Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Australian palliative care specialists warn against euthanasia.

Paul Russell
This article was originally published on the HOPE Australia website on September 2, 2014.


By Paul Russell, the director of HOPE Australia. 

A group of West Australian Palliative Care Specialists has told a Senate Inquiry into euthanasia that they do not want to be put in the position of having to end patients' lives.

The West Australian newspaper says that, 'members of the WA Palliative Medicine Specialists Group, which includes doctors from the State's major hospitals, worry that legalising euthanasia would change society's attitude to matters of life and death.'

The doctor's group, represented by Doug Bridge, former head of Royal Perth Hospital's palliative care service, says that, it was "abhorrent" to put doctors in the position of having to end a patient's life.

Dr Doug Bridge
"Why should we be forced to kill people," he said. "We don't think it's wise, we don't think it is ethical. 
"To change our role to become the person who causes death is quite a different role. 
"We're not comfortable with that role and don't think it is good for families." 
Dr Bridge said the popular view that many terminally ill patients requested euthanasia because of intolerable pain was wrong. Instead, most patients asked for it because they did not want to be a burden or felt despair. 
He said a lack of understanding about palliative care, such as pain relief medication and sedation that can be offered, also coloured a patient's thinking. 
"What people are requesting is to be in control of decision-making at the end of their lives," Dr Bridge said. 
"They want the right to a comfortable, dignified death. We believe that good palliative care can satisfy this desire."
The group, along with many other organisations and individuals made a representation to the Senate Inquiry into Senator Di Natale's 'draft exposure bill' which incorporates both euthanasia and assisted suicide under the euphemism of a 'dying with dignity medical service.'

The window of opportunity for submissions is closed. The Senate committee is due to report on their deliberations on October 27, 2014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Memorial to the T4 euthanasia program victims opens in Berlin.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Nazi euthanasia memorial
A memorial to the victims of the Nazi T-4 euthanasia program will open on Tuesday September 2 in Berlin near the central Tiergarten park.

The Times of Israel reported that a memorial to the approximate 300,000 physically and mentally disabled people who were murdered by the German regime between 1939 - 45, was approved in November 2011. “The Berlin government selected a design featuring a 24-meter-long (79-foot-long) transparent blue-tinted glass wall on a dark base.” The article stated that:

“The murder of tens of thousands of patients and residents of care homes was the first systematic mass crime of the National Socialist regime,” said Uwe Neumaerker, director of the memorial foundation. 
“It is considered a forerunner of the extermination of European Jews.”
The Times of Israel told the story of Benjamin Traub who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 16 and died in the gas chamber at the Hadamar Psychiatric hospital at 27.
In 1941, he was taken to a clinic nearby in the town of Hadamar which had been transformed into a factory of death. There, immediately after his arrival, Traub was sent to a gas chamber and murdered with carbon monoxide. 
His parents received word from the clinic that their son “died suddenly and unexpectedly of flu with subsequent meningitis.” 
Because he suffered from a “serious, incurable mental illness,” the letter continued, the family should see his death as “a relief.” 
Hans & Sophie Scholl
The article describes the T4 euthanasia program:

In an elegant villa at Tiergartenstrasse 4, more than 60 Nazi bureaucrats and like-minded doctors worked in secret under the “T4″ program to organize the mass murder of sanatorium and psychiatric hospital patients deemed unworthy to live. 
Between January 1940 and August 1941 doctors systematically gassed more than 70,000 people — the physically and mentally handicapped, those with learning disabilities, and people branded social “misfits” — at six sites across the German empire. 
Protests by members of the public and leaders of the Catholic Church ended the T4 program but the killing went on. 
From August 1941 until the war’s end in 1945, tens of thousands more died through forced starvation, neglect or fatal doses of painkillers such as morphine administered by purported caregivers.
The memorial will be opened by government leaders and Helmut Traub, Benjamin's nephew.

The Times of Israel article concludes:
Few of the killers were brought to justice after the war, despite high-profile trials like those of doctors at Nuremberg 1946-47, and many of the implicated medical professionals simply continued with their careers. 
Meanwhile both West Germany and the communist East did little to recognize or compensate survivors. 
Smaller plaques and markers have been installed at relevant sites across Germany in recent years but the T4 site is the first national memorial to honor these victims. 
The story ends by quoting from Berlin’s daily Der Tagesspiegel which “noted that unlike other groups, the ‘euthanasia’ victims lacked a ‘strong lobby.’
“Many were forgotten for decades and still are, even by their own families”

Not Dead Yet and 6 other National Disability Groups Submit Friend-of-the-Court Brief in New Mexico Assisted Suicide Appeal

This media release was published on August 31, 2014

Diane Coleman
On August 22, 2014, Not Dead Yet submitted a Disability Rights friend-of-the-court brief in support of the New Mexico Attorney General’s appeal seeking to overturn a district court ruling that the New Mexico constitution contains a right to assisted suicide (Morris v. King, Case No. 33,630, Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico). 

Six other national disability rights organizations joined in the brief: ADAPT, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the National Council on Independent Living, and the United Spinal Association.



Santa Fe, New Mexico (PRWEB) August 31, 2014

On August 22, 2014, Not Dead Yet submitted a Disability Rights friend-of-the-court brief in support of the New Mexico Attorney General’s appeal seeking to overturn a district court ruling that the New Mexico constitution contains a right to assisted suicide (Morris v. King, Case No. 33,630, Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico). Six other national disability rights organizations joined in the brief: ADAPT, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the National Council on Independent Living, and the United Spinal Association (collectively “the Disability Rights Amici”).

Marilyn Golden
The Disability Rights Amici are represented by Lara Katz of Montgomery and Andrews in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Steve Gold, a nationally known disability rights attorney based in Philadelphia. The Motion that accompanies the brief states why the groups believe that the disability rights perspective should be considered by the Court of Appeals:

"Their members, as well as other people with severe disabilities, are the potential targets of physician-assisted suicide. Their members have faced family and physicians who have actively deprived them of fundamental rights and liberties that others take for granted. They have members whose physicians have mistakenly told them they have six months to live, but have lived far beyond that prognosis. . . . Some members’ families have been urged by physicians to remove life-sustaining treatment at a critical juncture and, after their families fought such recommendations, have survived and gone on to value their lives. Some members initially contemplated suicide following a severe and life-threatening injury, but were denied that option under prior law, and went on to value their lives."
Each of the Disability Rights Amici brings a specific perspective to the policy debate about assisted suicide. For example, the primary mission of ADAPT is to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities are not forced into nursing facilities, but have the choice to receive consumer directed long term care services in their own home. “If the only alternative to death that those in power offer people who require assistance is poverty and segregation in nursing facilities, then it makes no sense to talk about assisted suicide as a ‘choice’”, said Bob Kafka, an ADAPT organizer based in Austin, Texas.

“As a person with a disability and a wheelchair-user, I’m proud that the disability community has overwhelmingly opposed the legalization of assisted suicide,” said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California. “It’s a deadly mix with our broken, profit-driven health care system, where financial pressures already play far too great a role.”

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: most popular blog articles.


1.Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Personal Choice - February 17, 2011.

2. Euthanasia is out-of-control in the Netherlands – September 25, 2012.


3. Declaration of Hope – January 17, 2013. 

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


5. Petition: Stop euthanasia Bill 52 in Quebec – May 24, 2014

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


7. 5 reasons why people devalue the elderly – May 25, 2010.

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

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


10. QuĂ©bec's euthanasia Bill 52 is lethal - December 12, 2013.


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

12. Hassan Rasouli to be transferred from Sunnybrook hospital - January 6, 2014.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Disability Rights Organizations Oppose Assisted Suicide

This article was originally published on the Not Dead Yet blog on August 28, 2014

By John B. Kelly - the New England regional director for Not Dead Yet and the director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts.

John Kelly in Connecticut
Disability rights advocates and organizations have long opposed legalization of assisted suicide. In the mid 1990s, Not Dead Yet organized to oppose Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicides, two thirds of which ended the lives of non-terminal, disabled people. Over the last 20 years, every major national disability rights organization that has taken a position on assisted suicide, firmly opposes it. In recent state level campaigns, disability rights opposition has been a key factor in stopping assisted suicide bills.

The authors (Myers and Hankinson, “People living with disabilities support death with dignity”) base their argument on results from three state polls and quotes from scientist Stephen Hawking. Let’s look at the three states. In Massachusetts, disabled advocates formed the group Second Thoughts during the 2012 assisted suicide ballot campaign. We took the name from our finding that the more people learn about assisted suicide, the more they oppose it. We gathered support from 11 major state-wide disability organizations; no disability organizations came out in favor. And in the most recent legislative session, Second Thoughts joined with the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation to quash a similar bill.

When Connecticut proponents put forward bills in two consecutive sessions, our sister group Second Thoughts Connecticut organized with the disability protection and advocacy agency and the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disability to stop the bills. Hugh McQuaid wrote in CT News Junkie that “Both this year and last year, people with disabilities and their advocates have been among the bill’s most outspoken opponents. Many testified against the bill during its public hearing.”

Lastly, the authors cited New Jersey, where disability opposition was just credited with stalling an assisted suicide bill. Susan Livio of NJ.com wrote “Disability advocates, fearing the legislation could be manipulated to prematurely end patients’ lives, turned out in force to testify against the bill when it passed the Assembly Health and Senior Citizens Committee earlier this month.”

In reality, assisted suicide is the ultimate denial of choice. Bob Kafka, national leader of ADAPT, points to the enforced poverty, lack of available home care, and terror of nursing homes confronting seniors and disabled people who need assistance. The lack of choices is reflected in the statistics from Oregon, where 90% of suicides are ascribed to “loss of autonomy,” and 40% to “feelings of being a burden.” Kafka says, “Society is failing to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities have access to consumer controlled long term services and supports when they need them. The last thing we need is for those in power to make a public policy choice, during this time of vast budget cuts in Medicaid health and long term care, that an early death is the cost saving answer to these very real human needs.”

Links to similar articles:

Reports of assisted suicide in Switzerland are 'highly exaggerated.'

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Recent media reports have exaggerating the number of assisted suicide deaths in Switzerland, according to a report published by Swiss Info media. The article points out that the number of people dying by assisted suicide in Switzerland is relatively exaggerated.

The article explains that a relatively small number of Swiss citizens are dying by assisted suicide and very few people who are properly cared for by palliative care die by assisted suicide. The article states:

“Assisted suicide remains a minority choice,” Andreas Weber, a palliative care specialist at the Wetzikon Hospital near Zurich, told swissinfo.ch. 
“For a large majority, it is never an option in the first place, and for most of the people who consider it when they first face their diagnosis, it is off the cards once we reduce their concerns and explain what we can do.” 
Another specialist, Maria Walshe, shares Weber’s view. “I’m only aware of a couple of isolated cases where our patients made use of that option,” Walshe said. “At the Centre for Palliative Care at the Winterthur Cantonal Hospital our job is never to shorten a life, but primarily to ease the symptoms. We talk to the patients, consult their wishes and define their needs without any prejudice.” 
The only cases in which experts know patients will see it through are what they describe as “rational suicide”. Those are intellectuals who have already made up their minds in advance. They have settled their affairs, they are a member of Exit, and are ready to die. It is virtually impossible to change their minds, Weber explained.
In a recent article I explain that people who were are not sick, have died by assisted suicide in Switzerland. In fact, one study showed that 16% were not dying and a larger study showed that 25% of the people who died by assisted suicide were not dying.

The fact that some people have already "made up their minds" means that assisted suicide is the option of the few privileged persons. Giving doctors the right in law to cause your death will result in some abuse. 

Legalizing assisted suicide is not necessary considering the fact that the privileged few who demand assisted suicide can also be properly cared-for rather than killed.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Robin Williams and the hypocrisy of suicide prevention organizations.

This article was originally published on August 24, 2014 on the Not Dead Yet website.

Stephen Drake
By Stephen Drake, Research Analyst with Not Dead Yet USA

The sudden emergence of suicide prevention organizations and their representatives in the media responding to the death of Robin Williams has been mind-blowingly outrageous to me – I track the suicide coverage – assisted and non-assisted – of old, ill and disabled people regularly. It’s part of my job. A near-constant in reading and watching that coverage has been the near-total absence of suicide prevention organizations and professionals in reacting to any suicide of old, ill or elderly people labelled as “right to die,” death with dignity,” “end of life,” “assisted suicide” or any other terminology that seeks to differentiate the suicides of some people from the larger group deemed as “preventable tragedies.”

In the aftermath of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide, suicide prevention experts and the press want to take special care about warning the public and make sure that the coverage of his death doesn’t spark a rise in suicidal behavior. Here’s a sampling of the reactions, starting with a response to a tweet put out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as reported in the Washington Post:

On Monday night, as fans around the world began to grieve Robin Williams’s death, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — best known, in many circles, as the people behind the Oscars — sent out what may be the iconic social media image of Williams’s death. 
          “@TheAcademy: Genie, you’re free. pic.twitter.com/BPsV44mTvD” 
          8:26 AM – 12 Aug 2014 Los Angeles, CA, United States 
More than 270,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 69 million people have seen it. 
The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide. 
“If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.” (Emphasis added.) 
Moutier is referring to a well-documented phenomenon, better-known as “copycat suicide,” in which media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way. Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion; in recent years, groups like AFSP have also become particularly attentive to the role the Internet plays in romanticizing notorious or high-profile deaths, something it has long asked both the news and entertainment industries to avoid. 
“The potential for online reports, photos/videos and stories to go viral makes it vital that online coverage of suicide follow site or industry safety recommendations,” one media guide reads. 
But in the hours since @TheAcademy’s tweet went viral, professionals like Moutier have become concerned that it doesn’t, in fact, follow established safety recommendations. The starry sky from Disney’s Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light, Moutier said.

The International Business Times presented this quote from a representative of the American Association of Suicidology:
The American Association of Suicidology has advised journalists to sensitively cover the death because certain types of news coverage are believed to increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The association noted that the risk of copycat suicides increases when the story specifically describes the suicide method, but covering the suicide carefully can change public misperceptions and prompt those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.
Those are just two examples, but they’re typical of the way in which top suicide prevention organizations have been aggressively going after the press and spreading caution about the harm caused by irresponsible journalism.

I, for one, am extremely unimpressed and underwhelmed by the suicide prevention brigade. Even in this latest episode of a publicized suicide, I see nothing in their messaging to indicate that any of the organizations or their reps care at all if old, ill and disabled people kill ourselves (unless, of course, we’re Robin Williams).

Let me offer up one more quote before I talk about the total lack of integrity these organizations have shown in regard to suicides of old, ill and disabled people – deaths I get to read about far too often. This is from Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, who appeared on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show “The Last Word” on MSNBC:

I think what`s really important to keep in mind with respect to suicidal thinking and individuals who die by suicide is that they have essentially reached a cognitive state where they`re not really thinking about other people. In fact, there`s some interesting research that`s come out in recent years indicating there`s a very strong association between perceptions of burden on others and risk for suicide, meaning the individuals come to believe that their death is worth more than their life to their loved ones. (Emphasis added.)
Starting with that last point – about the association of being a burden – there’s an elephant in the living room (one of many) in Oregon assisted suicide data. According to information given by prescribing doctors, 49% of people requesting assisted suicide give “being a burden” as a major reason for wanting to commit suicide. Oregon, btw, has one of the highest overall suicide rates in the country, and the rates for all ages are climbing. The state government (and suicide prevention organizations) aren’t inclined to look at legalized assisted suicide and the promotion of suicide as rational, even brave by both pro-assisted organizations and the press and how they might be influencing the overall suicide rates. One would think that good science would dictate at least considering a contagion effect from the normalization of suicide under the assisted suicide statute. It’s interesting – and disturbing – that outside of ex-director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Herb Hendin, I’ve never heard or read any suicide prevention professional highlight that the feeling of “being a burden” is a significant risk factor for suicide in general.
All of these suicide prevention organizations have media guidelines on reporting responsibly when covering suicides. Among those guidelines are:

  • Suicide is complex. There are almost always multiple causes, including psychiatric illnesses, that may not have been recognized or treated. However, these illnesses are treatable. 
  • Refer to research findings that mental disorders and/or substance abuse have been found in 90% of people who have died by suicide.
  • Avoid reporting that death by suicide was preceded by a single event, such as a recent job loss, divorce or bad grades. Reporting like this leaves the public with an overly simplistic and misleading understanding of suicide.
  • Consider quoting a suicide prevention expert on causes and treatments. Avoid putting expert opinions in a sensationalistic context.
  • Use your story to inform readers about the causes of suicide, its warning signs, trends in rates and recent treatment advances.
  • Add statement(s) about the many treatment options available, stories of those who overcame a suicidal crisis and resources for help.
  • Include up-to-date local/national resources where readers/viewers can find treatment, information and advice that promotes help-seeking. (Source: https://www.afsp.org/content/download/1066/16814/file/recommendations.pdf)