Monday, December 31, 2012

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition 2012 review.



Happy New Year to all the supporters of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC).

2012 was a demanding and difficult year for EPC as we work to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. We have faced many challenges but we also experienced significant success.

We will be facing another demanding and difficult year in 2013. We recognize that our work transcends the decisions of the courts and legislatures as work to protect people from euthanasia and assisted suicide. 
Paris Protest

We celebrate the many victories in 2012:
• January 25, the Council of Europe passed a statement (34 - 16) that: Euthanasia must always be prohibited. This statement was part of a statement on Living Wills.
• March 24, 700 people demonstrated against the legalization of euthanasia in Paris France.
• April 12, the Vermont State Senate debated and defeated a bill to legalize assisted suicide, again.
• May 1, the Governor of Georgia signed a bill to prohibit assisted suicide. This legislative victory became necessary after the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the previous poorly worded law.
• May 1, the New Zealand Medical Association stated that: “Euthanasia is unethical.”
• In May, EPC printed and began distributing the Protecting People pamphlet in English and French. We have now distributed almost 40,000 copies of the Protecting People pamphlet.
• In May, a bill to strengthen the assisted suicide laws in Louisiana passed in the House and Senate.
• May 31, the Supreme Court of Canada granted EPC Intervener Standing in the Rasouli case, that asks: do doctors have the right to unilaterally withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment without consent?
• In June, the British Medical Association and the German Medical Association approved statements opposing assisted suicide.
• July 13, Hon Rob Nicholson (Justice Minister & Attorney General of Canada) ordered an appeal of the decision in Carter by Justice Smith. The appeal of the Carter decision will be heard - March 4 - 8, 2013.
• August 16, the British High Court decided, in the Nicklinson/Martin case, that only parliament can decide to change the laws pertaining to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
• September 7 - 8, EPC co-sponsored the First-European Symposium on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide in Edinburgh Scotland. This historical conference brought people together from across Europe. For the first time, there is an opportunity to establish an organized opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide in Europe.
• November 6, the voters in Massachusetts defeated Question 2, that would have legalized assisted suicide by a vote of 51% to 49%. This was a huge victory.
• November 9, EPC elected a new leadership team at its board meeting: Joanne Matters (President),   Dr Margaret Cottle (VP), Rhonda Wiebe (Secretary/Treasurer), Dr. Barrie deVeber (Past President).
• November 10, EPC honoured Dr. Barrie deVeber at our national conference in London Ontario.
•  November 15, the book Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide was published. Exposing Vulnerable People uncovers the data concerning euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands.
• December, the Hawaii Medical Association stated that it opposes Physician-Assisted Suicide.
• December 10, EPC was granted the standing at the BC Court of Appeal in the Carter case.
• In 2012 EPC presented a petition of more than 33,000 names to the Attorney General of Canada.
• Our blog: www.alexschadenberg.blogspot.com continues to receive approximately 20,000 hits per month.
• There are currently almost 3600 people who have "liked" the EPC Facebook page.

We acknowledge the challenges that we have experienced in 2012:
• January 27, EPC requested intervenor standing in the Leblanc case in Quebec. The Leblanc case seeks to strike down Canada’s law preventing assisted suicide and to legalize a limited form of euthanasia. The Leblanc case was scheduled to be heard, December 11 - 14, but has been postponed to March 25 - 28, 2013. 
John Coppard
• March 1, Mobile Euthanasia Teams began operating in the Netherlands. It is predicted that the six Mobile Euthanasia Teams will be responsible for approximately 1000 euthanasia deaths per year.
• March 5, EPC spokesperson, John Coppard died after a courageous battle with brain cancer. John has been missed by all of us who had the privilege to work with him.
• March 16, the Global TV News 16 x 9 program featured a story of a woman who wants her adult children with disabilities to die by euthanasia and it portrayed Robert Latimer in a sympathetic manner.
• March 22, the Quebec National Assembly Dying with Dignity report was released. It reads like a euthanasia manifesto. Vivre dans la Dignité has been building a grass-roots opposition to the report.
Justice Lynn Smith
• June 15, Justice Smith decided, in the Carter case, to strike down Canada’s assisted suicide law, she ordered parliament to legalize a limited form of euthanasia and she gave Gloria Taylor a constitutional exemption to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide. Gloria Taylor died of natural causes on October 5.
• September 27, a New Jersey legislator announced his plan to sponsor a bill legalizing assisted suicide.
• November 1, Justice Smith ordered the federal government to pay the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) one million dollars for their role in the Carter case. Recently, Hon Rob Nicholson, Canada's Justice Minister, appealed the decision to give the BCCLA one million dollars.
• November - EPC applied to intervene at the BC Court of Appeal in the appeal of the Carter decision by Justice Smith. EPC was pressured throughout the process to limit the scope of our intervention. 
Dr Andre Bourque
• December 10, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the Rasouli case.
• December, a report in France stated that Euthanasia should not be legalized but assisted suicide may be legalized.
• At the end of December, the socialist party in Belgium stated that it plans to allow euthanasia for children and people with Alzheimer's.
• Dr. Andre Bourque sadly passed away on December 29, 2012. Dr. Bourque who was a family physician and the President of Vivre dans la Dignité in Quebec will be truly missed.

EPC recognizes the many victories and challenges that have occurred in 2012, and we know that we will experience many challenges in 2013. EPC is intervening at the BC Court of Appeal in the Carter case (March 4 - 8), we are intervening in the Leblanc case in Trois Riviéres Quebec (March 25 - 28). EPC expects there will be attempts to legalize assisted suicide in several States in the US, and there will be attempts to legalize euthanasia in at least Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and France, and there is a court case in Ireland that is trying to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia by mirroring the Carter case in Canada.

The most visited EPC article in 2012 was written by Alex Schadenberg: Euthanasia is out-of-control in the Netherlands - New Dutch statistics.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Do Americans want to legalize assisted suicide?

A recent poll indicates that 55% of Americans support assisted suicide. The poll that was conducted by NPR, from October 1 - 11, 2012 asked 3000 respondents two questions:

1. Should Physician-Assisted Suicide be allowed for terminally ill people with less than six months to live? Americans responded with 55% support and 45% opposition to this question.

2. Should Physician-Assisted Suicide be allowed for patients who aren't terminally ill but are suffering from severe pain or severe disability? Americans responded with 29% support and 71% opposition to this question.

Polls on assisted suicide are generally inaccurate and their results will change based on the question and the context of the question. Many people support the concept of assisted suicide, but after further reflection will recognize that it is bad public policy and it is not safe.

November 6, 2012; the people of Massachusetts voted on Question 2, the assisted suicide question on the Massachusetts ballot. Based on polling research, the Death with Dignity National Center chose Massachusetts to have a referendum on assisted suicide. Massachusetts appeared to be a "sure thing" with polling as late as September showing 68% support for assisted suicide and only 19% opposition.

On November 6, 51.1% of Massachusetts voters rejected physician assisted suicide (Question 2).

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) has been polling on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide for more than 10 years. Our polling indicates that a large number of people somewhat support assisted suicide while a much smaller number of people strongly support assisted suicide. 

EPC has found that people fear dying in pain and they fear dying an undignified death. We understand this human reality and we also understand that dying in pain or in an undignified manner is not necessary.

Our polling has identified that most of the people who somewhat support assisted suicide recognize that legalizing assisted suicide will have negative consequences. Therefore most people are only willing to support assisted suicide if it is tightly controlled and if it is limited to only a few circumstances.

This is why the NPR poll found in its question 2 that 71% opposed assisted suicide for people who aren't terminally ill but are suffering from severe pain or severe disability.

The voters in Massachusetts rejected physician-assisted suicide because many people found that the "safeguards" in Question 2 (assisted suicide) were either not tight enough or unable to be adequately controlled.

The campaign against assisted suicide in Massachusetts:
  1. Worked with a diverse group of people.
  2. Focused on the actual statute and not assisted suicide itself.
  3. Worked with diverse groups both independently and in coalition.
  4. Developed a set of effective messages and maintained message discipline.
  5. Used the term assisted suicide and not doctor prescribed suicide or doctor prescribed death or some other euphemism.
The Massachusetts campaign focused on the actual statute and how it would work in Massachusetts. The people of Massachusetts recognized that supporting Question 2 (assisted suicide) would have negative consequences on the lives of vulnerable people.


John Kelly
The diverse coalition of groups in Massachusetts included people from all parts of the political spectrum. Possibly the most effective group in the coalition was the disability rights group, Second Thoughts, that was led by John Kelly.

A poll showing that approximately 55% of Americans support assisted suicide, does not mean that 55% of Americans would vote to legalize assisted suicide.

The next set of polling questions that NPR needs to ask is:
* Are you concerned that if assisted suicide is legalized that some vulnerable people will be pressured into asking for assisted suicide? 
* Are you concerned that elderly people, who are already experiencing elder abuse, will be pressured into asking for assisted suicide? 
* Are you concerned that people who live with depression would not be adequately protected from assisted suicide, if legalized? 
* If palliative care was available for every person who needed it, do you believe that their would be less demand for assisted suicide? 
* Do you think that society should be improving the availability and quality of palliative care and the care of people with disabilities or chronic conditions or should we be legalizing assisted suicide?
No assisted suicide.
No assisted elder abuse.
When considering these questions, and more, people become aware that legalizing assisted suicide creates many new problems including a great potential for abuse.

It is important to note that there have more than 100 attempts to legalize assisted suicide through a state legislature in the United States and none of those attempts have been successful.

When people understand the issues surrounding assisted suicide, the majority reject it.

For more information please read the following articles:

Assisted Suicide group (Final Exit Network) challenges Minnesota assisted suicide law.

Lawrence Egbert
Final Exit Network Medical Director
An article in the Huffington Post that was written by Amy Forliti and published on December 18 under the title: Right to Die group wants Minnesota charges dismissed, concerns The Final Exit Network (FEN) who challenging the constitutionality of the assisted suicide law in Minnesota in an attempt to overturn criminal charges against their members.

A previous article entitled: Who are the Final Exit Network provides information in relation to this article.

The Final Exit Network and its leaders were indicted for assisting the suicide of Doreen Dunn in May 2007. Link to an article.

Melchert-Dinkel
Nadia Kajouji
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the appeal of the conviction of William Melchert Dinkel in the assisted suicide deaths of Nadia Kajouji, an 18 year old Canadian and Mark Drybrough (32) from Coventry England.

Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse, was convicted of counselling suicide. He admitted to counselling people to commit suicide by internet.

Prosecutors in Minnesota charged four FEN leaders after investigating the death of Doreen Dunn.
Prosecutors say the defendants not only supported Doreen Dunn's decision to kill herself in 2007, but provided her with information and support to follow through.
The Huffington Post article explains how the FEN intends to challenge the Minnesota assisted suicide law. The article states:

Final Exit members claim they do not encourage suicide, but that the act of giving information and emotional support could be interpreted as "encouraging" under a Minnesota law that makes it a felony for someone to intentionally assist, advise or encourage suicide. 
Defense attorneys who appeared at a hearing Tuesday in Dakota County District Court argued that the statute is unconstitutional. 
In documents filed ahead of the hearing, Final Exit Network general counsel Robert Rivas wrote that while the state may bar someone from "assisting" a suicide, it is unconstitutional for the state to ban "advising" or "encouraging" a suicide – pure speech.
It is interesting to note that Melchert-Dinkel also claimed that his communication by internet did not represent an assisted suicide but rather free speech. Link to a previous article.
The Huffington Post article states:
Prosecutors contend the statute is narrowly worded so advocates of suicide may freely speak their minds but that those who "intentionally" assist, encourage or advise suicide are breaking the law.
Stephen Drake
The Minnesota Supreme Court is already hearing the appeal of the conviction of William Melchert-Dinkel.

Clearly the law needs to protect vulnerable people from groups like FEN who take advantage  of vulnerable and depressed people by aiding, encouraging and counseling people to commit suicide.

Stephen Drake, from the disability rights group, Not Dead Yet has written extensively about the Final Exist Network. 

Proposed changes to Belgian euthanasia law may affect freedom of conscience

Today I received an email from the Protection of Conscience Project concerning the proposed changes to the Belgian Euthanasia Law that would allow children and people with Alzheimer's to be killed by euthanasia. This update was published on December 19 under the title: Proposed changes to Belgium euthanasia law may affect freedom of conscience.
The Protection of Conscience Project has been following the Belgian Euthanasia Law for many years. In 2003 they alerted us that euthanasia was being regulated and funded through the palliative care system in Belgium. Link to the article.

The following article also informs us of something we missed last July. Belgium is also proposing that medical students be trained to kill their patient.

To learn more about the current practise and abuses of the Belgium Euthanasia Law order the book, by Alex Schadenberg: Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

The fact is that Euthanasia is out-of-control in Belgium.



Proposed changes to Belgian euthanasia law may affect freedom of conscience.
December 19, 2012
The Belgian Socialist party has submitted proposals to amend the country’s euthanasia law to permit euthanasia of children and persons suffering from dementia. According to news reports, children would have to be suffering from an incurable illness to qualify.[Daily Mail]  The text of the proposed legislation does not yet appear to be available.
However, two bills submitted by Marleen Temmerman to the Belgian Senate in May, 2012 made the same kind of proposals.  Draft law No. 4-431/1 makes euthanasia available to children who are able to “discern” that they want it if they otherwise meet the legal criteria for euthanasia of adults.  Alternatively, their parents can make the request.
Draft Law No. 4-676/1 makes euthanasia available to patients with dementia.  This bill also appears to impose a requirement on conscientious objectors to refer patients to physicians willing to kill them by modifying the existing protection of conscience provision in the Belgian euthanasia law.  The existing law requires an objecting physician to transfer a patient’s medical file to another physician if requested to do so by the patient or surrogate decision maker.  The onus remains on the patient or surrogate diecision maker to find a willing physician.  Draft Law. No. 4-676/1 would add the following provision to the law:
Si aucun médecin n’a été désigné par le patient ou par sa personne de confiance,  le médecin qui refuse d’accéder à une demande d’euthanasie communiquera le  dossier médical à un autre médecin en vue d’assurer la continuité des soins. 
If  no physician has been designated by the patient or by his  surrogate decision maker, the physician who refuses to comply  with a request for euthanasia must tranfer medical records to another  physician to ensure continuity of care. (Machine assisted translation)
On the face of it, this does not appear to add anything new.  However, the commentary on the section provided by Temmerman indicates that what she has in mind is the addition of a requirement that an objecting physician find a colleague willing to kill the patient:
La loi sur l’euthanasie n’offre pas de solution pour le cas où le  médecin traitant refuse d’accéder à la demande d’euthanasie, où le  patient n’est plus en mesure de désigner un autre médecin et où il  n’a pas désigné de personne de confiance. Le patient a pourtant  droit à l’exécution de sa déclaration anticipée et à la continuité  des soins. C’est pourquoi le médecin qui refuse d’accéder à la  demande d’euthanasie doit transmettre lui-même le dossier médical à  un médecin qui soit disposé à appliquer la volonté exprimée par le  patient. 
The law on euthanasia does not offer a solution for the case in which the doctor refuses to grant the  request for euthanasia, where the patient is no longer  able to appoint another doctor and did not appoint a surrogate decision maker. The patient nevertheless entitled to enforce his advance directive and ensure continuity of care. This is why the doctor who refuses to comply with the request for euthanasia must transfer the medical file to a  medical doctor who is willing to implement the wishes of the  patient. (Machine assisted translation)
In July of this year, the Belgian Federal Commission for the Monitoring and Assessment of Euthansia recommended that medical students should be taught how to kill patients properly, and that continuing medical education should include such instruction:
La commission rappelle qu’elle estime que le curriculum des études  médicales devrait comporter une formation préparant les futurs médecins à affronter les problèmes que pose la gestion de la fin de vie, y compris la pratique des soins palliatifs et la mise en oeuvre correcte d’une euthanasie. De même, les divers cycles d’enseignement  postuniversitaire et les activités de recyclage devraient être encouragés à inclure une telle form.
The Committee recalls that it considers that the curriculum of  medical education should  include training  preparing future physicians to deal with the problems  posed by the management of the end of life, including the practice of palliative care and the proper implementation of ‘euthanasia. Similarly, the various cycles of postgraduate education and recycling activities should be encouraged to include such training. (Machine assisted translation)
The Commission did not appear to recognize that some medical students might have conscientious objections to a requirement that they be required to kill a patient as a condition of graduation.  On the other hand that Commission may have intended only that medical students be provided with information about how to kill patients properly, without a requirement that they actually demonstrate their competence.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rasouli case: 'End of life' often really means 'ending life.'


While going through my emails I came across this excellent article that was written by Tom Koch, a bio-ethicist and gerontologist in Toronto. This article was published in the Toronto Star on December 15, 2012 under the title: 'End of life' often really means 'ending life.'

Koch examines the Rasouli case based on its similarities to the issues within the Carter case in BC and the Leblanc case in Quebec. The Carter case and the Leblanc case seek to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) had intervenor standing in the Rasouli case at the Supreme Court of Canada and has intervenor standing in the Carter case at the BC Court of Appeal and the Leblanc case at the lower court in Quebec.
'End of life' often really means 'ending life'
Tom Koch
Tom Koch, Toronto Star - December 15, 2012

Hassan Rasouli lies in a bed, his family by his side, as machines assure his bodily functions and the Canadian Supreme Court decides his future. Should Sunnybrook Hospital physicians be given the right to discontinue his respirator or should his family’s wishes for his continued care take priority?

The Rasouli case is the flip side of one heard last summer in B.C. Supreme Court where Gloria Taylor, a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), successfully sued for the right to physician-assisted termination at a moment of her choosing. Taylor later died of an infection while her case was on appeal. Taylor wanted to control her death while the Rasouli family wants to control their father and husband’s continued life.

What the court decides in Rasouli’s case will give us insight into its thinking when the case of Ginette LeBlanc — another woman with ALS seeking physician-assisted termination — is heard in the Quebec Supreme Court next March.

There are two very different positions in all these cases, each defined by the language used by proponents. In thinking about what these cases mean, and how we should address them, it’s the language that tells the tale. Here is a sample of the oppositions that stand for either continued life or termination at a moment of either a person or a doctor’s choosing.

The 2012 Royal Society Expert Panel Report on End of Life Decision Making, for example, talked about “physician-assisted death” while I talk about “physician-assisted or directed termination.” The first describes a passive, morally neutral role by physicians who accept death’s inevitability and take as their mission helping persons to meet it without fuss.

The second is a bare, active description. In providing drugs that stop the heart, in discontinuing life support we do not “assist” but wilfully terminate a life that is ongoing. Maybe we are right to do this, maybe not.

At the very least, we need to know the difference.

The Royal Society’s experts also talked about “end of life decision-making.” So, too, do most popular writers. But none of these cases are about “end of life” and its final choices. The issue is ending a life that is ongoing.

Hassan Rasouli
With continued support, Hassan Rasouli, 61, could continue for years. So, too, would LeBlanc, whose ALS is not “terminal” in any short-term sense of the word. So we are talking about people at the “end of life” only to the degree they are terminated prematurely.

The physicians who seek the court’s permission to terminate Rasouli’s care over the objection of his family insist his condition is “futile.” By this they mean they cannot do anything to improve his condition. And there they are correct. But the family insists the effort it takes to keep him alive is not “futile” because his life has value and care buys him time to recover on his own. “The treatment is 100-per-cent effective,” a family spokesman reported. “It permits him to breathe.”

In arguing for discontinuing life support, the physicians imply that where respiration is mechanized and brain function is at best minimal, there is no life.

But as Rasouli’s advocates said in court — and as others have insisted in other cases — we are unclear about the science of these things. Studies in the 1990s of patients diagnosed as being in a “persistent vegetative state” found many to be, in fact, at least minimally conscious. A few were “locked in,” unable to communicate but very much aware. And we also have “coma miracles” in which persons long believed dead to the world awoke for reasons nobody understands.

That is why some people use “persistently unconscious” rather than “vegetative” in describing such cases The former suggests the potential for an improvement the latter denies.

Beneath this discussion runs the bottom line, not of care and caring, of life and how we value it, but money. Some reporters — and physicians — have suggested the issue is one of triage, of the best use of health-care dollars and equipment in a period of scarcity. But what is right, what we should do in medicine and as a society, is not about cost efficiencies. If we believe it is important, we find the monies for what we need.

We can afford to maintain the occasional citizen whose family insists — even if only on the basis of faith — a restricted life is still a worthy life. The question isn’t money, in other words, but our willingness to spend on the fragile life.

Finally, there is the irksome issue of “autonomy” and choice. For 40 years or more, medical ethics has focused upon the idea of patient autonomy and the right to patient choice. Where the patient is unable it is the “surrogate,” usually a family member, who gets to make the call on care or its cessation.

In this case, that idea is challenged by physicians who seek to trump the choice of the patient’s surrogates who include, by the way, a physician. So do we advocate patient autonomy and choice only when it is cost efficient and convenient? Or is the patient’s right of choice inviolate, even when the attending doctors disagree?

There is a problem of consistency here. If we are to grant people like Gloria Taylor or Ginette LeBlanc a right to termination, doesn’t that mean we must grant to the Rasoulis the right to choose continuance?

The heart of the issue is this: Is there ever an “unworthy life”? Or, as the Rasouli family insists, is life worth preserving even in a fragile, limited state? Here members of the so-called disability community weigh in on the potential of life in restricted states. “We know,” they say, “what you do not. The life you see as insupportable is to us our life and worthy after all.”

Tom Koch is a bioethicist and gerontologist. His latest book is Thieves of Virtue: When Bioethics Stole Medicine.

The story of Edwarda O'Bara, a story of love and commitment

An article written by Wayne Drash for CNN and published on December 23 recounts the love of a mother and family for their daughter and sister who lived in a comatose condition for 42 years. The article that was titled: Comatose since Christmas 1969: A tale of unconditional love and miracles focuses on the life and love of the O'Bara family for Edwarda who went into diabetic shock on January 3, 1970 and became comatose.


Family and friends, Edwarda's 51st birthday.
Edwarda was cared for, around the clock at home, by her mother Kathryn (Kaye) until she died in March 2008 and more recently she was cared for by her younger sister Colleen until Edwarda recently died on November 21, 2012.

This is a difficult story to consider outside of the concept of the love of a person for another person or in this case, for their child or sister.

The story of unconditional love for Edwarda includes religious overtones that many people would immediately reject. It is true that religious experiences are private and personal.  The greatest miracle was the care, love and  commitment that the O'Bara family provided Edwarda. 

It is wrong that some people have suggested that the family was somehow causing Edwarda to suffer. This is a story of love and commitment.

It is particularly distressing that the Hemlock Society thought that it was part of their mandate to try to convince the O'Bara family to stop caring for Edwarda. The story states:
"The Hemlock Society phoned often, pleading with the mother to let her daughter die. The day after Christmas in 1981 someone called to say he was going to put Edwarda out of her misery. A few hours later three bullets were fired into the home. No one was hurt."
Colleen caring for her sister Edwarda
Why would the Hemlock Society care that Edwarda's family were willing to love and care for her. Wasn't it their choice? The family cared for Edwarda, they weren't harming her.

The Hemlock Society changed its name to Compassion & Choices a few years ago.

In 1970, when Edwarda became Comatose, there was very little knowledge about the awareness of a person who is considered Persistent Vegetative State or Comatose. Today, researchers are learning a lot more about these conditions.

The story quotes Stephen Mayer, a professor of neurology and neurological surgery at Columbia University, who has treated many comatose patients over the years. The story states
"He says new research suggests that patients in persistent vegetative states may perceive what's around them in a way that doctors didn't previously understand. 
"The best evidence of that are people who don't follow commands and appear to be vegetative, but after several years they wake up and start following commands," says Mayer. 
Mayer, who did not treat Edwarda, says it's possible "she was perceiving what was going on around her to some extent over those 40 years, but not really able to communicate to us in a way that we can believe. And maybe the daily contact, the voices, the touches with her loved ones gave her reason to live." 
"One thing I've learned over the years as somebody who treats people in a coma and tries to save them," he says, "is there's something very important about human contact with the people that bring meaning to your life, your loved ones."
A mother caring for her daughter.

Kathryn believed that to the fullest.

The love and commitment to care for Edwarda was a counter-cultural message that needs to be upheld as an example of the true dignity of human beings. I would rather live in a world that is willing to care for its most vulnerable members than a world that views its most vulnerable members as expendable.

The O'Bara family went above and beyond what was required or expected of them. 

Their love and commitment should be celebrated and emulated.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nitschke is importing death cannisters.

The following article was written by Paul Russell, the founder and leader of HOPE Australia, and published on his blog on December 19 under the title: Importing Death Cannisters, legal or not?.

The article concerns a TV news current affairs program that focused on the new suicide device that was developed by Philip Nitschke under the guise of the Max Dog brewing company. The comment by Paul Russell follows:

Importing Death Cannisters, legal or not?

Paul Russell
Last Tuesday night December 18 the ABC's National Current Affairs program, The 7:30 Report, ran a story on Dr. Nitschke and his promotion of nitrogen for suicide. 

Link to The 7:30 Report program. 

For the first time, he admitted that he imports the nitrogen canisters from China and the report said that he did so through the company, Max Dog Brewing which is wholly owned by Dr. Nitschke through another company, Northern Analytics P/L.

In the report, Nitschke suggests that brewing is the reason for the imports of nitrogen and that people might choose to use it for other purposes as well. The ABC seem to have swallowed that assertion uncritically.

It's really hard to take this seriously; as is the image of Nitschke sitting in the back of a van in a North Sydney car park awaiting his customers.

Nitrogen is used in some brewing processes, certainly; but most home brewers would not use this method of providing the bubbles in their favourite brew. But why the need for a front company and why the need for the brewing facade?

Perhaps Australian Customs Laws and Regulations might have something to do with it:

CUSTOMS (PROHIBITED IMPORTS) REGULATIONS 1956 - REG 3AA

Importation of devices and documents relating to suicide

(1) The importation of a device designed or customised to be used by a person to commit suicide, or to be used by a person to assist another person to commit suicide, is prohibited absolutely.
(2)  The importation of the following documents is prohibited absolutely:
(a)  a document that promotes the use of a device mentioned in subregulation (1);
(b) a document that counsels or incites a person to commit suicide using one of those devices;
(c)  a document that instructs a person how to commit suicide using one of those devices.

These Regulations seem open to interpretation, who knows. But what we do know, from Nitschke's own words is that he has another order of 100 canisters on the way.


How do we know who turns on the tap?

This is the big question here. If there's a debate in a parliament on euthanasia or assisted suicide MPs have to grapple with the issue of public safety: are the 'safeguards' really safe? Does the bill protect people at risk?

But here there's no such protection, no public scrutiny and no accountability. As I said in the interview, we should really be concerned about Elder Abuse - there's no way of telling whether or not an abusive relative ordered the kit and turned on the tap. There's no way of guaranteeing that a troubled teenager didn't order a kit or 'borrow' one from a relative or friend.

This is reckless behaviour.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Assisted Suicide's dangerous illusion of control


The following article was written by Dr Will Johnston, the chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC and published in the Calgary Herald on December 19, 2012 under the title: Assisted Suicide's dangerous illusion of control.

By Will Johnston - Calgary Herald, December 19, 2012


Will Johnston
The daughters are beside themselves. One sat in my office recently, telling me about her father’s trips to the bank that are draining his savings. He gets angry when his daughters challenge him.

The money — thousands of dollars, slowly saved from a meagre pension and needed for his care — seems to be going to a recently acquired girlfriend some years younger than himself. He speaks almost no English. The situation was detected by chance when a daughter gave him a ride to the bank and saw his bank book.

Some time ago, I performed a competency assessment on a socially isolated older person who had been placed in a nursing home. An unrelated neighbour had listed the person’s home for sale and was receiving inquiries before a relative became aware.

On another occasion, an older woman had adequate resources to stay in her attractive home and employ a live-in caregiver. A family member, an heir and beneficiary, arranged to have her met at her door by an ambulance crew with a gurney. She was told that if she did not co-operate, the police would be called. She submitted and was transported to a dingy nursing home that she described as a prison. Her home was sold.

A colleague recalls being on duty in an emergency room several years ago when an older bachelor came in desperately ill and confused, accompanied by his niece and nephew.

“He’s had a good life. He wouldn’t want any treatment,” his only relatives (and presumably heirs) attested. With ordinary care and rehydration, the older man walked out of hospital a week later.


Each of these scenarios is different, and none of them grace a research paper, but all of them are the real face of elder abuse. I could list 10 more from my own experience. Government of Canada policy recognizes the epidemic of elder abuse and the unusual difficulty of detecting it, often because the victim resists the revelation of abuse.

I routinely see people induced to do things and accept arrangements that are contrary to their own interests. People can be surprisingly naive.

High profile assisted suicide cases might at first seem to be about another kind of person, a sophisticated and clear-minded sort, immune to undue influence. I suggest that this presumption is also naive.

We all take our cues from those around us. It only takes a few words to promote suicide. If the law is changed, an obligation to mention the legal fact of assisted suicide will be created. Some patients will experience even the most perfunctory acknowledgment of assisted suicide as an inducement to it.

If state-sanctioned suicide becomes part of the atmosphere in our hospitals, a presumption in that direction will be created. I predict the same erosion of medical diligence that many of us on the front lines have already watched happen when caregivers choose to see a patient as having finished all useful life. How much more will this be the case when the patient’s present fear and loss of hope feed smoothly into an official assisted-suicide regime?

Some people would throw away months or years of life, and some would miss good medical care or medical advances they would have wanted to enjoy. Consider the case of Jeanette Hall, who wanted to use Oregon’s assisted suicide law and is grateful, 12 years later, that her doctor directed her toward treatment rather than suicide.

One of Dr. Ken Stevens’ Oregonian patients was not so lucky — part way into his cancer treatment, he became despondent and was given suicide pills by another doctor.

I know someone, happy to be alive, who had alarming symptoms and a clear diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease more than a decade ago. The symptoms inexplicably resolved. Huntington’s disease, a factor in a recent high-profile suicide in Toronto, moved closer to a treatment recently in a stem cell experiment.

If a legal assisted suicide offer is always dangling, variations in the competence and diligence of doctors create arbitrary forces that move choice and control to others, not the patient.

When you or your loved one goes to the hospital, you need to be able to trust that an assisted-suicide-minded doctor or nurse will not be steering you or them toward death. People can be offered the illusion of control and autonomy when the choices are really being shaped by others.

When empowered medical personnel — and right-to-die activists — choose their own opinions about your quality of life, and have been given constitutional protection to counsel, facilitate and steer you toward suicide, you and your loved ones will not be safe.

The choices created by legal assisted suicide may end up being someone else’s, not yours. The speculative legal changes being offered are dangerous and irresponsible. Parliament rejected them firmly two years ago. We will all be safer if our courts do the same.

Photograph by Ami Sanyal

Dr. Will Johnston is chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC.
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