Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What does the World Federation of Right to Die Societies not want me to know?

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg
As an International leader of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) I decided to register for the World Federation of Right to Die Societies - 20th World Conference in Chicago (September 17 - 20) that is co-sponsored by the Final Exit Network.

My registration was accepted, my flight was booked, my hotel room was reserved, but then I received an email informing me that my registration was revoked.

Thaddeus Pope, who is speaking at the Chicago conference, registered and attended the recent conference that EPC co-sponsored in Minnesota.

What does the World Federation of Right to Die Societies not want me to know?

Maybe they don't want me to hear about their promotion of euthanasia for people with dementia.

The Belgian legislation that extended euthanasia to children originally included a section to extend euthanasia to people with dementia.

Maybe they don't want me to hear about their promotion of euthanasia for people with psychiatric conditions.

Recently the Dutch Health Minister stated that 45 people died by euthanasia for psychiatric conditions in 2013 in the Netherlands.

Maybe they don't want me to hear about their promotion of euthanasia for depressed people who are otherwise healthy.

Professor Tom Mortier recently launched a court challenge concerning the euthanasia death of his depressed mother in Belgium.

Maybe they didn't want me to hear the conversation among the delegates in the hallway.

When I attended the World Federation of Right to Die Societies conference in 2006 I learned, through personal conversations, that many of the delegates had been involved with causing the death of a relative or others. I learned that volunteers are trained to assist deaths, to provide the means, to counsel suicide, sometimes completed the act with a pillow, or held the hands of person, preventing them from removing the asphyxiation/suicide hood.

Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide gives someone else the legal right to cause your death. Euthanasia is dangerous.

Alex Schadenberg is the Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) and the Chair of EPC International. 

Contact Alex Schadenberg at: info@epcc.ca or by calling: 1-877-439-3348.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Belgium Euthanasia and Capital Punishment.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last January, Frank van den Bleeken, who was convicted of rape and murder in Belgium, requested death by lethal injection (euthanasia) for reasons of psychological suffering.

On Saturday, a Belgian news agency reported that van den Bleeken euthanasia request was recently approved, a story that also opened a media controversy concerning privacy rights. van den Bleeken is the first Belgian prisoner, who is not terminally ill, to die by euthanasia. The Belgian news article also reported that another Belgian prisoner who has currently served 27 years for murdering 2 people, has also asked to die by lethal injection (euthanasia).

Reuters reported that van den Bleeken requested euthanasia for psychological suffering because: 
"he had no prospect of release since he could not overcome his violent sexual impulses and so he wanted to exercise his right to medically assisted suicide in order to end years of mental anguish."
The van den Bleeken euthanasia death is complicated by the fact that he was living in an aging psychiatric hospital and he had challenged the Belgian penal system for its overcrowding and unacceptable living conditions. The January 2014 article stated:
In January, the court ruled in favour of three Belgian inmates and ordered damages be paid, citing a “structural shortcoming” that resulted in about 1,000 prisoners with mental problems being held in aging, overcrowded, inadequately staffed special prison wings.
... Mr. van den Bleeken and Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom are now locked in a court fight over the issue. 
Mr. van den Bleeken’s still unresolved case is the latest controversial example of applicants who are not terminally ill but suffer psychological pains.
The expansion of euthanasia to include prisoners with psychological suffering represents the latest expansions of the Belgian euthanasia law.

Belgium Euthanasia - A story of incremental extensions.

In May, a Belgian nurse wrote an article about her experience with euthanasia. She explained how euthanasia was being done in very questionable circumstances and how it has become unacceptable to challenge a decision to kill a patient.

A study that was published by the (BMJ Oct 2010) concluded that assisted deaths were significantly under-reported in the Flemish region of Belgium. The study found that only 52.8% of assisted deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium were reported.

A study that was published by the (CMAJ June, 2010) found that 32% of all assisted deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium were done without explicit request. A similar study that was published by the (CMAJ June, 2010) found that 45% of assisted deaths by nurses in Belgium were done without explicit request.

The study found that the demographic group that was most likely to die by an assisted death without request tended to be over the age of 80, incapable of consenting, had an unpredictable end-of-life trajectory and died in the hospital. The study concluded in their findings that this:

"fits the description of a vulnerable patient group at risk of life-ending without request."
Many euthanasia advocates claim that the Belgian euthanasia law has effective safeguards and yet the data indicates that many euthanasia deaths are not requested and not reported.

The number of people who are dying by euthanasia for psychological reasons is expanding.
How is it possible that people can be euthanised in Belgium without close family or friends being contacted? Why does my country give medical doctors the exclusive power to decide over life and death? ... What are the criteria to decide what “unbearable suffering” is? Can we rely on such a judgment for a mentally ill person? 
The Growth of Euthanasia in Belgium.

The 2013 Belgian euthanasia report states that the number of reported assisted deaths increased by more than 26% to 1816 deaths in 2013. This was up from 1432 euthanasia deaths in 2012 and 1133 in 2011. The Belgian statistics do not include the unreported deaths.

The Belgian euthanasia law has been expanded by changing the law and changing the interpretation of the law, to include new reasons for killing proving that a slippery slope has happened. 

Incremental extensions have occurred to the Belgian euthanasia law by expanding the definition of psychological suffering, expanding euthanasia to include depressed people with questionable consent and expanding euthanasia to include children. All this has occurred while the Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission and the government has turned a blind eye to abuses of the law.

Euthanasia is done by lethally injecting a person. People in Belgium are dying by euthanasia without request, without it being reported and it includes people with depression and children.

The Belgian experience with euthanasia should convince people to prohibit euthanasia. Sadly, those who support euthanasia ignore and cover-up the truth rather than recognize that legalizing euthanasia is a dangerous public policy.

Disability Rights Community Responds to the Tucker Hire

The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund coordinated bringing the disability rights community together for this response. (Link to this article published by Not Dead Yet).
September 13, 2014

Dear Board members, Disability Rights Legal Center:

We understand you have hired Kathryn Tucker as the new executive director of DRLC.

Many of the signatories to this letter have worked with DRLC for years, enjoyed our working relationship toward furthering disability rights, and appreciated the work of DRLC.

We wish to engage in dialogue with you about the serious concerns we have over Ms. Tucker’s work in her previous position at Compassion & Choices that has placed members of the disability community in significant danger.

As you probably know, many prominent disability rights organizations across the U.S. have taken formal positions opposing assisted suicide laws. The legalization of assisted suicide is a very serious problem, and is of the utmost importance to many in the disability community. Ms. Tucker’s actions have significantly and directly aided in establishing assisted suicide laws, and she has materially contributed to the efforts toward their further legalization, in state after state. While Ms. Tucker’s work on pain relief is laudable, it is overshadowed by her work toward the legalization of assisted suicide through her leadership role at Compassion & Choices.

As organizations many of which have partnered with DRLC in the past, and which hope to have productive collaborations with you in the future, we would be very troubled if the hiring of Ms. Tucker were seen as a message to the disability community—or to society at large—that the DRLC has taken, or may take in the future, an opposing position to that of the established disability community on the legalization of assisted suicide, isolating itself from its natural allies.

Recognizing the difficulties raised by this past work of Ms. Tucker, we hope you will engage with us in dialogue about this issue and how it might play out, if at all, during her tenure at DRLC.

If you are unfamiliar with the issue’s complexities or with how extensively it is misunderstood by the general public, we refer you to http://dredf.org/public-policy/assisted-suicide/ to learn more.

We suggest a teleconference with you—and, if you like, Ms. Tucker and/or other staff—to consider the above questions.

On behalf of the organizations and individuals who have signed on below, please communicate with Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), mgolden@dredf.org, (510) 549-9339.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Man kills his mother and claims it was assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Margaret Regalia
The following story from Monticello New York is very upsetting.

The story that is published in the Times-Herald Record states that Andrew Moore confessed to strangling his mother, Margaret "Peggy" Regalia, to death as part of an assisted suicide pact.

Clearly, this upsetting case is not an assisted suicide pact, as the defense attorney claims

Assisted suicide is to intentionally assist another person to commit suicide. Regalia didn't kill herself but rather was strangled to death. Therefore it is a murder or murder-suicide pact but not an assisted suicide pact. The defense may have used this to lessen the gravity of the charge.

Moore's sister, Jennifer Panet doubted the argument by the defense attorney. The Mohawk Valley News stated:

A compassionate society prevents suicide, not promotes it.

Paul Russell
This article was published on September 11, 2014 by Mercatornet.

By Paul Russell, the Director of Hope Australia.

Here in Australia another World Suicide Prevention Day has passed uneventfully. Suicide Prevention Australia made some touching TV advertisements which made me cringe at the pain felt by those left behind. Their anguish is something we too often forget.

As Lifeline, the suicide prevention organisation, puts it, “Suicide loss can impact on physical and mental health. It’s important people bereaved by suicide are treated with compassion and support. They may experience: shock, numbness, denial; searching for reasons ‘why?’; guilt; anger/blame; despair; listlessness; stigma and shame; loneliness and disconnection; depression; thoughts of suicide themselves.”

This message does not seem to be getting through to the media, however. An Australian Senator, David Leyonhjelm, published a libertarian argument for assisted suicide in OnLine Opinion shortly before Suicide Prevention Day. “It is fine to promote the treatment of depression and palliative care,” he wrote. “But it is not acceptable to claim their availability removes the right to make a choice. If free people own their own lives, they must be free to end them if they wish.

This is reckless. All suicides are regrettable; all suicides should be abhorred and we should seek to ensure that suicide prevention measures recognise this.

If we accept that suicide for the elderly or the ill is appropriate, we send a mixed message about the value of life. Diminishing the resistance to all forms of suicide by accepting, as Leyonhjelm suggests, that some lives are “no longer worth living” implies that some suicides are good. This can never be the case in a compassionate society.

In its latest report the World Health Organisation says that one suicide occurs every 40 seconds around the world, with the highest rate amongst people aged 70 and over. This should make us think. Are we going to discriminate against the aged and infirmed in terms of suicide prevention; are we going to allow the former Nazi slogan of “life not worthy of life” to skew our objectives of reducing the number of suicides?
Newspapers often include the phone numbers of helplines at the foot of articles about suicide for those for those who are troubled by suicidal thoughts.

If we take Senator Leyonhjelm’s arguments seriously and legalise assisted suicide, should the editors add more advice? “If you think your suicidal thoughts are rational, phone Exit International. If you are old, sick or fear loneliness, ring this number for a doctor who will help you end it all.”

The only truly consistent approach to suicide is to seek to prevent it in all its forms. Anything less is a failure; a failure of imagination, commitment and of vulnerable people who deserve the protection of the law and the support of our society.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The utopian dream of controlling the uncontrollable.

This article was originally published on Sept 9, 2014 on the Hope Australia Website.

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

Two recent articles on euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Australian press serve to highlight the dilemma of the form of any legislation that might be proposed as well as the reality of what crossing the Rubicon of the prohibition on killing or assisting in suicide will mean for a society like ours.

Senator David Leyonhjelm (Assisted Suicide. OnLine Opinion, 8 Sept) poses the classical libertarian view (that: ‘permission from government should not be required’) whileThe Age writer, Julia Medew records the view of one of the doctors she interviews as seeking legislative control (Don’t-tell doctors supporting secret euthanasia deaths The Age, 7 Sept).

Medew’s premise is the classic shibboleth of ‘it’s happening now, so let’s legalise it’.

That these two views on the same subject are contradictory, one to the other, serves to highlight the need for continued prohibition. Both views are utopian in essence – they cannot be attained no matter how much we might wish it were so.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Marc Kajouji becomes a suicide prevention advocate after his sister, Nadia, dies by assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday, an former from Minnesota, was found guilty of attempting to assist the suicide of Canadian teen, Nadia Kajouji in 2008. Today is world suicide prevention day.

Marc Kajouji, who has become a suicide prevention advocate with the suicide prevention group Your Life Counts responded to the Ottawa Citizen concerning the conviction of William Melchert-Dinkel that:

“It doesn’t change anything, I still have lost my sister, but at least there’s some sort of followup and a way to highlight the issue because there isn’t a voice for the 4,000 other families in Canada that go through this, (suicide)”
Marc Kajouji
Marc Kajouji told the Ottawa Citizen that he isn't seeking justice for Nadia's death but rather a change to the system:
“It’s tough, because I wish there were better checks and balances in the system such as the medicine she was on, the different things the school could have done, or the privacy act, or Internet regulations, so I don’t direct it at any one person or outlet,” he said. “I do feel that it’s an overall umbrella of an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Kajouji is waiting for Nadia's case to effect Canadian law. The Ottawa Citizen reported:
“(Motion 388) was ‘Nadia’s Law’ that was passed unanimously in the House of Commons and it’s just sitting on a shelf collecting dust,”
Albrecht with Kajouji
Motion 388 passed unanimously in the House of Commons on November 18, 2009. It was introduced in Parliament by Harold Albrecht MP. The Ottawa Citizen article stated:

The motion was to frame the euthanasia and assisted suicide debate by making sure the federal government clarified Section 241 of the Criminal Code, which outlaws counselling or aiding suicide, to apply to online predators looking to encourage or assist suicide.
Section 241 of the Criminal Code, Canada's assisted suicide act, is being challenged in the courts by the euthanasia lobby. In June 2012, Justice Lynn Smith, of the BC court, struck down Section 241 as unconstitutional. In October 2013, the BC Court of Appeal overturned Justice Smith's flawed decision and on October 15, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the challenge to Section 241 and the Criminal Code provisions that protect Canadians from euthanasia.

If the Supreme Court of Canada strikes down Canada's assisted suicide laws, then any protection in law for teenagers like Nadia Kajouji will also be removed. Canada's assisted suicide laws equally protect all Canadians from others who would aid, counsel or encourage a vulnerable person to suicide.

An Associated Press article, stated that:

Evidence in the case showed Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and sought out depressed people online. He posed as a suicidal female nurse, feigning compassion and offering step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves. He acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10, five of whom he believed killed themselves.
Nadia Kajouji
Melchert-Dinkel wanted to watch Nadia Kajouji commit suicide on front of her webcam.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada on October 15 in the assisted suicide/euthanasia case (Carter case). EPC is urging the Supreme Court to uphold the laws protecting people from euthanasia and assisted suicide.