Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Second Thoughts at Massachusetts Assisted Suicide hearing.

This report was written by John Kelly, the leader of the disability rights group Second Thoughts and a regional co-ordinator for Not Dead Yet. This report, concerns the Massachusetts State hearing on the assisted suicide bill H1998, was published in two parts by Not Dead Yet.  Part 1 was published on December 30, Part 2 was published on December 31.
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John Kelly on left.
A year after helping defeat assisted suicide at the Massachusetts polls, it was a broader and stronger cross-disability coalition that came to testify at the recent Statehouse hearing on assisted suicide bill H 1998. Revealing formal statements of opposition from the national group Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the local MPOWER, advocates with Second Thoughts Massachusetts gave legislators even more reasons for “second thoughts” about legalizing assisted suicide.
Without apology, the Joint Committee On Public Health held its scheduled hearing despite the impassable state of local sidewalks. Many supporters of Second Thoughts Massachusetts were snowbound, denied the right to participate in the democratic process. Those of us lucky enough to get to the Statehouse came from across the region. Cathy Ludlum and Stephen Mendelsohn traveled from Connecticut to represent Second Thoughts Connecticut, and Bill Peace traveled from New York on behalf of Not Dead Yet. Unlike last year’s hearing, no accommodation had been made for the influx of wheelchair users, so we filled the entrance aisle in front of one of the doors.
I was going to save my complaint for the end of my testimony, but after traveling in the street like an automobile and hearing stories of people injured by icy sidewalks, I began my testimony with:
“Being stuck inside for days on end without relief is another way that disabled and older people get the message that we are not as valuable as other people. If we were as valued, the sidewalks would either be clear or the hearing would be postponed.”
When the snow picked back up, threatening automobile traffic, the hearing was cut short by state order.
Suicide proponents, meanwhile, were met by designated greeters and plastered with green stickers proclaiming “My Life/My Choice/My Death.” Belying their natty appearance, proponents were surprisingly rowdy when Second Thoughts was testifying. In appearance and style, H 1998 supporters came directly from the Compassion & Choices catalog: a spry group of the older white upper-middle class that we call the 4-W’s, the “white well-off worried well.” One dual-cane using curmudgeon electrified the crowd by concluding a story with the words “but I would shoot you!” Chair Representative Jeffrey Sanchez immediately called for order. Two state legislators, one each from Massachusetts and Vermont, extolled assisted suicide.
It was great to see Barbara Rockett affirming the opposition of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Elaine O’Reilly continued to represent the long-standing opposition of the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation, which Second Thoughts was proud to work with last year.
I started off our testimony by talking about the history of Second Thoughts, how we helped stop Question 2 by demolishing two main arguments put forward by prominent proponents like Dr. Marcia Angell. Last year, her first argument narrowed the difference between life and death by insisting that people with a terminal diagnosis are (actively) dying, suffering needlessly in the process. The only question left, so she argued, was the exact timing and manner of the death. This argument collapsed under the weight of our own life experience, bolstered by the timely revelation that Edward Kennedy had initially been “given” 2-4 months to live, but lived 15 more productive and meaningful months.
Marcia Angell’s second argument, that assisted suicide is necessary to relieve suffering and protect dignity, evaporated under closer inspection. People learned that the real issue wasn’t physical pain but emotional and social distress.
Palliative care has demonstrated that physical pain is a medical issue that can be addressed, I said, whereas proponents want the state to approve their suicides when they are experiencing disabling conditions many of us know well. They call it “death with dignity.” I pointed out that this particular notion of “dignity” is specific to a narrow social class of almost exclusively white people. According to a poll recently taken by Pew, whites support legalized assisted suicide by 53%-44%, but 65% of both blacks and Latinos oppose it. I concluded:
“We have a public health problem, but it isn’t certain people’s lack of dignity, it’s the turn to suicide as a social solution by a powerful social class. Legalizing assisted suicide would only entrench this suicidal tendency as the preferred social norm.”
Second Thoughts Massachusetts member Kate Ryan represented the local Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) chapter in opposing H 1998. Kate summed up the essence of ableism when she said:
“When physician-assisted suicide is presented to a person with a disability, they are not just making a simple choice to live or to die. They are also being pressured by society, by their family and friends, and by medical providers, to admit that their life is not worth living.”
Kate Ryan also worked with national ASAN to develop an official statement against assisted suicide and H 1998.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, ASAN, is against physician-assisted suicide and specifically, H 1998. We believe that both the practice and the bill discriminates heavily against those with physical and developmental disabilities… If you pass this law, you will be putting the power of who lives and who dies out of the individual’s hands and into that of an unscrupulous society, who do not think that we have lives worth living. We say we do, and we say to please vote against this bill.
At this point, Mike Martinignetti, who uses a wheelchair because of Parkinson’s disease, testified in support of H 1998. He said that John Kelly doesn’t represent disabled people, and that he wanted to be able to die when he felt like a burden. He was a person used to giving, he declared, and did not want to be on the receiving end. Not Dead Yet and our allies have never claimed to represent the views of all disabled people regarding legalization of assisted suicide. However, all of the major national disability organizations that have taken a position on the issue oppose legalization.
Second Thoughts member Denise Karuth told her personal history of total body nerve pain, which she said made:
. . . me feel like my body has been immersed in scalding water from the neck down all the way to my bones, every day, all day long, 24/7. Because the damage also causes my heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature to fluctuate widely, I have no doubt that, if I lived in Oregon, where PAS is legal, I could have found a doctor from Compassion and Choices to say I had six months or less to live and received a lethal prescription.
Instead, Denise tried various experimental pain treatments until she teamed up with a doctor to implant a pain pump using the only medication that could work, concentrated anesthetic. Denise proves once again that hope is an important part of life, and that by continuing to treat her pain, she not only helped herself but other people with a similar situation. Society benefited further when Denise went on to write $160,000 in successful grants for a Stavros program to help disabled people stay in their homes.
If assisted suicide had been available to me, none of these things would have happened. A lethal prescription is not a medical treatment. It is, literally, killing with what people mistakenly think is kindness. All people, even people who are nearing the end of life, deserve suicide counseling and compassionate, life-affirming health care and supports, including adequate pain medication, not a lethal prescription.
Unless an assisted suicide bill were to consider everyone eligible, the bill would inevitably have a discriminatory impact. As Denise notes, either we give everyone suicide prevention counseling or we declare that certain people’s deaths are for the best. We know that everyone’s life has value.
This is the end of Part 1 of this report. Check back tomorrow for the second half, including Second Thoughts Connecticut leaders Stephen Mendelsohn, MPOWER Board President Ruthie Poole, and Bill Peace of Not Dead Yet. – John Kelly
Part 1 of this blog introduced the Massachusetts Statehouse hearing held on December 17 about legalizing assisted suicide. The Joint Committee on Public Health heard testimony on Bill H 1998, introduced as always by Democrat Representative Louis Kafka of Stoughton.
Geriatric social worker and peer advocate Cassie Cramer drove home the point that it is social oppression that causes people distress, that the answer is social supports, not suicide. Cassie said:
I’d like to imagine that the choice to end one’s life would be made without any influence of guilt over the cost of care, hopelessness due to failure of systems of care, or loss of self-esteem due to living in a society that values youth, productivity and independence.  But, this is not the world we live in.  My experience as a geriatric social worker parallels physician Ira Byock’s observations, that “much suffering of people with advanced illness is preventable and the indignities are imposed.”        
Second Thoughts Connecticut leader Cathy Ludlum defended the rights of disabled people to stay alive:
Once someone has a disability, there will likely be times where problems arise and survival is not assured. Add to that the very strong cultural assumption that death is preferable to life with a disability, and you have a recipe for disaster. Most of us have stories about how doctors treat us differently from our nondisabled counterparts, asking us if aggressive treatment is really what we want or need. For us, physician assisted suicide looks like a new way to die from our practitioners’ unconscious biases.
Stephen Mendelsohn of Second Thoughts Connecticut proclaimed our intimate social connections by quoting John Donne’s famous line that “no man is an island; any man’s death diminishes me.” Riffing on the primitive individualism of the proponents, Stephen said:
“My Life. My Death. My Choice.” What does that message, plastered on billboards and worn on stickers, send to an autistic or LGBT teenager who is being mercilessly bullied? When you give a societal go-ahead for suicide under the Orwellian term “compassionate aid-in-dying,” it becomes contagious, especially in a society obsessed with me, myself, and I. 
Stephen recounted the story of a severely disabled man, a very happy man with a rich work and family life, being asked by a 16-year-old girl, “If it’s okay to shorten the life of someone because of their suffering—well, I’m also suffering, and I’d rather die than live.”
Ruthie Poole, President of the Board of MPOWER, a statewide membership organization made up of people with lived experience of mental health diagnoses, spoke to the limitations of personal autonomy in the presence of severe depression. Ruthie said:
Absolute hopelessness and seeing no way out are common feelings for those of us who have experienced severe depression. Personally, as someone who has been suicidal in the past, I can relate to the desire for “a painless and easy way out.”  However, depression is treatable and reversible. Suicide is not.
MPOWER joined ASAN in making public statements against legalization.
Allegra Stout, Community Organizer with the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) reiterated its position taken last year against assisted suicide.
Bill Peace on left.
Bill Peace, board member of Not Dead Yet, was signed up ahead of time for the first panel, but got inexplicably passed over. Adding to an oppressive string of inaccessible experiences, Bill got overheated by the hot hearing room air. Only after he insisted was he called to testify.
Bill recounted his hellish experience in a hospital of being approached at midnight by a strange doctor. Bill was ill but fully expected to recover from a serious skin ulcer when a man appeared at his hospital bedside inquiring whether Bill understood the gravity of his condition.
He grimly told me I would be bedbound for at least six months and most likely a year or more. That there was a good chance the wound would never heal. If this happened, I would never sit in my wheelchair. I would never be able to work again. Not close to done, he told me I was looking at a life of complete and utter dependence. My medical expenses would be staggering. Bankruptcy was not just possible but likely. Insurance would stop covering wound care well before I was healed. Most people with the type of wound I had ended up in a nursing home.
The doctor urged Bill to die. It is hard to describe the feeling of betrayal, when you realize that the professional into whose care you have been placed believes that you would be better off dead and should die.
It took Bill years to write his story, but when the Hastings Center Report published it, his honesty induced an outpouring of similar stories. Once again, we realize how powerful our own stories are, how political the personal actually is.
Barely had Bill Peace finished when news swept through the room that the Statehouse was about to close, as a second batch of snow was falling. So with about 20 assisted suicide supporters waiting to speak, Chair Jeffrey Sanchez gaveled the hearing to a close and ordered everyone out.
Like bookends, disability discrimination framed the meeting. What began with the exclusion of people impacted by the bill under consideration was brought to a close by the prerogatives of those who are able to travel by car. When people have to stay indoors for sake of their physical safety, the exclusion does not seem to bother our elites. But when their cars might be slowed down, everyone go home.
Statehouse reporter Christine Lee for WWLP-22NewsSpringfield did a story on the hearing, and briefly interviewed me.   She grabbed one quote:
But bill opponents fear the law could be abused to coerce the disabled and elderly into dying. 
“What people should be doing instead of searching for suicide as an answer is making sure that good palliative care and early enough hospice is available to everyone,”  John Kelley (sic), director of Second Choices Mass.
There is more testimony! Because of the snow, some people could not make it to testify. Here is the NDY press release that links to a collection of testimony, including Eileen Feldman’s and Dusya Lyubovskaya’s who could not attend in person, along with a letter I sent to a local disability rights group. – John Kelly
If you'd like to make a contribution to support the work of great Not Dead Yet activists like John Kelly who wrote the post below, please donate here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Jersey Assisted Suicide bill is dangerous.

The following articles is a Times of Trenton guest opinion column that was written by Dr. Ana Gomes and published on December 30, 2013.


Governor Chris Christie
opposes assisted suicide
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has expressed his opposition to the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act.

By Dr. Ana Gomes

The New Jersey Death with Dignity Act (A3328/S2259) has little to do with discussing end-of-life care with our doctor, as those who are pushing to legalize assisted suicide would lead us to believe. Every day, doctors like me give end-of-life care information to their patients and their families, from hospice care choices to palliative care options.

The proposed physician assisted suicide legislation stipulates that doctors may prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have less than six months to live. While we make the prognoses as best we can, using the most advanced technology, a prognosis is still just a highly informed guess.

Enormous pressure is levied against patients who believe they have but a few months more to live, when the reality could be much different.

Take, for example, the case of Oregonian Jeanette Hall, who was given less than a year to live after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Overcome with fear and despair about a disease she believed would render her too weak to function and a burden to her family, along with the overwhelming thought of medical costs, Jeanette asked her radiologist for physician assisted suicide. Fortunately for Jeanette, her radiologist believed his role was to cure her and to offer her hope, which he did. Thirteen years later, Jeannette is grateful for his advice and thankful that he did not believe the only way out for her was suicide.

Health care is already a very complex industry and it is becoming even more so. Health care is often made worse when the Legislature attempts to trump a physician’s expertise with political prescriptions that have no place in the medical community.

Discussing with a patient a potentially terminal prognosis is always difficult, and the decisions that must be made are varied and complex. The last thing patients need is state-sanctioned pressure that implicitly informs them they are no longer of value. Rather, effective management tools such as hospice and better palliative care can offer real options that don’t carry hidden threats.

The bill is dangerous. Under A3328/S2259, once the lethal dose is prescribed, there is no requirement for medical oversight or psychological screening to eliminate the possibility that a patient is acting out of depression or dementia. The administration of the drugs is left to the patient or possibly a family member or friend, leaving the door wide open for abuse. Without accountability, the pressure on the patient is sharply accentuated. What if that patient is feeling pressure from the family to ask for that lethal dose of medication? Or worse yet, what if the lethal drugs are used for something more nefarious?

The bill is opposed by members of both political parties, the medical community as a whole, and various disability rights groups.

Gov. Christie also announced his opposition to the legislation. As a physician, I appreciate his clarity on this issue. It is a physician’s duty to put his or her patient’s well-being first, and assisted suicide turns that relationship on its head. There is no “choice” when implicit and explicit pressures come with a serious disability or illness. This legislation is a dangerous mix of assisted suicide as medicine and political expediency. It’s a proposal that New Jersey can do without.

Ana P. Gomes, D.O., is a family practitioner who practices medicine at Kaleidoscope Medical Associates in Phillipsburg. She is affiliated with the New Jersey Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Disability and euthanasia in Belgium.

I was busy cleaning up my emails and I came across this article that was written by Michael Cook and published by BioEdge on August 31, 2013 under the title: Whose Autonomy is respected in Belgium?

I published this article on the blog about the same topic, but Michael Cook hit the nail on the head in a simpler fashion.

On November 13, in Brussels, I was given the opportunity to debate euthanasia leaders in Belgium. During that debate, Etienne Vermeersch, one of the authors of the Belgium euthanasia law stated that the Belgian euthanasia law was specifically designed for people with disabilities or people chronic conditions.

Belgium is currently debating the extension of euthanasia to children with disabilities.

Belgium is infringing on the rights of people with disabilities while also killing people with disabilities by euthanasia.

The Quebec people also need to know that euthanasia Bill 52, is based on the Belgian euthanasia law.

By Michael Cook, August 31, 2013. Link to the article.

Opponents of euthanasia in Belgium are highlighting the state of disability services there. A recent judgement by the European Committee on Social Rights found that that Belgium’s inadequate provision of care and accommodation for highly dependent persons with disabilities amounted to a violation of human rights.

While arguments for legalised euthanasia are fundamentally based on the right to autonomy, the Committee found that Belgium had failed to promote the autonomy of the disabled. There was a failure to provide effective access to social and medical assistance, social services and housing; a violation of the right to independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community; a lack of social, legal and economic protection against poverty and social exclusion; and discrimination.

The Committee was responding to a complaint made by the International Federal for Human Rights on behalf of an estimated 75,000 disabled adults in Belgium. They include persons with multiple disabilities; persons with autism; persons with an acquired brain injury; persons with severe cerebral palsy; persons with a severe to profound mental disability; persons with behavioural disorders on top of a pre-existing severe disability; and persons in a position of high dependency caused by a range of other factors. 
Links to similar articles:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bill Peace: The assisted suicide push

The following article was written by Bill Peace, also known as "Bad Cripple" and published on his blog on December 24, 2013. Peace recently testified against the assisted suicide bill in Massachusetts.

Bill Peace
By Bill Peace

Those that seek to pass assisted suicide legislation into law are relentless. Nothing will disuade them from their goal. I have not observed this sort of commitment outside of religious or political fanaticism. I am not suggesting the people and organizations that advocate for assisted suicide are fanatics. Quite the contrary, most are good people with a strong opinion on an important topic. Most that advocate for assisted suicide are white, middle aged, and well educated. I will acknowledge they have good reason to be concerned about the way we die. To witness the bad death of a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or close friend is a horrific life changing experience. What advocates fail to grasp is people die badly for cultural reasons. Americans fear death and value autonomy above all else. I find it tiresome to hear people state that when I cannot control my bladder and bowels I want to die. I will not let another person wipe my ass, dress my body, and feed me. I would rather die than go to a nursing home. All of this undermines a narrow concept of autonomy.

I too bemoan the fact people die badly. However, assisted suicide legislation is not the answer. We simply do not need such laws. I have long wondered why people insist on pushing assisted suicide legislation when what is need is a national discussion about end of life in general. My recent experience in Boston testifying in opposition to H1998 helped me understand where proponents of such legislation have gone wrong: they have turned the debate surrounding the end of life into a public policy question.  At no point are the larger cultural implications of assisted suicide legislation considered. This reduces the debate to be about individuals rather than about the social forces that drive one to conclude their life has no value and death is preferable to life. To me, this is a socio-cultural tragedy not an individual failure or issue of choice. More to the point, lives are at stake. This was on full display symbolically in Boston. Proponents of assisted suicide wore blue stickers that read “My life. My Choice. My death”. This slogan is wrong. Simply put, no human being dies in a social vacuum. Death is never about an individual alone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

20 most popular articles on euthanasia & assisted suicide.




3. Declaration of Hope – January 17, 2013.

4. Belgian twins euthanized out of fear of blindness – January 14, 2013.

5. Nitschke continues to promote Nembutal sales over the internet – June 22, 2010.

6. Dr Phil show: Woman wants to euthanize her adult children with disabilities. – April 16, 2012.

7. Belgium euthanasia study finds that nearly half of all euthanasia deaths are not reported. – December 4, 2010.

8. 5 reasons why people devalue the elderly – May 25, 2010.

9. Trisomy 18 is not a Death Sentence. The story of Lilliana Dennis – May 29, 2012.

10. Elder abuse caught on video, incident is not isolated. May 22, 2013.

11. Suicide/Asphyxiation Exit Kit company raided by FBI. – May 26, 2011.

12. Oregon Suicide rate soars after legalizing assisted suicide. - September 12, 2010.

13. Euthanasia Poll: What do the people of Quebec really want. – November 22, 2010.

14. Bill to outlaw euthanasia by dehydration passed by Italy’s lower house. – July 13, 2011.

15. Botched sex-change operation victim euthanized in Belgium – October 1, 2013.

16. Mild stroke led to mother’s forced death by dehydration – September 27, 2011.

17. Depressed Belgian woman dies by Euthanasia – February 6, 2013.

18. Responding to the disturbing decision by Justice Smith in the Carter case – June 20, 2012.

19. Belgium Senate will vote on Bill to extend euthanasia to children with disabilities – November 21, 2013.

20. CARP asks federal government to add offense of elder abuse to the criminal code - March 1, 2011.

Other recent or popular articles:

Quebec Bill 52 is not safe. December 12, 2013

Quebec Euthanasia bill (Bill 52) is a very dangerous bill. June 18, 2013.

Oregon 2012 Assisted Suicide statistics - January 24, 2013.

British Columbia Court to hear spoon feeding case – August 8, 2013.

Mobile euthanasia units started in the Netherlands today. – March 1, 2012.

Is the Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission a Sham?

This article was published in Dutch by the Belgian Medical Newspaper (www.artsenkrant.com) and in French by “Le Journal du Médecin” on December 20, 2013.

By Dr. Georges Casteur and Dr. Sc. Tom Mortier

Abstract: The Belgian Euthanasia Commission for monitoring and evaluation has no oversight function. It only has an administrative function.

The Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission, more commonly called the Euthanasia Commission was established by the Belgian 2002 Euthanasia Act. This committee has as its main task to ensure an after-the-fact application of the law by the doctors who practice euthanasia.

The physician must complete after each act of euthanasia a document consisting of two parts. The first part contains specific information such as the name of the patient and the physician consulted. This document is confidential and the Euthanasia Commission does not have access to it at first.

The second component is anonymous and contains diagnostic and other circumstances that led to euthanasia. It is only in case of doubt that the committee may decide by a simple majority to consult the first part. The Euthanasia Commission can, by a two-thirds majority, decide to refer the case to the prosecutor.

Since 2002, over 8,000 cases of euthanasia have been recorded. Those cases reported to the Euthanasia Commission were “controlled” as “anonymous” as described above. However these “two words” deserve reflection.

In 11 years, no case has been referred to the prosecutor for reasons that are inherent in the law itself:
 every physician knows how to complete the second part of the document, to not get into trouble;• there are operational issues with the Euthanasia Commission that several recent events have shown.
Some registration documents concerning acts of euthanasia were performed by the President of the Euthanasia Commission himself, and other members of this commission appear to be in a conflict of interest. For example, the President of the Euthanasia Commission practiced on September 30 2013, under the gaze of cameras, euthanasia in a transsexual, who became depressed after surgery for sex reassignment. This file was publicized in the extreme and has been submitted by this same President to the Euthanasia Commission. However, the President nevertheless stated publicly that this act fits perfectly within the statutory criteria of the law. How could the members of the Euthanasia Commission possibly still oppose this case when their President already played publicly the judge and the executioner?

Moreover, this same president said in front of the cameras that he already has practiced euthanasia on foreigners who had found their way to our country for a lethal injection.

To what extent will the members of this committee oppose such abuses?

Is it surprising that the impartiality of the commission, as required by law, is in doubt?

How can this Committee accept as its president a man who presents himself in the media as a judge and a jury?

Should we wonder why no file has been referred for prosecution so far?

We come to the conclusion that even the most strict application of the law to prevent abuses doesn’t work. Therefore, the Euthanasia Commission has no control function at all, but only an administrative record function!

When even the president of the Euthanasia Committee is profiling himself openly as a judge and a jury, it seems all the more important that the operation and the impartiality of this commission is severely questioned. It is high time to consider a solution such as a before the act control commission or the replacement of the Euthanasia Commission by a panel of judges, advised by doctors if necessary.

Dr. Georges Casteur, General Practitioner, Ostend
Dr. Sc. Tom Mortier, The Department of Health and Technology, Leuven University College

Monday, December 23, 2013

People are being wrongly diagnosed as PVS.

This article was written by Bobby Schinder and published on the Life and Hope Network website under the title: Our disdain for the Brain Injured. This article was also published by LifeNews.
By Bobby Schindler - December 23. 2013
Bobby Schindler
How many of these news reports do we need to read about patients who are wrongly diagnosed as being in a so-called persistent vegetative state (PVS) before we eliminate this dangerous, unscientific and completely subjective diagnosis? I’m getting tired writing about it.
Our brain injured are being killed because of it, not to mention the prejudices that exist against these persons by labeling them as “vegetables” as a result of this bogus and dehumanizing diagnosis.
In yet another finding, this time out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found those who were purportedly in a PVS showed some level of awareness. This contradicts the PVS definition that says a person in this condition has no awareness and/or is unable to communicate. From the story, “First-of-Its-Kind Experiment Reveals Patients in Vegetative State Might Have Emotional Connection to Familiar Faces:
“We showed that patients in a vegetative state can react differently to different stimuli in the environment depending on their emotional value,” said Dr. Haggai Sharon with Tel Aviv University’s Functional Brain Center, according to American Friends of Tel Aviv University. “It’s not a generic thing; it’s personal and autobiographical. We engaged the person, the individual, inside the patient.”
Scott Routley
Over the past several years there has been a steady stream of research that is discovering how persons diagnosed as being in a PVS are, in fact, able to communicate at some level. It was as far back as 2006 when our organization, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network issued its first press release on this deceptive PVS diagnosis and its need to be rejected, when research found similar results regarding patients wrongly diagnosed as being in a PVS.
For families who are caring for these persons, these finding are hugely significant, as it was for the family of Scott Routley when it was found that he was able to communicate with his parents as to whether or not he was in pain after physicians thought he was in PVS and unable to respond. And I recently wrote about a two-year old named L.B. who physicians believed would never improve from his PVS condition, only to be proven wrong when he responded to adult stem cell treatment, emerging from his so-called PVS condition.
All of these new brain studies and their results, particularly when it comes to catastrophic injuries to the brain, demonstrate how science is improving when it comes to understanding the brain, brain injury and subsequent treatment protocols. So much so, that one can only guess what the future holds for these persons and why there is reason to be encouraged.
Tragically, most people do not realize when a physician determines someone is in a PVS, it can become a death sentence for them – both figuratively and literally. Indeed, when diagnosed as “PVS” and therefore deemed as having no “quality of life”, funding to help them receive rehab is essentially cut-off by insurance companies and/or Medicare/Medicaid. And because families cannot afford the rehab services their family member needs, often times these persons are abandoned and warehoused with no chance to recover.
Ironically, rehabilitation and therapy is most vital to these individuals during this time so that their quality of life can be improved, otherwise the potential for their recovery will be forever compromised. However, even more disturbing is that the decision to kill these vulnerable persons (many times by starvation and dehydration) can be easily made and happens every single day. Over the years, because of the aggressive nature of those infatuated with seeing these people eliminated from existence, laws have been changed so that once they are diagnosed as PVS, these people can be legally killed; and it’s legal to kill these innocent souls in all 50 states.
Unfortunately, for these brain injured persons and the families who unconditionally love them and decide to take care of them, there really doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of passion when it comes to protecting their lives, let alone getting them the help they need and deserve.
Until the day comes when society sees the value in protecting the God given dignity of these persons, things will not change. In fact, it will get worse with the new health care system and with too many of those in the medical profession who, not only discriminate against these people, but who also loathe them.

Links to similar articles:
● Canadian research showing that some PVS people can communicate.
● Patients in Vegetative State should not be assumed to be unaware.
● Imagine the pain of knowing you are being dehydrated to death.

Reality check: Elder abuse is on the rise.

By Alex Schadenberg

The Associated Press published an article on December 23, 2013 titled: Elder abuse, including neglect, is on the rise. This article is a reality check.

Many family members or care-givers lack the capacity to care, or they have negative attitudes, or they lack empathy and compassion for person's in need, or they may be self-centered. We must not hide our heads in the sand, these are horrific crimes that are perpetrated for many reasons.

The suicide lobby are turning a blind eye to the reality of life for many seniors, and people with disabilities, who are dependent on others, when they promote euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. 

The article begins with the story of Australian, Cynthia Thoresen:
By the time the ambulance showed up to the house, the old woman's screams were, as the paramedics would later tell it, already at a 10 out of 10. 
On a bed in the foyer lay 88-year-old Cynthia Thoresen, her eyes screwed up in agony, her fists clenched, with an untended broken leg. Feces caked her body, from her arms down to her feet, filling the crevices between her toes and under her fingernails. 
The fact that Cynthia even lived in the house was a surprise to most of the neighbors. None had ever seen her. None had any idea she'd spent her final days in hellish pain after a fall. None knew that her daughter and caretaker, Marguerite Thoresen, had waited weeks before calling for help, or that the help would come far too late. 
In the end, Cynthia Thoresen joined a large and growing cohort of elderly people across the world who live — and increasingly die — in silence. They are unseen and unheard, left to fend for themselves against a problem society has barely begun to notice, let alone fix: elder abuse.
The article continues:
This type of abuse, which in many cases includes neglect, is still so hidden that it is hard to quantify. But the broad picture gleaned from hundreds of interviews and dozens of studies reviewed by The Associated Press is clear: Tens of millions of elders have become victims, trapped between governments and families, neither of which has figured out how to protect or provide for them. 
Most of the elderly live with relatives or at home, and researchers estimate at least 4 to 10 percent of them are abused, likely much more. Even by the lowest count of 4 percent, that means about 30 million people. 
The demographics alone show clearly that the problem is growing. By the year 2050, there will be more old people on earth than children for the first time in history, because of rising life spans and falling birth rates. 
Australia, where Cynthia Thoresen lived, is a developed, wealthy nation considered progressive in its treatment of seniors. But even in high-income countries, the rate of abuse is 4 to 6 percent, according to the World Health Organization. And even here, the system failed Cynthia, over and over again, in life and in death. 
"Nothing in the past has disturbed me like this job disturbed me," paramedic Christopher Curtis told police. "I've not seen anyone, regardless of their age, that could withstand the level of pain inflicted by a fractured femur for five seconds, let alone three weeks." 
And yet Cynthia Thoresen lay helpless for up to three months, screaming into the silent void of a world that had forgotten her.
Elder abuse is a serious societal scourge. To suggest that decriminalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is safe, is a foolish statement considering the real reality of life for many vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.

If you think that assisted suicide is always a "free choose" then think again. We do not live in a utopia, nor do we live in a plastic bubble, we live with others, many of whom lack the capacity to care for the needs of vulnerable people and many of whom are only concerned with their own financial or other potential for personal gain.

Society needs to improve how it cares for its vulnerable citizens. 
Society needs to recognize the need to protect elders from abuse
Society needs to develop a culture of care and reject the killing of its citizens.

Similar articles:
Very few elder abuse complaints are prosecuted.
 Physician-Assisted Suicide: A recipe for elder abuse.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wesley Smith: The Suicide Juggernaut

Wesley Smith
This article was written by Wesley Smith and published in the Weekly Standard (December 30, 2013 issue
Advocates of assisted suicide tell two—no, three—lies that act as the honey to help the hemlock go down. The first is that assisted suicide/euthanasia is a strictly medical act. Second, they falsely assure us that medicalized killing is only for the terminally ill. Finally, they promise that strict guidelines will be rigorously enforced to protect against abuse.
Recent legislative proposals and developments in the field demonstrate the mendacity of these assurances. For example, a new bill tabled in the Scottish parliament would legalize assisted suicide for “terminal” or “progressive and either terminal or life-shortening” conditions—undefined terms that could easily include chronic ailments such as diabetes, asymptomatic HIV infection, and multiple sclerosis.
Such loose categories are ubiquitous in international assisted suicide advocacy. But the Scottish bill goes a radical step further by creating a new profession—the “licensed suicide facilitator,” authorized by the state to help suicidal patients kill themselves once a doctor has issued a lethal prescription. 
Licensed facilitators would be authorized to provide “practical assistance” in the suicide and “reassurance” when a substance “dispensed or otherwise supplied for the suicide of the person is taken.” They would also be authorized to remove lethal drugs—presumably narcotics—from the home after their client died. 
Such a heavy responsibility, one would think, should require extensive education in mental health disciplines and medicine. Nope. The legislation leaves it up to regulators to decide what experience and training licensed suicide facilitators will require. 
But it’s a good bet that possessing a suicide-friendly ideology will be an important component. For example, the bill specifies that organizations could be licensed—a boon to pro-euthanasia groups, many of which already surreptitiously “counsel” or assist suicides. Not only that, but individuals as young as 16—also the minimum age to receive assistance in committing suicide—would be eligible for licensure. This means that if the bill becomes law, one teenager could be legally authorized to help another teenager commit suicide. 
As the Scots continue to wrestle with legalizing assisted suicide, experience in Belgium warns of the consequences of accepting killing as an answer to human suffering. Belgian law allows broad access to euthanasia and assisted suicide when “the patient is in a medically futile condition of constant unbearable physical or mental suffering” caused by an illness or injury, and which cannot be alleviated. That’s a very liberal license. But since 2002, some Belgian doctors have implemented the law as if it permitted death on demand. Consider these well-documented examples:
  • the euthanasia of a transsexual repelled by the results of a sex change operation;  
  • the euthanasia of a depressed anorexia patient who wanted to die after being sexually exploited by her psychiatrist;  
  • the joint euthanasia of deaf twins, who asked to be killed together when both began losing their eyesight;  
  • the joint euthanasia of elderly couples who preferred immediate death to eventual widowhood.  
Belgian doctors also combine voluntary euthanasia with organ harvesting. One medical journal published an article describing the harvesting of a lung from a mentally ill patient who was identified as a self-harmer. Joint euthanasia/organ harvests have become so normalized that Belgian doctors created a Power Point presentation urging colleagues to be on the lookout for suicidal patients with neuro-muscular diseases (such as MS) as potential donors, because unlike cancer patients, they have “high quality organs.” 
And now, the Belgian parliament seems likely to legalize child euthanasia: By an overwhelming 50-17, the senate just passed a bill allowing doctors to kill sick children. The justification? It’s happening anyway. “We all know it,” Dominique Biarent, head of intensive care at Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital in Brussels told Belga news agency. “Doctors need a framework.”
Let me translate: Belgium’s euthanasia guidelines are a mere veneer that can be violated without consequence. When violations finally come to public light, lawmakers simply amend the law to reflect actual practice.
That has certainly been the pattern for the last 40 years in the Netherlands, where the categories of killable people have expanded like a sinkhole. Now, psychiatrists want to get in on the killing. A 2012 article in a Dutch journal of psychiatry concluded that not only is euthanasia for mental illness legal in the Netherlands (absolutely true), but making euthanasia—the “midwife of death”—more available to those with mental illnesses would constitute “an emancipation of the psychiatric patient and psychiatry itself.”
On this side of the pond, Quebec is close to legalizing euthanasia. All major political parties in the provincial parliament support the plan, which would—unlike any other proposal I have seen—forbid assisted suicide and require doctors to kill qualified patients as medical treatment. It would accomplish this bit of prestidigitation by renaming euthanasia as “medical aid in dying” and mandating that doctors “administer such aid personally” when asked by a legally qualified patient. 
As under most legal schemes outside the United States, eligibility would not be limited to the terminally ill. If of “full age” and “capable of giving consent,” the suicidal patient would be able to have him or herself killed if suffering from “an incurable serious illness” in an “advanced state of irreversible decline” that causes “unbearable physical or psychological pain which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.” As in the Scottish proposal and the Belgian and Dutch laws, the definition is broad enough to drive a hearse through.
What’s more, all Quebec doctors would be legally required to euthanize qualified patients—or, if morally opposed, to refer patients to others willing to kill them. In other words, complicity in euthanasia may soon become a condition of practicing medicine in Quebec—Hippocratic Oath be damned.
The United States too has seen a lurch in assisted suicide policy. Americans still have qualms about the issue; voters in Massachusetts narrowly rejected a legalization referendum last year. Thus, as a political expedient, proposals here usually limit doctor-prescribed death to the terminally ill and include bureaucratic guidelines that supposedly will protect against abuse.
True to form, Vermont has a new assisted-suicide law that contained such provisions when lawmakers passed it in May. But the “safeguards” will sunset in 2016. After that, no state oversight of any kind is mandated. Instead, suicide-assisting doctors will make their own rules so long as the patient is “capable and does not have impaired judgment.” The doctor informs the suicidal patient of “feasible end-of-life services” and discloses the “risks” of taking a lethal overdose. 
To recap: Starting in 2016, doctors in Vermont will assist patient suicides under what amounts to an honor system, no questions asked. What could go wrong? 
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. 

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