Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Latvia rejects euthanasia initiative.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Latvia Saeima
The Latvian public broadcaster LSM.LV reported that, after a long debate, the Latvian Saeima rejected a citizens initiative to legalize euthanasia by a vote of 49 to 38 with 2 abstentions. A citizens initiative collected 10,000 signatures which required the Saeima to debate the issue.

LSM reported that Saeima representatives saw the euthanasia debate as opening the door for better end-of-life care for Latvians. According to the report:
opposition MP Viktors Valainis (Union of Greens and Farmers) said euthanasia would be the easiest way for severely ill people to escape intolerable pain, yet it is “absolutely unacceptable” because it ignores a number of problems in palliative care. At the same time, the Member stated that he was prepared to do everything necessary to improve the medical sector in the country.
The Baltic News Network (BNN) provided an analysis of the debate. BNN reported:
Saeima deputy Anda Čakša said that the topic of For a Good Death is a call for help from residents. She believes there are two important aspects – the accessibility of analgesia and palliative care and what are the people’s rights to refuse aggressive health treatment.

According to Čakša, the topic of euthanasia should not be on the table while the issue of palliative care remains unresolved. The Saeima member said her faction [New Unity] will hold a free vote on this.
BNN also reported that Saeima deputy Andris Skride was preparing to introduce legislation. The report stated:
Saeima deputy Andris Skride, who is a cardiologist, admitted that representatives of the initiative have clearly shown – the problem exists. Working with patients suffering from all kinds of problems has taught him that there may be a need for euthanasia.

Skride agreed with Buks, adding that passive euthanasia in Latvia is not regulated. This is why he believes it is necessary to commence discussions on a legislative level. The deputy said he has prepared a legislative draft, which he plans to submit to one of the parliament’s committees for review.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition promotes caring for people, not killing people.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Australian nurse "Angel of Death" will not face criminal charges for killing a patient, but loses nursing license for two years.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Maura Kathryn Bannister
An Australian nurse who refered to herself as the "angel of death" lost her nursing license on March 19 but will unlikely face criminal charges.

On March 10, the Queensland (Australia) Civil And Administrative Tribunal of the nursing and midwifery board of australia, in the Bannister case decided to:

disqualify her from applying for registration as a health practitioner for a period of two years from the date of this decision, and

prohibit, under the National Law s 196(4), from providing any health service for a period of two years from the date of this decision.
An article by Lydia Lynch published in the Brisbane Times stated:

Maura Kathryn Bannister, 60, administered an unprescribed dose of morphine to an elderly and frail family friend who was receiving palliative care at home after a fall.

Knowing the woman had already taken one dose or morphine that morning, Ms Bannister then gave another dose “greater than that prescribed, without any direction from the general practitioner to do so”.

“Thereafter she did not render or arrange medical assistance for the lady, who passed away later that morning,” the findings read.

Lynch reports that Bannister referred to herself as the "angel of death" and stated that she was proud of what she had done.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) (August 3, 2017) published a Netherlands study titled: End-of-Life Decisions in the Netherlands over 25 years.

The study indicates that in 2015 there were 7254 assisted deaths (6672 euthanasia deaths, 150 assisted suicide deaths, 431 terminations of life without request) in the Netherlands. The Netherlands euthanasia law did not prevent 431 terminations of life without request.

The euthanasia lobby will argue that legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide will regulate and prevent these types of deaths, but in fact it normalizes it as an acceptable medical practise and makes it impossible to prevent or even censure someone who carries out similar acts.

Veterinarian suicide rate should concern physicians who do euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Concern related to the high rate of suicide among veterinarians is once again receiving media attention. An article published by KCTV news concerns the veterinary suicide rate in relation to the COVID-19 lockdown. The news article by Blake Keller for KCTV news states:
the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized this issue. A study conducted by them found female veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to take their lives compared to the general public. Males are up to two times more likely.
Keller interviews Dr Erin Howard who teaches at Baker College who states:
"It's been trending more and more so, especially over the last several years, COVID certainly hasn't helped things," 
"I'm afraid the numbers are going to be even worse the next time a study comes around when it includes what's happened in 2020."
CBC news reported about an online charity campaign called Not One More Vet that seeks to reduce the veterinary suicide rate. Veterinarian, Dr Darrell Stinson tells CBC news that:
"Veterinary medicine, unfortunately, has the highest suicide rate among professionals in the United States, and it's very close in Canada as well,"
An article in Time Magazine written by Melissa Chan looks at the question of veterinarian suicide rates. The article explains that there are several reasons for the higher suicide rate among veterinarians but it also shows how euthanasia has led some veterinarians to leave the profession or become suicidal.

The story Dr Nicole McArthur emphasizes how veterinary euthanasia is leading to suicide. Chan reports:
Dr. Nicole McArthur, a 46-year-old veterinarian in Rocklin, Calif., left the profession twice because of the agony she felt after killing an animal. “There was a period of time when I was essentially Dr. Death,” she says, adding that she’d sometimes have to put down three pets a day. “At the time, I was like, somebody is punishing me for something I’ve done in another life.” The dreams she had to help animals as an aspiring veterinarian quickly clashed with the harsh reality of having to take their lives even when they could have been surgically treated. She quit the field most recently in 2013 and returned in 2015. “We go through veterinary school with the idea that we’re going to save lives,” McArthur says. “To have to turn around and push a plunger is difficult.”
The suicide rate among medical professionals who do euthanasia is important now that Canada has legalized euthanasia and more US States have legalized assisted suicide.

Since physicians already have a high suicide rate, the data may not be noticed until future research is done on suicide rates among physicians who do euthanasia or assisted suicide. It is too early to do suicide research on euthanasia doctors in Canada, but research on doctors in the Netherlands and Belgium is possible.

Friday, March 26, 2021

California assisted suicide expansion bill (SB 380) will force physicians to refer patients to death.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I have written about the Washington State assisted suicide expansion bill (HB 1141) and the assisted suicide lobby's push to legalize assisted suicide in more US States, but the California assisted suicide expansion bill (SB 380), among other concerns, attacks conscience rights for medical professionals and institutions.

The current California assisted suicide law does not require medical professionals who oppose participation with killing their patients to refer their patients to a physician who is willing to prescribe their patients lethal drugs for assisted suicide.

SB 380 requires that anyone who requests lethal drugs from a physician who opposes assisted suicide, that the physician must be immediately refer that patient to a physician or facility willing to kill. SB 380 states: 

“failure to refer upon the individual’s request to another health care provider or health care facility that is willing to provide the information, is considered a failure to obtain informed consent for subsequent medical treatments.”
SB 380 also changes the definition of participation for health care facilities. The original law allowed health care facilities that object to assisted suicide to prohibit their employees from participating in assisted suicide. SB 380 changes the term participation to prescribing, meaning that an objecting facility cannot prohibit their employees from participating in the assisted suicide death of their patients, they can only prohibit their employees from prescribing the lethal drugs.

SB 380 also allows physicians to waive the 15 day waiting period.

The US assisted suicide lobby are promoting assisted suicide by expanding the existing assisted suicide laws to make it easier to obtain lethal drugs and expand eligibility, while also promoting the legalization of assisted suicide in more states.

For further information read:

  • California Bill to force MD participation in assisted suicide (Link) 
  • Preventing the spread of assisted suicide in America (Link).  
  • California assisted suicide deaths increase by 20% in 2019 (Link).

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Assisted suicide bill has foundation of abusive practices.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Daniel C. Schreck who is a bioethicist and a member of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the president, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities wrote a commentary that was published in the Greenwich Time on the Connecticut assisted suicide bill.

Schreck writes:
Assisted suicide, we are told, poses no threat to people with disabilities thanks to statutory safeguards: There is no record of abuse in states where assisted suicide is legal because there is none to be found. We are told that these straightforward laws have narrow eligibility for the terminally ill and are merely codifying the personal choice to end one’s terminal suffering. These are the facts, or so we are told.
Schreck then explains the facts:
The fact is, the Oregon Health Division’s 22 years of assisted suicide reports show that people with non-terminal disabilities receive lethal prescriptions every year and that pain is not even a top-five reason. Rather, a loss of autonomy and feeling like an emotional and/or physical burden to one’s family, consistently rank among the top reasons. Accordingly, those who access lethal prescriptions include those with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, liver disease, and Parkinson’s disease, among many other non-terminal medical conditions.

The fact is, many assisted suicide bills such as HB 6425 define “terminal” as “incurable” and “irreversible,” which greatly expands the eligible population. Would my little daughter Rose, who has Down syndrome, meet the genetic profile that some physicians would deem “incurable” and “irreversible”? As we at the National Council on Disability — an independent federal agency that advises the president and Congress — outlined in our recent report, “terminal” in assisted suicide laws doesn’t mean with treatment. Therefore, people with perfectly treatable disabilities die by assisted suicide every year.

The fact is, despite claims of enhancing autonomy, assisted suicide laws diminish its realization. Under HB 6425, the patient’s long-term doctor does not need to verify a lack of coercion, and the two witnesses required on the written request do not need to know the patient and can be an heir. Nothing in the bill can prevent an outside organization, friend, relative, or heir from “encouraging” a person to make the request, signing as a witness, picking up the prescription, and even administering the drug with or without consent. And, because no objective witness is required at death, who would even know?

The fact is, assisted suicide laws often foreclose rather than expand choice by creating perverse incentives for profit-driven health insurance providers to deny care to patients and to offer assisted suicide instead. Some of those providers are state-funded Medicaid programs, which in states that have legalized assisted suicide have denied coverage for curative treatments while paying for cheaper suicide drugs. In Oregon’s most recent annual assisted suicide report, people dying by assisted suicide who receive state-funded health care increased to an alarming 75 percent. Not being able to pay for expensive curative treatments out of pocket means suicide may be one of the only “treatments” to which one may have equal access. When financial pressures reduce life-giving options, personal autonomy is diminished. As we at NCD can attest to, persons with disabilities are still fighting for equal access to basic health care, and yet assisted suicide bills could give them one lethal choice while precluding others.
Schreck then comments on assisted suicide in relation to other suicides:
Since suicide is a societal and personal tragedy, and never a good, legalizing assisted suicide forces lawmakers to draw arbitrary distinctions between which suicides are “rational” and which should be prevented at all costs. State and federal governments invest heavily into efforts and programs to lower suicide rates among veterans, teenagers, first responders, and clinicians. And yet, just 10 years after the practice became legal in Oregon, the suicide rate was 41 percent higher than the national average. The line between who gets suicide prevention and who gets suicide assistance will always delineate some subset of people with disabilities if the practice becomes more acceptable.
The article concludes with the concern how assisted suicide devalues the lives of people with disabilities.
If law is the teacher, then this bill perversely devalues the lives of those with disabilities. Most assisted suicide laws refer to “dignity,” but suicide does not confer dignity, it undermines it. When assisted suicide becomes legal, lives are ended without consent through mistakes, abuse, societal pressure, and the unjust lack of better options. We should not make policies which see illness, disability, or age as something to be “cured” by death. Instead, millions of Americans with significant physical and developmental disabilities, like my daughter Rose, ought to be protected and loved for the inherent dignity they already possess.

More articles on this topic:

  • Assisted suicide lobby spreads falsehood to promote systematic ableism (Link).  
  • The extreme ableism of assisted suicide (Link). 
  • Federal study finds assisted suicide laws rife with dangers to people with disabilities (Link).

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nunavut mental health crisis: Assisted death provided, mental health treatment not provided.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Beth Brown reported for CBC news that the care of people with mental health concerns in Nunavut was not considered during the Bill C-7 debate, the recently passed bill that expands Canada's euthanasia law to include people with mental illness. 

Brown is reporting on a meeting organized by the Embrace Life Council in Nunavut to discuss Bill C-7.

Brown interviewed Kylie Aglukark the Embrace Life Council President who is concerned that people in Nunavut are currently being sent away to receive treatment. Aglukark states:
"We're required already to leave the territory to access basic services," Aglukark said.

This is especially true for people who have a severe and long-term mental illness that could lead to the level of suffering that would make a person eligible for assisted dying.

"We need more [mental health] services.
Senator Dennis Patterson, who represents Nunavut told Brown that:
...the federal government has failed to bring mental health treatment to Nunavut, and there aren't enough mental health services in the territory for people to get better.

"There are organizations working against suicide and for wellness who are concerned that making it easier to choose to die with a mental illness in Nunavut without mental health supports, than to go on living and become well, is not a fair choice,"
Brown reported that medically assisted dying can be made available in the territory for any patient who is eligible, Nunavut's Health department said in an email.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Beyond C-7 and death on demand -- competent choice is the new frontier, or death with no demand

Gordon Friesen
By Gordon Friesen, EPC board member

Euthanasia has two faces in Canada. The first is Voluntary Euthanasia, which is a practice based upon the assumed right of an individual to control his, or her, own destiny. Medical Assistance in Dying, on the other hand (as defined in Quebec Bill 52, 2014), is a benign medical procedure, objectively indicated in cases involving “intolerable suffering” and “irremediable decline”.

Medical Assistance in Dying, therefore, is not simply a “horse of a different colour”, intruding upon our earlier assumptions. It is, in fact, an entirely different animal. For the desirability of medical procedures is not a function of the patient’s will. Wounds are bound in certain fashions, not because the patient wishes it to be so, but because clinical methods have so evolved through the experience of medical theory and practice. It doesn’t matter whether a patient is “capable”, or even conscious: wounds will be bound in the same manner. More generally: specific medical acts are practiced, in specific circumstances, because that is the correct medical thing to do. And accordingly, in virtue of the political definition of euthanasia (as a benign and high priority medical act): it is now a legal and professional fact that euthanasia is considered the “right” thing to do in cases of suffering and decline.

There was, of course, for a time, another requirement for the medical indication of euthanasia, which was the presence of a “reasonably foreseeable death” (as implied in the Quebec definition of “end of life” care, and as murkily defined in Canadian Bill C-14). With the passage of Bill C-7, however, that requirement is now swept away. All that remains of earlier, socially demanded “safeguards”, at this point, is the requirement that the person be either “competent” or “capable”, to “voluntarily request” or to “give informed consent” to euthanasia (depending in each case, on which line of that legislation we are reading).

I will not embark, here, on a discussion of the intended meaning of these divergent terms (even though they are highly significant), because I do not want to lose sight of this one main point : that it has always been assumed -- as the fundamental justification for legalization -- that Physician-Assisted-Suicide, come Voluntary-Euthanasia, come Medical-Assistance-in-Dying, must be the accomplishment of a fully competent and informed choice.

However, As I began by writing, euthanasia practice has two faces in Canada; and has actually been defined in two different and contradictory ways.

As stated above: clinically indicated medical procedures (to squarely face this unsettling horn of the dilemma) have no dependence upon choice, informed or otherwise. Quite to the contrary. In the case where a person is “incapable” of choosing for themselves, it is our collective duty and sacred responsibility to choose for them. In all probability, therefore, the next stop on the euthanasia train will involve this inevitable showdown between “competent choice”, and what our utilitarian brethren would qualify as “good medicine”; a central conflict within existing law that must apparently be settled by clarifying legislation, or through the courts.

But what are the practical implications of these facts (or, to be plain: So what)?

Simply stated: Euthanasia, in Canada, now provides the conceptual framework for killing the entire population of “incapable” persons among us.

And how so? Because “incapacity” is itself a “grievous and irremediable” condition, normally accompanied by “intolerable suffering” (according to the exterior judgement of those tasked with the care of such individuals). The only outstanding requirement, therefore, would be a judicially sanctioned affirmation of the need to allow substitution of judgement, for competent consent (where this latter is impossible).

And that means what to me?

Sixteen years ago, there was a famous case in Florida, involving a brain injured lady named Terri Schiavo. Concerned people, at that time, either defended, or lamented, the “medical” decision to withdraw food and fluids from Terri from (against the wishes of her parents, but in harmony with those of her husband). My personal opinion, I believe, although different from either faction in the absolute sense, still holds some merit. For I was sensitive to what Terri meant for my life in society. If, as I believed, Terri was in a vegetative state, then removing life-support would cause no harm. However, keeping people like Terri, alive, with simple food and fluid, provides the guarantee that others in a more questionable state would also be cared for. And thus, by degrees, I came to believe that Terri’s survival would guarantee my own survival, should I have the unfortunate luck to find myself hospitalized in an ambiguous condition, and perhaps, faced with professionals of a more determined and “realistic” utilitarian persuasion.

Already, at that time, therefore, essential questions were being asked regarding where exactly to draw the line in protecting the physical and social security of the “most vulnerable”. However, with the idea of Medically Administered Death (MAD) we have taken a giant step beyond the context described. And that is because Terri was already considered as “dead” and therefore could not be “killed”. Euthanasia, on the contrary, as defined in Canada, allows killing dependant people who are clearly alive, in every legal sense of the term. And that represents a quantum leap in both ethics and practice.

A call to proactive mobilization

This question, I believe, is of the greatest possible importance. It is also of the greatest urgency. For we are already arguing the “capability” boundary (mature minors, and advance directives). Indeed, we have already overstepped that boundary in the case of psychiatric patients.

Happily, this time there will be no need to fight a depressing rear-guard delaying action similar to our recent disappointment with “foreseeable death”. In that case, we were clearly doomed to failure because autonomous choice, and utilitarian medical ethics, were fully aligned against us. With regards to the “capability” question, however, we can truly “sock it to them”! Clearly, a reputed “right” of competent choice can NEVER justify the slaughter of the incompetent; we must demand positive legislative clarification of these ambiguities and contradictions. Immediately. Now. What is it to be (we must ask)? Is MAID an affirmation of sovereign personal choice? Or is it a medical scheme to end "suffering" by killing?

Entirely new strategic possibilities are opened with these questions; having now conceded (perforce) the central question of “freedom”, we will now be free ourselves, to reach many well meaning people who have steadfastly ignored our warnings to this point; now, that is, that the dominoes are threatening to fall closer to home. For although it might seem that the medical industry could be rationalized with euthanasia as a safety valve, or that the resources saved on the “irremediable” might be spent better elsewhere, for other interests: sooner or later, such opportunistic calculations will inevitably turn and bite. “Me today, you tomorrow” is how Alexandr Solzhenitsyn recorded the cynical catch-phrase of his Bolshevik tormentors. Or as German pastor Martin Niemoller phrased a similar idea: “First they came for the socialists ...”

It is my belief, indeed, that if we do not defend this bright line of competent choice -- together, right now -- then sooner, or later, we can expect “them” to come for us all.

Gordon Friesen, Montreal,

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Conservative Party of Canada re-affirms opposition to (MAiD) euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) re-affirmed their opposition to (MAiD) euthanasia and assisted suicide at this weekend's online policy convention.

John Paul Tasker reported for CBC news that the CPC convention voted on two policies concerning MAiD and upheld their opposition to medical killing. Tasker reported:
Delegates also rejected a modification to the policy book that would have changed the party's stance on medical assistance in dying — swapping the statement that the party would not support any legislation that would "legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide" for one that says it would oppose "the extension of euthanasia and assisted suicide" to minors and people living with "psychological suffering."

This policy modification may have been rejected because delegates also voted for a similarly worded resolution that reaffirms the party "opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide" and will stand against any expansions of the current law. The federal government recently extended access to medical assistance in dying with Bill C-7.
The CPC overwhelmingly supported the original policy at their Halifax Convention in August 2018.

Previous CPC Policy conventions supported conscience rights for doctors, nurses and others, and opposed the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) does not support a political party. We support candidates and elected representatives from all political parties that oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Now that the Conservative Party of Canada has approved these policies, EPC will urge them, and others, to act on these policies.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Psychiatrist and disability leaders react to Canada's expansion of euthanasia

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Omar Sachedina and Brooklyn Neustaeter published an article for CTV news concerning the reaction of proponents and opponents to Bill C-7, after it passed.

The two interviews of concern were with Jewells Smith, the Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and Psychiatrist, Dr John Maher.

Smith stated that expanding assisted dying in Canada concerns racialized and disabled communities based on inadequate community supports. Smith said:
"It's a lot cheaper for the government to offer medical aid and dying than to offer the services people with disabilities need to live full lives," Jewells Smith, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said in an interview from B.C.
Dr John Maher
Dr Maher responded on how Bill C-7 will affect his psychiatric patients. Dr Maher told CTV National News:
that the upcoming rules that could allow medical assistance in dying solely because of a mental illness don't take into account that those suffering from severe illness may not be capable of making the best decision for themselves.

"Last week I had a patient in her 30s who refused treatment who wants MAID. This is a young woman, who will get better who literal has --she's in her 30s -- she has at least 50 years of life left,"
The euthanasia lobby claims the expansion of euthanasia is a victory for freedom. People with disabilities and those who live with mental illness, who will die a premature death, do not represent a victory but rather Canada's shame.

Kelly Block (MP) sponsors Bill C-268 - Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kelly Block, a Member of Parliament from Saskatchewan has sponsored Private Members Bill C-268: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (intimidation of health care professionals) cited as the Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act. Bill C-268 is scheduled for its first hour of debate on May 27, 2021.

Sign the EPC petition supporting Bill C-268 (Link).
Bill C-268 is similar to Bill C-418 that was sponsored by David Anderson MP in the previous parliament.

Bill C-268 protects conscience rights for medical professionals by preventing coercion and intimidation to participate in acts and protects their employment for medical professionals who conscientiously object to certain acts. 

Bill C-268 amends Section 241.5 (1) of the criminal code to state:

Every person who, for the purpose of compelling a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or other health care professional to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying, uses violence or threats of violence, coercion or any other form of intimidation, is guilty

Bill C-268 also amends Section 241.5 (2) of the criminal code to state:

Every person who refuses to employ, or dismisses from their employment, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or other health care professional for the reason only that they refuse to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assist­ance in dying is guilty
Sign the EPC petition supporting Bill C-268 (Link).  

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition supports Bill C-268 and we will keep you up-to-date with the progress of the bill.

More information on this topic:

  1. Assisted suicide and conscience rights must be reconciled (Link).  
  2. Physicians should not be forced to make referrals for MAiD (Link). 
  3. Dr Leonie Herx: Without my conscience rights I cannot be a good physician for my patients (Link).
  4. A growing number of Canadian physicians are being bullied to participate in MAiD (Link).

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Spanish Parliament passes euthanasia bill. Law may be challenged to Spain's Constitutional Court.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Spanish parliament passed the euthanasia bill with a vote of 202 to 141 (2 abstentions). The Vox party has stated that it will challenge the euthanasia law before Spain's Constitutional court.

On March 15, Portugal's Constitutional Court rejected a similar euthanasia bill that was passed by Portugal's parliament on January 29.

The lower house approved the bill even after the Spanish Bioethics Committee unanimously rejected the proposed bill in their October 6 report which stated:
The bill is invalid not only because it decriminalizes euthanasia as an exception to the general rule requiring life to be protected, but also because it recognizes death as a right that can be incorporated into the list of public health benefits, the committee noted.

The CBE pointed out that “a person’s desire for a third party or the state itself to end his life, directly or indirectly, in those cases of great physical and/or mental suffering, must always be viewed with compassion and met with effective compassionate action leading to the prevention of pain and a peaceful death.”

"Legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide entails setting out on a path toward the devaluation of the protection of human life whose boundaries are very difficult to foresee, as the experience of our circumstances shows us.”

The committee stressed that “euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are not signs of progress but rather a regression of civilization, since in a context in which the value of human life is often conditioned by criteria of social utility, economic interests, family responsibilities and the burden to the public or public spending, the legalization of early death would add a new set of problems.”
Euthanasia is wrong because it permits the killing of people, nonetheless, the disability community in Spain needs to strongly speak up. This legislation threatens their lives.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Canada passes Bill C-7 - permitting euthanasia for mental illness.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg
On March 11, the Liberal government, with the support of the Bloc Quebecois (BQ), forced a closure of debate on Bill C-7, Canada's euthanasia expansion bill, and then passed Bill C-7, with the Senate amendment approving euthanasia for mental illness alone, once again with the BQ supporting the Liberals.

On March 17, Canada's Senate passed Bill C-7.

Bill C-7 was introduced in February 2020 as the government's response to the Quebec Superior Court's Truchon decision which struck down the part of the law requiring that a person's natural death be reasonably foreseeable before they could be killed by euthanasia. The government did not appeal the Truchon decision. Bill C-7 goes much further than Truchon required.

You may remember, that parliament passed Bill C-7 in December 2020. Bill C-7 then went to the Senate for further study and a vote.

The Senate amended Bill C-7 to clearly allow euthanasia for people with mental illness and for incompetent people who asked for death by lethal injection in their advanced directive.

The Senate amendments came back to parliament where Justice Minister David Lametti rejected the amendment approving euthanasia for incompetent people who asked for it in their advanced directive but he approved euthanasia for mental illness with the caveat that euthanasia for mental illness be stayed for 24 months to give the government time to develop protocols.

What did Bill C-7 do before it was amended?

1. Bill C-7 removed the requirement in the law that a person’s natural death be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for assisted death. Therefore, people who are not terminally ill could die by euthanasia. The Truchon decision only required this amendment to the law, but Bill C-7 goes further.

2. Bill C-7 permits a doctor or nurse practitioner to lethally inject a person who is incapable of consenting, if that person was previously approved for assisted death. This contravenes the Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision which stated that only competent people could die by euthanasia.

3. Bill C-7 waives the ten-day waiting period if a person's natural death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable. Thus a person could request death by euthanasia on a "bad day" and die the same day. Studies prove that the “will to live” fluctuates.

4. Bill C-7 creates a two track law. A person whose natural death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable has no waiting period while a person whose natural death is not deemed to be reasonably foreseeable would have a 90 day waiting period before being killed by lethal injection.

5. Bill C-7 (originally) falsely claimed to prevent euthanasia for people with mental illness. The euthanasia law permits MAiD for people who are physically or psychologically suffering that is intolerable to the person and that cannot be relieved in a way that the person considers acceptable. Mental illness, which is not defined in the law, is considered a form of psychological suffering. Now parliament has specifically approved euthanasia for mental illness.

Bill C-7 went much further than the Quebec Superior Court Truchon decision and now that parliament has approved euthanasia for mental illness alone, Bill C-7 is much worse.

Bill C-7 will now go back to the Senate for debate and a vote. The Senate may once again amend the bill, sending it back again to parliament nonetheless, the damage has been done.

But there is good news.

Incredible numbers of Canadians woke up to the reality of euthanasia for mental illness alone would mean for Canada. More than 53,000 people signed our petition opposing Bill C-7 and more than 18,000 people signed our petition opposing euthanasia for mental illness.

Almost universally, people with disabilities recognized that Bill C-7, directly affects them.

Many medical professionals responded to Bill C-7, especially since the law is out-of-control without even providing them with effective conscience protections.

The battle is not over.

Many people have contacted me feeling tired and down. They cannot believe that Canada's government would permit euthanasia for people with mental illness alone. I also feel tired, but never down.

The fact is that the Liberal government, the BQ and the euthanasia lobby have clearly told Canadians where they stand. They are not concerned about the lives of people with disabilities or those who live with chronic conditions. They are not concerned about people who struggle with mental illness or other psychological conditions. They are not concerned about people who are at a vulnerable time of their life. They are not concerned about honesty and transparency.

More and more our message is accepting the challenge of caring for our family, friends and neighbours. Protecting the equality and life of people with disabilities and other chronic conditions is about recognizing that we live in solidarity with others.

Caring for and protecting others is based upon recognizing that each human being has equality which  cannot only be recognized by words but by actions.

Death is truly dignified when it is shared with those who care about that person until their natural death.

Going over the Falls with (MAiD) euthanasia

This reflection by Dr John Maher was republished with permission. It was also published by the Globe and Mail on March 17, 2021.

Several years ago I was on the promenade at Niagara Falls with my 3 young children. As we stood at the railing some 20 feet from the roaring cascade, with a cooling mist on our hot summer faces, a young man, maybe 18 years old, climbed over the low railing and walked out to a small rock promontory that jutted out immediately over the 150 drop onto the rocks and churning waters. The happy crowd of tourists seemed to magically come to a standstill as everyone looked at the young man and knew that a life stood in the literal balance. The young man looked down and never back. His clothing was dirty and he seemed like he was talking to himself. An existential conversation, or hearing voices, or both?

I am a father. I turned my children away from what I feared was about to happen. They, all under 9, asked, “didn’t that man know it was dangerous to get that close to the edge… it was wet and he might slip”. They were scared for him. So was I.

Dr John Maher
I am a psychiatrist. I wondered, what could I do? What should I do? He couldn’t hear anyone over the thunder of the water. I weighed trying to grab him and pull him back, but knew I could go over with him. Would I risk dying to save him? What of my children that I was shielding and held close?

The world stood still. Seven very long minutes. No one watching moved, and the dead still crowd had grown to hundreds watching from the safety of the low fence. A fence that any one of us at any moment could easily step over.

I knew the suicide numbers for Canada. Of the 100% of people who attempt suicide, 23% try again, but only 7% complete suicide. That 7% is 4000 human beings each year. I knew that most suicidal thinking is ambivalent and transient and that people can be helped. Would this young man, with a whole life ahead of him, choose help?

I am also an ethicist. Last night I watched the televised proceedings from the House of Commons as the Liberal government shut down debate on the MAID bill. As I listened to the combined pleas of the Conservatives, NDP, and Green Party (right joined with left in their common humanity) to not extend Medical Assistance in Dying to people with mental illness I thought of Niagara Falls. 

The image that came to mind was the young man on the edge of life with two groups standing to either side of him. On one side, stood a Liberal MP and a Bloc Quebecois MP saying to the young man that they respect his autonomous right to choose death, and that if he has been suffering a lot and has a mental illness, that is good enough for them, and they will get a doctor who can push him over the edge. On the other side stood a Conservative MP, an NDP MP, and a Green MP. They told the young man that he mattered, that despite what he might be feeling right now, there was hope. They said they would try to help. They would try to get him some money so he wasn’t living in poverty. They would try to get mental health care for him, even though it was hard to find and there are long wait lists. They would try to get people to stop making fun of him because of his mental illness. And in that moment they held the doctor back who was all too ready to give a hefty push in the name of autonomy.

What happened that day? He turned back from the edge. In a daze, in his own world, he climbed the railing. Strangers spontaneously hugged him. Some cried. He was genuinely surprised by the attention and seemed pulled into the sudden awareness that he was not alone. Several people walked away with him, fearing leaving him alone when he was fighting despair. I want to believe he got help and is living a good life.

He was a stranger, but his life mattered. Which side of him would you stand on? 

John Maher MD FRCPC
Psychiatrist, Canadian Mental Health Association
President, Ontario Association for ACT & FACT
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Ethics in Mental Health

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Portugal's Constitutional Court rejects euthanasia law

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On March 15, Portugal's Constitutional Court rejected the euthanasia bill that was passed by Portugal's parliament on January 29.

On February 19, President Marcelo de Sousa decided not to sign the bill into law but to refer it to the Constitutional court for evaluation. President de Sousa was stated that the bill was: "excessively imprecise," potentially creating a situation of "legal uncertainty."

The Portuguese American Journal reported that the Constitutional court decided:
“the law is imprecise in identifying the circumstances under which those procedures can occur.” The court stated the law must be “clear, precise, clearly envisioned and controllable.” The law lacks the “indispensable rigor.”

The Portuguese American Journal also reported that the ruling Socialist Party will reword the bill and pass it again. They reported:

Following the Court rule, the law was swiftly vetoed today by the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and returned to Parliament. The ruling Socialist Party has already stated that it will reword the legislation and pass it again.

Similar to Canada's euthanasia law, the bill allowed euthanasia based on subjective not objective considerations. Even if the "suffering" can be alleviated, euthanasia would be permitted based on whether or not the person considers the treatment acceptable.

The term suffering included psychiatric suffering, which permits euthanasia for psychiatric conditions, even when the person asking to be killed considers the treatment options unacceptable.

The term permanent injuries specifically permits euthanasia for people with disabilities.

In July, 2020 I reported that the Portuguese Medical Association, that opposes euthanasia, informed the government that they will not permit doctors to participate on the euthanasia commission (the commission to approve euthanasia). At the same time, a group of 15 law professors, including Professor Jorge Miranda, known as the father of Portugal's Constitution, stated that the euthanasia bills are unconstitutional.

Portugal needs to care for and not kill its citizens.

New Mexico poised to legalize assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Associated Press reported that New Mexico's Senate passed an amended version of assisted suicide Bill HB 47 by a vote of 24 to 17. HB 47 had passed in the House, without amendments, by a vote of 39 to 27. The bill will go back to the House for a vote on the Senate amendments.

Deborah Armstrong (D) who sponsored HB 47 also sponsored the two previous assisted suicide bills.

Senator Joseph Cervantes sponsored amendments to HB 47 that passed. The amendments:
  1. Deleted Section 7 which required falsification of the death certificate.
  2. Deleted Section 8 which allowed life insurance or annuities to be collected.
  3. Eliminated civil immunity from Section 9 for prescribers of lethal drugs.
  4. Eliminated a provision which opened health care facilities to liability if they prohibit employees from participating in assisted suicides.
I was frustrated when presenting to the New Mexico legislative committee on HB-47. The "expert" witnesses claimed that HB 47 is one of the tightest assisted suicide bills anywhere. In reality HB 47 is the widest assisted suicide bill in America.
All current assisted suicide laws require physicians to approve and prescribe lethal drugs. HB 47 allows non-physicians defined as "health care providers" which includes physicians, or licensed physician assistants, or osteopathic physicians, or nurses registered in advanced practice to approve or prescribe lethal drugs.

All current assisted suicide laws require a psychologist or psychiatrist to counsel a person, when a "health care provider" questions the ability of a person to consent. HB 47 defines counselors as: state-licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, master social worker, psychiatric nurse practitioner or professional clinical mental health counselor.

Unlike existing assisted suicide legislation, HB 47 does not require a 15 day waiting period but only requires a 48 hour waiting period that can be waived if the health care provider believes that the person may be imminently dying. Therefore HB 47 technically allows a same day death. A person could request assisted suicide on a "bad day" and die the same day. Studies prove that the “will to live” fluctuates.

HB 47 Section 3 (G) waives the requirement that a person's condition be confirmed by a second health care provider if the person requesting assisted suicide is enrolled in a hospice program. This is the only assisted suicide bill that waives the requirement that a second health care provider assess the requester.
They expert witnesses also claimed that HB 47 had iron clad conscience protections for health care providers. The reality is that HB 47 trampled on conscience rights.
HB 47 states that health care providers who are unwilling to carry out a request for assisted suicide shall inform the individual and refer the individual to a health care provider who is able and willing to carry out the individual's request or to another individual or entity to assist the requesting individual in seeking medical aid in dying.

Therefore a conscientious objector must participate in the act by referring the patient for assisted suicide to a health care provider who is willing to prescribe lethal drugs.
In 2019 Deborah Armstrong, sponsored assisted suicide bill, HB 90, which I called the most extreme assisted suicide bill in America. Among other concerns, HB 90 allowed assisted suicide for psychiatric conditions, to be done to someone with an undefined "terminal prognosis," to be done by nurses and physician assistants, and it even allowed it to be approved via telemedicine.

The amended bill will likely pass in the House. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has stated that she will sign the bill into law.