Friday, March 30, 2012

Global’s “Taking Mercy” Portrays People with Disabilities as Suffering and Subhuman; CCD Seeks Redress

March 30, 2012                                For Immediate Release

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national human rights organization of people with disabilities, challenges Global, to offset the harm it has done to people with disabilities, by running a follow-up to its “Taking Mercy” media blog.  The follow-up would counter the negative portrayal of people with disabilities presented in “Taking Mercy”, by featuring persons with disabilities who want to live and who see a danger in opening up the debate on euthanasia. “Only good can come from providing an opportunity for a broader, fairer public discourse,” states Rhonda Wiebe, Co-chair CCD Ending of Life Ethics Committee.  CCD will also be launching a formal complaint about Global’s coverage.

Global’s media blog “Taking Mercy” (March 16, 2012) left many Canadians in a state of shock. The entire program was filled with misinformation, fear, and stigma. “Those of us who live with disabilities could easily have shared hospital rooms, support services, classrooms or neighborhoods with Tracy Latimer and other children like her who have been murdered by their parents. When we hear ourselves categorized as suffering and having lives that are only worthy of death, we are reminded how segments of our society – represented by the panelists on the Global blog – don’t think we belong,“ states Wiebe. “Global’s guests, including “parent” Robert Latimer and “ethicist” Arthur Schafer only feed into the existential nightmare many Canadians with disabilities face because they perpetuate the idea that it is better to be dead than disabled. Some of us may not be able to speak or walk or hear or see, but that doesn’t mean we don’t belong. Even if we experience pain or need help going to the bathroom, we are still Canadians, we are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and no one has the right to kill us,” continues Wiebe.

Global’s blog refused to acknowledge that people with disabilities are so much more than the sum of our disabilities. Murdering us is not a compassionate or reasonable choice. Some of us with disabilities, who are now adults, vividly recollect the nightmare we had as children when another child like us, Tracy Latimer, was killed by her father. That nightmare was only intensified when we watched so many Canadians express sympathy for the killer rather than the victim.


CCD does not understand how Global could frame the justification for murdering persons with disabilities using a term like “mercy.” The existence of people with disabilities should not be dependent on someone else’s subjective measurement of worthiness. When you reduce the powerful and purposeful lives of persons with disabilities by using trite comments likening our existence to that of pets, plants, mere burdens or simplified stereotypes, you portray us as subhuman and suffering.

CCD asks where were the voices of citizens living with significant disabilities? Where were the voices of family members and advocates who see accommodation and inclusion as appropriate responses to supporting persons with disabilities? Global’s blog shut us out. “In what other instance where issues of marginalized groups are discussed, be they First Nations persons, women, newcomers or whomever, do you go forward with a panel discussion that doesn’t include anyone from that group?” asks Dean Richert, Co-chair CCD Ending of Life Ethics Committee.


                                                                        -30-
For More Information Contact:

Rhonda Wiebe, Co-chair
Ending of Life Ethics Committee
Tel:  204-779-4493 (h) or 204-952-1514 (c)
Email:  rew@shaw.ca

Dean Richert, Co-chair
Ending of Life Ethics Committee
Tel: 204-989-2760 or 204-951-6273 (c)
Email:  drichert@odgb.mb.ca

Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator
Cell: 204-981-6179
Email: laurie@ccdonline.ca

April D’Aubin, CCD Research Analyst
Tel: 204-947-0303
Email: april@ccdonline.ca

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Forced Accomplice - Euthanasia in Quebec

An excellent article by Dr. Serge Daneault,  was published yesterday by Cyberpresse. I hope that my google translation did the article justice. Daneault makes it clear that the Quebec government commission did not listen to those who oppose euthanasia, even though they made the majority of the presentations to the commission.

Daneault is the author of a book on the euthanasia debate that was published in 2010.

Dr Serge Daneault
Daneault also makes it clear that the government is asking him to be A Forced Accomplice to the crime of euthanasia because the commission recommended that doctors would not be required to kill their patients by euthanasia but they would be required to refer their patients to a doctor who would be willing to kill the patient.
A Forced Accomplice 
Cyberpresse - March 28, 2012 
* Those opposed to the decriminalization of euthanasia were not heard by the Special Commission on the issue of dying with dignity, even if their testimonies are a majority of submissions, denounces Serge Daneault. 
By: Serge Daneault - Palliative care doctor at Notre-Dame Hospital, CHUM, the co-author of the book: Être ou ne plus être, débat sur l'euthanasie, (2010). 
Activists from the euthanasia lobby have finally got what they see as an insurance against suffering. Largely inspired and assisted by similar groups in other countries, they have persuaded MPs to give them what they want by manipulating compassion from suffering that is inherent in the human condition. 
This is a unanimous decision of flavored propaganda that was applauded by all of the Parliament and the authorities of the College of Physicians and the Quebec Bar. 
Those opposed to the decriminalization of euthanasia have not been heard even if their testimonies are a majority of submissions and they are rightly surprised that, as the College of Physicians and the Society, that the commission was not moved by the many Dutch and Belgians that are euthanized each year without their consent and without, in many cases, even  discussing it with their doctor. 
This silence gives the impression that everything was already decided and that the consultation was only a way to legitimize new ways to kill people. 
This document will change forever our individual and collective relationship to death, life, and medicine. Death loses its mysterious and unpredictable nature, because individuals gain the right to deliberately cause death. Life loses its meaning in that it has always sought been a test of human compassion and medicine loses its supreme obligation to always strive to relieve suffering by having acquired the right to remove the sufferer. 
Now, those who agree to reach out to suffering people need to work with a knife to the throat, where each patient may resort to extreme ultimatum: "If you can not relieve me, kill me." 
I chose the front trenches because suffering is inexorably linked to the human condition. Now that the law will force me to find another doctor to perform euthanasia in my place, I feel compelled as an accomplice if I were asked to commit a crime and that, refusing, I would identify the individual responsible for committing the crime for me. This provision is unacceptable profoundly immoral. 
The report specifically says we will not wait for palliative care to be available for all before allowing euthanasia. Hopefully the government, which for years left the development, the care and the service delivery of palliative care to private foundations, will pay now from its pocket the cost of euthanasia. 
Like birthing centers, we want to create homes of death where everything will be done strictly according to the rules, as seen in the prophetic film Soylent Green (1973). This will leave the rest of the health system free of this ambiguity: on one side, we fight for life, on the other, we bring death. 
Now, the lives of Quebecers will be in the hands of doctors who will decide if the suffering of others is unacceptable or not. One may wonder if the availability of euthanasia is rather about relieving the suffering of the physician confronted with his inability to cure and relieve. 
I hope that those who oppose euthanasia cease all collaboration with the actions and policies of euthanasia. To make this clear to my patients and my colleagues, I now wear my work clothes on a white tile so that everyone knows what to expect. 
And if I still receive requests, I will refer to the College of Physicians of Quebec. Medical authorities were the source of debate and currently celebrating with applause. I hope they will fully assume the responsibility if a single citizen of Quebec is put to death by a doctor without his consent. But the dead do not talk. Medical authorities have therefore nothing to fear.

Georgia State Senate passes bill to prohibit assisted suicide.

John Celmer
The Jurist is reporting that the Georgia Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit assisted suicide. The Georgia assisted suicide law was passed in response to the court decision in relation to the Final Exit Network and their direct involvement in the death of John Celmer, a man who was depressed, but recovering from cancer.

The Jurist stated:
The Georgia Senate [official website] approves legislation on Tuesday that would make it a felony to assist in another person's suicide. HB 1114 [materials] was approved after the Georgia Supreme Court in early February struck down [JURIST report] a 1994 law that banned publicly advertising suicide assistance. Under the new law any person with knowledge of a possible suicide must take action: "Any person with actual knowledge that a person intends to commit suicide who knowingly and willfully assists such person in the commission of such person's suicide shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment." The weight of the sentence varies from 1-10 years imprisonment. The bill protects those who are trying to ease the pain of the patient but do not intend to take the patient's life. The legislation also does not apply to those acting within the parameters of a will or seeking to terminate care for a patient who is unresponsive. The bill passed through the House earlier this month by a vote of 124-45, but it must now go back to the House for approval on several amendments.
The Final Exit Network (FEN) is an organization that aids and counsels suicide.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Perils of the Quebec Euthanasia Report.

Alex Schadenberg
On March 22, the Quebec government's Dying with Dignity Commission released its recommendations concerning euthanasia and palliative care. The media reported that the commission recommended the legalization of assisted suicide in exceptional cases.
In fact, the commission recommends that euthanasia be legalized - but not assisted suicide - in Quebec. The commission's recommendations are similar to Belgian-style euthanasia, which is not limited to exceptional cases.
The first half of the report contains recommendations for improving palliative care, including the need for greater public awareness of the full range of palliative care options available today. We at the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) support these recommendations. EPC believes that improvements to pain and symptom management must be systematically implemented before the issue of euthanasia can be fairly addressed.
However, EPC vigorously opposes the second half of the report which recommends legalizing Belgium-style euthanasia.
Euthanasia is when one person, often a physician, directly and intentionally causes the death of another person by lethal injection for reasons of mercy. Euthanasia is prosecuted as a homicide in Canada and in nearly every jurisdiction in the world. Legalizing euthanasia requires an amendment to the homicide statute in the Criminal Code giving one person the right to cause the death of another person in certain situations. Such an action would cause a profound shift in the relationship that people share with medical professionals and with each other within society.
The Quebec report states that a person should be eligible for euthanasia if the person:
- is a resident of Quebec;- is an adult and able to consent to treatment;
- makes a free and informed decision;
- has a serious and incurable disease;
- has no prospect for improvement; and
- is experiencing physical or psychological suffering.
It is important to note that the commission's report does not limit euthanasia to terminally ill people. A person who is living with an incurable condition and chronic psychological suffering, such as someone with chronic depression or another chronic mental condition, could be euthanized.
A study from the Netherlands that was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (September 2005) found that people with a depressed mood were 4.1 times more likely to request euthanasia. The study concluded that a depressed mood is a primary indicator for requests for euthanasia.
The commission recommends that euthanasia deaths be reported, after the death, to monitor and evaluate whether the law is being abused. But the reporting procedure does not protect people. If (and when) a report is analyzed, and if an abuse has occurred, the person is already dead; so no effective redress is possible.
In Belgium, studies indicate that the law has been abused. A study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (May 2010) found that 32% of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium occurred without request or consent, while a study that was published in the British Medical Journal (Oct. 2010) found that 47% of euthanasia deaths in the same region of Belgium were not reported.
Currently, the law clearly states that no one can kill another person. If euthanasia becomes legal, killing another person becomes acceptable under certain conditions - conditions that are changeable and dependent on the ethics of others. It would be very difficult to protect a vulnerable person under these circumstances.
Alex Schadenberg is executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

National Assembly report reads like a pro-euthanasia manifesto

Margaret Somerville was published in the Montreal Gazette yesterday challenging the Quebec government report that calls for the legalization of euthanasia for people who are living with physical or psychological pain. Here is her article.


National Assembly report reads like a pro-euthanasia manifesto.

Before society responds affirmatively to the call in your March 14 editorial (“Assisted dying: it’s time for a discussion”), we will need to provide the public with a more full and open explanation of the case against legalizing euthanasia.

The recent Quebec National Assembly committee report Dying with Dignity fails to do that.

Like the previous report of the Expert Panel of the Royal Society of Canada on this same subject, the Quebec report is not balanced and reads rather like a pro-euthanasia manifesto.

The fact that it strongly recommends palliative care does not negate that characterization.

The Quebec report takes a purely utilitarian approach to the euthanasia question. In the committee’s estimation, legalizing euthanasia will do more good than harm – and that justifies allowing it.

It upholds respect for individuals’ rights to autonomy and self-determination as the overriding value, citing, among other examples, the current approach to abortion as showing this value predominates in contemporary Quebec society.

The committee concludes that legalizing euthanasia will not harm the value of respect for life because euthanasia will only be used in exceptional circumstances and there will be very few cases. And in any case, “La valeur du caractère Sacré de la vie a subi une transformation notable” (“The value of the sanctity of life has undergone a significant transformation”) relative to other values, which means that now respect for life itself doesn’t necessarily take priority.

Finally, the committee argues that allowing euthanasia is merely an incremental change – we all agree with palliative care and so, it says, “aide médicale à mourir” (euthanasia) needs to be seen as just another “palliative-care option.”

How should we respond to these arguments?

First, many people who oppose legalizing euthanasia do so because they believe it’s inherently wrong to kill another person, except when that is the only way in which to protect innocent human life. Euthanasia does not fall within this exception and, therefore, for many people, can never be ethically justified.

The clash of values involved in the euthanasia debate is between respect for life on the other hand and individuals’ rights to autonomy and self-determination on the other. People who reject euthanasia give priority to respect for life; people who support euthanasia give priority to autonomy and self-determination.

“Respect for life” must be upheld at two levels: respect for each individual human life and respect for human life in general. The latter requirement is the reason that the consent of an individual to being euthanized is not sufficient to avoid damaging the value of respect for life. Authorizing doctors to kill their patients necessarily contravenes respect for human life in general. Legalizing euthanasia involves crossing the line established by the fundamental rule that we must not intentionally kill one another. In short, it would unavoidably harm the value of respect for life, which means that legalizing euthanasia involves a radical change in our society’s values.

Pro-euthanasia advocates often argue that seeing life as “sacred” is a religious value and therefore should not be taken into account in the formulation of public policy.

But respect for life is not just a religious value; it’s a foundational value of all societies in which reasonable people would want to live.

Concern over the consequences of legalizing euthanasia raises the question of whether a utilitarian case against euthanasia can be made. Exploring this question shows that the utilitarian case for euthanasia is not nearly as strong as the commission argues it is.

Many seriously harmful consequences from legalizing euthanasia could far outweigh any benefits it might have. Apart from its harmful impact on the societal value of respect for life, it would harm the institutions of law and medicine. Can we even imagine teaching medical students how to kill their patients?

The committee tells us that in accepting, as we do in some cases, the withdrawal of life-support treatment to allow a person to die, we are already practising euthanasia; therefore, legalizing euthanasia is just a small step forward. But these are false and misleading analogies in support of a false and misleading line of argument. It’s legalizing euthanasia through confusion. There is a radical difference between killing a person and allowing them to die of natural causes.

In proposing to replace the word euthanasia with the term “aide médicale à mourir,” the committee is introducing a euphemism that both trivializes and is likely to conceal underlying moral and ethical issues.

If we are to have a discussion about euthanasia, it must be an unbiased one. It’s hard for me to conclude from its report that the National Assembly committee undertook such an unbiased reflection, especially in view of the fact that two-thirds of the submissions it received argued against legalizing euthanasia.

Margaret Somerville is founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities responses to Taking Mercy (Global TV 16 x9 - March 16, 2012)

The following is the response by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities to the Global TV 16 x 9 show entitled: Taking Mercy. I responded to the same program on March 21, 2012 in this manner. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities is challenging Global TV and the 16 x 9 show to produce a show that features people with disabilities who not only want to live, but who explain why euthanasia represents a danger to them. Let's hope 16 x 9 and Global TV offer a balanced perspective.

CCD's Response to "Taking Mercy" (Global 16x9; March 16, 2012)

From: Rhonda Wiebe, Co-chair CCD Ending of Life Ethics Committee and Dean Richert, Co-chair CCD Ending of Life Ethics Committee, in consultation with Dr. Heidi Janz (John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta) and Krista Flint (Inclusive Humanity)

Your media blog “Taking Mercy” (March 16, 2012) has left many Canadians in a state of shock. The entire program was filled with misinformation, fear, and stigma. Those of us who live with disabilities could easily have shared hospital rooms, support services, classrooms or neighbourhoods with Tracy Latimer and other children like her who have been murdered by their parents. When we hear ourselves categorized as suffering and having lives that are only worthy of death, we are reminded how segments of our society – represented by the panelists you had on your blog – don’t think we belong. Your guests, including “parent” Robert Latimer and “ethicist” Arthur Schafer only feed into the existential nightmare many Canadians with disabilities face because they perpetuate the idea that it is better to be dead than disabled. Some of us may not be able to speak or walk or hear or see, but that doesn’t mean we don’t belong. Even if we experience pain or need help going to the bathroom, we are still Canadians, we are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and no one has the right to kill us.

Your blog refused to acknowledge that we are so much more than the sum of our disabilities. Murdering us is not a compassionate or reasonable choice. Some of us with disabilities who are now adults vividly recollect the nightmare we had as children when another child like us, Tracy Latimer, was killed by her father. That nightmare was only intensified when we watched so many Canadians express sympathy for the killer rather than the victim.

We don’t understand how you could frame the justification for murdering persons with disabilities using a term like “mercy.” Our existence should not be dependent on someone else’s subjective measurement of our worthiness. When you reduce the powerful and purposeful lives of persons with disabilities by using trite comments likening our existence to that of pets, plants, mere burdens or simplified stereotypes, you portray us as subhuman and suffering.

Where were the voices of citizens living with significant disabilities? Where were the voices of family members and advocates who see accommodation and inclusion as appropriate responses to supporting persons with disabilities? Your blog shut us out. In what other instance where issues of marginalized groups are discussed, be they First Nations persons, women, newcomers or whomever, do you go forward with a panel discussion that doesn’t include anyone from that group?

We are challenging Global, in the name of journalistic balance, to stage a follow-up episode featuring persons with disabilities who want to live and who see a danger in opening up the debate on euthanasia. Only good can come from providing an opportunity for a broader, fairer public discourse.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quebec in danger of radical euthanasia

Wesley Smith
Wesley Smith, a bio-ethicist who promotes human exceptionalism and rejects the killing of human beings published a very interesting blog posting today under the title: Quebec in danger of radical euthanasia.

Smith states:

This is the strategy: We have to have a “conversation” about euthanasia. Commissions are appointed. If it comes to the conclusion that assisted suicide or euthanasia should not be legalized, we have to continue the conversation. Another commission might be appointed. Repeat, as necessary. But when a commission concludes that some form of doctor-hastened death should be permitted, the conversation is over and it’s implementation time. And if anyone tries to revoke the law, they are accused of “taking away rights.”

I suspect that is the plan for Quebec, in which a commission has not only supported legalizing euthanasia, but recommended a radical license. From the recommendations of Mourir dans la Dignite` (Google English translation):

The Commission recommends that the relevant laws be amended to allow medical aid in dying as a proper end of life option if requested by the person and meets the following criteria, as assessed by the physician
  • Is a resident of Quebec under the provisions of the Act on Health Insurance;
  • The person is an adult and able to consent to treatment under the law;
  • The person expresses herself, after taking a free and informed decision, a request for medical help to die;
  • The person suffers from a serious and incurable disease;
  • The medical situation of the person is characterized by forfeiture of its advanced capabilities, without any prospect of improvement;
  • The person experiences physical or psychological suffering which is constant and unbearable which can not be resolved under conditions he or she considers tolerable.
This opens euthanasia up to anyone with a non transitory death desire doesn’t it? Serious incurable disease could be non symptomatic HIV, bi-polar disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or implacable grief over the deaths of children or other family. Psychological suffering is self-defining.

And yet, the media–which on this issue now seem congenitally incapable of reporting accurately–falsely describes the recommendations as very narrow, probably because the news is often merely reporting off press releases these days. From the Ottawa Citizen story:
The report introduced at the provincial legislature Thursday recommended the  Quebec government make it legal for doctors to help the terminally ill die, if  they want to, under “exceptional circumstances.”
As we saw above, there is no limitation to the “terminally ill.” And the recommendation would allow people to sign kill-me orders:
The Commission recommends that the relevant laws be amended to recognize an adult capable of the right to apply for early medical help to die in case they become unconscious irreversibly depending on the state of science.
And nurses could do the dirty deed:
The Commission recommends that the College of Nurses of Quebec changes its Code of ethics to allow its members to participate in medical aid to die under the criteria provided by law, however, while confirming their right to object of consciousness.
The recommendation isn’t law, of course. But Canadians had better get in the saddle and stop Quebec from becoming the Netherlands/Belgium Province of North America.

When I saw Soylent Green in the theater, Sol’s euthanasia was utterly shocking and appalling. Today, culture of death proponents call it compassionate and enlightened. We are so upside down!

Update: It occurs to me that my headline is an oxymoron. Any human euthanasia is, by definition, radical.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dying with dignity report: a dangerous act of betrayal

QUÉBEC, March 22, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Living with Dignity network condemns as a "profound act of political betrayal" the report released today by the select committee on dying with dignity.

"From the outset of the committee's consultation, Quebecers were guaranteed that their voices would be heard and that the direction they gave would be followed. On the basis of that promise, Quebecers spoke forcefully against opening the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The committee has arrogantly and dangerously broken its word to the very people it promised to heed," said Dr. Andre Bourque, president of LWD.

Bourque noted that an independent analysis of submissions to the special commission showed two-thirds of persons submitting briefs opposed any opening for euthanasia and assisted suicide. A third supported euthanasia and a mere two per cent would tolerate assisted suicide.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) rejects Quebec euthanasia proposal and supports improved end-of-life care.

The Select Committee on Dying with Dignity Committee in Quebec released its report today recommending that Quebec ignore the federal law that protects all Canadians, by legalizing euthanasia according to a Belgium model.

The report defies parliament's overwhelming defeat of a similar bill to legalize euthanasia by a margin of 228 to 59 after full-debate and across party lines.

The report does not adequately address concerns related to elder abuse, suicide prevention and vulnerability at the end of life, as addressed by the recent report by the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care (November 2011)

The report splits its recommendations between improving palliative care and informing the public about their rights and options related to end-of-life decision making; and legalizing euthanasia. 

The recommendations related to palliative care are positive, but in reality they are “window dressing” in the face of an immediate demand to legalize euthanasia. 

The recommendations made to improve palliative care are similar to those made by previous parliamentary committees. Quebec has failed to implement those recommendations to date leaving many without adequate care at the end of life. 

Given current budget pressures in Quebec, there is no reason to believe that these recommendations will be implemented.

Legalizing euthanasia before first improving palliative and end-of-life care means that Quebecers cannot claim that euthanasia will be “freely chosen" because they are denied access to essential end-of-life care.

The Committee claims to be responding to the changes in social values in Quebec and yet they ignore the fact that the majority of the 271 briefs that were presented before the committee were opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The suggestion that measures such as those in place in the Netherlands or Belgium can protect vulnerable people from abuse is contradicted by the factual record:

  1. A study published in the CMAJ (May 2010) found that 32% of the euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were done without request or consent;
  1. A study published in the BMJ (Oct 2010) found that only 52.8% of the euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were reported;
  1. The (2005) five year study of euthanasia in the Netherlands that was published in NEJM (May 2007) found that there were 550 deaths without request or consent in the Netherlands in 2005 and approximately 20% of all euthanasia deaths were not reported. The first report from the Netherlands (Remmelink report 1991) indicated that there were 1040 deaths without request or consent.
The Quebec committee ignored a study written by Orville Endicott for the Ontario Bar Association – Law for Future Fund and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (2003) determining that safeguards would not protect vulnerable people from euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The recommendations of the Quebec Committee are contrary to the view and ethics of nearly every medical association in Canada and around the World. The report recommends a radical reformation of the doctor/ patient relationship.

EPC supports improved palliative and end-of-life care. EPC opposes legalization of euthanasia, particularly when Quebecers and vulnerable Canadians lack proper access to essential end-of-life health care which deprives them of meaningful choice.

For more information contact
Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director (EPC): 1-877-439-3348 or (519) 851-1434
Hugh Scher, Legal Counsel (EPC): (416) 969-1812
Dr. Will Johnston, President (EPC - BC): (604) 220-2042
Rhonda Wiebe, Secretary (EPC): (204) 952-1514

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Global Television airs eugenic euthanasia 16 x 9 TV program.

I was shocked by the eugenic one-sided pro-euthanasia program that was aired by Global television last Saturday (March 17, 2012) night at 7 pm. The 16 x 9 program entitled: Taking Mercy featured Robert Latimer, Annette Corriveau, and pro-euthanasia ethicist Arthur Schaefer. Link to the show.

The program offered a live blog for people to make comments about the show. Link to the live blog.

Tracy Latimer
Latimer was convicted of second degree murder in the 1993 death of his daughter Tracy, and served 10 years in prison. When interviewed, Latimer suggested that he would do it again. Tracy lived with cerebral palsy.

The 16 x 9 story omits significant facts in its attempt to sympathetically re-write the history of the Latimer case.  Latimer was offered a permanent care space for Tracy, but turned the offer down because he had already decided to kill her. The show ignores the fact that Tracy went to school, loved music, and was well aware of her surroundings. The show omitted the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided that Latimer should serve the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in jail for second degree murder.

The story of Annette Corriveau, the mother of two adult children Janet and Jeffrey who have significant disabilities, was also featured. Coriveau wants her adult children with disabilities euthanized. Janet and Jeffery appear to be well-cared for by the institution that they permanently reside in. It was disconcerting to watch a programme where a mother was vocally advocating to have her children's lives ended.

Has our society  forgotten its history? Have we forgotten how eugenic attitudes  led to the destruction of the lives of thousands of people with disabilities?

To learn more, visit the websites of the United States Holocaust Museum and the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team which shows that  the propaganda  portrayed in the 16 x 9 program was  supporting the same eugenic ideas and goals that the eugenic movement in the late 19th and early 20th Century promoted, ideas that led to the Nazi Euthanasia Program.

The Permission to Destroy
Life Unworthy of Life.
Many people believe that the Nazi Euthanasia Program was based on the unique evil ideology of the Nazi Party of Germany. However,the eugenic ideology was a socially and politically successful movement that existed throughout Europe and North America beginning in the nineteenth century. Books, such as "The Right to Death" (1895) promoted by the eugenics movement led to the writing of  "The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life" (1920)  by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche. This book justified the killing of people who were incurably sick, feeble minded, retarded, deformed, etc. This book became the handbook for the eugenic movement in Germany.

The eugenic movement emphasized the appearance of people with disabilities to suggest that certain traits were less human. It is sad that Annette Corriveau emphasized the change in the appearance of her children related to their medical condition ("bushy eyebrows").

The Nazi euthanasia program was launched in 1939 after Adolf Hitler received a letter from Richard Kretschmar, the father of an infant  (referred to as "Case K" or the 'Knauer child'). Historians now know that the child was Gerhard Herbert Kretschmar.

Children who died by euthanasia.
The letter stated that Gerhard was born on February 20, 1939, that he was blind, had one leg and part of one arm was missing and was described as "an idiot". Hitler sent his personal physician, Karl Brant, to visit the child in a hospital in Leipzig. Brant testified at the Nurembourg trial that he had been instructed that if the letter from the father was correct that the physicians at the hospital would be told that euthanasia could be carried out - in Hitler's name. Gerhard was euthanized on July 25, 1939.

History proves that the German T4 euthanasia program began with a parent's request for euthanasia and in the end resulted in the deaths of 200,000 to 275,000 people with disabilities.

It is a fact that the technique of gassing large numbers of people to death was developed in the Psychiatric hospitals for euthanasia and then later installed in the death camps to kill millions of people.

Euthanasia Propaganda Film
The eugenic euthanasia program that began in 1939 was based on the same propaganda portrayed in the 16 x 9 Global television that justified euthanasia for two adults with disabilities, and to re-write the history the Latimer case.

It takes one bad case to make a bad law. It takes one bad law to change a culture.

Once a culture decides that there are some lives that are not worth living and decides to kill those people, then everything changes.

The question we ask in society changes from - Is it right for one person to be given the right to kill another? - to When is it right for one person to be given the right to kill another?

This is a eugenic ideology that can only lead to the destruction of many lives which are deemed life unworthy of life. I say NEVER AGAIN.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Elder Abuse, a problem that every Canadian should be concerned about.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition applauds Canada's Federal government in their attempts to reduce the scourge of elder abuse in our culture. Last week, the Hon Rob Nicholson, Canada's Justice Minister, announced that the government was going to introduce stiffer criminal sentences for the crime of elder abuse.


The Globe and Mail stated last Thursday that:

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson took aim at people abusing Canadian seniors Thursday, introducing legislation that would mean tougher sentences for those convicted of the crime. 
The bill makes age-related abuse an aggravating factor in sentencing, so those convicted would face harsher penalties. Other forms of abuse of vulnerable persons are already covered by similar measures. 
“Our government has a responsibility to protect elderly Canadians and to ensure that crimes against them are punished appropriately,” said Nicholson in a statement. “This legislation will help ensure tough sentences for those who take advantage of vulnerable members of our society.”

The elder abuse prevention network was pleased by the concern the government has placed on preventing elder abuse, nonetheless, they felt that these provisions would not help. They commented this way:

“I appreciate the passion the government has placed in this area generally, but this particular provision is completely unnecessary and will end up doing more harm,” said Charmaine Spencer, a lawyer specializing in abuse and neglect and the former chair of Canadian Network for Elder Abuse Prevention. 
Statistics Canada data shows that one-third of reported violence committed against older adults is done by family members like spouses or grown children. The federal agency also notes the true extent of elder abuse is unknown because not all is reported. 
“Sometimes they don’t let somebody else know because they don’t want their family member to go to jail,” said Spencer. “If you increase the sentences, what the effect is going to be is to reinforce that.” 
Spencer said the federal government should instead invest in resources to help seniors get out of these situations or endorse alternative sentences, so people will be more likely to come forward.

Judith Wall, an attorney for the Advocacy Center for the Elderly stated:

Wahl, agreed the law could deter seniors from coming forward. 
“The person is going to say, ‘I don’t want my loved one going away for X amount of years,” she said. 
Another common complication is that the senior may be dependent on their abuser for care and would be left without support if they reported them. 
“What we are seeing is that people become dependent on others, or they can be taken advantage of because they have needs that need to be taken care of others,” she said.
CARP, one of Canada's largest senior's organizations welcomed the law while Teri Kay from the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse stated: 
new legislation is important and could actually increase the number of people, although not necessarily abused elders, reporting the crimes. 
“People who have a responsibility to seniors, be they professionals, friends or neighbours, they may take stronger action than not reporting it at all,” said Kay. 
All advocates agree a focus on prevention should come along with changes to prosecution. 
“We need interventions and safety measures that help seniors bring these stories to light, so resolutions can be found before they reach the level of charges and criminality,” said Kay.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition urges the federal government to view this act as a one of many steps that are necessary toward eliminating the scourge of elder abuse in our culture. The fact is that we need:
1. Supply support homes and emergency shelters for people who are being abused.
We need to be able to place seniors who are being abused into a safe-place where they are protected.
2. We need to train judges, lawyers, police officers, etc to identify elder abuse in their communities.
3. We need inter-disciplinary teams who can identify and testify in cases of severe elder abuse cases.
4. We need alternative approaches that will help keep families together while dealing with the problem of abuse.
5. While increasing sentencing the government needs to recognize that very few cases of elder abuse are prosecuted because the legal system hasn't recognized the problem of elder abuse.
The most important action the government can take is by implementing a national elder abuse prevention strategy that is operated under a National Elder Abuse and Awareness Office.

Taking Mercy - the case for euthanizing children with disabilities.

Tracy Latimer

Taking Mercy is an edition of the 16 x 9 shown on Global TV in Canada concerning a mother, Annette Corriveau, who wants her children with disabilities to be killed by euthanasia. The show also features Robert Latimer, the man who killed his daughter Tracy in 1993. Tracy had Cerebral Palsy. The show speaks to pro-euthanasia ethicist Arthur Schaefer who suggests that Robert Latimer should have been given “mercy”. Schaefer also suggests that Corriveau should simply stop feeding her children, but Corriveau does not wish to starve her children to death. This is a dangerously one-sided show.

Taking Mercy represents the first serious attempt by the Canadian media to re-write the history of the Latimer case and to justify euthanasia for children with disabilities. 

Yesterday I received an email from Ari Ne'eman, a disability leader in the United States, who is asking people with disabilities to organize candle light vigils on March 30 at 5:30pm for Disabled people who have been murdered by relatives or care-givers. 

Today I spoke to Steve Passmore, a man who was born with Cerebral Palsy, who has actively opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide since Tracy Latimer was killed by her father. 

Steve Passmore

Steve stated: "Many people in society view people with disabilities as having lives that can be euthanized, like a kept pet, because of pain and suffering, that he lives with everyday." 

Steve wants Robert Latimer & Annette Corriveau to know that he is not the same as a 'kept pet'. He stated that: "this story clearly shows the prejudice that people with disabilities experience in society and the threat that euthanasia and assisted suicide place on the lives of people with disabilities."

Comment by: Alex Schadenberg 


Taking Mercy is produced by Jennifer Tryon, Hannah James, Megan Rowney, for 16x9 and it was shown on Global TV on Thursday, March 08, 2012. Link to the show. Link to the Live Blog.

This is how the story goes:
Annette Corriveau thought she was living the dream. Married at 18, two beautiful children born shortly after, she thought she had it all.

But Annette’s dream was ravaged by fate. Her babies, Janet and Jeffrey weren’t as healthy as they first appeared. And never could she have imagined the horrific turn her children's lives would take.

“They were a handful but I thought that was normal, after all, they were only a year apart,” she says. “You’re prepared for the terrible twos. So you overlook things. Then the threes come and you’re thinking wait a minute, this shouldn’t have lasted this long, and then the fours, all of a sudden, it’s, something is not right.”
When Janet and Jeffrey were five and six years old, their behaviour was becoming more rambunctious and unmanageable. They started losing the language they had developed and they were losing motor skills.

After a year and a half in a London, Ontario hospital Annette learned she and her husband both carried a recessive gene that prevented their children from properly metabolizing sugars. The children were diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Sanfilippo syndrome that has no cure and no treatment.

Now, more than three decades later, Annette wants the right to mercifully end her children’s lives.

“They wouldn’t like to live like this,” she says. “My children were full of life. When they were young, before this disease took hold…I just don’t believe that they would want to stay alive the way they are.”

Annette’s children have been institutionalized since they were seven and eight years old. They used to be well enough to come home on weekends but they haven’t left their current care facility in two decades.

Now, more than three decades later, Annette wants the right to mercifully end her children’s lives.

“They wouldn’t like to live like this,” she says. “My children were full of life. When they were young, before this disease took hold…I just don’t believe that they would want to stay alive the way they are.” 
Annette’s children have been institutionalized since they were seven and eight years old. They used to be well enough to come home on weekends but they haven’t left their current care facility in two decades. 
Annette says no one can understand unless they watch - as she did - as her children slowly succumbed to this rare genetic disorder.

“The saying, ‘walk in another man’s moccasins’? Don’t judge. Unless you’ve been there, don’t judge,” she says. “This is no life. For anyone.” 
In a 16x9 exclusive, a mother’s plea for mercy – and a father who has been down this road before – and paid the price. 16x9 opens up the debate on the controversial subject of euthanasia speaking to Annette Corriveau about her fight for mercy and to Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who fought the Supreme Court of Canada after he ended his severely disabled daughter’s life.
As much as we can never take these cases lightly, the fact is that Janet & Jeffrey Corriveau are being cared for and allowing their mother to decide to have them killed by euthanasia will create a whole new debate which would focus on who lives and who dies.

Corriveau emphasizes in the show that no one should judge, but the fact is that this is a question of who society will approve to kill and that effects everyone. We don't need to judge Corriveau in order to say NO to the killing people by euthanasia.

Further to that, so many people say that euthanasia is about "choice" and has little or nothing to do with people with disabilities, the Corriveau story should awaken people to the reality that "choice" is the banner that is used to open the door to euthanasia. Soon after we will then begin deciding who lives and who dies, in the same way as the Netherlands has accepted the Groningen Protocol which are the rules that must be following in order to euthanize children with disabilities.

Monday, March 19, 2012

References to physician-assisted suicide must include its problems


A person named Robert Joyce from Newton Massachusetts wrote a great letter to the editor that was published in the Boston Globe today. 
I was disappointed with the Associated Press article about the Oregon doctor who died by assisted suicide (“Dr. Peter Goodwin, 83; championed law allowing ‘Death With Dignity’ in Oregon,’’ Obituaries, March 13). By citing only advocates for physician-assisted suicide, and mentioning nothing about problems associated with the practice, the article presented anything but a balanced view.
The physician-assisted suicide bills and initiative petition pending in Massachusetts fail to require that lethal drugs be administered by disinterested people. They also deceptively lower the legal standard of care required of physicians and hospitals. These facts increase the risk of elder abuse, and unreasonably require a high level of trust from vulnerable patients.
I am a lawyer with front-line experience. I have had to obtain a temporary restraining order against a Boston hospital after its personnel had decided, against the will of an elderly patient, to deny him life-saving dialysis treatment. His quality of life, in their opinion, led them to determine that death rather than ongoing care would be his fate.
How much do you trust insurers, hospitals, and governments? Unless you answer, “With my life,’’ you should oppose the Massachusetts assisted-suicide efforts.
Robert W. Joyce
Newton

Assisted Suicide Dies in Vermont Senate

Wesley Smith
Wesley Smith wrote this excellent article about the defeat of the assisted suicide bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee in Vermont. If you follow my blog, you will know that the Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin promised to legalize assisted suicide in Vermont during the 2010 election campaign. The best part in this article is the story about why Vermont Lt. Governor Phil Scott has changed his position on assisted suicide.

Assisted Suicide Dies in Vermont Senate

Wesley Smith - March 17, 2012.

I predicted this in my annual prognistication: Unless something drastic happens, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill has been killed in committee. Good riddance, says I.

Interestingly, the Lieutenant Governor, who would break a tie vote in the Vermont Senate, pushed legalizing doctor-prescribed death when in that legislative body, has since changed his mind–and for a reason that I think receives far too little play in”death with dignity”-infatuated media. From the WPTZ story:
[Lt. Governor Phil] Scott supported “right to die” bill when it was last before lawmakers in 2004. He was even a co-sponsor. No longer. “I’ve changed my thinking a bit,” Scott told NewsChannel Five, and then quietly shares a family story. His late father, Howard, served in World War Two and was severely injured in the June, 1944 invasion at Normandy. Both is his legs had to be amputated. Howard was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington. “During that time he contracted hepatitis, the prognosis wasn’t good,” said Scott. “In fact, one of the Western Union messages I’ve since read) said ‘It doesn’t look good for Howard.’ They urged my Gram to come to Washington to see him. They didn’t think he was  going to make it.”
Scott has thought a lot about all that might have been different had his Dad utilized the option now before the state Legislature. “I thought about his life and all he’d done and all the pain and suffering he must have gone through during that period of time and had they asked him at that point, ‘Do you want to end your life?’ You know I am not sure what he would have done but had he done so, of course, the result is evident. I wouldn’t be here now.” Howard Scott recovered and returned home to Barre to raise a family. He died in 1969 when Phil was 11. The lieutenant governor said he has “firmly made up his mind” to vote ‘no’ on the end of life bill should he have the chance.

I have heard and witnessed many such stories. For example, my first hospice patient wanted to die right away when I first met him, and would have surely taken the pills if they could have been prescribed, he was so distraught at being a burden. Yet, a few months later he was kicked out of hospice because his condition improved. The last patient I helped as a hospice volunteer died of ALS. He told me that had he been able to get to Kevorkian, he would have. Later, he was so glad to be alive. Another friend of mine with lung cancer spread to the brain was given three months to live–twelve years ago–and he’s still going strong.

Assisted suicide doesn’t just kill bodies, it destroys all hope. And in a world in which assisted suicide was legal and relatively routine, at least some would die, never knowing they would have lived–as the assisted suicide pushers patted themselves on the back for their supposed compassion. Bah!

UK locked-in patient may set dangerous euthanasia precedent

Peter Saunders
Peter Saunders commented on the case of Tony Nicklinson, last week. This case is of particular concern because he is diagnosed as living with locked-in syndrome and yet he appears to be asking for euthanasia. The article was titled - UK locked-in patient may set dangerous euthanasia precedent.

By Peter Saunders - Campaign Director, Care Not Killing Alliance

Legal action brought by a locked-in syndrome sufferer, who wants a doctor to be able to end his ‘intolerable’ life lawfully, can go ahead following a judge's ruling today. The Ministry of Justice had previously argued that the case should be struck out on the grounds that it is a matter for Parliament, rather than the courts, to decide. But the judge's ruling today means that Mr Nicklinson's case will go to a full hearing, where medical evidence can be heard.

Tony Nicklinson is 57 and paralysed from the neck down after suffering a stroke. I have blogged on this case in some detail previously so I will not review the background again here. Nicklinson's legal team will be arguing:

1.'Necessity' can, in these circumstances, be a defence to murder (see my previous blog post for details about what this means)
2. The existing law of murder, insofar as it denies Nicklinson the chance to be actively killed at his request, is incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights) - dealing with 'right to respect for private and family life'. 

The key point to grasp about this case is that Nicklinson, because he is not capable of killing himself even with assistance, is not seeking assisted suicide but euthanasia. So this is an assault on the Murder Act 1965 and not the Suicide Act 1961. Nicklinson is pushing for an even greater change in the law than either the controversial Falconer Commission on ‘Assisted Dying’ or the lobby group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society). They claim to be campaigning for assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill – but euthanasia is one step further than assisted suicide and Nicklinson is not terminally ill. Such a change would have far reaching implications by potentially removing legal protection from large numbers of sick and disabled people.

No one can help but be sympathetic to Tony Nicklinson but cases like his are extremely rare and hard cases make bad law. The overwhelming majority of people with severe disability - even with ‘locked-in syndrome’ - do not wish to die but rather want support to live and the longer people have locked-in syndrome then generally the better they learn to cope with it and find meaning, purpose and contentment within the limits of their condition.

The desire to die is not primarily about physical symptoms but about the particular person and their ability to adapt to living with a profound disability. Most people with locked-in syndrome are happy, according to the biggest survey of people with the condition.

Nicklinson has the right to refuse treatment under existing law, and could do so, but what he is seeking to do instead is to give doctors the power to kill in specific circumstances on grounds of ‘necessity’. That would be a very dangerous precedent indeed.

The current law is clear and right and does not need fixing or further weakening. On the one hand the penalties it holds in reserve act as a powerful deterrent to exploitation and abuse by those who might have an interest, financial or otherwise, in the deaths of vulnerable people. On the other hand the law gives judges some discretion to temper justice with mercy when sentencing in hard cases. We should not be meddling with it.

Any further removal of legal protection by creating exceptions for bringing prosecutions would encourage unscrupulous people to take liberties and would place more vulnerable people – those who are elderly, disabled, sick or depressed – under pressure to end their lives so as not impose a burden on family, carers or society.

Even in a free democratic society there are limits to choice. Every law limits choice and stops some people doing what they might desperately wish to do but this is necessary in order to maintain protection for others. No man is an island and this case is about much more than Tony Nicklinson.

Dr Peter Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members. This article has been cross-posted from his blog, Christian Medical Comment.

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