Friday, January 30, 2015

Let’s not forget the lessons of history and the leading role doctors played in holocaust.

Dr Peter Saunders is a founder of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK. This article was published on his blog on January 30, 2015.

Peter Saunders
By Dr Peter Saunders 

This week has seen two significant anniversaries that have revived memories of the Second World War, and in particular what Britain was spared from.

First was the 50th anniversary of the death of the great wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 24 January 1965.

Second was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – Holocaust Memorial day. More than one million people, mostly Jews, died at the Nazi camp (pictured) before it was liberated by allied troops on 27th January 1945.

Earlier this week a Jewish figurehead sparked controversy by suggesting that new draft legislation seeking to decriminalize assisted suicide in Scotland is based on similar principles to racist Nazi laws that paved the way for the Holocaust.

Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, spoke out against Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide Bill which is currently making its way through Holyrood in an evidence session with MSPs.

He referred to Holocaust Memorial Day to make ‘a point about practicalities rather than principles’ and added: ‘It's now a well-known cliche that the Holocaust didn't begin in Auschwitz, it ended in Auschwitz. In terms of principle, it began with the belief that some lives are not worth as much as others, and that is precisely what we are faced with here.’

Understandably his claims have elicited appeals to ‘Godwin’s law’ - an adage asserting that ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1’.

But rather than dismissing Borowski’s comparison out of hand critics should spend some time examining the historical evidence-base behind it because it is considerable.

The horrific genocide of six million Jews was in fact only the final chapter in the Nazi holocaust story. 
The detail of how it happened, and particularly the role of doctors in the process, is not at all well known.

What ended in the 1940s in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka had much more humble beginnings in the 1930s in nursing homes, geriatric hospitals and psychiatric institutions all over Germany.

When the Nazis arrived, the medical profession was ready and waiting.

Nazi doctors - Nuremberg
Twenty three physicians were tried at the so-called Nuremberg Doctors' Trial in 1946, which gave birth to the Nuremberg Code of ethics regarding medical experiments.

Many others including some of the very worst offenders never came to trial (see list of main perpetrators here and full list here)

How did it actually happen?

Our story begins with Germany emerging from the First World War defeated, impoverished and demoralised.

Into this vacuum in 1920 Karl Binding, a distinguished lawyer, and Alfred Hoche, a psychiatrist, published a book titled ‘The granting of permission for the destruction of worthless life. Its extent and form'.

In it they coined the term ‘life unworthy of life’ and argued that in certain cases it was legally justified to kill those suffering from incurable and severely crippling handicaps and injuries. Hoche used the term ballastexistenzen (‘human ballast’) to describe people suffering from various forms of psychiatric disturbance, brain damage and retardation.

By the early 1930s a propaganda barrage had been launched against traditional compassionate 19th century attitudes to the terminally ill and when the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, 6% of doctors were already members of the Nazi Physicians League.

In June of that year Deutsches Arzteblatt, today still the most respected and widely read platform for medical education and professional politics in Germany, declared on its title page that the medical profession had ‘unselfishly devoted its services and resources to the goal of protecting the German nation from biogenetic degeneration’.

From this eugenic platform, Professor Dr Ernst Rudin, Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Psychiatry of Munich, became the principle architect of enforced sterilisation. The profession embarked on the campaign with such enthusiasm, that within four years almost 300,000 patients had been sterilised, at least 50% for failing scientifically designed ‘intelligence tests’.

By 1939 (the year the war started), the sterilisation programme was halted and the killing of adult and paediatric patients began. The Nazi regime had received requests for ‘mercy killing’ from the relatives of severely handicapped children, and in that year an infant with limb abnormalities and congenital blindness (named Knauer) became the first to be put to death, with Hitler’s personal authorisation and parental consent.

This ‘test-case’ paved the way for the registration of all children under three years of age with ‘serious hereditary diseases’. This information was then used by a panel of ‘experts’, including three medical professors (who never saw the patients), to authorise death by injection or starvation of some 6,000 children by the end of the war.

Tiergartenstrasse 4
Adult euthanasia began in September 1939 when an organisation headed by Dr Karl Brandt and Philip Bouhler was set up at Tiergartenstrasse 4 (T4). The aim was to create 70,000 beds for war casualties and ethnic German repatriates by mid-1941.

All state institutions were required to report on patients who had been ill for five years or more and were unable to work, by filling out questionnaires and chosen patients were gassed and incinerated at one of six institutions (Hadamar being the most famous).

False death certificates were issued with diagnoses appropriate for age and previous symptoms, and payment for ‘treatment and burial’ was collected from surviving relatives.

The programme was stopped in 1941 when the necessary number of beds had been created. By this time the covert operation had become public knowledge.

The staff from T4 and the six killing centres was then redeployed for the killing of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and disloyal Germans. By 1943 there were 24 main death camps (and 350 smaller ones) in operation.

Throughout this process doctors were involved from the earliest stage in reporting, selection, authorisation, execution, certification and research. They were not ordered, but rather empowered to participate.

Leo Alexander (right), a psychiatrist with the Office of the Chief of Counsel for War Crimes at Nuremberg, described the process in his classic article 'Medical Science under Dictatorship' which was published in the New England Medical Journal in July 1949.

‘The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans.’
The War Crimes Tribunal reported that ‘part of the medical profession co-operated consciously and even willingly’ with the ‘mass killing of sick Germans’.

Among their numbers were some of the leading academics and scientists of the day; including professors of the stature of Hallervorden (neuropathology), Pernkopf (anatomy), Rudin (psychiatry/genetics), Schneider (psychiatry), von Verschuer (genetics) and Voss (anatomy). None of these men were ever prosecuted while of the 23 defendants at Nuremberg, only two were internationally recognised academics.

It is easy to distance ourselves from the holocaust and those doctors who were involved. However, images of SS butchers engaged in lethal experiments in prison camps don’t fit the historical facts; the whole process was orchestrated through the collaboration of internationally respected doctors and the State.

Dr Carl Brandt
With the advantage of hindsight we are understandably amazed that the German people and especially the German medical profession were fooled into accepting it. The judgement of the War Crimes Tribunal in 1949 as to how they were fooled was as follows.

'Had the profession taken a strong stand against the mass killing of sick Germans before the war, it is conceivable that the entire idea and technique of death factories for genocide would not have materialized...but far from opposing the Nazi state militantly, part of the medical profession co-operated consciously and even willingly, while the remainder acquiesced in silence. Therefore our regretful but inevitable judgement must be that the responsibility for the inhumane perpetrations of Dr Brandt ...and others, rests in large measure upon the bulk of the medical profession; because the profession without vigorous protest, permitted itself to be ruled by such men.' (War Crimes Tribunal. 'Doctors of Infamy'. 1948)
The British Medical profession and the Holyrood parliament need to take note.

Jewish leader condemns Scottish assisted suicide bill.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Scottish media has reported that Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, condemned the Scottish assisted suicide bill.

Ephraim Borowski
The media reported Borowski as saying:
“It’s now a well-known cliche that the Holocaust didn’t begin in Auschwitz, it ended in Auschwitz. 
“In terms of principle, it began with the belief that some lives are not worth as much as others and that is precisely what we are faced with here.”
Borowski is commenting on the historical fact that the Holocaust began with the Nazi T4 euthanasia program that killed 70,000 people with disabilities.

Link to more information:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dutch “Better Killed than Disabled” Bigotry

Wesley Smith
This article was originally published on Wesley Smith's blog.

By Wesley Smith

I have been reporting on the non-voluntary euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, the infanticide, euthanasia of the elderly “tired of life,” psychiatrists killing the mentally ill.

Often people hear this truth and yawn, “Oh, hum–but Brittany Maynard!”

Now, Gerbert van Loenen – a Dutch (once) euthanasia supporting journalist whose partner became disabled only to experience disdain from friends and doctors–has written a book that exposes a pronounced Netherlander death-is-better-than-disabled cultural attitudes. From a review by Barbara Kay in the National Post of Do You Call This a Life?
van Loenen found himself brooding over certain friends’ reactions to their situation. “It would have been better if he had died,” one said at the outset. 
Another told Niek when he expressed frustration, “You choose to go on living, so you have no right to complain.” Once “an average Dutchman who thought of euthanasia as one of the crown jewels of our liberal country,” van Loenen became “someone who was shocked by the harsh tone used by the Dutch when they talked about handicapped life.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Protect your right to ethical medical treatment in Canada.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Conscience rights for physicians are being challenged in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Conscience rights provide choice in healthcare for people who oppose patient killing.

If you live in Ontario you need to send a message to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). 
  • State that Physicians need to uphold their promise to "Do No Harm."
  • State that if euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized that physicians must maintain their right of conscience to refuse to participate in any way.
  • Emphasize that you would not feel safe if your physician participates in euthanasia or assisted suicide.
  • Talking points, a link to some excellent articles.
The (CPSO), is asking for feedback, before February 20, on its draft policy on end-of-life care. Titled: “Planning for and Providing Quality of End-of-Life Care.

You need to respond. The (CPSO) has made it easy to provide feedback before February 20. You can make comments in the following ways:
  • Post to the CPSO's end-of-life care discussion forum;
  • Send an email to;
  • Fill out an online survey (there are text boxes in which you can explain your responses);
  • Send a letter to: (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, 80 College St., Toronto, Ont., M5G 2E2).
If you live in Saskatchewan the College of Physician and Surgeons of Saskatchewan are seeking your feedback on the Policy - Conscientious Refusal before March 6, 2015

If euthanasia or assisted suicide is decriminalized you will need a physicians who refuses to cause the death of patients. 
  • State that Physicians need to uphold their promise to "Do No Harm."
  • State that if euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized that physicians must maintain their right of conscience to refuse to participate in any way.
  • Emphasize that you would not feel safe if your physician participates in euthanasia or assisted suicide.
  • Talking points, a link to some excellent articles.
Send your comments to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan before March 6. Further information.
  • Send an email to
  • Send a letter to: (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan
  • 500 - 321A-21st Street E. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 0C1).
Silence benefits the euthanasia lobby. Keep your comments straight forward.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scottish Assisted suicide rhetoric is nonsense

This article was published on January 28 on the HOPE Australia website.

Paul Russell
y Paul Russell, the Director of Hope Australia

An assisted suicide bill is slowly making its way through various committees of the Scottish parliament before ultimately being debated in the Scottish Parliament itself.

This bill is something of a ‘legacy bill’ following as it does the death last April of the former champion of this cause, Margo MacDonald MSP who had sponsored an earlier, failed attempt.

It is certainly worth a hat-tip to the Scots inasmuch as both MacDonald’s bill and this new bill by Green MSP Patrick Harvie take some radically different approaches to the issue, presumably to attempt to make these efforts more palatable than other failed initiatives. However, the same concerns arise as with all legislation on euthanasia or assisted suicide: vulnerable people are not protected; the legislation is unsafe and open to abuse.

I want to focus, however, on some of the rhetoric and suggestions from the pro-assisted suicide lobby on this bill that are as dangerous as they are facile and errant. Slogans and catch phrases are fine in so far as they highlight and encapsulate a policy position or campaign thrust, but when they attempt to lead the reader to a simplistic and patently false conclusion, they deserve scrutiny.

This from a submission to one of the inquiries conducted on the Scottish bill:

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Mexico Court of Appeals heard assisted suicide case.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New Mexico Court of Appeals is hearing the assisted suicide case of Morris v New Mexico.

This case is essentially based on a word game and a replay of the Blick v Connecticut case that was thrown out by the Connecticut court in 2010

Similar to the Connecticut case, the New Mexio case, that was heard in December 2013, claimed that "aid in dying", which is also known as assisted suicide, is not prohibited by the New Mexico assisted suicide law because "aid in dying" is not suicide.

The case continued by claiming, that if "aid in dying" is assisted suicide, then the New Mexico assisted suicide law is unconstitutional because it undermines the right to privacy and autonomy.

Judge Nan Nash decided last year:
that the right exists under the New Mexico Constitution, which prohibits the state from depriving a person of life, liberty or property without due process.
Nash then applied this principle to assisted suicide and legislated from the Bench that doctors in New Mexico had the right to prescribe lethal drugs.

But "aid in dying" is assisted suicide and assisted suicide does not constitute medical treatment. Therefore prohibiting assisted suicide does not undermine the right to privacy or autonomy. 

The Albuquerque Journal reported on March 13 that Attorney General King, who appealed the decision, was concerned with the integrity of the law. The article reported that King said:
“Our position is we’re defending the integrity of the statute. If people are interested in changing state law, they should propose new legislation."
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) considers the decision by Judge Nash to be an extreme case of judicial activism. This is a case that Nash should have thrown out and a decision that the Court of Apeal must overturn.

Links to more information:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lawyer who lives with cerebral palsy comments on assisted suicide.

The following is the speech by Martin Benton, a lawyer who lives with Cerebral Palsy, on the issue of assisted suicide.

Martin Benton
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on such an important topic. While I am not representing any particular organization or disability group, it is important that you hear a perspective shared by millions of Americans who live daily with a variety of disabilities.

Although my cerebral palsy makes my speech somewhat difficult to understand at times, some people have observed that my southern accent acquired from growing up in a small rural Georgia town is the real barrier to clearly understanding what I am saying. To make it easier to follow my remarks, I have provided a handout, sans the southern accent. I am not the least bit offended if you find reading along on the handout much easier than listening to what I am saying. What is more important is that you hear from persons with disabilities like me on this topic.

Over a dozen major grassroots disability organizations whose members are self-advocates living with a range of disabilities are on record in strong opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide. These various groups recognize the grave threat that assisted suicide poses to persons with disabilities like me and many others.

I ask you to ponder what the motivating forces are for many people who are adamant proponents for the legalization of assisted suicide. Is it primarily to provide a means of alleviating intractable pain or to establish a semblance of control over the dying process, in other words, “death with dignity”? I would suggest to you that from the experience from Oregon and Washington States where assisted suicide is the law of the land, it is neither. Rather, reports from these states show that the primary motivation of many individuals advocating for assisted suicide is the fear of disability, a fear grounded on some basic stereotypes prevalent in our society that living with a disability is a life not worth living, i.e., living a life that is lacking in wholeness or somewhat less than whole. It is a fear of being vulnerable, of losing autonomy, of losing the ability to engage in activities that they take for granted, and even the fear of loss of bodily functions. Along with this fear of vulnerability is a fear of dependence or being a burden to their loved ones and society in general. In other words, a fear of living with a disability like mine.

It may shock some people to know that our lives are rewarding and exciting. My disability of cerebral palsy is a life-long reality, and I have acquired additional disabilities along the way, including a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder shortly before my first wedding anniversary, and chronic pain due to aging with CP. Additionally, in 2000 I successfully underwent prostate cancer surgery, and thus consider myself a cancer survivor. I am happily married to a loving, supportive woman, and we have two beautiful adult children, and a wonderful son-in-law. 

By profession I am an attorney, retired after thirty-two years of service with the U.S. government and several years in private practice. I am also a potter, and currently spend my time in the studio when I am not traveling nationally and internationally. This does not negate the fact that my disabilities have presented obstacles along the way. I would be lying to myself, and to you, to say that my life has been without difficulties, as has each person faces their own trials.

I am very concerned about the ramifications untreated depression can have in situations where assisted suicide is a ready option. From my own experience looking into the abyss of darkness caused by depression, I personally feel that it is very dangerous to make readily available lethal drugs that may be used to provide a false and irreversible solution to a sometimes undiagnosed and treatable illness. Once the abyss of taking the prescribed lethal drugs is crossed, there can be no turning back or seeking effective treatment.

Another concern that I have on both a personal level and a public policy perspective is the untenable position placed on the medical profession by such laws. As we request that doctors "do no harm and pledge, and I quote “I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel,” we are asking that they take actions contrary to the very nature and purpose of the medical profession. Further, by requesting doctors to make decisions on prescribing such lethal drugs to particular individuals, we are not only asking them to violate the basic fundamentals of the healing profession which they have chosen, we are asking them to make decisions as to the quality of life of a particular individual. I would suggest to you, with respect to individuals with significant disabilities, that we are reaching a slippery slope where the lives of those with disabilities are judged, not on the basis of their inherent dignity as fellow human beings, but rather on the basis of prevailing societal standards of productivity and the ideal of a non-disability reality.

As you may know assisted suicide laws establish eligibility criteria that require the individual seeking the assistance of the physician to be diagnosed as having a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less. Such diagnoses have proven in the first two states to enact assisted suicide laws to be highly problematic and unpredictable.

It is a great irony that in 2015, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Federal legislation recognizing the dignity and worth of persons with disabilities, we, as persons with disabilities, are fighting for our lives in states throughout this great country, and indeed in countries throughout the world. While we celebrate access in education, employment and public facilities, we are threatened by laws that single out our community as worthy of sanctioned suicide. For all others suicide is seen as a tragedy, and prevention programs abound. But for those of us whose quality of life is questioned and feared, suicide is offered as the “compassionate choice.” I would suggest to you ladies and gentlemen that this is a very insidious form of discrimination that we must fight with all the forces that we can muster.

I would like to thank you for giving me your attention and allowing me to share my thoughts on this very important social issue of our time.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Disability rights leader, Marilyn Golden speaks out against California assisted suicide bill

This article was written by Diane Coleman, the President of Not Dead Yet, and published on the Not Dead Yet website.
Diane Coleman
A bill to legalize assisted suicide is being introduced in California. Fortunately, Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, is already working to ensure that the disability rights opposition to this bill is being heard.

The Los Angeles Times published an article in advance of the bill introduction, and included quotes and paraphrases from Marilyn:
And some disability rights advocates are vehemently opposed. Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, warns that heirs and caregivers would have opportunities for abuse, and that legislative safeguards for people suffering from depression and other mental disorders are hollow.
Golden also told me the marriage of a profit-driven healthcare system and legalized aid in dying sets up dangerous possibilities. She warned of a scenario in which insurers might deny or delay life-sustaining treatments and a patient “is steered toward assisted suicide.”
Marilyn Golden
The inclusion of Marilyn Golden and DREDF is important and obviously columnist Steven Lopez is well aware of the opposition of disability groups. Yet, two days ago, the LA Times Editorial board issued their support for legalization and failed to mention – or chose to omit – any reference to disability groups. This is what the editorial had to say about opponents of assisted suicide:  ”The Roman Catholic Church and other groups will almost certainly have strong objections to such a law, but their moral codes should not be imposed on those with different beliefs.”  But Marilyn was clearly not talking about “moral codes” and “beliefs.”

The former attorney for the bill’s proponents, Kathryn Tucker, was also quoted in the article, stating misleadingly that:
. . . there’s actually “strong support for expanding end-of-life choices” among many people with disabilities.
Neither she nor the reporter mention that all of the major national disability organizations that have taken a position on the issue oppose legalizing assisted suicide.  Her further comment is equally misleading or, more accurately, outright false.
“We now have a great abundance of data from Oregon and Washington that makes clear there is no harm to persons with disabilities when aid in dying is available,” Tucker said.
The Oregon data, limited though it is, shows serious harm to people with disabilities in at least two ways:
Every year, people who are not terminal, who outlive a terminal prognosis but are both seriously ill and (in virtually all cases) disabled, receive lethal prescriptions (the data conceals how many, but hospice data tells us that 15% of people outlive a 6-month terminal prognosis); and 
  • The top five reasons that people request assisted suicide are related to disability, not being terminal, showing both that they are disabled and that their disability related concerns that could be addressed are not being addressed.
  • Two of those reasons are feelings of “loss of autonomy” and “being a burden” on family and loved ones. Earlier today, I found myself explaining to a lobby group something very familiar to those of us who use consumer directed home care services, like myself. The disability rights movement is in a decades long fight for these services, step by incremental step in state after state, led by ADAPT, and supported by federal policy initiatives and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead.
But how many people know about these services and how to access them? Assisted suicide laws don’t require any disclosure of these consumer directed home care options for addressing the reasons people want assisted suicide, much less requiring that these services are provided to those who need them. That would be a form of suicide prevention that could really make a difference. Instead, assisted suicide laws effectively say, who cares, just throw them under the bus.
There’s another key danger that Marilyn Golden obviously pointed to, based on the brief snippet the LA Times reporter included, saying that she “warns that heirs and caregivers would have opportunities for abuse.” The Oregon assisted suicide law does not require an independent witness at the death. Most who die under the Oregon law are age 65-84, in a society where one in ten elders are abused according to federal figures. The abusers are usually family members. About half the people reported to use assisted suicide in Oregon did not have a health provider present at the time of death. With no independent witness required, there is no evidence that they self-administered the lethal drugs, or even that they consented at the time of death.
These policy proposals have to be considered in light of the sad reality that not all seriously ill people have loving family. These laws grant blanket immunity and effectively foreclose investigation of wrongdoing. As one elder law attorney, Margaret Dore, put it, they are a “recipe for abuse.
NDY advocates will be working with DREDF and Californians Against Assisted Suicide to defeat this bill, and any similar bills that may be introduced in any state in the U.S. As Marilyn so effectively summarizes, “If this bill passes, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

Assisted suicide: doctors should think twice before signing on

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Paul McHugh
Dr Paul McHugh, wrote a response to the recent push by the assisted suicide lobby to legalize assisted suicide, in an article that was published in the Wall Street Journal.

McHugh, a former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, points out that legalizing assisted suicide has gained some momentum, that previous momentum was crushed.

With backing from financier George Soros —a longtime supporter of “right to die” legislation—proponents are intent on expanding beyond Oregon, Vermont and Washington the roster of states where the practice is legal. Legislation to allow assisted suicide is moving through New Jersey’s statehouse, last month a New York legislator vowed to introduce a similar bill, and in California state Sens. Bill Monning and Lois Wolk are working to legalize the practice. 
... often in fights for good ideas, the bad ones—even when crushingly defeated, as when Michigan sent Kevorkian to prison in 1999—sidle back into the ring and you have to thrash them again.
McHugh points out that historically, assisted suicide has been pushed back:
Since ancient Greece physicians have been tempted to help desperate patients kill themselves, and many of those Greek doctors must have done so. But even then the best rejected such actions as unworthy and, as the Hippocratic Oath insists, contrary to the physician’s purpose of “benefiting the sick.” For reasons not too different, doctors traditionally refuse to participate in capital punishment; and, when they are inducted into military service, do not bear arms. 
Also, as Ian Dowbiggin showed in “A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America” (2003), physician-assisted suicide was periodically championed in the 20th century yet rejected time after time by American voters when its practical harms were comprehended. As recently as 2012, Massachusetts voters defeated an initiative to legalize assisted suicide.
McHugh then offers three reasons for opposing assisted suicide:
First: Once doctors agree to assist a person’s suicide, ultimately they find it difficult to reject anyone who seeks their services. The killing of patients by doctors spreads to encompass many treatable but mentally troubled individuals, as seen today in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. 
Second: When a “right to die” becomes settled law, soon the right translates into a duty. That was the message sent by Oregon, which legalized assisted suicide in 1994, when the state-sponsored health plan in 2008 denied recommended but costly cancer treatments and offered instead to pay for less-expensive suicide drugs. 
These intractable, recurrent drawbacks are but one side of the problematic transaction involved with assisted suicide. The other, more telling side is the way assisting in patients’ suicides hollows out the heart of the medical profession.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Assisted Suicide lobby group loses its charitable status

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Alex Schadenberg

The leading assisted suicide lobby group in Canada, has lost its charitable status.

In Canada, charities are allowed to allot 10% of their financial and time resources to political activities. The charities act defines political activity as lobbying and working to change Canadian law. 

The Canadian Press falsely inferred that Dying With Dignity lost its charitable status based on its opposition to government policies. Revenue Canada defines political activity, not based on whether they advocate for a particular political point of view, but rather because they are actively lobbying government for political change.

The Ottawa Citizen report appears more balanced:

Isn't assisted suicide really suicide?

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Nick Clegg
Yesterday Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister in the UK, announced at a mental health conference, the government's intention to reduce suicide to zero by working in cooperation with every part of the National Health Service and other agencies.

According to The Telegraph news, Clegg is modeling this suicide prevention program on the successful program that was implemented in Detroit Michigan. The article stated:

... every suicide is preventable if NHS trusts provide better care for people suffering from depression and other serious illnesses. 
The “zero suicides” target can be met through simple measures, such as keeping in touch with patients who have been discharged from mental health wards and creating a plan so that patients and their friends know whom to contact if they are placing themselves in danger. 
Police and transport agencies will be called on to examine whether safety measures can be put in place in “hot zones” where high numbers of suicides occur, such as shopping centres or bridges. 
The plans have been inspired by a mental health programme in Detroit, US, where a “zero suicide” commitment resulted in no-one in the care of state depression services taking their lives in two years.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and similar organizations encourages the UK government to implement a goal of ending suicide. We recognize that suicide is 100% preventable.

At the same time the British House of Lords continued their debate on Lord Falconer's assisted dying bill, a bill that proposes to legalize assisted suicide in the UK.

Kevin Yuill
In response to the assisted suicide debate, Dr Kevin Yuill asks the question - isn’t assisted dying really suicide? Yuill states in his article:

Yet the campaign against suicide throws up questions about assisted dying, which was debated in the House of Lords last week. Here we find another example of the “massive taboo” that people are scared to talk about. That is: isn’t assisted dying really suicide? How can we wage a war against suicide for some whilst encouraging it as a legitimate choice for others? ... it is difficult to argue that what is being proposed is not essentially suicide. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gov Christie will not sign New Jersey assisted suicide bill

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Gov. Chris Christie

During his monthly appearance on New Jersey 101.5’s “Ask the Governor” show on Thursday night, Governor Christie was asked by a female caller to rethink his opposition to physician assisted suicide, reported.

Gov. Christie replied that he will consider it, but he is unlikely to sign it into law. He said:

"I understand that these are very, very difficult issues and I promise you that I will, if there’s any legislation that comes to my desk from the Legislature, that I will look at it and carefully consider it because of how important the issue is to so many people across the state." 
"But I also don’t want to mislead you," the governor said. "I have real concerns about this and it goes in line with my general philosophy, which is whether we’re talking about a drug-addicted teenager, whether we’re talking about homeless adults, whether we’re talking about someone suffering from mental illness, or someone suffering from physical illness, all life is precious and is a gift from God, and no life is disposable. That belief of mine. . .informs my policies in a lot of deferent ways, and always has."

"And so, we’ll certainly take a look at it, but I don’t want to give you false encouragement either — I have grave concerns about it," he added.
To encourage Gov. Christie to veto New Jersey assisted suicide bill sign our petition by clicking on the link below:

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

More Information:

Dutch euthanasia clinic was 'careless' in the death of woman with tinnitus.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Levenseindekliniek euthanasia clinic, that is operated by the Dutch euthanasia lobby, has been reprimanded for a third time in the past year.

The NL Times reported that the euthanasia clinic was reprimanded in the euthanasia death of a woman with tinnitus (ear ringing). The Review Committee declared that the doctors were "careless."

According to the NL Times:

In the opinion of the review committee “the patient did not seem to be out of treatment options”. The physician of the Levenseindekliniek did too little research into alternative treatments to alleviate Olthuis’ suffering and “hence the hopelessness of suffering was not sufficiently established”. 
According to the committee, a more extensive psychiatric examination also should have been done.
This is the third time the Levenseindekliniek euthanasia clinic has been reprimanded this year. In April the Review Committee found that the mental competence of a depressed elderly woman should have been evaluated by a psychiatrist and in August the Review Committee found that the doctor did not substantiate the unbearable suffering of the patient.

I applaud the Review Committee for its attempt to control the euthanasia law, but due to the - after the death - reporting system in the Netherlands, these people are already dead.

It is even more concerning that since the introduction of the euthanasia law in 2002, there has never been a doctor prosecuted for abusing the law.

Recent statistics from the Netherlands indicate:
  • there 4829 assisted deaths in 2013 - a 15% increase from 2012,
  • there were 42 assisted deaths of people with psychiatric problems and 97 assisted deaths of people with dementia,
  • there are about 300 assisted deaths without request each year.
  • there are about 23% of all assisted deaths that are not reported to the Review Committee.
The term assisted deaths refers to either euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Links to more information:

Experts say: Scotland's assisted suicide bill will undermine suicide prevention efforts.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Herald newspaper in Scotland is reporting that experts are warning that the assisted suicide bill that is being debated in the Scottish parliament would undermine efforts to prevent suicide.

The Herald reported that:

A law that would legalise assisted suicide is facing growing opposition, as academics and ethicists raised fresh concerns that it would lead to the elderly being put under pressure to kill themselves. 
Figures within the medical profession have also raised new concerns that if the Bill currently making its way through Holyrood passes, it would undermine efforts to reduce suicides generally and open the door to euthanasia.
The article continued by quoting from the experts who submissions to the Scottish Health Committee on the assisted dying bill:
J Kenyon Mason Institute
The J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law, based at the University of Edinburgh, said in its submission that there were insufficient safeguards to protect patients "from coercion or undue influence in making decisions". 
... Robert Preston, director of Living and Dying Well, a research body established in 2010 to examine the evidence surrounding the end-of-life debate, claimed there was "no effective safeguarding system to protect the public and especially its most vulnerable members". 
He went on to argue that there are a number of important weaknesses in the Bill, including the lack of the need for a psychiatric assessment before an assisted suicide could take place. 
Mr Preston added: "In these days when home visits are not as common as was once the case, doctors often know little of their patients' lives beyond the consulting room. Yet the Bill is asking them to make life or death decisions without any objective assessment regime to guide them."
The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics stated:
labelled the proposals "dangerous" and said elderly and other vulnerable people may feel it is their "duty to die" as they are a burden or because their care was eating up family members' inheritance.
The Scottish government opposes the assisted dying bill but Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) will be given a free vote on the bill.

The previous assisted dying bill was sponsored by Margo MacDonald (MSP), that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Scotland was overwhelmingly defeated on Dec. 1, 2010 by a vote of 85 to 16.

The current assisted dying bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald (November 2013). After she died it was picked up by Patrick Harvie (MSP).

Links to more information:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Montero: Euthanasia in Belgium has expanded considerably

This article was originally published on the Hope Australia website on January 16, 2015.
When euthanasia was authorized twelve years ago in Belgium, it was presented as an ethical transgression, an exception reserved for extreme situations. Twelve years later, its scope has expanded considerably.” Montero.
Etienne Montero
Etienne Montero, Dean of the Faculty of Law of Namur was interviewed by Violante De Montclos for the French journal Le Point recently.

This is the translated text of the interview:

Montclos: For the first time, the law authorizing euthanasia in Belgium is being criticized. We talked with Etienne Montero about the case of Van Den Bleeken, of this "death penalty in reverse"...

Montero: The death of Frank Van Den Bleeken has not occurred, but after him, 15 other detainees have already made a request for lethal injection. It has been forgotten that in September 2012, a 48 year old psychiatric inmate was indeed euthanized ... Our country has been condemned 14 times by the European Court of Human Rights because we continue to hold such prisoners under conditions that do not correspond to their state of psychiatric patients judged responsible for their actions. This lack of care, being accepted as a reason for euthanasia, reveal how the barriers posed in 2002 have been jumped one after the other.
Montclos: Has the number of euthanasia deaths increased?
Montero: Exponentially, yes. In twelve years, it went from 199 to 1,454 deaths per year. And I speak here about the referrals (reports) from doctors to the Board of Control, as the authorities admit they have no way to assess the number of actually practiced euthanasia deaths, probably much more important. Furthermore, in November 2014, euthanasia was legally open to minors, regardless of their age ...
Montclos: How is the legality of lethal injections controlled?
Montero: By a commission that scrutinizes the files forwarded by the doctors. But it is an a posteriori review, that is to say, once people have already died, and the Commission only has at its disposal the information that the doctor is willing to provide. Everything is biased. Moreover, in twelve years, no records were sent to court ...