Wednesday, December 31, 2014

America's Dr Death loses medical license.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Lawrence Egbert
Lawrence Egbert, a leader of the Final Exit Network, has lost his medical license in Maryland.

After a two year review, the Maryland Board of Physicians revoked his medical license after deciding that Egbert's actions were unethical and illegal. Egbert has said that he plans to appeal.

An article in the Baltimore Sun stated:
A Baltimore anesthesiologist who made national news as "The New Doctor Death" held six elderly Marylanders' hands as they asphyxiated themselves with helium and covered up the suicides after they died, according to a state order filed this month stripping him of his medical license. 
Notice that Egbert held their hands to ensure that they couldn't remove the asphyxiation bag. He should have been charged with homicide, not assisted suicide. The article continued:
The suicides are among nearly 300 Lawrence D. Egbert said he helped arrange across the country as an "exit guide" for right-to-die group Final Exit Network. He and several colleagues were arrested in 2009 amid an undercover investigation in Georgia, but he avoided any punishment there or in another case in Arizona. He awaits trial for assisting in a suicide in Minnesota.
Stephen Drake
Stephen Drake, an expert on the Final Exit Network and the research analyst for the disability rights group Not Dead Yet told the Baltimore Sun:
"Revocation of his medical license is a good thing and long overdue,"
Egbert was first charged by the Maryland board with unprofessional conduct in 2012. The Maryland Board were tipped off by a Baltimore Sun article in which he said he had assisted in a handful of suicides in Maryland as medical director of the Final Exit Network. Newsweek dubbed him "The New Doctor Death" in 2011 after he was criminally charged for assisting in suicides in Georgia and Arizona.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Egbert's, the Maryland Board of Physicians based their decision on the following reasons:

A “Death Doula” Loses His Medical License

This article was published by Wesley Smith on his blog on December 31, 2014

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

There is more to this story than a ghoul suicide facilitator losing his medical license.

Lawrence G. Egbert is part of the suicide “counseling” organization, Final Exit Network. The group assists all kinds of people–including the mentally ill–in killing themselves with helium. Now, Egbert has lost his license. From the New York Times story:

State regulators said that Dr. Egbert had acted as what the network calls an exit guide for six people in Maryland from May 2004 to November 2008. “Dr. Egbert reviewed their applications and medical records and recommended accepting them as members,” said the order, which was signed by Christine A. Farrelly, the executive director of the Board of Physicians. “Dr. Egbert attended their suicide rehearsals. He held each member’s hand and talked to him or her.”
Each of the patients died, the state said, of asphyxiation caused by helium inhalation, and Dr. Egbert “removed the hoods and helium tanks” from the places where the five women and one man died. Those patients had been diagnosed with conditions that included Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Right to Die

This article is written by William Peace and published on his Bad Cripple blog on December 30, 2014.

Dr William Peace

Bill Peace with students
I find the notion that one has the right to die impossible to disentangle. Death is not a right it is a biological inevitability. All humans that are born will die. Death is inevitable. The so called right to die is incorrectly framed. People want to control how their life will end. Superficially, this makes sense but typically people die in a hospital or nursing home after a long physical decline. According to various sources, only 25% of Americans die at home. What the right to die really involves is a primal desire for control. In my opinion the belief a person can control one's death is narcissistic in the extreme. As I have noted many times, we do not live or die in a social vacuum. Our death has meaning that extends well beyond the person that has died or is dying. Our lives are not equally valued, a fact those that advocate for assisted suicide legislation refuse to acknowledge. Bias exists in many forms. For me, the bias I deal with on a daily basis is called ableism. I rarely hear this term. In fact the only place I hear this term is on university campuses. Fred Pelka, in the ABC-Clio Companion to the Disability Rights Movement, defined ableism as follows: 
"Ableism is that set of often contradictory stereotypes about people with disabilities that acts as a barrier to keep them from achieving their full potential as equal citizens in society".
Ableism is deeply ingrained into the fabric of American society. Ableism is everywhere. It is in our language and use of metaphors. It is in the built environment. Ableism surrounds us and is impossible to avoid. I come across the worst sort of ableism and I do not even need set foot outside my door. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Scotland assisted suicide bill discriminates against people with disabilities.

Kevin Fitzpatrick
By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE
Spokesperson - Not Dead Yet UK Campaign.

An online news service has claimed that Scotland is set to introduce the ‘most robust’ assisted suicide legislation yet (Sputnik, Dec 29, 2014). Nonsense.

Scotland’s previous attempts at legalising someone else to intervene in another’s death by causing that dying person’s final end, have been amongst the weakest, most flawed to appear in any legislature.

The current Bill is just as bad as any seen in Scotland previously. It continues to include ‘people with progressive life-shortening conditions’ – thus it exposes pretty nearly every significantly disabled person to the threats inherent in it. It sets a 14 day limit from decision to death: a perilously thin time in which to detect and treat depression. It removes any question of crimes being committed in ‘assisting’ or pressing someone to commit suicide – as long as the assister claims ‘I acted out of compassion’ they will be free of investigation. But saying does not make it so.

The Bill contains all the other flaws of proposed and in other jurisdictions, enacted laws. The simple truth is that we can never legislate in advance for ‘pure compassion’ because there is no such thing, even in well-meaning people who give assistance. It is no more robust than any other law, proposed or already in force. And it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

The lie is that there will be ‘safeguards’. The overwhelming evidence from around the world is that such laws do exactly the opposite of what their proponents claim: it removes choice from patients, placing it in the hands of the minority of doctors who are willing to move from protecting life to furnishing the means to take it.

77% of GPs do not want a change in law, and the profession’s royal colleges all reject the move. Assisted suicide/euthanasia is never a medical decision: it comes when medicine says ‘we have nothing left – there is no more we can do’. Most doctors recognise that a change in law forces them into the position of ‘higher moral judges’ and they know they cannot be that superior just because they are doctors. It risks trampling on their own human rights, not to be involved. It leaves patients who form such suicidal wishes to ‘shop around’ amongst the remainder who are willing. We are left to wonder whether these few can really epitomise ‘higher moral judgment’ in opposition to all their colleagues, whether they really ought to be practising medicine at all.

The Bill’s promoter in the Scottish parliament says the proposal will allow people to ‘[take] control of the end of their own life…demonstrat[ing] compassion and respect for each person's own choice…’. But if the person is a healthy, well-off family man with apparently ‘everything to live for’ the response will be very different to that offered to a significantly disabled person. Why? It is based in the attitude that a disabled life is not worth living. They constantly refer to the loss of bodily functions as the knock-down ‘indignity’ that demands we offer the sufferer the final solution: death. If that were true, there would be a queue miles long of disabled people who manage incontinence daily.

This attitudinal response is fundamentally based on one thing: non-disabled people saying to disabled people ‘Of course we understand you want to die. We would too in your place. So it is our duty to help you to die.’ That is purely and simply, rank discrimination against disabled people.

It should not even require special pleading but that is what we are faced with: hoping that most other non-disabled people will see our disabled lives for what they are, and value us equally first and foremost as human beings like any other. It should go without saying that non-disabled people deciding that disabled people can be candidates for elimination is the worst kind of disability discrimination. It is a moral judgment on the worth of our lives, and it is fatal.

Do not let anyone, doctor or politician hoodwink you into thinking any differently. Just because someone says they are acting out of compassion is no guarantee that they are. And with all the pressures doctors face, on top of the usual gamut of hard decisions daily living throws at them, they are pushed to make such decisions to end lives by the fatal flawed logic that killing the sufferer is the only way to end their suffering. 
As I said: Nonsense.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Debbie Purdy Dies: Case Echoed I Accuse!

This article was published by Wesley Smith on his blog on December 29, 2014.

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

Debbie Purdy, who won a landmark legal case in the United Kingdom requiring the public prosecutor to issue guidelines when assisted suicide would be prosecuted, has died in hospice after refusing to eat. She was 51.

Purdy’s case thrust the legalization of assisted suicide onto the front burner in the UK in 2009, where it remains today. Ironically, even though she wasn’t terminally ill at the time–and died now because she stopped eating–UK assisted suicide promoters continue to pretend that legalization is about terminal illness.

Considering Purdy’s case–and the support she received for the right to assisted suicide–it clearly is not. Any such limitation is only the proverbial foot in the door.

I am reminded of the 1941 German pro-euthanasia propaganda movie Ich Klage An! (I Accuse!). As in the Purdy case, the plot involved a woman who contracts progressive MS. As she loses abilities, she wants to die. Her physician husband eventually assists her suicide and is arrested. The movie ends with the character looking into the camera, as if the audience were the judges, declaring:
No! Now, I accuse! I accuse the law which hinders doctors and judges in their task of helping people. I confess . . . I have delivered my wife from her sufferings, following her wishes. My life and the lives of all people who will suffer the same fate as my wife, depends on your verdict. Now, pass your verdict.
The answer the movie-makers wanted was to validate the husband’s act. In essence, that is what the Purdy case was also about.

If you agree that the husband acted properly in I Accuse, stop pretending assisted suicide is about terminal illness and admit it is much more about disability–which is why the disability rights movement remains so opposed as they are the primary targets. It is about allowing killing as an acceptable answer to many causes of suffering, whether terminal or chronic disease, disability, mental illness, or existential despair.

Brittany Maynard story: a suicide contagion.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In an article about the opinion of physicians on assisted suicide, Dr Will Johnstoncomments on the effects of the Brittany Maynard story. Johnston states:
“The social threshold of inhibition against suicide has been steadily eroded by the rhetorical strategy of calling for an endorsement of suicide in hard cases through labeling such endorsement [as] compassionate,” he said. “The Brittany Maynard tragedy is a prime example of this.”
Johnston then comments on how the Maynard story has caused a suicide contagion effect:
“We see how suicide contagion works when the media admire the suicidal person and speak of suicide as a form of heroism,” Johnston said. “I hospitalized a young suicidal patient 10 days ago who told me how he had done an Internet search for suicide drugs after watching the slick video glamorizing Brittany which was produced by the Hemlock Society (now Compassion & Choices).”
The media was irresponsible in how it promoted the Brittany Maynard story.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Good Grief: Now It’s “Death Doulas”

By Wesley Smith - published on his blog on December 27, 2014

The Hippocratic Oath is one of the last remaining impediments to the complete deprofessionalization of medicine.

Doctors don’t take it much anymore, but the people still embrace its core purpose as anessential protection of their lives and wellbeing.

Now, in the LA Times, a doctor and journalist try to put the Oath out of its misery by taking the primary responsibility for interacting with dying patients away from physicians and handing decision-making over to “death doulas.” From, “The Hippocratic Oath and the Terminally Ill,” by Nora Zamichow and Ken Murray:
If we allow medicine to prolong life, should we also allow it to shorten life for the terminally ill? 
We could, however, skirt the controversy entirely: What if we created another class of medical professionals known as death doulas, who could fill a gap between treatment doctors and hospice workers?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Doctors oppose euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Will Johnston
Politics within the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has created a situation whereby members of the CMA oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, but the leadership appear to be supporting euthanasia and assisted suicide without the support of the membership.

Dr Will Johnston, the Chair of EPC - BC, is a member of the CMA. Johnston has suggested that the CMA has "pulled a fast one" and wants the CMA to hold a referendum on the issue. Johnston said that the CMA is:
“run by people who want assisted suicide and euthanasia and they are purporting a big change in the views of doctors on this. If they were sincere they would hold a referendum.”
The following letters were published in the National Post on December 24, 2014. 

Dr. Ewan C. Goligher, Toronto.
As a young physician, I find the CMA’s recent change of heart on the ethics of euthanasia disconcerting and disappointing. It remains unclear why, after sustained opposition to euthanasia on ethical grounds, the organization’s stance has so rapidly changed. Were the prior ethical principles misconstrued? Do ethical principles really blow with the winds of prevailing public opinion? 
The CMA must decide whether to advocate for or against euthanasia. In failing to firmly uphold its previously clear ethical position, it is tacitly admitting that euthanasia is potentially ethical and undermining those physicians who will remain firm in their commitment to the incalculable worth of our patients’ lives, even in the face of awful suffering and loss.
Dr. Roy Eappen, Montreal.
I am a physician. My job is to heal when I can and relieve suffering as best I can. My job is not to kill my patients. If it were, how could my patients ever trust me? I am troubled by the latest attempts to legislate doctor-assisted suicide. This could easily be used to rid society of the vulnerable and the handicapped. 
I am a member of the CMA and believe we should be fighting this. The judges won’t have to kill patients if they rule that assisted suicide is legal. Doctors will. Parliament clearly voted against this recently. 
I hope the judges of the Supreme Court rule against this immoral course of action.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dr Ashe inappropriately promotes assisted suicide after a violent suicide death.

In response to an article published on December 11, 2014 in the Ottawa Citizen.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Sympathy for the man who died by suicide, and his family, for the suffering and loss that they experienced should be paramount but Ashe is using this sad death as advocacy for assisted suicide. 

Dr Gerald Ashe has inappropriately used the violent suicide death of his patient in Brockville to promote the legalization of assisted suicide. Ashe, an assisted suicide lobby activist, suggested that if assisted suicide were legal, that his patient would not have died a violent suicide death.

The facts in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal suggest otherwise. The rate of violent suicide deaths in Oregon has increased, not decreased since assisted suicide became legal. Similar to Ashe, the suicide lobby in Oregon claimed that legalizing assisted suicide would reduce the incidence of violent suicide deaths.

Statistics indicate that the suicide rate in Oregon was decreasing during the 1990's but since 2000 the suicide rate has increased faster than the national average. In 2007 the Oregon suicide rate was 35% above the national average and in 2010 it was 41% above the national average. These statistics indicate that legalizing assisted suicide does not reduce the suicide rate but rather leads to a suicide contagion effect.

It is inappropriate and inaccurate to exploit a sad and violent suicide death to promote assisted suicide.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The final seduction: Belgian euthanasia doctors become tourists at Auschwitz

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE
Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International.
Spokesperson - Not Dead Yet UK Campaign.

(Link to a PDF of the article)

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Belgium’s leading euthanasia practitioner recently conducted a ‘study tour’ of Auschwitz (reported in Der Spiegel Nov 21, 2014). His group of seventy included doctors, psychologists and nurses from Belgium, all in favour of euthanasia; with no-one to challenge their world-view that they are right in taking the lives of other human beings. One is a psychiatrist, deliberating a request for euthanasia by a man with bi-polar disorder who loses thousands gambling during his manic phases. That such a request can be considered at all shows just how far they have travelled already in Belgium under Wim Distelmans.

Since Belgium’s law was introduced in 2002, Distelmans is reportedly responsible for the euthanasia deaths of hundreds of people - a physician who kills people. He is constantly in their media proffering his ‘morally superior’ leadership. He is also co-chairman of the Belgian government's Euthanasia Commission, which has never found even one of the cases presented to them worth investigating. He sees no conflict in regulating himself. Morally superior indeed. Now, as the psychiatrist’s mulling shows, terminal illness is long-past being a restrictive criterion for euthanasia in Belgium. They say they are acting out of ‘unconditional love’.

Although we have no special sense of his worry from the Der Spiegel article, the prospect of visiting Auschwitz apparently makes Distelmans feel uneasy. Maybe it has to do with the fact that a concentration camp survivor who was to accompany the group has called off her trip at the very last minute because she has ‘come down with a cold’. Perhaps the cold is real.

Distelmans promoted his tour of Auschwitz as an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of ‘death with dignity’. Genuine horror at what happened there might help us reflect, he says; but on what? That killing someone by lethal injection in a hospital room is therefore more dignified, perhaps? As a great philosopher once put it:
...I suppose there might be a man who ‘passes brilliantly’ every part of the medical course, and of whom you’d [still] feel that he never ought to be... [in] medical practice…he may make some remarkable diagnoses and cures. And yet…[while] you do not mean that he will never be properly qualified [it is] almost as though his practice in medicine was bound to corrupt him in some way; by which I do not mean he will break down or fail or suffer a decline in his powers. If he develops a sort of cynicism in medicine; or he regards it chiefly as a field in which to show prowess – this would be worse than any failing in brilliance.
The cynicism Rush Rhees speaks of, including the ‘evil of thinking oneself to be God’s agent’ (not in a necessarily religious way), is a deep corruption: of course many practitioners do not want to be involved in making end-of-life decisions for many reasons, religious and moral amongst them, or from the sheer ‘primitive horror of taking another person’s life’.

So it is not what they commonly do that qualifies doctors in any special way to make moral judgements about end-of-life situations. What they commonly do may, in fact, disqualify them, may in fact prove them to be the worst of people to act as judges, if they have become inured to deep consideration of each individual human death, seeing life as a bus to jump off when we please, or when the going really gets too tough.

If that last, most desperate situation can be understood in some ways that does not make their position and responses any the less shallow; a medicalised approach to death is yet emotionally void. Some doctors are cynical, some are self-absorbed, or have fallen into the trap of their god-complex.

Is it really necessary to visit the site of the worst excesses of cruelty and murder to learn something about the depths to which human beings will fall? How is that supposed to actually inform anyone’s deeper views about euthanasia?

The world is beginning, rightly, to question Distelmans’ purpose. As the journalist poses the question: is a physician who practices euthanasia ‘allowed to gaze into the abyss to assure himself of the moral fortitude of his actions... Is that cynical? Absurd?’ Is that what he is doing? His moral fortitude? What could possibly set his moral position above anyone else’s? Being a doctor is simply not enough and may be exactly the opposite, what rules him out of making such moral decisions, because he has become so inured to death, treating it so clinically.

Distelmans’ moral fortitude is my moral disgust, where any possible majesty in human passing from life is buried with his victims, reduced to a sterile, passionless injection of lethal substances – by a doctor convinced of his own moral rectitude – where have we heard this twisted moralizing before? O yes, was it not in this very place, Auschwitz, where doctors played such a huge role not just in practice but in developing the ideology which brought about the very conditions for Menegele , and his type, to practice and to pretend this was medical science, not the worst degradation and unthinkable torture? Pretend, until the last moment when they destroyed all records there and in Berlin, knowing the reality of what they had done.

German ethics committee rejects the legalization of assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The German media has portrayed the decision by the German Ethics Council to reject the legalization of assisted suicide in a confusing manner.

According to Deutche Welle news the German Ethics Council rejected a change in the assisted suicide law, but suggested that in certain circumstances, the principle of confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship should prevail. The article stated:

A majority of the members of Germany's Ethics Council rejects organized assisted suicide carried out with the help of doctors or other professionals, a statement issued on Friday said. 
Such services should be banned "when they are designed for repeated use and occur in a public context, giving them the apparent status of social normality," the statment said. 
However, although the council supported the view of the German Medical Association that helping a patient to die was not part of a doctor's duties, it said in exceptional circumstances a doctor's decision to assist in the suicide of a terminally ill person should be respected as part of a "confidential doctor-patient relationship" - even if the decision contradicted this principle.
The article then quoted Eugen Brysch, the chairman of the German Foundation for the Protection of Patients, who criticized the interpretation of the ethics body statement he stated:
"Hintze and Reimann have twisted the recommendations of the Ethics Council in their favor," he said, saying that a majority of the council's members rejected the idea that a patient had a right to a doctor's assistance with suicide.
Peter Hintze and Carola Reimann, who are members of the Bundestag, are introducing an assisted suicide bill in the German Bundestag in February.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rabbi Testifies Against Assisted Suicide Bill to New Jersey Senate Health Committee

This article was published on December 17 by The Yeshiva World News.

Rabbi Avi Schnall
he “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” passed the State Assembly with 41 votes – the minimum needed – last month, and is now up for a full vote on the Senate floor. In the event that it passes the Senate, the decision would fall to Governor Chris Christie on whether to sign or veto the bill.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill.

On Monday, Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director of Agudath
 Israel of America, expressed Torah Jewry’s vehement opposition to the proposed law to the Senate Health Committee members. Rabbi Schnall told the Committee of Agudath Israel’s long history of representing Torah observant Jews in America – and why this battle is particularly important: “Informed by classical Jewish tradition which teaches that all human life is sacred, and possessed of the firm view that laws that undermine the sanctity of human life send a message that is profoundly dangerous for all of society, Agudath Israel’s interest in the issue of legalizing suicide is especially keen.”

In addition to articulating the religious-moral opposition to physician assisted suicide, Agudath Israel’s testimony laid out a clear legal case for the government to ban the practice, and noted that even some that are pro the bill from the medical community oppose the idea of allowing physicians to participate in patients’ decision to end their life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John Kelly Reports on New Jersey Senate Committee Assisted Suicide Bill Hearing

This article was originally published on the Not Dead Yet blog.
John Kelly
y John Kelly
New England coordinator - disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

The New Jersey state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed its assisted suicide bill, S382, out of committee on December 15th. Senate President and co-sponsor Steve Sweeney initially said that a full Senate vote would be held on Thursday, the last scheduled full session of the year, but later indicated that the vote would not be called this week. Susan K. Livio of reported that “Sweeney said he and other supporters would embark on an ‘educational campaign’ to discuss the matter with colleagues.”
It isn’t known if it has the 21 votes to clear the Senate, though Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has come out in support of the bill. In a statement, he said he believes there “needs to be an honest discussion about this option.”
Speculation is that Sweeney plans to twist some arms – as he may have done in the committee itself – in order to pass a bill and score points against Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has pledged to veto it.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill.
The good news for the people in the crosshairs is that great disability rights activists showed up to testify against the bill, including reportedly a dozen in wheelchairs. From Philadelphia ADAPT and Not Dead Yet came German Parodi and Alan Holdsworth. German said that when he was unconscious after his spinal cord injury 21 years ago, doctors urged his grandmother to “put him down.” We are so glad she didn’t!
Holdsworth was quoted at the bottom of Racioppi’s article:
“What we have is palliative care for the rich and death for the poor. Is that the road we’re really going down here?” said Alan Holdsworth, a member of the group Not Dead Yet.
Meghan Schrader represented Second Thoughts Massachusetts and the millennial generation (which she says is opposed to assisted suicide 54%-45%) in describing disabled foster kids’ distance from the Brittany Maynard idea of personal “autonomy.” Stephen Mendelsohn drove from Connecticut to call out the incredible me-me-me selfishness of Compassion & Choices, the arch-proponents behind the bill.  Making assisted suicide just another medical treatment option doesn’t only affect the C&C elite, but also thousands of elders and people with disabilities who must deal with a cost-cutting health care system and sometimes face cruel abuse from family members and caregivers.
Opponents of the bill vastly outnumbered proponents, but it appears that Compassion & Choices, who was not present, was privy to the plan settled before the hearing even began: that amid concerns about safeguards and teen suicide, the bill would be passed out of committee “without recommendation.”  That piece of information was revealed by Republican Sen. Bob Singer, who cast his “no” vote.
Two Democrats who voted to pass the bill out of committee, Chair Sen. Joseph Vitale and Sen. Robert Gordon, said they would vote against the bill on the floor.
Fortunately, the strong turn out of disability rights advocates opposing the bill gave everyone a chance to see how we live with dignity while we fight the insultingly named “death with dignity” bills.  The C&C zealots don’t care about assisted suicide deaths due to mistakes, coercion and abuse, which they seem to consider as acceptable collateral damage.  But none of us are expendable.  We’re Not Dead Yet and nothing about us without us!

More information:

The Bentley "spoon feeding" case has been appealed to the BC Court of Appeal.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On February 3, 2014; the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) was elated when Justice Greyall of the BC Supreme Court decided that Normal Feeding is basic personal care and not medical treatment in the Bentley case. 

The Bentley family has appealed the decision to the BC Court of Appeal arguing that Justice Greyall erred in his decision. They are arguing that normal feeding by spoon and cup is a form of medical treatment and Mrs Bentley's is being fed against her prior wishes which they define as "assault and battery."

The Bentley case concerns a woman living at the Maplewood Care Facility in Abbotsford BC. Mrs Bentley is living with dementia. She is being fed normally by spoon and drinks from a cup. Her family claims that she would not have wanted to live this way. The family wants normal feeding to be discontinued and that Mrs Bentley be allowed to die from dehydration.

In August 2013, the family of Mrs Bentley launched a lawsuit against Fraser Health and the BC government ordering that feeding by spoon and cup be discontinued. The Bentley family defined normal feeding as medical treatment. They claimed that feeding was being imposed on Mrs Bentley against her prior wishes and that it constituted a form of "assault and battery."

Mrs Bentley is not being fed by a feeding tube and she is not being forced fed.

It is interesting that, in August 2013, the Bentley family claimed that Mrs Bentley was living with "end stage" dementia and yet in December 2014 she continues to be fed normally.

EPC intervened in the Bentley case. We argued that normal feeding by spoon and cup is not medical treatment but rather constitutes normal care and a basic necessary of life.

The EPC is once again seeking to intervene in the Bentley case. The EPC intervention, among other arguments, will prove that normal feeding is recognized internationally as basic care and not medical treatment.

If normal feeding is redefined as medical treatment, then people with dementia will be at risk of family members deciding to stop feeding or hydrating them, even when they are still eating normally. 
EPC believes that people should have the right to be fed normally. 

Assisted Suicide poll - shows that Canadians are divided on the issues.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Angus Reid Institute completed an assisted suicide poll  in late November that shows that Canadians are divided and conflicted on the issues, and that a negative experience with palliative care directly effects the opinion of people on the issues.

In its description of the survey results, the Angus Reid Institute states:

Canadians express moderate to strong support for changes in legislation that would allow physicians to help patients who want to commit suicide, but the specific circumstances that might justify this course of action suggest deep divisions in public opinion. 
Canadians’ views on doctor-assisted suicide vary significantly based on the perceptions of recent experiences with loved ones receiving end-of-life care. 
Those reporting a negative experience with palliative and hospice based care are significantly more likely to support physician-assisted suicide.
... In the middle is the largest group of Canadians who are open to the arguments in favour of a new overall approach in law, but who remain highly uneasy about specifics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Jersey Senate may vote on assisted suicide bill.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill.

The New Jersey assisted suicide bill narrowly passed, in 2014 (4 - 3) in the Senate Health Services and Senior Citizens Committee after hearing testimony on the bill.

Contact the New Jersey Senators and tell them to reject assisted suicide Bill 382 because it is not safe.

Assisted Suicide Bill 382 may go to a vote in the New Jersey Senate in January 2016. If the Senate passes the bill, Governer Chris Christie will need to veto the bill.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill. published a good article concerning the Senate committee hearing. The article stated:
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted 4-3 to let the “Aid in Dying” bill proceed to the full 40-member Senate, but did so in a way that registered committee members concern and uncertainty by approving it "without recommendation." 
Sens. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) and Chairman Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) voted yes to allow to the bill to move forward, but agreed they would have voted no had it come up for a vote in the full Senate today. 
"I'm not sure there are enough safeguards in place" to prevent the law from being abused, Vitale said
John Kelly from Not Dead Yet.
The Senate committee held a hearing with only two speakers from each side of the bill. The disability rights community were left out of that hearing. The second hearing occurred after the outcry of disability rights leaders who demanded that their voice be heard. The article stated:
The bill has drawn the ire of many people with physical and developmental disabilities and their advocates. Curtis Edmonds, a managing attorney at Disability Rights New Jersey, a federally-funded legal advocacy organization, warned that such a law would define "what is perceived as an acceptable quality of life... and death as an obligation rather than autonomy."
Contact the New Jersey Senators and tell them to reject assisted suicide Bill 382 because it is not safe.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Former British Psychiatrist admits to assisting 7 suicides.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg
The British Daily Mail  has reported that Colin Brewer, a former psychiatrist who lost his right to practise medicine in 2006, has admitted to assisting 7 suicide deaths at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland in the past two years. Brewer also admitted that only one of the people was terminally ill.

The Daily Mail reported that Brewer made these revelations in his book. The article stated:
Among the seven people were Marjorie, a former businesswoman in her nineties, who lived in severe pain that could not be diagnosed or treated. 
A man in his sixties called Eddie, a retired professional, was going blind and wanted to die before he lost his sight.

Then there was Henry, in his eighties and with early Alzheimer’s, and Charlotte, a WI chairman with Alzheimer’s, who wanted to die before she had to leave her home.
The article then focused on Jacques, a retired academic:
... Jacques, a retired academic in his seventies who suffered arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure, Dr Brewer said: ‘It sounds no worse than in most people of his age. But he dreaded the possibility of a sudden deterioration … that would deprive him of the mental capacity to decide on the manner of his death.’

Organ donation after assisted suicide in Switzerland.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director/International chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

For the past few years doctors in Belgium have linked organ donation to euthanasia. Recently the Dutch Minister of Public Health, Edith Schippers proposed guidelines for euthanasia/organ donation.

Yesterday, published an interview with ethicist, David Shaw, concerning organ donation / assisted suicide. Shaw specialises in the ethics of organ donation and transplantation in the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel. He is also a member of Britain’s Donation Ethics Committee, which advises the Department of Health on organ policy.

In the interview, Shaw questions why Switzerland doesn't have a national donor registry. Shaw believes that donor cards alone aren't enough. He comments on assisted suicide:
... I'm not saying that we should be killing people to take their organs. But Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world where several hundred people use assisted suicide every year. This is a situation where you have people who want to die, you know when they're going to die, and many of them are probably registered organ donors. So it's also more respectful to the people to let them do this final kind of parting gift to humanity.

Labour Party drops euthanasia bill (New Zealand)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Iain Lees-Galloway for resisting sponsorship of the ex-Maryan Street voluntary euthanasia bill.

The End-of-Life Choice Bill proposes legal assisted suicide and euthanasia for anyone over 18 who has either a terminal condition which could end their life in 12 months, or an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that the person feels makes their life unbearable. It would effectively legalise euthanasia for anyone with a chronic physical or mental illness, disability, ageing-related condition or any condition for which a person refuses further treatment.

Renée Joubert
Public support for voluntary euthanasia is overestimated and based on unscientific online polls that ask an uninformed public to respond to leading questions couched in euphemisms”, says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
“Hence, many people confuse “assisted dying” (a euphemism) with switching off life support, withdrawing or refusing treatment and ‘do-not-resuscitate’ orders. However, euthanasia actually involves a doctor administering lethal drugs by injection in a way similar to overseas executions. Assisted suicide involves a person swallowing lethal drugs prescribed by their doctor.”

Saturday, December 13, 2014

France is establishing rules for terminal sedation.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

June 24, 2014 protest against euthanasia.
The President of France, 
François Hollande since the election in May 2012, has stated on several occasions his intention to legalize euthanasia. 

Hollande has faced strong opposition to legalizing euthanasia

Instead of legalizing euthanasia, Hollande has announced that his government will introduce a bill to legislate rules for terminal sedation and to update (Leonetti law) the rules related to the withholding and withdrawal of medical treatment.

According to media reports, the Hollande called for: 
"the right to deep, continuous sedation until death" if the patient asks for it, and if their condition threatens life in the short term. If a patient isn’t able to decide alone, then the doctor, after a necessary consultation, would end treatment by switching off their life support. 
The new legislation may also allow patients to express their wishes regarding how they want to die, and oblige doctors to follow these instructions when patients are no longer able to express their will. 
The group soulager mais pas tuer responded to the proposed legislation with caution. They fear that the wording of the bill will allow covert euthanasia. They stated:
Sedation terminal, taking the risk of accelerating exceptionally occurrence of death may be legitimate. However, sedation whose intention and result quickly cause death is euthanasia. Playing with words is to introduce a serious risk of confusion insecure patients who will doubt the real intention of those who care for them.
Groups opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide and supporting a social solidarity have become well organized over the past few years.

Links to more information:

Rethink Euthanasia

This letter was published on December 13 in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

By Dr Linda Baker

In his column Where's the line in legalizing euthanasia? (Dec 9) Andrew Coyne makes a factual, dispassionate presentation on the situation in place in Quebec currently and is being considered federally. These are the same arguments against allowing euthanasia being raised by the Canadian Society of Palliative Physicians, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada, and the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, among others.

Unfortunately, some of these organizations are mistakenly viewed as "Christian fundamentalists" with an agenda to impose their values on others. I hope Coyne's objective summary will speak sense to citizens and government before we misguidedly go down a path that we as a country will regret. Witness what is happening in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Canadians need to realize that pain usually can be well controlled, and that physicians are seeking to improve palliative care. During the course of any illness, patients have the right to decline recommended treatment they feel is burdensome or futile.

I urge all readers to find Coyne's column and read it if you missed it, and consider the implications. Better yet, pass it on to your friends and family and discuss it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bill S-225 isn’t good

This article was published on December 11, 2014 on the Living with Dignity blog.

Bill S-225 was recently introduced in the Senate of Canada. This bill aims to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. It would do this by amending sections 14 and 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada. We oppose the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide because they are not needed. Efforts should go towards improving proper access to pain and symptom management to everyone who needs it. Efforts should also go towards improving suicide prevention and appropriate access to services for people with disabilities.

It is important that we all speak to our Senators to ask them to vote NO and reject Bill S-225.

Senate Bill S-225 is based on MP Stephen Fletcher's own bills in the House of Commons (C-581 and C-582). While neither C-581 nor C-582 is likely to be reach First reading in the House, Bill S-225 will be debated in the Senate early in 2015. The language on the bill is open to interpretation and opens the door for abuse. Safeguards don't protect people from abuse of euthanasia or physician assisted laws, but this bill is particularly bad news.

It would be easy, although erroneous, to think the so-called safeguards in the bill are solid. A closer look and analysis show significant problems.

Some of significant problems with Bill S-225

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wales National Assembly rejects assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick speaking
at the European parliament.
Congratulations to Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick and Not Dead Yet - UK for their part in defeating the assisted suicide vote today.

A vote on whether to propose a bill to legalize assisted suicide was defeated in the Wales National Assembly today by a vote of 21 to 12.

Dr Fitzpatrick, who has lived most of his professional life in Wales, communicated with members of the National Assembly.

Dr Fitzpatrick is the Director of EPC - International and the spokesperson for the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet - UK.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Contrary to media reports: an Israel court did not permit euthanasia for the first time.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
Alex Schadenberg

The language of the euthanasia debate continues to confuse people and much of the media. Recent opinion polls that ask: If you were suffering and terminally ill, should you be able to ask for a death with dignity have received a strong YES response. But what does the question actually mean?

In a similar way, the Israel media falsely reported that - for the first time in Israel, the court permitted euthanasia for a terminal patient. The article states:
The Tel Aviv District Court gave the verdict after the Attorney General reached an unprecedented decision to allow the patient to be disconnected from the life support machine he was connected to, according to the Israeli daily. 
The verdict was carried out and the patient died after the machine was switched off. The unique case was released for publication after a request from Ha'aretz.
Euthanasia causes death.
In the past, the withdrawal of medical treatment was falsely referred to as passive euthanasia. The withdrawal of medical treatment does not constitute euthanasia but rather it allows a natural death.

There is a clear distinction between euthanasia, which is the direct and intentional cause of death, and withdrawing treatment, which allows death to occur naturally. No one actually caused the death of this person in Israel, the person died of her medical condition.