Thursday, December 29, 2016

More than 744 euthanasia deaths in Canada since it was decriminalized last June.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

CTV news reported that more than 744 people have died by euthanasia in Canada since it was decriminalized on June 17, 2016.

According to the CTV news report by Graham Slaughter, in six months (mid December) there were:
  • 154 in B.C.,
  • 63 in Alberta, with 19 occurring in the past month,
  • 8 in Saskatchewan,
  • 18 in Manitoba.
  • 180 in Ontario,
  • As of Oct. 31, 16 in Nova Scotia,
  • 4 in Newfoundland and Labrador,
  • None in P.E.I. or the Northwest Territories,
  • New Brunswick, the Yukon and Iqaluit did not release data - however, in the Yukon, local media reported on one case,
  • In Quebec, since December of 2015, there were an estimated 300 assisted deaths in 2016.
The CTV news report indicates that the data is incomplete.

The report also interviewed Dr Ellen Wiebe, who has lethally injected 40 people since June. Wiebe stated that the number of euthanasia deaths will continue to increase:
“I know that it will increase. I expect that we’ll get to the point of the Netherlands and Belgium because their laws are similar to ours, and that would mean about 5 per cent of all deaths”
Ethicist and University of Toronto law professor, Trudo Lemmens, told CTV news that the provinces should be releasing more data to protect patients from possible abuse.
“There is a concern that people who are vulnerable or who find themselves in a situation of vulnerability may be pressured consciously or unconsciously to opt for medical assistance in dying either because of financial circumstances or because the medical help that they need is not necessarily available,”
The system of collecting data is not designed to uncover abuse of the law. The data only reports the medical condition, the age, the gender, etc and the reports are submitted by the medical practitioner who carries out the death.

The only way to uncover abuse of the law is by receiving information from family members and friends of the deceased. Several stories have already been uncovered.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The most popular articles in 2016 on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2016, Canada officially decriminalized euthanasia and California decriminalized assisted suicide. The disability rights movement were right to protest the movie - Me Before You and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition produced the documentary - The Euthanasia Deception documentary.

Good news. The South Africa Supreme Court rejected euthanasia, the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected assisted suicide, and South Australia rejected euthanasia.

We have hope. Our supporters wants Caring and Not Killing options and they oppose giving physicians, or others, the right in law to be directly involved with killing patients.

The 10 most popular articles posted on the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition blog in 2016.

  1. Boycott the movie - Me Before You: "Disability Death Porn." Posted May 26.
  2. California Assisted suicide law prompts insurance company to deny coverage to terminally ill woman. Posted Oct 20, 2016.
  3. Canadian Senate passes euthanasia bill in time for their summer break. Posted June 17.
  4. South Africa Supreme Court rejects euthanasia. Posted Dec 6.
  5. The Euthanasia Deception documentary. Posted Sept 30.
  6. Advice to Canada from Belgium: Safeguards are an illusion. Posted April 28.
  7. Woman dies by euthanasia, may only have had a bladder infection. Posted Nov 14.
  8. New Mexico Supreme Court: There is no right to assisted suicide. Posted June 30.
  9. Canada's euthanasia bill provides a perfect cover for murder. Posted April 14.
  10. The Declaration of Hope. Posted Jan 1.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Deadly Misinformation - euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

This article was published by Convivium on December 21, 2016.

By Albertos Polizogopoulos and Faye Sonier

Albertos Polizogopoulos
Now that assisted suicide and euthanasia have been decriminalized in Canada, news articles and opinion pieces are spreading incorrect information about the legal obligations and rights of the parties affected by this change in law. While the authors of these pieces are likely well intentioned and simply unaware that the information shared is misleading or wrong, it is vital that we set the record straight each time this occurs.

An example of this is the recent Globe and Mail piece, “Hospitals have no right to opt out of assisted dying.” Reporter Andre Picard states that faith-based hospitals have no right to opt-out of providing assistance in suicide. The support for this conclusion is his assertion that “Institutions do not have a conscience. Institutions do not have rights." He also asserts that in Carter v. Canada , the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that individuals have a right to physician-assisted suicide. Neither of these assertions is accurate.

First, the Supreme Court of Canada did not conclude that Canadians have a legal right to physicians-assisted suicide. What the Supreme Court concluded was that the Criminal Code prohibition on assisted-suicide violated the Charter right to life of certain individuals. You read that correctly—a prohibition on killing violates the right to life, but that’s an entire different piece to write.

Faye Sonier
Specifically, the Court found that “the prohibition on physician-assisted dying had the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable.” The Court’s conclusion was, in large part, based on the fact that in the 1970s, Parliament decriminalized attempted suicide because it realized that individuals who had attempted to take their own life needed psychological counselling, not jail.

Because suicide was not a crime, the Court viewed it as a legal option for individuals and because certain people with debilitating conditions, like Kay Carter, would not have the physical ability to take their own lives when their condition worsened, they would take their life earlier. To some, this distinction may not sound important, but in law, it’s a crucial distinction.

Psychiatric Euthanasia.

This article was written by Paul Russell and published by HOPE Australia on December 23.

Paul Russell
he development of the idea and then the availability of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons is something that few people, if any, could have foreseen when Belgium and Holland passed their laws in 2001 and 2002 or when the short-lived law existed in the Northern Territory of Australia in the mid 1990s.

Certainly, commentary existed regarding concerns of competency (capacity) and the presence of depression etc. in people requesting euthanasia - where psychiatry had a legitimate role; but this was always in the context of assessment of a person who 'qualified' or was eligible for euthanasia by virtue of other criteria (such as a terminal illness or the presence of 'untreatable' or 'incurable and irreversible' suffering due to illness or injury). It was never that the 'illness' was itself psychological in nature.

The Belgian act of 2002 states that:
"The patient is in a medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that can not be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident."
Mental suffering, or what we would call psychological suffering is clearly included here, but the 'serious and incurable disorder' that is the underlying cause of the 'physical or mental suffering' is listed as being 'caused by illness or accident'. The reference is, therefore, to the presence of psychological suffering as a result of illness or accident.

In recent years, the approval of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons has been noted in both Belgium and Holland to the point where the Euthanasia Evaluation Commission in Belgium has created a separate category in its summary reports to reflect this development. In December 2015, 65 Belgian professors, psychologists and psychiatrists published an open letter entitled:Death as therapy? raising their concerns about these developments and arguing that the Belgian law should be changed to exclude euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

The letter outlines the very real difference between an illness that results in psychological suffering and psychological illness as the prime reason for euthanasia:
"(W)e want to draw attention to its specific problematic character, and in particular the fact that it’s impossible to objectify the hopelessness of psychological suffering. 
"One would expect that this incurability is founded on indications of for example, organic injury or tissue damage – in other words, factors that are independent of what is subjectively felt and thought about the illness. Such objectification is problematic in relation to psychological suffering. 
"Let’s be clear: psychological suffering is real and can be at least as severe as physical suffering. However, specific to mental suffering is the fact that you can rely only on the word of the sufferer to estimate it. And this is a good thing, because he or she is the only one who knows how much it hurts at that moment. At that moment… because when we suffer psychologically, we are often convinced that no other future is possible anymore. It is often precisely this thought that pushes a person into an abyss, because as long as there is perspective, a person can usually tolerate much."
Belgian psychiatrist, Dr Lieve Thienpont & Prof Wim Distelmans et al published a research paper in May 2015 looking into 100 applications for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons; cases that Thienpont she was intrinsically involved in.

As Alex Schadenberg observed at the time: 'This may be the first study to examine the experience with euthanasia for psychological pain, but it is also a study that appears to have been done to create more acceptance of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.'

Thienpont, commenting in The Knack last week in defence of her work, is now claiming that 'Just to have the ability (to be approved for euthanasia), adds quality to life...perhaps even adds a little life too." She later talks in the same article about organising a group whereby people making such a request can be 'inspire(d)...towards life'. A noble and proper pursuit. However, she provides the rider that 'we must first take seriously their demand for euthanasia.'

What is she really saying here? It seems to me that she is creating a series of false binary options. She is implicity suggesting that psychiatrists don't take seriously their patients' death wishes and that, secondly, only by entertaining the possibility (read: possibly approving euthanasia) can the patient come to a place where other options become possible. This is not the first reference in discussions on euthanasia where the idea of access being considered as therapeutic has been raised and it will likely not be the last; but it is nevertheless a false dichotomy. It is a slight upon her colleagues and her profession.

But, internationally, psychiatrists have not been silent on this matter. Earlier this month the American Psychiatric Association made waves across the Atlantic by declaring an official policy position:
The American Psychiatric Association, in concert with the American Medical Association’s position on Medical Euthanasia, holds that a psychiatrist should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death.
The timing of the statement will hopefully provide a caution to the Canadian Government who have just announced a study into the possible inclusion of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons - a decision that was codified in their assisted suicide laws passed there barely six months ago as a compromise position.

It is also seen as setting the ground for 'possible direct organisational protest by American psychiatrists to their Belgian and Dutch colleagues', according to Charles Lane of the Washington Post. 'The logical next step in the APA's welcome assertion of what should be a global ethical principle'.

Logical and welcome as it certainly is, the news has not been received well in Belgium. Health Minister, Maggie De Block told The Knack quite simply that, 'I do not see what this debate has to do with Americans.'

Also returning fire, President of the Flemish Association of Psychiatry, Prof. Frieda Matthys said that, 'Americans have nothing to do with the debate with us. Maybe they should but first sweep for its own door.' (Ouch!)

It's not the first time that the Low Countries have reacted that way when the international focus has drawn down on problems with their euthanasia laws. The Dutch and Belgians pride themselves on 'serene debate', doing things 'carefully' and 'diligently' and seem genuinely perplexed when criticism arises.

The question is: Is this criticism valid? Put aside the centuries of divergent cultural and social development and consider if it is appropriate for psychiatrists to kill or at least process the killing option for their patients who have no physical deterioration and for whom the very notion of hopelessness is changable?

Mark Komrad, a member of the ethics committee of the APA sees psychiatric euthanasia as 'a fundamental inversion of our mission and duty as psychiatrist'. "We must help people deal with their suffering and treat that suffering. Moreover, this goes right against what public health requires is to do, namely, reduce the number of suicides. We can not use suicide as a treatment anyway."

Will this debate develop beyond this 'serve - return' game across the Atlantic? Belgian academics Ariane Bazan, Professor of Clinical Psychology (ULB), Willem Lemmens, Professor of Ethics and Modern Philosophy (UA) and Gertrudis Van de Vijver professor of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy (University of Ghent) urged policy makers to take these concerns seriously in a letter published in De Morgen in November:
"Euthanasia in purely psychological suffering introduced in mental health care a medical-cultural revolution without precedent. We urge policymakers to take our concerns seriously and to reflect thoroughly on the current practice of euthanasia for purely psychological suffering."
Senior physician and fellow psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Clinic Alexianen in Tienen, An Haekens, is somewhat sceptical:
"The debate is very spoiled. Who dares to criticize the legislation is quickly dismissed as a conservative, Catholic or extremely disrespectful to the suffering of patients. Also, people who have nothing in principle against euthanasia, to criticize them for questioning."
The Knack editorial gives Haekens an important last word:
The inevitable point remains that euthanasia is irreversible. Therefore Haekens finds it problematic that (the cases) are now only evaluated after the euthanasia was performed. "There is obviously a check: the patient must find a second and third doctor to give permission. But this is not so difficult: the doctors who are sympathetic are known.
See also:

Expanding Euthanasia in The Netherlands

This article was written by Alex van Vuuren and published in the Schreew om Leven newsletter

In October the Dutch government came with a new initiative for a law regarding euthanasia. This new law will expand the existing legal euthanasia practice in The Netherlands, but will be a separate law. A parliamentary committee earlier this year however had clearly stated that an expansion of the existing Euthanasia Act was not desirable.

The new term being used for the expansion of euthanasia is “completed life”. This term is used for persons who are healthy but have a desire for the ending of their life. This would only count for some elderly persons, who see the end of life approaching and prefer not to become dependent on the help of others, but an age limit is not mentioned in the proposal.

The new initiative has the support of the majority in parliament. The government stated its purpose to give time for discussion with medical professionals and will probably come with a law proposal after the elections on March 15, 2017. Outside of the government, the liberal party D’66 is the most supportive of expansion of euthanasia. On Sunday, December 16, D’66 announced its own law proposal for “completed life”. They have clearly done this to speed up the process and have a law in place before the elections. One difference with the government proposal is that there is a age limit of 75 years and older.

Among the many problems with these new proposals is the term “completed life”. It is even more cleverly designed than “euthanasia – good death”, because it combines a positive word (completed) with the word “life”, while meaning death. Just this year the result of scientific research on “completed life” was presented. Els van Wijngaarden did in-depth interviews with 25 elderly persons with a death wish who felt that their life was completed. Many do not feel the positive experience of a fully lived life, but are full of remorse or sorrow, or are afraid of becoming dependent. Their self-chosen ending of life can be seen as an escape.

Another fundamental problem is the idea of autonomy. This has been the core of the critique of the parliamentary committee of experts. Autonomy is a dangerous foundation for a law. In all the debates, the autonomous decision of a rational person is put forward as an argument for the expansion of euthanasia. However, what can be more irrational than making an end to life and thereby an end to the possibility of ever making another autonomous decision? It is clear, that life and autonomy go along together.

Mark Rutte, the prime minister is responsible for the new euthanasia initiative

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Québec euthanasia report: 14% non compliance rate with the law.

Amy Hasbrouck
President, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
Director, Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet.

December marks the first anniversary of Québec’s euthanasia program, and serious questions about compliance with the law are already emerging.

Thus far, the Commission on end-of-life care has provided two reports, one at the six-month mark, and one at nine month mark. 

The Québec euthanasia commission report that was filed on August 31 stated that 262 euthanasia were reported by doctors in Québec, and 263 continuous palliative sedations were reported by institutions as of June 30. 

The number of completed euthanasia's were more than three times higher than the original estimate given by Québec’s health minister, Gaetan Barrette, who believed there would be about 100 euthanasia deaths in the first year.

The reports from the Commission consist of information from institutions (for the first six months), as well as the forms filled out by doctors each time they perform euthanasia (over nine months). At the six month mark, the institutional data showed 167 euthanasia as of June 9. However as of June 30 only 161 doctors’ forms had been filed. This discrepancy leads us to question whether doctors are reporting every instance of euthanasia.
As of August 31, the Commission was already behind in reviewing and ruling on doctors’ reports of euthanasia. According to the nine-month totals, only 198 of the 262 euthanasia records had been examined. Of those, only 148 had been evaluated for compliance with the law.

Of the 21 cases in which the commission found a failure to comply with the law, 18 failed because the second doctor was not independent of the first physician. Health Minister Barrette stated in media interviews that he is considering making some adjustments to simplify the paperwork and ease the obligation of seeking a second opinion from an objective and independent doctor.

Of the remaining three cases, the Commission found that two of the people were not at the “end of life” as defined by the law. In the other instance, the Commission ruled the person did not have a “serious and incurable illness.”
The 21 cases that did not conform to the law represent 14.2% of 148, while the three found with eligibility violations represent a 2% error rate.
The report includes no information about the underlying cause of the request, the nature of the “intolerable suffering” or any demographic information about the people making the request, or the doctors granting them.

This report raises many questions. First, is the commission equipped to examine and rule on the number of euthanasia cases it will face if it already had a backlog before the end of the first year?

Second, how do we know that doctors are actually reporting all euthanasia deaths? This is a chronic and serious problem in Belgium; who’s to say it won’t become a problem in Canada?

Third, if the government’s response to the 14% error rate is to remove the requirement that the second doctor be independent, how will it respond to the 2% of cases where errors of eligibility occurred? What penalties will those doctors face who do not comply with the eligibility requirements? Who will enforce the law?

Fourth, the information furnished in the report is not comprehensive enough to enable the reader to know if those who received euthanasia were eligible, and if all safeguards were followed. Without detailed information, researchers will not be able to study the demographics and reasons people request euthanasia, to understand the public policy impact of this law. 

Book: The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis.

This talk was delivered on November 23, 2016 on the occasion of the launch of a new book, “The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis,” by Fr. Dan Utrecht, an Oratorian

By Charles Lewis

I’m very honored to be asked to say a few words tonight. Not just because I know author Fr. Dan Utrecht and I’m a parishioner here but also because I have always had a deep admiration for the Germans who refused to buckle under the mass hysteria of those times, especially from 1933 when Hitler came to power until May 1945, when the war ended and Nazism was defeated.

I will never be able to fully comprehend how much courage it took to speak out against one of the most ruthless regimes in modern history.

One German, Bishop of Münster Clemens August Graf von Galen, we are celebrating tonight, thanks to the great work of our Fr. Dan.
Order the book: The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis,” for $29.95 through Tan Books.
Those who refused to go along with the Nazis, who dared to speak out, were few. To go along was relatively easy. March with the others, say the Heil Hitler with a bit of enthusiasm and for the rest, including pretending your good Jewish neighbor of many years was not really being hauled away, would allow you a form of peace or at least safety. I say this not with contempt. Not only did you risk your own freedom and even your own life for objecting but the Nazis made sure that dissenters knew their families would also suffer terribly.

For devout Christians, who believed in the Truth of Christ, the torment of the times was horrific as they knew they were becoming an ever-smaller, irrelevant minority. Even clinging to basic human decency, was to enter a most frightening place – especially if one decided to speak out or write about their views.

That is why the names of those who refused to stand by, still shine so brightly, for they were beacons while the world around them fell into the pitch black of unmitigated evil.

Hans & Sophie Scholl
am sure Blessed Clemens von Galen would not mind being mentioned among some of the other Germans whose public acts of defiance, and just simple decency, led to their deaths: The White Rose, young students from Munich who were executed for their anti-Nazi beliefs, including Sophie Scholl and her brother, Hans. There was the Protestant Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Fr Alfred Delp, who also railed against euthanasia, and the lesser-known FRANZ JÄGERSTÄTTER, an ordinary man who refused to put on the military uniform of a godless state and paid the ultimate price. He was declared a martyr.

It’s worth remembering, even briefly, what happened during the time of the Nazis. We all know about the camps and the catastrophic loss of life both military and civilian. These things did not come out of thin air. Rather, it started when men decided they could replace God or that their perverted ideas made them into a kind of prophet.

Human life was valued on a person’s utility. The idea of all of us being respected as children of God, worthy of love and respect, regardless of one’s physical or mental state or age, was an idea that offended the Nazi agenda. It was a sign of weakness and weakness was considered a stumbling block to world domination and extermination. I’m not sure how those who continued to pretend to be true Christians, while being in step with Nazi marching songs, ever read the Sermon on the Mount without feeling profound shame.

Those considered unfit to contribute to the national program were called Useless Eaters, probably one of the ugliest terms ever invented but effective when the Nazis were pushing their euthanasia program — which you will learn more about by reading this important book being launched tonight.

The Nazis came up with insane racial theories in which there was a master race and subhumans. These untermenschen were not considered actually human. They were biological mistakes something like lab rats or beasts of burden: subjecting these subhumans to every form of degradation, to torture, to medical experiments or simply worked to death.

Those who were opposed to the Nazis were almost all Christians. What they all understood was that Hitler was a pagan and Germany was destroying itself on his behalf. God was being blotted by men in brown and black shirts with thumping boots who gave full rein to their worst impulses.

The Nazis believed that Christianity was at its root a Jewish, decadent religion and that Jesus was a Jew and anything Jewish was corrupt. Christianity was unmanly. It felt too much. It cared too much for those in need. It contained compassion – the last thing the Nazis needed to carry out their goals.

How can someone euthanize a child because they are not perfect when they feel compassion? Better those pagans, not bogged down by Christian love, to do the job.

They saw Christians as a degenerate faith that put its stock in an invisible God rather than the power of the State. There was even an attempt to form a German National Church. It got rid of the Old Testament, too Jewish, and erased all signs of Judaism from the new, except as the killers of Christ. Their Christ was a blonde Aryan god sent to destroy the Jews.

But True Christians never lost sight that what was happening around them was the corruption of all that was good. Somehow they never forgot that truth is eternal and would one day outlast the horrors around them. Even to have that kind of faith in those times was miraculous.

Cardinal von Galen
This past August 3rd , marked the 75th anniversary of when Blessed Clemens condemned from his Cathedral’s pulpit the Nazi euthanasia program. He said: 
If you establish and apply the principle that you can ‘kill’ unproductive human beings, then woe betide us all when we become old and frail!. . .  Do you, do I have the right to live only as long as we are productive?. . .  Nobody would be safe anymore. Who could trust his physician? It is inconceivable what depraved conduct, what suspicion could enter family life if this terrible doctrine is tolerated, adopted, carried out.
He also said: 
The dear God placed me in a position in which I had a duty to call black 'black' and white 'white'.”
In speaking out he risked death. One Gestapo leader wanted him hanged. Other Nazi leaders, fearing his popularity, said wait till we have won the war.

He also spoke out against racial programs — something else that angered the Nazis and drove them to homicidal anger.

You should not only buy this book because our Fr. Dan wrote it, but because we all need men like Blessed Clemens in our heart and in our lives. He and others like him are whom we should turn to when we fear the mockery of the secular society because we stand up for life.
Order the book: The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis,” for $29.95 through Tan Books.
We have nothing to be afraid of. No one will hurt us. We have each other. We still live in a democracy.. at least the appearance of one for now.

The next time you feel constrained to speak the truth about euthanasia …. please, please, remember Blessed Clemens von Galen who knew the risks of speaking out but did it anyway because there is nothing, absolutely nothing more important than the Truth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tell the US Congress to vote NO to assisted suicide in DC.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the assisted suicide bill into law, yesterday. The US Congress has 30 working days to vote NO to assisted suicide in DC

According to the Washington Examiner:

It is not clear if Congress will approve the legislation. It has blocked D.C. legislation before, most recently the city's recreational marijuana law. Under the Constitution, Congress has to sign off on all D.C. laws.
While the city of DC passed an assisted suicide bill, the Governor of Ohio signed a bill that strengthened protections in law from assisted suicide.

The US Congress has 30 working days to vote NO to the assisted suicide bill in DC.

Ohio Governor signs bill making assisted suicide a felony.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Ohio Governor Kasich
Great news: Yesterday, Ohio Governor Kasich signed Bill HB 470 making Ohio the fifth state in the past few years to strengthen protections in law from assisted suicide, a bill that makes assisted suicide a felony.

EPC-USA was very pleased with the outcome of the bill, even though our advisory role was small.

The Ohio Senate passed HB 470, nearly unanimously, on Thursday December 8. HB 470 passed in the Ohio House last May by a vote of 92 - 5.

Jeremy Pelzer, reported for  on November 7 before the vote:

House Bill 470 ... would make knowingly assisting in a suicide a third-degree felony in Ohio, punishable by up to five years in prison. 
Currently, Ohio law only permits a court to issue an injunction against anyone helping other people to kill themselves. 
If the Senate passes the bill on Thursday - expected to be the last day of the legislative session - it would head to Gov. John Kasich for his signature. The measure passed the Ohio House 92-5 last May. 
State Sen. Bill Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican who authored HB 470, said the legislation mirrors Michigan's 1998 ban on assisted suicide, which was passed in response to Dr. Jack Kevorkian's well-publicized campaign.
In the past few years Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, and Arizona have passed bills to strengthen protection from assisted suicide.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Great News: Minnesota appeals court upheld conviction for assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Minnesota appeals court upheld the conviction of the Final Exit Network in the assisted suicide death of Doreen Dunn who died May 30, 2007.

On May 14, 2015, the Final Exit Network was found guilty, by a jury, of assisted suicide and the group was sentenced on August 24, 2015.

During the trial, the Lacrosse Tribune reported:
Dakota County prosecutor Elizabeth Swank told jurors that the evidence showed that two members of Final Exit Network went to Dunn's home in Apple Valley to assist her suicide. They then removed the equipment that she used for suicide so that it appeared she had died of natural causes. 
Dunn's husband of 29 years arrived home on May 30, 2007, to find her dead on the couch. Swank said Dunn had a blanket pulled up to her neck with her hands folded on her chest. 
Swank said that despite Dunn's pain and depression, she had no life-threatening illness and her family was puzzled by her death. There were good things happening in her life: Her daughter who had been in Africa for about a year was coming home the next day and her son's fiancee was scheduled to give birth that week. However, her husband was also planning to move out, the prosecutor said.
The Star Tribune reported at the sentencing:
During the trial, prosecutors argued that the group gave Doreen Dunn, of Apple Valley, a “blueprint” for ending her life and made efforts to conceal her suicide from family and authorities by removing the equipment she used. 
Criminal cases against Final Exit Network coordinator Roberta Massey, of Bear, Del., and the group’s medical director, Lawrence Egbert, 87, of Baltimore, are still pending. 
Another defendant, Jerry Dincin, died and charges against Thomas Goodwin were dismissed in 2013. 
Robert Rivas, the lawyer for the assisted suicide group, did not dispute that Jerry Dincin and Larry Egbert were present at Dunn's death, but argued that they didn't assist her suicide.

The Final Exit Network has been prosecuted in several assisted suicide cases. In Georgia, John Celmer, who was depressed after recovering from cancer, died by suicide with the assistance of the Final Exit Network. Celmer's widow Susan Celmer, testified against the Final Exit Network. The Final Exit Network assists the suicide of people at the most vulnerable time of their life. Last year Larry Egbert, the medical director for the Final Exit Network, lost his medical license in Maryland.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The disaster of euthanasia in Québec

This letter was originally published in the French newspaper La Presse, on December 10, 2016.

Dr Nicholas Newman, orthopedic surgeon, Montreal

At the beginning of November, physicians from one of Montreal’s hospitals received a letter from the Professional Services Directorate, in which they were told of the “need [for] additional physicians for medically assisted death.”

Already, the friendly tone of the letter asking for the “help” of refractory physicians for euthanasia markedly contrasts the political discourse of the past months. However, the pleading tone of the letter has especially revealed the inaccuracy of many accepted ideas by clearly demonstrating the disaster caused by euthanasia in Québec.

Firstly, the management acknowledges in its letter that there are only “a few physicians who have given their consent to participate in this process,” whereas popular opinion attributes the refusal to participate to only a minority group. We can therefore conclude that, in fact, the reality is the exact opposite of this prejudice; the majority of doctors are still opposed to any participation in euthanasia.

Incidentally, when it was a question of “subduing refractory physicians,” we now know that this was a threat to the majority of doctors.

Subsequently, we see in the letter the consequence of a year of euthanasia in Quebec, all the while political discourse assures us again that everything is going “very, very, very well.” During this first year, the focus was placed on accessibility to this exceptional measure in exceptional cases.

However, the (predictable) result of such an approach now puts us in the throes of a growing surge of euthanasia – used “more and more regularly in our circles” as per the words of the letter. Paradoxically the solution envisioned by the directorate to remedy this irresponsible behaviour would implicate the participation of “refractory” physicians.

Finally, the letter reminds us that euthanasia will never be a trivial gesture, although much effort has been made to make it a socially acceptable “procedure.” By recalling that the “Interdisciplinary Support Group (ISG) assures you of its support in the process,” the directorate shows that the real exception in this gesture falsely called “care” lies in the seriousness of its impact on the physicians who practice it.

In conclusion, we, the undersigned physicians, wish to reaffirm that we will not participate in this social drama which does nothing but add suffering to suffering. We are always of the opinion that the answer lies in quality care, and in wider access to palliative care accompanied by human support, respectful of the person.

Dr Nicholas Newman, orthopedic surgeon, Montreal

With the support of the following signatories:

Evelyne Huglo, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Richard Haber, MD, Associate professor of pediatrics, MUHC

Michel Brouillard, MD, General physician, Rouyn-Noranda

Tommy Aumond-Beaupré, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Jean-Pierre Beauchef, MD, Endocrinology, Greenfield Park

Mark Basik, MD, General Surgeon, Montreal

Jacques R. Rouleau, MD, CSPQ, FRCPC, FACC, Cardiology, University Institute of Cardiology and Pulmonology, University of Laval.

Mathieu Gazdovich, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Liette Pilon, MD, Family physician, Montreal and Rive-Sud de Montreal

Renata Sava, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Simon Wing, MD, Endocrinology, Montreal

Catherine Ferrier, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Michel R. Morissette, MD, Retired physician

Dr. Nathalie de Grandpré, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Melanie Ghobril, Resident family physician, Université de Montreal

Marie Jetté-Grenier, MD, Retired

Guy Bouchard, MD, General practitioner and Occupational medicine, retired

Odile Michaud, MD, Family physician, Otterburn Park

José A. Morais, MD, FRCPC, Geriatrics, Montreal

Abdallah Dallal, MD, Family physician, Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Jérôme

Sonia Calouche, MD, Psychiatrist, Saint-Eustache

Bernard H. Doray, MD, Retired pediatrician

Michel Masson, MD, Retired pediatrician, Quebec

Judith Trudeau, MD, Rheumatology, Lévis

Céline Devaux, MD, Hematology, Hôpital Charles-LeMoyne

Pierrette Girard, MD, Orthopedist, Clinique médicale McDermot

Louis Martel, MD, Family physician, Trois-Rivères

Ibrahim Mohamed, MD, Neonatal pediatrician at Sainte-Justine Hospital, Montreal

Jacques Beaudoin, MD, Cardiology, Quebec

Julien Marc-Aurèle, MD, Retired

Katia Khoukaz, MD, Family physician, Montreal

Daniel Viens, MD, Internal medicine, Drummoondville

Louise Morissette, MD, FRCP

Rosaire Vaillancourt, MD, FRCSC, Thoracic surgery, IUCPQ, Quebec

Suzanne Labelle, MD, Family physician, Laval

Post truth, Euthanasia and Elder abuse - Linking headlines.

This article was published on December 15, 2016 by Mercatornet.
Margaret Somerville

By Margaret Somerville

Exploring the connections that can be made among three very recent stories in the news, which at first glance seem unrelated, can provide important insights and warnings. These stories are that “post-truth” is the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year; that the Victorian Government will introduce an “assisted dying” bill in the second half of 2017 which, if passed, would legalize physician-assisted suicide and in exceptional cases euthanasia; and that the Australian Law Reform Commission has just released a discussion paper which documents elder abuse in Australia and seeks ways to prevent it.


Here’s how Wikipedia describes “post-truth” in relation to politics: “Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it [truth] of "secondary" importance.”

Or, one could add, of little or no importance at all.

In contemporary societies we increasingly use the prefix “post”: post-industrial, post-modern, post-feminist, post-religious, and so on, and now post-truth. We know what we were; we know we are no longer that; but we don’t yet know what we now are or are becoming.

Words are the tools of both truth and lies, so words matter. Nowhere is this truer than in the euthanasia debate.

The euthanasia debate

Word changes can be subtle and nuanced. So, for instance, when, as has happened in promoting the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, more words are used to describe something that already had a name – euthanasia has become “physician assisted dying” and even the word death is dropped - we should know that we are being manipulated and something is being concealed. That something is the intentional infliction of death.

The strongest case for the legalization of euthanasia is made at the level of the suffering identified individual who wants to die when and how they choose. Australian journalist Andrew Denton makes the case for legalizing euthanasia in this way in describing his father’s death. We feel compassion for his father and Mr Denton himself for the suffering they both endured and our hearts rightly go out to them.

In a post-truth society feelings matter more than facts, the heart rules the head. So the facts about the larger impact of legalizing euthanasia – what it will mean for healthcare institutions, professions and professionals; how it will damage foundational societal values, such as respect for human life in general and the prohibition on intentionally killing another human being, except to save life; the impact in the future of normalizing euthanasia; and so on - are ignored or even denied.

Even hard factual evidence is rejected: In Canada the courts accepted the pro-euthanasia claim that in the Netherlands and Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, there was no “logical slippery slope” (the situations and persons eligible for euthanasia expand rapidly and very substantially once it is legalized) or “practical slippery slope” (euthanasia is carried out in breach of the law, especially on vulnerable people). But the evidence is clearly otherwise, as has been recognized by the Irish Supreme Court and most recently the Supreme Court of South Africa.

We can question whether the current “progressive values” stance of giving priority to respect for individual autonomy over upholding values, such as respect for life, needed to protect the common good, means that we have become a narcissistic society, one focussed just on individuals’ claims, and that the denial of facts which would cause us to reject those claims is a “narcissistic unawareness”.

I hasten to add here that I am not denying the importance of feelings -- they are one of the central ways of “human knowing” -- but facts are, at the least, equally important, not least because good facts are essential for good ethics and good ethics is essential for good law.

And so to the third story where facts are needed and serious concerns raised about the abuse of one group of vulnerable people, namely, the elderly.

Elder abuse

Here’s a December 12 ABC website headline: 

“Elder abuse inquiry calls for power of attorney changes to stop children ripping parents off”.
The post continues “A national register of enduring powers of attorney should be established to prevent greedy children from using the document as a "licence to steal" from their elderly parents, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) says”, referring to an ALRC discussion paper which is part of its inquiry into elder abuse, which includes elderly persons being victims of financial fraud.

The paper notes that “the potential for pressure and coercion in setting up the instruments [the powers of attorney appointing children to act on their parent’s behalf]” and that “early inheritance syndrome” is on the rise.

“With Australians living longer than ever before, the ALRC inquiry heard many examples of children who were impatient to get their hands on their parents' money and tried to claim their inheritance before they were entitled to it. 
This is often described as "early inheritance syndrome". 
"It's as if the current generation wants it now and somehow they justify that it's okay to take mum or dad's money right now," said Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia CEO, Geoff Rowe.”
There are no concrete statistics on the prevalence of elder abuse in Australia, but a 2016 research report to the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department states that:
“at the international level, the WHO (2015) recently reported that estimated prevalence rates of elder abuse in high- or middle-income countries ranged from 2% to 14% … and that the perpetrators are likely to be related to the victim… [and] one study suggests that neglect could be as high as 20% among women in the older age group (Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health [ALSWH], 2014). Older women are significantly more likely to be victims than older men, and most abuse is intergenerational (i.e., involving abuse of parents by adult children), with sons being perpetrators to a greater extent than daughters.”
Combined effect

So consider in a “post-truth” society the combined effect in relation to elderly persons of “pressure and coercion”, “early inheritance syndrome”, abusers’ self-justification of the abuse, 2 percent to 14 percent of elderly persons being victims of abuse, and women being more at risk than men, in the context of legalized euthanasia. At the very least, we should have second thoughts about whether legalization is a good idea.

Margaret Somerville is Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Until recently, she was Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, and Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, Montreal.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Liz Carr triumphs in Assisted Suicide: The Musical

This article was published by Paul Russell on the HOPE Australia website on December 12.

No, it's not a typo and April 1 is a long ways off! UK Actress, Comedian, Broadcaster, star of the BBC's Silent Witness program and disability activist, Liz Carr has combined her considerable talents to create a thought-provoking and rollicking musical about assisted suicide. This article first appeared in CNA Daily News under the title: In new musical, disability rights activist tackles assisted suicide.

London, England, Nov 27, 2016 / 03:48 pm (CNA)

British Actress and Disability Activist Liz Carr
Physician-assisted suicide has been a subject of controversy for several years, but Liz Carr is taking the issue somewhere it has never been before: the musical theatre.

Carr, a disabilities activist, comedian and actress, created a production entitled Assisted Suicide: the Musical, which has been staged at various English theatres this month. The musical is aimed at drawing critical attention to the downfalls of physician-assisted suicide, particularly its effect on marginalizing the disabled.

“I wanted to use musical theatre to look at this difficult subject with the lightness and the kind of heightened realism of musical theatre,” she said in a video interview with Unlimited, an initiative for disabled artists.

“This musical, in a way, is my playground for…my thoughts on this subject, I have never seen this portrayed in culture – and I want to see that,” Carr continued, calling the musical colorful and vibrant.

Physician-assisted suicide has not been legalized in Carr’s home country of England, but it has gained traction in other countries including the Netherlands and Canada.

The topic of assisted suicide has also made a splash in Hollywood, with the film Me Before You showing a young quadriplegic’s path to love and ultimately euthanasia.

In Carr’s mind, films such as these ignore both mental health issues as well as social barriers, which is why she wanted to create a piece for the performing arts that would faithfully narrate the reality of assisted suicide.

“I’ve never seen a piece of art of theatre which expresses opposition to legalizing assisted suicide from a disabled person’s perspective – so I decided to try to rectify that,” Carr wrote in an article for the Guardian.

For Carr, the topic of euthanasia should be contrasted with presenting another way of life, where individuals with disabilities are valued and appreciated – not expected to die. Carr wanted to circulate this narrative to promote thoughtful reflection on what physician-assisted suicide means for the terminally ill and in particular, for the disabled.

“Please, don’t wish death upon us because you feel pity for our condition,” she wrote.

Carr also suggested that physician-assisted suicide “has little to do with pain” and more to do with quality of life, which makes its legalization especially dangerous for those with disabilities.

“In fact, loss of dignity, loss of autonomy, loss of ability to do daily activities, and fear of being a burden – reasons which are essentially more about the realities of living with a disability in our society – are all more important than pain.”

Carr’s musical was a sold-out production, premiering on the first anniversary of Parliament’s defeat of physician-assisted suicide. According to Unlimited’s site, the musical was laced with provoking “notions of choice, dignity, compassion and quality of life through music, comedy, spectacle and shared humanity.”

Now, Carr hopes the production will encourage education and debate about the realities of euthanasia legislation.

Legalizing some forms of suicide, she said, “does not mean that when a fellow human being – disabled or abled – expresses the wish to die…that we should agree with them. The value of a life is not just in its physicality but in our relationships with those around us.”

Liz recently supported disability activists working against euthanasia in South Australia with this video contribution: