their organs.

Euthanasia for organ transplant is a bit different from normal euthanasia, the doctors say, because they prefer that patients die in hospital rather than at home.

They have developed a protocol for the procedure.

  • There has to be a strict separation between the euthanasia request, the euthanasia procedure, and the organ procurement. 
  • The donor and his (or her) relatives have to consent. 
  • The euthanasia is performed by a neurologist or psychiatrist and two house physicians. 
  • Organ retrieval begins after clinical diagnosis of death by the three physicians. 
  • And, of course, staff participation is voluntary.
It sounds very similar to the Groningen Protocol, the Protocol that allows Dutch physicians to euthanize newborns with disabilities.

How much pressure to convince people to die by euthanasia will be on people. First there is pressure based on the cost of medical care. Then there is pressure from family members who are tired of caring for the person. Then there is pressure on a person because society has made them feel like a burden. Now there is pressure because good will come from euthanasia if they donate their healthy organs.

The reason the organs are healthy is that the person is often not yet dying, but of course euthanasia takes care of that problem.

Link to Wesley Smith's recent blog comment on this issue.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Controling health care costs and legalizing assisted suicide in Vermont

Peter Shumlin
Peter Shumlin, the new Governor of Vermont is planning to aggressively control the cost of healthcare in Vermont. Is it a surprise that Shumlin is also planning to legalizing assisted suicide in Vermont?

I came across two letters to the Vermont Rutland Herald concerning Governor Shumlin's goal to control healthcare costs and his plans to legalize assisted suicide. I knew about his plan to legalize assisted suicide and I am not surprised by its possible connection to controlling healthcare costs in Vermont.

The first letter was written by Martha Hafner from Randolph Vermont titled - Choosing death is cheaper - states:
Speaking at the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce Jan. 10, Gov. Peter Shumlin made his administration’s health care reform policy crystal clear: Vermont will be the first in the nation to aggressively pursue the central problem of controlling costs. ...

But cost-control enthusiasm must not be allowed to harm vulnerable Vermonters. I am speaking of a proposed bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Say what you want about the lethal drug “choice,” it’s definitely cheap. A few dollars of pills can make unnecessary tens of thousands of dollars of expensive end-of-life care. And therein lies a great temptation and danger. ...

During the coming, decade-long effort to control health care costs, no-one should be pressured into taking cheap, lethal drugs. People will die unnecessarily and an essential trust in “the system” will be undermined. Anonymous health insurance bureaucrats must not be given the de facto power of life and death.
The second letter was written by Heather Sheppard from Cambridge Vermont titled - Let's not pioneer right to die - states:
I am troubled that our new governor wants Vermont to show the rest of the nation how to control health care costs (speech at Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, January 2011), but also wants Vermont’s Legislature to be the nation’s first to legalize giving lethal pills to patients. I cannot say with certainty if these two “Vermont-leads-the-way” health care initiatives are connected. But as a former HMO health insurance sales rep, I know that end-of-life care costs insurance companies plenty, and that their “cost control” would improve if society’s very sick people begin to die prematurely by overdose of barbiturates.

It is up to our governor and the legislators pushing this bill to convince me and many other concerned Vermonters that health care reform will forbid legalized assisted suicide. If they cannot, we will dig in our heels and bring the message of “no death panels in Vermont” to our Statehouse. At least two Oregon people were denied life-extending care they wanted but were still offered coverage for death pills they didn’t want (“ABC Nightly News” story, June 2008). That is an appalling breach of trust. The “death with dignity” folks in Oregon said it could never happen there, and they were wrong, and it is their money funding the lobbyists for the Vermont campaign.

The bottom line is that we can’t let vulnerable Vermonters become victims of the bottom line.
When healthcare costs and legalized assisted suicide are combined, the result is a lethal brew.

Link to an article about the budget concerns in Vermont.

Link to article about healthcare costs in Vermont.

Vermont government being pressured by out-of-state suicide lobby to legalize assisted suicide.

I was reading my assisted suicide google alerts and I came across a letter to the Vermont Rutland Herald concerning the money that the (Oregon) Death With Dignity Political Action Fund is spending to pressure the Vermont government to legalize assisted suicide. I have already written about this issue in the past.

The letter from Meg Barnes from Shoreham Vermont (January 19)entitled "Using Vermont to push agenda" stated:
An out-of-state group has targeted Vermont for a new law with life-or-death consequences for vulnerable Vermonters.

In an e-mail sent to supporters in early December, Peg Sandeen of the Oregon Death With Dignity Political Action Fund described how she had visited Vermont and met with Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin and strategized with lobbyists. Sandeen assured her readers, “Vermont will be the next state with a Death with Dignity law. Every element is in place. Every player has a plan of action. Every commitment has been fulfilled.”

This commitment includes the Oregon-based group’s donation of $100,000. That’s where the money for the ads and lobbyists will come from. This out-of-state organization with a strong ideological agenda is pulling strings and pushing buttons to make Vermont the “first.” No other state legislature has ever passed a doctor-prescribed death law. Vermont is their laboratory, and we are the rats. And like many experiments using rats, the consequence is life or death. In Oregon, the state medical insurance organization has twice told terminally ill patients it would not fund approved, life-extending treatment, because it is too expensive, but would pay for lethal drugs. Do we trust insurers to always put patients first? It hasn’t worked out that way in Oregon.

Like most Vermonters, I do not know exactly what elements are in place, which players have a plan of action, and what commitments have been fulfilled. I do know our Legislature must put the whole needs of the patient first and foremost; that is the only “commitment” that must be “fulfilled.” Insurance abuse is real. Misdiagnosis is real. Family pressure is real. Rare, maybe, but real. All these factors and more can lead to unwanted, unnecessary death if lethal drugs are legalized. I ask my fellow voters to join me in telling legislators that we don’t support any law that risks the lives of terminally ill Vermonters.

Vermonters need to realize that the Oregon based Death With Dignity Action Fund first facilitated donations to help Peter Shumlin become elected Governor of Vermont.

Now the Death With Dignity Action Fund is spending money to pressure the Vermont legislature to support assisted suicide. They realize that Vermont is a small state and it is less expensive to pay for a campaign in Vermont than in a much larger state.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is the tragic drowning of a disabled toddler in Sydney an indirect consequence of publicity given to the merits of legalised euthanasia?

The story of Maia Comas, the two year old girl with Retts Syndrome who died of drowning in Sydney Australia - December 3, 2007, raises many questions about societal attitudes toward people with disabilities.

The Coroner who investigated the case was unable to decide whether this was an accident or not, but the coroner did state that "the circumstances suggested “great irresponsibility" on the part of her parents."

If Maia Comas did not have Rett Syndrome, would the coroners decision have been different?

An article written by Australian, Michael Cook, examines some of the facts of the case. This is what Cook wrote:
Two months before her death, Maia was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a disorder that often leaves sufferers with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. Her parents, 36-year-old Pablo Comas and 31-year-old Samantha Razniak were shaken by the news.

Their ramshackle home was in the beachside suburb of Curl Curl -- “two hippies living in a house playing guitar," in Mr Comas’s words. They felt utterly unprepared for the burden of caring for their daughter.

After the tentative diagnosis, they probed Maia’s pediatrician about the legal and medical position of euthanasia for children with incurable but non-terminal conditions. The doctor – who had never heard such a request -- responded “this is not an option under Australian Law and any action causing harm in any way is a criminal act. Any action causing death actively or passively would be considered murder.”

But Ms Razniak was at her wits’ end. She rattled government social workers by telling them: “Do you understand that she will grow into a young woman and have the mind of a 2 to 10 year old. The head, hands and feet all stop growing. I don’t want to see my daughter become a monster, to become ugly… I’d rather her die now than die slowly.”

When she was reassured by social workers that she could get government support, she responded, that the only support she was interested in was euthanasia. “I want to get on with my life and not see all this ugliness – clinics, home disabled people, doctors.”

Mr Comas felt much the same. He once asked a social worker: “Why do they keep children with these disabilities alive? It doesn’t seem fair on the children.”

The social workers were alarmed by the parents’ attitude, but the case seems to have fallen between the cracks. On December 3, 2007, Maia’s visiting grandmother discovered her floating in a unfenced wading pool. Her mother, who was a trained swimming instructor who was working at a childcare centre, was too “freaked out” to revive her. Maia was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

The story of Maia Comas reminds me of the research that was done by Dick Sobsey that showed many more parents killed their children with disabilities during the trial and the media promotion of Robert Latimer. Link to Latimer's Lethal Legacy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Australian Euthanasia bill will be defeated

The ABC news in Australia is reporting that the euthanasia bill that is being sponsored in the Australian federal parliament by the Greens leader Bob Brown, will not pass.

In 1995, the Northern Territory in Australia legalized euthanasia. That euthanasia law was overturned by the federal parliament in 1997.

Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens, in the past was unsuccessful in overturning the 1997 Andrews legislation that banned euthanasia in the Northern Territories.

Brown has now changed his tactic by introducing a bill that would enhance territories rights in Australia. This is a thinly veiled attempt to legalize euthanasia in the Northern Territory.

The article states:
(the federal) ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says a Greens bill to restore the Territory's right to make euthanasia laws will not pass.

Mr Stanhope, a staunch euthanasia supporter, has written to all Federal MPs urging them to support the bill, saying it is about the democratic rights of ACT voters and not euthanasia.

He says he has received responses from around three dozen Federal MPs so far, with only a few indicating their support for the bill.
Once again I will congratulate the work of Paul Saunders, the leader of HOPE in Australia who led the campaign to defeat Brown's euthanasia bill. Keep up the good work. Link to the HOPE website.

Israel overwhelming rejects assisted suicide law

Israel news reported yesterday that the Knesset rejected a bill to legalize assisted suicide by a vote of 48 to 16.

The news article stated:
In a preliminary reading, the Knesset has rejected a law proposal that would have allowed (assisted suicide) terminally ill patients to take drugs that would cause them to die.

NK Chaim Oron (Meretz), who initiated the law titled 'Death by Prescription,' proposed that a dying patient who is able and of legal age should receive, upon request, a prescription for a lethal dose of a sedative. Only 16 MKs voted for the law, while 48 voted against it.
Considering the devastating experience with the T4 euthanasia programme in Nazi Germany, It is shocking that even 16 MKs in Israel would consider the legalization of assisted suicide.

France considers law to legalize euthanasia

The Connexion news from France is reporting that French Senators took a first step towards legalizing assisted suicide. The Senate's social affairs committee voted 25 to 19 in favour of the euthanasia bill. The bill will be debated in the Senate on January 25.

The news article stated that this is the first time that the Senate in France has considered a Euthanasia bill. The bill would allow a person to die by a lethal dose if they are:
"a mature person, in the advanced or terminal phase of a accidental or pathological affliction that is grave or incurable, causing physical or psychological suffering that cannot be relieved, can request to receive medical assistance to die".

The Dutch, Belgium and Luxembourg legislation is also similar in the fact that it encourages euthanasia for people with disabilities who are not otherwise dying.

The news article suggested that the passage of the bill is unlikely and stated:
a group of UMP senators said in a joint statement that the law was "regrettable" and went against existing legislation that "aims to protect the weakest and most vulnerable and offer help to those who are in a dangerous situation".

The French government needs to improve the way it cares and it needs to reject legalizing the killing of its vulnerable citizens.

New group forms in Montana to support Hinkle Bill, oppose assisted suicide, and prevent elder abuse.

The Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity have formed as a group of individuals and groups to support Senator Greg Hinkle's Senate Bill 116 to oppose assisted suicide and prevent elder abuse in Montana.

The Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity have organized a post-card campaign and they are encouraging Montanans to send hand-written letters to their Representatives to encourage them to support Senator Hinkle and oppose assisted suicide. Link to more information.

Montana has an interesting situation. Senator Hinkle has sponsored Senate Bill 116 that will reverse the Baxter court decision and close the loop-hole that technically allowed assisted suicide, even though the Baxter decision did not make assisted suicide actually legal. SB 116 will also provide greater protections from Elder Abuse. An explanation of the Baxter court decision.

At the same time Senator Anders Blewett has introduced Senate Bill 167 to officially legalize assisted suicide in Montana.

The stakes are high. The Baxter decision did not legalize assisted suicide but if prosecuted it gave Montana doctors a defense of consent. Clearly the status quo is not acceptable.

At the same time, Compassion & Choices of Colorado, the leading group in the suicide lobby, has tried to convince Montana doctors that they can go ahead and prescribe a lethal dose to their patients. Compassion & Choices, known by the disability rights group Not Dead Yet as conflation and con jobs, is also busy pressuring Montana politicians to support the Blewett bill and uphold the Baxter court decision.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognizes that the Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity have accepted a monumental task but we are convinced that this group of concerned Montana citizens will not only win the battle, but they will do so in a convincing fashion.

Donations can be sent to the:
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity
P.O. Box 2691, Big Fork Montana 59911

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some media reports have been irresponsible in their reporting of Quebec double murder case - comparing it to Latimer

I am often surprised how the media is willing to report a double murder as a possible "mercy killing" even before the facts of the case have been properly established.

The prime example is the incredibly sad and disturbing case of Sylvain Guidi (47), who has been charged with first-degree murder in the homicide deaths of his father, Claude Guidi (75) and his mother Denise Cloutier-Guidi (71).

Claude Guidi was a retired Longueuil Quebec police officer.

On Saturday, January 15, 2011, Sylvain Guidi allegedly shot his father and mother in the family home in St-Jean-de-Matha Quebec. Sylvain allegedly used a hunting rifle that was registered in his name.

All the media needed to know in order to spin a defense for Sylvain Guidi was that his defense lawyer, Michel Leclerc, suggested that the case "appears to have involved elements of compassion."

The artice written by Jan Ravensbergen. Ravensbergen emphasized that the case may involve 'elements of compassion' and then he went into a description of the Latimer case.

How does shooting ones parents with a hunting rifle have any comparison to Latimer, who was convicted of second-degree murder for killing his daughter Tracy by gassing her to death with the fumes of his truck.

What bothers me about the Ravensbergen article is how he attempts to create a defense for Sylvain Guidi by superficially describing the health problems of his parents. The description of the parents health problems with the comparison to the Latimer case appears to be his justification for allegedly shooting his parents.

The CBC news coverage was fair even though they emphasized that the deaths may have been for 'compassionate' reasons, they offered other facts.

The CBC report repeated the defense by Guidi's lawyer, that the parents had health issues, but then the CBC stated:
"Leclerc said Guidi has had emotional issues in the past and has undergone psychotherapy."
The CBC report then quoted a neighbour as saying:
(Sylvain) was a good boy. You couldn't ask for a better son.
But then the CBC report stated:
"Guidi was known to police. A few years ago, he was convicted of assaulting a police officer."
The media need to accurately report tragic cases without jumping to conclusions or creating a defense for the alleged killer. By bringing the issue of Latimer into a case that may or may not have anything to do with euthanasia, creates an emotional response to a story that possibly only benefits the media outlet who are seeking readership to sell newspapers or advertising.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Connecticut man charged with Manslaughter in father's death.

George Brodigan, an 82 year old retired Connecticut lawyer, died on September 14, 2010 Bruce Brodigan, his son, has been charged with manslaughter in Connecticut.

The reported facts of the case.
- George Brodigan was 82 years old and had Alzheimer's disease for several years. He died on September 14, 2010.
- Police said that the Amitriptyline found in George's body is an anti-depressant that was prescribed to his son. The remaining pills were found below George's body at the death scene.
- Police said that George had a blood alcohol level of 0.13. A half empty bottle of rum was at his bedside.
- The cause of death was listed as an overdose of Amitripyline and alcohol.
- At the death scene there were copies of George's "do not resuscitate" orders, his financial and personal papers, including an obituary and a copy of the "Final Exit" suicide handbook written by Derek Humphry.
- Police contend that Bruce actively participated in the planning and completion of the death of his father. Officer Lascari stated:
"It is unlikely that he possessed the ability or foresight to follow the step-by-step instructions of the book "Final Exit" and prepare and arrange the items that were found set up in his house on the date of his death."
- West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci stated to the Hartford Courant newspaper:
"You've got a person who is a party here, who has an interest in the outcome, who is assisting the suicide. ... When we look at all the circumstances there and we have to wonder is this a guy helping his father or is he doing something for himself?"

If the facts are as reported, the son allegedly plied the father with alcohol and fed him a lethal dose of drugs to cause his death.

Elder abuse is a common and growing problem throughout North America.

Based on the need in society to provide a safe environment from elder abuse, justice must be done.

More Reasons to Oppose Legalised Euthanasia

I was going through my emails and came upon this article that was written by Bill Muehlenberg and published on December 6, 2010. It is a good article about how legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide will erode the doctor/patient relationship.

Muehlenberg wrote:
One of the major reasons why societies should never go down the path of legalising euthanasia is that the doctor-patient relationship will be seriously weakened. When the medical profession becomes involved in killing, the delicate trust relationship between patient and doctor is radically undermined.

People trust their lives to doctors and health care workers in the knowledge that they are dedicated to the preservation of life, to healing, to caring. This after all is the basis of the Hippocratic tradition. The Hippocratic Oath includes the commitment not to kill a patient, even if the patient requests such a course.

Once doctors became involved in the killing game, once they become “legalised terminators” as Morris West calls them, patients will be in a state of fear and suspicion, not knowing where the doctor is coming from. Some may rightly fear whether “every injection, pill or new IV bag is designed to cure or to kill – to end the pain or the patient” as one bioethicist remarks.

But it is not just the patient who is at risk. Doctors too risk becoming desensitised, seeing the taking of life as just another routine procedure. This was exactly the case in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany. The medical establishment played a large role in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Germans and non-Germans.

It took less than 20 years for German medicine to make the practice of the widespread euthanasia of “undesirables” acceptable. And the horrible Nazi crimes, as Leo Alexander reminds us, “started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.”

Indeed, physician-assisted suicide (PAS) would inevitably harden the doctor to his traditional responsibilities. How could this not occur? By turning doctors away from caring to killing will of necessity not only change their role but change their own values and humanity. As English medical ethicist John Wyatt expresses it:

“There would also be the psychological effect on doctors who have broken deep human intuitions and cultural taboos against the intentional taking of human life. Would doctors and other staff be brutalized by the experience? Would the doctor who has just committed euthanasia fight as hard as she might have done to save the life of her next patient? What are the psychological consequences for carers, when the overriding duty of care is transformed into a duty to kill?”

Moreover, legalised euthanasia gives too much power to doctors. Doctors, not patients, are empowered by euthanasia. As Herbert Hendin says, “Euthanasia, advocated and instituted to foster patient autonomy and self-determination, has actually increased the paternalistic power of the medical profession. Physicians’ organizations protect the interests of their members like guilds or unions everywhere.”

Even for a doctor who acts only from the noblest of motives, there is a chance of making the wrong decision for the wrong reasons. And what of unscrupulous doctors? What if doctors make a straight commission from each patient they kill, as is the case with some abortionists?

As T.C. DeLacey notes, “Doctors like anyone else can be selfish and lazy. It is not unknown for doctors to take self-interested short-cuts, for example, putting a pregnant woman to the added and unnecessary strain of an induced or caesarean section birth on a Friday in order to guarantee an uninterrupted weekend for themselves. Why, then, would they never be tempted to kill as the quickest or easiest way of dealing with a troublesome case; likewise, why would they never be prepared to falsify a patient’s ‘living will’?”

Margaret Sommerville
Ethicist Margaret Somerville summarises the harm in this: “Doctors’ absolute repugnance to killing people is necessary to maintaining people’s and society’s trust in them. . . . It would be very difficult to communicate to doctors a repugnance to killing in a context of legalised euthanasia. Harm to medicine also harms society. We need to protect the institution of medicine not just for its own sake, but also because it is a very important value-creating, value-carrying and values-consensus-forming institution, especially in a secular society.”

The experience of the Low Countries

All this is borne out in some new studies which further highlight the dangers of legalised euthanasia. They all have to do with the situation in Belgium and the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002 and 2001 respectively. The findings are not very encouraging. Indeed, the safeguards that are supposed to be in play seem to be very weak indeed.

For example, a new study published in the British Medical Journal “found that nearly half of all euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were not reported. This study combined with the recent study that was published in the CMAJ in May 2010 that indicated that 32% of all euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were without request or consent suggests that the Belgium euthanasia model is out-of-control.”

Alex Schadenberg
Alex Schadenberg explains: “The authors of the study analysed the death certificates in the Flanders Region of Belgium. After determining that the death was related to euthanasia, the authors of the study sent a five page questionnaire to the treating physician. The physicians were guaranteed total anonymity and asked to respond to the questionnaire.

“The study determined that euthanasia deaths were reported 52.8% of the time, even though reporting is a requirement of the law. The most recent study in the Netherlands indicated that the euthanasia deaths were reported 80.2% of the time.

“The study indicates that the reason the euthanasia death was not reported was:
76.7% – the physician did not perceive their act as euthanasia.17.9% – reporting was considered an administrative burden.11.9% – the legal, due care requirements, had possibly not all been met.8.7% – euthanasia is a private matter between the physician and patient.2.3% – because of possible legal consequences.
“It is interesting that 97.7% of the reported cases were done by the physician, whereas 41.3% of the unreported cases were done by a nurse alone. This confirms the result of the other recent study that found that 45% of euthanasia deaths that were done by nurses were without request or consent.

“This study strongly challenges the Belgium government official reports. According to these reports, physicians who reported cases practised euthanasia carefully and in compliance with the law, and no cases of abuse were found. But if only 52.8% of all euthanasia deaths are reported and the physicians admitted that in at least 2.3% of the time the euthanasia death was not reported due to possible legal consequences and 11.9% of the cases were not reported because the legal requirements were not met, therefore it is clear that physicians are only choosing to report the cases that are within the parameters of the law.”

This is further evidence that legalising euthanasia is always going to be a dangerous and uncontrollable exercise. Patients will be put further at risk, and the relationship between doctor and patient will continue to deteriorate. It is clear that all civilised societies must say no to euthanasia.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

There are serious flaws in euthanasia and assisted suicide debate in Quebec

The Quebec government Dying with Dignity commission (Quebec commission) is once-again holding meetings throughout Quebec to seek input from their citizens concerning euthanasia, assisted suicide and end-of-life care.

The Quebec commission began their deliberations in February 2010, by receiving written and oral submissions from 20 people/groups who were viewed as experts. They then released a consultation document that was based on the submissions.

There are some serious flaws in the current debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide in Quebec. For instance, the Quebec College of Physicians has taken several interesting and yet false positions.

The Quebec physicians stated that certain acts of euthanasia need to be legalized in order to regulate what is already occurring. They stated that euthanasia occurs regularly when physicians withdraw life-sustaining treatment, when they use large doses of analgesics (pain killers) or when they sedate people who have painful symptoms.

First, killing someone by euthanasia is not the same as letting a person die. Everyday doctors need to decide whether a treatment plan continues to provide benefit. When a medical team decides to withdraw treatment, if the person dies soon after, that death is natural and caused by the underlying condition. The decision to allow natural death to occur is clearly different than the decision to directly and intentionally cause someone’s death by lethal injection.

Secondly, the proper use of analgesics and the proper use of sedation techniques should never be compared to euthanasia. The proper use of analgesics will effectively comfort a person in most circumstances, without causing death. When painful symptoms continue to exist, it is sometimes necessary to sedate a person. The proper use of sedation will allow the person to be comfortable without causing their death. In the rare circumstance, that a person dies from the proper use of analgesics or sedation, death it was not intended and it is clearly not euthanasia.

To directly and intentionally cause a persons death by giving an intentional overdose or intentionally abusing the proper use of sedation techniques is euthanasia.

If physicians in Quebec are intentionally abusing the use of analgesics or sedation techniques, then why would they not intentionally abuse rules concerning euthanasia?

The good news is that a group of Quebec citizens under the name Vivre dans la Dignité (Living with Dignity) is effectively working in Quebec to change the debate in Quebec. Vivre dans la Dignité deserves your support.

Quebec needs to reassess how end-of-life care, chronic care and the care of persons with disabilities is carried-out throughout Quebec and they need to identify ways to implement improvements. The Quebec government needs to establish practices that will enable people to Live with Dignity and not be killed by euthanasia.

For more information go to: or to:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Montana Senate Bill 116 - The Elder Abuse Prevention Act

This is a message for Montana citizens only.

Senator Greg Hinkle has sponsored Senate Bill 116 - The Elder Abuse Prevention Act in Montana. This is some information concerning SB 116.

The Elder Abuse Prevention Act SB 116
"An Act Prohibiting Aid in Dying"
Senate Bill 116

1. The phrase, “aid in dying,” is commonly used to describe assisted suicide and euthanasia.

2. Most states that have considered legalizing assisted suicide have rejected it. Only two states allow it.

3. Legal assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse because it empowers heirs and others to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, reported statistics are consistent with elder abuse.

4. In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court issued a decision that opened the door to legalizing assisted suicide in Montana. The Court referred to the practice as “aid in dying.” When making this ruling, the Court overlooked its own precedent imposing civil liability against doctors and others who cause another person to commit suicide. The Court also overlooked elder abuse.

5. Preventing elder abuse is official Montana State policy.

6. SB 116 prevents elder abuse by reversing the Court’s decision and explicitly prohibiting "aid in dying," assisted suicide, euthanasia and mercy killing.

Let Your Montana Legislators Know that You are for Senator Hinkle’s SB 116, the Elder Abuse Prevention Act, to Prohibit Assisted Suicide.(“an act prohibiting aid in dying”)

Handwritten letters mailed from your district are best.

You have one Senator and one Representative. Find out who they are, here:

A message from the:
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity
PO Box 2691
Big Fork, MT 59911

Standing against assisted suicide is a rational position

Bradley Williams has written another good letter to the editor to the Montana Standard Newpaper. Bradley writes:
We already had legal and appropriate end-of-life choices available to all citizens before we were targeted by out-of-state proponents of assisted suicide.

They want unsuspecting citizens to believe that it is all or nothing. That in order to utilize existing end-of-life choices like advanced directives, or living wills to "pull the plug" all complimented by medical power of attorney and superior hospice and palliative care we must accept their values of assisted suicide. Wrong!

The proponents of assisted suicide want to impose their values on us to celebrate our death for the good of society, while they turn a blind eye to the new path they willingly create to increase abuse of elders. We did not need assisted suicide before they arrived and we still don't need it! The Democratic controlled New Hampshire legislator defeated assisted suicide by a wide margin of 242 to 113 in 2010. This was a bipartisan vote.

The last thing that we need is a law that glorifies committing suicide. We already have one of the highest suicide rates in the country. For more information, read state Sen. Greg Hinkle's report to the Legislature at:

Bradley Williams
Hamilton Montana

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care receives input in Montreal

The Suburban, Quebec's largest english weekly newspaper published an article written by Ian Howarth concerning the input that was received on the West Island of Montreal by the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, in mid December. The Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care is an all-party ad-hoc committee that is co-chaired by Joe Comartin (NDP), Michelle Simson (Lib), and Harold Albrecht (CPC).

The article reported:
The committee, of which Lac St. Louis MP Francis Scarpaleggia is a leading member, heard from a variety of stakeholders in the sensitive palliative and compassionate care sector of public health. “This is more of a grass roots effort of parliament,” explained Scarpaleggia. “The committee was born out of a concern for the kind of care sectors of Canadian society are being given, especially in the areas of palliative care, suicide prevention, elder abuse and disability issues.”

Concerning elder abuse, the article pointed to the presentation by Peter Eusanio from Comfort Keepers:
Peter Eusanio, who runs Comfort Keepers, a private home care service, talked of the way some seniors are at the mercy of other service providers and the difficult struggles they have in basic day to day living. Eusanio related stories of seniors left high and dry with grocery bags by uncaring taxi drivers or in another case a senior who had been robbed by a family member - and blamed it on the caregiver - to support a drug habit. The government of Canada has recently produced a series of public service television ads addressing the issue of elder abuse with the tagline, It’s Time to Face the Reality of Elder Abuse, encouraging Canadians to not turn a blind eye.

Debbie Magwood told the committe about the importance of the compassionate care that West Island Cancer Wellness Centre offers:
When Debbie Magwood started up The West Island Cancer Wellness Centre (WICWC) two years ago, she had no idea of the response she would get. Now the challenge is to keep up with the demand. Providing what she called psychosocial services to cancer patients and their families, the WICWC has tripled its numbers needing compassionate care. “Cancer patients and their families sometimes feel abandoned by the healthcare system,” she told the committee. “Of course there is the medical treatment, but there are other aspects to consider, like the stress associated with cancer.” Magwood added that all health agencies should be working together to give cancer patients and those close to them the compassionate care they need. She added that the WICWC’s operating budget is totally supported by independent fundraising, something she thought the committee would want to address when putting together its report
Teresa Dellar and Rose De Angelis from the West Island Palliative Care Residence explained the need for more support in providing palliative care services. The article stated:
Executive Director Teresa Dellar and assistant director general Rose De Angelis of the West Island Palliative Care Residence (WIPCR) struck a similar chord in their afternoon presentation to the committee. Every year the WIPCR raises $1.3 million through a variety of methods and along with the provincial government’s $700,000 contribution the residence is able to run its nine-bed facility. They do not receive any funding from the federal government.

De Angelis and Dellar related their concerns to the committee that not enough cancer patients were able to get the care they deserved. In fact, only 16-30 percent of Canadians have access to palliative care. The WIPCR is the only adult palliative care residence on the island of Montreal.

“We’re short 14 palliative beds on the West Island,” said De Angelis. “It should be one bed for every 10,000 people. When we started out in 1998, we were prepared for 140 patients per year and now it is more like 242 per year.”

De Angelis has no illusions, but is hopeful that the Palliative and Compassionate Care ad-hoc committee’s report will affect serious change. “I’d like to believe that since they are talking to the front-line service providers that it will at least raise awareness at the government and public level,” she said.

The work of the Palliative and Compassionate Care Committee was explained by the paper:
The committee, formed in April 2010, includes six MPs along with 45 other members that have met eight times in Ottawa as well as 17 regional round table meetings hosted across the country. The non-partisan committee’s goal is to address palliative, hospice and home care issues, suicide prevention, elder abuse and disability issues. A report, which will be forwarded to the government, is expected to be filed by next spring.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition looks forward to the release of this important report. The work of the Palliative and Compassionate Care Committee is historic and forward thinking. Canada needs to be prepared for providing the care in the future for its citizens.