Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oregon Governor signs into law bill outlawing sale of “suicide kits”

The Register-Guard paper in Oregon reported yesterday that Governor John Kitzhaber on signed the bill into law that outlaws the sale of "suicide kits" in Oregon.

The paper stated:
Oregon is the first state to pass legislation outlawing the sale of “suicide kits” aimed at assisting or encouraging people to take their own lives. The new law went into effect immediately after Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the bill on Wednesday.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, introduced Senate Bill 376 in April after learning of a young Eugene man who used such a kit, mail-ordered from California, to commit suicide in December.

The new law makes it a Class B felony to “knowingly sell, or otherwise transfer for consideration, any substance or object to another person for the purpose of assisting the other person to commit suicide.” Violation of the law carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Nick Klonoski
The bill focused on the death of Oregon resident, Nick Klonoski (29) who lived with chronic depression and died of suicide after ordering a suicide kit from a group called GLADD in California.

Link to a previous article

This case is similar to the death of Nadia Kajouji in Canada, who died by suicide after William Melchert-Dinkel, a suicide predator, established an online relationship with her in order to convince her to commit suicide.

The law needs to protect vulnerable people from suicide websites and online suicide businesses in every state and country.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Court of Appeal Rules on Landmark End Of Life Case.


Press Release
For Immediate Release


Court of Appeal Rules on Landmark End Of Life Case.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition applauds the unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal to uphold a lower court decision which requires that doctors obtain consent from substitute decision-makers before unilaterally withdrawing life-support where such a decision is anticipated to result in the death of the patient.

The unanimous Court of Appeal ruled that it is necessary for doctors to raise any objections or concerns they may have about consent before the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board who has the jurisdiction to determine the issue of consent and to address any challenges to that consent made by a doctor.

This decision has profound implications for patients throughout Ontario and Canada in terms of feeling safe and secure in accessing medical services near the end of life, says Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg, whose organization intervened in the Appeal.

A contrary decision would have effectively provided doctors with unilateral authority to withdraw life-support and end the life of a patient without any oversight, due process or procedural safeguards to patients, says Toronto lawyer Hugh Scher, who represented the EPC at the Court of Appeal.

Today’s ruling is perhaps the most significant end of life decision ever made by a Canadian court. It suggests that other provinces ought to be looking at implementing a similar regime of a board or tribunal to address such matters where they arise, according to Mark Handelman, who is a former Vice-Chair of the Consent and Capacity Board and who also served as counsel to EPC on their intervention.

Link to the decision.

For further information, please contact:

Alex Schadenberg, EPC Executive Director: 519-851-1434

Hugh Scher: 416-515-9686

Mark Handelman: 416-402-9475

Victory for Individual rights - Doctors must obtain consent before withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Rasouli family and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) have won a precedent setting decision in the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

EPC applauds the unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal to uphold a lower court decision which requires that doctors obtain consent from substitute decision-makers before unilaterally withdrawing life-support where such a decision is anticipated to result in the death of the patient.

The unanimous Court of Appeal ruled that it is necessary for doctors to raise any objections or concerns they may have about consent before the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board who has the jurisdiction to determine the issue of consent and to address any challenges to that consent made by a doctor.

A contrary decision would have effectively provided doctors with unilateral authority to withdraw life-support and end the life of a patient without any oversight, due process or procedural safeguards to patients, says Toronto lawyer Hugh Scher, who represented the EPC at the Court of Appeal.

Today’s ruling is perhaps the most significant end of life decision ever made by a Canadian court. It suggests that other provinces ought to be looking at implementing a similar regime of a board or tribunal to address such matters where they arise, according to Mark Handelman, who is a former Vice-Chair of the Consent and Capacity Board and who also served as counsel to EPC on their intervention.

The three judge panel decided that:
"we are of the view that the application judge reached the correct result in this case. In short, we are satisfied that the plan of care proposed by the appellants does amount to "treatment" as defined in the Act."
The Rasouli case concerns Hassan Rasouli who underwent surgery on October 7, 2010 at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre for a benign brain tumour. He experienced a bacterial meningitis infection that caused him significant cognitive damage.

On October 16, Mr Rasouli was placed on a ventilator and a tube was inserted to provide him hydration and nutrition. His condition remains similar, even though the Rasouli family insist that he can now respond.

His doctors determined that Mr. Rasouli was in PVS and decided to withdraw the ventilator, but his wife, Parichehr Salasel, who is also a physician, refused to give consent to the withdrawal of the ventilator.

The Rasouli family applied to the Superior Court of Justice to obtain an injunction to prevent the doctors at Sunnybrook hospital from unilaterally withdrawing the ventilator.

The case was heard over three days in February and March (2011) and the decision by Justice Himel was released on March 9, 2011. Link to the Himel decision.

Justice Himel decided that the Rasouli family did not need an injunction because the doctors are required to obtain consent before withdrawing medical treatment, which in this case was the ventilator.

The doctors appealed the decision of Justice Himel and thus the case went to the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

Link to the previous blog posting about the Appeals court trial.

Link to the previous blog posting about concerning the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition being granted intervener status in the Rasouli case.

This is a huge victory for individual rights and it assures that the rights of individuals will be respected.

This decision has profound implications for patients throughout Ontario and Canada in terms of feeling safe and secure in accessing medical services near the end of life,

The decision maintains the role of the Consent and Capacity Board. Doctors continue to have the right to seek consent from the Consent and Capacity Board when consent is refused by the person or the attorney for personal care.

Link to the decision.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Journal of the Canadian Medical Association publishes article on medical rationing.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Days before the decision of the Ontario Appeals court in the Rasouli case, the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association has published an important article that is written by Lauren Vogel concerning health care rationing. The article titled: Can rationing possibly be rational? looks at the issues related to the rationing of medical treatment and considers these decisions within the paradigm of the life experience of people.

The article begins by telling the important story of Annie Farlow. The article states:
Annie Farlow was just short of three months old when she died in an Ontario hospital of what her parents believe might have been a treatable respiratory condition.

Born with the chromosome disorder Trisomy 13, Annie had little chance of surviving to her teens, but her parents, Barbara and Tim Farlow, had taken comfort in the hospital’s assurance that their daughter’s genetic disorder, also known as Patau syndrome, wouldn’t preclude her from receiving the same level of care as any other child suffering from a medical condition.

But months after Annie’s death, the Farlows discovered that physicians at the hospital had not initiated emergency resuscitation measures in their daughter's case with the same alacrity as they would in others. They also found out that a physician had placed a “do not resuscitate” order on Annie’s chart before obtaining their consent, and subsequently their daughter had been administered an undisclosed quantity of narcotics that, in the Farlows' opinion, could have caused her "unexplained, rapid" decline.

The circumstances surrounding Annie’s death have left the Farlows asking age-old questions that plague Canadian patient advocates, health care professionals, ethicists and policy makers in the face of growing health care resource scarcity: When is it appropriate to limit or withdraw potentially beneficial treatment? Who should make those decisions? How should decisions be made?
Tim & Barbara Farlow
The article then quotes Annie's mother Barb who stated:
“I never took the position that my daughter had a right to any and all treatments, but the unilateral decisions we believe the doctors made should have been made transparently. We have a right to know and appeal the limits of the system, and be provided with whatever care is possible within its confines. Not only do I believe my daughter was denied a chance to prolong her life, the secrecy in which decisions seem to have been made also meant she was denied timely palliative care, and she suffered greatly at the end.”
The article then considers the context that health care rationing decisions are being made. The article states:
Health expenditures consume more than 50% of revenues in six of Canada’s 10 provinces, not including federal transfers, and are on pace to consume some 75% of revenues in five provinces by the year 2019, according to the Fraser Institute (www.fraserinstitute.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=3411).

Canada’s aging population and the ongoing development of expensive therapies for life-threatening illnesses are further escalating pressures on the health care system, particularly intensive care units. Surveys estimate that Ontario, among other provinces, will need 80%–93% more intensive beds over the next 20 years, while about 87% of intensive care physicians indicated they had provided “futile” care at least once in the previous year (http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/abstract/177/10/1201?ijkey=90110ebfb38e9dc79c26cfd0ffc266868702b7d4&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha).
Krista Flint, a disability rights leader from Calgary acknowledges that health care rationing already exists for people with disabilities. She states:
“It’s evidenced in things like the exclusion criteria built into new provincial pandemic planning protocols. In the case of a flu pandemic, for example, having a developmental disability now excludes you from access to a ventilator.”

Such protocols set a precedent for withholding and withdrawing beneficial treatment from vulnerable groups, she argues.
The article then overstates the current legal position by quoting Dr. Laura Hawryluck who stated:
Under Canadian law, doctors do not have to provide treatment that they deem “futile." However, without clear consensus about what constitutes futility, clinicians have no clear standard for weighing medical versus nonmedical criteria in their decision making.
Hawryluck then defines futility in this manner:
“the use of considerable resources without a reasonable hope that the patient would recover to a state of relative independence or be interactive with their environment.”
Rhonda Wiebe, cochair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities end-of-life ethics committee responds to Hawryluck by stating:
“These are really existential questions about judging quality of life. I worry we’ll get to a place where we’re the sum of our illnesses. I know that if there’s one respirator and two people, one who will need it for 12 hours and the other who will need it for the rest of their life, there’s a split second allocation decision that’s going to be made, and likely in the favour of the healthier person.”
Mark Handelman, a lawyer who specializes in end-of-life disputes commented:
Patients, families or surrogate decision-makers who disagree with a physician are “left with no other alternative than to go to court to get an injunction to prevent discontinuing treatment,” while few cases make it to trial because most patients die before their case can be heard. There are also considerable legal ambiguities surrounding end-of-life decision-making authority (http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.109-3910v1?ijkey=a403461783dbd673b2c74c59d3936e3e21ac292a&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha).
Margaret Sommerville, founding director of the McGill University Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, in Montreal, commented on the role of physicians in health care rationing. She stated:
Some 80% of resource allocation decisions are currently made by physicians at the bedside, effectively putting physicians in the role of “double agents,”

“There’s a clear ethical rule that a doctor has a primary obligation of personal care for each patient, meaning a doctor cannot put the interests of a group, society or another patient in front of the best interests of the patient he or she is treating.”
Sommerville then states.
“At an institutional level, hospitals and health authorities have an obligation to take into account other people’s requirements, rights and needs, and can put efficiency ahead of any one patient in ways a doctor cannot.”
The article ends by quoting Barb Farlow who states:
“No one wants to be seen as the person that started the conversation on who we exclude from universal health care. But we’re already excluding people like my daughter in other subtle ways, so the time to talk is now.”
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognizes that health care rationing decisions will be made by some means in the near future. Decisions for rationing health care should not be made based on a theory that views people as futile rather than treatments as futile.

We are also concerned that society will be sold the concept of euthanasia based on the need to save money. Under this kind of a regime, death would become the silent tool that is used by a government that is oriented to health care cost containment.

State-sanctioned suicide empowers the government

Bradley Williams was published in the Montana Standard yesterday. Williams points out that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana and that sanctioning assisted suicide does not grant new rights for the individual but rather rights for the state. Laws need to be maintained that protect people from assisted suicide.
---------------

I am the coordinator of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity. I write to make two points.

First, to clarify: Physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. A bill that would have accomplished that goal was defeated in our last legislative session.

During hearings on that bill, the sponsor, Senator Anders Blewett, a lawyer, conceded that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. His quotes include:
"Under the current law, a - there's nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution."

Dr. Stephen Speckart, mentioned in Ms. Kimball's letter, made a similar concession. He stated:
"Most physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of prosecution after the Baxter decision."

To view a transcript of these quotes, go online.

Second, in Oregon, where assisted-suicide is legal, legalization has allowed the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) to steer patients to suicide. The most well-known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup. Each wanted treatment. The plan offered them assisted suicide instead; Wagner and Stroup were steered to suicide.

Moreover, it was the Oregon health plan, a government entity, doing the steering. State-sanctioned suicide empowers the government, not the individual.

If anyone would like to help keep assisted suicide out of Montana, please contact me.

Bradley D. Williams
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity
610 N. 1st St., Ste 5-285
Hamilton Montana.
bradley@montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Response to The Nation: Legal Assisted Suicide is a Recipe for Abuse; Health Care Providers are Empowered to Steer Patients to Suicide

By Margaret Dore, an attorney in Washington State who specializes in issues related to elder abuse. Link to her website.

Yesterday, NPR and The Nation featured a pro-assisted suicide commentary by Ann Neumann. [The Nation: Keeping the Right to Die Alive].(1) Her commentary overlooked gaps in the Oregon and Washington assisted-suicide laws. She uncritically accepted Compassion & Choices marketing claims that it promotes patient choice for "terminal" patients. This blog post presents the other side.

A Recipe for Abuse
Physician-assisted suicide laws in Oregon and Washington have gaps that put patients at risk.(2) The most obvious gap is a lack of witnesses at the death.(3) Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else to administer the lethal dose to the patient against his will. Even if the patient struggled, who would know?

Barbara Coombs Lee is a Former "Managed Care Executive"

Neumann's commentary describes Compassion & Choices and its president, Barbara Coombs Lee, as promoters of patient choice.(4) Compassion & Choices is the former Hemlock Society.(5) It advocates for legal physician-assisted suicide, which it terms "aid-in-dying."

In 2008, Oregon resident Barbara Wagner wanted treatment for cancer.(6) The Oregon Health Plan (Medicare) offered her assisted-suicide instead.(7) After Wagner’s death, Barbara Coombs Lee wrote an criticizing Wagner for her choice to be treated.(8) Coombs Lee also defended the Oregon Health Plan, which had steered Wagner to suicide.(9)

Perhaps not a coincidence, Coombs Lee is a former "managed care executive."(10) She argued against Barbara Wagner's choice.

Ending Lives

Compassion & Choices advocates for assisted suicide for "terminally ill adult patients," which as defined by Compassion & Choices would include young people with "decades" to live. This is what Compassion & Choices proposed in Montana in 2009. See pages 1 to 3 at - link.

In Oregon and Washington, terminal is defined in terms of having less than six months to live. Even then, the people at issue are not necessarily dying. This is the point of a 2009 article from Washington State: Patients can live years beyond expectations.(11)

With the topic of "aid in dying," the people at issue are not necessarily dying. They may have years or even decades to live. For these people, Compassion & Choices' advocacy is about ending their lives.

Fighting Back
In 2010, Compassion & Choices claimed that assisted suicide was legal in Idaho. A former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court denounced the claim as "false."(12) In 2011, the Idaho legislature enacted a statute to strengthen Idaho’s law against causing or aiding a suicide.(13)

In 2011, proposed assisted suicide bills failed in Montana, Hawaii and New Hampshire.(14) In New Hampshire, the Committee report to defeat the bill stated:
"This bill is a recipe for . . . abuse. The committee also recognizes that doctors’ diagnoses and predictions may be incorrect; numerous cases exist where people have lived far beyond their doctor’s predictions, some of them having been cured from their terminal disease. . . .This bill represents bad policy and practice . . ."
House Journal, Vol. 33, No. 28, p. 883-885.

Conclusion

The claim that legal assisted suicide promotes patient choice is marketing rhetoric. These laws are a recipe for abuse. They empower health care providers to steer patients to suicide. They encourage citizens to cut short their lives. Don’t be fooled.

Link to the original article.

A summary: To Live Each Day with Dignity

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a statement on assisted suicide at their recent meeting. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC)recognizes that people oppose assisted suicide for varying reasons and many of these reasons were well explained by the Bishops document: To Live Each Day with Dignity.

The Californians Against Assisted Suicide commented on the USCCB statement by stating:
Californians Against Assisted Suicide coalition member Marilyn Golden, policy analyst for the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund, found areas of agreement with the United States Council of Catholic Bishops' recent public policy statement on the dangers of assisted suicide legalization, including:

• The danger to people with depression,
• The concerns of the disability community,
• The significant and dangerous lack of scrutiny and oversight where assisted suicide is legal,
• The potential for undue influence by others,
• The significant ambiguity in the definitions of terminal illness,
• The significant risk to the very people supposedly served: people with serious illness, and
• The importance of continuing improvement in palliative care.

Golden states:
"It is critical that society gains a greater awareness about these concerns."
After reading To Live Each Day with Dignity, EPC decided it would be important to highlight some of its important points.

The document frames the societal response to assisted suicide in the context of the proper response by society to the legitimate fear that an individual has in relation to human difficulties at the most vulnerable time of their life.

The document responds to the concerns of people by breaking it down into specific issues.

The document responds to the question of freedom by pointing out that often people who ask for a lethal dose are doing so as a response to depression or mental illness. The document states that:
“However, suicidal persons become increasingly incapable of appreciating options for dealing with these problems, suffering from a kind of tunnel vision that sees relief in death. They need help to be freed from their suicidal thoughts through counseling and support and, when necessary and helpful, medication.”
The document acknowledges the weak attempts by the assisted suicide lobby to ‘safeguard’ people with depression or mental illness from assisted suicide by stating:
“Many such proposals permit—but do not require—an evaluation for mental illness or depression before lethal drugs are prescribed. In practice such evaluations are rare, and even a finding of mental illness or depression does not necessarily prevent prescribing the drugs (lethal dose). No evaluation is done at the time the drugs are actually taken.”

“In Oregon and Washington, for example, all reporting is done solely by the physician who prescribes lethal drugs. Once they are prescribed, the law requires no assessment of whether people are acting freely, whether they are influenced by others who have financial or other motives for ensuring their death, or even whether others actually administer the drugs. Here the line between assisted suicide and homicide becomes blurred.”
The document concludes the section by stating:
“People who request death are vulnerable. They need care and protection. To offer them lethal drugs is a victory not for freedom but for the worst form of neglect. Such abandonment is especially irresponsible when society is increasingly aware of elder abuse and other forms of mistreatment and exploitation of vulnerable persons.”
The next part of the document focuses on how legalizing assisted suicide devalues the lives groups of people, including people with disabilities. The document states:
“Legalization proposals generally… define a class of people whose suicides may be facilitated rather than prevented. … Many people with chronic illnesses, or disabilities—who could live a long time if they receive basic care—may be swept up in such a definition (terminal illness).”

“By rescinding legal protection for the lives of one group of people, the government implicitly communicates the message … that they may be better off dead. Thus the bias of too many able-bodied people against the value of life for someone with an illness or disability is embodied in official policy.”
The conclusion to this section can be summed up this way:
“Those who choose to live may then be seen as selfish or irrational, as a needless burden on others, and even be encouraged to view themselves that way.”

“Many people with illnesses and disabilities who struggle against great odds for their genuine rights … are deservedly suspicious when the freedom society most eagerly offers them is the “freedom” to take their lives.”
The third part of the document focuses on how assisted suicide threatens authentic human freedom. The comments can be summed up in this way:
“in countries that have used the idea of personal autonomy to justify assisted suicide and euthanasia, physicians have moved on to take the lives of adults who never asked to die, and newborn children who have no choice in the matter. They have developed their own concept of a “life not worth living” that has little to do with the choice of the patient.”
To Live Each Day with Dignity then examines the essence of compassion. The document states:
“True compassion alleviates suffering while maintaining solidarity with those who suffer. It does not put lethal drugs in their hands and abandon them to their suicidal impulses, or to the self-serving motives of others who may want them dead. It helps vulnerable people with their problems instead of treating them as the problem.”
False compassion run amok leads to a “slippery slope.” The document states:
“Dutch doctors, who once limited euthanasia to terminally ill people, now provide lethal drugs to people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, mental illness and even melancholy. … the physicians who has begun to offer death as a solution for some illnesses is tempted to view it as the answer for an ever-broader range of problems.”

“This agenda actually risks adding to the suffering of seriously ill people. Their worst suffering is often not physical pain, which can often be alleviated with competent medical care, but feelings of isolation and hopelessness.”

“Even health care providers’ ability and willingness to provide palliative care such as effective pain management can be undermined by authorizing assisted suicide. … Government programs and private insurers may even limit support for care that could extend life, while emphasizing the “cost-effective” solution of a doctor prescribed death.”
The document ends by emphasizing that there is A Better Way to deal with the problems that naturally exist within the human condition.

The Better Way includes:
1. Society should embrace “the way of love and true mercy” by surrounding people in need with love, support and companionship, providing the assistance needed to ease their physical, emotional and spiritual suffering.
2. There is no requirement to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or truly burdensome.
3. We must not deprive people who are suffering the necessary pain medications out of a concern related to side-effects or the possible shortening of life. Providing effective pain relief will not generally shorten life and when provided will alleviate the fear and desperation that may lead to a person considering suicide.
4. Effective palliative care provides time for people to devote their attention to the unfinished business in their lives. This time is not useless or meaningless.
The document concludes by encouraging Catholics to join with other concerned people, including disability rights advocates, charitable organizations, and medical professionals to defend the dignity of people with serious illnesses and disabilities and to promote life-affirming solutions to human problems and hardships. The claim of a “quick fix” by lethal overdose is not a substitute for a caring community.

The document then challenges Catholic people to build a caring society. It states:
“The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations.”
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition calls on everyone of good will to recognize how choice is really an illusion.

Legalizing euthanasia will give doctors the right to prescribe death for their patients. It will not grant a right to die, but rather a right to be killed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Not Dead Yet comments on Kevorkian

Stephen Drake, the research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group, commented in a very direct manner in an article titled: A little bit about the Real Jack Kevorkian - In His Own Words.

Drake states in his Not Dead Yet commentary (edited):
It seems that a fair number of people are surprised - even stunned - that me or any disabled person has anything at all bad to say about Kevorkian. The fact is, as a spoof.com writer put it, most supporters of Jack Kevorkian are "------- uninformed idiot(s)".

I think that's a fair label for people who don't want to know any more lest they be challenged to reappraise their opinions of Kevorkian. But I think there are some folks - especially in the disability community, who might want to take a look at some things the mainstream media somehow missed.

In the HBO docudrama, careful viewers might have caught a brief discussion regarding Kevorkian's publication of a book, following the publicity surrounding the assisted suicide of Janet Adkins. The book in question - Prescription: Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death - detailed Kevorkian's history of advocacy regarding live, lethal human experimentation, which went otherwise unmentioned in the movie.

Before he started aiding the suicides of oppressed, despairing ill, old and disabled people, Kevorkian was most well-known for his campaign to start a new "ethic" toward death and human experimentation. He began his campaign in the 1950s, urging legislation that would allow death row prisoners to elect to be put to death through general anesthesia. There was a catch, though. They would also have to agree to be kept alive for hours or days while surgical experiments were performed on them. (I'm assuming Susan Sarandon didn't know about this part of his past. Judging from publicity statements, she was perfectly OK with his aiding the suicides of despairing disabled women. I think she'd be less OK with experiments on death row prisoners. Most people I hang out with don't like either idea or practice.)

So shortly after his assisted suicide crusade began, Kevorkian tried to tell his adoring public what his real goals were.

1991 book . On page 214 of Prescription: Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death, Kevorkian admitted that assisting "suffering or doomed persons kill themselves" was "merely the first step, an early distasteful professional obligation.…What I find most satisfying," he wrote, "is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial medical acts under conditions that this first unpleasant step can help establish — in a word obitiatry."(Obitriatry was Kevorkian's name for his wished-for medical specialty which would involve facilitating deaths, and exploiting the individuals in the killing process through experimentation and organ harvesting.)

Kevorkian's advocacy wasn't limited to death row prisoners and it wasn't limited to people who could express a wish to be killed. Below is an excerpt from a 1988 article in which he describes examples of "daring" experiments that could be performed if his system of ethics were to be adopted. The example below is the last of eleven examples. I've also included his remarks following the "case example."

A full-term infant born with spina bifida, paraplegia, and hydrocephalus is transferred, once proper consent and authorization have been obtained, to an obitorium for research hitherto conducted in rats be researchers interested in the hepatic metabolism of prostaglandin. Test material is given to the anesthetized infant by stomach tube. Two hours later the abdominal cavity is opened, and the intact stomach, small intestine, and liver are removed separately for preservation and subsequent processing for chemical analysis. Meanwhile the infant's heart and lungs are removed for transplantation elsewhere.

The above fanciful events credibly exemplify several almost self-evident points. First, obitiatry would make it possible to conduct daring and highly imaginative research beyond the constraints of traditional but outmoded, hopelessly inadequate, and essentially irrelevant ethical codes now sustained for the most part by vacuous sentimental reverence. Second, the proposed innovation should be extolled by animal rights advocates, because it would eliminate the need for animals now sacrificed unnecessarily in many aspects of academic and industrial research. As a corollary, the advocated practice wold minimize inadvertent human pain and suffering in the conduct of experimental clinical trials of new drugs, devices, or procedures by serving as an intermediate buffer stage between those trials and the first probing experiments on laboratory animals. Finally, taken together, these advantages not only represent a substantial easing of the strain on research budgets; but much more importantly, they help accelerate the medical progress so highly prized in our time. (p. 9)

Kevorkian, Jack. The last fearsome taboo: Medical aspects of planned death. Medicine and Law, vol. 7, pp. 1-14. Link to an article.

So -- anyone out there thinking Jack Kevorkian was a humanitarian and hero - this is what he stood for and it's what you're applauding when you applaud his "career." --Stephen Drake

Link to the original article

Link to the Not Dead Yet blog.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide - a tremendous success

The Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Vancouver (June 3 - 4) was a tremendous success. The goals that were set-out before the Symposium were surpassed. The DVD’s of the Symposium will be available in early July for $50 for the complete set. The Third International Symposium was organized by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC).

The International leaders had a meeting on Thursday, June 2, that was chaired by Alex Schadenberg. The meeting examined issues related to the language of the debate and common directions for the group. There was general agreement concerning the language of the debate and the group agreed to appoint Hugh Scher, the legal counsel for EPC, to work on branding and common ideas.

We discussed our need to strengthen the international leadership of the group. The group agreed that Alex Schadenberg would continue to be the Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - International. Paul Russell - HOPE Australia, Peter Saunders - Care NOT Killing Alliance UK, Margaret Dore - Seattle Attorney, Nancy Elliott - New Hampshire and Mark Pickup - Human Life Matters agreed to complete the new international leaders team. Paul Russell was appointed as Vice-Chair.

The Friday sessions were mainly devoted to establishing what has occurred over the past few years. These sessions of the Symposium celebrated our many successes.

Rita Marker, the leader of the Patients Rights Council, spoke about the history of the euthanasia movement in America. She also urged the participants to focus on the language of the debate.

Henk Reitsma, from the Netherlands, uncovered the changes that have occurred in the Netherlands over the past 10 years, since euthanasia was officially legalized. He showed us how dutch citizens have the lowest death rates in Europe during the medium years of their lives but they have the highest death rates at birth and they are now dying at a younger age. He also uncovered the fact that the rates of euthanasia by sedation and dehydration have risen dramatically. It appears that Dutch physicians prefer to end the lives of their patients in that manner to avoid filling out the paper work.

Paul Russell, the leader of HOPE Australia spoke about the successful defeat of the euthanasia bills in South Australia. He emphasized how effective it has been working with Margaret Dore and EPC. He also explained how the euthanasia lobby is changing and how he is adapting his message.

Peter Saunders, the campaign director for the Care NOT Killing Alliance in the UK, spoke about the many development in Europe and in the UK. He spoke about how the assisted suicide prosecution guidelines in the UK are being abused. He informed us of the current directions in Europe.

Gordon Macdonald, the leader of the Care NOT Killing Alliance in Scotland spoke about the successful defeat of the Margo Macdonald euthanasia bill. He explained to us what worked and he emphasized how the next challenge by the euthanasia lobby will be more difficult.

Nancy Elliot, a former three term representative from New Hampshire, who worked to defeat the assisted suicide bill in her state, emphasized how maintaining a focused message enabled her to successfully convince the legislature to oppose assisted suicide.

Bradley Williams, the leader of Montanans against Assisted Suicide explained that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana and how his grass roots approach is building a strong opposition to assisted suicide in his state.

Linda Couture, the director of Vivre dans la Dignité in Quebec explained how they have built a strong opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide in Quebec. They continue to challenge the Quebec government - Dying with Dignity committee to not allow euthanasia through the backdoor.

Harry van Bommel spoke about the founding principles of the hospice movement and urged us to maintain the founding principles. He emphasized the importance of caring for your friends and family and how the experience of caring for others is positive both personally and for society.

Dr. Margaret Cottle, the VP of EPC Canada spoke about the long and caring heritage of medicine. She spoke about how doctors can be healers or killers. She then coined the term “cultural green” and explained the reasons why there is a long history of doctors refusing to kill their patients. She said that the ethical heritage is like an old growth forest that took a long time to grow but is easy to cut down.

Alex Schadenberg spoke about a series of studies that have been published in the literature over the past few years. He proved that people who live with depression are dying by euthanasia in the Netherlands and assisted suicide in Oregon. He proved that more than 30% of all euthanasia deaths in Belgium are done without request or consent and nearly 50% of all euthanasia deaths in Belgium are not reported. He explained the history of the Groningen Protocol, the protocol that allows for the euthanasia of infants with disabilities in the Netherlands and how the language of the Protocol is eugenic.

The Friday dinner featured Senator Helen Polley from Australia who spoke about the long history of the euthanasia lobby in Australia continuously pushing on a territory, state and federal level for the legalization of euthanasia. Senator Polley was truly inspiring.

Saturday morning began with a presentation from Msgr Barreiro from HLI who spoke about the nature of the human person.


Joe Comartin, the NDP co-chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care shared with the group some of the findings of the parliamentary committee. He emphasized that Canada needs to implement many changes in the care it provides to people in vulnerable conditions and that if the government can commit to a program of change, that the demand for euthanasia would drop substantially if not nearly completely. He stated that we have a lot of work to do but he has hope.

Krista Flint from Inclusive Humanity and Rhonda Wiebe with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities spoke about how to re-frame the debate around the issues of euthanasia. They emphasized the importance of the lived experience and how images, stories and messages can imprint on a culture. They showed us how similar messages presented in a different way can produce a very different response.

Margaret Dore spoke about the importance of language and how to frame your message in a way that the mainstream society will agree. She used examples of the recent campaigns in Montana, New Hampshire and Washington State to give examples of the messages that worked and the messages that didn’t work. She emphasized that we need to maintain message discipline.

Nick Goiran, a Liberal member of the Western Australian state legislature, spoke about the successful defeat of the euthanasia bill in Western Australia. Nick emphasized the importance of one on one meetings and explained how he effectively compared the issue to the capital punishment debate in Australia.

Hugh Scher spoke about the current court challenges in Canada. He spoke about EPC's involvement in the Hawryluck vs Scardoni and Rasouli court cases. He emphasized the importance of these precedent setting cases and how they are affecting medical decision making in Canada. Hugh also spoke about the recent court challenges by the Farewell Foundation in BC and the BC Civil Liberties Association. The current court challenges are designed to strike down Canada’s laws prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Mark and Laree Pickup spoke about their life experience with disability. Mark was diagnosed with MS nearly 30 years ago and experienced a roller coaster ride from being an active and athletic man to requiring assistance and support for many of his daily tasks. Mark stated that if euthanasia had been legal in those early years that he would have taken the lethal dose in his time of despair. Laree admitted that during the difficult times that she considered divorcing Mark to start a new life without a husband with disabilities. Mark stated that he is thankful that euthanasia was not available to take his life in his time of despair. Now that he has accepted his disabilities he has found great dignity and happiness in his life.

Mark & Laree called on the participants to be part of an interdependent community and not buy into the ideology of the euthanasia lobby that values life only in what you do, rather than what you are.

The Third International Symposium concluded with an announcement by Peter Saunders and Gordon Macdonald that the Euthanasia Prevention International will co-host a European Symposium in Scotland, possibly in June 2012 and an announcement by Paul Russell that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International will co-host a Australasian Symposium in Australia, possibly in September 2012.

The Third International Symposium was a tremendous success because it brought together most of the world leaders who updated and challenged the participants of the Symposium. It also created an effective, unified and active group of leaders who will continue to build successful campaign to defeat bills to legalize euthanasia and turn the tide on the cultural paradigm of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The real Jack Kevorkian


I was working on last minute preparations before the opening of the Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (June 3) when I received a phone call asking me for comments concerning the death of Jack Kevorkian. All I could say is that I offer condolences to his family and friends and that I wanted the world to remember the real Jack Kevorkian.

During the past few years, friends and euthanasia advocates have been working overtime to create a new Jack. Books and plays have been written, and a movie staring Al Pacino was titled: "You Don’t Know Jack."

Many people have suggested that Jack was a reliever of suffering but an analysis by the Detroit Free Press found that of his 130 victims, at least 60% of them were depressed or living with disabilities, 17 of the victims did not have a condition that would lead to death, 13 had no signs of any pain and five had no signs of an illness.

Jack should have been stopped early in his campaign.

Janet Adkins, Kevorkian’s first victim, had Alzheimer disease. Jack accepted her as his first case after speaking to Janet’s husband. Unlike most of his victims, Jack spoke to Adkins psychiatrist, Dr. Murray Raskind who told Jack that Janet was not competent to make a decision to end her life. Jack gave her a lethal dose in his van.

Jack’s second lethal dose was administered to Marjorie Wantz (58), who had unexplained vaginal pain. Wantz had a long history of depression and other psychiatric problems. When Wantz responded in an ambivalent manner to the concept of suicide, Jack stated to her: "You sound like your in pain." When she replied that she was in pain, Jack went ahead with death by lethal dose.

An autopsy found that Wantz had no condition that could have caused the pain.

Some other victims include:

Rebecca Badger (39), a single mother of two who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and psychiatric and emotional problems. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but an autopsy found no sign of the disease.

Lisa Lansing (42), a single medical malpractice attorney, complained for more than a decade of pain in her digestive system. Doctors in New Jersey could not find a medical problem. One physician said he refused to treat Lansing because she was interested mainly in obtaining prescription painkillers.

Judith Curren (42), a registered nurse who had not worked in 10 years, lived with a muscle disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. She complained of being physically abused by her husband, a psychiatrist. He claimed that he had fought to prevent her suicide. The couple was deeply in debt. Curren was also overweight and had been bedridden for up to two weeks at a time. There were no signs of illness.

Was Kevorkian different from the rest of the euthanasia lobby?

Hemlock Society founder, Derek Humphry, has been providing the contact information for GLADD a California mail order business that distributes plastic suicide bags that recently resulted in the death of Oregon citizen Nick Klonski (29) who lived with chronic depression for many years.

Several years ago the suicide activist, Rev George Exoo, was featured in a British film documentary titled: "Reverend Death." When Jon Ronson, the film maker, investigated how Exoo found so many depressed people to assist their suicides, he interviewed Humphry who admitted that when a person who appeared depressed contacts him for suicide information that he refers the person to Exoo.

Jack Kevorkian personified the euthanasia lobby. His radical comments and weird quirks made him appear different from the others but after examining the comments by other leaders in the euthanasia lobby, you must conclude that Jack represented them well. It is dangerous for society to rewrite the history of Jack.

Family members most likely to abuse elderly

Lifeline, the Australian suicide prevention, crisis intervention and mental health support group has launched a research study into the scourge of elder abuse. The article in the ABC news in Australia explains:
Lifeline says older Australians are more likely to be abused by family members than by staff in aged care homes.

The community organisation has launched a study into the abuse of people aged over 65 to help improve support and protection services.

Spokeswoman Maya Zetlin says existing research shows psychological abuse is the most common form suffered by older Australians.

"Most abuse happens in the community and unfortunately mainly by family members," she said.

"And the worst part [is] that ... adult sons and daughters are the main abusers.

"The way older people are treated, spoken to, power taken away from them, threats are made to them ... that type of abuse is very hard to identify," she said.

"And there are a lot of people that don't recognize that they're abused or even that they're abusing."
It is clear that if euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized, that the scourge of elder abuse in society will result in some people dying by the ultimate form of elder abuse which is death. The laws that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide are designed to protect people from the subtle and undue influence of others while that person is experiencing a difficult period of life.

Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide opens new paths to elder abuse.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Living and Dying in Manitoba

Recently, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities held a conference concerning the fact that in Manitoba, the College of Physicians and Surgeons have determined that doctors have the right to withdraw medical treatment without the consent of the person or the person's family.

Link to the Youtube video of the event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qEI-yqDw2A&feature=share

The presentation features Rhonda Wiebe, Jim Derksen from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Dean Richert lawyer and co-chair Council of Canadians with Disabilities - Human Rights Committee, and Valerie Wolbert & Catherine Rodgers - People First Canada.

This is the same power that the physicians in Ontario are seeking in the Rasouli case.

In the Rasouli case, the family sought a court injunction to prevent doctors from withdrawing the ventilator from Mr. Rasouli. Justice Himel decided that the family did not need a court injunction because consent was necessary before the ventilator could be withdrawn, and if the doctors could not attain consent they could bring the case to the Consent and Capacity Board in Ontario.

In Manitoba, the Golubchuk family sought an injunction to prevent doctors from withdrawing the ventilator from Mr. Golubchuk. Once again, the physicians stated that they had the right to decide to withdraw treatment, without the consent of the family.

These decisions are based on the values of the physician, who would have the sole right to decide whether or not the treatment or the patient's life is futile.

This is a very important issue for people with disabilities and other people who's lives are deemed to lack "quality of life." by the physicians.

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