Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tasmania Euthanasia Bill: Broad Medicalized Killing.

This article was written by Wesley Smith and published on September 27, 2013 on his blog.

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

Demonstrating yet again, that assisted suicide/euthanasia is not about terminal illness, the legislation would create a very broad and vaguely defined license to access doctor-prescribed death. From the bill:
(1) For the purposes of this Act, an eligible medical condition is an incurable and irreversible medical condition, whether caused by illness, disease or injury –
(a) that would result in the death of a person diagnosed with the medical condition and that is causing persistent and not relievable suffering for the person that is intolerable for the person; or
(b) that is a progressive medical condition that is causing persistent and not relievable suffering, for a person diagnosed with the medical condition, that is intolerable for the person – and that is in the advanced stages with no reasonable prospect of a permanent improvement in the person’s medical condition. 
That language is broad enough to drive a hearse through. Indeed, think about the kinds of situations that would permit doctor-prescribed death. Asymptomatic HIV causing serious existential suffering and fear? Sure. Diabetes caused blindness or neuropathy?  Yes. Spinal cord injury?  Yup. Rheumatoid arthritis? Indeed.

As to the “not relievable suffering” aspect, it is all smoke and mirrors. The key clause is “intolerable for the person,” meaning that even if, say morphine, could make pain more bearable as a medical matter, that would not make a patient ineligible to be made dead if he or she said living on medication was intolerable. 

The bill would also permit active euthanasia:
(1) For the avoidance of doubt, prescribed medication may be administered to an eligible person by –
(a) the eligible person; or
(b) the eligible person’s primary medical practitioner.
I am so weary of these preliminaries. The essential question is: Should society permit anyone who has a persistent desire to die access to active facilitation? That’s the inevitable logic of the euthanasia/assisted suicide movement. Because if eliminating the sufferer is a legitimate reaction to suffering, we are on a downhill path with inadequate breaks to stop the car.

At the very least, I hope supporters will admit that the ubiquitous advocacy claim that assisted suicide will be a very restricted procedure, strictly limited to the dying for whom nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering, is patently false. That isn’t true anywhere it has been legalized or proposed.

Tasmania introduces euthanasia bill.

This article was written by Paul Russell, the leader of HOPE Australia and published on September 26, 2013 on his blog.

Alex Schadenberg with
Paul Russell in Tasmania
By Paul Russell

Today the Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings MP and her deputy, Nick McKim MP jointly tabled the euphemistically entitled Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013. The bill will not begin to be debated until after parliament resumes in October; but given the recent history of parliamentary debates in the Apple Isle and given the sponsorship by the two leaders, we can expect as much time as is deemed necessary to be given over to the debate.

News websites have unerringly cited the bill as being about euthanasia, however, the proposed law allows both for euthanasia and assisted suicide. Again, supporters have been quoted as saying that the bill makes provision for those with a terminal illness - but the clauses allow for a broader application.

"Tasmanians are compassionate and caring people, and polls have consistently shown that this reform is supported by the overwhelming majority of the community," Mr McKim said in The Mercury newspaper report. This is gilding the lily. Even if we can accept the problematic polls as a true indication that Tasmanians' support law reform, that does not necessarily translate to support for this particular model. Mr McKim will need to do much better than that to secure the requisite 50 percent plus one vote in each of the state houses of parliament.

This bill has been a long time coming. Floated originally a few years ago, the proposal for 'Voluntary Assisted Dying' was canvassed some months ago in a discussion paper circulated by the Premier and responded to, so we are told, in hundreds of submissions. To date, the report from that exercise has not been made public.

The bill is essentially an attempt to genetically modify euthanasia & assisted suicide into something that appears palatable and reasonable. But beneath the veneer, the DNA remains the same and the risks to vulnerable people exist in more-or-less the same way as with every other cloned bill.

The bill does not even refer to euthanasia by name and only passingly refers to assisted suicide in a clause that effectively says that this is not assisted suicide.

Tasmanians are passionate about the tourist appeal of their island home - as well they might. It's a truly beautiful land with much on offer. But try as Giddings and McKim might, they have failed in their attempt to squash the inevitable criticism about the possibility of death-tourism; something that no Tasmanian wants to hear. Putting aside the possibility that restricting access to residents only might be rendered as unconstitutional, the faux residency provisions are a joke meaning that anyone who wants to travel to Tasmania to die need only find a residence for about four weeks before making the necessary appointments.

All of this may be a boon to the travelling Exit International roadshow. When first the possibility of a bill was raised, Dr Nitschke gave media interviews saying that he would set up a clinic on the island to work within the bill. This was played down by Premier Giddings at the time. The reality is that the bill does not and cannot stop this from happening. All a patient would need to do is to sign a document making Dr Nitschke his 'primary medical practitioner' and the process could get under way.

But more than that, there's also an opportunity here for an entrepreneurial type to set up a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) guest house (so popular with holiday makers) to aid with getting around the residency requirements. You could even call it something poignant, like 'The wait-a-while B&B' and market it under the slogan: A short stay to die for!

The opposition have commented to the effect that this bill is akin to the Roman adage about Bread and Circuses given the parlous state of the local economy and other pressing problems. As one comment online to the Mercury article observed:
I support euthanasia totally. I am just a little surprised, possibly cynical, that a Labour/Greens alliance has wheeled this out now. An unholy coalition that has sat in Government for a number of years over a state that has been reduced to beggar status and beyond with the following achievements .. ..50 % of adults unable to read and write properly. ..The lowest income per person. ..The highest unemployment and continuing rate of job destruction. ..The worst hospital and medical care system and on and on... Could this be an attempted PR diversion because they are incapable of performing the fundamentals of normal sound government for all their people? They seem intent on establishing an island walking park for Bob Brown and his mates.
Political point scoring aside, the writer does have a point; a point that will, we hope, resonate with Tasmanians - especially their parliamentarians.

Links to similar articles:
Tasmanian euthanasia bill will likely die.
Speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand Part 2.
Euthanasia debate heating up in Tasmania.

“Assisted suicide: a chilling prospect for disabled people”

This article is republished from the disability rights Not Dead Yet blog

Tanni Grey-Thompson
Tanni Grey-Thompson is well-known in the UK and to those who follow the paralympics. Her personal website is here.

On Monday, September 23, The Times published an essay by Grey-Thompson titled Assisted suicide: a chilling prospect for disabled people.”  Below is a slightly different version of the essay, shared here with the author’s permission.
By Tanni Grey-Thompson 
Stephen Hawking has expressed the view, in the course of a BBC interview, that people “who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their own life”. They do, of course, have that right now: ending your own life isn’t a criminal offence. What Professor Hawking means, presumably, is that the law should be changed to legalise what is being euphemistically called ‘assisted dying’ – or, to put it another way, that doctors should be licensed to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill people to help them commit suicide. 
There is, in fact, a Private Member’s bill, in the name of Lord Falconer, before the House of Lords at this moment proposing just that. Professor Hawking believes that “there must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurised into it”. This is a fair enough caution to sound. What is remarkable, however, is that Lord Falconer’s ‘assisted dying’ bill does not contain any specific safeguards to ensure that these and other conditions are met. 
Professor Hawking states that “human beings should not be allowed to suffer any more than animals”. This is a well-worn argument of the euthanasia lobby – that we put down suffering animals out of kindness, so why don’t we do the same for humans? But what those who use this argument seem to overlook is that people don’t always take their pets to be put down out of compassion: they sometimes do so because they are a nuisance or because they are proving expensive to treat or to feed. Is that the sort of society we want to see? 
Those of us with disabilities are all too familiar with the view that many in society take of us – that they wouldn’t want to live with our limitations and that our lives are less worth living than the lives of others. I myself have encountered such attitudes: I have been told that ‘people like me’ do ‘a good job’, I have had it put to me by a medic that I should not have children and I have even been patted on the head by a colleague. The Paralympics, in which I have had the opportunity to participate, is sadly an all too rare occasion in which people with disabilities are valued. 
Legalising ‘assisted dying’ for terminally ill people illness reinforces prejudices about people with disabilities. Terminal illness and physical disability aren’t, of course, the same thing – many people with disabilities aren’t terminally ill. But terminal illness can often bring with it disability of one kind or another and it’s not a big step in popular perceptions to see the two as in some way linked. 
That’s why the majority of people with disabilities, including me, are afraid of a law that would offer a lesser standard of protection to seriously ill people than to others. Anyone who is inclined to discount such fears should read the report of Lord Falconer’s self-styled ‘commission on assisted dying’: it is on the recommendations of this unofficial and self-appointed group that his Private Member’s bill rests. Their report recommends that physician-assisted suicide should not be offered to people with disabilities who are not terminally ill “at this point in time“. It is those italicised words that send a chill down the spine of many people with physical disabilities. Lord Falconer’s ‘assisted dying’ bill may be well-intended. But it risks becoming a law to cater for the strong rather than to protect the weak.
My thanks to Tanni Grey-Thompson for permitting us to share this and to Liz Carr for helping to connect us.

Street withdraws euthanasia bill in New Zealand after pressure from Labour Party colleagues

This article was written by Dr Peter Saunders from the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK and published September 28, 2013 on his blog

Peter Saunders
By Dr Peter Saunders:

A bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand has been withdrawn amid fears it would become a political football.

Labour MP Maryan Street withdrew her End of Life Choice Bill on 26 September before the member's bill ballot saying that she didn’t want it debated in election year.

She claimed that the move was ‘simply pragmatism’ and that she ‘absolutely’ planned to put it back in the ballot after the election.

Street was believed to have been pressured by Labour party colleagues to withdraw the bill amid concerns that some would have to campaign against it, distracting from the rest of the campaign.

Alex Schadenberg debating
Maryan Street in 2012.
This bill (see draft here) was opposed by the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA], Hospice New Zealand and the Catholic Bishops Conference. The Chairman of the NZMA has said, ‘euthanasia is unethical and cannot be condoned’.

Professor Emeritus David Richmond, spokesperson for Euthanasia-Free New Zealand, welcomed the move and said that the withdrawal would provide the much needed time to educate the NZ community and Members of Parliament about the hazards of legalising euthanasia.

(Professor Richmond will be speaking at the upcoming Euthanasia Symposium 2013 in Toronto on November 8, 9, 2013).

Richmond called for a redoubling of efforts on the part of all groups and organisations opposed to the Bill to alert the public to the danger to society, including the loss of human freedom, that accompanies legalised euthanasia.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dr Low: The concept of euthanasia creates great fear for me.

Steve Passmore
The following letter was written by disability activist, Steve Passmore, and published in the National Post and the Hamilton Spectator.
In his video, Dr. Donald Low said that if I were to live in his body for 24 hours, I would change my mind on assisted death.
I was born with cerebral palsy and I have lived all of my life with pain. My condition is deteriorating. I now have scoliosis which has given me further pain and my prognosis is living with a wheelchair. I have a hernia, but because it isn't permanent I don't qualify to receive help to clean my apartment. Living with a disability also means that I have experienced discrimination.
Most people with disabilities generally live with pain, suffering and social isolation.
Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is an abandonment of me as a person, that society would rather help me die, than help me live. The concept of euthanasia creates great fear for me. The answer is not legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide but rather improving social supports.
I only have one life. I choose to live. Society needs to ensure life with dignity, not death with dignity.

Steve Passmore, Hamilton Ontario

The following letter was written by Steve Passmore and published in the Hamilton Spectator on October 4, 2013 in response to a letter entitled: Allow me to choose how long I live (Hamilton Spectator Letters, Sept. 28, 2013)
I deeply regret the pain and suffering the letter writer is going through. I would do anything that I could to help her.
But her opinion can't put the rest of us at risk, and it will. Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide enables others, usually doctors, to be involved with causing death. The choice will not only be ours, but it will also be someone else's.
In Belgium, a study found that as many as 32 per cent of the euthanasia deaths were done without request. Abuses will happen and people will be subtly pressured.
I understand how difficult this is for the letter writer, but she must understand how euthanasia will affect people with disabilities and ultimately all of us.
I will continue stand up for the community of people with disabilities.
Steve Passmore, Hamilton Ontario
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brief presented by the: Physicians’ Alliance For Total Refusal Of Euthanasia



Presented to the Quebec Health and Social Services Committee September 24, 2013
(Translated to English from French) (audio link to the presentation in French)
Link to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition brief on Bill 52.


The Physicians’ Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia would like to thank the members of the Health and Social Services Committee for having invited them to meet them and for giving them the opportunity to voice their reaction to the tabling of Bill 52, An act concerning end-of-life care.

The Alliance was born in 2012 and already has 593 physician members: 473 from the four corners of Quebec, working in a great variety of medical fields, and 120 from elsewhere. Extremely concerned with the evolution of the end-of-life debate, they are horrified at the idea that killing one’s patients may one day become legal. That is why they have signed our Declaration "Caring, not killing."  More than 10,000 citizens have also signed a form to support their doctors and to state their opposition to both futile medical care and the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide and their desire to promote palliative care. A list of their names is appended to this brief.

We are here today on behalf of all the ordinary doctors who are very worried about the effect on their patients in the event that Bill 52 is adopted. We believe that this bill is unworthy of Quebec and must be abandoned. Many more humane solutions to the widespread fear of a painful death are available...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our response to Donald Low: Legalizing euthanasia has consequences and is not safe.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On September 18, 2013, Dr Donald Low, the Canadian Microbiologist who became famous for his response to the SARS crisis in 2003, died from complications related to a brain stem tumour.

Eight days before he died, Low participated in a short video where he spoke about his fears related to dying with the disabling conditions that may result from his disease.

Low spoke about his wish to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada. He points out that it is simply impossible, in Canada, to die by euthanasia.

Urns found in Lake Geneva.
Low suggests that in countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, where euthanasia or assisted suicide are legal, that it is easy to have an assisted death. Low said that he can't understand why we don't have euthanasia in Canada.

Maybe Dr Low should have considered that legalizing euthanasia has consequences.

In Switzerland, assisted suicide is essentially "self regulated" by the assisted groups. A few instances of abuse of assisted suicide in Switzerland include: the death of the Italian magistrate who had a wrong diagnosis, the death of a UK man with dementia, the founder of the Dignitas clinic has been accused of improprieties while becoming very wealthy from assisted suicide.

In the Netherlands, euthanasia has grown out-of-control. Euthanasia in the Netherlands has expanded to include euthanasia of disabled children, through the Groningen Protocol, euthanasia for people who are incompetent or lonely and mobile euthanasia teams for people who were refused euthanasia by their doctor. Studies have found that 23% of the euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands are not reported.

There is significant research indicating that the euthanasia law in Belgium is abused. A study published in the CMAJ June 2010 found that 32% of euthanasia deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium are done without explicit request. A study that was published in the BMJ Oct 2010 found that 47.2% of euthanasia deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium were not reported. A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management – November 2011 found that requests for euthanasia in Belgium are rarely refused which explains the case of the depressed Belgian woman who died by euthanasia.

The book - Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, which is based on research from the Netherlands and Belgium concludes that when a doctor reports a euthanasia death, usually the rules of the euthanasia law are followed, but when a doctor does not report a euthanasia death it is usually because the doctor did not follow the rules of the euthanasia law.

Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide has consequences and is not safe.

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Netherlands 2012 euthanasia report: Sharp increase in euthanasia deaths.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Netherlands have reported that the number of reported euthanasia deaths increased by 13% in 2012 to 4188 deaths, more than 3% of all deaths in 2012. The report stated that 42 people with dementia and 13 people with psychiatric conditions died by euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2012.

185 of the 4188 deaths were assisted suicide deaths and 38 were a combination of  euthanasia and assisted suicide.

An article in the Telegraph reported that, where euthanasia is legal that:
Euthanasia is lowest in Luxembourg, where it has been legal since 2009, between 2011 and end 2012, 14 people were killed, a per capita rate a tenth of that in the Netherlands.
The number of euthanasia deaths for people with dementia has been increasing since the Dutch Medical Association  expressed support for the euthanasia of people with dementia.

These statistics should affect the debates in Quebec and France who are considering the legalization of euthanasia.

As bad as these statistics are, they only tell part of the story.

On July 11, 2012, The Lancet published a meta-analysis study concerning euthanasia and end-of-life practices in the Netherlands in 2010 including a comparison to the previous meta-analysis studies that were done in 2005, 2001, 1995 and 1990.

The Lancet study indicated that in 2010, 23% of the euthanasia deaths were unreported in the Netherlands, which was an increase from 20% in 2005. The Lancet study found that there were 3859 euthanasia deaths and 192 assisted suicide deaths while only 3136 euthanasia deaths were reported in 2010.

Since (20 - 23%) of the euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands are not reported, we can estimate that the actual number of euthanasia deaths was likely around 5025 to 5151.

The report indicated that health inspectors investigated 10 cases where the legal requirements for euthanasia had not been met, with 2 of those cases involving people with dementia.

My book - Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, is based on research concerning all assisted deaths in the Netherlands and Belgium. Exposing Vulnerable People concludes that when a doctor reports the euthanasia death, usually the rules in the euthanasia law are followed, but when a doctor does not report a euthanasia death it is usually because the doctor never intended to follow the rules of the euthanasia law. Abuse of the Belgian and Netherlands euthanasia laws are common.

The only way to uncover euthanasia deaths without request and the abuses of the law, is by investigating the unreported euthanasia deaths.

It is important to recognize that the number of reported euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands increased by 13% in 201218% in 201119% in 2010 and 13% in 2009.

The report does not indicate the number of children with disabilities who died by euthanasia under the Groningen Protocol in the Netherlands.

The rate of deep-continuous sedation has also risen significantly in the Netherlands.

The 2001 euthanasia report indicates that 5.6% of all deaths in the Netherlands were related to deep-continuous sedation. The 2005 euthanasia report indicates that 8.2% of all deaths in the Netherlands were related to deep-continuous sedation. The 2010 euthanasia report indicates that 12.3% of all deaths are related to deep-continuous sedation.

The rate of deep-continuous sedation has more than doubled in the Netherlands since 2001. 

There is a growing concern about the abuse of the terminal sedation guidelines in the Netherlands. How often are deaths by deep-continuous sedation actually euthanasia?

Combined with the growth in the use of terminal sedation for people who are not otherwise dying (slow euthanasia) and the number of unreported euthanasia deaths, one must conclude that the practice of euthanasia continues to be out-of-control in the Netherlands.

The report stated that:
Researchers have been unable to determine why the number of cases is rising, but say they suspect it is due to greater acceptance of euthanasia by both patients and doctors.
On March 1, 2012; the euthanasia lobby in the Netherlands launched six mobile euthanasia teams. The NVVE, euthanasia lobby in the Netherlands, announced that they anticipate that the mobile euthanasia teams would carry-out 1000 euthanasia deaths per year.

The mobile euthanasia team fill "unmet demand" for euthanasia for people with chronic depression (mental pain), people with disabilities, people with dementia  and loneliness, and for those whose request for euthanasia is declined by their physician. In the past, 13% of euthanasia requests in the Netherlands were declined. It appears likely that fewer requests for euthanasia are being declined.

Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide is not safe and the safeguards that are devised to control euthanasia actually protect physicians and do not protect the people who die by euthanasia.

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Not Dead Yet Hires John Kelly as Regional Director for New England States

John Kelly
Not Dead Yet has hired John Kelly as regional director for advocacy in the New England states. Kelly is also director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts, a disability rights group which played a pivotal role in defeating an assisted suicide ballot referendum in Massachusetts in 2012.

John Kelly was highly visible as an advocate against the ballot initiative known as “Question 2”. Confounding assisted suicide proponents who often tried to depict assisted suicide opponents as conservative, Kelly simultaneously supported Question 3 to legalize medical marijuana while opposing Question 2. The Second Thoughts home page even featured a bumper sticker with the “No on 2/Yes on 3” message and related graphics.

Kelly appeared in several debates against Dr. Marcia Angell, a leading advocate for assisted suicide, including a broadcast interview of the two of them on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered". His insights into life with quadriplegia were also sought out by CNN International in connection with coverage of the high-profile assisted suicide case involving Tony Nicklinson in the UK.

Kelly has also written a number of published articles and opinion pieces on assisted suicide.

Diane Coleman
Since the defeat of the Massachusetts assisted suicide initiative in November 2012, Kelly has worked with disability advocates to oppose assisted suicide bills in both Connecticut and Vermont, testifying on behalf of both Not Dead Yet and Second Thoughts.
“John brings long term experience on key issues Not Dead Yet addresses as well as top-notch communication skills to his new position,” said Diane Coleman, Not Dead Yet president and CEO. “We’re very fortunate to be able to expand his role in our efforts.”
John Kelly will be speaking at the Euthanasia Symposium 2013 on November 8 - 9, 2013 in Toronto Ontario. John has become one of the leading voices in America opposing the legalization of assisted suicide.

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