Thursday, April 30, 2015

South African court decision approves death by lethal injection

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Justice Hans Fabricius of the South Africa High Court signed a court order approving the euthanasia death of Robin Stransham-Ford who was living with Prostate Cancer.

Eyewitness News in South Africa reported that Robin Stransham-Ford died from his medical condition the morning of the decision. It is interesting that the timing of the court order was the same day as his death.

Justice Fabricius legislated from the bench by withdrawing protections in law from euthanasia and assisted suicide. Even though Fabricius claimed that this decision was exclusive to this situation, he in fact decided that judge's had the power to decide whether a person should be protected in law or allowed to be killed.


The court order states that Stransham-Ford, can:
be assisted by a qualified medical doctor, who is willing to do so, to end his life, either by administration of a lethal agent (euthanasia) or by providing the Applicant with the necessary lethal agent to administer himself (assisted suicide).
The court order continues by stating that doctors are not obligated to accede to the request but the doctor that does accede to the request shall not be subject to prosecution.

According to the Citizen News:
Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesperson for the Justice Minister, said the Minister intended would apply for leave to appeal against the ruling, but could only do so when Judge Fabricius gave reasons for his ruling on Monday.
Justice Fabricius claimed that his decision was an exception to the law, but his decision actually challenges the validity of the law.

Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide gives one group of people, usually physicians, the right in law to cause the death of another group of people. The law needs to equally protect every citizen, especially when they are in a vulnerable time of their life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Canadians are sick of the broken medical system.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition


An article concerning a Cardus report entitled Reframing the end-of-life conversation in Canada  that is published in the London Free Press and written by Kate Dubinski and Randy Richmond, confirms past Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) polls remain accurate. The Cardus report was released in Ottawa today makes suggestions for changes to end-of-life care in Canada.

According to the London Free Press article the Cardus report states:
Nearly three-quarters of Canadians don’t think they or their loved ones will receive the “comfort and support” they want and expect when facing a life-threatening illness or death, the poll commissioned by think-tank Cardus found. 
The poll findings show the need for most Canadians to think of an end-of-life plan before they’re forced to and when it may be too late, said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus. 
“Lots of worthwhile things are being done, but we are still in a situation where 75% of Canadians are saying they want to die at home, surrounded by their natural caregiver, and 70% end up dying in hospital,” said Pennings, due to release a related report on end-of-life care Wednesday.
The London Free Press article continues:
People are frustrated. The health-care system is beyond failing. It has failed,” said Michelle Gatt, a seniors advocate in London. 
“We used to be seen as a leader in health care in the world. Now, we can’t even make the top 10.” 
Canada’s health care is like an old bicycle that’s been broken for years, said Kelly Meloche, a Windsor businessperson who helps Canadians get health care across the border. 
“We just keep trying to ride the broken bike,” she said. “It’s grim.”
EPC polls indicate that few Canadians strongly support euthanasia or assisted suicide and that support for euthanasia is based on a fear of a bad death. According to the Nanos poll that was conducted for Cardus, 73% of Canadians don't expect to receive the help they need from the healthcare system. It is this fear of suffering that drives support for euthanasia.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Will the Canadian government protect people from assisted suicide?

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC)

The Canadian Press is reporting that the federal government may not introduce a bill to protect Canadians from assisted suicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) responded to the irresponsible and dangerous Supreme Court decision by urging the Federal government to use the notwithstanding clause and to call a Royal Commission to protect people with disabilitieselders who live with abuse, depressed and suicidal people and others. It is not safe to give doctors, the right in law, assisted the suicide of their patients.



Opposing the Supreme Court of Canada assisted suicide decision.

EPC asked its members to write letters to Justice Minister Hon. Peter MacKay and their Members of Parliament, or to sign the online petition or to send a Give us time! post-card calling for a Royal Commission on assisted suicide and the use of the Notwithstanding clause.



Writing a letter is most effective but EPC has already distributed 160,000 post-cards. Order the Give us time! post-cards - for free - at: 1-877-439-3348 or info@epcc.ca.

Link to our campaign website at: www.giveustime.ca.

The Canadian Press article that was written by Joan Bryden, states that:

When the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on physician-assisted dying last February, it gave the federal government 12 months to craft a new law ... 
With Parliament scheduled to sit just six more weeks before an extended break for the summer and a fall election, the government has only three or four months in which to introduce, debate and pass a new law.
Earlier, the Hon Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to the health minister, argued that consultation by a committee wouldn't be broad enough to do justice to such a complex, explosive issue. Dechert stated:
"In fact, we are suggesting tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Canadians need to be heard on this issue," he said, promising that "meaningful consultations" via the Internet, public meetings and other means would be launched "very soon."
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Peter MacKay told Bryden that:
"We recognize the tight timeline imposed on us by the Supreme Court and we should be in a position to announce the way forward on this file in due course."
Letter writing is most effective, but if you only want to send a message to Justice Minister Peter MacKay then sign the online petition or order post-cards.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Québec doctors survey indicates that the euthanasia law will be abused.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A survey of Québec physicians indicates that the euthanasia law, which is scheduled to take effect in December, will be abused by Québec physicians.

The National Post recently reported that a recent survey of Québec physicians found that:
  • 34.6 per cent of respondents believed they would be able to administer or prescribe lethal medication to an incompetent patient upon a relative’s request.
The survey also found that Québec physicians were confused about the right to refuse medical treatment. Even though the right to refuse medical treatment was clarified in 1992 by the Nancy B case the survey found that:
  • One in three family doctors, and 42 per cent of specialists (including doctors working in anesthesiology, surgery, internal medicine, urology and neurology) were confused about the current legal status of treatment withdrawal.
Further to that, even though a previous survey claimed that a majority Québec physicians supported euthanasia, the recent survey found that:
  • only 39.5 per cent believed that, in the event medical aid in dying were legalized, the use of lethal medication would be permitted at the patient’s request.
It appears that Québec, and the rest of Canada, are following the same path as Belgium where the euthanasia law is abused, where euthanasia occurs without request, where euthanasia deaths are often not reported, and where euthanasia occurs for people who are depressed or experiencing psychiatric issues.

Belgium: Euthanasia and Palliative Care - strange bedfellows

This article was originally published on the HOPE Australia website.

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell, the Director of Hope Australia.


In November 2013, I had the distinct pleasure of travelling to Brussels for the launch of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - Europe at the EU Parliament.

The following evening my colleague and EPC International Chair, Alex Schadenberg joined Carine Brochier in debating Belgian euthanasia founders Dr Jan Berheim and Professor Etienne Vermeersch.

There was nothing veiled in what Bernheim or Vermeersch said that night. There's a subtle arrogance, it seems, when speaking with the knowledge that virtually a whole country agrees.

Bernheim told the audience that it was he who first went to London, to visit Dame Cicely Saunders, with the intention to bring palliative care to Belgium precisely because he saw this as a way to usher in euthanasia. Whether his actions and intentions were publicly known at the time, whether he is 'gilding the lily' or whether in fact the Belgian medical system fell for the trojan trap or went willingly is moot, I guess.

Whether as a direct result of Bernheim's actions or whether simply a matter of pro-euthanasia spin, we often here the claim that euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are simply additional, complementary tools in a palliative physician's toolkit. We are being asked here to swallow a falsehood: that caring can include killing.

Reflecting upon the Belgian experiment, we are also told that euthanasia and assisted suicide would actually improve palliative care. Precisely how is never explained. But the reality that palliative medicine in Holland and Belgium is up there with the best in Europe tends to add credence to such a claim.


But does it?

This month in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, a paper entitled, Between Palliative Care and Euthanasia (Mortier, Leiva, Cohen-Almagor & Lemmens) looks at the most recent euthanasia data (2012-2013) and calls on "politicians, the medical profession, and juridical authorities soberly (to) reflect on the developments that have taken place since 2002."

Looking at all euthanasia deaths, the authors observe:
  • that only 40 percent (1,283 out of 3,239) of the euthanized patients had a visit by a palliative care team,
  • barely 12 percent (396 out of 3,239) had a visit by a palliative care specialist,
  • just 9 percent (307 out of 3,239) were consulted by a psychiatrist (Commission Fédérale de Contrôle et d’Évaluation de l’Euthanasie 2014).
They conclude that: 
"almost 40 percent of the patients who received euthanasia did not see a palliative care specialist nor interacted with a palliative care team." 
"The conclusion that Belgium is a palliative care role model for the world is an overstatement."
This data fits well with the observation of Dutch Professor, Theo Boer that, in his country, euthanasia is ‘on the way to becoming a default mode of dying for cancer patients’. In 2012, a spokesperson for the Royal Dutch Medical Association admitted that: 
“Euthanasia has become the central point of conversation between a doctor and a patient who is suffering when it should be seen as a "last resort".

Friday, April 24, 2015

Luxembourg euthanasia report.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Luxembourg euthanasia commission has released its semi-annual report stating that 15 people died by euthanasia in 2013 - 2014, which was a slight increase from 14 people who died by euthanasia in 2011 - 2012.

Luxembourg is a small European country, with a population of 537,000 and approximately 3850 people deaths each year.

The media article states that no abuse of the euthanasia law occurred but the system of reporting euthanasia deaths, in Luxembourg, is not designed to uncover abuse.

In Luxembourg euthanasia reports are sent to the commission by the doctor who lethally injected the person, after the person has died. Since doctors are unlikely to self-report abuse of the law, therefore it is impossible to determine whether or not abuse has occurred.

A recent death study from the Flanders region of Belgium was published in the NEJM on March 19, 2015 found that 1.7% of all deaths in 2013 were intentionally hastened without explicit request and almost half of the assisted deaths were unreported in 2013. A similar study from 2007 found that 1.8% of all deaths were hastened without explicit request and almost half of the assisted deaths went unreported.

The Belgian death study was done by sending questionnaires to the doctors who certified the death certificates in 6188 deaths in the first half of 2013. The researchers received 3751 responses. Since the researchers are third-party researchers who investigated all deaths, they were able to uncover abuse of the Belgian euthanasia law.

In 2008, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg refused to sign the euthanasia bill into law. The Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies reacted by removing his constitutional power.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Disturbing End Game of the Assisting Suicide lobby.

Jennifer Popik
By Jennifer Popik, JD, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics

In a record push, Compassion and Choices or C&C (formerly the Hemlock Society) has introduced bills in nearly half of U.S. states. Although they are promoted as simply another medical option at the end of life, comments made by C&C’s president that appeared in an April 17, 2015 USA Today article point to its real goal – euthanasia on demand for any reason.

Although there are still a handful of states that remain at risk this year for this dangerous legislation, such as California, these bills are being defeated one by one across the country. In state after state, the broad coalition of opponents including disability rights groups, the American Medical Society along with its state affiliates, and scores of other groups have successfully raised the alarm that these laws are just too dangerous.

C&C has gained attention using the case of Brittany Maynard, a California woman with a brain tumor. Maynard moved to Oregon–where it is legal to have a physician prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates–to kill herself.

The case is being used to motivate death advocates and influence legislators, and in many states that did not advance legislation this year, we can be sure stronger efforts will be made in the next legislative session. The legislation being promoted in the states purports to allow doctor-prescribed suicide for competent terminally ill patients, so long as some illusory “safeguards” are followed.

Evidence that safeguards are not working is available from both Oregon and Washington. There are state-issued reports that provide evidence of non-terminally ill persons receiving lethal prescriptions.

Further, there is nothing in existing Oregon, Washington, or Vermont law that requires doctors to refer patients for evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist to screen for depression or mental illness. There is also no such requirement in any current proposal in any state. The doctors can make a referral, but nearly never do. In fact, according to the Oregon’s official state reports, in 17 years of legalized doctor-prescribe suicide, a mere 5.5% of death candidates have been referred for psychological evaluation.

In short, there is evidence that any so-called “safeguards” simply are not working. What is more shocking is that this is exactly what C&C President Barbara Coombs Lee wants. She would prefer to expand the list of those who can receive lethal drugs to any kind of discomfort a person might believe she or he is suffering from. In the USA Today article, “Half of U.S. states consider right-to-die legislation,” Coombs Lee told reporter Malak Monir that “It’s not as simple as pain. Everyone gets to identify their own definition of suffering.”

Alabama bill would clarify protections in law from assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2015, 26 US states are debating bills to legalize assisted suicide.

Nearly every US state have laws that specifically protect people from assisted suicide. A few states do not have specific statutes protecting people from assisted suicide, but rather prohibit assisted suicide based on common law.

In Alabama, Rep Arnold Mooney is planning to introduce a bill to clarify protections in law from assisted suicide. The Alabama media reported that:
The Assisted Suicide Ban Act would prohibit a physician or other health care provider to help a person die by prescribing a drug or by other means, he said. 
Assisted suicide is prohibited under Alabama common law due to prior court decisions on the issue. Forty-three states have laws on the books prohibiting physician-assisted suicide.
Rep Mooney stated:
"The state has an interest in protecting vulnerable groups, including the impoverished, the elderly, and disabled persons from abuse, neglect and mistakes," 
"A ban on assisted suicide reflects and reinforces our belief that the lives of those in vulnerable groups are no less valued than the lives of the young and healthy."
In the past few years, Georgia and Arizona passed bills to clarify protections in law from assisted suicide.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Canadian physicians may be forced to kill by euthanasia.

This article was published on Wesley's blog on April 18, 2015.
Wesley Smith

By Wesley J. Smith

Medical martyrdom is coming, a term I coined to describe doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other such professionals being forced to choose between their callings and participating in the intentional taking of human life. 

Canada’s Supreme Court recently imposed euthanasia across the country, including for “psychological pain” caused by a diagnosable medical condition. The question now posed is whether doctors will be able to opt out. 

So far, it doesn’t look good. The Canadian Medical Association – already weak-kneed on assisted suicide/euthanasia – wants doctors protected. But the Ontario and Saskatchewan Colleges of Doctors and Surgeons want doctors forced, as in Victoria, to do the deed, refer, or if no references are available, forced to kill. 

Udo Schuklenk
Canadian bioethicist Udo Schuklenk agrees. From his blog
The very idea that we ought to countenance conscientious objection in any profession is objectionable. 
Nobody forces anyone to become a professional. It is a voluntary choice. A conscientious objector in medicine is not dissimilar to a taxi driver who joins a taxi company that runs a fleet of mostly combustion engine cars and who objects on grounds of conscience to drive those cars due to environmental concerns. Why did she become a taxi driver in the first place? Perhaps she should have opened a bicycle taxi company instead. 
The very idea that Schuklenk compares driving a taxi to practicing a medical profession, and worries about pollution to the active and intentional taking of human life tells you so much about what has gone wrong in bioethics. 

Moreover, when today’s doctors and nurses entered the profession, they weren’t required to kill. So, this is where we are heading fast: Kill or get out of medicine! More, don’t get into medicine in the first place if you are an orthodox religious believer or philosophically opposed to abortion and euthanasia. You have no place in the medical arts. 

It is worth nothing that Schuklenk supports Futile Care Theory. Thus, his anti-medical conscience attitude doesn’t extend to the ICU when patients want life-sustaining treatment the doctor thinks is “inappropriate.” Then, doctors should have a right to say no–even though the most fundamental job of doctors is to keep patients alive when that is what they want. 


Can we say, “culture of death?” When Dutch doctors were ordered by the Nazi occupiers to practice (then) German-style death medicine, they took down their shingles en masse, and won the victory. Will Canadian physicians have similar guts in a society in which dissenters are not murdered?

My visit to the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario Annual General Meeting.

This article was written by Adrian Rhodes and published on his blog on April 21.

A record of my visit to the RNAO meeting. Some comments based on my observations concerning the assisted suicide public seminar.

I ended up going to the RNAO Annual General Meeting on Saturday, April 18, 2015 and had no little trepidation about it. I had never done something like this before and so did not know what to expect. I left Markham via TTC on a beautiful cool Saturday morning with my small knapsack, a couple of notepads and a couple of pencils. I also took along a copy of Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Stephen Eric Bronner. I read that book on the way down on the bus and train. All told, it took me an hour and ten minutes to reach the hotel downtown.

The venue was beautiful; the hotel had been newly renovated and it showed. I looked around the lobby and found a sign for the RNAO meeting downstairs, reached via escalator. I went down and looked at the different displays before any people were around. There were between fourteen and sixteen displays, all related to the RNAO’s work in different parts of Ontario.

Before going downstairs, I asked at a table with an RNAO rep (and sign) if I needed to sign in for the public meeting and was told I did not. In addition, there were no open venues until that one meeting. It would begin at 11:30. As it turned out, the previous meeting, at ten, ran a little late. I decided to go upstairs and have a cup of coffee while I waited. Best five dollar coffee I ever had.

The service was good and I must have looked out of place: Cherry red 14 hole Doc Martens, blue jeans, grey t-shirt, blue alpha jacket and haversack. I certainly had the attention of the staff in the hotel. However, as they got used to my presence, I faded into the background as I enjoyed that aforementioned coffee at the bar.

I was at the bar watching football for about 45 minutes when I decided it would be time to go back downstairs. Even though I had been watching the escalators as I could, I was surprised by the number of people already gathered and gathering for the talk. Soon there were few standing spaces left outside the double doors that led us into the place.

Predictably, the previous meeting ran late.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Questionable judicial reasoning in Canadian assisted suicide case.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Hamilton Spectator reported that Herbert Dilts, who pled guilty to assisted suicide in the death of Brian Nelson (71) was given a suspended sentence by Superior Court Justice Patrick Flynn 
on April 17, 2015.

Whether or not it was reasonable to give Dilts a  suspended sentence, I am concerned about the reasons given for the suspended sentence. According to the Hamilton Spectator report Justice Flynn stated:

the court had "sympathy" with Dilts' decision when handing the 57-year-old Hamilton man a suspended sentence and two years of probation. He also cited a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down Canada's law against assisted suicide.
The spectator article stated that Dilts unsuccessfully assisted in Nelson's suicide and then refused to continue participating. Justice Flynn found this to be an important factor but the law does not require that the act be sucessful. Section 241 of the Criminal Code states:
"whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence"
My primary concern relates to Flynn's reference to the Supreme Court of Canada assisted dying decision. On February 6, 2015 the Supreme Court struck down the assisted suicide law, but held the decision for 12 months. Further to that, the Supreme Court stated that assisted suicide must only be restricted to certain circumstances and done by a physician. Dilts is not a physician.

The Supreme Court decision should not have affected the sentencing of Dilts. Based on Flynn's reasoning, Justices already appear willing to expand the Supreme Court of Canada assisted dying decision.

Dilts pled guilty in January to assisting the suicide of his friend on February 19, 2012.

The Hamilton Spectator stated Dilts reacted to the decision by:

wiping his brow afterward and saying, "Whew" to his adult son, who was in court to support him. 
"I think it's a fair outcome," said Dilts. "The fact is I did assist him."
Previous article:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Supreme Court Assisted Dying Decision: A New Social Disorder

By Jean Echlin RN, BScN, MScN

After 35 years of many fearing and rejecting hospice palliative care programs that provide life and death with dignity, we now have Canadians enamored with doctor provided death. The Supreme Court of Canada has abolished a portion of our Criminal Code that prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide. They have designated physicians as the group in our society to carry out the act of putting patients to death upon request. The patient must be suffering in a manner that is intolerable to them including both psychological and physical issues.

It must be remembered that nurses work closely with doctors following their orders and monitoring patients for any positive or adverse effects to treatment. Therefore nurses will automatically be assistants and collaborators in any type of inflicted death. In addition social workers, chaplains and other members of the inter-professional team will be affected.

Inflicting death on another human being is considered the ultimate act of violence so I ask: “How dare we ask our doctors and nurses to kill us?” But this is exactly what is proposed.

In my opinion, those who opt to carry out euthanasia and assisted suicide will no longer be trusted. As well I believe that acute and long term care institutions that enable patients to be put to death will not be trusted. Persons afraid of being euthanized will avoid admission on the basis of fearing an untimely death.

Other valid questions are: “How will those who inflict death deal with the emotional/ psychological aftermath? Will they develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with its’ inherent anxiety, nightmares, depression and suicidal ideation? Will they have some type of devastating spiritual/existential struggle following the process of putting patients to death?”

There are many health care professionals who have an ethical framework that will not support participation and this must be honoured. To have any leaders or directors in our professional associations dictate to those in the trenches of front-line care on the necessity to provide euthanasia or refer to another source is unconscionable and intolerable. The last time I looked, we still live in a democratic society with freedom of belief and religion sanctioned and guarded by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Do patients have a “right” to die?

I suggest there is no choice, we all die. However we can demand from our provincial and federal politicians support for hospice palliative care that will ensure excellence in the management of pain and other noxious symptoms that cause suffering. We can call for and support quality end-of-life care for every Canadian. We can support those at highest risk in this new social disorder: the elderly; persons with physical and/or emotional disabilities; patients with chronic and life-altering or life-threatening diseases.

We can teach medical and nursing students how to support and care for those who are labeled terminally ill; continue to educate current care providers on the best practice guidelines to meet the gold standard in palliative care; support and come along side those amazing professionals and volunteers who are currently involved in providing pain and symptom management; support the development of hospice palliative care in all facilities and in our communities.

The Hospice of Windsor & Essex County is regarded as an exemplary model across our nation. The successful development of our Hospice here speaks to the outstanding citizens who have given so much to help so many. Windsor’s reputation as a caring community is now a part of our national heritage. I am proud to be part of this heritage.

Jean Echlin RN, BScN, MScN
President: Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Nurse Consultant-Palliative Care & Gerontology
Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing University of Windsor (ON)

Previous articles by Jean Echlin:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Systemic injustice of assisted suicide

This article was published in the Valley Reporter on April 16, 2015.

Meghan Schrader
By Meghan Schrader

I love Vermont. My family has owned a home here since the 1980s and I guess you could say that I've adopted the state as my own. I am also a disabled woman and much of my own identification with that community was forged here as I grew up role playing, painting and dreaming alongside the streams and rivers that run through the town of Waitsfield.

Being disabled has also made me very cognizant of the right-to-die movement. Since 2007, I have engaged in an extensive exploration of what disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland Thompson refers to as the "cultural logic of euthanasia" which I incorporated into recently published research regarding the representation of disability and assisted suicide in film music. However, the issue of assisted death is personal for me, which is why I am dismayed that Act 39 was ever implemented in the first place.

For instance, in the course of doing research for my aforementioned book chapter, I had occasion to review the writings of many utilitarian bioethicists whose arguments concerning disability and death with dignity are framed in regard to familial burden, which tends to be situated as a legitimate reason for choosing or being obliged to die. Such statements are similar to hate speech I experienced growing up and I was shocked when I first saw it in bioethics literature.

I am an autistic person who struggles with executive functioning. I still live with my parents, who serve me in completing many daily tasks. This often makes me feel guilty. Moreover, the philosophical reflection that my studies engendered means that such ideas are in my mind. During a particularly horrible bout of depression, I thought, "Maybe the assisted suicide advocates are right; maybe God is allowing this to happen because it is OK; I am a burden to my family and so maybe it would be OK if I killed myself." I wound up hurting myself impulsively and going to the emergency room. I know that the people behind Act 39 do not intend for such things to happen, but that does not change my experience.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) Radio Campaign


The EPC radio ad will begin airing on AM 1010 Toronto on February 23.
If euthanasia comes to Canada will safeguards protect patients from being euthanized without their consent? 
In Holland and Belgium where euthanasia is legal, patients have been euthanized without their consent or explicit request in spite of supposed safeguards. 
Choice is an illusion, someone else may decide when you die. 
Euthanasia is not health care. Euthanasia is killing. 
You need to know the truth about euthanasia.
Your life may depend on it. 
Contact the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at: info@epcc.ca 
EPC is raising $10,000 to play this ad in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and more.

EPC will give you permission to purchase air time on your local radio station for this ad. Contact us at: 1-877-439-3349 or info@epcc.ca.

Poll Shows Little Support for Assisted Suicide and Major Concerns

Link to the PR Newswire media release on April 16, 2015.
As assisted suicide failed to pass in state legislatures across the country this year, a new Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that a majority of Americans do not support assisted suicide and that strong majorities harbor deep concerns over such proposals.

Assisted suicide proposals have stalled since the start of the year in a number of states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado and Nevada.

More than 6 in 10 Americans (61 percent) do not support a doctor prescribing or administering a lethal drug dose, saying that a doctor should instead only manage an illness or remove life support.

Additionally, 57 percent of Americans say they are less likely to trust a doctor who engages in assisted suicide.

Strong majorities of Americans also have deep concerns about assisted suicide, including:

  • 67 percent concerned that fewer life-saving options will be given at end of life.
  • 65 percent concerned that the elderly will be at risk in nursing homes.
  • 64 percent concerned that the depressed will be more likely to take their lives.
  • 59 percent concerned about a wrong diagnosis.
  • 55 percent concerned that the doctor could misjudge a patient's state of mind.
  • 55 percent concerned that it will become a cost-saving measure for health care decisions.
  • 54 percent concerned that patients will be pressured to take their life so as not to be a burden.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Euthanasia motion fails in Victoria Australia Parliament

This article was originally published on the HOPE Australia website.

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell - The Director of HOPE Australia.

The on-again, off-again motion on the notice paper in the Victorian Upper House was given time for debate today.

As we reported earlier, the motion by Greens MLC, Colleen Hartland was designed to ask the State Attorney-General to refer the matter to the Victorian Law Reform Commission for an inquiry. The VLRC, as we noted, is not a body answerable to the Victorian people, is charged with reform of the law when no mandate for such reform has been made and has only a legal framework that cannot adequately account for the ethical and moral dimensions of any euthanasia law.

Speaking against the motion, Bernie Finn MLC, observed to his colleagues that to support this motion would be to effectively abrogate their responsibilities as legislators elected by the Victorian people to fulfill that function. Finn, instead, argued for a parliamentary inquiry where the issues cold be thrashed out by members of parliament. A position that we also support (see earlier article).

Other MLCs, including Rachel Carling-Jenkins, highlighted concerns for vulnerable people, the data from Belgium and the Netherlands. Carling-Jenkins had also given a speech the previous day about elder abuse; something which clearly resonated with her colleagues during the euthanasia debate. She also related, with some emotion, her concern for people living with disabilities.

After a number of speeches on both sides, it became clear that, had the motion been resolved, it would have failed. Hartland retreated and did not close the debate, ultimately leaving the question unresolved. The Daily Telegraph reports that Hartland intends to revisit the motion in May.

1/3 Dutch GPs Would Kill Mentally Ill!

Wesley Smith
This article was published on Wesley's blog on April 15.

By Wesley Smith


Whoa! Don’t tell me that euthanasia doesn’t lead off a vertical moral cliff: A recent survey of Netherlander MD general practitioners found that very high percentages would kill cancer patients, and 1/3 would be willing to euthanize the mentally ill. From the PsychCentral story
For mental illness, only 34 percent would consider helping the patient die, and 40 percent would help someone with early-stage dementia to die. The rate was slightly lower for late-stage dementia, at 33 percent. 
Only?! Good grief. 

Once killing is accepted as a proper answer to human suffering, there are no brakes. 

By the way, 42 mentally ill patients were euthanized in the Netherlands in 2013 most recent year for which statistics are available, as psychiatrists up their participation as a “liberation” for the patient and the doctors. Also, nearly 100 early stage dementia patients. And those are the ones reported. How many were killed surreptitiously cannot be known. 

How do you spell euthanasia? A.B.A.N.D.O.N.M.E.N.T.

Irish Assisted Suicide Trial Delayed.

By Alex Schadenberg
International chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The trial of Gail O'Rorke who is alleged to have assisted the suicide of Bernadette Forde, who was living with MS and died in 2011, will be delayed based on a lengthy period of discovery.

The trial, which was to begin on April 13 in Dublin, was expected to be heard over a two week period.

On April 29, 2013, the Irish Supreme Court upheld the assisted suicide law by stating, in the Fleming case, that there is no right to assisted suicide in Ireland.

International connection. Philip Nitschke, Australia's Dr Death, speaking to Bernadette Forde before her death.

Attend the Irish Symposium on Assisted Suicide - Saving Lives Not Causing Deaths - in Dublin on June 6, 2015 organized by HOPE Ireland and Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - International.






Is physician-assisted death in anyone’s best interest? NO

This article was published in the Canadian Family Physician (April 2015) with an article supporting Physician-Assisted Death.
By Dr Edward (Ted) St Godard 
The issue of physician-assisted death is complex and emotional, and we must not allow truth to become a casualty. Medical professionals and laypersons alike struggle to understand distinctions between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and many more fail to distinguish either act from simple refusal or authorized withdrawal of treatment.1 We must demand and demonstrate a courageous and respectful clarity.
The expression physician-assisted death is what is kindly known as a euphemism. Euphemism is defined as “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.”2 Writing recently in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik noted:
[E]uphemism is a moral problem, not a cognitive one. When Dick Cheney calls torture “enhanced interrogation,” it doesn’t make us understand torture in a different way; it’s just a means for those who know they’re doing something wrong to find a phrase that doesn’t immediately acknowledge the wrongdoing.3
The substitution of physician-assisted death, or the ubiquitous medical aid in dying (something I provide daily), for the more accurate if somehow distasteful euthanasia (itself a euphemism) or physician-assisted suicide, represents at best a misplaced attempt at decorum or delicacy,4 and often a deliberate obfuscation. That our journal, like the Canadian Medical Association, has stooped to using this language is regrettable and, frankly, embarrassing. It is not just semantics.
Compassion
The question with which Canadians must grapple is whether it is in everyone’s best interests that the Supreme Court of Canada appears to have legally sanctioned doctors, under loosely and ambiguously defined circumstances, to kill, or assist with the suicide of, a small number (so far) of consenting (for now) patients.
I strongly believe it is not.
I agree wholeheartedly with Dr James Downar when he states that “there are types of suffering that we do not have the ability to treat”5; it would be hubris to suggest otherwise. Suffering, sadness, and pain are part of the human condition.
However, as Margaret Somerville eloquently notes, the issue at hand concerns not only
our rightful, profound sympathy for people experiencing serious suffering …, but also whether allowing physicians to intervene with a primary intention of inflicting death is inherently acceptable as a foundational principle and basic value.1
I strongly believe it is not.
Before cure eclipsed care, at the heart of medicine was a relationship between a doctor and her patient. The possessive pronoun is important: my doctor, my patient. Caring for patients is a compassionate endeavour. Compassion is derived from the Latin compati6: to suffer together. The current obstacles to compassionate physician-patient relationships are immense: an aging population; increased medical specialization; overcrowded hospitals and care facilities; and health care providers who often appear strained and distracted.
But surely we should not offer to kill patients to compensate for the fact that we have become too busy to care? As subspecialists too often appear to abandon patients once there is “nothing left to be done,” so does a society that legalizes and normalizes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide risk abandoning its most vulnerable members.
Medicalization
The “death with dignity” movement, for all its well-intentioned and laudable passion, is at once a logical reaction to and a pathologic extension of what Ivan Illich referred to 50 years ago as medicalization. Simply put, medicalization is the process whereby life’s multiple complex processes, dysfunctions, and idiosyncrasies come to be defined as medical problems. Bad breath becomes halitosis; impotence, erectile dysfunction; and senility, dementia.
Death and dying have become medical problems. With its scandalously naïve misunderstanding of anything that might lead to human death as an enemy, medical research, the leading edge of medicalization, has enabled whole generations to outlive their independence. The spectre of the “nursing home” now haunts us all. The banal, if not always benign, loss of function and control formerly known as dying is now considered undignified, and even worse somehow if it will soon be over. (“Since she will soon die anyway, how can we let this continue?”) Some dread the perceived indignities that accompany slow, natural dying, while others fear a medicalized death, ensnared in the tentacles of a medicine that cannot seem to let go.
Patients have long had the right to refuse treatment, but with the rise of patient autonomy, and the commodification of medicine, patients (now “clients”) increasingly feel entitled to demand treatment. Must we now further medicalize their deaths by offering physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia as the ultimate procedure, a soothing if paradoxical final solution to medicine’s broken promises and too-deep incursion into our lives?
No.
The solution to our medicalized lives and deaths is not another syringe, and not more pills. We must talk openly about the end of life, and be less squeamish about the alarmingly ordinary sights, sounds, and smells of normal dying. Although we must not welcome or glorify suffering, neither should we strive for an artificial, sanitized, and idealized death.
In a cogent criticism of medicine, and of palliative care in particular, Marcia Angell suggests that there now exists in the minds of many a naïve and idealized picture of a “good death.”7 Proponents of euthanasia, like some overzealous advocates of palliative care, are chasing a chimeric dream, one that is as constraining as it is illusory. And yet most of us privileged to care for the gravely ill and dying attest to a boundless resilience in our patients and their families. People die as they have lived. Some lean on relationships, others on faith, and most on reserves of previously unknown inner strength.
Some might consider these matters private and personal, especially if we grant them the status of medical procedures. Conversations between physicians and patients are, indeed, sacrosanct. But the collectively agreed-upon social and legal conventions outlining their respective obligations, what they may and may not do with and to each other (irrespective of consent), are not solely private matters. They concern us all, and are thus everyone’s business.
Profound Implications
Like war, self-defence, and state-sanctioned executions—the usual exceptions to the prohibition of the deliberate killing of humans—physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia have profound implications not only for active participants, but for loved ones left behind, and for entire communities (especially the disabled and disenfranchised).
Legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, far from respecting private interactions between patients and doctors, would require bureaucratic transparency, safeguards, and oversight. With prescient irony Margaret Somerville notes a “logical discrepancy between arguing for what appears to be an absolute right to autonomy in choosing the manner, time, and place of one’s death and then limiting access to euthanasia to ‘carefully regulated circumstances.’”1 Charter challenges and calls for liberalized access are inevitable and will succeed. (Belgium’s 2002 law, which prohibited euthanasia under a certain age, recently was amended to decriminalize the mercy killing of children without age restriction).8
British journalist Kevin Yuill, describing what he laments to be substantial momentum in the pro-legalization camp, notes that “[t]he fact that so many have joined movements dedicated to the freedom of so very few should alert us to the fact that the need is not practical but psychological.”4  Although we must be merciful, we appear poised to change laws and norms, less to ameliorate the genuine suffering of dying Canadians than to diminish the frustrating but profoundly human impotence of their loved ones and to assuage the angst of a population not fully informed—people dreading a future that might never come, and that once arrived might, as the disabled and dying continue to remind us, be less undignified than predicted.
In late August 2014, as I wrote this paper, British Columbia octogenarian Gillian Bennett swallowed poison rather than face the “indignity” threatened by her progressing dementia. A retired psychotherapist, who presumably had for years coached and challenged people coping with difficulty, she chose suicide. Her posthumously public act demonstrated the ease with which even a frail and failing person can kill herself. No laws need be changed, no guidelines developed, no panels struck. Tragically, it has never been easier.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS — NO

Edward (Ted) St Godard MA MD CCFP
  • The current obstacles to compassionate physician-patient relationships are immense. We should not offer to kill patients to compensate for the fact that we have become too busy to care. As subspecialists too often appear to abandon patients once there is “nothing left to be done,” so does a society that legalizes and normalizes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide risk abandoning its most vulnerable members.
  • Death and dying have become medical problems. The loss of function and control formerly known as dying is now considered undignified. We must talk openly about the end of life, and be less squeamish about the alarmingly ordinary sights, sounds, and smells of normal dying. Although we must not welcome or glorify suffering, neither should we strive for an artificial, sanitized, and idealized death.
  • Legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, far from respecting private interactions between patients and doctors, would require bureaucratic transparency, safeguards, and oversight. We appear poised to change laws and norms, less to ameliorate the genuine suffering of dying Canadians than to diminish the frustrating but profoundly human impotence of their loved ones and to assuage the angst of people dreading a future that might never come, and that once arrived might be less undignified than predicted.
Footnotes:
  1. 1.


  2. 2.

  3. 3.


  4. 4.


  5. 5.


  6. 6.

  7. 7.


  8. 8.



Dr Edward (Ted) St Godard - Consulting physician for Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Palliative Care in Manitoba.

Printfriendly