Monday, July 31, 2017

Assisted suicide legalization defeated in the US in 2017.

Jacqueline Abernathy
Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

With nearly every state assisted suicide legislative attempt complete, initial data from a research study by Dr. Jacqueline H. Abernathy at Tarleton State University finds a staggering increase in the number of attempts to legalize assisted suicide in U.S. over the past year, in spite of an overwhelming failure rate associated with such legislation: fewer than one percent of all assisted suicide bills become law.

The analysis, to be presented at the 2017 National Euthanasia Symposium in Toronto on October 28, included all bills introduced in 36 states and the District of Columbia since 1994. Of the 231 total bills, nearly one-fifth (43 bills) were introduced just this year in 26 states and all attempts failed. This increase in the number of attempts to legalize assisted suicide is notable due to the fact that such bills have greater than a 99 percent failure rate. Only three have been signed into law in the last 23 years. In spite of the volume of bills introduced this past year, 100 percent of these attempts failed while Alabama tightened their assisted suicide statute.

Only in the last 4 years have any bills passed the legislative process and of the three, only one, Vermont in 2013, was signed into law following standard legislative procedure. California followed in 2015 by resurrecting a defeated bill in an unrelated special session, where processes are abbreviated and legislation is rushed. Similar can be said of Washington DC that recently passed their ordinance through only a city council vote rather than a bicameral legislature. These victories may explain, in part, the staggering increase in the number of bills introduced in other states.

Dr. Abernathy's analysis indicates that while the number of attempts in 2017 alone make up 18 percent of the total number of attempts since 1994, only one state, Indiana, made its first attempt this past year. In 2017, Indiana introduced two bills to legalize assisted suicide alongside the 43 bills in a total 26 states. The other 25 states (or 96 percent) had introduced previous failed assisted suicide legislation. Therefore the analysis shows a potential uptick in the number of bills proposed within each state, there was not a significant increase in the number of new states considering assisted suicide legislation.

Dr. Abernathy also notes that there appears to be no correlation between the number of attempts and an increased likelihood of success. This is in spite of the increase in the number of multiple bills introduced in a single session as well repeat attempts over a number of years. While 12 of the 13 states with previous failed bills introduced more than one bill in 2017, including the one state without previous attempts, historically, the number of bills introduced in one year does not appear to correlate with the likelihood of having a bill pass.

The same can be said of repeat attempts. Vermont introduced a total of 12 bills before the assisted suicide law passed and California proposed 8 but DC had only one proposal. Likewise, Hawaii introduced 5 bills in 2017 alone, adding to a total of 35 failed attempts since proposing its first bill nearly 20 years ago in 1998. Of all 36 states, only Louisiana has only one attempt on record. Over half of all state legislatures that have attempted to legalize assisted suicide have five more attempts and seven of these 19 states have attempts numbering in the double digits. Considering the number of states that continue to fail after exceeding both Vermont and California in both the number of repeat attempts and number of bills per session, this political strategy has yet to suggest that perseverance alone can win sufficient legislative support.

Further analysis should offer more insight but these initial reports demonstrate a continuing overall failure rate of assisted suicide legislation in spite of both recent loses and the significant increase in the frequency of attempts. These initial results do indicate the use of persistence as a political strategy for the assisted suicide lobby but do not validate the efficacy of that strategy. As of yet, these numbers do not suggest lawmakers in general are willing to accept assisted suicide after a certain number of bills are introduced. Perhaps a greater number of lawmakers are willing to introduce bills, but the fact that these bills continue to fail and fewer states are rushing to consider such legislation suggests that assisted suicide remains an unlikely cause to advance in U.S. statehouses.

This article is based on the, yet to be published, analysis of assisted suicide legislation in the U.S. by Dr Jacqueline Abernathy at Tarleton State University.

For more information:

Friday, July 28, 2017

I'm an atheist and against euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Yuill
Kevin Yuill, who wrote the book - Assisted Suicide: The Liberal Humanist Case Against Legalisation, wrote an article that was published today in the Australian Spectator titled: I'm an athiest and against euthanasia.

Yuill, who teaches American studies at the University of Sunderland, begins his article by challenging the euthanasia lobby claim that only religious people oppose euthanasia. Yuill writes:
Jeremy Irvine spent two years making a documentary entitled Fade to Black, which follows terminally ill Peter Short’s final months as he transforms from businessman into a right-to-die activist. Irvine, who claims the film canvasses the ‘full spectrum’ of views about whether Australia should allow assisted dying, came up with this bizarre claim: ‘Without exception those who opposed assisted dying laws did so because of their religious beliefs — even those who offered other reasons for their views.’ 
‘I spent probably 12 months searching and I found it really tough to find people who opposed assisted dying laws who weren’t looking at [sic] from a religious view.’ ‘Even people who would not talk about their religion, if you dug a little deeper, it would always come to that: “Oh, I’m a Catholic”. I didn’t find anybody.’ 
I feel like the kid at the front of the class with his hand up as the teacher scans everywhere else in the room for a hand. Me! Over here, Mr Irvine! In 2013, I published a book entitled Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalisation. I have been writing about this subject for more than 20 years. OK, the book has sold modestly, shall we say, down under. But it is there if you look for it. And, I really am an atheist. 
Irvine might have asked his fellow supporter of assisted dying, Andrew Denton. Mr Denton knows my ideas, if not me. He has berated me on some of his podcasts (he added eerie music to selected parts of a speech I did in Adelaide in 2015, which he recorded with my permission, like a morbid DJ). I wrote to him in a friendly and respectable manner more than once to point out some inaccuracies and, more importantly, to open up a dialogue. 
He never replied. He’d had the chance to speak to me before. He sat through my conference speech in Adelaide, where I was billed as an atheist. Did he attempt to interview me (though he interviewed many of the others at the conference) or even introduce himself? No. 
I’m not the only atheist in the “No” camp. Prominent British actress and comedienne Liz Carr has recently returned from your fair country and, lo, she, too, is an atheist. So was the late great Stella Young. We exist!
Yuill continues his article by explaining why he opposes euthanasia:

Disability rights leaders respond to doctor who urged mother to approve euthanasia for daughter with disabilities.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Candice with her mother.
Disability rights leaders and the Newfoundland government Minister responsible for disability issues are speaking out concerning the recent complaint by Sheila Elson after a doctor had urged her to approve assisted death for her 25-year-old daughter, Candice, with multiple disabilities.

Mother upset after doctor urged her to approve assisted suicide for her daughter with disabilities.

Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet Press Release: Disability Rights Activists Decry Newfoundland doctors suicide suggestion.

Peter Cowan, reporting for CBC News Newfoundland interviewed Emily Christy the head of the Newfoundland Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, who stated:
"I was shocked and terrified that this was actually happening in our province, and I think it's the biggest issue — and a point of concern around medical aid and dying that the disability community has," she said. 
Christy said Elson and Lewis both deserve an apology, and health care professionals need to be better informed about the rules around assisted dying
Sherry Gambin-Walsh
Sherry Gambin-Walsh, the government Minister responsible for disability issues told CBC News:

"It's not acceptable to government, it's not acceptable to the individual citizens, families or our society. Disability is not to be confused with suffering." 
For Gambin-Walsh, who also has a 21-year-old with complex disabilities, disability and suffering are two very different things.

"As a mom, I can't imagine. I would be appalled and disappointed, and I would have to collect my thoughts to determine how I was going to deal with it," she said of Elson's story. 
"Disability can not, and will not, be used in discussions about medical assistance in dying.
Toujours-Not Dead Yet distributed a Press Release today: Disability Rights Activists Decry Newfoundland doctors suicide suggestion.

Disability Rights Activists Decry Newfoundland Doctor’s Suicide Suggestion

Press Release - July 28, 2017

Download the Press Release (Link)

Canadian disability rights activists are dismayed to learn that a Newfoundland doctor suggested assisted suicide in lieu of treatment for a young woman with disabilities. Last November, 25-year-old Candice Lewis was hospitalized in St. Anthony, Newfoundland. The young woman has cerebral palsy and spina bifida, as well as a seizure disorder. A doctor suggested that Lewis receive assistance in ending her life, and called Lewis’ mother Sheila Elson “selfish” for refusing to consent. Lewis has since recovered.

Taylor Hyatt
Taylor Hyatt, policy analyst and outreach coordinator for Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet – a nonreligious and nonpartisan organization of people with disabilities who oppose assisted suicide – stated “The doctor’s words are appalling. Yet disabled Canadians saw this coming.”

She noted that this incident confirms the fears held by many of the effect of devaluation of the lives of people with disabilities. “Many people believe it’s better to be dead than disabled, this is the impetus behind the ‘death with dignity’ movement. The legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide are particularly dangerous for disabled people, who already face pressure to sign ‘do not resuscitate’ orders when we go into hospital. The safeguards in the current legislation will not prevent people from being wrongly killed,” said Hyatt. Bill C-14, which came into effect in 2016, legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide for those with “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions – including disabilities.

Candice Lewis
"Equally troubling is the fact that no one has spoken to Ms. Lewis about the situation.” said Hyatt. “Only her mother’s comments have been highlighted by media outlets, even though Ms. Lewis was reportedly distressed when she learned about the doctor’s remark. This is another example of how disabled voices continue to go unheard.”
Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet (TVNDY) is an organization by and for people with disabilities and our allies. Its goal is to inform, unify and give a voice to disabled people who oppose assisted suicide, euthanasia and other discriminatory end-of-life practices.

Euthanasia slippery slope: a failure of memory and imagination

This article was published by Mercatornet on July 28, 2017
When the splash of assisted-suicide and euthanasia blinds us to their far-reaching ripples.
Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville

Very recently, two senior physicians who have championed the legalization of euthanasia in their jurisdictions, Dr Boudewijn Chabot in the Netherlands and Dr Guy Robert in Quebec, have rejected current “appalling” developments in euthanasia in their countries. Yet, these developments should have been anticipated. So, why weren’t they?

Pro-euthanasia advocates focus just on individuals and only in the present – a combination of radical autonomy/ intense individualism and “presentism” - which blocks out considering both lessons from the past and likely future developments. In other words, the pro-euthanasia stance rests on a failure of people’s individual and collective human memory and imagination.

Those opposing euthanasia look to human memory – history and what the past can teach us – and imagination – what the future might hold – as well as the present. They also look beyond euthanasia’s impact just on individuals to the wide-ranging and multitudinous major issues and consequences it raises for medicine and law, for practitioners of these two professions, and for all of us as families, communities and a society.

Human memory

Human memory warns us of the “slippery slopes” euthanasia opens up: The “logical slippery slope”, the situations where euthanasia is allowed constantly expands, and the “practical slippery slope”, euthanasia is undertaken not in compliance with the law.

Once euthanasia becomes normalized slippery slopes are unavoidable, because, as British moral philosopher Dame Mary Warnock explains, “You cannot successfully block a slippery slope except by a fixed and invariable obstacle”, in the case of euthanasia, the rule that we must not intentionally kill.

Pro-euthanasia advocates dismiss the nearly 2,500 year history of the Hippocratic Oath’s guidance of medicine – cure where possible, care always, never kill – and, especially, any lessons from the Nazi regime. No one believes euthanasia will lead to a second Holocaust, but as the distinguished Canadian historian, Margaret MacMillan, has said, without knowing the past, we deprive ourselves of an important source of understanding.

Renowned Canadian disability rights advocate Professor Catherine Frazee, who says that what happened to people with disabilities in Nazi Germany is “part of my history as a person with severe disabilities”, explains “that one key to tackling complex problems is to ask the right questions, and history, through its cautionary tales and analogues, is a rich vein of 'right questions'” to ask about euthanasia.

We can also look to indigenous people’s practice of looking to Elders past and present, to argue it is wrong and dangerous to exclude human memory from informing our important societal decisions, and legalizing euthanasia is clearly such a decision.

Psychiatrist Dr Boudewijn Chabot, a very prominent pro PAS-E advocate in the Netherlands, who has been called the “patron saint of euthanasia”, is horrified at what is currently happening in his country.

He’s not anti-euthanasia (he is prepared to accept tens of thousands of euthanasia cases) but aghast at the rapid rise in the number of people with psychiatric illness or dementia who have been euthanized.

Writing in a leading Dutch newspaper, Chabot says that “legal safeguards for euthanasia are slowly eroding away and that the law no longer protects people with psychiatric conditions and dementia.”

He recognizes “we are dealing with a morally problematic act: how do you kill someone who does not understand that he will be killed?”. And he concludes bitterly, “I don’t see how we can get the genie back in the bottle. It would already mean a lot if we’d acknowledge he’s out.”

Why did the Dutch not look to the past for warnings? Why did they fail to use their imaginations to foresee these future consequences?

We need to ask these questions in relation to vulnerable Australians, those who are elderly and fragile, especially those with dementia, people with disabilities, including newborn babies, who can also be euthanized in the Netherlands.

Human imagination

A failure to look to the future is resulting in an extreme example of calls for expansion of euthanasia unfolding in Quebec.

Dr Yves Robert, the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec (the provincial medical licensing authority) was a major proponent of legalizing euthanasia and in 2009 the College was one of the main instigators of the movement to do so. Euthanasia was legalized in December 2015.

Robert adamantly rejected claims that effective safeguards were not possible, that euthanasia was not a medical act, and that it should be kept out of medicine. He constantly referred to a “continuum of good end-of-life care”, which included euthanasia as part of palliative care.

As in Australia, the claim it would be rarely used (about 100 cases a year in the province) was made. The first year saw over 400 cases. (In the first 7 months, 21 of 262 cases did not meet legal requirements: in two the patient was not terminally ill and in one not seriously ill – she probably had a urinary infection.)

But none of that seemed to raise any questions for the College, or I assume Robert, about whether legalizing euthanasia had been a good idea.

Here is what has, as he explains in a letter dated 10 May 2017, on College letterhead, entitled “Death a la carte”. That is, instead of food choices, it’s a menu of options for how one wants to die.

There are now calls and possibly the launching of a court case to have “death on demand” declared a constitutional right. The claim is that having to fulfil certain conditions to have access to euthanasia is a breach of the right to control one’s life and body and legally actionable discrimination.

Claiming a right to “death on demand” is consistent with and just an extension of the autonomy arguments used to legalize euthanasia.

The discrimination claim is unusual: It’s discrimination against people who do not have disabilities because those who do have access to euthanasia and those without disabilities cannot.

Robert notes opinion leaders and the media have denounced cases where people who do not fulfil the conditions for access to euthanasia in Quebec have been refused it. Such denunciations and the refusals being characterized as 'cruelty' are familiar pro-euthanasia strategies.

Robert recognizes the “paradoxical discourse” that calls for safeguards to avoid abuse of “medical aid in dying” (euthanasia) which are meant to limit its availability, while asking doctors to act as if there were no such restrictions.

He continues that if euthanasia is an unfettered right, then it’s not within the scope of “medical aid to die”, but simply “assisting dying” and society must consider other options than involving the medical profession in that.

He explains it’s to transform “medical aid in dying” to “legally authorized aid in dying”, a form of assisted suicide which, he says, could be provided by private enterprise as in Switzerland.

Indeed, if society legalizes euthanasia, all euthanasia should be kept out of medicine. Specially trained technicians could provide it.

Robert notes that the Quebec law was “a major opening” to euthanasia and expresses surprise at how quickly public opinion seems to have judged the opening insufficient, when testing the law is still in the “apprenticeship phase and the application and consequences of its provisions are not fully assimilated.”

In short, euthanasia has become normalized with astonishing rapidity and that has caused calls for access to it to be expanded, indeed, calls to have no restrictions at all on access.

Robert concludes: “Let us take the time to reflect deeply before going any further. There is no urgency to die.” I totally agree but, to use a common saying, “it’s too late to lock the barn door after the horse has bolted.”

As for me, after being heavily involved in the euthanasia debate over many years in Quebec, to use another common saying, “you could have knocked me down with a feather” when I read what Robert wrote. That said, I applaud his honesty and integrity.

Why did so many doctors (and likewise lawyers) of goodwill and professional integrity, such as Dr Robert so adamantly disagree that such expansion would occur – although none of us expected a proposed expansion to this degree?

I believe it was a total failure of individual and collective memory and imagination, including professional memory and imagination, resulting in “intense individualism” and “intense presentism” governing the decision making and leading it astray. Let’s avoid that in Australia.

Margaret Somerville is Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mother upset after doctor urged her to approve assisted suicide for her daughter with disabilities.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Candice Lewis with her mother.
Sheila Elson, who lives in Newfoundland, was very upset when a doctor offered assisted dying for her daughter Candice Lewis (25) who lives with multiple disabilities including spina bifida, cerebral palsy and chronic seizure disorder.

According to Geoff Bartlett reporting for CBC News Newfoundland:

"His words were 'assisted suicide death was legal in Canada,'" she told CBC. "I was shocked, and said, 'Well, I'm not really interested,' and he told me I was being selfish." 

Stephen Roberts, from the Northern Pen reported:
Elson has spent 25 years caring and advocating for Lewis, fighting to get the services her daughter needed. 
In September 2016, she says, a doctor presented her with the option of physician-assisted death for Lewis.

The discussion happened after Candice had been admitted to hospital, and doctors suggested that Lewis was dying.
According to the article:
Elson wrote that (the doctor) had taken her out into the hallway by Lewis’s hospital room to discuss physician-assisted death and advise her the option was legal in Canada. 
She alleges the doctor said he supported physician-assisted death for Lewis.

“This left me dumbfounded and I told him it was something I did not want to consider,” she said.

She contends the doctor suggested she was being selfish and that she told him that she didn’t believe Lewis was able to fully comprehend what was being suggested.
The article reports that Candice heard the conversation.
She says Lewis could hear the conversation from her room and it was causing emotional distress for them both. 
“I am still very concerned about this, it is always on my mind. I am emotionally exhausted. I see that it has been also very stressful for Candice and one of my main reasons for writing this letter is that I don’t want any other family to have to go through this,” Elson wrote.
Labrador-Grenfell Health responded to Elson’s letter on June 6. 
In the correspondence, Molgaard-Blake apologized for the delay and expressed regret that Elson did not feel her family was treated with dignity and respect during Lewis’s hospital stay. 
She added that the doctors involved did not intend any disrespect. 
Molgaard-Blake said Elson was welcome to discuss any issues in person, but noted that the doctor is currently not on locum assignment with Labrador-Grenfell Health and “is not scheduled to be back in St. Anthony until later this fall.”
Roberts reported that "Elson calls Labrador-Grenfell Health's response to her letter a joke.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has always stated that you cannot separate the attitude of the doctor or nurse practitioner who proposes or does euthanasia from the act itself.  

Australian Assisted Suicide Plan: Only the Beginning.

This article was published by HOPE Australia on July 26, 2017

By Paul Russell
The Director of HOPE Australia.
Don’t look to the starting point; look at the finish line.
The ubiquitous figure of Philip Nitschke and his death peddling organisation, Exit, are never far from the news.

Though eschewed by many on the pro-euthanasia movement, Nitschke does do straight-talking well when he exposes the ultimate end of the supposedly limited (Victorian Premier said: conservative) regimens such as that to come before Victoria.

In recent days two of his members have said in the press that the Andrews Victorian model simply doesn’t go far enough, but is a ‘good first step’.

In 2010 in the Western Australian debate, mover of the bill, The Hon Robin Chapple, told the local pro-euthanasia lobby that he knew his restricted bill wouldn’t please everyone but that it was a ‘good start’.

In New Zealand in 2013, mover of the bill, Maryan Street, responding to a question about the possibility of euthanasia for terminally ill children said:

"Application for children with terminal illness was a bridge too far in my view at this time. That might be something that may happen in the future, but not now."
In the Canadian debate, euthanasia for children, people with dementia and mental illness were excluded from the bill even though the mandate from the Supreme Court in the Carter case suggested inclusion. The government needed to get the bill through and decided to ‘investigate’ these possibilities later.

The Victorian Ministerial Advisory Panel also wrestled with where to set the initial ‘pitch’.

So what’s this all about?

It is a sales pitch, without question. It is all about securing 50% plus one of the votes in the deliberative chambers of parliament.

Once the door is open, as Director of the European Bioethics Institute based in Brussels, Carine Brochier, observed, ‘it will go wider and wider.’

Monday, July 24, 2017

The article on assisted suicide that Australian newspapers wouldn't publish

This article was published by HOPE Australia on July 22, 2017.

How Can The Public Make A Good Decision About Assisted Suicide When Reasoned Argument Is Verboten! 
Rachel Carling-Jenkins

Read Dr Carling-Jenkins Article And Judge For Yourself!

Guest Article by Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins
Victorian State Parliamentary Leader, Australian Conservatives

Compassion for people at the end of life is a fundamental reflection of our humanity. We care. It’s what people do.

Australians are a compassionate people. We are known for it. Whether motivated to help our friends and family or to respond to natural disasters or even the plight of suffering people that play out with regularity in the euthanasia debates – we care. Our motivation drives us to action (intention): we act as we can, we offer support, and we donate to causes.

But our compassion should never drive us to support killing by euthanasia or to help someone to their suicide. That intention is always wrong. Our legal system and the vast majority of legal systems throughout the world have held to this principle since ever laws were written. We don’t see killing or supporting suicide as a valid option in response to difficult circumstances.

The Victorian Parliament has been talking about this issue for more than a year. The motivation – to care and to respond to suffering – is honourable; and the majority of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Report on end-of-life choices reflect that. Yet the question of whether there should be a law in Victoria that allows people to commit suicide with medical support or to die by euthanasia was never really dealt with by the committee in any detail. Certainly, the report itemised the case for and against, but it never discussed the pros and cons nor did it grapple with the inherent risks nor the moral and ethical concerns. (Think: if we need to talk about ‘safeguards’, then there’s something inherently ‘unsafe’ about the practice)

If this were an environmental impact statement for a large urban development no government would proceed based on such a flimsy and inconclusive presentation. Yet when talking about a literal ‘life and death’ issue, Premier Andrews and his Health Minister seem driven more by ideology than common sense. This is reckless, dangerous and ill-conceived.

My colleague, Daniel Mulino MLC tabled a dissenting report last year that looked at all of the literature and all of the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the few jurisdictions where it is legal. His work raised significant doubts about the ability of any law to protect vulnerable people or to contain the target cohort. Even a cursory glance at Mulino’s work would cast serious doubt about the glib assertions of the likes of Andrew Denton.

Victorians are being sold a dud. The use of euphemisms such as ‘assisted dying’ to describe medical aid to suicide feeds on our sense of compassion but it leads us down a blind alley. It encourages us to accept that, because it sounds compassionate, it somehow follows that the intention is benign. We’re told that there are people driven to suicide by their medical conditions, but all the government is offering as an alternative is, well, suicide. How is that compassionate? Surely we can do better than that!

And above all of this we have behaviour by the likes of Denton and his cohort that reminds me more of the wild-west snake oil salesman than it does of anything else. Theirs is a simple proposition: create fear in people’s minds that some of us will die in significant pain and then offer them a deceptively simple solution – assisted suicide. The Report of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry took this bait all too easily, going so far as to wrongly cite a submission by Palliative Care Victoria (PCV) to make the false claim that “not all pain can be alleviated”. This is not the case, as the PCV submission made abundantly clear.

Using fear as a political tool may be effective, but it is bad public policy to undermine confidence in our palliative services.

Associate Professor Ian Haines, medical oncologist and palliative medicine specialist, told another newspaper last year that, as an oncologist with 35 years' full-time experience, “I have seen palliative care reach the point where the terminally ill can die with equal or more dignity than euthanasia will provide.”

If there are shortcomings in palliative medicine it is surely that not every Victorian, not every Australian, currently has access to quality services in their time of need. To remedy that situation the NSW government recently committed to $100M in funding for rural and remote services and Palliative Care Victoria has identified an immediate need of an additional $65M to the same end. It would be a cruel hoax played on the people of Victoria that some may feel forced to ‘choose’ assisted suicide because of a lack of effective services.

And yet, for all of the talk about pain and all of the hard cases that the pro-assisted suicide lobby delight to recall, the main reason people choose assisted suicide isn’t pain at all. It’s about fear of loss of autonomy and fear of being a burden. What kind of endorsement would we be giving to our elderly and ill if we passed into law the thought that, yes, indeed, you are a burden? As Dutch academic Henk Reitsema says: Before it becomes a legal option, caring for someone who needs care is just the human thing that you do. But once they have the option to 'choose' to let their lives be ended, their not doing so is to choose to burden their next of kin - and that's unfair!'

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Legalizing assisted suicide is dangerous - just look at Canada

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Yuill
Professor and author, Kevin Yuill, has written another excellent article that Spike published on July 20, 2017 titled: Legalizing assisted suicide is dangerous - just look at Canada

Yuill, who was born in Canada, refers to the recent Canadian experience with assisted dying to urge British citizens to reject assisted suicide.

The British court is currently dealing with the Conway case, a case that seeks to strike down the laws protecting people from assisted suicide in the UK. With reference to the recent Canadian experience, Yuill writes:
The CBC reported recently that, by the end of 2016, there had been 1,324 cases of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada – that is, assisted suicide and euthanasia. This number is likely to increase. Before the ink was dry on C-14, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association launched a court case to ‘strike down’ as unconstitutional the somewhat slippery provision that a person’s ‘natural death must be reasonably foreseeable’ to qualify for death by lethal injection. 
In the weeks that followed C-14’s passage into law, the Canadian federal government announced that it would conduct research into the possibility of extending the benefits of euthanasia to people with dementia, ‘mature children’, and those with solely psychological suffering. In the case of a 77-year-old woman suffering from non-terminal osteoarthritis, the judge chided doctors who had refused euthanasia on the grounds that her disease was not terminal. He granted the woman the right to die as she was ‘almost 80’ with ‘no quality of life’. And, of course, her death was judged to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’.
In the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that it would force doctors to either euthanise patients who wanted to die, or refer them to someone who would. Three years ago, it was a crime for doctors to kill their patients in Canada. Now, doctors could lose their licence for refusing to participate in killing their patients. 
Judges and juries are generally sympathetic in tragic cases like Conway’s. But there is no need to change the law. We should take the court case in Canada, which opened a Pandora’s box, as a warning about the dangers of legalising assisted suicide.
Previous articles by Kevin Yuill

Friday, July 21, 2017

Euthanasia doctors can kill but can't count.

Alex Schadenberg
This article was published by OneNewsNow on July 21, 2017

A study of euthanasia in one European country gives America a hint of what is to come in states if they legalize it.

Every five years the Netherlands conducts an independent study of euthanasia deaths, comparing figures released by the government with an anonymous study in which the results are expected to be more accurate.

While the government reports there were over 5,500 assisted suicide deaths, the study revealed more than 7,200.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has reviewed the figures, which show 23 percent of euthanasia deaths weren't reported in 2015.

"It also showed there were 431 lethal injections, intentional killings, without request," he tells OneNewsNow.

Netherlands study: 431 people were killed without explicit request in 2015.

Some instances, he said, involve patients with dementia who cannot consent to being injected and killed. Unreported deaths could be blamed on sloppy reporting by doctors but also by ones who lethally inject a patient in violation of the law.

According to Schadenberg, a similar problem exists in the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington state. Those states do not have blind, anonymous studies as the Netherlands does and even studies that are done by the states are not completed in a manner to uncover even deaths performed outside the state laws.

"So all we know from Oregon and Washington state," he says, "is what the doctors who deliver the death tell us.”

The system is designed to protect the doctors, he warns, so if laws are violated they have no fear of recrimination.

Euthanasia in the Netherlands, the doctor will kill you now.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On July 20, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Kees van der Straaij, who is a member of the Netherlands parliament. The following is the Wall Street Journal article - In the Netherlands, the doctor will kill you now

Kees van der Straaij MP (Netherlands).
In 2002 the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for those suffering deadly diseases or in the last stages of life. Not long after the legislation was enacted, eligibility was expanded to include those experiencing psychological suffering or dementia. Today pressure is mounting for the Dutch government to legalize a “euthanasia pill” for those who are not ill, but simply consider their lives to be “full.” 
Proponents of assisted suicide continue to claim that safeguards already built into Dutch law are sufficient to reduce the risk of abuse. They point out that medical professionals are required to assess whether a person’s suffering is indeed unbearable and hopeless. 
These safeguards do exist. In practice, however, they are hard to enforce. A poignant illustration was recently aired on Dutch television. An older woman stricken with semantic dementia had lost her ability to use words to convey meaning. “Upsy-daisy, let’s go,” she said. Both her husband and her physician at the end-of-life clinic interpreted her words to mean, “I want to die.” A review committee judged her euthanasia was in accordance both with the law and her earlier written instructions, an outcome very few would have imagined possible as recently as 10 years ago.  
Such episodes have many Dutch people worried about the erosion of protections for the socially vulnerable and medically fragile. A broad and heated public debate recently flared about whether doctors may administer fatal drugs to those with severe dementia based on a previously signed “advance directive.” In several controversial cases, assisted suicide was not directly discussed with patients who were incapable of reaffirming earlier written death wishes. In one case, a doctor slipped a dementia patient a sleeping pill in some apple sauce so that he could be easily taken home and given a deadly injection. 
Hundreds of Dutch physicians signed a declaration outlining their moral objection to these increasingly common practices. Nonetheless, the Dutch government stands by its claim that the law permits doctors to end such patients’ lives. Meanwhile, the Dutch Right to Die Society, a national euthanasia lobby, keeps pressing to take further steps, arguing that individuals should have the option to “step out of life.” 
But is this argument really convincing? Those seeking death because their lives are “full” are often haunted by loneliness and despair. Some elderly people fear bothering their children with their social and medical needs. They don’t want to be perceived as burdensome. 
Legalizing the euthanasia pill could put even more pressure on the vulnerable, disabled and elderly. More than 60% of geriatric-care specialists already say they have felt pressure from patients’ family members to euthanize elderly relatives. Will the day come when society considers it entirely normal—even “natural”—for people who grow old or become sick simply to pop the pill and disappear? If so, those who desire to continue living in spite of society’s expectations will have some serious explaining to do. 
All of this clearly shows the slippery slope of the euthanasia path. Contrary to the emphatic advice of a special advisory committee chaired by a prominent member of a liberal-democratic party, the outgoing Dutch government wishes to expand and extend the euthanasia law to those who consider their lives to be full. The pressing question is where the slope ends and the abyss begins. Will those with intellectual disabilities or physical defects also be “empowered” to step out of life? Will those battling thoughts of suicide be encouraged to opt for a “dignified death” in place of excellent psychiatric care? 
The government’s most fundamental task is to protect its citizens. The Dutch government, to its credit, often speaks out when fundamental human rights are under threat around the world. Now that the fundamental right to life is under threat in the Netherlands, it’s time for others to speak out about the Dutch culture of euthanasia.
Links to other articles concerning euthanasia in the Netherlands.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Not Dead Yet UK intervenes in assisted suicide court case.

Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Disability rights group - Not Dead Yet UK is intervening at the UK High Court 
in the Conway case. The Conway case seeks to strike down Britain's law that protects people from assisted suicide in the UK.

In their press release, Not Dead Yet states that legalising assisted suicide by any means would put other disabled and terminally ill people at risk. The Not Dead Yet UK press release states:
Not Dead Yet UK maintains any imposed safeguards will never be watertight enough to successfully protect all ill and disabled people from a change to the Suicide Act. The Act currently provides much needed protection to disabled and terminally ill people by prohibiting anyone from assisting another person to kill themselves. Even if only one person dies against their wishes as a result of a change to the law that is one death too many and completely unacceptable. We argue that disabled and terminally ill people are just as entitled to this protection as everyone else; to single out one group of society as different to the rest is a dangerous move and will be open to misinterpretation. Legalising Assisted Suicide for disabled and terminally ill people would again set us aside from the rest of society. We would effectively be second class citizens again, with suicide seen as a valid choice for us while non-disabled people would be encouraged to live. 
This issue was last considered by Parliament almost two years ago (September 2015) when Rob Marris MP’s “Assisted Dying Bill” was decisively defeated by 330 to 118 votes in the House of Commons. Mr Conway is now attempting to override Parliament’s decision by seeking a change in the law through the Courts.
The Press release then quotes from a few of their notable leaders:
Baroness Jane Campbell
Disability campaigner Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, one of the founders of Not Dead Yet UK said,
We have successfully seen off attempts to change the law on Assisted Suicide in Parliament. Now we must change tactics to ensure the Courts continue to uphold our equal right to life. The law must not be weakened via the back door.” 
Speaking for Not Dead Yet UK, co-founder Phil Friend said, 
A change in the law is a terrifying prospect to the vast majority of disabled and terminally ill people who work hard towards achieving equality for all. Until we have reached that objective Assisted Suicide will remain a dangerous and prejudiced option, likely to increase suffering and distress”. 
Liz Carr
Liz Carr, star of BBC1 drama ‘Silent Witness’ states,
Disabled and terminally ill people want support to live – not to die. It is important that the Court hears from the people most at risk from any change to the current law. As a long standing supporter of Not Dead Yet UK I am keen to take an active role in making that happen”.
Link to other articles concerning the disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

Assisted Suicide – Is It All About The Money?

The following article was published by Hope Australia on July 20, 2017.

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell - the Director of Hope Australia

CEO of St Vincent’s Hospital network, Toby Hall must have been wondering at all the fuss over a simple observation in a recent article in The Australian about his network stating its blanket refusal to cooperate with assisted suicide should Victoria pass the Andrews’ Government mooted legislation.

I have written previously about the Greens’ Party spokesperson, Colleen Hartland calling for the government to review St Vincent’s funding as a response. A veiled threat if ever there was one. Surely the mantras of tolerance and diversity are broad enough to include a health service that has a conscientious objection? Maybe not.

But the most scathing criticism of Hall’s comments came from journalist Andrew Denton; also on the pages of The Australian. Denton was responding to the following statement in the original article:
“St Vincent’s Health Australia chief executive Toby Hall said the Andrews government’s proposed “conservative” euthanasia model was flawed and vulnerable patients would be put at risk by the proposed legislative changes, which he described as a “cheap economic way out”. 
“He accused the government of taking the cheaper option to “give someone a drug and kill them” rather than providing sufficient palliative care for the majority of Victoria’s terminally ill.”
But rather than providing any concrete evidence to support his criticism of Hall’s comments, Denton simply asserts that, “It is both incorrect and highly insensitive to the reality of how Victorians are dying” and then moves on. That is, except for this curious claim:
But by palliative care’s own admission all the resources in the world aren’t going to help them deal with all pain and suffering. It is not medically possible. And until we find a cure for cancer, MND and other diseases, this is unlikely to change.
The first statement seems to be a paraphrase that is, at the very least, debatable – depending on what one might take to be the precise meaning of each of its phrases. The second is redundant – if there were no difficult diseases there would clearly be little if any difficulty in managing symptoms.

But there’s a bigger picture here that Hall was alluding to, made abundantly clear by the call this week by Palliative Care Victoria for an additional $65M in funding in the state to help meet the need and to fill the service delivery and educational gaps. This follows closely upon the New South Wales Government recently committing $100M towards regional and rural palliative care services in that state.

The reality is that, in spite of Australia’s Palliative Care Services being ranked second in the world behind Britain, there are still service gaps and funding shortfalls. In that context and for some, the supposed ‘choice’ of assisted suicide is, in reality, no choice at all.

This is also true when you consider that in a landmark study by the Grattan Institute a few years ago confirmed that something like 70% of Australians expressed a deep desire to die at home when only 14% of people were actually able to exercise that choice.

So if you live in rural or remote parts of Australia not only will you likely not be able to die at home, but the services you receive could be well below Australian standards or you may need to choose between dying in a regional hospital that may not be able to meet your needs or being transferred to a big city hospital with all of the attendant dislocation. Perhaps assisted suicide becomes a more pressing option when other legitimate choices are limited. Hardly fair is it?

In spite of the need for increased funding for palliative care and end of life care being recognised in the Victorian Auditor General in 2015, the End of Life Choices Inquiry in 2016 and by the Productivity Commission this year, there was no additional funding for such services in the recent Victorian State Budget.

Yet, according to Palliative Care Victoria:
"Currently 55% of Victorian palliative care services report that they are unable to meet the current demand for palliative care. At least 26% of Victorians who die are missing out on the benefits of palliative care, according to the international measures of population need for palliative care."
They further note that there has been no nett increase in palliative care funding from the government since 2014.

Does this sound like a government that has a handle on its agenda? Surely, if they were serious about ‘choice’ as a value in promoting assisted suicide they would have increased funding in the last budget a few months ago; even if only to make the point that they take end of life care seriously.

No doubt they will point to the mooted lead in period until their assisted suicide regime becomes active. But Palliative Care Victoria’s plaintive cry for support won’t fix the gaps overnight. As Liz Carr told Victorian Parliamentarians a few months ago – fix the first 48 recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry Report before you tackle number 49 (the suicide recommendation).

Without such funding the CEO of St Vincent’s assertion of assisted suicide may be seen by bean counters as a ‘cheap way out’ has a ring of authenticity.

In Canada, less than a year after the Quebec and Ottawa government's legalised forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide, a research paper entitled: Cost analysis of medical assistance in dying in Canada appeared in the Canadian Medical Journal (CMAJ). It found that "Medical assistance in dying could reduce annual health care spending across Canada by between $34.7 million and $138.8 million." The bean counters must have been in seventh heaven.

The authors summarized: "Our analyses suggest that the savings will almost certainly exceed the costs associated with offering medical assistance in dying to patients across the country, and that the inclusion of medical assistance in dying in the services covered by universal health care will not increase health care spending, but rather will release funds to be reinvested elsewhere." Adding lamely: "We are not suggesting medical assistance in dying as a measure to cut costs." Really?

Daniel Fleming took up the 'economic argument' on the pages of the ABC's Religion and Ethics website, citing the Canadian study:
"Soon after the legislation was introduced in Canada, the above mentioned study was undertaken which had the object of demonstrating the savings to Canadian tax-payers as a result of the legislation. At this point in time, such savings might be considered an ancillary purpose to the explicit purpose of providing PAS-E (Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide). However, they reveal important facts: end-of-life care is expensive, and it is not impossible to imagine a government or healthcare organisation which needs to face this fact during a hard budget agreeing to focus more attention on the cheaper options of PAS-E than on other forms of end-of-life care, an approach which has already been suggested by one of the world's leading economists."
Even the famous Dutch euthanasia enthusiast, Dr. Boudewijn Chabot recently lamented the effect of financial considerations in relation to euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in his own country:
"Ever since budget cuts turned chronic psychiatry into a diagnosis-prescription business, good treatment has become scarce."
Fleming warned in conclusion:
"These are uncomfortable considerations, and they take the debate outside of its typical contours which consider the suffering of an individual and sometimes their family, and whether or not it is right for that person to end their own life with medical assistance. That debate still needs to be had. However we land there, it is crucial to remember that the debate takes place in an ideological context, and if or when the legislation is enacted it will be done in a way that takes it beyond the intent of those proposing it, and into the realm of the value set of capitalism. Any legislation or major social interventions has social consequences beyond its original purpose."
There’s always the money question just as there will always be people who are at risk under any form of legislation. There are winners and losers in all of these debates.

Even Premier Andrews, now the prime mover in the assisted suicide agenda, once noted the money question, as Fairfax media reporter, Farah Tomazin noted last December:

Andrews' resistance was not based on faith, he explained, but from his stint as health minister under the Brumby government. It was during that time the Labor MP saw firsthand the incessant demand for hospital beds in an overstretched system and became increasingly concerned that "these laws might see a rationing of precious health dollars".

Andrews may have changed his mind to support assisted suicide, but his observations about the health system and the temptation to cut and/or limit budgets remains.

Euthanasia, Conscience and Canadian doctors

This article was published by Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia on July 16, 2017

In the year since euthanasia became legal, we have witnessed a powerful political push to normalize it as part of medicine in Canada. Yet many doctors remain opposed to the practice. Most would like to see it rigorously limited. And some, for reasons of personal and/or professional conscience, refuse categorically to be part of it.

Unfortunately, our politicians have made it perfectly clear that they intend to ignore the judgement of opposing doctors and to stifle their dissent. In fact, the worst of these politicians are to be found within our own profession.

Consider, as a case in point, the new (2015) College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy on doctors’ conscience rights.

This CPSO policy is identified as a mere “revised update”, but it actually bears little resemblance to the earlier version (2008).

And it is obvious why this is so: Without ever honestly mentioning euthanasia, assisted suicide, or even MAID, the new policy was designed from the start to facilitate a radical new Orwellian redefinition of “euthanasia”, from homicide to medical treatment. It effectively obliges all Ontario physicians and surgeons to participate in the euthanasia program.

In practical terms:

“Where physicians are unwilling to provide certain elements of care for reasons of conscience or religion, an effective referral to another health-care provider must be provided to the patient.”
This, of course, is the main sticking point for many doctors, who consider referring their patient to any agency of death to be an act just as abhorrent as performing the euthanasia themselves.

But “effective referral” is by no means all. There is also the “duty to inform”:

“Physicians must provide information about all clinical options that may be available or appropriate to meet patients’ clinical needs or concerns.”

“Physicians must not withhold information about the existence of any procedure or treatment because it conflicts with their conscience or religious beliefs.”
Please note the italics: The physician apparently has a duty to inform his patients of all options legally available even if they are inappropriate! And this obligation shall override any moral or professional convictions that physician might hold.

The violence of the obligation to “inform” goes even beyond that of “effective referral” itself. Every patient who fits the criteria for euthanasia must be subjected to the terrible stress and doubt of learning that he or she belongs to that select group of people for whom medically-inflicted death has become an option. And no objection of judgement or of conscience can free the doctor from delivering that terrible message and its implicit suggestion.

In Ontario, then, by proclamation of the CPSO, the doctor’s role is reduced to that of an automatic vending machine which simply displays state-mandated euthanasia options and passively offers corresponding buttons for the patient to push.

Obviously, the scope and impact of such a policy is astounding. Professional judgement is the bedrock of medical practice. Freedom of conscience is the underpinning for our entire system of secular democracy. Both are set aside. The scale of the emergency must be colossal to require such draconian measures!

But, of course, there is no such urgency.

Let us remember that the original euthanasia program was sold to us as an imperative response to a hypothetical terminally ill patient in unbearable and untreatable pain. Let us recall how that extreme, no, that virtually mythical case, was leveraged into all of the totally unrelated deaths that we now apprehend. Once again, a similar strategy is at work. This time, the absolute need for all doctors to promote euthanasia (all the time and to all of their most vulnerable patients), is presented as a required response to the hypothetical possibility of even one patient, desirous to die, but who is frustrated in her wish.

We are asked to believe that any real burden whatsoever, financial, professional, or moral, can be justified in the interest of allowing that one sacred voluntary death. It is a sort of grotesque inversion of the proposition that “no price is too high” provided that “only one child be saved…”. Which becomes in this case: “if only one person might die…”.

Other jurisdictions, no less respectable than Ontario have taken an opposite stance, and there is no evidence that anybody has suffered or will suffer.

Manitoba is in the process of explicitly recognizing the right of non-participation and non-referral of all health professionals and others working in health care. Major hospitals in Winnipeg have announced their refusal to euthanize patients.

In the State of Vermont a judicial battle over similar issues has resulted in an unambiguous victory for doctors’ rights.

And in Ontario, a group of dedicated and courageous doctors launched a court challenge in defense of doctors’ conscience, which was heard June 13-15, 2017.

That judgement will be rendered later this year. Let’s hope our courts get it right this time! But regardless of that outcome, regardless of the timeframe, and regardless of expense; regardless of the legislative efforts that may ultimately be required: This authoritarian policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is neither necessary nor justified. It is not desirable. It is not even reasonably defensible. It is extreme. And it is irrational. Above all, it is profoundly harmful to individual doctors and patients and to the whole medical profession. It constitutes both an injustice and an embarrassment which cannot be allowed to stand.