Sunday, October 19, 2014

Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia on Global News

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition



Tom Clark from Global News, interviewed Dr Catherine Ferrier, the leader of the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia. Clark fails in his attempt to discredit Ferrier in a one-sided interview, The interview is based on the - Open Letter to Canadians on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

The Physicians Alliance are urging Canadian physicians to sign the Open Letter to Canadians.

Link to the video of the interview.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

People in a vegetative state may be aware

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The UK Independent published an article on a study by scientists at Cambridge University concerning tests on people considered to be in a vegetative state or a minimally conscious state.

The Independent is reporting that:
Severely brain-damaged patients in a persistent vegetative state may be capable of being consciously aware of the outside world, scientists said.
Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a test to determine whether people in a vegetative state can respond to their surroundings. Dr Srivas Chennu reported that:
“Our research could improve clinical assessment and help identify patients who might be covertly aware despite being uncommunicative,”
“... for patients diagnosed as vegetative and minimally conscious and their families, this is far more than just an academic question; it takes on a very real significance,”
The article in the Independent explained the research data:
The researchers analysed the brainwaves of 32 patients using 128 electrical sensors fixed to the scalp to measure electroencephalograph (EEG) activity. 13 members of the group were classed as being in a persistent vegetative state, with the rest being minimally conscious. 
The study, published in the online journal Plos Computational Biology, found that four of the 13 patients with persistent vegetative state had a “robust” network of brain activity that would allow conscious thoughts, which was confirmed when they were asked to imagine playing tennis when their brains were scanned using a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) machine.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Catherine Frazee: There can be dignity in all states of life

This article was published in the Ottawa Citizen on October 15, 2015.

By Catherine Frazee

In his article of Oct. 9, Desmond Tutu emphasizes the importance of language on the sensitive issue of medically assisted dying. In the spirit of advancing a respectful dialogue, I must urge him to consider the deeper meanings of dignity, and how our experience of human dignity leads disabled Canadians to a very different conclusion about end-of-life interventions.

Last week I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with a small group of parliamentarians on the subject of medically assisted dying.

I was not alone. Several friends and colleagues from the disability rights community were each given five minutes to present an argument against amending the criminal code to sanction medically assisted dying.

One spoke about the discriminatory implication of offering state-sanctioned assistance not for everyone, but only for persons who are frail, very ill, or seriously disabled. Another presented a chilling account of the “creep” of euthanasia in permissive jurisdictions.

Another spoke from personal experience, about the time someone said to him, “I don’t know how you do it; I’d rather be dead than in a wheelchair.” There were nods of recognition around the room. This is a common experience.

I spoke about dignity. The suffering that medically assisted dying is said to alleviate most often correlates with loss of dignity. I don’t believe that anyone should take a position on medically assisted dying without first understanding what dignity is, and what it is not.

Assisted suicide often involves pain and suffering.

This article was published by the Providence Journal on October 17, 2014.
By Lani Candelora
Did you know that many assisted suicides experience complications? Assisted suicide is wrongly marketed to the public as a flawless, peaceful escape from suffering. It can be a painful and scary death. It can include gasping, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, panic, confusion, failure to produce unconsciousness, waking from unconsciousness and a failure to cause death.

Just recently, we saw a heartbreaking article about a woman named Brittany Maynard who has planned her assisted-suicide death for Nov. 1. She is clearly terrified of a hard and painful death, and has been led to believe that assisted suicide is the best way out. However, Compassion and Choices, the leading advocates of assisted suicide, cannot guarantee her the easy death they advertise.

The most comprehensive study on clinical problems with assisted suicide (published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2000) was conducted over a six-year period in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for many years. It found that over 18 percent of assisted suicides experienced problems severe enough to cause a doctor to step in and euthanize the patient. In at least 14 percent of assisted suicides the patient had problems with completion including waking up from coma, not becoming comatose, and not dying after becoming comatose. Another 7 percent of assisted suicides reported muscle spasms, extreme gasping for air, nausea and vomiting.

The New England Journal of Medicine study insightfully mentions that all reporting doctors are practitioners and supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia who are less likely to report unfavorable data. They “may have underestimated the number and seriousness of problems,” causing complications to be under reported to an unknown degree.

Ban against assisted suicide remains the norm

This article was published in the Advocate Daily on October 16, 2014.

Hugh Scher
By Hugh Scher, legal counsel - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The priorities of disabled Canadians include access to quality living conditions, education, health care and employment – not to be granted the right to assisted suicide, Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher tells CBC’s Power & Politics

Click Here To Watch the Power & Politics debate following the Supreme Court Hearing On Assisted Suicide

Scher, a former chairperson of the human rights committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, made the comments in a segment on Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), which was heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

What will happen to Brittany Maynard?

This article was published on the Choice Is An Illusion blog.


By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

Margaret Dore
The suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, is running a public relations campaign featuring the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman with a brain tumor. According to media reports, she intends to take her life under Oregon's assisted suicide law in the near future. [1]

Lovelle Svart

In 2007, there was a similar case in Oregon involving Lovelle Svart, which was also promoted by Compassion & Choices. Svart, who had cancer, died at the end of a party in which she had been having a great time. The party was reported in the Seattle Times, which described her as being in control. [2] When it was time for her to die, however, she engaged in stalling behaviors ("a hugging line" and a cigarette break). 

There was also this exchange between her and George Eighmey, a member of Compassion & Choices:
“Is this what you want?” 
“Actually, I’d like to go on partying,” Lovelle replied, laughing before turning serious. "But yes."
The situation was similar to a wedding when it’s time to take your vows. Everyone is watching and it's the thing to do. Even if you're having second thoughts or would rather “go on partying,” you go forward. If Eighmey had wanted to give her an out, he could have said:
“You're having so much fun, you don’t have to do this today or even next week.”
Instead, he closed her by guiding her to take the lethal dose, which killed her.

Will Ms. Maynard get her choice?

It may be hard to know.

Compassion & Choices, regardless, will have an interest in getting the best promotional material possible from her death.

Margaret Somerville: Should Canada permit assisted suicide.

This article was published by the Globe and Mail on October 15, 2015 as one of two articles comprising a debate between Margaret Somerville and Arthur Schafer.
Assisted suicide leads to normalization of euthanasia, harms the vulnerable and degrades our respect for the value of human life.
Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville:


Euthanasia and assisted suicide go beyond personal ethics to involve social ethics. Advocates frequently resort to a personal story, often that of a suffering relative, to explain their stance. They avoid asking the question, “What does it say about a society that deals with the big problems of human existence by legalizing the ‘quick fix’ of inflicting death?” Such a society is abandoning the great philosophic traditions of Western civilization. Everything now depends only on majority opinion and technological capacity.

Moreover, euthanasia differentially implicates the most vulnerable members of a society. We can’t judge the ethical tone of a society by how it treats its strongest, most privileged, most powerful members, but by how it treats its weakest, most vulnerable and most in need.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Right to Euthanasia?

This article was originally published by Public Discourse on October 16, 2014
For both principled and practical reasons, the Supreme Court of Canada should maintain the country’s legal ban on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
John Keown
By John Keown
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada heard oral argument in a landmark case. Its decision will have ramifications south of the border and well beyond.
The question in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada is whether there is a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to voluntary, active euthanasia (VAE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Do patients have a right to lethal injections and lethal prescriptions? The case is largely a rerun of Rodriguez v. British Columbia, a 1993 case in which the Canadian Supreme Court held (5-4) that there is no right to physician-assisted suicide under the Charter.
In Carter, the trial judge in British Columbia, Justice Lynn Smith, decided that she was entitled to reopen the question. Why? Because she thought the “proportionality” test in Canadian constitutional law had changed and because of the empirical evidence that has emerged from the Netherlands and Belgium (which permit VAE) and from Oregon (which permits PAS).
She concluded, in light of that evidence, that the risks of decriminalization “can be very largely avoided through carefully-designed, well-monitored safeguards,” and that a complete ban on VAE and PAS was disproportionate. She judged that in order to protect the vulnerable it was disproportionate to ban VAE and PAS for everyone, and that the blanket ban infringed sections 7 and 15 of the Charter.
The Attorney General of Canada appealed. British Columbia’s Court of Appeal rejected Justice Smith’s view that the proportionality test had changed, and held that she was therefore bound by Rodriguez. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court should dismiss the appeal and uphold Canada’s ban on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Leaving aside the proportionality test, on which the Court of Appeal based its decision, there are at least four grave flaws in Justice Smith’s judgment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Former Minnesota nurse who admitted to counselling suicide of Canadian teen is going to jail.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Nadia Kajouji
The Canadian Press reported that William Melchert-Dinkel, a former Minnesota nurse, has been sentenced to 178 days in jail for his part in the death of Canadian teen, Nadia Kajouji and Mark Drybrough, from Coventry England.

CP Press report stated:

William Melchert-Dinkel was ordered Wednesday to serve 178 days in jail. 
He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, but he won't have to serve the prison term if he complies with conditions of probation that include the jail time. 
The 52-year-old was convicted in September of one count of assisting a suicide and one count of attempting to assist a suicide in the deaths of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England and Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, ON. 
The convictions came after the Minnesota Supreme Court narrowed the state's assisted-suicide law and reversed earlier convictions.

An Open Letter to Canadians on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.


On Wednesday October 15th the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal in the Carter case. It will decide whether the Criminal Code’s prohibition of assisted suicide is constitutional. If the prohibition is struck down, doctors will be involved in assisted suicide and euthanasia. As physicians, we have followed with a growing sense of dismay the public debate over whether to introduce into medical practice the act of inflicting death. We write to you today to give a medical perspective on this crucial debate.

It is a long standing commitment of the medical profession ‘To cure sometimes, to relieve suffering often, and to comfort always.’ It is a breach of that commitment to inflict death. The World Medical Association [1] and the near-totality of national medical associations agree that intentionally ending patients’ lives is not an ethically acceptable part of the physician’s role. This opinion is shared by the World Palliative Care Alliance [2] and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians [3] in their assertion that Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are not now, and have never been, part of palliative care practice.

Both the effectiveness of palliative care and the fact that most Canadians who die have limited access to specialised palliative care services [4] are well recognized. Palliative care affirms life, regards dying as a normal process, and intends neither to hasten nor postpone death. In the 40 years since palliative care was introduced into Canada the ability to control pain and other symptoms is improving constantly, although problems of equitable access persist. This is a grave injustice and, many believe, a breach of human rights, but the remedy is not to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, it’s to provide the support dying people need. Indeed, legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide would introduce further injustices: those to older, disabled or ill people who may not even be dying but for whom the mere existence of such practices would be a source of subtle but effective pressure to request them, and which would place them in grave danger of abuse.

In the few countries that have attempted this hazardous social experiment, permissive laws, despite safeguards to restrict their application to a small number of extreme cases, are rapidly extended to include individuals bearing little resemblance to the initial target group. In Belgium, euthanasia is permitted by law if a patient requests it voluntarily and suffers from “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident” [5]. Despite this seemingly restrictive rule, in recent years Belgians have been legally euthanized for suffering arising from conditions ranging from glaucoma [6] to depression [7], to imprisonment [8], to multiple chronic conditions in the elderly [9], to a desire to avoid being a burden on one’s children [10]. The situation in the Netherlands is much the same [11]. It would be naive to believe that some Canadians would not give in to the same pressures to use euthanasia in an ever expanding range of circumstances – that is, the logical slippery slope is unavoidable.

In the U.S. state of Oregon, legal physician-assisted suicides are not required to be supervised [12] and the doctor is rarely present [13]. Data are based entirely on physician self-reporting [14] and information on individual cases is not available even to the police [15]. This opens the door to abuse of older and vulnerable citizens.

With good reason the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Rodriguez decision in 1993, concluded that there was no measure short of the current law that would meet the objectives of Parliament to protect the public and, in particular, vulnerable members of the public.

As medical professionals we have an obligation to protect not only the patients under our care, but also the population as a whole. The majority of physicians in Canada oppose legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide [16, 17]. A few are attempting to take a neutral stance but such a position is untenable. If you are not against these practices you are necessarily for them. A purported neutral stance on the part of physicians would be an abdication of our duty as medical doctors to put the well-being of our patients before political or other considerations.

Legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide would expose you and your loved ones to grave risks, including that of wrongful death. Legislators and doctors have an urgent duty to ensure this never happens, for clear reasons of public safety. We urge all Canadians to heed the warning signs from those places which have made the mistake of entrenching these practices, and to oppose their introduction into health care in our country.