Monday, March 31, 2014

Press Release: Disability opposition to Assisted Suicide Bills helped secure third defeat In New England states this session

[Editor's note: For the PRWeb online version of this release go here.]

John Kelly
On Friday, it became official: for the second consecutive year, the Connecticut legislature rejected assisted suicide legislation. Disability advocates celebrated as the state’s Public Health Committee, like the Massachusetts Joint Committee On Public Health a week earlier, let its assisted suicide bill die in committee. Earlier this spring, New Hampshire overwhelmingly rejected an assisted suicide bill by a vote of 219 - 66.

“It’s a clean sweep,” said John Kelly, New England regional director for Not Dead Yet and director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts.
“Throughout New England, assisted suicide proponents simply had no answers to the arguments raised by disability rights advocates. When public health committee members heard from us how discriminatory and dangerous assisted suicide is, they had ‘second thoughts.’”
With victory assured, Second Thoughts Connecticut leader Stephen Mendelsohn issued a statement that was picked up by the Associated Press, appearing in media from Boston to San Francisco.
Diane Coleman
“The collateral damage from legalizing assisted suicide—including massive elder abuse, the deadly mix with a cost-cutting healthcare system steering people to suicide, misdiagnosis and incorrect prognosis, suicide contagion, and disability discrimination in suicide prevention—is simply not fixable.”

“In all three states, it’s clear that the disability community was heard and had an impact,” said Not Dead Yet President and CEO Diane Coleman. “People who are terminally ill are almost always disabled. This is one of many reasons that our perspective sheds some light on this complex issue.”
CT News Junkie stated, 
“Both this year and last year, people with disabilities and their advocates have been among the bill’s most outspoken opponents.”
Marilyn Golden
Disability rights opposition was also a focus in US News and World Report. Alongside quotes from Not Dead Yet’s Coleman and Kelly, Marilyn Golden of the California-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund was quoted regarding the Connecticut bill, saying “This does not promote patient choice. It invites coercion.”

As Second Thoughts Connecticut leader Cathy Ludlum told the Yale Daily News, the bill 
“would basically redefine what suicide is. It would mean some people are going to get suicide prevention, and other people are going to get suicide assistance.”

“If someone at Yale feels like they want to kill themselves because their life has no dignity and worth, somebody would try to give them help to get better,” Kelly told the Yale Daily News. “But if it’s a disabled or terminally ill person, people say, ‘Of course you want to die.’”
CT News Junkie quoted Elaine Kolb’s testimony before the Public Health Committee, that 
“they are saying that ‘I’d rather be dead than be you,’” Kolb said. “This is something that people are saying to people with disabilities and there is contempt in it and there is contempt in this bill.”
Kolb, a long time Not Dead Yet activist and singer/songwriter, played guitar while leading Second Thoughts Connecticut’s press conferences in her song, “Not Dead Yet.

Advocates are ready for the legislative fights that are sure to begin again in 2015, Mendelsohn said. 
“We’re not taking anything for granted and we know they’re going to be back in 2015.”
Second Thoughts Connecticut, the sister group to Second Thoughts Massachusetts organized last year to stop assisted suicide legislation, was recognized for its impact on the legislation’s defeat.

Links to similar articles:

Letter to the editor: No to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

This letter was published today in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Sign the Declaration of Hope to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition urges its supporters to write letters to local and national news outlets.
Assisted Suicide debate Stoked. 
Having cared for a child with special needs, I have great difficulty accepting any whiff of contemplation that we can choose to end a life we consider not worth living (MP fights for assisted suicide, March 27) 
The joy and peace I experienced through caring for my son, with all his physical challenges, was enforced by the big smile he greeted each day with in spite of his pain and discomfort. 
If the anguish of caregivers is the litmus test for legalizing assisted suicide, I reject this repugnant precept. 
I would rather we put our resources into home care, hospice and palliative care than ask doctors, bound by oaths to preserve life, to end a life. 
A political system with a history of residential schools based on forced "Europeanizing" of the indigenous people hardly garners confidence when deciding who deserves to live. 
Recommending Canada legalize assisted suicide because of high-profile cases of people seeking this option due to degenerative health conditions is a reaction stemming from pain rather than a reasoned response on how to make the lives of such patients comfortable. 
I don't have a definitive answer except to plead for reason, sanctity of life and justice to prevail. 
Shahina Siddiqui Winnipeg Manitoba

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Euthanasia is a prescription for premature deaths of vulnerable Quebecers

MONTREAL, March 30, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice

Euthanasia is a prescription for premature deaths of Quebecers and must not be legalized in Quebec. It is clear that in the few countries or states where euthanasia is legalized, safeguards and controls do not work and euthanasia is extended to include:
● Depressed individuals, a group that is now being euthanized in the Netherlands and Belgium.
● Children where the law was recently passed in Belgium and is tolerated in the Netherlands. This practice is currently being recommended by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Commission.
Moreover, euthanasia causes the premature deaths of people in the following circumstances because of:
● Incorrect diagnoses
● Errors in predicting how long people will live
● People whose illnesses are considered too complicated, may be euthanized on the initiative of either the patient, family members or the medical staff.
No system of monitoring can prevent abuse. In Belgium there is a commission to oversee abuses. It is clear that this commission has failed since no remedial action has been taken despite:
● In Belgium, 32% of patients did not give consent (Canadian Medical Journal Association, 2010) and 47% of cases of euthanasia went unreported (British Medical Journal, 2010).
● Depressed people and those who are tired of life without any physical illness are euthanized.
 Euthanasia should not be an option for any person.

For those who are in the terminal phases of life, good palliative care is an effective and compassionate way to care for our loved ones. The problem is that in Quebec as few as 20% of people have access to palliative care.

In the video: "Quebecers call to stop euthanasia,"

16 year old Nadine described how she survived leukemia and a bone marrow transplant when she was 14 years old. She described how young people need love and support to live and do not need euthanasia.

Dr. Sylvia Baribeau, a family physician emphasized the need for medical treatment and support.
"Euthanasia is not medical care, it is the cruelest abandonment and abuse of our fellow human beings."
Dr. Paul Saba who is President of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice reminds us that "over 9 million doctors in over 100 countries represented by the World Medical Association reject euthanasia and advise physicians not to euthanize people in countries or jurisdictions where it is permitted. It also is contrary to United Nations conventions and agreements to which all member countries including Canada are bound.

For further information:
Dr Paul Saba 514 886-3447 / /

Saturday, March 29, 2014

British PM will vote against Assisted Suicide Bill.

By Paul Russell - Hope Australia, March 29, 2014

David Cameron
News reports today are confirming that British Prime Minister, David Cameron, does not support the assisted suicide bill currently under debate in the House of Lords.

The Mail Online says that Cameron is concerned that he fears 'people will be unfairly pressurised' into ending their own lives.

The story reports Mr Cameron as saying, 

"It’s a free vote issue. I have not supported it in the past and I’m not planning on changing my position."
Deputy PM and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg has also said that he does not support such legislation.

As the Lords debate Lord Falconer's latest assisted suicide bill Cameron added: ‘I think the House of Lords is doing useful work by debating this and bringing out some of the arguments.

'But my worry has always been about whether people will be unfairly pressurised. But it’s a matter of conscience.’
Link to similar articles:

Wesley Smith comments on Canadian euthanasia bill.

Steven Fletcher MP has introduced a bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. Wesley Smith wrote the following commentary about the bill.

Wesley Smith
Wesley Smith - March 29, 2014 (Link to the original article)

No more justifications that assisted suicide is about the “terminally ill for whom nothing can be done to alleviate suffering.” That patently isn’t true. Legislative proposals/laws that limit doctor-prescribed death to the terminally ill never have the “nothing can be done to alleviate suffering” part.

Thus, these restrictions are best seen for what they are–mere political expediencies deemed necessary by death ideologues to get the ball rolling. For that matter, so are requirements mandating that the patient actually take their own lives. Active euthanasia is the actual destination and always has been.

Here’s another example of the broad death license that the euthanasia/assisted suicide movement seeks: Legislation has been introduced in Canada’s Parliament to legalize assisted suicide, and once again the “strict guidelines” are broad enough to drive a hearse throughFrom, “The Right to Die Well,” by the bill’s author, Steven Fletcher:

Having been diagnosed by a physician with an illness, a disease or a disability (including disability arising from traumatic injury) that causes intolerable physical or psychological suffering that cannot be alleviated by any medical treatment acceptable to that person, or; 
Being in a state of weakening capacity with no chance of improvementand being of sound mind and capable of fully understanding the information provided to him or her under other sections of the law.
Note, this isn’t the same thing as saying there is no way to alleviate “pain” since the suffering can be psychological. Also, that including the phrase, ”acceptable to that person,” would mean that there would be no objective way to measure or judge any of this.

Besides, any suicidal person thinks there is no way to alleviate their suffering. Should this bill become law, it won’t be long before it extends to mental illness–which, after all can cause far more suffering than a physical malady. Indeed, that is precisely what happened in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Connecticut assisted suicide Bill HB 5326 is dead.

The Hartford Courant reported that the Connecticut assisted suicide Bill HB 5326 will not go to a vote this year. Kevin Rennie, lawyer and former Connecticut legislator stated in the Hartford Courant:
Meanwhile, the assisted suicide bill was killed in the legislature last week. This was for the best. By raising the profile of the issue early now, it ought to get more attention in the coming campaigns for governor and the legislature. The broader public ought to be heard on the proposal. This is not a change in the law that should be adopted without prolonged, statewide debate.
March was a great month for those who work to protect people from assisted suicide. 

On March 19 we learned that the Massachusetts assisted suicide Bill 1998 was being sent to a study committee, meaning that it would not go to a vote this year.

Palliative care Motion to be debated in Canadian parliament on Tuesday April 1, 2014.

On Thursday, March 27, Steven Fletcher MP (CPC) introduced private members bills to legalize euthanasia in Canada.

Charlie Angus
On Tuesday, April 1, 2014 Motion 456, that has been sponsored by Charlie Angus MP (NDP), will receive its first hour of debate in the Parliament of Canada. 

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) wants its supporters to contact their Member of Parliament to ask them to support M 456. 

Link to the Member of Parliament contact information.

Email Mr Angus MP (NDP) and tell him that you support M-456. Contact Mr Angus at:

EPC also supports the recent three year commitment by the Canada's Minister of Health to provide $3 million dollars per year funding to the Pallium Foundation of Canada to train Canadian medical care-givers to provide excellent palliative care for their patients. Link to the article.

Please contact Canada's Minister of Health, Hon Rona Ambrose and thank her for making a three year commitment to the Pallium Foundation of Canada. Link.

The text of Motion 456.

M-456 — Mr. Angus (Timmins—James Bay) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a Pan-Canadian Palliative and End-of-life Care Strategy by working with provinces and territories on a flexible, integrated model of palliative care that: (a) takes into account the geographic, regional, and cultural diversity of urban and rural Canada; (b) respects the cultural, spiritual and familial needs of Canada’s First Nation, Inuit and Métis people; and (c) has the goal of (i) ensuring all Canadians have access to high quality home-based and hospice palliative end-of-life care, (ii) providing more support for caregivers, (iii) improving the quality and consistency of home and hospice palliative end-of-life care in Canada, (iv) encouraging Canadians to discuss and plan for end-of-life care.

M-456 — M. Angus (Timmins—Baie James) — Que, de l’avis de la Chambre, le gouvernement devrait adopter une stratégie pancanadienne de soins palliatifs et de fin de vie en travaillant avec les provinces et les territoires diversité géographique, régionale et culturelle des régions urbaines et rurales au Canada; b) respecte les besoins culturels, spirituels et familiaux des Premières Nations, Inuits et Métis du Canada; c) vise à faire en sorte que (i) tous les Canadiens aient accès à des soins palliatifs et de fin de vie de première qualité à domicile et en établissement, (ii) davantage de soutien soit aà l’élaboration d’un modèle souple et intégré de soins palliatifs qui : a) tient compte de la pporté aux aidants, (iii) la qualité et la cohérence des soins palliatifs et de fin de vie à domicile et en établissement au Canada soient améliorés, (iv) les Canadiens soient encouragés à discuter de soins de fin de vie et de leur planification.

Link to similar articles:
● Canadian government is committed to increasing palliative care training.
● Euthanasia: End of life care hinges on recognizing and treating pain.
Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care offers great hope to Canadians.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Belgium Becoming Beyond Belief

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
Director - EPC Europe

The chair of the local Free Humanist group in the Belgian town Aarschot is organizing a lecture by the leading euthanasia advocate Wim Distelmans. She is also a primary school teacher, who is organising this meeting outside of school. Yet amongst her advertising strategies, she placed a flyer about Distelmans speaking on euthanasia in the children’s school diaries! She even placed it in the diary of one 8 year old child whose grandmother had been euthanized by Distelmans without the family’s knowledge.

Quite rightly indignant, the child’s father Dr Tom Mortier, challenged her. She was equally indignant – she could not even begin to see what she was doing. The flyer was meant for parents after all, so what could be so wrong, and yes, of course she knew about Tom’s mother’s death but even that did not stop her putting the flyer in his 8 year old daughter’s school diary.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) welcomes an open debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Steven Fletcher MP intends to introduce two private members bills to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Based on the order of precedence, Mr. Fletcher's euthanasia bills will not have time to be voted-on in parliament. Mr Fletcher has introduced these bills to create a debate on the issues in Canada.

Sign the Declaration of Hope to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) welcomes an open and forthright debate that provides all information and facts concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide. We are not interested in a one-sided debate. The more facts and information that Canadians have about euthanasia and assisted suicide, the more they oppose it.

In Belgium, where euthanasia was legalized in 2002, studies indicate that as many assisted deaths are done without request and many of the assisted deaths are not reported. In January, Belgian euthanasia doctor, Marc Cosyns admitted that he does not report the euthanasia deaths that he does, even though reporting is a requirement of the euthanasia law. Recently Belgium extended euthanasia to children.

In February 2014, the Netherlands Health Minister stated that there were 42 psychiatric euthanasia deaths in 2013 with one of them being a healthy woman who was blind and was "obsessed by cleanliness and could not stand being unable to see spots on her clothes." Recently a former leader of the euthanasia lobby in the Netherlands stated that the Netherlands euthanasia law has derailed.

The fact is that legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is lethal and not safe.

CTV interview with Dr Will Johnston, EPC - BC Chair.

Links to similar articles:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Assisted Suicide and Depression: A personal experience.

By Patricia Russo

My concern with the legalization of assisted suicide is the psychological impact on the rest of society. I am writing from my personal experience.

I have dealt with depression for almost 50 of my 63 years. I have been suicidal on numerous occasions and at one point, within the past ten years, I experienced active suicidal ideation for a continuous six-month period almost 24 hours per day. I even carried a knife in my handbag, just waiting for the right moment to stab myself.

When I learned of the assisted suicide story of the Canadian woman who went to Switzerland, I personally heard the message that my life was not worth living. That assisted suicide death gave me the message that when things get really bad and there doesn’t seem to be any hope, I should give up my struggle. Being actively suicidal is often a terminal illness.

I have been struggling during the past 35 years, in particular, through multiple varieties of therapy and medication and through hospitalizations.

Adults are role models. No amount of denial will change that fact of human nature. Children imitate what they see their parents, teachers, idols and even their peers doing.

I am a parent and I want to show my children that one can grow through the struggle. I watched my own parents leading very unhappy lives and living in an unhappy marriage. They were not good role models for me, but I also understand that they tried their best, in spite of their limitations. My father was diagnosed with a ‘nervous disorder’ in the 1950’s and was treated with barbiturates. Looking back, I can see that he was seriously depressed much of the time and he was unable to work because of his illness. My mother’s depression was never diagnosed, nor acknowledged by anyone, but I saw her endless tears. When one is ill or depressed, one is very often also angry, even if the anger is involuntary, and I witnessed for many years my parents' anger, especially towards each other. My own depression developed in my early teenage years and I modeled my parents' anger during the next decades of my life.

I am a role model for my children, even though they are now adults. I have warned them of the strong family history of depression and that they should be alert to its signs and symptoms in themselves, in order to get help early. I want my children to see and believe that life involves struggle, pain, grief, illness and growing old. I need to grow old with dignity and even with joy, just to prove to my children that it is possible to do so. I want them to grieve for me at my natural death. If I were to die by my own hand or with the intentional involvement of someone else, I know that my children would have a much more difficult time not taking their own lives when facing a serious trial in life.

With the prevalence of suicide in our society, especially among the young, how can we endorse this truly devastating role-modeling of assisted suicide? How can we dare to call it anything other than suicide?

The idea of “dying with dignity” is being deliberately presented in a romantic manner to the public, as suggested by the image of a person dying in the arms of a loving spouse. Those who are contemplating suicide are most often very depressed, feeling hopeless, alone, isolated, and often unloved.

When the suicidal thoughts overtake me, I feel completely alone, unable to communicate, I lose any sense of personal identity and I want to scream from the severity of the mental pain.

The image of dying in the arms of one who loves you is very painful to behold by one who is suicidal and feeling unloved, and increases their feelings of worthlessness. If someone wants to die who is loved, how much more does one want to die who is not loved.

Those with serious depression and suicidal tendencies need encouragement to live and grow into healthier attitudes. They do not need societal inducement to give it all up. Unfortunately, they are also usually unable to speak publicly on their own behalf.

This article was sent by its author to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

How do you neutralize death?

By Jean Echlin, Windsor Star - March 21, 2014. Link to the original article.

The push by those driving the “dying with dignity” groups, including much of our media, to neutralize the terms euthanasia and assisted suicide now includes the Canadian Nurses Association, our national voice.

This came as a shock and disappointment to many of us classified as registered nurses with licensure to practice nursing in Canada. As well, many are profoundly concerned in light of the Quebec National Assembly’s stab at sanctifying euthanasia through Bill-52 by linking it directly to hospice palliative care.

The Quebec government has designated doctors as euthanizers. Many Quebec doctors have said “no.” Bill-52 is lethal and provides fertile ground for abuse. There is no protection for the vulnerable. The bill is currently on hold until the Quebec election.

This lack of humanity and vision should be worrisome to everyone, including retirees, older persons, individuals with any type of disability (emotional or physical) and residents of long-term care facilities.

Instead of recognizing the strides that have been made in the management of pain and noxious symptoms by hospice palliative care specialists over more than three decades, a few want to kill or be killed as a solution. So much for the so-called demanding autonomy of “I want what I want when I want it.”

We are experiencing a death by execution culture, morbidly concentrating on euthanizing and hastening death. The more gruesome the situation, the more it is capitalized on and highlighted. What happens that Canadians must suffer any type of painful death? It signifies failure in a system that knows better. We are failing to teach hospice palliative care and pain management for all types of pain — physical, emotional, spiritual/ existential — to our nursing and medical students. We fail to provide funding for excellence in end-of-life care. We fail to conduct ongoing education for our current care providers. We have failed to teach Canadians what is and should be available to everyone during a life-threatening or terminal illness.

Can you imagine a professor teaching nursing students how to do a lethal injection? How would the management of seizures, choking, vomiting and not dying as side effects be taught? This is described by doctors in Belgium.

Can you imagine a nurse or doctor entering a patient’s room with a needle/syringe loaded with drugs to kill? Can you envision pulling an “exit bag” over the head of a loved one and holding it there even if the person struggles? Can you envision a fatal dose coming your way without your knowledge or consent?

It is happening now in our country as well as the Netherlands. Belgium reeks of abuse and now extends euthanasia to children and teens. Some with little respect for life will say: “That’s so cool !” This, despite suicide prevention as a major societal concern.

Assisted suicide has devalued the lives of the elderly in Washington State.

The following letter was printed online by the Revalli Republic news in Montana.
I am a high-school student in Washington state, where assisted suicide is legal. I want to become a doctor. My mother is a caregiver. Sometimes I help her with her clients.
I am writing to tell you about how older people are at risk in Washington, from doctors and hospitals. I will also talk about how attitudes about older people have changed for the worse. This is especially true since our assisted suicide law was passed in 2008.
I grew up in an adult family home. An adult family home is a small elder care facility located in a residential home. The caregivers live in the home with the clients.
My parents and two of my brothers lived in the home. With the clients there, it was like having six grandparents at once. It was a very happy environment.
This was true for the clients too, no matter what their condition was or how long they had to live. My mom could make them happy even when they were dying. The clients’ family members were supportive and seemed happy too, and never suggested that one of the clients should die.
Today, in 2014, we no longer live in an adult family home. My mother is a caregiver for private clients. She also now fears for her clients, especially in the hospital. She is afraid that the hospital will begin “comfort care” (that’s morphine) and her patient will suddenly die. This has already happened. She tries to never leave her patients alone in the hospital. Either she or a family member will be there.
She has also had one client where a family member wanted the client to do the assisted suicide.
In short, older people are no longer valued as they were before.
I hope that you will not follow our path.
Elizabeth Poiana,
Issaquah, Washington

Third complaint to Australian Medical Board against Philip Nitschke.

By Paul Russell, the founder and director of HOPE Australia originally published this story on his blog on March 20. 

Paul Russell
The West Australian is reporting today that a WA doctor has made a complaint to the Australian Medical Health Practitioners Agency (AHPRA) saying that Nitschke is a 'risk to our patients'.

The article says that, 'Mark Schutze, a private pain specialist who also works in SCGH's department of pain management, wrote to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency after Dr Nitschke gave a talk at the hospital last month.'

The article went on: 
Dr Schutze, who made the complaint as a private practitioner, said he did not support euthanasia but attended to hear Dr Nitschke's argument.
He said he was "truly shocked by his cavalier approach to what I could describe as nothing else other than promoting suicide".
Dr Schutze said Dr Nitschke had a right to his views but should not be legitimised with a medical licence nor allowed to tarnish the profession.
"I'm very concerned that his views are a significant departure from professional standards and do constitute a risk to public harm," he said.
Dr Nitschke said he was shocked to learn of the complaint and would ask SCGH to respond to the regulator.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Queensland Australia court decides man cannot inherit after assisting suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Queensland Australia Chief Justice Paul de Jersey decided that Merin Nielson, who was convicted for assisting the suicide of his friend, Frank Ward, cannot inherit from the Will.

Ward died by assisted suicide in 2009. Nielson, who was convicted of assisted suicide in February 2012 was sentenced to three years but was released in August 2012 after serving 6 months in jail.

The Herald Sun reported that:
Merin Nielsen
In 2012 ex-teacher Merin Nielsen became the first Queenslander convicted of assisted suicide, for helping his friend Frank Ward, 76, kill himself at Clayfield in 2009. 
Mr Ward made Nielsen his executor and sole beneficiary of his estate before committing suicide with a drug Nielsen brought back from Mexico. 
Chief Justice Paul de Jersey yesterday ordered Mr Ward’s estate be distributed to his four surviving relatives, who all live overseas.
The Herald Sun reported that previous to this decision:
Only those convicted of murder or manslaughter had previously been barred from benefiting from an estate if named as executors or beneficiaries in their victim’s will.
Hopefully this decision will further protect people who are at the lowest point in their life. These people need personal, psychological and medical help, not assisted suicide.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hugh Scher responds to the death of Ed Hung.

A letter from Hugh Scher in response to the death of lawyer Ed Hung.

Hugh Scher is the EPC legal counsel
and a former chair of the Council
of Canadians with Disabilities
Human Rights Committee.
Dear members of the Hung family. 

I am deeply saddened by your loss, but equally saddened by Ed’s desire to exploit his situation for political purposes. There are a host of options that could have kept Ed pain free and still emotionally linked to friends and family throughout his remaining days. It is sad that Ed felt the need to use his last days to pursue a quest for death rather than to enjoy his life, friends and family.

It is just sad that he and those around him lacked the imagination and support to see the value in his remaining days of life, other than as a quest for death and to promote a certain political agenda.

This is the same situation for so many people with disabilities whose lives and experiences are so greatly devalued, including by those in positions of power  and privilege who are fuelling the right to die movement here in Canada and around the world.

There are numerous vulnerable people that would certainly be impacted by the decision to legalize assisted suicide. Safeguards to prevent against abuse have proven ineffective in places like Belgium and the Netherlands and elsewhere in the only 7 jurisdictions around the world that endorse this policy. Studies suggest that in 32% of euthanasia deaths in Belgium, a patient’s express consent and request was not received before they were killed, despite a clear legal safeguard that requires this. Despite this fact, not one physician in Belgium has ever been charged for violating the law. The same is true of the 47% of doctors in Belgium and 23% of doctors in the Netherlands who refused to report their acts of euthanasia or assisted suicide despite a clear legal requirement to do so.

Once the law is removed as a barrier to such conduct, it becomes that much more accepted and supported regardless of the clear breaches of legal safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

Ed was a passionate advocate of the law and a firm believer in the principles of due process and the rule of law. It is evident that these factors did not enter into his own personal choice to end his life or into his message after the fact. However, Parliament has repeatedly considered such considerations here and around the world and almost universally found that legalization of euthanasia was dangerous and bad public policy. 

I am again saddened by Ed’s own personal choice but steadfastly believe that the rule of law and basic human rights underlie and support continued prohibition of assisted suicide and euthanasia as sound public policy that is Constitutionally supported in Canada. I am also comforted to know that the overwhelming majority of countries and states around the world maintain such prohibitions as the norm and not the exception.

There is much we must work to do to improve end of life care, palliative and hospice care here in Canada. Euthanasia is not the recipe for that success. Equally important is to summon the creativity and imagination to appreciate the value of every person regardless of disability or illness and to support those with disability, including those near the end of life with care and compassion and not with a death that endangers us all and puts all of our lives at risk. As Ed was want to say, better a 1000 guilty people should go free than even just one innocent person be convicted, let alone innocently put to death.

Hugh Scher
Scher Law Professional Corporation

Broad Alliance in New Zealand launched to oppose euthanasia

New Zealand Parliament
Link to the press release.

Broad Alliance launches to oppose legalising euthanasia

A coalition, assembled to oppose the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted-suicide in New Zealand, has been formally launched today at a function at Parliament.

The Care Alliance is an umbrella organisation that brings together a wide range of voices from across the palliative, medical, youth, elderly, disability, bioethics and faith sectors who are opposed to euthanasia.

The Alliance was established in 2012 in opposition to the poorly written, confusing and flawed End of Life Choice Bill proposed by a Labour List MP which has since been withdrawn following political pressure.

“As long as there is a political intent to legalise euthanasia in New Zealand, we need to be vigilant. The Care Alliance will oppose any efforts to legalise euthanasia or assisted-suicide,” said Care Alliance co-founder Maggie Barry.

Maggie Barry
“Although the latest Bill has been withdrawn for political reasons, there remains an active intent to re-submit it to the Ballot at the earliest possible convenience. We will continue to oppose any progress to legalise euthanasia because a law change will inevitably have unintended consequences for all vulnerable New Zealanders and their families, it puts lives at risk and reduces choice,” said Ms Barry.

Chronic Pain, Terminal Illness, and Palliative Relief

By Lily McCann

Palliative pain relief and care is an issue that is often in the spotlight, and in 2014 the World Health Organization is sponsoring a resolution to help ensure that people with life-threatening and terminal illnesses have access to palliative care and pain relief. One of the most important aspects of medical care for someone with a terminal illness is recognizing and treating pain when it occurs. The World Health Organization’s new resolution could positively impact the lives of tens of millions of people worldwide—among them the more than six million who die every year without the benefit of palliative pain relief. Access to palliative pain relief is severely limited in low-income and middle-income countries, despite its extreme importance in the lives of people with chronic pain and terminal illnesses.

Chronic pain and palliative care are complicated issues, partly because of out-dated ideas about palliative care itself, and partly because of the complex emotional toll that chronic pain and terminal illness take on people who are affected by them.

Palliative Treatments are not only for End-Of-Life Care

Palliative care and pain relief is typically thought of as being associated with terminal illnesses such as cancer, but it can also be part of a treatment plan for people with chronic pain disorders, acute illnesses, and treatable injuries and health conditions. The word palliative simply refers to the prevention and relief of suffering, and doesn’t necessarily imply that the pain is caused by a terminal illness. In contrast, curative treatment is that which focuses on curing an illness, rather than treating the symptoms it causes. Palliative healthcare is separate and distinct from treatment-oriented care, because palliative care focuses on alleviating and preventing pain and discomfort, but not on curing the condition that is causing the pain. This is the main reason why palliative care and pain relief is most often associated with terminal incurable illnesses, though it can be part of treatment plans for chronic and curable diseases—even something as simple and innocuous as the aches and pains caused by flu, which can be alleviated with ibuprofen without actually curing the illness.

The confusion about the nature of palliative care also stems from its link to hospice care and end-of-life care, both of which are associated with treating people with terminal illnesses. Hospice care is a form of palliative care, but palliative care isn’t a form of hospice care—the two terms aren’t interchangeable. Another issue is that many doctors still believe that palliative care is only appropriate for people for whom curative treatment isn’t an option. This unfortunately means that even in high-income countries, many people with chronic illnesses aren’t receiving treatments that could help relieve pain and other distressing symptoms, at a much lower cost than the emergency clinic visits they must often resort to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Minnesota Supreme Court upholds ban on assisted suicide but declares ban on encouraging suicide unconstitutional.

By David Chanen, The Star Tribune - March 19, 2014 (link to original article)

Minnesota Supreme Court
Reversing the conviction of an ex-nurse for urging two people to kill themselves, the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the state’s ban on “encouraging” suicide but upheld the prohibition on “assisting” suicide.

The court said that the state law’s language prohibiting someone from assisting a suicide doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s free-speech protections.

In 2011, William Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from Faribault, was convicted of “advising and encouraging” the suicides of a man in England and a teenager in Canada whom he had met online. In finding the “advising and encouraging” language unconstitutional, the state high court sent the case back to Rice County District Court.

That court must determine if Melchert-Dinkel can be prosecuted for “assisting” the two suicides, a question it did not rule on previously.

Justice Alan Page offered the sole dissent in Wednesday’s ruling.

Nadia Kajouji
Melchert-Dinkel’s one-year prison sentence had been on hold until the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Melchert-Dinkel, 51, was convicted on two counts of aiding suicide in the deaths of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005, and Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.

His case has drawn intense legal scrutiny, along with one focused on a group called the Final Exit Network and two of its members in connection with the suicide of an Apple Valley woman.