Saturday, June 29, 2013

How many suicide cylinders did Dr Nitschke sell on his UK tour?

This article was written by Dr Peter Saunders and published on his blog under the title: The question that the police have not asked and Nitschke has not answered.

By Peter Saunders - The Campaign Director for the Care Not Killing Alliance - UK

Peter Saunders
Philip Nitschke
Australia's ‘Dr Death’ Philip Nitschke visited the UK this week and held a ‘workshop’ at Dragon Hall in London providing instruction in how to commit suicide. About 150 people attended.

Not understandably the event evoked protests and some publicity.

In the week before Nitschke arrived I wrote to both the Home Secretary Theresa May and the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to advise them about his visit and to inform them that I believed his workshop would be in breach of the Suicide Act 1961, under which it is an offence to ‘encourage or assist’ suicide.

The Act does not require that a suicide is actually carried out in order to for a prosecution to take place.

Quite possibly as a result Nitschke was briefly detained at Gatwick airport but was eventually let in, presumably with the permission of the Home Secretary.

The police did not attend the workshop but referred the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service who decided that an investigation was not necessary.

At his workshop last Tuesday Nitschke, who is on public record as supporting suicide for ‘the depressed, the elderly bereaved, (and) the troubled teen’, gave advice on the sourcing, supply and use of barbiturates, nitrogen and other means that people could use to kill themselves.

2010 report demonstrated that coroners were aware of 51 Australians who had died from an overdose of Nembutal, a lethal barbiturate that Nitschke has promoted since the late 1990’s as ‘a peaceful way to die’.

But this fact seems to leave Nistchke unperturbed.

When previously confronted with the fact that 14 of the 51 were Australians in their 20’s and 30’s and only 11 of 38 investigated were known to have suffered chronic physical pain or a terminal illness he responded that ‘there will be some casualties’.

Currently Nitschke is the subject of an inquiry by the Australian Health Practitioners Agency (AHPA) in connection with a company called 'Max Dog Brewing' which he has set up in order to sell nitrogen cylinders via his Exit International website to people who wish to end their lives.

‘Max Dog Brewing’ is owned by Northern Analytics Pty Ltd which has ‘Philip Haig Nitschke’ as its sole director.

Its website claims that nitrogen cylinders can be used for home brewing (nitrogen produces the bubbles in stout) but Nitschke has admitted on Australian national media that they can equally be used to commit suicide and there are much cheaper sources of the gas available for brewers.

I asked Nitschke on twitter this week how many nitrogen cylinders he has so far sold to members of the British public but thus far he has not responded.

However according to the Newstalk ZB in New Zealand Max Dog Brewing has already sent shipments to both New Zealand and the UK.

So here we have a man who travels the world running ‘workshops’ in order to give information to people in order that they can commit suicide.

He tells them where they can obtain barbiturate drugs and sells kits for storage of the drugs and for measuring their concentration.

And he sells nitrogen cylinders via a company he has set up for the purpose along with the necessary kit to deliver the gas.

Quite why this does not amount to ‘encouraging and assisting’ suicide is a mystery to me.

What will it take, I wonder for the Home Secretary, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to do something about it?

I hope it is not the first barbiturate or nitrogen suicide of someone in the UK making use of his information and equipment.

But I am not holding my breath.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Shocking elder abuse incident leads to investigation into Peterborough Ontario care home.

Hellen MacDonald with her son
Camille Parent.
On May 22, 2013; EPC published the story of the horrific elder abuse case of Hellen MacDonald, who was living in a long-term care home in Peterborough Ontario. Her son Camille Parent was upset about the care his mother was receiving and decided to install a hidden camera to uncover what was happening to his mother. 

The original article stated:
“We put the camera there thinking we were going to catch which residents were doing this too her because it needed to stop,” adds Mr. Parent. 
The video -- which reveals wandering residents entering Ms. MacDonald’s room, a personal support worker putting feces near Ms MacDonald face  and aggressively handling Ms MacDonald, and another personal support worker blowing his nose in Ms MacDonald’s bed sheets -- has shocked the community, caused the suspension with pay of two employees and led to an investigation by both Peterborough-Lakefield police and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. “It was just unbelievable,” says Mr. Parent. 
Mr. Parent hopes the video will result in charges being laid. 
The original article we published was titled: Elder abuse caught on video, incident is not isolated.

Now the Peterborough Examiner newspaper has reported that admissions to the care home have been suspended by the province after an investigation found multiple violations of the law.

The Peterborough Examiner reported:
Admissions to St. Joseph’s at Fleming have been suspended after a Ministry of Long-Term Care investigation found multiple violations of the provincial Long-Term Care Homes Act including failure to adhere to the infection prevention and control program, failure to protect residents from abuse, and failure to provide residents with three meals a day. 
The investigation was launched after a video camera hidden by Camille Parent in his mother’s room in April recorded abusive treatment of the 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient by St. Joseph's staff. Four staff members were fired as a result. 
According to ministry documents obtained by The Examiner, St. Joseph’s has been given until Sunday to comply with a number of orders issued by the ministry. 
St Joseph's at Fleming
The facility has been ordered, among other things, to “ensure that residents are protected from abuse by ensuring that physical force is not used in the provision of care when assisting residents with resistive behaviours; and by ensuring that intimidating or humiliating gestures, actions, behaviour or remarks are not directed to a resident…” 
The investigation also found that some residents are not served three meals daily. 
The Joseph’s, the ministry documents state, failed to comply with the act when some residents “were not provided breakfast.” 
According to residents, the documents state, on June 7 some residents were “provided a beverage … but no breakfast because staff ‘ran out of time.’ 
“The four staff members working on the … unit were interviewed about (the resident’s) breakfast status and were not able to confirm if the resident had been offered a breakfast,” the documents state. 
In an email to The Examiner Thursday night, Sheamus Murphy, director of communications for Health Minister Deb Matthews, confirmed the suspension of admissions. 
The ministry, he said, issued a “cease of admissions order for St. Joseph's at Fleming … due to resident care concerns. This is one of a number of steps that can be taken to further ensure resident care and safety while the home works to address areas of non-compliance identified during recent inspections. 
“The ministry has been actively monitoring the situation at St. Joseph’s at Fleming to help ensure resident safety and the home’s compliance, and will continue to do so. The current inspection is still ongoing,” Murphy wrote, adding that the ministry has “zero tolerance for abuse or neglect in our long-term care homes.” 
On Tuesday, the Catholic Health Corporation of Ontario (CHCO) restructured the St. Joseph’s board of directors, bringing in five new members, including the new chairman, who sit on the board of Providence Care in Kingston, a long-term-care facility that is also overseen by the CHCO.
It is important to state that this is not an isolated incident.
CTV news reported on the case with an article titled: Nursing home abuse incident not isolated. CTV reported on the recent settlement of the largest class action lawsuit in Quebec and it concerned elder abuse.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognizes the scourge of elder abuse as a sign of a societal attitude that dehumanizes vulnerable citizens, especially those who are unable to defend or speak for themselves. We also lament the fact that similar abuse occurs in care homes for people with disabilities.

A society that has devalued the lives of seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable people to the point that abuse can occur without detection and basic protections for people who are supposedly receiving care are not in place, must not even consider legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Elder abuse and abuse of vulnerable persons proves that any supposed "safeguards" will be ignored and abused in many circumstances leading to many deaths without request, as is happening in Belgium.

For more information go to: Physician-Assisted Suicide is a recipe for elder abuse.

Euthanasia: It's not about pain

Paul Russell
The following article was written by Paul Russell, the leader of HOPE Australia, and published on the HOPE Australia blog on June 26, 2013 under the title: It's not about pain.

By Paul Russell - June 26, 2013

Once euthanasia advocacy was mostly about people's pain at the end-of-life. Pain is really not the issue any longer, if it really ever was.

Palliative medicine has developed, in recent years to a point where virtually all pain can be dealt with. If any concern remains here, it's really more about ensuring that everyone has access to high quality services.

The arguments for euthanasia, these days, are seems more about fear of growing old or the fear of developing an age or illness related disability.

In the recent Al Jazeera documentary, three people who attended Dr Nitschke's Gold Coast event were asked about why they were there. Only one mentioned difficulties with developing illnesses.

One said that she was not scared of death, 'but living and not being able to do the things I want to do scares me!' she said. Another said, 'there's no way I'm going into a nursing home where I'm lying there like a vegetable - I'm not going to be a burden on my children.' 

The recent report on the operation of Washington's Death With Dignity Act echoes the same sort of thinking and shows clearly that pain is a lower-order concern, eclipsed increasingly by what we would normally consider to be 'general issues with aging'.

We hear these kind of sentiments frequently. Disability activists like Canadian Rhonda Weibe see this kind of thinking as a real threat to the very existence of people living with disabilities as do groups like Saving Downs from New Zealand.

These concerns cannot be dismissed. Those of us who do not live with disabilities cannot really walk in their shoes. Moreover, in a world where we now recognise that discrimination has both objective and subjective elements, we must learn to listen; to accept that, for many disabled people, the fear of becoming 'targets for euthanasia' is very real.

And really, what's wrong with growing old, anyway? As a society we are better prepared financially than at any earlier time in history. Yes, we know that ours is an aging population, but, at the same time, the science and cost-effectiveness of care continues to develop and, likewise medicine.

We've always known that we enter this world dependent on others and that, a small percentage of us will leave in a similar fashion and, just as parents experience (and embrace) the burden of child raising, the burden of caring for our elderly is, likewise, simply an opportunity to care and to love. In this context, at least, denying our families the opportunity to care in such circumstances is precisely the opposite of the self-less act that some claim.

Not that these kind of concerns aren't valid. They are - but delivering poison via a syringe is not the answer.

Belgium euthanasia doctors are getting burned out.

This article was written by Michael Cook and published on June 27 BioEdge under the title: First-world problems 2: I'm really not into the whole turbo euthanasia thing.

By: Michael Cook

Dr Sarah Van Laer
Dr Sarah Van Laer, who has euthanased 28 patients since legalisation in 2002, has complained bitterly to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard about the burdens of her work.

"It’s too much for me. Lately I'm averaging one second opinion a week. Once a month, I am asked to perform the euthanasia itself… Recently I was called urgently for a patient who had been promised that euthanasia would take place that evening. But the doctor would not do it. When I came in I said I had come to see how things were. The family did not understand that -- ‘a promise is a promise’, they said.

"There are too few doctors ready to perform euthanasia. This problem is badly underestimated. Because of their reluctance many doctors pass this delicate matter off onto us. Meanwhile politicians are pressing for an extension of the legislation to minors. I wonder who will be willing to perform these euthanasias.”

She complains that doctors are getting burned out. “If a doctor does not want to perform euthanasia, he should get in touch with a palliative care team or an end-of-life doctor at a much earlier stage. Please do not get us there at the last minute. If I'm also supposed to perform a euthanasia, I want to be involved early. I am not a product on the supermarket shelf which you buy whenever you need it. I'm a person with my own needs and feelings."

Euthanasia can be a good way to end life, she insisted. “But I am not in favour of turbo-euthanasia,” she said regretfully. “I sometimes miss those moments of life before death, that good experience that dying can create."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why the Quebec government must reject Bill 52, the euthanasia bill.

The following article was published in the Montreal Gazette on June 25 under the title: Why Bill 52 should not become law.

By Dr Marc Beauchamp and Michel Racicot

Marc Beauchamp & Michel Racicot
MONTREAL — Bill 52, which the Marois government is calling “an act respecting end-of-life care” designed to support the “right to die with dignity,” includes a component aimed at decriminalizing and legalizing certain forms of active euthanasia.

As a means to confuse the population, euthanasia is presented under the neologism “medical aid in dying” and disguised as “end-of-life care.” However, the government’s terminology is not based on any semantic recognition in known medical literature, or in our country’s case law.

No national or international medical authority either defines or recognizes “medical aid in dying.” We must therefore expose it for what it really is: a synonym for “active euthanasia.”

In addition, Bill 52 introduces the concept of “terminal palliative sedation,” a concept not defined in the bill, and one that causes a lot of confusion. Inasmuch as the goal of such sedation is to cause death, and not to relieve pain, it is also another form of euthanasia.

It therefore appears clear that the bill essentially aims, using this newly invented terminology, to eliminate a prohibition — which goes back 24 centuries — on a physician voluntarily ending a patient’s life.

Furthermore, Bill 52 is contrary to principles expressed in the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms. The worth or dignity of a person does not diminish because of his or her age, state or capacity.

The justifications invoked by the minister responsible for Bill 52 in support of “medical aid in dying” relate to the need for a humanistic and compassionate approach, implying that rejection of euthanasia would be a sign of a lack of compassion on the part of medical staff. Such an affirmation, false and otherwise improper, undermines the recognition of all those who provide care, with humanity and dedication, to suffering patients in Quebec, and who believe that medical staff should not offer euthanasia to end-of-life patients, or cause their death. Nobody has the right to challenge the compassion and humanity of these health professionals, either in Quebec or anywhere else in the world.

Furthermore, the government refuses to consider issues that will undoubtedly be raised by the implementation of such legislation. It minimizes the warnings of numerous medical experts regarding the harm that could come to people in a state of physical or mental vulnerability, especially people who have impaired judgment or are suffering from depression.

The government also chooses to ignore the warnings against potential abuses. In order to obtain medical aid in dying, a person will have to satisfy certain conditions specified in Sections 26 and following of the bill. But these conditions do not apply to terminal palliative sedation. And the conditions are essentially the same as those adopted in Belgium, a country that allows medically assisted death. There is a significant body of international scientific literature demonstrating the ineffectiveness of safeguards imposed in Belgium and in the Netherlands, another country that permits assisted dying.

Allowing medical aid in dying opens the door to unavoidable abuse. Society cannot tolerate a single case of abuse when a human life depends on it.

By introducing Bill 52, the government is ignoring the separation of powers between the federal government and the provinces, and overlooks the fact that active euthanasia, both in the form of medical aid in dying or terminal palliative sedation with the intent of causing death, constitutes homicide and is already considered to be a criminal act under the Criminal Code of Canada. 

Killing is not care. Killing has nothing to do with the health-care system. Quebec therefore has no jurisdiction to decriminalize euthanasia.

Consequently, we are urging Quebec’s elected officials, more specifically those sitting with the opposition parties in the National Assembly, who share a responsibility for protecting the population, to vote against legalizing euthanasia as provided in this bill.

Marc Beauchamp is a founding member of and spokesperson for Physicians’ Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia.

Michel Racicot is a retired lawyer and member of the board of directors of the Living With Dignity Citizens’ Network.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Belgium Euthanasia doctors demand more money,

This article is written by Michael Cook and originally printed on June 27, 2013 by BioEdge.

By Michael Cook 

Wim Distelmans
The Belgian parliament is currently debating whether or not to give children the right to euthanasia. But several other issues have surfaced as well, amongst them a complaint about how much euthanasia doctors are paid. It’s far too little, says Belgium’s leading euthanasia doctor, Wim Distelmans.

Two doctors have to sign off on a euthanasia request. But getting a second opinion is not as easy as it might seem. Most doctors treat it as a hot potato.

So doctors with end-of-life training, who normally give the injections, are overburdened. Of the 20,000 physicians in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium), barely 400 are qualified. Nearly every week they are summoned to give a second opinion and possibly a lethal injection. Sometimes they have to travel relatively long distances.

Furthermore, they still are not being paid for a second opinion, despite government assurances. “A lot of work and energy is required for a second consultation. You will be called in to assess an unfamiliar situation. This could easily take three hours, perhaps four,” says Dr Distelmans.

In neighbouring Netherlands, doctors are paid 330 Euros for a second euthanasia opinion. "That's fair," says Dr Distelmans. "But in Belgium, there is nothing.”

Earlier this year the Belgian government proposed a scheme which would remunerate nominated doctors 160 Euros for second opinions, based on an annual budget of 192,200 Euros. However, Dr Distelmans complains that this would only pay for the patients euthanased in 2011. In 2012, that figure rose by about 25%. The funding is clearly inadequate, he feels.

He also complains that there is no financial support for Leif, the end information forum, a private initiative which trains doctors to give a second opinion. He is the chairman of Leif. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top 20 blog articles on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

3. Declaration of HopeJanuary 17, 2013.

15. Responding to the disturbing decision by Justice Smith in the Carter caseJune 20, 2012.

16. Nursing and Ethics – July 23, 2010.

This list is based on the most read blog articles as of June 25, 2013. Older articles are more prevalent on this list simply because of the number of people who continue to access articles for the purpose of research.

New Zealand Down Syndrome community opposes euthanasia.

This article was published by Saving Downs on June 25, 2013
By Mike Sullivan, spokesperson for Saving Downs
Alex Schadenberg debating
Maryan Street in New Zealand.
New Zealand Labour Party MP Maryan Street has a private members bill for euthanasia sitting in the ballot box in Parliament. If this bill is drawn and subsequently made law, it paves the way for the un-consented killing of people with Down syndrome in New Zealand. Such a situation is entirely unacceptable and will be opposed in the strongest terms.
If this concept sounds far fetched, just look at the draft bill.
Clause 6 of the bill outlines the provisions for medical assistance for dying (that’s euthanasia):
6. Option to receive medical assistance to end life
(1) A qualifying person may receive medical assistance to end his or her life if he or she—
(a) is mentally competent; and
(b) suffers from either of the following conditions:
(i) a terminal disease or other medical condition that is likely to end his or her life within 12 months:
(ii) an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that, in the person’s view, renders his or her life unbearable.
So, in terms of our community the area of concern relates to the wording in 6(1)(b)(ii) – 
“an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that, in the person’s view, renders his or her life unbearable.”
No problem there then? – We all know that Down syndrome is an irreversible physical or mental medical condition, but they have pretty good lives so they wouldn’t meet the threshold of having a “life unbearable”. And anyway, you might say, to qualify for medically assisted dying you have to be mentally competent, so there is no risk of abuse of those accidentally consenting to euthanasia. But, as we will see, those decisions don’t necessarily lie with the person concerned.
Think this through very carefully.
Here is the process for carrying out a medically assisted death. Clause 7 outlines the request:
7. Request made in person for medically assisted death
(1) A qualifying person to whom section 6(1) applies may request medical assistance to end his or her life.
(2) A request under subsection (1) must be—
(a) in writing; and
(b) signed by the applicant; and
(c) confirmed in writing by the applicant no sooner than 7 days after it is signed by the applicant under paragraph (b).
Despite subsection (2), if an applicant is unable to write a request or confirm it in writing, he or she—
(a) may instead mark the written request or written confirmation with an X; or
(b) may indicate a request or confirmation by other means, and that request or confirmation may be recorded in writing by another person.
(4) No request or confirmation made under subsection (3) is valid unless the certifying medical practitioner certifies that he or she believes that the written record of the request or confirmation properly records the wishes of the applicant.
(5) No family member or friend of the applicant can annul the applicant’s request.
Read that clause very carefully. A written request only requires the marking of an X by anyone and it is valid provided that it is certified by a certifying medical practitioner.
Clause 9 goes on to require a certifying medical practitioner to provide a certificate that the request complies with the law (i.e. that the request is genuine and without coercion, their patent wants to be killed, that they are mentally competent and that they have one of the qualifying conditions).
Clause 10 requires a second medical practitioner to make an independent certification. Once the certificates are made the doctor is free to kill their patient.
Sounds watertight then? So, provided there is a written request marked with an X by anyone and there are two medical practitioners who have signed a certificate that the law has been complied with, a doctor can kill their patient.
There are many good doctors who support our community and are committed to protecting life. But, they won’t be the certifying medical practitioners. Let’s be clear here. A certifying medical practitioner is by definition a supporter of euthanasia. Add in a negative bias many Doctors have towards those with Down syndrome and we have a toxic mix, the possibility of a legal pathway to the killing of people with Down syndrome, effectively with impunity.
Maybe we would give all doctors the benefit of the doubt that they will comply with the law. But, we can recognise the negative bias many of them have towards our community. The type of bias where at Waikato and Auckland Hospitals they encourage late term abortions for planned and wanted pregnancies when there is a diagnosis of Down syndrome or Spina Bifida 
Maybe some of these pro-euthanasia “certifying medical practitioners” think people with Down syndrome are a burden, some type of disadvantage (as described by bio-ethicists at Otago University), a life unworthy of life. We have heard it all before. Maybe an adult with Down syndrome is poorly in hospital and they are taking up resources that a “normal” person would better benefit from.
Does this sound farfetched? Surely there would be measures to stop abuse? Well, no there isn’t. Sure, there is provision for a review body. There isn’t much to review if the written request has the X marked and the victim is dead and can’t testify that they didn’t consent to their killing. It’s the word of the two pro-euthanasia certifying medical practitioners against the word of a dead person.
What about the penalty then for forging the infamous X. What about the penalty for the two certifying medical practitioners who decide that a person with Down syndrome, who is entrusted into their care, decide that their patient’s life is unworthy and they will just put them out of their misery. After all, they only need to fudge the paperwork? Clause 30 outlines the penalty for forgery etc:
30. Offence of falsifying or concealing, etc, intention or documents
(1) A person commits an offence who forges, conceals, destroys, or otherwise alters or frustrates the expressed wishes of a terminally ill person, or a mentally incompetent person who has a registered End of Life Directive, or any person who chooses to end his or her life in a manner that fulfils the requirements of this Act.
(2) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both.
So, if a certifying medical practitioner decides to kill a person with Down syndrome, the penalty is a $10K fine (maybe) and 3 months in prison (maybe). That’s if the dead person can prove it. That’s pretty much impunity. Maybe the police could pursue a murder charge, but is hard to see how the evidence could be proven.
So, Street’s bill is inherently unsafe for our community. Here are the steps for a person with Down syndrome being killed without their consent under this proposed bill:
·       Anyone completes a written request saying said person has an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that, in the person’s view, renders his or her life unbearable.
·       Anyone marks the written request with an X.
·       Two pro-euthanasia certifying medical practitioners complete the certification saying that the request is legal and they have followed the due legal procedure.
·       The person is killed without giving consent.
The penalty if they are caught is a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 3 months in prison. To prove that the certifying medical practitioners acted against the wishes of the person they have killed would likely require testimony from the dead person.
In reality, there is no way a euthanasia bill can ensure that this type of abuse won’t occur.
Needless to say, Saving Downs will be opposing this bill if it is drawn from the ballot.
Any law that creates a pathway for the un-consented killing of people with Down syndrome is entirely unacceptable. That is a bottom line. It’s not negotiable.