Friday, October 9, 2015

Winnipeg doctors speak out against assisted dying.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Winnipeg Manitoba doctors Mark Kristjanson and Larry Rados will not participate or refer for euthanasia or assisted suicide. According to CBC News:

Dr Mark Kristjanson
Kristjanson has 30 years experience in family medicine, palliative care, working with the disabled and oncology.

Kristjanson believes the number of doctors who are promoting assisted suicide across the country are in the minority. He believes those doctors want to see all physicians obliged to at least refer a patient for assisted suicide if they don't want to participate. 
But that is something neither Kristjanson or Dr. Larry Rados are prepared to do.
Rados is an acute care doctor with more than 25 years experience. He says assisted suicide is clearly at odds with his conscience and the Hippocratic Oath to not cause harm. And if a patient requests it, he says he won't refer that patient to another doctor. 
"I will take the view that a referral to another doctor would be equivalent to a recommendation for the procedure. Why would I make a referral for assisted suicide if I don't think it is in the patient's best interest?" 
Larry Rados
Rados says some people seem to take the view that a doctor should be a glorified waiter in a restaurant who should take a patient's order, no matter what they ask.

"Every doctor that has been around for a while knows there are times when you say no. We say no when a patient asks for narcotics and doesn't need them. We should be allowed to say no in this case as well with regard to referring patients," Rados says. 
Kristjanson says he's not prepared to budge. 
"I wouldn't quit voluntarily," he says. "But if the College takes a firm stance that I must refer to another colleague, I still would not make a referral. If that would risk losing my license, that would be a risk I would take. Although that would not be the route I would prefer." 
Rados says he too will follow his conscience and accept the consequences. 
"This isn't why I or some or my colleagues went into medicine. It's to wear the white coat of the healer not the black coat of hastening someone's death. I would subject myself to whatever discipline that is necessary to follow my conscience," Rados says. 
Both are hoping it won't come to that. 
"The College has always carved out space for conscientious objection. It has always been very good about respecting the right or ability of a physician to practice within the bounds of their own conscience and to not stray into an ethically problematic territory," says Kristjanson.
If legalized, physicians will be pressured to kill their patients or refer their patients to be killed, by euthanasia or assisted suicide. At the recent CMA national meeting 63% of the physicians stated that they would not participate in assisted dying while only 29% stated that they would not refer for assisted dying.

If euthanasia is going to be imposed on Canadian society, physicians must have the right to opt out.

California Governor should have talked to Holland before signing bill

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Theo Boer
Professor Theo Boer, who was a member of a regional euthanasia review committee for 9 years, and then changed his mind to now oppose legalizing euthanasia, wrote an opinion article that was published in - The Press Democrat in California.

Boer argues that California Governor Jerry Brown should have talked to Holland before he signed the assisted suicide bill. Boer wrote:
Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the End of Life Option Act, my thoughts go back more than 20 years to the early days of assisted dying in the Netherlands. And I can’t help but feel we — the Dutch — were naïve on this issue. 
In 1994, the Dutch were the first in the world to officially legalize assisted dying. It was a modest beginning, just as California’s is now. With no country going before us, assisted dying was formalized in a special clause in the Burial and Cremation Act. If a number of safeguards were kept, doctors acting in accordance with them would not be prosecuted. A separate euthanasia law followed in 2001, not differing much from the 1994 clause and with Belgium following its northern neighbor in 2002. 
Five regional review committees, consisting of a lawyer, a physician and an ethicist, keep an eye on the practice and assess whether each case of assisted dying has been in accordance with the law. I served on one of the committees from 2005-2014 and reviewed around 4,000 cases. Given the widespread support for assisted dying in the Netherlands, I was convinced that legalizing assisted dying was the wisest and most respectful route.
Boer explains what happened to the culture in the Netherlands:
In the first 13 years following 1994, the Netherlands seemed to have found the means to organize assisted dying. Then, for unknown reasons, the numbers started going up, year after year, from 2007 on. It was as if the country had needed the first decade to get used to the whole idea of an organized death. 
In the years of my membership, the review committee saw a rise in the number of reports from 1,800 to close to 5,500 last year. Now about one in 25 deaths in the Netherlands is the consequence of assisted dying with, by the way, suicide rates going up as well.
Boer then discussed how euthanasia has become common:
Whereas assisted dying in the beginning was the odd exception, accepted by many — including myself — as a last resort, it is on the road to becoming a preferred, if not the only acceptable, mode of dying in the case of cancer. Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward considering assisted dying a patient’s right and a physician’s duty. A law that is now in the making obliges doctors who refuse to approve assisted dying to refer their patients to a willing colleague. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients’ or relatives’ wishes can be intense. 
Other developments have taken place as well. The Dutch Right to Die Society founded a network of traveling euthanizing doctors, thus taking assisted dying out of the patient-doctor relationship. There is a strong public movement toward legalizing euthanasia for children 1 to 11 years of age. Whereas in the first years hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise. Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given assisted dying consisted of being aged, lonely or bereaved.
Boer then reflects on California Governor Brown signing the assisted suicide bill.
Hearing of Brown’s decision, and without doubt any of his good intentions, my thoughts go back to our own pioneering years. As I said, I think we have been naïve. 
The Dutch and Belgian examples show that a law that makes possible an assisted death may well create its own dynamics. Clearly the “supply” of assisted dying creates new “demand.” Right to die advocates see the Dutch law not as a respectful compromise but as a first step toward more radical rights, such as a lethal pill for anyone over 70. The Dutch Right to Die Society now offers course material to high schools, where my teenage kids go, intended to broaden their support for euthanasia as a normal death. This would be unthinkable were it not for the existence of the present law. 
Of course, I, too, know of exceptional cases that may justify a decision to shorten a patient’s life. But I am no longer convinced that a law is the best way to deal with such cases. The governor might have visited the Netherlands first, before signing the act.
Theo Boer is a professor of health care ethics at Kampen University in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Supreme Court of Canada was wrong on assisted dying.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

For several years the Oregon suicide statistics seemed to indicate that legalizing assisted suicide had a suicide contagion effect. 

The assisted suicide lobby argue that legalizing assisted suicide prevents desperate people from dying by suicide and they argue that legalizing assisted suicide enables people to live longer because they do not need to die earlier by suicide in order to be capable of causing their own death. The second argument was wrongly accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision.

The data is clear. A study published by the Southern Medical Association (October 2015) concludes:
Legalizing PAS has been associated with an increased rate of total suicides relative to other states and no decrease in nonassisted suicides. This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) nonassisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals.
The study examined the suicide rates in Oregon, Washington State, Montana and Vermont, where assisted suicide is permitted. After taking into account factors that are known to effect suicide rates, the data indicates that:
PAS is associated with an 8.9% increase in total suicide rates (including assisted suicides), an effect that is strongly statistically significant (95% confidence interval [CI] 6.6%Y11.2%). Once we control for a range of demographic and socioeconomic factors, PAS is estimated to increase rates by 11.79% (95% CI 9.3%Y14.1%). When we include state-specific time trends, the estimated increase is 6.3% (95% CI 2.7%Y9.9%).
Therefore legalizing assisted suicide is associated with at least a 6.3% increase in the rate of suicide deaths.

The other assertion is that legalizing assisted suicide enables people to live longer since they do not need to die earlier based on being able to commit suicide. The study considered this argument as attributed to Richard Posner.

Richard Posner has conjectured that legalizing PAS may have the effect of reducing the total number of suicides and postponing those that do occur. The knowledge that PAS is available for people who are physically incapacitated could enable such patients to delay their decision to attempt suicide. Furthermore, some may be contemplating suicide because of an overly pessimistic belief about the progress of their disease and/or about their ability to cope with their declining condition. If people delayed their attempt at suicide they might then come to see that they had been mistaken. As a result, "if physician-assisted suicide in cases of physical incapacity is permitted, the number of suicides will be reduced. Moreover, in the fraction of cases in which suicide does occur, it will occur later than if physician-assisted suicide were prevented." An implication of Posner’s conjecture about delays to suicide is that there would be an increase in the average age of suicide.
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with Posner's assertion:
In 2014 "evidence of premature death" resulting from the lack of access to PAS was presented before the Supreme Court of Canada. In February 2015 the court concluded that "the prohibition deprives some individuals of life."
The study found no evidence that people delay death when assisted suicide is legal:
The evidence from suicide rates in states that have legalized PAS is not consistent with Posner’s conjecture that such legal changes would lead to delays and net reductions in suicide. Rather, the introduction of PAS seemingly induces more self-inflicted deaths than it inhibits. Furthermore, although a significant proportion of nonassisted suicides involve chronic or terminal illness, especially in those older than age 65, the available evidence does not support the conjecture that legalizing assisted suicide would lead to a reduction in nonassisted suicides. This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) nonassisted suicide or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in others.
Therefore the Supreme Court of Canada was wrong when it asserted that prohibiting assisted death was an infringement of Section 7 of the Charter, the right to life. The data does not uphold this dangerous and irresponsible conclusion.

Canada's parliament will need to respond by either using the Notwithstanding Clause (Section 33 of the Constitution) to put aside the Supreme Court decision or to protect Canadians with robust legislation that prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide.

California seniors group file papers to challenge assisted suicide law on the 2016 ballot.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A California group called Seniors Against Suicide, who opposed the California assisted suicide bill that was signed into law by Governor Brown on October 5, filed papers with the California Attorney General's office to put the issue of assisted suicide on the State ballot in 2016, as reported by the Associated Press.

According to the LA Times, a letter from clinical psychologist, Dr Mark Hoffman stated:

“Illness is never a reason for ending a life,” 
He said that he is:
"working with other opponents of medically killing depressed and ill patients."
According to California law, opponents of legislation have 90 days (January 3, 2016) to collect 365,880 signatures to place the issue on the 2016 ballot. 

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) supports all legal measures that will protect people from euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Ezekiel Emmanuel
Meanwhile, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported that the California assisted suicide law will be abused. The article quoted Dr Ezekiel Emmanuel, a long time advisor to President Obama, who studied the experience with legalized assisted death in the Netherlands and found widespread abuse. According to Dr Emmanuel:

“The Netherlands studies fail to demonstrate that permitting physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia will not lead to the non-voluntary euthanasia of children, the demented, the mentally ill, the old, and others,” he wrote for The Atlantic. “Indeed, the persistence of abuse and the violation of safeguards, despite publicity and condemnation, suggest that the feared consequences of legalization are exactly its inherent consequences.”
Legalizing assisted suicide authorizes physicians to prescribe a lethal dose to patients who are at the lowest time of their life.

Groundbreaking study links legal 'assisted dying' to an increase in suicide rates

Media Release - October 7, 2015

Some advocates claim that the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide (PAS), also known by the euphemisms 'assisted dying' and 'end of life choice', could lead to a reduction in total suicides and delay suicides that do occur. Until recently these claims had not been tested by research.

A groundbreaking study published in this week’s Southern Medical Journal counters these claims. The study examined the association between the legalisation of assisted suicide and state-level suicide rates in the United States between 1990 and 2013.

It concluded that the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide is associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides (including assisted suicides) and not at all associated with a decrease in non-assisted suicides.
“This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) non-assisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals,” the researchers concluded.
In the New Zealand context a 6.3% increase in suicide rates would represent an additional 35 deaths, based on the 2014-2015 statistics.
“I’m not at all surprised by the study's findings”, says Renee Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ. “Assisted suicide laws communicate the message that the deliberate ending of one’s life is an acceptable solution to life’s problems.”

“There is essentially no difference between suicide and ‘assisted dying’, apart from the number of people involved in the act. Suicide is a person ending their own life without help from anyone else. Assisted suicide, by definition, is a person ending their own life with the help of someone else. Both result in premature death. 
“The slogans employed to justify 'assisted dying' also apply to suicide. Suicidal people may also feel they are ‘suffering unbearably’ and without hope. They may also feel it’s ‘their body, their choice’ and that they want to ‘choose when to die’. They may also feel they are exercising their ‘right to die’. Indeed, rights apply to everyone, regardless of health status or age.

“'Assisted dying’ slogans are counter-productive to our quest to lower the suicide rate in New Zealand,” says Ms Joubert.
The Health Select Committee is currently investigating the legalisation of 'assisted dying' within the wider context of suicide. More information about how to make a submission is available at

Barrie: The Memoirs of Dr. L.L. deVeber

The founding President of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), Dr L.L. (Barrie) deVeber was a leader who initiated many important initiatives. 

The newly published book - Barrie: The Memoirs of Dr. L.L. deVeber, is the story of the life of a man who was a Pediatric Oncologist, a Hemotologist, a researcher, an innovator, a leader, and a founder of many organizations.

Dr deVeber is historically known for his work in the development of the Serum for treating Rh factor pregnancies. Countless children survived thanks to this research by Dr. deVeber. 

Dr deVeber also developed the first pediatric palliative care guidelines, that  he developed while he was treating children who were dying from cancer in London Ontario. 

He also authored and co-authored many research papers that remain important today.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is selling the book: Barrie for $25 (inludes postage). Bulk prices and orders are available upon request.

Books can be ordered by calling the EPC office at: 1-877-439-3348 or email: or by purchasing by paypal (link). (please state Barrie in paypal purchase)

The editor states in the Forward of Barrie: The Memoirs of Dr. L.L. deVeber:
Dr. L.L. deVeber M.D., F.R.C.P. (C)
• Professor Emeritas Paediatrics and Oncology, University of Western Ontario
• Former Director Paediatric Oncology Children's Hospital of Western Ontario 
Dr. L.L. "Barrie" deVeber is internationally recognized as a pioneer in paediatric palliative care. 
His innovative work with children with cancer, pregnant woman and the Rh factor, and hemophilia patients, has affected the lives of many. His medical career has taken him around the globe, from Canada to England to the USA, to Saudi Arabia to Africa. 
Dr. deVeber is a founding member of various organizations including Camp Trillium, the Sunshine Foundation, the Montessori School of London ON, the Ronald McDonald House in London ON and the London and Area Right to Life. He is the founding President of the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Barrie & Iola deVeber (2012)
Dr. deVeber spent a career challenging the status quo. He has made countless presentations to government and local communities on the importance of respecting all human life. 
Dr. deVeber is a man who has truly lived: his caring and compassion has touched the lives of thousands of people and his Irish charm has made him a friend of many. 
His story is worth reading.      S.M.S
Among his many accomplishments, Barrie is a family man who was married to Iola for 61 years and who had 6 children. The book is dedicated to Iola who passed away on June 19, 2015.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Not Dead Yet Denounces California Governor’s decision to sign Assisted Suicide Bill

This article was published by Not Dead Yet on October 5, 2015.

Diane Coleman
By Diane Coleman, the President and CEO of the disability right group Not Dead Yet.

Today, NDY was devastated and disgusted to learn that California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the assisted suicide bill that proponents rammed through a “special” session of the legislature convened to address the state’s Medicaid budget.

Governor Brown’s message accompanying his action states that he “carefully read” materials from opponents such as “those who champion disability rights,” but he nevertheless seems to have missed key facts.

For one, he says that “the crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life . . ..” Suicide is not a crime under California law (nor in other states), but assisted suicide proponents love to confuse people about that. The crime is when physicians and other third parties, such as the individual’s heirs, assist in suicide.

When confronted with that fact, proponents then often argue that old, ill and disabled people need help to commit suicide, which is another falsehood. As proponents promote on their website, any old, ill or disabled person can already commit suicide legally and peacefully in any state. So it is not a crime for a dying person to end his or her life peacefully, and Governor Brown’s stated “crux of the matter” is therefore mistaken.

Near the end of his short statement, Governor Brown said:
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. 
I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain.”
This reveals that he didn’t really learn very much about the advances in palliative care when it comes to physical pain. At this point in time, palliative care physicians are able to relieve physical pain, even if that may in some instances require palliative sedation. Some people may feel that they don’t want to be made unconscious to relieve pain, but that’s a psycho-social issue. The implication that assisted suicide is needed to relieve physical pain is mistaken.

The Governor’s stated reasons are based on fallacies and his action must be denounced. When held up alongside the factually based and well considered reasons that disability rights organizations oppose legalization of assisted suicide – mistaken prognoses, insurance denials, family coercion and abuse, among others – his failure to veto the bill amounts to a breach of his duty to protect all Californians, not just the privileged few who can count on high quality health care and the support of a loving family.

Mary Karner: Why my mother, who just died from brain cancer, opposed assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday was a terrible day for those who believe in true dignity and oppose assisted suicide. Governor Jerry Brown signed the California assisted suicide bill into law.

The California assisted suicide bill passed in a subversive legislative process. The assisted suicide bill originally stalled in the State Assembly Health Committee. Then the assisted suicide bill re-appeared in a special session that Governor Brown called to examine the health care funding shortfall. In the meantime, the governing caucus re-arranged the committee members to ensure that the assisted suicide bill would receive committee support. Therefore the assisted suicide bill was passed in a two-week session without the scrutiny of other legislation. Governor Brown signed the bill into law, enabling California doctors to prescribe lethal doses for suicide to their patients who are living in a low time of their life.

Maggie Karner
But today, the Federalist published a poignant and personal letter by Mary Karner, a nurse and the daughter of Maggie Karner titled: My Mom Just Died Of Brain Cancer, Here's Why She Opposed Assisted Suicide.

I admired Maggie Karner for her ability to express her opposition to assisted suicide and her daughter appears to have inherited this gift. Mary Karner wrote:
I’ve performed CPR till I thought my arms would fall off to keep blood pumping through a child’s body. I’ve administered life-saving medication to a patient having a stroke and seen the joy on his face when he regained his speech. I’ve had a patient fall through a ceiling onto another patient (I can’t even make that up.) I’ve held the hand of patients as they’ve taken their last breath, and I’ve hugged family members so tight I couldn’t breathe. I really thought I’d seen it all. 
And then last week, my mom died. She had a glioblastoma brain tumor. I knew all about it, even cared for patients with her same diagnosis. I knew what was going to happen. But no matter how much I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. Death stings. And my beautiful, 52-year-old mother’s grave is freshly dug. 
But my mom’s name was Dr. Maggie Karner. And she was the textbook definition of awesome. Don’t take my word for it, Google her. She devoted her entire life to helping others... I’m not sure I’ve ever heard my mom speak more passionately then when she was talking about the word “mercy.” And that’s why my mom used her last days on Earth to campaign against a very dangerous use of that word. A “merciful death” some would call it, or a “right to die.” 
Mary Karner
My mom is most famous for a YouTube video that went viral entitled “A Letter to Brittany Maynard.” In the video my mom pleaded with Brittany, who had the same diagnosis, not to commit assisted suicide. Unfortunately, Brittany eventually chose to end her life, but my mom never stopped advocating for life. In her words, “How long will it be before the right to die quickly devolves into the duty to die? What does this mean for all who are elderly, or disabled, or just wondering if they’ve become a burden to the family?” Even while she was receiving chemotherapy, my mom spoke at the Connecticut state house to lobby against a “right to die” bill. The bill did not pass. 
Difficulty Doesn’t Justify Suicide 
That’s why my heart breaks tonight to learn the news that California’s governor has just signed legislation allowing residents of the state to take their own lives in the face of terminal illness. This makes five states in our nation allowing assisted suicide. 
Believe me, terminal illness sucks. There is no way to sugar coat that. It stole my mom from me along with so many others. But it also gave me something that I could never begin to describe, the opportunity to serve her. My family and I cared for her when she could no longer care for herself. We were her left arm when hers was paralyzed. And when that became too much, we had the distinct privilege of being able to visit her at her hospice facility during the last month of her life. She was not herself, and many times confused, but she could laugh. Even up until the day before she died we laughed about seagulls that she thought were drones. We laughed about how much she loved chocolate and McFlurry’s from McDonald’s. We laughed about all the stupid things I did as a kid. And then when she could no longer laugh, we sang to her and we prayed with her. 
My mom said it best in an op-ed in the Hartford Courant: “My brain may be cancerous, but I still have lots to contribute to society as a strong woman, wife and mother while my family can daily learn the value of caring for me in my last days with compassion and dignity.” 
I’m here to say that she was right. No matter how hard it was and still is. She was so right. And the greatest honor of my life was to care for my mom in her last days. I hope and pray that her legacy will continue to inspire caring American voters to support those choosing to squeeze life for every drop that it has to give. Support hospice and palliative care programs that give true meaning to “death with dignity.” Let those fighting illness and disabilities know that they are precious, no matter what. They should never have to feel for a second that they might have a “duty to die” just because the option is available.
Thank you Mary for sharing your experience with your incredible mother. Your mother was right. 

Mary Karner is a Registered Nurse currently working in Connecticut.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Governor Brown delivers death sentence to California.

This article was published on the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC) website

By Jennifer Lahl, CBC President - October 5, 2015.

It is with heavy hearts that we at the CBC report that Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law ABx2 15. California becomes the fifth state to allow physician assisted suicide after Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

In his signing message to the California State Assembly, Governor Brown states that he weighed the arguments of those who support and those who oppose physician assisted suicide and concluded that he could not deny those dying and in “prolonged and excruciating pain” the right to end their lives.

Dr Aaron Kheriaty
CBC Board Member, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Irvine, who has worked tirelessly to oppose AB x 2 15 said:
Naturally, I’m very disappointed that Governor Brown signed into law today legislation that will permit doctor assisted suicide in California. His letter stating why he signed the bill indicated that he made his decision in the end based upon what he would want in the face of his own death, and suggesting that while he might not avail himself of this option he would want it available.

Among the many problems with this reasoning is this: Governor Brown is among the socially and economically privileged Californians who are least likely to be adversely impacted by this legislation—with access to the best healthcare and plenty of financial resources. But he has a responsibility not only for the impact of the legislation on him, or on those like him, but on all Californians. Those others who are economically and socially marginalized, who do not have access to even decent medical care, will be vulnerable to pressures to accept this cheap and expedient “option” for dealing with difficult, complex, and frequently expensive situations at the end of life. We have to look at the impact of this law not only for ourselves or for those close to us. We need to look at how it will impact the common good, on how it will affect healthcare institutions and the entire practice of medicine for patients at the end of life.

Only just today, a study by Jones and Paton in the Southern Medical Journal demonstrates that the permissive assisted suicide laws in Washington and Oregon have led in those states to at least a 6% rise in overall suicide rates. While this study was not published in time to impact the debates in California, hopefully other states will take into account this and other studies that demonstrate the negative impacts on public health from such legislation. Suicide is among the health-related behaviors that tend to spread from person to person through social networks, up to three degrees of separation. We know also that publicized cases lead to clusters of copycat cases. A Swiss study in 2003, for example, indicated evidence for suicide contagion following media reports of doctor-assisted suicide. Furthermore, the law itself is a teacher. These laws communicate the message that under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living. This message will be heard by not only those with a terminal illness but also any person struggling with the temptation to end his or her own life.”
We at the CBC reject policy that suggests people have a right to die, that medicine should be corrupted to include killing as part of patient care, and that exposes the vulnerable among us to schemes that suggest assisted suicide is a compassionate choice to those in need of care.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia: political parties are fleeing their responsibilities

The election campaign is moving ahead and politicians are firing out their promises. Yet despite their life or death implication for all Canadians, the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia remain taboo! The next government will have as a first duty the enormous responsibility of passing a law to regulate assisted suicide in time for the Supreme Court’s February 6, 2016 deadline.

Moreover, the aggressive reaction of Quebec politicians against palliative care professionals who refuse to kill people under their care announces a serious danger for all of Canada. This attack on freedom strongly suggests that the "right to die" will inevitably become an obligation to kill if we do not take all legislative precautions to avoid it.

We recognize that the wording of laws and regulations will either enable or discourage misuse of assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, it is well known that no safeguards can entirely prevent the deaths of ineligible and non-consenting people. The data from a recent study in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, found that 1.7% of all deaths were intentionally hastened without request and people with depression and cognitive disorders are dying by euthanasia. The new Canadian government must use all means available to prevent such tragedies.

Faced with the silence of the political parties, the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), the EPC – BC, and Living with Dignity are adding their voice to those calling for a clear position with firm commitments from all political parties before the end of the election campaign so that Canadians can make an informed choice.

Together, we ask that all political parties publicly commit themselves to enact legislation and implement regulations which:

• protect vulnerable citizens from inducement to suicide, including people with physical and intellectual disabilities, those with mental illness, loss of autonomy or advanced chronic disease, and those at the end of life; 
• improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care for all Canadians, for there is no true free and informed consent to death if the patient is not aware of, or has no access to, the alternatives; 
• uphold freedom of conscience for caregivers in all health care environments by preventing any form of coercion and pressure to participate in the killing of persons under their care.
It would be a serious injustice to Canadians to leave unaddressed such fundamental issues for the future of our society. Canadians have the right to know how our elderly, disabled and terminally ill citizens will be treated after the federal election of October 19.

For more information contact: