Tuesday, June 29, 2021

British Columbia cancer patient was pushed toward (MAiD) euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Joan Rohoway with family
Terry O'Neill, writing for the BC Catholic, has uncovered another story of a person who was pressured toward euthanasia. The story concerns Joan Rohoway (84) who is dying from cancer. Joan, her daughter Pamela and son-in-law Alain tell O'Neill how Joan was pressured to euthanasia, but the family faught back. O'Neill writes:

The setting is the Seguin-Rohoways’ Surrey home. Joan rests quietly as the three others discuss her rapidly fading health, her quality of life, and – most important – the pressure that Pamela and Alain say medical personnel exerted on Joan so she would agree to be killed under the provisions of Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) protocols.

After several minutes during which Pamela and Alain talk about Joan’s opposition to MAiD, she suddenly speaks. “I want to live,” she says with a light but distinct voice. Her intention made clear, she goes silent.

The declaration brings a smile to the faces of Pamela and Alain, confirming for them that a two-week-long fight they waged with the Fraser Health Authority on her behalf was the correct one.

O'Neill explains what happened:

The family’s battle with Fraser Health began in late May while Joan was a patient in the cancer and palliative-care wards at Surrey Memorial Hospital. Alain told The B.C. Catholic that, unbeknownst to him and his wife, an oncologist visited his heavily medicated mother-in-law while she was alone and then initiated a discussion about MAiD.

In a separate interview, Pamela added that when her mother asked about treatment options, the doctor said there were none for her late-stage cancer, but opened up discussion about MAiD. Alain said Joan would never have asked about MAiD and would never have agreed to it. Nevertheless, he said the doctor insisted that Joan had agreed to it.
The family was shocked by assertion that Joan asked for euthanasia:
Alain and his wife said they were shocked to be told that Joan had accepted MAiD. “I was aghast, I was angry,” Alain said. “It was done so underhandedly. To me, [the subterfuge] was intentional.”

He added, “The way they handled it was poor, where the doctor went ahead and put the idea in my mother-in-law’s head.”
O'Neill explains how Fraser Health threatened to remove guardianship from her family in order to continue with the MAiD order.
The couple complained to the hospital about the MAiD order, but when they met with a nurse and social worker were told Joan had requested MAiD three times. The MAiD declaration stayed in place, even during the days after they brought Joan home on June 7 for palliative care. (Widowed two years previous, Joan had moved in with Alain and Pamela last September.)

Pamela said that when two new FHA health-care workers visited two days later, ostensibly to check her bed sores, they spoke only about the possibility of Joan’s entering a hospice and accepting MAiD, then threatened to file papers to obtain legal guardianship of Joan if Pamela and Alain continued their opposition.

Pamela said she told the two that she believed they were “pushing death” on her mother, and that Joan would never in her right mind agree to it. “You brainwashed her,” she recalled saying to the two.

The issue was finally resolved two days later with the visit of two new health-care workers. “I think they came to smooth the waters,” Alain said. With Alain and Pamela present, the two asked Joan if she wanted MAiD. “She said, ‘Absolutely not, I want to stay here,’” Pamela recalled. “The two then said, ‘OK.’”
Dr Will Johnston
O'Neill interviewed Dr Will Johnston, the Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition BC who stated:
“Altruism for some Fraser Health bureaucrats takes the form of putting medically hastened death squarely in front of everyone whose life looks low quality to euthanasia-minded staff,” Johnston said in an interview.

“Suicide prevention is not on their radar. In my opinion, the chain of command Is intolerant of any impediment to access far more than it cares about cutting a life short. This has become a juggernaut.”

Referring to the Rohoway case, Dr. Johnston concludes, “Families just get in the way, as can be seen by the threats thrown at these loving people by that social worker.”
A similar situation happened to Candice Lewis in Newfoundland when she and her mother were pressured to ask for an assisted death in August 2016.

The tactics to promote (MAiD) euthanasia have led to the deaths of incompetent people, such as Alan Nichols and the death of elderly people who died by MAiD without any known medical condition.

The Canadian government is currently studying further expansions of euthanasia, such as euthanasia (MAiD) by advanced directives, but is the government committee even concerned about the deaths related to the mis-use of the law?

Monday, June 28, 2021

Canada's mad rush to implement MAiD.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Peter Stockland who has followed the issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide for many years published a comment yesterday on the mad rush to implement more (MAiD) euthanasia in Canada. Stockland comments on the passing of Bill C-7, the bill that expanded euthanasia. He wrote:
My own sense is that ... an enduring legacy of the past 15 months might be a dawning awareness of the correlative radical expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying, a legal euphemism conflating two distinct acts previously criminalized as euthanasia and assisted suicide.

It’s an immense understatement to note that the MAiD-expanding legislation that passed through Parliament in parallel with the eruption and quelling of COVID was overshadowed by the entirely justifiable focus on the pandemic. But the shade on MAiD could conceivably lift when we enter another phase in March 2023 and federal law alters again to permit life-ending injections for mentally ill Canadians.
Stockland refers to the expansion of euthanasia in Canada as a revolution.
We can agree or disagree about MAiD as a measure. We can approve or disapprove of it in principle and practice. But the legislative alterations that occurred within the pandemic penumbra – and those yet to come – represent a revolution in our understanding of what health care is and, more profoundly still, our shared conception of what human life is.
Stockland comments on the revolution to expand euthanasia to people with mental illness.
On February 24th, 2020, I was in the theatre of the National Press Building as Justice Minister David Lametti and Health Minister Patti Hajdu introduced expanded MAiD legislation. At the press conference, I specifically asked Minister Hajdu whether the changes might put mentally ill Canadians at risk. She insisted the government had no intention of making MAiD an option for the mentally ill.

On March 17, 2021, a mushroomed version of the original expansion passed in both the Commons and Senate. In one year – a year of the worst pandemic to strike Canada in more than a century – Canada’s medically assisted dying law had transformed to the point where expert critics said it allowed for individuals – soon to include those with severe psychiatric conditions – to request MAiD in the morning and receive it by evening.
Stockland stresses the speed at which Canada has expanded its euthanasia law
Again, whether we agree or disagree with MAiD, a single year to legalize such a wholesale change about the ending of human life signals a country moving away from its past at warp speed and toward…what? In fact, COVID disruptions of Parliament meant the bill died and had to be reintroduced in October. Full-time focus on the legislation was little more than five months – months when the nation was riveted by pandemic lockdown.

And here is where the COVID overlay on the MAiD calendar becomes illustrative. The five-month expansion process came only five years after Canada’s historic legal change to allow medically assisted death. By contrast, the Supreme Court’s 1993 Rodriguez decision upholding prohibition of medically delivered death stood for 22 years before being successfully challenged.
Stockland concludes by stating that parliament expanded the law and it set the stage for further expansions of (MAiD) euthanasia.
But the thing is, in the pandemic year just past, with Parliament shut down, Canadians locked down, and our most vulnerable population ravaged by COVID in care homes, we rushed through legislation expanding MAiD availability. We affirmed rejection of the sanctity of life. We extended the 2016 legislation far beyond its original intentions. We ultimately set the stage for it to extend to the mentally ill.

That conflation foreshadows the virtual impossibility of pivoting out of COVID and back to the Canada we once knew.
Peter Stockland is Senior Writer with Cardus, and Editor of Convivium.

Some previous articles by Peter Stockland on euthanasia and assisted suicide (Link).


New York Bill S6140 would prohibit funding assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

While New York has companion Bills A4321 and S6471 to legalize assisted suicide and New York has Bill A198, to study assisted suicide, New York also has Bill S6140 to prohibit funding assisted suicide.

Bill S6140 is sponsored by New York State Senator Phil Boyle. The bill is known as:
AN ACT to amend the insurance law, in relation to prohibiting insurance coverage for physician assisted suicide.
To keep it simple, S6140 prohibits state funding for assisted suicide, prohibits any policy of group or blanket accident and health insurance coverage, and prohibits any funding for medical expense indemnity corporation, hospital service corporation or health service corporation for assisted suicide.

Senator Boyle defines physician-assisted suicide and aid-in-dying prescription drugs as:
For purposes of this subsection "physician-assisted suicide" shall mean voluntary termination of one's own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician and "aid-in-dying prescription drug" shall mean a drug determined and prescribed by a physician which an individual may choose to self-administer to bring about his or her death.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition urges the New York State Legislature to reject assisted suicide, nonetheless, Bill S6140 does not imply that assisted suicide will become legal but rather that it should not be funded by the state government or by any form of insurance.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Care Not Killing Alliance comments on Scotland's assisted suicide bill.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, the CEO of the Care Not Killing Alliance comments on Scotland's "assisted dying" bill.


We at Care Not Killing have a lot of concerns about this. 

We have seen, with the COVID pandemic how elderly people and disabled people have suffered more than others. How they haven't received the same care as other people have received in many cases, how there has been a disproportionate number of disabled people who have died as a result of COVID, how do not resuscitate orders were placed on people without their consent or their knowledge. The government have been very clear that the policy on do not resuscitate orders wasn't that it should be applied in a blanket way and it is almost certainly a breach of human rights and yet it happened.

So how can we trust the safeguards which are being talked about for this bill that the government will actually implement them?

And more over, in other jurisdictions we have seen how the safeguards have eroded.

In the Netherlands, when assisted suicide and euthanasia were introduced, they were expanded from people who were terminally ill to people who are chronically ill. From people who were mentally competent to people who are not mentally competent. To people with psychiatric illnesses, from adult's to children and there is a debate currently applying it to children aged 1 to 12 and it already applies to infants who are disabled with spina bifida and other conditions, up to the age of 12 months.

In Belgium we see that the laws are not implemented properly and euthanasia deaths happen outside of the law without consent being obtained. In many cases they happen to people with a multitude of minor conditions, even when they don't have any major terminal illness or major suffering which would qualify under the law.

There are all sorts of abuses happening in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Even in Oregon we see where the numbers have increased from 16 in 1998 to 245 in 2020 of those who are having an assisted suicide. Its likely that 25% of those people, at least, are clinically depressed and yet only one or two per year have been referred for psychiatric evaluation. So there is a huge number of people, probably 60, in 2020, who should have been referred for a psychiatric evaluation before they were given an assisted suicide but they weren't.

This is what happens in places like Oregon. They claim that they have strict safeguards but those safeguards are not implemented.

In other places, such as Belgium and Canada we are seeing hospice funding being threatened. In Canada the government published data recently saying that they had saved $140 Million on care services as a result of introducing euthanasia.

These are the dangers, I think, that whilst its introduced on the basis of autonomy and rights, actually it ultimately gets driven by other factors, saving money, people who are vulnerable being deemed by other people that their lives are not worth living.

This is a very dangerous development and we really need to not go down this road in Scotland

More information:

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Irish psychiatrists comment on the Irish euthanasia bill and mental illness.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A letter published on June 22, 2021 in the Irish Times concerns the issue of euthanasia for people with mental illness. 

The authors of the letter are leaders with the Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry, College of Psychiatrists of Ireland. They acknowledge that the Irish euthanasia bill does not permit euthanasia for people with mental illness alone, but based on the Canadian experience they suggest that this would likely be considered in the future. The letter states:

Although those with mental illness alone were initially excluded from accessing physician assisted suicide and euthanasia in 2016, it was subsequently argued that this was discriminatory. Canadian legislators must now determine criteria for those with mental illness, and which suicides are to be assisted and which are to be prevented.

We acknowledge that this is not what the current Dying with Dignity Bill is proposing. However, it does demonstrate how quickly safeguards can be removed and whether legislation can truly protect the most vulnerable. As psychiatrists, we find this deeply concerning.

Mental illness, primarily depression, is common in those with chronic illness and cancer. Certain mental disorders, such as psychotic illnesses and health anxiety, can lead to abnormal beliefs about one’s health or longevity. Feeling suicidal forms part of the diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder. If those with such disorders develop a terminal illness as set out in the Bill, they may be especially vulnerable to dying from assisted suicide or euthanasia as a consequence of their mental state.

There is a clear need to invest now in our health service and mental health services to provide timely access to excellent multidisciplinary palliative care, pain services and mental healthcare, so that all patients facing a terminal illness can live and die in dignity. – Yours, etc,

Dr ERIC KELLEHER,
(Vice-Chairman),

Prof ANNE DOHERTY,
(Chairwoman),

Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry, College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, Dublin 2. 

Further information on the Irish euthanasia bill

  • Irish "Death with Dignity" bill legalizes euthanasia for people who are not terminally ill (Link). 
  • Irish euthanasia bill to be debated (Link).

Euthanasia academic activist pushes euthanasia for mental illness in Canada.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Jocelyn Downie, Canada's long-time pro-euthanasia activist academic is pushing for the implementation of euthanasia for mental illness alone.

An article by Luis Millán that was published in the Lawyers Daily on June 22 reports on the passage of euthanasia Québecs expansion Bill 83 on June 11, nearly three months after the federal government passed of Bill C-7.

Canada has two separate euthanasia laws, the federal law and the Québec law. The federal government legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide by creating an exception in the Criminal Code whereas Québec legalized euthanasia by defining it as a healthcare.

When Canada's parliament passed Bill C-7 it permitted euthanasia for mental illness, but with a two year hold (sunset clause) on the practise in order to develop protocols for killing.

Professor Jocelyn Downie
Millán interviews Jocelyn Downie concerning her thoughts on the further expansion of (MAiD) euthanasia in Canada. Millán writes:

According to Dalhousie law professor Jocelyn Downie, it’s “past time to stop debating” whether individuals with mental illness should be allowed to have access to MAiD. Instead, efforts should be focused on how to regulate and implement it.

“It’s all about the how because the whether was decided when Parliament accepted the sunset clause,” said Downie, who was part of the plaintiff’s legal team in Carter and who led a group of experts exploring what the federal and Quebec governments should be doing in response to the Truchon decision. “The how part is provincial, and it’s about developing clinical practice guidelines, training programs, and operating at the level of the clinician-patient relationship, which is regulated provincially.”

Downie also recommends requiring one of the assessors be a psychiatrist where a mental disorder is the reason for the request. Refusal of established treatments should be a red flag for extra caution as it would lead to questions over the individual’s decision-making capacity. “This doesn’t justify excluding the person, but it does justify a very careful assessment of capacity,” said Downie.

Downie wants euthanasia for mental illness to be implemented quickly. Her comment on the issue of refusing treatment recognizes that Canada's euthanasia law does not require a person, who is not dying, to try effective treatments whereas protocols in the Netherlands and Belgium require people, who are not dying, to try effective treatments.

Canada's federal government and the Québec government have both established committee's to discuss the further expansion of euthanasia in Canada

A recent Health Canada report indicated that the number of euthanasia deaths increased by 35% with 7595 reported (MAiD) euthanasia deaths in 2020.

Further information:

  • Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia deaths increased by 35% in 2020 (Link). 
  • Government committee examining further expansions of Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia law (Link). 
  • Québec debating protocols for expanding euthanasia law (Link).
  • Canada passed Bill C-7 permitting euthanasia for mental illness (Link).

 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Scottish politician claims assisted suicide bill doesn't legalize assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday I reported that Scotland will once again debate an "assisted dying" bill. I used the term "assisted dying" to reflect the terminology used by the media.

To my surprise, the Edinburgh news published an article today by Alex Cole-Hamilton, a Liberal Democrat Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) claiming that Scotland's assisted suicide bill doesn't legalize assisted suicide.

Cole-Hamilton is a supporter of the assisted suicide bill sponsored by Liam McArthur MSP who is also a Liberal Democrat.

Cole-Hamilton states in his article:
This isn’t assisted suicide, it won’t be available to people who want to die because they are depressed. To access it patients will require a terminal diagnosis, they will need to have full mental capacity and be assessed as competent by clinicians who are satisfied they aren’t being coerced by others.

The Oxford language dictionary defines assisted suicide as:

the suicide of a patient suffering from an incurable disease, effected by the taking of lethal drugs provided by a doctor for this purpose.

If you don't like the Oxford language dictionary, Wikipedia defines assisted suicide as:

The term usually refers to physician-assisted suicide (PAS), which is suicide that is assisted by a physician or other healthcare provider. Once it is determined that the person's situation qualifies under the physician-assisted suicide laws for that place, the physician's assistance is usually limited to writing a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs.

Cole-Hamilton is trying to change the language of the debate. Polls show that assisted dying receives a more favourable response as compared to the term assisted suicide. In other words, language matters.

Pam Duncan Clancy MSP
Yesterday, Andrew Learmonth reported for Holyrood.com news that:

Labour's Pam Duncan Glancy has warned that plans to bring in assisted dying in Scotland would be “dangerous for disabled people.”
Learmouth reported that Duncan Glancy MSP from Glasgow tweeted the following:
“I am deeply worried about this. Disabled people do not yet enjoy our right to live equally. I’d far rather we had a right to live enshrined in law, long before we have a right to die. Until all things are equal, this is dangerous for disabled people.”

 More articles on this topic:

  • Scotland to debate assisted dying bill (Link).
  • We treat all lives as equal. With assisted suicide we don't (Link).
  • Assisted suicide bill defeated in Scotland by an 82 to 36 vote (Link).

Monday, June 21, 2021

Reject assisted suicide and improve end-of-life care in Connecticut.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The CT Mirror has published an excellent article by Dr's Andre Sofair and Barry Wu urging Connecticut to improve end-of-life care rather than legalize assisted suicide. 

Sofair and Wu argue that since the Connecticut legislature debated assisted suicide bill HB 6425 which died in committee  now Connecticut can use this opportunity to improve end-of-life care.

They offer several reasons why legalizing assisted suicide is wrong. They state:
First, our ability as physicians to determine the timing of death in the setting of illness is imperfect. Both of us have cared for patients diagnosed with “terminal illnesses” by multiple specialists who entered and eventually left inpatient hospice units to live many fulfilling years with their families.

Second, safeguards are ineffective. ...A recent medical paper even described 53 cases in the Netherlands where patients were requesting euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for non-life threatening conditions including visual impairment, hearing loss, chronic fatigue, incontinence, or recurrent falls. In Oregon, less than 5 percent of assisted suicide cases were referred for psychiatric evaluation.

Third, medical care has improved dramatically. With advances in expert diagnosis, palliative, psychiatric, and hospice care both in the hospital and at home, we simply do not see patients who die in intractable pain or without dignity when given the appropriate medical and supportive care.

Fourth, the qualifications of a responsible attending physician are not clearly specified in the bill. This is concerning as physicians with limited experience in the practice of medicine would be able to give patients access to life-ending medication.

Fifth, physicians are obligated to care for their patients under all circumstances... Our work, as physicians, is to walk with our patients and their families, both when the patient is well and when they are ill, not to give them medications for the sole purpose of ending their lives. With regards to our responsibility to families, a Swiss study showed that 20 percent of patient relatives who died following assisted suicide in that country demonstrated full or partial post-traumatic stress disorder and 16 percent had symptoms of depression for up to 2 years following their loss, rates higher than in the general population who had suffered a natural loss. What our patients and families need is, in the words of Dr. Diane Meier a geriatrician and palliative care specialist, a, “meaningful and committed human connection-not 2 grams of secobarbital” at the end of life.
They finish their article by challenging every state to reject the legalization of assisted suicide. They state:
The practice is simply the wrong first step in a perilous direction and will make patients suspicious of our intentions at the exact time that they need us most.
More information on this topic:
  • Five reasons to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide (Link).
  • 12 myths about about assisted suicide and medical aid in dying (Link).

Scotland to debate "assisted dying" bill.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Scotland Parliament
Liam McArthur MSP for Orkney Scotland has introduced a private members bill to legalize assisted suicide in Scotland.

This is the third time that Scotland will debate the issue. The last assisted suicide bill was defeated in May 2015 by a vote of 82 to 36. The Care Not Killing Alliance is urging Scotland's MSP's to reject the bill and focus on improving end-of-life care in Scotland.

Pam Duncan Glancy Labour MSP
Andrew Learmonth reported for Holyrood.com news that:
Labour's Pam Duncan Glancy has warned that plans to bring in assisted dying in Scotland would be “dangerous for disabled people.”
Learmouth reported that Duncan Glancy MSP from Glasgow tweeted the following:
“I am deeply worried about this. Disabled people do not yet enjoy our right to live equally. I’d far rather we had a right to live enshrined in law, long before we have a right to die. Until all things are equal, this is dangerous for disabled people.”
According to Learmonth:
His bill will go out to consultation in the autumn and will come to a vote in the chamber next year. It will need the support of 65 MSPs to pass. Last time it was rejected by 82 votes to 36.
Link to more articles on this topic:
  • We treat all lives as equal. With assisted suicide we don't (Link).
  • Assisted suicide bill defeated in Scotland by an 82 to 36 vote (Link).

Friday, June 18, 2021

Conrad's law to prevent suicide coercion in Massachusetts.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Conrad Roy
Amy Sokolow, reported for The Boston Herald that Conrad's Law will once again be debated in the Massachusetts legislature. 

The bill is named for Conrad Roy who died in July 2014 after his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, pressured him through text messages and phone calls to carry out suicide. Almost seven years after his death, legislators have refiled legislation to prosecute coerced suicide in Massachusetts, bringing the state in line with almost all the others in the U.S.

Sokolow quotes Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, who filed the legislation as stating:

“The fact that 42 other states have something like this on the books and we’re only one of eight states that (doesn’t) speaks volumes about why we do need something like this,”
Roland St. Denis, the husband of Conrad's mother, told the media
...having struggled with mental illness himself. He has worked with Medwed, Higgins and Finegold to shape this bill and shepherd it through the legislative process.

The lack of a coercion bill made Carter’s court case drag out longer than necessary, and “put an enormous amount of strain on Lynn, her daughters, (and) her son’s father’s family,”
Sokolow reported that Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and was released from prison last year.

More articles on this topic:

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The failure of deaths by lethal injection

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition


Whether you oppose or support the death penalty, these deaths by lethal injection are observed and researched while deaths by euthanasia are not observed or researched.

In Canada (MAiD) euthanasia deaths are observed through a self-reporting system, whereby the person who approves the death is often the same person who carries out the death who is the same person who reports the death. This self-reporting system enables abuse of the law and problems with euthanasia deaths to remain unknown.

Death penalty lethal injection deaths are often observed by the media and usually include an autopsy thus enabling researchers to determine whether or not the person who died suffered in the process.

An article by Austin Sarat that was published on March 23, 2021 in The Verdict  examines the failure of capital punishment deaths by lethal injection.

This issue concerns me because the lethal injection drugs used in capital punishment are the same or similar to the lethal injection drugs used in euthanasia.

Sarat
 writes:
From its earliest adoption by the state of Oklahoma in 1999 through 2009, lethal injection meant one thing, death by a standard three-drug cocktail: sodium thiopental, an “ultrashort-acting barbiturate” to anesthetize the inmate; pancuronium bromide, a “chemical paralytic” to asphyxiate the inmate; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart. By 2009, every death penalty state used this same drug combination.
A decade later, none was employing it. Instead, they were executing people with a wide variety of novel drug combinations.
Sarat explains:
My research collaborators and I have examined every American execution during the last decade. We found that as the paradigm decomposed, the number of problems encountered during executions by lethal injection multiplied.

Of all the techniques used to put people to death in the United States during the 20th and into the 21st century, by 2010 lethal injection already had shown itself to be the most problematic. Since then things have only gotten worse.
Sarat uncovers the problems with death by lethal injection:

First, during the last decade, in more than eight percent of lethal injections, executioners struggled to find suitable veins to set IVs.

We also found that the lethal injection process itself does not always produce painless death. In almost five percent of the last decade’s lethal injections, inmates gave some verbal indication that they were experiencing pain during their execution.

One such inmate was Anthony Shore, who was executed in Texas on January 18, 2018. Soon after his execution by pentobarbital began, Shore cried, “Ohh weeee, I can feel that it does burn. Burning!” He then shook on the gurney and struggled to breathe, before dying 13 minutes later.

In another sign of lethal injection’s inhumanity, a September 2020 NPR investigation found signs of pulmonary edema—fluid filling the lungs—in 84 percent of the 216 post-lethal injection autopsies it reviewed. Inmates’ lungs had filled with fluid while they continued to breathe, which would cause them to feel as if they were drowning and suffocating.

Sarat's research suggests that from 2010-2020, 3.7 percent of barbiturate combination executions were botched in comparison with more than 22 percent of sedative combination executions.
Sarat concludes by stating:
Over the last decade, new drugs and drug cocktails may have allowed the machinery of death to keep running. New procedures may have given the increasingly jerry-rigged lethal injection process a veneer of legitimacy. But none of those changes has resolved its fate or repaired its vexing problems.

By now we should have learned that little can be done to change lethal injection’s status as America’s least reliable and most problematic death penalty method.

This column was the product of a research collaboration with five Amherst College students, Mattea Denny, Nicolas Graber-Mitchell, Greene Ko, Rose Mroczka, and Lauren Pelosi.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Why is MAiD considered a right but palliative care is not.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Janis M. Miyasaki asks the question in her article published by the conversation on June 14 that: Why is access to medically assisted death a legislated right, but access to palliative care isn’t?

Dr Miyasaki explains her concern based on personal experience. She writes:
John started his first appointment in the Neuropalliative Care Clinic with, “I want to talk about MAID.” In our clinic, his request for medical assistance in dying is common. As legislated by government, I referred him to the MAID navigator. I had one request: that John wait to make his MAID decision until after seeing a community palliative care physician.

At his next appointment, John informed us he had withdrawn his MAID request because his primary symptom —pain — was now well controlled after our suggestions and those of the community palliative care doctor. John lived for two more years, during which he became closer with his daughter and continued to enjoy the company of his siblings.
The article explains how MAiD is considered a priority:
In June 2016, the passed legislation that gave all eligible Canadians the right to request MAID. Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons required physicians to refer people who request MAID to services or arrange for a physician who would make the referral.

Since then, every province and territory devoted resources to navigate requests and assessments for MAID. Typically, provinces have a website for self-referral, easily found by internet search and/or dedicated health-care staff to help navigate the MAID process or inform those who are MAID-curious.
Dr Miyasaki then explains how palliative care is not prioritized:
By contrast, the referral process for palliative care is often convoluted. Many provincial web pages simply give a definition of palliative care (some confuse the issue by including the MAID navigation site) but do not provide a central access point for physicians or nurses. Referral forms (where available) are complex, which creates another barrier to access. Many palliative care programs have an unofficial prognosis of three to six months’ life expectancy for services, despite research demonstrating that early palliative care improves outcomes and in fact, can prolong life.
Dr Miyasaki offers a solution:
The solution requires a multi-faceted approach. All health-care providers need to have general palliative care skills because, in the way we all learn to control blood pressure and read a basic electrocardiogram, palliative care is part of good medical care.

At a systems level, placing as much importance on palliative care as we do on MAID might make navigation to palliative care less difficult for patients and clinicians. Given the broader applicability of palliative care, it is time for palliative care to become an independent department. Up to 28 per cent of Canadians will be seniors, which means more people with multiple, chronic conditions that could benefit from a palliative approach.

Building the palliative care workforce is essential. The palliative care workforce in Canada is estimated to be 773 doctors for a population of 39 million. Once the palliative care workforce is established, educating the public that palliative care includes a holistic approach to wellness and meaning in life can help re-frame and increase acceptance.

There are more people like John who should connect with a palliative care team before walking down the road to MAID. Let palliative care help you live well, now.
Sadly, (MAiD) euthanasia has changed palliative care. Palliative care centers are being forced to offer MAiD which confuses the purpose and nature of palliative care. Further to that, several palliative care professionals are advocating for MAiD, once again creating confusion about what palliative care is and what it can do.

Palliative care professionals must maintain a separation from euthanasia (MAiD) if palliative care is to maintain its purpose.

Australian woman found guilty of murder, pled guilty to the lesser charge of assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Natasha Darcy found guilty of murder
Natasha Darcy was found guilty of murder in the August 2, 2017 death of Mathew Dunbar, her partner of three years. 

This case was concerning because Darcy pled guilty to assisting Dunbar's suicide and not murder. The jury agreed with the prosecutor that Darcy had murdered Dunbar.

Darcy originally told the police that she had nothing to do with Dunbar's death, but on April 22 she stated that she assisted his suicide.

The Australian Associated Press article published on June 15 stated:
After sedating and gassing her grazier partner to inherit his property, Natasha Beth Darcy screamed at paramedics to keep on performing CPR after they declared him dead.

Darcy kept up her theatrics, telling authorities and first responders repeated lies, maintaining Mathew Dunbar had killed himself.

But after more than two days of deliberations, a NSW supreme court jury on Tuesday found the 46-year-old guilty of murdering the sheep farmer.
The article explains:
Darcy was accused of using a Nutribullet to blend a cocktail of sedatives to sedate her live-in partner before gassing him in his bed.

She told police of finding him unresponsive in his bed, stating: “This is the hardest bit of all. I can’t get the image out of my head. It is killing me.”

The jury was told of a letter Darcy sent to a friend after Dunbar’s death, offering her $20,000 to tell lies about him that would assist her at any murder trial.

She will face a sentence hearing on 1 October.
This Australian murder trial that lasted several months shows how assisted suicide techniques can be used to cover-up murder. I first reported on this case in November 2019. I also reported on the case on several other occasions (Link), (Link).

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Canada’s Medically Assisted Dying Policy Sets ‘Dangerous Precedent’

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Paul Saba
Andrew Chen interviewed Dr Paul Saba in an article published by the Epoch Times on June 11, 2021. titled - Canada’s Medically Assisted Dying Policy Sets ‘Dangerous Precedent’: Physician and Author.

Saba who authored the book - Made to Live and is a co-founder of the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia in Quebec told Chen:
Canada’s medically assisted dying policy sets a “dangerous precedent” that has opened the door to other scenarios in which people can be denied medical care or have their lives prematurely ended.

“In terms of expanding, first of all we change the criteria, and then we make it easier and easier to get rid of people who are faced with life’s challenges, with health issues,”
Saba who refers to Canada's assisted dying law as a "very sad statement of affairs of our society, and what we’ve become, in terms of devaluing human life" comments on Ontario's COVID-19 Triage protocol. Saba states:
“I think an even greater issue is that how we evaluate life. Once you open up that door to ending people’s lives, and evaluate people’s lives, you have the whole issue of [COVID-19] and the triage system that was being supported, and directives being set up not to care for people who were ill,”
The pandemic protocol states that only patients with a 70% chance of surviving more than 12 months would be prioritized for critical care. Saba comments:
“Once the government starts evaluating lives, and not seeing it as their mission— health care is a mission of caring for people who need to be cared for—then we’ll decide who gets cared for, who won’t get cared for, who lives, who dies. And that’s why it is so important that we … push back on this,”
Saba became concerned about these issues in 2009 when his wife was pregnant with their daughter Jessica. Jessica, had a severe congenital heart defect—her heart’s pulmonary valve was almost completely sealed—making her survival nearly impossible, but Dr Saba and his wife wanted Jessica to live and today Jessica is a healthy 12 year old. His book, Made to Live, focuses on Jessica's story.

Chen asks Dr Saba to comment on the fact that roughly 7,600 Canadians died via medically assisted death in 2020, a 35 percent increase from the roughly 5,600 cases in 2019, a number which was itself a 26 percent uptick from the approximately 4,500 cases in 2018, Health Canada senior official Abby Hoffman told the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying on June 7.

Saba says that there have been approximately 25,000 assisted deaths since legalization. He then says:
“What was supposed to be just for terminally ill people really at the end of life has now been expanded to include people who are disabled, who have chronic conditions … and they are looking at and studying for people who have mental health challenges,”

Parliament has also heard arguments for expanding medically assisted death to children.

“So, basically, death, needs to be available to everybody,”
Saba then comments on how the Covid-19 pandemic has made people with disabilities more vulnerable. He said:
Saba condemned the passing of Bill C-7 during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time “when people are most vulnerable.”

“We’re encouraging and we’re supporting … killing people with disabilities, because we know that they’ve been marginalized, that they’re struggling, and it doesn’t take much to push people over the edge,”
Saba concludes by stating:
“Ultimately, I hope one day that assisted suicide and euthanasia get reversed in our country because it’s … a dangerous policy and a dangerous precedent.”
You can order the book Made to Live from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Link to order the book.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Major corporations creating Telehealth empires. Say NO to Assisted Suicide by Telehealth

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Sign the petition: No Assisted Suicide by Telehealth  (Link)

US Senate Bill S. 1512 and Congress Bill H.R. 2903 are designed to normalize the COVID-19 pandemic telehealth rules permanently. 

Some major corporations are preparing to enter the telehealth industry. In the last few days Amazon and Walmart announced major expansions of their Telehealth services.

According to an article by Annie Palmer for CNBC 
Amazon care is working with corporations to offer employees medical services and has set its sights on disrupting the health-care industry.

An article by Kat Jercich for Healthcareitnews stated that:
The medical group for Walmart Health has filed paperwork to do business in more than a dozen more states – and a spokesperson told Insider that the moves are not related to physical clinics.

Instead, the preparation regards the retail giant's pending acquisition of telehealth vendor MeMD earlier this year.
Jercich explains:
Walmart Health's moves in this direction echo that of Amazon Care, which quietly filed to do business in dozens of states before publicly announcing its intention to provide app-based services in all 50 by this summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a "gold rush" in telehealth, with a combination of relaxed regulations and social distancing leading to an enormous uptick in virtual care use rates – and, in turn, heightened corporate interest in the modality.
So why is the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition concerned?

For several years, the assisted suicide lobby has promoted the use of telehealth for approving and prescribing lethal assisted suicide drugs. 

The language in US Senate Bill S. 1512 and Congress Bill H.R. 2903 need to clearly prohibit assisted suicide by telehealth.

Imprecise language within the bills may enable assisted suicide doctors to do assisted suicide assessments and prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs, without meeting or physically assessing the person and without examining the patient to confirm the medical diagnosis.

These bills may permit assisted suicide by telehealth in states where assisted suicide is legal and possibly nationally with doctors approving and prescribing out-of-state assisted suicides.

Telehealth regulations may enable the assisted suicide lobby to set-up a national assisted suicide approval and prescription center.

Assisted suicide is not healthcare.

Sign the petition: No Assisted Suicide by Telehealth  (Link)

More information on this topic:
  • Opposing assisted suicide by telehealth (Link). 
  • Assisted suicide by telehealth and medical misdiagnosis (Link). 
  • Doctors now assist suicides via zoom (Link).  
  • Bill S. 1512 Connect for Health Act of 2021 (Link).

We should treat all lives as equal. With assisted suicide we don’t.

This article was published by Mercatornet on June 11, 2021.

Dr Calum MacKellar
By Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

At the beginning of this year, I was invited to take part in an online debate on the topic of assisted suicide organised by a Scottish university in front of a large number of students.

During the discussion, I argued that it would be irrational for the Scottish Parliament to support the legalisation of state assisted suicide while at the same time supporting the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention National Action Plan. This seeks to reduce the very high number of suicides in Scotland including amongst relatively young persons.

But during the question time at the end of the debate, one of the students commented that she could not understand or accept how I could consider the prevention of suicides amongst young people as being similar to the prevention of suicides amongst elderly or disabled persons. On hearing this comment, however, I must confess that I was quite shocked and dismayed.

I had never expected such a blatant ageist and ableist statement from a university student! Was this how many young people now considered elderly or disabled persons in Scotland?

In addition, I could not comprehend how the student had come to such a conclusion. Was it because modern society only recognises a good life by the amount of pleasure and lack of suffering it experiences? If it is, then the belief that a life can become unworthy of life and should be ended is indeed rational.

The expression of a life unworthy of life was coined in Germany in 1920 by the law professor Karl Binding and psychiatry professor Alfred Hoche. It then became a slogan used between the 1930s and 1940s in this country to defend the belief that if a person becomes unable to enjoy life, then his or her life could be ended.

But when the German government, at the time, also accepted the principle that certain lives were unworthy of life and that all lives were no longer absolutely equal in value, this then had catastrophic consequences. Indeed, it meant that some lives could be seen as having less worth than others, which eventually resulted in barbarity and the killing of many different kinds of persons.

As a result, Scottish society through its parliament should avoid being naïve or gullible when considering the consequences of accepting that some lives are unworthy of life and that assisted suicide should be legalised.

Of course, because a life is seen as belonging to an individual, it could be argued that he or she should be able to decide for himself or herself whether it is a life unworthy of life. But for state assisted suicide to be possible, those around this individual (including society as whole) would also have to accept that this life is indeed unworthy of life so that they can assist in ending it. In other words, it would mean that the equality of all human life is, for the first time, no longer accepted by society.

Thus, if a parliament legalises assisted suicide, the very basis of the equality of all lives on which this parliament is built would become a thing of the past. It would also mean that the protection in compassionate care of those whose lives are difficult or who experience suffering would become meaningless. Instead, it would be seen as preferable if the lives of such persons, considered to have unworthy lives, were ended even though appropriate palliative care may be available.

In conclusion, Scottish society can choose between absolute autonomy (enabling persons to believe whatever they want about the value of their lives) or absolute equality (enabling person to believe that all lives are equal). But it cannot have both.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Alzheimer treatment and the False Compassion of Assisted Suicide

This article was published by National Review online on June 9, 2021

Wesley Smith
By Wesley J Smith

Great news. The FDA has just approved a new drug that appears to slow the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease by 28 percent as compared to a cadre of subjects receiving placebo. The help with everyday tasks was most significant.

The approval is controversial because — well, Big Pharma! It is also based on one study, and the drug does not provide dramatic improvement. But I think a Wall Street Journal editorial has the right POV:
As for complaints about insufficient evidence, Congress amended federal law in 1997 to let the FDA approve novel drugs based on a single study in order to accelerate breakthroughs for hard-to-treat diseases. The FDA has appropriately exercised its discretion, and Biogen plans to conduct additional studies following drug approval.
I want to focus on a different point. Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients are now in the cross hairs of the euthanasia movement. In the Netherlands, Belgium, and soon in Canada, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can order themselves killed once they become incompetent. Or they can receive euthanasia before that time.

Meanwhile, our domestic assisted-suicide zealots teach elderly people how to commit suicide by self-starvation, with the agony of such a course palliated by a doctor — known in euthanasia parlance as VSED (voluntary stop eating and drinking). There are even legal moves afoot to allow advance directives to be written legally ordering caregivers to starve dementia patients death — even if they willingly eat! Nevada has passed such a law.

If new treatments do materialize, how many dementia patients will have died by their own or others’ hands who might have lived if they had continued on until new treatments came on line? I shudder to think.

Don’t scoff. It has happened before with AIDS.

I lived in San Francisco at the worst of the crisis. It was the most tragic circumstance I have ever witnessed: Young men who looked as if they were 80 were so weak they had to be held up by friends just to walk down the street. An underground assisted-suicide cabal of MDs serving the gay community and AIDS patients surreptitiously provided overdoses to dying patients. The supposedly empowering motto was: “You can’t tell us who to love and you can’t tell us how to die.”

Then, the new drugs suddenly came on line. Patients literally on the brink of death were brought back to vigorous life, and AIDS was suddenly redefined from a terminal to a chronic condition.

There is no doubt in my mind that the number of AIDS patients died by assisted suicide — but would have lived without being encouraged into hastened death — is considerable. Yet I never heard any of the assisted-suicide-for-AIDS pushers acknowledge their complicity in these unnecessary deaths.

I think the same may one day — soon or far — become true with Alzheimer’s patients if we follow the current course and allow their hastened deaths. Pushing killing instead of caring for our most serious diseases masks itself as compassion but is actually cruel abandonment.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Canadian Euthanasia (MAiD) deaths increased by 35% in 2020.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Joan Bryden reported for the Canadian Press on June 8, 2021 that Health Canada official Abby Hoffman told the new parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying that there were 7595 reported euthanasia (MAiD) deaths in Canada in 2020 representing a 17% increase from 5631 in 2019.

Hoffman was wrong. 7595 reported euthanasia deaths in 2020 is almost a 35% increase from 5631 in 2019.

7595 reported MAiD deaths represents approximately 2.5% of all deaths.

Hoffman correctly stated that the 5,631 MAiD deaths reported in 2019 was a 26% from 4467 in 2018.

According to the Health Canada data, as of December 31, 2020 there were 21,541 reported euthanasia (MAiD) deaths in Canada since legalization.

Bryden also reported Hoffman to say that:

Last year, she said 21 per cent of 9,300 written requests for assisted dying were not carried out, either because the requesters died before being assessed, were deemed ineligible or withdrew their requests. Of the latter, she said 50 changed their minds immediately before they were to receive the procedure.
Hoffman acknowledged that the data collected by the government is very general but she stated that Bill C-7 requires Health Canada to collect more data concerning “the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics.”

Bryden also reported that Justice official Joanne Klineberg says the number of cases will likely increase again as a result of recently passed legislation that expands access to assisted dying to people who are not nearing the natural end of their lives.

Bill C-7 was introduced in February 2020 as the government's response to the Quebec Superior Court's Truchon decisionBill C-7 went much further than what Truchon required. Bill C-7 became law on March 17, 2021.

The Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner releases data on a monthly basis. 

The data released in January 2021 by the Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner indicated that in Ontario there were 2378 reported MAiD deaths in 2020 up by 33% from 1789 in 2019. Ontario represents 39% of Canada's total population.

The April 2021 (MAiD) euthanasia data indicated that even though Ontario was under a strict COVID-19 "lock-down" that April 2021 had the highest number of euthanasia deaths since legalization with 241 assisted deaths and 853 reported assisted deaths in the first four months of 2021.

More articles on this topic:

  • Government committee examining further expansions of Canada's euthanasia law (Link). 
  • Ontario euthanasia deaths increase inspite of COVID-19 lockdown (Link). 
  • Canada passes Bill C-7 allowing euthanasia for mental illness (Link).