Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Canadian Health Expert issues warning about euthanasia.

When privileged groups impose bespoke ethics to remove humanity’s unsightly wrinkles, it’s usually the powerless and the marginalised who suffer the unintended consequences.
Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Professor Leonie Herx
The Scottish Parliament is currently debating the legalization of euthanasia (assisted dying). Canadian Professor Dr Leonie Herx, who is a world leader and health expert in palliative care presented to a committee hearing on the assisted dying bill. Herx, who is a past-President of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians is well versed in the reality of legalizing euthanasia in Canada.

Kevin McKenna recently reported for The Herald that Herx issued a warning to Scotland.

“In Canada, we’ve been living in a regime of assisted dying for six and a half years and the reality of where we’ve ended up is not what was intended when we started. It’s quite horrific, actually and so it’s important for those considering this type of legislation in Scotland to get a full picture and consider all the unintended consequences of it. 

“Most troubling of these is that, as the legislation has expanded well beyond what we were told would only be very rare and extreme cases of suffering, it’s society’s most vulnerable groups who are being caught in the net.

“It’s now become very difficult in palliative care to do our work when medically assisted dying becomes a default solution for some patients. In the past, when people said ‘I can’t go on like this’ we’d have brought in the palliative care team to look at all facets of that individual’s suffering. Now it’s too often understood and interpreted as a request for euthanasia.” 

Herx then commented on the role of healthcare cost savings and euthanasia.

“In Canada our parliamentary budget office assessed the cost of expanding the legislation and found it would save the Canadian Government hundreds of millions of dollars per year on healthcare. Reports are now emerging of health care administrators advising euthanasia as an option to patients because the cost of their care is considered too high. 

Herx then explained how Canada's euthanasia practise has quickly changed.

“At the outset, we were told that a ‘carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards’ would limit harm and any risk of wrongful death of vulnerable persons. Yet, every year since, there have been documented cases of non-compliance with safeguards and misapplication of both law and policy.”

In 2016 Canadians were told that legalised assisted dying would be reserved only for exceptional circumstances of intolerable suffering. Yet it’s since been incrementally expanded by subjective and loose interpretations of the law.

As the initial parameters have expanded, Canada has begun to witness increasing numbers of cases where people have been requesting euthanasia because of extreme poverty, lack of access to housing and their inability to afford access to basic care home facilities. Underpinning much of this has been a sense of despair brought on by loneliness and depression. 

Herx then shared a few of the many horrific Canadian euthanasia stories. 

The professor cites a notorious and distressing case, covered widely in the Canadian media. “One 93-year-old woman, whose family shared her story, experienced so much depression from being locked in her room during Covid that the thought of another lockdown was more than she could bear.

“So she requested euthanasia to avoid another Covid lockdown. This shows where this can go. It will disproportionately affect those who are lonely or depressed or who are on the margins of society and can’t afford to live well.

“It’s characteristic of a very ableist and ageist society that our healthcare system is discriminatory against them. Now we just offer death as an easy and cost-effective way out.

“Military veterans who are suffering from PTSD and having suicidal thoughts are being offered euthanasia by case workers, There’s now an inquiry into why so many of these brave people who had risked their lives for their country were being offered this. People are shocked by how quickly we got here.” 

Herx then explains how palliative care has continued to improve.

“We’ve lost our understanding of those normal, physiological changes that happen with ageing. I’ve been practising palliative medicine for 16 years and I’ve yet to encounter someone whom I’ve been unable to help make comfortable at the end of their life. We have exquisite tools that are improving all the time to assess patients’ needs and medications to help different and complex suites of symptoms. These can be therapeutically delivered along with constant assessment and reassessment of potential side effects. 

Herx continues by explaining some of the outcomes of euthanasia in Canada.

The way in which the Canadian euthanasia laws have been manipulated and distorted to pursue a path of least resistance is now heading inexorably into eugenics, or survival of the fittest. Canada’s disability community have called it precisely that because the expanded legislation includes disability as a reason in and of itself to have your life ended. And you’re more at risk if you’re voiceless, powerless and without sufficient funds.

Says Professor Herx: “We have clear evidence from Canada and other countries that have legalised assisted suicide that it’s those made vulnerable by poverty who’ve been put to wrongful and premature death. Many of them could have lived well for another few years if they’d been given the right supports and funding to do so.”

Herx concludes by commenting on how the euthanasia lobby has had endless resources to promote euthanasia while the disability lobby has been shut-out of the debate due to money.

The Dying with Dignity lobby have an international network and have succeeded in shaping the way this has unfolded. In Canada, according to Professor Herx, they are very powerful and have a lot of money. “They’ve influenced the way the Canadian media has told this story. No lobby group has had more meetings with politicians than Dying with Dignity. Such access doesn’t come cheap.

“The Canadian disability community believes that the people driving this are often white, worried, wealthy individuals who want control over their own life and death. One of my fellow palliative care specialists calls this ‘privileged autonomy’.” 

Dr Leonie Herx has lived through the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. She became a palliative care leader, she continued her education and is a palliative care expert and professor in medicine and now she is urging the Scottish parliament to not follow Canada's lead and to reject euthanasia.


Elena said...

Great article! Thank you! It should spread widely. People need to know truth.

A Martin said...

Good for Herx!
Now her story needs to go to our Parliament in Canada!

Louise from CA said...

A great article from Dr Herx. She explains very cogently the problems with assisted suicide or aid in dying in Canada.

marge said...

Euthanasia is on the same path as abortion - the exception has become the norm. Give the devil an inch and he takes a mile.

Judy H said...

Great comments. People need to know the truth. Euthanasia is a slippery slide.

marge said...

Euthanasia has followed the path of abortion-what was deemed necessary in rare cases has become the norm---give the devil and inch and he takes a mile.

Rxesdoc said...

Impressive and powerful suggestion by the author of this blog are really helpful to me. Kamagra España