Friday, March 29, 2019

Massachusetts Court case seeks to legalize assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Masslive published a report by Shira Schoenberg concerning the court case that has been launched to overturn the Massachusetts assisted suicide law. According to Schoenberg, Roger Kligler, who is living with cancer, and Dr. Alan Steinbach launched a lawsuit to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts.

This is not the first time similar lawsuits have been filed. There have been several lawsuits that were simply dismissed by the court, while others were heard with the finding that there is no right to assisted suicide.

The Baxter case in Montana didn't legalize assisted suicide but the Montana Supreme Court created a "defense of consent" for Montana physicians and an activist judge in New Mexico found a right to assisted suicide in that state, but her decision was overturned by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Schoenberg reported that Kligler and Steinbach asked the court to overturn the Massachusetts assisted suicide law:

Kligler and Alan Steinbach, a doctor who wants to write lethal prescriptions for terminally ill patients, have sued Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, arguing that criminal prosecution of a doctor for prescribing a lethal dose of medication to a competent, terminally ill patient is illegal under the state constitution. Today, a Massachusetts doctor who prescribes a lethal dose of medication could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Schoenberg reported that the Massachusetts Attorney General believes that the issue of assisted suicide is properly a legislative decision. The article reported:
Assistant Attorney General Robert Quinan said Healey has not taken a position on whether physician-assisted suicide is good or bad policy. But, he said, it is not for Healey — or the court — to decide. The plaintiffs, he said, want “to resolve through litigation a policy dispute that’s properly reserved for the Legislature.”
Nancy Houghton and John Kelly
Disability rights activists, John Kelly from the disability right group Second Thoughts and Nancy Houghton from the disability rights group ADAPT told Schoenberg in the interview:

“There’s no safeguard in place or possible that could prevent the loss of lives due to misdiagnosis, insurer treatment denial, depression and coercion and other forms of abuse,” said John Kelly, director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts, a group of disability rights advocates who oppose assisted suicide. 
Nancy Houghton, who is on the board of the Massachusetts chapter of the disability rights group ADAPT, said she was told she had three to five years to live when she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease. That was 15 years ago.

“If I had listened to the doctors back then, I could be dead now,” she said.
There is no right to assisted suicide in the US or Massachusetts. Legalizing assisted suicide gives doctors the right in law to be involved with killing their patients.

Cathy Ludlum: “We will be the collateral damage” of assisted suicide

This article was published by Not Dead Yet on March 28, 2019.

Cathy Ludlum, from the disability rights group, Second Thoughts Connecticut, provided this powerful testimony to the Connecticut Public Health Committee on March 18, 2019 opposing assisted suicide bill HB 5898.

Senator Abrams, Rep. Steinberg, and members of the Public Health Committee:

Cathy Ludlum from Second Thoughts Connecticut.
My name is Cathy Ludlum, and I am one of the leaders of Second Thoughts Connecticut, a group of people with disabilities and allies who are working to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide. I am here to oppose HB 5898.

Let me start by explaining why the disability community is working so hard across the country to stop legislation of this type.

Nobody wants people to be in pain, desperate, and feeling that they have no control over what is happening in their lives. Believe me, those of us with disabilities know what it is to feel like you have no control.

But the harsh reality is that we will be the collateral damage in any formalized death-by-choice system. Many of us with severe and obvious disabilities are already too frequently thought of by medical practitioners as having reached a final stage, where death might be expected in the near future.

If we go to the hospital, we bring friends. We have to.

This will be even more true now that the Connecticut State Medical Society has dropped its opposition to assisted suicide. The last thing we need is for practitioners to have in the back of their minds, “Maybe it’s time for ‘Aid in Dying.’” If the CSMS will not advocate for good medical practice, who will?

It is reasonable to ask why a disabled person would choose a doctor who does not seem willing to fight for his or her life and health. Unfortunately, people are not always in a position to choose their own doctor. Private insurance often requires that the patient see a doctor in their network, or pay for the privilege of going out-of-network. Not every physician accepts Medicare or Medicaid, so again, choices can be limited.

Further, if a person lands in the hospital, he or she will be treated by doctors unfamiliar with the individual’s situation. This is what happened to my colleague, William Peace. He was hospitalized with a deep and grossly infected pressure sore. As a paraplegic, both his life and his quality of life were in serious jeopardy. A doctor spoke to him about devastation he would face as a result of this pressure sore: loss of job, bankruptcy, at least six months and probably more than a year in bed, and complete dependence on others, most likely in a nursing home. The doctor offered Bill the choice of refusing antibiotics, promising to make him “comfortable.” Bill refused. Many of those terrible things did happen, but eventually Bill recovered and resumed his life as a college professor. Assisted suicide was not an option in that state at that time, but the story demonstrates that the doctor believed Bill would be better off dead. 1

Any physician will tell you that medical science is inexact, at best. Sometimes predictions are slightly off, but sometimes they are off by decades. Look at the case of John Norton, a member of Second Thoughts Massachusetts. He was diagnosed with ALS when he was 18 years old. The diagnosis was verified by the prestigious Mayo Clinic. For some reason the progression of his disability stopped, and he was 74 when he submitted testimony to a Canadian court in opposition to assisted suicide. By then, he had a wife and children, and was retired from a successful career. Yet he testified that if assisted suicide was available in the 1950s, he would have taken advantage of it. Think of all he would have missed based on what was a reasonable prognosis for his condition. 2

We can spend time talking about problems with the proposed legislation.
• Believe it or not, I would qualify as terminal under the definition given in Section 1, 19: 
“Terminal illness” means the final stage of an incurable and irreversible medical condition that an attending physician anticipates, within reasonable medical judgment, will produce a patient’s death within six months. 
Nowhere does it say “with or without treatment.” Most people assume this legislation is for people who have exhausted all their treatment options, but that is not what it says. I eat with a feeding tube and use respiratory support when I am sleeping. Without these treatments, I would not last six months. I would probably not last six days. What is to prevent someone like me from showing up at a doctor’s office and saying, “I have had enough. I will be stopping all my treatment”? While the typical population would receive suicide prevention services at that point, this person would be more likely to get compassionate nods of approval. 3 
• “Competent” is defined as allowing a third party to speak for a patient with a communication disability if that person claims to be “familiar with a patient’s manner of communicating.” What is to protect a patient with very difficult communication from having an exhausted caregiver misrepresent his or her wishes? 
• The proposed legislation says the prescription “may” be self-administered, not that it “shall be.” There is no language preventing another person from administering the prescription.
Unfortunately, adjusting the legislative language does not help. Proponents say that with adequate safeguards, no one is at risk. But in reality, no package of safeguards has ever or CAN ever be developed that will provide 100% protection from misdiagnosis, incorrect prognosis, coercion, or the devaluation of the lives of disabled people.

Finally, proponents’ repeated statements that there have been no problems with the Oregon and Washington State assisted suicide systems are false. There may be times when everything goes the way it is supposed to, but with over 1500 people dying under the law, it is hard for me to believe that no one died under questionable circumstances.

Even Dr. Katrina Hedberg of the Oregon Department of Human Services (who is a supporter of the state’s Death with Dignity law) said, “We are not given the resources to investigate [assisted-suicide cases] and not only do we not have the resources to do it, but we do not have any legal authority to insert ourselves.” Those words may be comforting to people whose want total privacy, but they send chills up my spine. We as a society cannot just set this in motion without any mechanism to protect people who will inevitably be taken advantage of. Privacy is certainly important, but so is balance, and there is no balance in this legislation.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund has written a report showing that the safeguards in the Oregon and Washington State laws have not always been effective, and that assisted suicide does not always result in a peaceful death. 4

Is it acceptable for some lives to be shortened because people are acting on a wrong prognosis, or because they are pressured into making this final move, so that others can exercise what they see as a personal right? The last thing my colleagues and I want is to interfere with anyone’s choice. But when this choice becomes legislation that poses a direct threat to us and to others in our network, we must emphatically say NO.

Even if you support this legislation in concept, there is just no way to avoid having some people die for the wrong reasons.

HB 5898 is bad medicine, bad for people, and bad public policy. Please stop it from moving forward.

Thank you for your consideration.

1 William J. Peace, “Comfort Care as Denial of Personhood”

2 John Norton, “Affidavit in Opposition to Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia”

3 Carol J. Gill, PhD, “Suicide Intervention for People with Disabilities: A Lesson in Inequality”

4 The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, “Some Oregon and Washington State Assisted Suicide Abuses and Complications” complications/

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice: Falsifying Death Certificates could have unintended consequences.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

In its testimony concerning the Connecticut assisted suicide bill H.B. No. 5898, the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice stated that it was neutral on assisted suicide but the section of the bill requiring physicians to falsify death certificates could lead to unintended consequences.

The Connecticut Divison of Criminal Justice told the committee examining the bill:
Section 9 (b) of H.B. No. 5898 effectively mandates the falsification of death certificates under certain circumstances. It states: “The person signing the qualified patient’s death certificate shall list the underlying terminal illness as the cause of death.” This simply is not the case; the actual cause of death would be the medication taken by or given to the patient. This language contradicts the death certificate form itself, which states for the person making the certification: “On the basis of examination, and/or investigation, in my opinion, death occurred at the time, date, and place, and due to the cause(s) and manner stated.”

This becomes problematic when read in conjunction with Section 14 of the bill, which criminalizes certain conduct with regard to the “aid in dying” as defined by the overall bill. The practical problem for the criminal justice system will be confronting a potential Murder prosecution where the cause of death is not accurately reported on the death certificate. Should the Committee choose to move forward with H.B. No. 5898, the Division would respectfully recommend that Section 9 (b) be deleted in its entirety.

Section 14 of the bill makes unnecessary changes to the statutory framework for what constitutes the crime of Murder, and the results can best be described as bizarre. As now written, there is no causation requirement, which is an essential element of the crime of Murder. Section 14 provides that a person is guilty of Murder when that person (1) willfully alters or forges a request for aid in dying or conceals or destroys a rescission of such a request with the intent or effect of causing the patient’s death; or (2) coerces or exerts undue influence on a patient to either complete a request for aid in dying or to destroy a rescission of such a request with the intent or effect of causing the patient’s death.

None of these proscribed acts causes death. In fact, under Section 14 death is not necessarily required before Murder could be charged. Willfully altering or forging a request for aid in dying, or concealing or destroying a rescission, may offer evidence of an intent to kill, but it does not cause death. Taking the fatal dose causes death and that is Murder only if the actor himself or herself administers it to the patient, or he or she coerces, forces or tricks a patient he or she knows does not want to die into self-administering the medication. Section 14 of the bill, and any associated references to it, must be deleted for these reasons.
The same problems exist with assisted suicide laws in other jurisdictions.

Legislators who support assisted suicide will vote in favor of the flawed legislation in order to legalize something that they philosophically support.

Many other problems exist with assisted suicide laws. These problems are ignored because legislators are blindly assured that these laws will not be abused.

The fact is that legalizing assisted suicide is a dangerous concept.

Ontario euthanasia deaths increase by 78% in 2018.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Last week I published an article explaining that the euthanasia "MAiD" deaths increased by more than 50% in 2018 from 2704 reported assisted deaths in 2017 to 4235 reported assisted deaths in 2018. The data was gleaned from a presentation by Jocelyn Downie for the Council of Canadian Academies on March 15, 2019 and from the data from the earlier federal government reports.

An article published in the Medicine Hat News stated that the Alberta Coroner reported that there were 205 reported assisted deaths in 2017 and 307 reported assisted deaths in 2018, a 50% increase.

I wondered why the federal government had not released the "MAiD" data and how Downie had accessed the data. I decided to send emails to several Provincial Coroner's offices requested the "MAiD" data. In response to my request, Roxanne Halko, Team Lead (MAID), Nurse Investigator from the Office of the Chief Coroner in Ontario sent me the "MAiD" data for Ontario, the largest Province in Canada. 

The 2018 Ontario report states that there were 2529 reported assisted deaths since legalization (June 17, 2016), the 2017 report stated there had been 1030 reported assisted deaths since legalization and the first federal government Interim report stated that there were 189 reported assisted deaths in 2016.

Therefore, according to the Ontario Coroner's office there were 1499 reported assisted deaths in 2018, 841 reported assisted deaths in 2017 and 189 reported assisted deaths in 2016.

I refer to reported assisted deaths since, according to the recent Quebec report, there were 142 unaccounted assisted deaths in Québec and according to a recent study, approximately 23% of the Netherlands assisted deaths are not reported.

According to the Ontario data, 2528 were done by lethal injection (euthanasia) and 1 was done by assisted suicide (lethal prescription).

The 2017 data indicates that 82% of the assisted deaths were done by a provider who did not have a relationship with the person who died. The 2018 report omits that data.

Since the federal government has been slow in releasing data, we will continue to search for more Canadian assisted death data.

Euthanasia: The myth of a good death.

This was written by Dr Luke Savage and published in the Medicine Hat News on March 22, 2019.

Euthanasia advocates often state that without MAiD, “we will never be able to have a good death.” This statement is frequently used as an argument that the current safeguards must be loosened so others can have “a good death.” This argument was recently put forward in the Medicine Hat News as a reason to allow advanced directives for euthanasia – specifying in one’s advanced care plan (similar to living will but for health care decisions) that they would like to be made dead at a certain point after they lose capacity to properly understand or make that decision. The Canadian Council of Academies studied the question of advanced directives in depth over the past 2.5 years and released their 244-page report last December. While there have been several high profile cases in the media pushing for advance directives, the CCA report enumerated multiple problems with that practice. My point here is not to argue advanced directives, but to explore a “good death.”

Is it really true that one can only have a good death if they have euthanasia (euphemised as MAiD)? Certainly one has control of the time and manner of death, and for some that is a critical comfort. Yet, studies have consistently shown assisted suicide or euthanasia are sought usually to help alleviate future unrealized fears – fear of suffering, fear of loss of control, fear of being a burden, fear of loss of dignity. The hope and care we offer to people with these fears should not be with a needle and syringe. It should be the hope that comes with human touch, spiritual and mental health care for existential concerns, and helping find meaning and purpose in the time remaining.

What is a good death? And does only MAiD provide it? Does that mean that everyone had a bad death prior to June 17, 2016 (the day Bill C14 was signed into law decriminalizing physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia)? Or that everyone that dies without MAiD now has a bad death? Have we been dying badly since time immemorial? Certainly people are fearful of what end of life, and particularly dementia, may bring. It has much stigma attached to it. Yet as a physician working in long term care centre where 90 per cent of residents have dementia, I have seen virtually everyone live out their lives naturally with dignity and peace. Very few pass away in pain. Family and friends have time to visit, and there is no rushed timeline.

None of the residents have ever brought up euthanasia – it’s only a few family members that ask, since it’s now legal and it’s hard to watch a loved one’s mind slow down and falter. Far from allowing a good death, MAiD for advance directives would put many at risk of premature and wrongful death. Some of these family members would push for euthanasia out of a false sense of compassion, to help ease their own suffering of watching the decline, but not their loved one’s suffering since they aren’t in distress. Alternatively, if one were to simply utter during their healthy years, “I wouldn’t want to live with dementia,” but then develop dementia later on, they are at serious risk of being taken at their previous word and given euthanasia. Indeed, this is already happening in the Netherlands, where a case report describes doctors going so far as holding a woman with dementia down to give her the fatal needle while she was kicking and screaming she wanted to live. That is not a good death.

A good death does not come from MAiD. It comes from a life well-lived, from beginning to end, and rising to the challenges that present themselves between those two goal posts. Yes, some endings are harder, more symptomatic, and I can understand the desire to skip the horrible parts. But how we face or endure those horrible parts is what truly defines us, not only as individual patients, but as communities who care and greater society at large.

Dr. Luke Savage
Three Hills, Alta.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Maryland assisted suicide bill dies in the Senate.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Maryland Senate, defeated the assisted suicide bill today in a tie vote. The Baltimore Sun reported:
Wednesday’s vote in the state Senate was on a rare roll call vote on second reading. Customarily, a second reading vote is a voice vote without a record made of who is voting which way. 
The vote was 23-23, one vote shy of the 24 votes needed in the 47-member Senate to advance the bill to a final vote.
A few days ago, the Baltimore Sun reported that the assisted suicide lobby were opposed to the amendments to the assisted suicide bill.

Even after the amendments, the bill was opposed by disability leaders who recognize how assisted suicide devalues and threatens the lives of people with disabilities.

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to defeat the Maryland assisted suicide bill.

Terrible decision by Ontario court in food and fluids case.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Several weeks ago the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition announced our intention to intervene in the Cement case, which was being heard by the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board. The Consent and Capacity Board is a judicial body that was established under the Ontario Health Care Consent Act to determine the course of treatment when a substitute decision maker disagrees with a proposed course of treatment that is being proposed by a hospital/doctors.

The Cement case concerns Hannah Cement, a 62 year-old woman with Down Syndrome and dementia, who is a life-long member of an Orthodox Jewish community and family. The substitute decision makers for Hannah, her family, refused to consent to a course of treatment that was comprised of the withdrawal of all treatment and care, including food and fluids and providing only comfort care.

John Campion, was the lawyer who represented the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. EPC was granted a limited intervention standing based on our concerns related to the physicians defining food and fluid as medical treatment.

Donate toward the cost of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition court intervention. (Link).
The substitute decision makers were willing to negotiate the level of care for Hannah but they were not willing to consent to the withdrawal of nutrition, hydration or ventilation.

The decision by Lora Patton, the Judge in this case, stating the following:

  • No further antibiotics will be offered in the event of and for the treatment of aspirations although these may be offered as required for comfort measures to relieve discomfort; 
  • No dialysis will be offered;
  •  No vasopressors will be offered; 
  • No CPR and no mechanical ventilation will be offered; 
  • Feeding will cease if any of the above treatments are required but for the operation of this order. 
  • All investigations and other interventions will cease. 
  • Comfort measures consisting of the administration of medications to ease suffering, pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, nausea, or any other symptoms, including bacterial infections, will be provided.
Patton ordered that the decision must be implemented by April 5, 2019.

This decision undermines the clear and unified wishes of the substitute decision makers (her family), it ignores the position of her life-long faith tradition, it will result in her dying by dehydration, and it is based on a discriminatory premise that Hannah's clear wishes cannot be ascertained because she has Down Syndrome.

I hope that this decision will be appealed and I hope that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will once again be given intervention standing in this case to argue why nutrition and hydration does not constitute a form of medical treatment, but rather normal care.

The significance of the Cement case.

This is a precedent setting case in Canada concerning the definition and provision of assisted feeding.

In 2014, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition intervened in the Bentley spoon feeding case. In February 2015, the BC Supreme court, in the Bentley case, decided that:

Oral nutrition – like spoon feeding – should not be considered health care or medical treatment, but rather seen as basic personal care and support.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal decided not to hear an appeal of the Bentley decision establishing the precedent that spoon feeding is not medical treatment.

If food and fluids are defined as medical treatment, then food and fluids can be withdrawn in the same manner as withdrawing or withholding any type of medical treatment.

For Hannah Cement, the withdrawal of fluids will cause her to die by dehydration.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Sheryl Grossman: Letter to Maryland Senators opposing assisted suicide bill.

Published by the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet, on March 25, 2019.

Dear Senator:

As a disabled MD resident, I implore you to vote no on this very harmful legislation. What has been marketed as a bill increasing choice of those with terminal illness (who almost always meet the federal definition of disability) in actuality reinforces stereotypes and systemic ableism that will do irreparable harm to disabled constituents and Marylanders as a whole.

I understand that several changes were made to the bill that some legislators believe will help protect disabled people from the harms of this bill, but they will not.

1. Raising the age that you can get the prescription from 18-21. This will not protect the most vulnerable–our elders who most report a fear of being a physical and/or financial burden on others. These folks are also most at risk of being pressured, or outright abused, by family members, or caregivers when they may not otherwise do so. Those who have intellectual/developmental disabilities who can pass the psychiatric test of knowing what can kill them or not, can still be easily swayed by those whom they trust to make decisions with them to take their lives when they may not otherwise do so. Nothing in this change will prevent these deaths.

2. Removing the shield that would protect Dr’s from being sued for prescribing the lethal drugs. Since the intended recipient of the lethal prescription dies after taking it, who will be there to sue the Dr? Especially considering that the pressure to take one’s life will likely be coming from a family member, or caregiver.

3. Adding a requirement for a mental health evaluation. This does not mean the provision of crisis intervention services, nor long-term mental health treatment. The kind of evaluation that is possible in the timeframe that this situation presents, is, as described in the original bill, enough time to determine that the person understands that taking this prescription will kill them. Cognitively understanding the consequences of taking this action is very different from psychologically making an informed decision based on all the facts. When someone acquires a life-changing diagnosis, it takes time to gather the available information and even more time to process this information and to connect with others and begin to cope with the new reality. When coupled with the addition of treatments or medications or therapies, the time needed to adjust to a new reality of life is often lengthened. This bill puts bookends on what services can be provided and in what timeframes while if someone in the general public says they want to kill themselves, we rush in crisis intervention services and usually follow-up mental health services. When someone acquires a disability, there are professionals available to assist with the adjustment to the “new normal” no matter how long that is, from a day to a few weeks or months, to forty years or more. As children, this function is often served by Child Life Specialists. As adults, this service is often provided by Centers for Independent Living. This bill undermines the efforts of these whole professions to assist disabled people to live our best lives. It reinforces the stereotype that our quality of life is poor and that we are not worthy of life, without giving us the chance to use all of the resources there for us.

4. Requiring that Dr’s give patients written information about treatment options available for their condition. First, they should be doing this already and if not, then that should be addressed in a different piece of legislation, that is a Dr.’s job. However, when someone receives a terminal diagnosis, treatment is no longer the major issue, adjusting to the new situation and living with the best possible quality of life should be the top priority. This is not a Dr.’s job, nor specialty. Nothing in this bill requires this piece, as I stated above. There are whole professions dedicated to helping people adjust to life situations. This bill makes the assumption that because of terminal diagnosis (presence of progressive disability), these services should not be required. This is ableist and discriminatory and will turn back the clock on the progress disabled people have made in Maryland.

5. Setting a stricter definition of who can qualify. Despite the tweak in the language, it is an established fact that accurately diagnosing someone as having an irreversible condition and that will result in death within 6 months is near impossible. I wasn’t expected to live past 2 and am 43 now. I wasn’t expected to survive the first 12 hours after chemotherapy and I am here 6 years and 2 cancers later. We have all heard of miraculous recoveries and I urge you to see that making a mistake is one thing, but allowing that mistake to lead to the prescribing of a lethal overdose is something completely different and should not be allowed.

I am including here my testimony from two years ago, most of which is still relevant to the bill before you now: (Link to previous testimony).

I urge you to vote NO on S311.

Thank you:

Sheryl Grossman
Community Living Advocate, National Organizing Project
National Council on Independent Living

Monday, March 25, 2019

Wesley Smith: Assisted-Suicide Advocates Oppose Restrictions in Assisted Suicide bill.

This article was published by National Review online on March 25, 2019

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

Assisted-suicide advocates sell their hemlock by promising “strict guidelines” to protect against abuse.

The thing is, the guidelines are never really “strict,” and they don’t offer much protection.

Convincing people of that can be daunting because it takes a lot of explaining. But something just happened in Maryland that illustrates the con in which the suicide pushers engage.

The usual kind of phony-baloney legalization bill passed the House of Delegates, but members of a Senate committee decided to add some — very soft — teeth to otherwise pretty meaningless guidelines. As a consequence, Compassion and Choices (formerly, the Hemlock Society) withdrew its support for the bill.

What were the protections C & C opposed? From the Baltimore Sun story:

Under the bill heading to the full Senate, a terminally ill patient with a prognosis of six months or less to live could request a prescription of fatal medication from their doctor. To qualify, the patient must: 
• Be at least 21 years old, a change from 18 in the original bill. 
• Have their diagnosis confirmed by their attending physician and a consulting physician. Those two physicians cannot be in the same practice or have a financial relationship. 
• Ask for the prescription three times, including once in private with a doctor and with witnesses. 
• Undergo a mental health evaluation. 
The senators also set a stricter definition of who would qualify, saying they must have an “irreversible” condition that affects their quality of life and that “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty” will result in death within six months. The original bill’s standard was “reasonable medical judgment” that the individual is likely to die within six months. 
Doctors also would be required to give patients written information about treatment options that are available for their condition. 
And the senators stripped a requirement in the original bill that would have shielded doctors from civil lawsuits related to prescribing the fatal drugs.
Don’t get me wrong. Assisted suicide should never be legalized. Dying people who ask for suicide should receive suicide-prevention services like all other suicidal patients. Their lives are just as important and valuable.

But when very modest additions to the usual “strict guidelines” pabulum — like the doctor having to provide written treatment options — are decried by activists as, “Too tough!”, the lipstick is off the pig.

C & C and I agree. Don’t pass the bill. Let assisted suicide die in the Maryland Senate.

Post Script: New Mexico just defeated assisted suicide. So did Arkansas. Let’s keep that string of successes going!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Euthanasia activist outlines expansion of euthanasia in Canada.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday I wrote about Canada's euthanasia statistics indicating that assisted deaths increased by more than 50% in 2018 representing approximately 1.5% of all deaths. 
The data was gleaned from a presentation by Canada's leading "academic" euthanasia activist, Jocelyn Downie, who was speaking at a Royal Society of Canada lunch lecture in Ottawa. 

In her presentation Downie stated that 7949 people reportedly died by MAiD in Canada as of December 31, 2018, meaning that there were reportedly 4235 assisted deaths in 2018, up from 2704 assisted deaths in 2017 and 1010 assisted deaths in 2016 (plus December 2015).

During her presentation, Downie, who was a Special Advisor to the Canadian Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide; author of the book Dying Justice: A Case for the Decriminalizing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada, a member of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making, a member of the plaintiffs’ legal team in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), a member of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying, and a member of the Canadian Council of Academies Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying, outlined her goals for expanding euthanasia in Canada.

Downie focused on the section of the law that limits euthanasia to people whose "natural death is reasonably forseeable." Downie admits that reasonably forseeable is undefined, but she also recognizes that this section of the law restricts people who are not terminally ill from accessing euthanasia. She stated that this section of the law is unconstitutional.

Downie then stated that it was unconstitutional to limit euthanasia to people 18 years and older. She advocated for the expansion of euthanasia to include children.

Downie spoke about the fact that the law does not prevent people with mental or psychiatric issues from dying by euthanasia, but the "natural death is reasonably forseeable" provision excludes people with psychiatric issues alone. Downie stated that restricting euthanasia to people whereby "natural death is reasonably forseeable" is unconstitutional therefore, when that is struck down, people with psychiatric issues alone will become eligible for euthanasia.

Downie commented on extending euthanasia to incompetent people who made an advanced request. Downie told the Audrey Parker story and claimed that denying euthanasia to incompetent people who made an advanced request forces people to die earlier and is therefore unconstitutional.

In the Q&A session Downie was asked about transferring patients from religiously affiliated hospitals for MAiD. Downie suggested that each hospital could have a room that is declared "extraterritorial" to enable MAiD to be done in Catholic hospitals.

The media, and groups like the Royal Society of Canada, continue to consider Downie as a neutral academic. Just to make things worse, in 2015 Downie was awarded a $225,000 research grant by the Trudeau Foundation to research Medical Assistance in Dying.

I find supposed academics dis-ingenuous that they insist on promoting "quasi-academic" research for the purpose of building a body of false precedents and accepted practises. Yes, I am referring to Jocelyn Downie.

When will the world stop hiring the fox to watch the hen-house?

Links to more articles concerning Jocelyn Downie.

Care Not Killing Alliance: Royal College of Physicians should ditch neutral position as doctors once again oppose assisted suicide.

Press Release issued on behalf of Care Not Killing
RELEASE TIME: March 21, 2019 (Link to release)
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) should ditch moving to a neutral position as doctors once again vote to oppose changing the law on assisted suicide, says Care Not Killing (CNK).

The survey, which was announced in January and carried out in February, asked fellows and members of the College their view on assisted suicide. However, in an unprecedented step, the RCP announced the College would change its stated policy position before members had cast a single vote and would remain neutral unless 60 per cent - initially two thirds - of respondents were against legalising assisted suicide.

The decision to require a supermajority and a change in position prior to consulting members was challenged by four doctors in the High Court. The doctors argued that the changes were unfair and would not be acceptable from any other organisation that has a privileged position and influence over public policy.

Dr Gordon Macdonald
Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, commented:

'Yet again doctors have shown they do not support changing the law on assisted suicide. Just one in four (24.6 per cent) of those polled would agree to be involved in killing their patients, while half of doctors (49.1 per cent) have yet again confirmed they oppose a change in the law. We hope that the RCP will listen to this message from their members and reverse their absurd decision to adopt a position that is the least popular and commands the support of just one in four of doctors.

'Most doctors are clear that they do not want a change in the law on assisted suicide or euthanasia. They recognise the problems of ripping up long-held universal values that protect the terminally ill, sick and disabled people from feeling pressured into ending their lives - as we have seen in US states of Oregon and Washington where a majority of those opting to kill themselves cite fear of becoming a burden.

'This is why our view is clear, society should be doing everything in our power to prevent suicide, not assist it. Thankfully this is a view shared by most of the medical profession, every major disability rights organisation and a majority of UK Parliamentarians who have consistently voted against changing the law.'
For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225.

Notes for Editors

The 2019 results in full:

1. What should the RCP's position be on whether or not there should be a change in the law to permit assisted dying?

a. In favour 31.6%, b. Opposed 43.4%, c. Neutral 25.0%
2. Do you support a change in the law to permit assisted dying?
a. Yes 40.5%, b. No 49.1%, c. Undecided 10.4%
3. Regardless of your support or opposition to change, if the law was changed to permit assisted dying, would you be prepared to participate actively?
a. Yes 24.6%, b. No 55.1%, c. Don't know 20.3%
Care Not Killing is a UK-based alliance bringing together around 40 organisations spanning disability rights, healthcare and faith groups, and thousands of concerned individuals. We have three key aims:
  • to promote more and better palliative care; 
  • to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed; 
  • to inform public opinion further against any weakening of the law.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Canada: Euthanasia deaths increase by more than 50%, to 4235, in 2018 and 7949 total euthanasia deaths.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide (euphemistically known as Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) data has been missing. I have received multiple inquiries asking how many Canadians have died by MAiD, now we have some data, but not from the government.

On March 15, 2019; Jocelyn Downie, Canada's leading "academic" pro-euthanasia activist spoke at a lunch lecture for the Royal Society of Canada in Ottawa. In her presentation Downie stated that 7949 people have reportedly died by MAiD in Canada as of December 31, 2018. Downie clearly has access to euthanasia data that is otherwise unavailable.

Since the Third Interim report on MAiD indicated that there were 3714 reported assisted deaths up until December 31, 2017, Downie's data indicates that there were 4235 assisted deaths in 2018, up from 2704 reported assisted deaths in 2017.

Based on Downie's data, in 2018, the number of reported assisted deaths increased by more than 50% and assisted deaths represented more than 1.5% of all deaths.

I refer to reported assisted deaths because there have been 142 unaccounted assisted deaths in Québec and approximately 23% of the Netherlands assisted deaths are not reported.

Last December Québec published euthanasia data indicating that 1664 people died by MAiD from December 2015 to March 31, 2018. The data also indicated that there were 171 missing reports and 142 assisted deaths that were unaccounted.

Jocelyn Downie
What else did Downie say?

Downie stated that 99% of the assisted deaths are euthanasia, 1% assisted suicide, 95% are done by physicians, 42% occur at home and 41% occur in a hospital.

Downie stated that no ineligible persons died by MAiD. I guess that Downie didn't read the Québec Interim report which stated that:
  • 3% (19 cases) did not comply with the eligibility criteria and safeguards, including:
  • 5 cases – Person did not have a “serious and incurable illness”; 
  • 2 cases – The person was not at the end of life.
For more information read: Third report from Québec's euthanasia commission - 142 unaccounted deaths.

According to the Downie data there were 4235 reported assisted deaths in 2018, 2704 assisted deaths in 2017 and 1010 reported assisted deaths (Dec 2015 - Dec 31, 2016). Similar to the Netherlands and Belgium, nearly all of the assisted deaths are euthanasia (done by lethal injection) rather than assisted suicide.

Tomorrow I will write about the rest of Downie's presentation.

Down Syndrome Awareness Day. The Ugly Truth Behind Eugenics.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. A day to build awareness and acceptance for diversity. A society cares for and accepts all people.

Down Syndrome is a human condition caused by an extra chromosone 21. The prevalance of Down Syndrome has dropped significantly with the advent of pre-natal testing combined with eugenic attitudes and fear associated with the differences exhibited by Down Syndrome. 

The eugenic attitudes and fear towards Down Syndrome persons is so pervasive that even the Wikipedia page on Down Syndrome has negative, offensive and eugenic information.

I want to live in a truly caring and accepting culture, one that doesn't judge people but rather accepts them for who they are and recognizes differences as part of a mosaic. I challenge a culture that judges certain conditions as not worth living. People with Down Syndrome offer happiness and acceptance.

Eugenics seeks to do the opposite of what I seek in a caring society. Eugenics creates inequality by determining which human traits are wanted and then eliminates those traits by denying people from being born, and if they are born, eugenics seeks to deny them the right of having a family. This philosophy leads to discrimination and death.

Yesterday, Connecticut Magazine published an article titled: The Ugly Truth Behind A Connecticut Eugenics Survey That Reads Like Nazi Propaganda. This article was sent to me by Stephen Mendolsohn, a disability leader and a friend.

The author of the article, Erik Ofgang, states that he thought that this was part of a conspiracy theory until he learned that it was all true, in all its ugliness. He writes:

The eugenics movement, which would ultimately inspire Adolf Hitler, was born in the second half of the 1800s. Inspired by Charles Darwin’s work, his half-cousin, Francis Galton, theorized that successful people could strengthen the human race by breeding with other successful people. Galton coined the term “eugenics” in 1883 from the Greek word for “well-born.” His work inspired widespread eugenics research and found many receptive ears in the U.S.
Ofgang continues:
...Research conducted by Laughlin and Davenport was used to justify the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited dramatically the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country from Southern and Eastern Europe. The term “moron” entered the lexicon in the early 1900s due to research from eugenist Henry H. Goddard.

The practice of forced sterilization of the “unfit” in Connecticut and across the country was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1927 Buck v. Bell case. “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. … Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in his infamous opinion in the case.
Ofgang then explains that there were plans to implement draconian eugenic laws
..In 1935, an act of the state’s legislature called for the formation of a commission to, in the words of its title, Study the Laws and Facilities of Connecticut Pertaining to the Prevention, Treatment and Care of Mental Defects and Disease and Allied Problems. Gov. Cross signed the act into law, and the commission was established in 1936 and appointed Laughlin, from the Eugenics Record Office, to commence the study. Laughlin set up shop in the State Office Building in Hartford, and with some assistants began collecting data on state residents. 

“Laughlin’s plan was to sterilize approximately 175,000 Connecticut residents — or about 10 percent of the state’s population,” writes Edwin Black, a journalist and author. “To save expense, others would not be sterilized but simply thrown out of the state. Immigrants would be deported to their native countries. Unfit Americans would be expelled to their family’s original locale.”
In case you think that eugenics is a part of the past, I ask you, why has Down Syndrome become a rare? Is it because medical science has found a "cure" for Trisomy 21? No its because society has been conditioned to fear Down Syndrome. Eugenics isn't only alive and well, its a dominate cultural belief that needs to be eradicated.

A caring society cares for and accepts everyone in the human family. A caring society doesn't kill its members.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Minnesota assisted suicide bill requires health care providers to refer for assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Minnesota Assisted suicide bill SF 2487 that was introduced by Senator's Carolyn Laine and Steve Cwodzinski requires 'health care providers' who oppose assisted suicide to refer for assisted suicide.

SF 2487 is an Oregon style assisted suicide bill that, among other concerns, expands the definition of who can prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs and it requires health care providers that oppose killing to refer.

SF 2487 Section 1, Subdivision 3 (c) states:

Failure to inform a terminally ill adult who requests additional information about available end-of-life treatments including medical aid-in-dying, or failing to refer the terminally ill adult to another health care provider who can provide the information, shall be considered a failure to obtain informed consent for subsequent medical treatment.
SF 2487 permits non-physicians to prescribe lethal drugs for assisted suicide. Section 1, Subdivision 2 (f) states: 
"Health care provider" or "provider" means a person who is licensed, certified, registered or otherwise authorized or permitted by law to administer health care or prescribe and dispense medication under the provider's scope of practice including:

(1) a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathic medicine licensed under chapter 147 or prior to May 1, 1963, sections 148.11 to 148.16;

(2) an advanced practice registered nurse licensed under chapter 148 and certified by a national nurse certification organization acceptable to the Board of Nursing to practice as a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner; and

(3) a pharmacist licensed under chapter 151.
Similar to other 2019 assisted suicide bills SF 2487 is part of the assisted suicide lobby's plan to expand the scope of assisted suicide legislation. New Mexico's assisted suicide bill was the most extreme bill I had ever seen, Deleware's bill redefines assisted suicide as palliative care while Oregon's assisted suicide bills expand the definition of terminal and eliminate the waiting period.