Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Most Doctors oppose assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A survey of 600 physicians in Britain found that 60% opposed a change in the law to legalize physician-assisted suicide while 19% indicated that they would be willing euthanize or assist the suicide of a patient.

According to the article published in the Daily Mail:

a survey of 600 doctors by the Medix consultancy found that 60 % are against a change in the law to allow physician-assisted suicide. 
This is a rise of 17 points from the last time the same question was asked - just 43% were against a change in 2004. 
In the latest poll almost half of doctors said that in the last six months they have had at least one patient state they would rather die than stay alive. 
Only 19% would be willing to help people die through legalised physician- assisted suicide or euthanasia, although 37% believe it is already happening anyway.
Dr Tony Calland
The article also quoted Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) ethics committee, who said:

"There have always been strongly held views on assisted dying as this is a complex, emotive issue centred upon vulnerable patients nearing the end of their lives." 
"Doctors have repeatedly expressed their opposition to assisted dying when it has been debated regularly at the BMA's annual conference that sets our policy, which since 2006 has been to oppose assisted dying in all its forms." 
"Many doctors have first-hand experience of caring for dying patients and believe that, rather than deliberately ending a patient's life, we should instead be focusing on building the very best of palliative care for those in distress."
A recent survey of 4800 members of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that 36.3% supported the legalization of euthanasia and 44.8% physician-assisted suicide.

Even after the Canadian media has pushed for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the majority of physicians remain opposed to intentionally causing the death of their patients.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nitschke - "an undetectable death" or murder?

This article was written by Paul Russell, the director of HOPE Australia, and published on August 26, on the HOPE Australia blog.

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell

The recent news of the suspension of Philip Nitschke’s medical licence pending the medical board of Australia’s investigations is good news. But many have asked: why has it taken so long?

The trigger issue for the medical board was the suicide death of Perth man, Nigel Brayley; Beyond Blue chairman, Jeff Kennett and others arguing that, in Nitschke’s contact with Brayley, he had a duty of care to try and stop Brayley from taking his own life.

Nitschke has claimed that his contact with Brayley was not medical in nature and therefore created no onus upon him to attempt to stop Brayley. But a medical professional is a medical professional 24/7 and not simply during a scheduled clinical consultation. There are many professions in our community that hold some sort of mandated civic duty at all times; surely a doctor is no different?

That it has taken so long for the ubiquitous head of the Exit ‘death cult’ as journalist Angela Shanahan called it, to find himself ‘in the dock’ is indeed a matter of some frustration for opponents, including this writer. That it eventually did happen was always a safe bet.

Two years ago when I made a complaint to the medical board I did so because of a significant public safety concern arising out of the then latest in Exit death methods – nitrogen gas hypoxia. What made this method even more of a concern than the other earlier methods was its marketing slogan: “…for an undetectable death…”

The Exit sales blurb talked about this ‘undetectability’ being for those who didn’t want to be remembered as, ‘Uncle so-and-so who killed himself.’ Our concern was more about what was not said – but clearly inferred.

There’s nothing ‘undetectable’ about an Exit nitrogen death if it is truly a do-it-yourself method. The deceased will be found with a gas canister and paraphernalia. Pretty obvious.

So, to be ‘undetectable’ there would need to be a complicit third party who would dispose of the evidence. Now there’s a third party involved; now there’s someone at risk of being charged with the criminal offence of assisting in a suicide.

If that were not enough of a red flag, this ‘undetectability’ provides an opportunity for someone to dispose of someone else with the benefit of being able to avoid suspicion. It’s a rolled-gold method for the most sinister form of elder abuse.

The Brayley case is a ‘smoking gun’, whereas our observations about a real life-and-death risk to the elderly and infirmed, whilst sound and logical, remained theoretical. That is; until July this year in the Utah town of Roy.

Dennis Chamberlain is charged with first degree murder for allegedly killing his wife, Jean Chamberlain and trying to make it look like a natural death.

Jean Chamberlain died in February this year. She was ill and undergoing treatment and was in the care of her husband, Dennis, in their Roy home. Dennis Chamberlain did not advise Roy police of Jean’s death, preferring instead, as he later told his family, to call on an LDS Bishop who declared his wife deceased. As a Roy Detective noted, Mrs Chamberlain’s recent illness and visit to a doctor on the morning of her death were reason enough to issue a death certificate at that time.

It was not until months after the death and burial of Jean that her family raised their suspicion that all was not as it seemed after Chamberlain had told conflicting stories about what had happened that day in February.

Police issued a warrant to search Chamberlain’s home. According to one news report, they found:

On his computer police say they found “methods on how to commit suicide and other resources such as doctors to sign death certificates.” 
Police claim he bought “an oxygen mask and a book titled “the Peaceful Pill Handbook”. 
They also found an exit bag, a plastic hoodie used for suffocation.
The Roy Police Press release of the 1st of July made the claimed subterfuge even clearer:
After several warrants and subpoenas were written and served by investigators, it was found that Dennis had been researching ways to commit suicide and other resources, such as how to find doctors to sign death certificates, and searches that were specific to certain medications, chemicals, and poisons, which could be used to help end your life, and not be detected at autopsy. (PR: sound familiar!) 
Also located was a book which is an instructional book on how to commit suicide without it being detected in an autopsy, this book could also be used as a guide to commit a homicide, and it was found that Dennis had purchased items mentioned in this book the day Jean had died, and it is believed that these items were used to end Jean’s life.
The Salt Lake Tribune puts it this way:
Detectives also learned that Chamberlain allegedly purchased an oxygen mask and a book titled “The Peaceful Pill Handbook,” a euthanasia and suicide how-to manual. Several areas of the book pertaining to the use of nitrogen gas and making of a so-called “Exit Bag” – a plastic bag with a drawstring to put over one’s head – were marked, the affidavit contends. 
Mrs Chamberlain’s body was subsequently exhumed for examination. The specifics of what this autopsy discovered have not been made known, but the Roy Police did confirm that ‘medical examiners found evidence of asphyxiation'.
A preliminary hearing on the charges has been set for the 29th of August.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Warning — Hospice Abuse Can Kill You.

Hospice abuse can be euthanasia without consent. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) supports good hospice care, but we are also extremely concerned about hospice abuse. Good hospice care leads to less support for euthanasia and assisted suicide while hospice abuse leads to a greater demand for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

By Sara Buscher, an attorney from Appleton Wisconsin. She was elected to leadership positions in Elder Law and in Civil Rights Law, working as an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and the elderly.

Bud Coffey with his sister.
What do Bud Coffey, Jim Carlen, Roseann Gillespie and Beverly Garguilo have in common? Their deaths from apparently lethal doses of morphine and sedatives while in hospice. These cases are described in a Washington Post exposé by award-winning investigative journalist Peter Whoriskey.[1] They were not dying nor in extreme pain when they enrolled in hospice, but were given excessive doses of painkillers, dying a few days or weeks later.

So how does it work? A 2009 front page New York Times article explained that a strong sedative, typically lorazepam, and a strong pain killer, typically morphine, are supplied drip by drip through an IV until heart rate and breathing are slowed to the point of making it impossible to eat or drink.[2] “In so doing, it can intentionally hasten death.” This practice goes by various names, including “terminal sedation”, “palliative sedation” and “slow euthanasia.” An earlier national survey found 83% of doctors said it is ethically permissible.[3]

The Washington Post article reports on complaints from around the country illustrating the potential dangers of hospice for patients who are not near death, but who are prescribed lethal doses. Yet no data is collected about such abuses.

The article explains that as the hospice industry has grown, more are enrolling patients who aren’t close to death. Lawsuits have sought to recover more than $1 billion in federal money from hospices who have “fraudulently” billed Medicare for these patients. To qualify for Medicare hospice payments, patients must be certified as having terminal conditions likely to lead to death in six months.

Medicare tracks the number of patients who leave hospice alive as a check on honest enrollment practices. The proportion of “hospice survivors” has increased to the point where some experts believe hospices are deliberately enrolling patients who aren’t dying. They can collect $155 a day ($4,650 a month), without visiting them at home. At hundreds of U.S. hospices, more than one in three patients were released alive, according to a new study funded by Medicare. A “hospice survivor profiled in the article refused to take the drugs while she got better. She was finally given a blood test that proved she did not have cancer, but only after spending a year of her life in hospice.

Sadly, Bud Coffey’s family realized too late that the drugs they were giving him per hospice directions had likely ended his life.

Whether patients are nearing death with a terminal condition or not, EPC opposes the intentional ending of peoples lives with lethal doses. Families and patients should avoid inappropriate hospice enrollment. If a hospice is willing to falsify records to get paid by Medicare, in the US, that hospice is more likely to engage in other unethical practices.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Switzerland, Assisted Suicide and Death Clinics.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A journal article on a pilot study concerning assisted suicide in Switzerland has resulted in significant media promotion of the legalization of assisted suicide. Assisted suicide causes the death of people and the issue deserves further investigating concerning its actual practice in Switzerland.

Pietro D'Amico
n April 2013, Pietro D’Amico, a 62-year-old magistrate from Calabria in southern Italy died by assisted suicide at Dignitas. 
An article that was published in Switzerland's english news service, The Local, stated:
The father-of-one made the decision after a wrong diagnosis from Italian and Swiss doctors, his family's lawyer Michele Roccisano told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera
An autopsy carried out by the University of Basel’s Institute of Forensic Medicine found that D’Amico was not suffering from a life-threatening illness at the time of his death. 
Roccisano called on the Italian and Swiss authorities to examine D’Amico’s medical records to determine what went wrong.
In February, 2014 the Daily Mail reported that:
Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide because was unhappy about losing her looks. 
Cazzanello, who was in good mental and physical health, left her home in Arzignano, near Vicenza in northern Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going. 
Her family, who had reported her to the police as missing, only learnt of her death after they received her ashes and death certificate from the clinic.
In July 2013, a Swiss regional court found Dr. Philippe Freiburghaus “crossed the line” by assisting a suicide without obtaining a diagnosis.

On April 23, 2014, Dr Freiburghaus was acquitted for assisting a suicide without a diagnosis. The reasons for the acquittal were not made public.

An 89-year-old British woman died by assisted suicide in Switzerland because she felt alienated from the modern world.

In May 2013, the European Court of Human Rights said that Switzerland did not provide clear enough guidelines on who could obtain lethal drugs.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology examined 1301 assisted suicide deaths in Switzerland and found that:
Women, highly educated, divorced and rich people are more likely to die from assisted suicide, new research has revealed and around 16 per cent of death certificates did not register an underlying cause. In other words, they had no underlying illness. 
A previous study of suicides by two right-to-die organizations showed that 25 per cent of those who died had no fatal illness, instead citing 'weariness of life' as a factor.
Recently a Swiss assisted suicide group decided to extend suicide assistance to healthy elderly people who are living with some form of physical or psychological pain.

Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana, not the answer.

Link to the hand-out of this article that can be used in your community.

The following article was published by the Missoulian Newspaper on August 21, 2014.

Guest column by BRADLEY WILLIAMS

I take exception to the opinion by two members of the former Hemlock Society, now known as “Compassion & Choices.” The opinion of July 25 implies that assisted suicide is legal in Montana, which is not true.

I am the president of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide. We are in litigation against the Montana Medical Examiners Board. As part of that litigation, we got the board to remove a position paper from its website implying that assisted suicide is legal. Assisted suicide is not legal.

The “treatment” of suicide

As part of our litigation with the board, we also obtained an affidavit from Dr. Ken Stevens, of Oregon, which is one of the few states in which assisted suicide is legal. His affidavit describes how, in Oregon, that state’s Medicaid program uses legal assisted suicide to steer patients to suicide. This is through coverage incentives. The program will not necessarily cover a treatment to cure a disease or to extend a patient’s life. The program will cover the patient’s suicide. In other words, with legal assisted suicide, desired treatments are displaced with the “treatment” of suicide.

Backing the establishment

The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, touts itself as the great promoter of individual choice. But if you take a closer look, its actual mission is to back the medical-government establishment.

Barbara Wagner
Consider the well-publicized case of Oregon cancer patient Barbara Wagner. In 2008, Oregon’s Medicaid program declined to cover “Tarceva,” a cancer drug recommended by her doctor, and offered to cover her suicide instead, terming it “aid in dying.” Wagner was devastated.

“It was horrible,” Wagner told "I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won't give you the medication to live."

The drug’s manufacturer subsequently gave Tarceva to Wagner without charge. She, nonetheless, died a short time later.

I recently asked Stevens about Tarceva. He told me that some of his patients had taken it and that for some of them it was beneficial. This was in terms of survival and better quality of life. He also told me that it can be difficult to know how a particular cancer patient will do on a particular cancer drug. He said that there are always some patients who live longer than expected, sometimes 10 or even 20 years longer, depending on the type of cancer. He said, “This is because there are always some people who beat the odds.” Barbara Wagner had wanted to be one of those people.

After Wagner’s death, Compassion & Choices stepped forward to show its true colors. Specifically, its president, Barbara Coombs Lee, published an opinion in Oregon’s largest paper taking issue with Wagner’s choice to try and live. Coombs Lee argued that Wagner should have instead given up hope and accepted her pending death. But, this was not Wagner’s choice.

In a KATU TV interview Wagner had said: 
“I’m not ready, I’m not ready to die ... I’ve got things I’d still like to do.”

A public policy to discourage cures

Coombs Lee’s opinion piece also argued for a public policy change to discourage people from seeking cures. This would presumably be through coverage incentives. For example, she said: “The burning public policy question is whether we inadvertently encourage patients to act against their own self-interest, chase an unattainable dream of cure, and foreclose the path of acceptance that curative care has been exhausted.”

Coombs Lee is a former “managed care executive.”

Your choice is not assured by their legislation. Don’t be fooled by their double-speak.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We do not live in a utopia. Assisted suicide is not safe.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg
In his article: Zero progress in Ottawa on assisted dying, published on August 12 in the National Post, Brett Belchetz offers his opinion on assisted suicide followed up by false “facts.”

In his support for assisted suicide Belchetz falsely states, concerning Oregon’s assisted suicide law: “In the 17 years this law has been in place, there have been zero documented cases of abuse, zero calls to extend the law, and no rise in the rate of suicides. It is clear that a well-designed piece of assisted suicide legislation, with appropriate patient protections, poses little danger to patients or to society.

First: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that the suicide rate increased by 49% in Oregon (1999 – 2013) compared to a 28% increase nationally. It appears that there has been an increase in the suicide rate in Oregon.

Second: The Oregon assisted suicide reporting system requires the doctor who prescribes the lethal dose to fill-out the assisted suicide report. Since doctors do not self-report abuse, the official Oregon statistics are not the place to find abuse of the law.

Some doctors have written about depressed patients who died by assisted suicide and other unreported problems with the Oregon assisted suicide law have been uncovered through personal testimonies.

Third: The Oregon law has been extended in practice. The annual Oregon report indicates that the number of assisted suicide deaths related to “other” conditions has increased. Those conditions now include diabetes.

This article represents a small sample of the problems with the Oregon assisted suicide law.

We do not live in a utopia. Legalizing assisted suicide is not safe. 

Links to similar articles:

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Physician's and Ethicist's Perspectives.

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition summarizes the peer reviewed journal article titled: Euthanasia and assisted suicide: a physician’s and ethicist’s perspectives by Dr Margaret Somerville and Dr J Donald Boudreau that was published by Medicolegal and Bioethics on July 17, 2014. 
Dr Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville is a member of the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, and Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada.

Link to Margaret Somerville's recent talk in Adelaide Australia.

J Donald Boudreau is a member of the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada.

The article: Euthanasia and assisted suicide: a physician’s and ethicist’s perspectives  provides a thorough understanding of what constitutes euthanasia and assisted suicide, and it effectively explains why acts of killing should not be legalized or practiced by medical professionals.

Dr Donald Boudreau
The article sets its goals in the following manner:
We define euthanasia and assisted suicide, reveal common misconceptions in this regard, and expose euphemisms that, regrettably, often serve to confuse and deceive. We review the main arguments advanced by proponents and opponents of legalizing euthanasia. The philosophical assumptions guiding our perspectives are laid out. We consider the impact of legalization on patients and their families, physicians (as individuals and a collectivity), hospitals, the law and society at large.
The article defines euthanasia and assisted suicide in the following manner:
We recommend the one used by the Canadian Senate in its 1995 report: (Euthanasia) “The deliberate act undertaken by one person with the intention of ending the life of another person in order to relieve that person’s suffering.” 
Terms such as ‘active’ and ‘passive’ euthanasia should be banished from our vocabulary. An action either is or is not euthanasia and these qualifying adjectives only serve to confuse. When a patient has given informed consent to a lethal injection the term “voluntary euthanasia” is often used; when they have not done so, it’s characterized as “involuntary euthanasia”. 
Assisted suicide has the same goal as euthanasia ― causing the death of a person. The distinction resides in how that end is achieved. In physician-assisted suicide, a physician, at the request of a competent patient, prescribes a lethal quantity of 'medication' intending that the patient will use the chemicals to commit suicide. 
In short, in assisted suicide the person takes the death-inducing product; in euthanasia, another individual administers it.
In the article, Somerville and Boudreau use the term euthanasia to represent euthanasia or assisted suicide unless the situation clearly requires the use of one term or the other.