Friday, October 31, 2014

Assisted suicide laws are more dangerous than people acknowledge

This article was published by on October 31, 2014

John Kelly
By John B Kelly - the New England regional director for Not Dead Yet, a grassroots disability group opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide.

The media is flush with the sympathetic story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old newlywed with aggressive brain cancer. Her video advocating expanded assisted suicide laws has been seen millions of times, prompting another push in the State Assembly to pass an assisted suicide bill.

When the focus is on an individual, assisted suicide can sound good – who’s against compassion or relieving suffering? But a closer look reveals that assisted suicide puts vulnerable people in mortal danger. The more people learn about the real-world implications of these bills, the more they oppose them. (Our group takes its name – Second Thoughts – from this fact). Last year, the Legislatures of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut rejected assisted suicide bills.

The simple truth is that not all families are loving. Elder abuse is a nationally recognized epidemic. Every year, New Jersey elders suffer an estimated 175,000 cases of reported and unreported abuse, most by adult children and caregivers. Financial gain or emotional relief creates motives for steering someone toward death. The two witnesses to the death request could be an heir and the heir’s accomplice. Once the lethal prescription leaves the pharmacy, there is no further supervision and no independent witness required at the death to ensure that the lethal dose is self-administered.

Depressed people will be harmed. Under Oregon’s program, Michael Freeland obtained a lethal prescription for his terminal diagnosis, despite a 43-year history of severe depression, suicide attempts and paranoia. The prescribing doctor said a psychological consult was not “necessary.” When Freeland received volunteer suicide prevention services, he was able to reconcile with his estranged daughter and lived two years post-diagnosis. Oregon’s statistics for the last four years show that only 2 percent of patients are being referred for psychological evaluations.

Maynard story raises issue: How to care for the dying besides killing them

This article was published by on October 31, 2014.

Alex Schadenberg
For a person going through terminal illnesses or pain, assisted suicide is not the answer, says an expert on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Brittany Maynard, 29, is dying from terminal cancer and moved to Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. She had planned to kill herself Saturday, Nov. 1, but she has had a change of heart and postponed it.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition sheds some light on the situation, saying first that Maynard has become a poster girl for the movement.
"I think that you have to understand the problem with this situation is that Brittany has become part of a whole media campaign," he tells OneNewsNow. "So whether she decides to wait to cause her death or not, she is now part of a system which is trying to gain from her death."
Schadenberg says her story has given national exposure to lobbying group Compassion and Choices while mostly ignoring a genuine solution for her problem, and others.

What happened when euthanasia became legal. The Netherlands experience.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The following is the video of the presentation by journalist, Gerbert van Loenen, from the Netherlands to the Euthanasia Symposium on October 4, 2014 in Ottawa-Gatineau.

While watching the video, you will notice that van Loenen is not opposed to euthanasia but rather he is explaining the changes that occurred in the Netherlands, from when euthanasia was first legalized until the present day. He refers to the Netherlands as the laboratory.

van Loenen explains how euthanasia has expanded in the Netherlands, not only in the number of yearly deaths by euthanasia, but also the reasons for euthanasia. After van Loenen has completed his explanation of the growth in the practice of euthanasia he states:
It's up to you to judge this development. You may be of the opinion that it is a disgrace that the position of the Netherlands has shifted this far, you can also be of the opinion that in all of these cases termination of life is the best of the available options, is indeed the lesser evil. The one thing you cannot do is deny that the boundaries are continually pushed back, moving the Netherlands a considerable distance from its original position. The discussion about one category of people for whom termination of life is suggested draws attention to an adjacent category of suffering individuals and the same arguments for termination of life can be applied to. And so the position of the Netherlands is shifting. Again, we need not consider this a disgrace. But the shift itself cannot be denied. 
Making euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide legal started a development we did not foresee. The old limit 'thou shalt not kill' was abandoned, a new limit is yet to be found.

East Coast Conference Against Assisted Suicide

Attend the East Coast Conference Against Assisted Suicide on November 21 - 22, 2014 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel (Bradbury Airport) near Hartford Connecticut.

Link to the registration.

The East Coast Conference Against Assisted Suicide will provide you and your group effective information to oppose assisted suicide in your state.

Wesley Smith
Speakers include:

Wesley Smith - Attorney and award winning author and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Alex Schadenberg - Executive Director and International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. He is an author and a well known speaker against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

John Kelly - Director, Second Thoughts Massachusetts and New England Regional Director, Not Dead Yet.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - International and leader of Not Dead Yet - UK.

Nancy Elliott - A former three term New Hampshire State Representative, and organizer of Living with Dignity - New Hampshire.

Catherine Glenn Foster - Litigation counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. She is a key member of the Life Litigation Team at its Washington, D.C., Regional Service Center.
Nancy Elliott

Peter Wolfgang - Executive Director of the Family Institute of Connecticut and speaker against assisted suicide in Connecticut and regionally. Peter led the charge in Connecticut against assisted suicide. You won't want to miss his insights and experience gained by going up against the multi-million dollar organizations working hard to bring assisted suicide to your state.

Registration cost.
Friday November 21
Attend one of the sessions: Legal, Medical or Leadership sessions. $30.00.

Saturday November 22
Full day conference includes breakfast, coffee breaks, lunch and all speakers. $100.00.
Full day conference rate for students and people with disabilities. $30.00.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

David Mixner claims to have killed eight people.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

David Mixner, during his recent Oh Hell No! one-man autobiographical stage show, described how he killed eight people. Mixner stated:
A doctor would leave a morphine drip at the patient’s property for him. Mixner would insert it via an IV and hold his friend until the drip was completed. He would call that person’s friends and loved ones and tell them they should come and say goodbye. Before they arrived, he would remove the evidence, and when they did arrive he would leave and let the patient and their loved ones be alone to share those final moments. The effects of the morphine “could take four hours, it could take 12 hours.”
If Mixner is telling the truth, Mixner has killed eight people not by assisted suicide, but rather he has killed eight people by euthanasia.

Euthanasia as an act whereby one person kills another person. Euthanasia is a form of homicide. Assisted suicide is an act whereby one person assists another person in suicide.

There are no exceptions to homicide in all 50 US states and in nearly every country in the world.

In February 2010, Ray Gosling, a broadcast journalist in the UK confessed to killing his lover, many years earlier. After 32 police officers worked 1800 hours investigating Gosling's murder confession, it was determined that Gosling never killed a former lover.

Gosling was given a 90-day suspended prison sentence at Nottingham Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to wasting police time. The judge in passing sentence branded him: 
‘a sheer liar and fantasist’ guilty of ‘creating and maintaining this cruel fabrication’.
Based on the timing of Goslings "confession" he may have been wanting to increase public pressure on the UK government to legalize assisted suicide.

I have no idea whether or not Mixner actually killed eight people, but since he has confessed to the killings, it is incumbent on legal authorities to investigate the alleged crimes. 

Considering the timing of Mixner's "confession" in relation to the Brittany Maynard story, Mixner may also be wanting to increase pressure on US states to legalize assisted suicide.

I wonder if Mixner realizes that homicide is treated more harshly by the law than assisting a suicide?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why I’m afraid of Steven Fletcher’s assisted-suicide bill

This article was published in the Toronto Star on October 26, 2014.

Heidi Janz
By: Heidi Janz

Like many Canadians with disabilities, I have been following the renewed national debate on legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia with growing fear and trepidation.

I am at the point where, to put it bluntly, I am sick and tired of hearing about how TABS (temporarily able-bodied people) and former TABS want the “right” to die, lest they have to live with some of the limitations that I do. The (not so) implicit message is: People with disabilities have crappy lives, therefore, they should want to die.

It’s true that I have some significant advantages that many disabled people don’t: I have a PhD; I live in my own home, and I direct my own care. It’s also true that I live with some limitations that many TABS would deem intolerable — namely, I’m bladder incontinent and eat via a g-tube.

But my dignity/worth as a human being is neither defined by my advantages, nor diminished by my limitations. Rather, as a human being, my life has intrinsic dignity and worth. It is when my life is devalued by society as a “fate worse than death” that I am robbed of my rightful human dignity.

Indeed, like most people born with disabilities, I have had a lifetime of encountering temporarily able-bodied people who automatically assume that the fact that I need other people to assist me with personal care means that I have neither personal dignity nor quality of life. In latter years, I have developed a swallowing disorder that has made it necessary for me to receive part of my daily nutrition via a g-tube. This further lowers my perceived quality of life in the eyes of many people.

Sadly, this includes medical practitioners, as they are not immune to the same able-ist biases which afflict the general public. Consequently, I already live with the fear that, the next time I’m admitted to ICU in severe respiratory distress, a physician could read my medical history, see my feeding-tube, conclude that I have a poor quality of life already, and therefore deem further treatment as “futile.”

The legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide would inevitably, exponentially increase my social vulnerability, along with the social vulnerability of every single disabled and elderly Canadian, thus putting our lives in real and present danger.

Scotland's anyone assisted suicide bill.

This article was published on Wesley Smith's blog on October 26.

By Wesley Smith

So much for “aid in dying” as a “medical treatment.”

In Scotland, a bill is pending to authorize anyone-assisted suicides. From the honestly named–as opposed to US proposals--”Scottish Assisted Suicide Bill:”

No criminal liability for assisting suicide (1) It is not a crime (of any kind) to assist a person to commit suicide.
That basically means anyone can assist.

The person who wants to die has to be age 16 or higher, have two doctors state that he or she has a terminal or “life-shortening” illness–which,when you think about it, could be almost anything:

(5) The kind of illness or condition referred to in subsection (4)(a) is—(a) an illness that is, for the person, either terminal or life-shortening, or (b) a condition that is,;for the person, progressive and either terminal or life-shortening.
That’s a wide enough gap to drive a hearse through. Many conditions are far from terminal but could be considered “life shortening,” including diabetes, asymptomatic HIV infection, MS, plugged arteries in the heart, bi-polar disease, Lupus, perhaps even, obesity or nicotine addiction.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Former Montana legislator now opposes assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Jim Shockley, a former member of the Montana legislature, was published in the Revalli Republic newspaper in response to a pro-assisted suicide letter. Shockley explaining that, in the past, he had supported assisted suicide but he changed his mind after looking at the evidence.

Shockley, a lawyer and a former candidate for Attorney General in Montana first commented on the legality of assisted suicide in Montana. He wrote:

William Clarke is wrong about the legality of assisted suicide, and his definition of suicide, as described in his letter of Oct. 15, 2014. Physician assisted suicide is against the law in Montana and killing oneself is suicide regardless of your health. The present law is the Baxter case which says that under certain circumstances a physician who assisted someone to kill herself/himself has a defense to a charge of homicide. It is a defense if the doctor is charged with homicide, that does not make it legal. If the doctor is charged with homicide and can convince a jury of certain facts, he will not be convicted. If he fails to do so, he is convicted of a felony. Of course, there is the civil liability of the doctor, which is not addressed at all by Mr. Clarke.
Shockley then commented on why he now opposes assisted suicide. He wrote:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brittany Maynard - Don't rob them of hope.

This article was published on October 24 by Mercatornet.

Brittany Maynard is a 29-year-old woman who learned not long after her wedding that she had an aggressive brain tumour. She has announced that she has chosen to die on November 1, by assisted suicide in Oregon. A video that she made by the leading assisted suicide organisation in the US, Compassion and Choices, has been a huge hit on YouTube. Dennis Strangman is an Australian whose wife died of a similar disease.

By: Denis Strangman the former chair of the International Brain Tumour Alliance.
Dennis Strangman (middle)
I am very sorry to read that you have a brain tumor, and especially that you plan to kill yourself.

Although we live on different continents thousands of miles apart, and belong to different generations, I sympathise with your situation, though not with your plans. I am glad that you say your proposed suicide date is not “set in stone.” I sincerely hope you will quietly forget about it and choose life. Do not be stampeded in trying to meet your “deadline” by “Compassion and Choices” or other advocates for assisted suicide.

You say you are speaking to fellow “millennials.” I don’t think they have yet invented a catchy title for us septuagenarians but you and I are fellow humans, and I would like to tell you about my own experiences in the world of brain tumors. You see, we have something in common – those terrible words “glioblastoma multiforme,” the most lethal of the primary, malignant brain tumors. I lost my wife Marg, aged 55, to this same type of brain tumor some years ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dr Ira Byock: Brittany Maynard is being exploited by Compassion & Choices, ... And I think that’s a tragedy.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Ira Byock
In a debate format interview on the PBS Newhour, Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care for the end of life debated Barbara Coombs Lee the leader of the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices.

Byock, with reference to the Brittany Maynard story stated on PBS Newshour that:

My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard. It’s a heart-wrenching story. But I want to assure ... people watching that she could get excellent whole person care and be assured of dying gently in her bed surrounded by her family. 
It’s ironic that we know how to give extremely good care, not only comprehensive medical care, but tender, loving care. But ... as the Institute of Medicine report shows, we’re just not doing it in this country. And it really is a national disgrace. 
And giving doctors now authority to write lethal prescriptions fixes really nothing, none of the deficiencies in practice or medical training. It’s really a socially dangerous thing to do.
Byock then examined the reality of legalized assisted suicide.
You know, Oregon’s law was modeled after Holland and Belgium. And in Holland and Belgium these days, people are being euthanized, by their own volition, for things like depression or ringing of the ears, not just pain. 
You know, Compassion & Choices actually sold to the public the legalization of physician-assisted suicide because of unremitting pain. But we can control pain. What’s happening now is that over 85 percent of people who use Oregon’s law and end their life do so because of existential or emotional suffering, feeling of being a burden to their families, feeling the loss of the ability to enjoy life, feeling the loss of meaning. 
Well, once those become criteria, there are a lot of problems and human suffering that then becomes open to assisted suicide and euthanasia. It’s an undeniable fact that the slippery slope exists.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scotland: Assisted suicide plan 'unethical and uncontrollable'

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Sign the CNK Scotland online petition against the assisted suicide bill.

The BBC reported that the Care Not Killing (CNK) in Scotland has launched an online petition calling on MSPs to reject a bill that would allow people to end their life by assisted suicide.

This bill represents the second attempt to pass assisted suicide at the Scottish Parliament, the first having been voted down by MSPs in 2010. The justice committee is due to take evidence on the practical application and legal aspects of the bill at its meeting on Tuesday October 28.

The BBC reported that CNK, which includes disability and human rights groups, healthcare providers and faith-based bodies, said the current law making assisted suicide illegal is "clear and right". CNK stated that:
Proposals to legalise assisted suicide are "unnecessary, unethical and uncontrollable", according to campaigners opposed to the move.
Gordon Macdonald
The BBC stated that CNK Spokesman Dr Gordon Macdonald said: 
Any change in the law to allow assisted suicide would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden upon others. 
This would especially affect people who are disabled, elderly, sick or depressed. 
The Scottish Parliament rightly rejected the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia just four years ago out of concern for public safety. 
In every free democratic society, there are limits placed on human freedom in order to protect the common good and vulnerable people. 
The law must not be changed to accommodate the wishes of a small number of desperate and determined people at the expense of the rights of others." 
Once any so-called 'right-to-die' is established, we will see incremental extension with activists applying pressure to expand the categories of people who qualify for it. The right to die will become a duty to die."

What will happen to Brittany Maynard?

This article was published on the Choice Is An Illusion blog.

By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

Margaret Dore
The suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, is running a public relations campaign featuring the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman with a brain tumor. According to media reports, she intends to take her life under Oregon's assisted suicide law in the near future. [1]

Lovelle Svart

In 2007, there was a similar case in Oregon involving Lovelle Svart, which was also promoted by Compassion & Choices. Svart, who had cancer, died at the end of a party in which she had been having a great time. The party was reported in the Seattle Times, which described her as being in control. [2] When it was time for her to die, however, she engaged in stalling behaviors ("a hugging line" and a cigarette break). 

There was also this exchange between her and George Eighmey, a member of Compassion & Choices:
“Is this what you want?” 
“Actually, I’d like to go on partying,” Lovelle replied, laughing before turning serious. "But yes."
The situation was similar to a wedding when it’s time to take your vows. Everyone is watching and it's the thing to do. Even if you're having second thoughts or would rather “go on partying,” you go forward. If Eighmey had wanted to give her an out, he could have said:
“You're having so much fun, you don’t have to do this today or even next week.”
Instead, he closed her by guiding her to take the lethal dose, which killed her.

Will Ms. Maynard get her choice?

It may be hard to know.

Compassion & Choices, regardless, will have an interest in getting the best promotional material possible from her death.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unconscious Patient Heard Push to Stop Care

This article was published on Wesley Smith's blog on October 21, 2014.

By Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith
Sometimes, I think, the medical system is in too big a rush to assume that people with brain damage are out and gone.

This is the fruit of a “quality of life” value system that increasingly infects medicine. Human life matters far less now than the supposed quality of the life expected to be lived.

That’s very dangerous. Here’s an example: An Australian woman had a stroke. She appeared completely unconscious, but was really awake and aware. And she heard the push by her medical team to end life support. From the story:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia on Global News

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Tom Clark from Global News, interviewed Dr Catherine Ferrier, the leader of the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia. Clark fails in his attempt to discredit Ferrier in a one-sided interview, The interview is based on the - Open Letter to Canadians on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

The Physicians Alliance are urging Canadian physicians to sign the Open Letter to Canadians.

Link to the video of the interview.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

People in a vegetative state may be aware

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The UK Independent published an article on a study by scientists at Cambridge University concerning tests on people considered to be in a vegetative state or a minimally conscious state.

The Independent is reporting that:
Severely brain-damaged patients in a persistent vegetative state may be capable of being consciously aware of the outside world, scientists said.
Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a test to determine whether people in a vegetative state can respond to their surroundings. Dr Srivas Chennu reported that:
“Our research could improve clinical assessment and help identify patients who might be covertly aware despite being uncommunicative,”
“... for patients diagnosed as vegetative and minimally conscious and their families, this is far more than just an academic question; it takes on a very real significance,”
The article in the Independent explained the research data:
The researchers analysed the brainwaves of 32 patients using 128 electrical sensors fixed to the scalp to measure electroencephalograph (EEG) activity. 13 members of the group were classed as being in a persistent vegetative state, with the rest being minimally conscious. 
The study, published in the online journal Plos Computational Biology, found that four of the 13 patients with persistent vegetative state had a “robust” network of brain activity that would allow conscious thoughts, which was confirmed when they were asked to imagine playing tennis when their brains were scanned using a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) machine.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Catherine Frazee: There can be dignity in all states of life

This article was published in the Ottawa Citizen on October 15, 2014.

By Catherine Frazee

In his article of Oct. 9, Desmond Tutu emphasizes the importance of language on the sensitive issue of medically assisted dying. In the spirit of advancing a respectful dialogue, I must urge him to consider the deeper meanings of dignity, and how our experience of human dignity leads disabled Canadians to a very different conclusion about end-of-life interventions.

Last week I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with a small group of parliamentarians on the subject of medically assisted dying.

I was not alone. Several friends and colleagues from the disability rights community were each given five minutes to present an argument against amending the criminal code to sanction medically assisted dying.

One spoke about the discriminatory implication of offering state-sanctioned assistance not for everyone, but only for persons who are frail, very ill, or seriously disabled. Another presented a chilling account of the “creep” of euthanasia in permissive jurisdictions.

Another spoke from personal experience, about the time someone said to him, “I don’t know how you do it; I’d rather be dead than in a wheelchair.” There were nods of recognition around the room. This is a common experience.

I spoke about dignity. The suffering that medically assisted dying is said to alleviate most often correlates with loss of dignity. I don’t believe that anyone should take a position on medically assisted dying without first understanding what dignity is, and what it is not.

Assisted suicide often involves pain and suffering.

This article was published by the Providence Journal on October 17, 2014.
By Lani Candelora
Did you know that many assisted suicides experience complications? Assisted suicide is wrongly marketed to the public as a flawless, peaceful escape from suffering. It can be a painful and scary death. It can include gasping, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, panic, confusion, failure to produce unconsciousness, waking from unconsciousness and a failure to cause death.

Just recently, we saw a heartbreaking article about a woman named Brittany Maynard who has planned her assisted-suicide death for Nov. 1. She is clearly terrified of a hard and painful death, and has been led to believe that assisted suicide is the best way out. However, Compassion and Choices, the leading advocates of assisted suicide, cannot guarantee her the easy death they advertise.

The most comprehensive study on clinical problems with assisted suicide (published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2000) was conducted over a six-year period in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for many years. It found that over 18 percent of assisted suicides experienced problems severe enough to cause a doctor to step in and euthanize the patient. In at least 14 percent of assisted suicides the patient had problems with completion including waking up from coma, not becoming comatose, and not dying after becoming comatose. Another 7 percent of assisted suicides reported muscle spasms, extreme gasping for air, nausea and vomiting.

The New England Journal of Medicine study insightfully mentions that all reporting doctors are practitioners and supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia who are less likely to report unfavorable data. They “may have underestimated the number and seriousness of problems,” causing complications to be under reported to an unknown degree.

Ban against assisted suicide remains the norm

This article was published in the Advocate Daily on October 16, 2014.

Hugh Scher
The priorities of disabled Canadians include access to quality living conditions, education, health care and employment – not to be granted the right to assisted suicide, Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher tells CBC’s Power & Politics

Click Here To Watch the Power & Politics debate following the Supreme Court Hearing On Assisted Suicide

Scher, a former chairperson of the human rights committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, made the comments in a segment on Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), which was heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Scher appeared at the hearing on behalf of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

“Nobody should be forced to suffer to death or kill themselves, but those should not be the policy choices Canadians are left with,” he said on the CBC program. 
“There isn’t one Supreme Court across the world that recognizes a constitutional right to die. The absolute ban against assisted suicide and euthanasia remains the norm in most of the world, with the exception of seven small jurisdictions.”
The Carter case began with a lawsuit filed by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in 2011, seeking to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia under certain circumstances.

The Supreme Court determined the matter in its previous decision in Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), where the court found s. 241 was not infringing on certain rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or that any such infringements were justified as there was no halfway measure that could meet Parliament’s legitimate objective to protect the vulnerable and promote life.

The coalition’s position is that the court should maintain its ruling in Rodriguez, said Scher.

“There’s a crying demand by some to promote this issue,” he said on CBC. “Having been unsuccessful in persuading Parliament through the course of 10 different legislative initiatives and the last one being rejected by an overwhelming 3-to-1 margin across party lines in Parliament, those who promote the right to die have now taken to the courts as a means of trying to strategically have the court try to reconsider the matter.”
The court reserved its decision Wednesday.

To Read More Hugh Scher Posts Click Here

Margaret Somerville: Should Canada permit assisted suicide.

This article was published by the Globe and Mail on October 15, 2015 as one of two articles comprising a debate between Margaret Somerville and Arthur Schafer.
Assisted suicide leads to normalization of euthanasia, harms the vulnerable and degrades our respect for the value of human life.
Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville:

Euthanasia and assisted suicide go beyond personal ethics to involve social ethics. Advocates frequently resort to a personal story, often that of a suffering relative, to explain their stance. They avoid asking the question, “What does it say about a society that deals with the big problems of human existence by legalizing the ‘quick fix’ of inflicting death?” Such a society is abandoning the great philosophic traditions of Western civilization. Everything now depends only on majority opinion and technological capacity.

Moreover, euthanasia differentially implicates the most vulnerable members of a society. We can’t judge the ethical tone of a society by how it treats its strongest, most privileged, most powerful members, but by how it treats its weakest, most vulnerable and most in need.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Right to Euthanasia?

This article was originally published by Public Discourse on October 16, 2014
For both principled and practical reasons, the Supreme Court of Canada should maintain the country’s legal ban on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
John Keown
By John Keown
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada heard oral argument in a landmark case. Its decision will have ramifications south of the border and well beyond.
The question in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada is whether there is a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to voluntary, active euthanasia (VAE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Do patients have a right to lethal injections and lethal prescriptions? The case is largely a rerun of Rodriguez v. British Columbia, a 1993 case in which the Canadian Supreme Court held (5-4) that there is no right to physician-assisted suicide under the Charter.
In Carter, the trial judge in British Columbia, Justice Lynn Smith, decided that she was entitled to reopen the question. Why? Because she thought the “proportionality” test in Canadian constitutional law had changed and because of the empirical evidence that has emerged from the Netherlands and Belgium (which permit VAE) and from Oregon (which permits PAS).
She concluded, in light of that evidence, that the risks of decriminalization “can be very largely avoided through carefully-designed, well-monitored safeguards,” and that a complete ban on VAE and PAS was disproportionate. She judged that in order to protect the vulnerable it was disproportionate to ban VAE and PAS for everyone, and that the blanket ban infringed sections 7 and 15 of the Charter.
The Attorney General of Canada appealed. British Columbia’s Court of Appeal rejected Justice Smith’s view that the proportionality test had changed, and held that she was therefore bound by Rodriguez. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court should dismiss the appeal and uphold Canada’s ban on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Leaving aside the proportionality test, on which the Court of Appeal based its decision, there are at least four grave flaws in Justice Smith’s judgment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Open Letter to Canadians on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

On Wednesday October 15th the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal in the Carter case. It will decide whether the Criminal Code’s prohibition of assisted suicide is constitutional. If the prohibition is struck down, doctors will be involved in assisted suicide and euthanasia. As physicians, we have followed with a growing sense of dismay the public debate over whether to introduce into medical practice the act of inflicting death. We write to you today to give a medical perspective on this crucial debate.

It is a long standing commitment of the medical profession ‘To cure sometimes, to relieve suffering often, and to comfort always.’ It is a breach of that commitment to inflict death. The World Medical Association [1] and the near-totality of national medical associations agree that intentionally ending patients’ lives is not an ethically acceptable part of the physician’s role. This opinion is shared by the World Palliative Care Alliance [2] and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians [3] in their assertion that Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are not now, and have never been, part of palliative care practice.

Both the effectiveness of palliative care and the fact that most Canadians who die have limited access to specialised palliative care services [4] are well recognized. Palliative care affirms life, regards dying as a normal process, and intends neither to hasten nor postpone death. In the 40 years since palliative care was introduced into Canada the ability to control pain and other symptoms is improving constantly, although problems of equitable access persist. This is a grave injustice and, many believe, a breach of human rights, but the remedy is not to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, it’s to provide the support dying people need. Indeed, legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide would introduce further injustices: those to older, disabled or ill people who may not even be dying but for whom the mere existence of such practices would be a source of subtle but effective pressure to request them, and which would place them in grave danger of abuse.

In the few countries that have attempted this hazardous social experiment, permissive laws, despite safeguards to restrict their application to a small number of extreme cases, are rapidly extended to include individuals bearing little resemblance to the initial target group. In Belgium, euthanasia is permitted by law if a patient requests it voluntarily and suffers from “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident” [5]. Despite this seemingly restrictive rule, in recent years Belgians have been legally euthanized for suffering arising from conditions ranging from glaucoma [6] to depression [7], to imprisonment [8], to multiple chronic conditions in the elderly [9], to a desire to avoid being a burden on one’s children [10]. The situation in the Netherlands is much the same [11]. It would be naive to believe that some Canadians would not give in to the same pressures to use euthanasia in an ever expanding range of circumstances – that is, the logical slippery slope is unavoidable.

In the U.S. state of Oregon, legal physician-assisted suicides are not required to be supervised [12] and the doctor is rarely present [13]. Data are based entirely on physician self-reporting [14] and information on individual cases is not available even to the police [15]. This opens the door to abuse of older and vulnerable citizens.

With good reason the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Rodriguez decision in 1993, concluded that there was no measure short of the current law that would meet the objectives of Parliament to protect the public and, in particular, vulnerable members of the public.

As medical professionals we have an obligation to protect not only the patients under our care, but also the population as a whole. The majority of physicians in Canada oppose legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide [16, 17]. A few are attempting to take a neutral stance but such a position is untenable. If you are not against these practices you are necessarily for them. A purported neutral stance on the part of physicians would be an abdication of our duty as medical doctors to put the well-being of our patients before political or other considerations.

Legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide would expose you and your loved ones to grave risks, including that of wrongful death. Legislators and doctors have an urgent duty to ensure this never happens, for clear reasons of public safety. We urge all Canadians to heed the warning signs from those places which have made the mistake of entrenching these practices, and to oppose their introduction into health care in our country.

Former Minnesota nurse who admitted to counselling suicide of Canadian teen is going to jail.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Nadia Kajouji
The Canadian Press reported that William Melchert-Dinkel, a former Minnesota nurse, has been sentenced to 178 days in jail for his part in the death of Canadian teen, Nadia Kajouji and Mark Drybrough, from Coventry England.

CP Press report stated:

William Melchert-Dinkel was ordered Wednesday to serve 178 days in jail. 
He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, but he won't have to serve the prison term if he complies with conditions of probation that include the jail time. 
The 52-year-old was convicted in September of one count of assisting a suicide and one count of attempting to assist a suicide in the deaths of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England and Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, ON. 
The convictions came after the Minnesota Supreme Court narrowed the state's assisted-suicide law and reversed earlier convictions.

Doctor says legal assisted suicide will lead to more deaths

CBC has produced a series of interviews that are being aired during the Supreme Court of Canada case that is examining the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. Today, CBC aired the program: Doctor fears legal assisted suicide will lead to more deaths.
Dr Tim Lau
The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing the case concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide today.

The program features geriatric psychiatrist, Tim Lau and Brockville family physician Gerry Asche.

The CBC interview of Dr. Tim Lau:

A geriatric psychiatrist in Ottawa fears easing access to physician-assisted suicide will lead to a jump in deaths and leave him in a difficult position, as he strives to provide hope for his patients when there is much despair.

Lau says patients discuss suicide with him on a daily basis, adding some have asked him to help them end their lives. He said his job, as a result, becomes one of providing hope to his patients and believing in the value of life.

"I treat a lot of patients where they’ve lost many abilities and what concerns me is people seeing these patients and thinking that their life doesn’t have value. They’re often looking for someone to have hope for them," Lau said. 
"I can’t say you’re better off dead. They’re looking for something more when they see you."
Lau referenced a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association from 2000, which stated half of people who considered the option of physician-assisted suicide later changed their minds.

He said a change in the law surrounding physician-assisted suicide, which Quebec will soon put into place, would be counterintuitive by “trying to promote life by having a law that inflicts death.”

He referenced and supports the “slippery slope” mentality where devaluing human life will lead to continued and increased devaluing of more human life.

"You’re calling the inflicting of death as some sort of medical treatment. It would change the character of hospitals, the nature of the patient-physician relationship," said Lau. 
"It takes no skill to kill somebody, but it takes great skill and compassion to help someone who is struggling."
Yesterday CBC featured an article on assisted suicide and people with disabilities.

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Assisted Suicide debate masks disability prejudice

This article was published in the Halifax Chronicle Herald today.

By Catherine Frazee

Catherine Frazee
Today (Oct. 15), the Supreme Court of Canada will hear argument in an appeal which seeks to strike down Canada’s Criminal Code prohibition against assisting suicide.

The appeal is mobilized by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and supported by Death with Dignity advocates across the country, many of whom will take to the streets to urge Canadians to “stand on the side of history for assisted dying.”

But to whose history do they refer? We share most of a demographic profile — I’m a 60-plus boomer, white, middle-class, secular and accustomed to calling the shots in the domains of my daily life.

We also share an unwavering desire to see the very best of palliative care services realized under the Canada Health Act, for it is to our collective shame that, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, only 16 per cent to 30 per cent of Canadians currently have access to appropriate palliative and end-of-life care.

Further, we share a conviction that the debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide is of critical importance to the people of Canada, for the outcome of this debate will define us, shaping the nature and extent of our compassion toward fellow citizens who are frail and suffering.

But when I tune in today to watch the webcast of the case, I shall be standing not with Dying with Dignity, but with millions of Canadians with disabilities and their families — ordinary Canadians who have laboured for decades to secure a vision of equality, dignity and liberty that includes us all.

It’s that history that won the day in Canada’s internationally regarded Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. It’s that history that is at stake in this debate.

As a disabled Canadian, I’ll be listening carefully to the submissions of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living.

I hope the justices of the Supreme Court will do likewise, for the evidence that these interveners will cite in their submissions is evidence too often overlooked in the sound-bite rhetoric that dominates the six o’clock news.

That evidence comes directly from other jurisdictions which have taken a permissive approach to euthanasia and assisted suicide. From the European experience, the court will consider evidence that calls into question the possibility of reliable safeguards. There is an ever-widening net of persons and circumstances “eligible” for euthanasia — incarcerated persons, seniors with non-life-threatening conditions such as arthritis, persons with psychiatric diagnoses including depression, persons who are lonely or tired of living, and most recently, children of any age, with the agreement of their parents.

As Etienne Montero, dean of the faculty of law at the University of Namur in Belgium, cautions: “Eleven years of experience in Belgium has taught us that it is illusory to think that euthanasia can be allowed as a narrowly circumscribed, well-defined exception practised in a rigorously controlled manner.”

Rather, as Utrecht University ethicist Theo Boer observes, euthanasia is “on the way to becoming a default mode of dying.”

Dutch statistics demonstrate annual 15 per cent increases in assisted deaths since 2008.

But it is in Oregon, where medically assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, that Canada’s disability rights community locates its most nuanced argument. Annual statistics reported by the Oregon Department of Human Services document the three most common reasons for choosing assisted suicide: “concerns about losing autonomy, being less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable and loss of dignity.”

On the face of it, these may appear to be reasonable, private decisions about the conditions that make life intolerable. But by sanctioning medical assistance to end a life for these reasons, when physical dependence and limitation are accepted uncritically as reasons to die, disability prejudice is elevated to the level of public policy.

A great many people with disabilities, myself included, require supports of the most intimate kind in order to move through and participate in the world.

We are bathed by workers’ hands, lifted onto bedpans, hooked up to tubes, clothed with diapers and hoisted into wheelchairs as routine features of our daily lives.

That we do so, with our dignity intact and our quality of life undiminished, is inconceivable to those who believe that life must be lived full-strength in order to be rich and satisfying.

This gap of perception is no small matter, for it is the soil upon which ableism — a belief in the superiority of nondisabled experience — takes root.

Judges attuned to the promise of equality affirmed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will surely recognize all that is at stake in this single, pivotal claim.

Catherine Frazee is professor emerita at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, and former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.Some of her recent writings on the subject of disability and assisted suicide can be found at:

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