Friday, January 30, 2015

Let’s not forget the lessons of history and the leading role doctors played in holocaust

Dr Peter Saunders is a founder of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK. This article was published on his blog on January 30, 2015.
Peter Saunders

By Dr Peter Saunders 

This week has seen two significant anniversaries that have revived memories of the Second World War, and in particular what Britain was spared from.

First was the 50th anniversary of the death of the great wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 24 January 1965.

Second was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – Holocaust Memorial day. More than one million people, mostly Jews, died at the Nazi camp (pictured) before it was liberated by allied troops on 27th January 1945.

Earlier this week a Jewish figurehead sparked controversy by suggesting that new draft legislation seeking to decriminalize assisted suicide in Scotland is based on similar principles to racist Nazi laws that paved the way for the Holocaust.

Auschwitz
Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, spoke out against Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide Bill which is currently making its way through Holyrood in an evidence session with MSPs.

He referred to Holocaust Memorial Day to make ‘a point about practicalities rather than principles’ and added: ‘It's now a well-known cliche that the Holocaust didn't begin in Auschwitz, it ended in Auschwitz. In terms of principle, it began with the belief that some lives are not worth as much as others, and that is precisely what we are faced with here.’

Understandably his claims have elicited appeals to ‘Godwin’s law’ - an adage asserting that ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1’.

But rather than dismissing Borowski’s comparison out of hand critics should spend some time examining the historical evidence-base behind it because it is considerable.

The horrific genocide of six million Jews was in fact only the final chapter in the Nazi holocaust story.
The detail of how it happened, and particularly the role of doctors in the process, is not at all well known.

What ended in the 1940s in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka had much more humble beginnings in the 1930s in nursing homes, geriatric hospitals and psychiatric institutions all over Germany.

When the Nazis arrived, the medical profession was ready and waiting.

Jewish leader condemns Scottish assisted suicide bill.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Scottish media has reported that Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, condemned the Scottish assisted suicide bill.

Ephraim Borowski
The media reported Borowski as saying:
“It’s now a well-known cliche that the Holocaust didn’t begin in Auschwitz, it ended in Auschwitz. 
“In terms of principle, it began with the belief that some lives are not worth as much as others and that is precisely what we are faced with here.”
Borowski is commenting on the historical fact that the Holocaust began with the Nazi T4 euthanasia program that killed 70,000 people with disabilities.

Link to more information:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dutch “Better Killed than Disabled” Bigotry

Wesley Smith
This article was originally published on Wesley Smith's blog.

By Wesley Smith

I have been reporting on the non-voluntary euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, the infanticide, euthanasia of the elderly “tired of life,” psychiatrists killing the mentally ill.

Often people hear this truth and yawn, “Oh, hum–but Brittany Maynard!”


Now, Gerbert van Loenen – a Dutch (once) euthanasia supporting journalist whose partner became disabled only to experience disdain from friends and doctors–has written a book that exposes a pronounced Netherlander death-is-better-than-disabled cultural attitudes. From a review by Barbara Kay in the National Post of Do You Call This a Life?
van Loenen found himself brooding over certain friends’ reactions to their situation. “It would have been better if he had died,” one said at the outset. 
Another told Niek when he expressed frustration, “You choose to go on living, so you have no right to complain.” Once “an average Dutchman who thought of euthanasia as one of the crown jewels of our liberal country,” van Loenen became “someone who was shocked by the harsh tone used by the Dutch when they talked about handicapped life.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Protect your right to ethical medical treatment in Canada.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Conscience rights for physicians are being challenged in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Conscience rights provide choice in healthcare for people who oppose patient killing.

If you live in Ontario you need to send a message to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). 
  • State that Physicians need to uphold their promise to "Do No Harm."
  • State that if euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized that physicians must maintain their right of conscience to refuse to participate in any way.
  • Emphasize that you would not feel safe if your physician participates in euthanasia or assisted suicide.
  • Talking points, a link to some excellent articles.
The (CPSO), is asking for feedback, before February 20, on its draft policy on end-of-life care. Titled: “Planning for and Providing Quality of End-of-Life Care.

You need to respond. The (CPSO) has made it easy to provide feedback before February 20. You can make comments in the following ways:
  • Post to the CPSO's end-of-life care discussion forum;
  • Send an email to EOLpolicy@cpso.on.ca;
  • Fill out an online survey (there are text boxes in which you can explain your responses);
  • Send a letter to: (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, 80 College St., Toronto, Ont., M5G 2E2).
If you live in Saskatchewan the College of Physician and Surgeons of Saskatchewan are seeking your feedback on the Policy - Conscientious Refusal before March 6, 2015

If euthanasia or assisted suicide is decriminalized you will need a physicians who refuses to cause the death of patients. 
  • State that Physicians need to uphold their promise to "Do No Harm."
  • State that if euthanasia or assisted suicide is legalized that physicians must maintain their right of conscience to refuse to participate in any way.
  • Emphasize that you would not feel safe if your physician participates in euthanasia or assisted suicide.
  • Talking points, a link to some excellent articles.
Send your comments to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan before March 6. Further information.
  • Send an email to communications@cps.sk.ca.
  • Send a letter to: (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan
  • 500 - 321A-21st Street E. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 0C1).
Silence benefits the euthanasia lobby. Keep your comments straight forward.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scottish Assisted suicide rhetoric is nonsense

This article was published on January 28 on the HOPE Australia website.

B
Paul Russell
y Paul Russell, the Director of Hope Australia


An assisted suicide bill is slowly making its way through various committees of the Scottish parliament before ultimately being debated in the Scottish Parliament itself.

This bill is something of a ‘legacy bill’ following as it does the death last April of the former champion of this cause, Margo MacDonald MSP who had sponsored an earlier, failed attempt.

It is certainly worth a hat-tip to the Scots inasmuch as both MacDonald’s bill and this new bill by Green MSP Patrick Harvie take some radically different approaches to the issue, presumably to attempt to make these efforts more palatable than other failed initiatives. However, the same concerns arise as with all legislation on euthanasia or assisted suicide: vulnerable people are not protected; the legislation is unsafe and open to abuse.

I want to focus, however, on some of the rhetoric and suggestions from the pro-assisted suicide lobby on this bill that are as dangerous as they are facile and errant. Slogans and catch phrases are fine in so far as they highlight and encapsulate a policy position or campaign thrust, but when they attempt to lead the reader to a simplistic and patently false conclusion, they deserve scrutiny.

This from a submission to one of the inquiries conducted on the Scottish bill:

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Mexico Court of Appeals heard assisted suicide case.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The New Mexico Court of Appeals is hearing the assisted suicide case of Morris v New Mexico.

This case is essentially based on a word game and a replay of the Blick v Connecticut case that was thrown out by the Connecticut court in 2010

Similar to the Connecticut case, the New Mexio case, that was heard in December 2013, claimed that "aid in dying", which is also known as assisted suicide, is not prohibited by the New Mexico assisted suicide law because "aid in dying" is not suicide.

The case continued by claiming, that if "aid in dying" is assisted suicide, then the New Mexico assisted suicide law is unconstitutional because it undermines the right to privacy and autonomy.

Judge Nan Nash decided last year:
that the right exists under the New Mexico Constitution, which prohibits the state from depriving a person of life, liberty or property without due process.
Nash then applied this principle to assisted suicide and legislated from the Bench that doctors in New Mexico had the right to prescribe lethal drugs.

But "aid in dying" is assisted suicide and assisted suicide does not constitute medical treatment. Therefore prohibiting assisted suicide does not undermine the right to privacy or autonomy. 

The Albuquerque Journal reported on March 13 that Attorney General King, who appealed the decision, was concerned with the integrity of the law. The article reported that King said:
“Our position is we’re defending the integrity of the statute. If people are interested in changing state law, they should propose new legislation."
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) considers the decision by Judge Nash to be an extreme case of judicial activism. This is a case that Nash should have thrown out and a decision that the Court of Apeal must overturn.

Links to more information:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lawyer who lives with cerebral palsy comments on assisted suicide.

The following is the speech by Martin Benton, a lawyer who lives with Cerebral Palsy, on the issue of assisted suicide.

Martin Benton
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on such an important topic. While I am not representing any particular organization or disability group, it is important that you hear a perspective shared by millions of Americans who live daily with a variety of disabilities.

Although my cerebral palsy makes my speech somewhat difficult to understand at times, some people have observed that my southern accent acquired from growing up in a small rural Georgia town is the real barrier to clearly understanding what I am saying. To make it easier to follow my remarks, I have provided a handout, sans the southern accent. I am not the least bit offended if you find reading along on the handout much easier than listening to what I am saying. What is more important is that you hear from persons with disabilities like me on this topic.

Over a dozen major grassroots disability organizations whose members are self-advocates living with a range of disabilities are on record in strong opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide. These various groups recognize the grave threat that assisted suicide poses to persons with disabilities like me and many others.

I ask you to ponder what the motivating forces are for many people who are adamant proponents for the legalization of assisted suicide. Is it primarily to provide a means of alleviating intractable pain or to establish a semblance of control over the dying process, in other words, “death with dignity”? I would suggest to you that from the experience from Oregon and Washington States where assisted suicide is the law of the land, it is neither. Rather, reports from these states show that the primary motivation of many individuals advocating for assisted suicide is the fear of disability, a fear grounded on some basic stereotypes prevalent in our society that living with a disability is a life not worth living, i.e., living a life that is lacking in wholeness or somewhat less than whole. It is a fear of being vulnerable, of losing autonomy, of losing the ability to engage in activities that they take for granted, and even the fear of loss of bodily functions. Along with this fear of vulnerability is a fear of dependence or being a burden to their loved ones and society in general. In other words, a fear of living with a disability like mine.


It may shock some people to know that our lives are rewarding and exciting. My disability of cerebral palsy is a life-long reality, and I have acquired additional disabilities along the way, including a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder shortly before my first wedding anniversary, and chronic pain due to aging with CP. Additionally, in 2000 I successfully underwent prostate cancer surgery, and thus consider myself a cancer survivor. I am happily married to a loving, supportive woman, and we have two beautiful adult children, and a wonderful son-in-law. 

By profession I am an attorney, retired after thirty-two years of service with the U.S. government and several years in private practice. I am also a potter, and currently spend my time in the studio when I am not traveling nationally and internationally. This does not negate the fact that my disabilities have presented obstacles along the way. I would be lying to myself, and to you, to say that my life has been without difficulties, as has each person faces their own trials.

I am very concerned about the ramifications untreated depression can have in situations where assisted suicide is a ready option. From my own experience looking into the abyss of darkness caused by depression, I personally feel that it is very dangerous to make readily available lethal drugs that may be used to provide a false and irreversible solution to a sometimes undiagnosed and treatable illness. Once the abyss of taking the prescribed lethal drugs is crossed, there can be no turning back or seeking effective treatment.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Disability rights leader, Marilyn Golden speaks out against California assisted suicide bill

This article was written by Diane Coleman, the President of Not Dead Yet, and published on the Not Dead Yet website.
Diane Coleman
A bill to legalize assisted suicide is being introduced in California. Fortunately, Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, is already working to ensure that the disability rights opposition to this bill is being heard.

The Los Angeles Times published an article in advance of the bill introduction, and included quotes and paraphrases from Marilyn:
And some disability rights advocates are vehemently opposed. Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, warns that heirs and caregivers would have opportunities for abuse, and that legislative safeguards for people suffering from depression and other mental disorders are hollow.
Golden also told me the marriage of a profit-driven healthcare system and legalized aid in dying sets up dangerous possibilities. She warned of a scenario in which insurers might deny or delay life-sustaining treatments and a patient “is steered toward assisted suicide.”
Marilyn Golden
The inclusion of Marilyn Golden and DREDF is important and obviously columnist Steven Lopez is well aware of the opposition of disability groups. Yet, two days ago, the LA Times Editorial board issued their support for legalization and failed to mention – or chose to omit – any reference to disability groups. This is what the editorial had to say about opponents of assisted suicide:  ”The Roman Catholic Church and other groups will almost certainly have strong objections to such a law, but their moral codes should not be imposed on those with different beliefs.”  But Marilyn was clearly not talking about “moral codes” and “beliefs.”


The former attorney for the bill’s proponents, Kathryn Tucker, was also quoted in the article, stating misleadingly that:
. . . there’s actually “strong support for expanding end-of-life choices” among many people with disabilities.
Neither she nor the reporter mention that all of the major national disability organizations that have taken a position on the issue oppose legalizing assisted suicide.  Her further comment is equally misleading or, more accurately, outright false.
“We now have a great abundance of data from Oregon and Washington that makes clear there is no harm to persons with disabilities when aid in dying is available,” Tucker said.
The Oregon data, limited though it is, shows serious harm to people with disabilities in at least two ways:
Every year, people who are not terminal, who outlive a terminal prognosis but are both seriously ill and (in virtually all cases) disabled, receive lethal prescriptions (the data conceals how many, but hospice data tells us that 15% of people outlive a 6-month terminal prognosis); and 
  • The top five reasons that people request assisted suicide are related to disability, not being terminal, showing both that they are disabled and that their disability related concerns that could be addressed are not being addressed.
  • Two of those reasons are feelings of “loss of autonomy” and “being a burden” on family and loved ones. Earlier today, I found myself explaining to a lobby group something very familiar to those of us who use consumer directed home care services, like myself. The disability rights movement is in a decades long fight for these services, step by incremental step in state after state, led by ADAPT, and supported by federal policy initiatives and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead.
But how many people know about these services and how to access them? Assisted suicide laws don’t require any disclosure of these consumer directed home care options for addressing the reasons people want assisted suicide, much less requiring that these services are provided to those who need them. That would be a form of suicide prevention that could really make a difference. Instead, assisted suicide laws effectively say, who cares, just throw them under the bus.
There’s another key danger that Marilyn Golden obviously pointed to, based on the brief snippet the LA Times reporter included, saying that she “warns that heirs and caregivers would have opportunities for abuse.” The Oregon assisted suicide law does not require an independent witness at the death. Most who die under the Oregon law are age 65-84, in a society where one in ten elders are abused according to federal figures. The abusers are usually family members. About half the people reported to use assisted suicide in Oregon did not have a health provider present at the time of death. With no independent witness required, there is no evidence that they self-administered the lethal drugs, or even that they consented at the time of death.
These policy proposals have to be considered in light of the sad reality that not all seriously ill people have loving family. These laws grant blanket immunity and effectively foreclose investigation of wrongdoing. As one elder law attorney, Margaret Dore, put it, they are a “recipe for abuse.
NDY advocates will be working with DREDF and Californians Against Assisted Suicide to defeat this bill, and any similar bills that may be introduced in any state in the U.S. As Marilyn so effectively summarizes, “If this bill passes, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

Assisted suicide: doctors should think twice before signing on

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Paul McHugh
Dr Paul McHugh, wrote a response to the recent push by the assisted suicide lobby to legalize assisted suicide, in an article that was published in the Wall Street Journal.

McHugh, a former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, points out that legalizing assisted suicide has gained some momentum, that previous momentum was crushed.

With backing from financier George Soros —a longtime supporter of “right to die” legislation—proponents are intent on expanding beyond Oregon, Vermont and Washington the roster of states where the practice is legal. Legislation to allow assisted suicide is moving through New Jersey’s statehouse, last month a New York legislator vowed to introduce a similar bill, and in California state Sens. Bill Monning and Lois Wolk are working to legalize the practice. 
... often in fights for good ideas, the bad ones—even when crushingly defeated, as when Michigan sent Kevorkian to prison in 1999—sidle back into the ring and you have to thrash them again.
McHugh points out that historically, assisted suicide has been pushed back:
Since ancient Greece physicians have been tempted to help desperate patients kill themselves, and many of those Greek doctors must have done so. But even then the best rejected such actions as unworthy and, as the Hippocratic Oath insists, contrary to the physician’s purpose of “benefiting the sick.” For reasons not too different, doctors traditionally refuse to participate in capital punishment; and, when they are inducted into military service, do not bear arms. 
Also, as Ian Dowbiggin showed in “A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America” (2003), physician-assisted suicide was periodically championed in the 20th century yet rejected time after time by American voters when its practical harms were comprehended. As recently as 2012, Massachusetts voters defeated an initiative to legalize assisted suicide.
McHugh then offers three reasons for opposing assisted suicide:
First: Once doctors agree to assist a person’s suicide, ultimately they find it difficult to reject anyone who seeks their services. The killing of patients by doctors spreads to encompass many treatable but mentally troubled individuals, as seen today in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. 
Second: When a “right to die” becomes settled law, soon the right translates into a duty. That was the message sent by Oregon, which legalized assisted suicide in 1994, when the state-sponsored health plan in 2008 denied recommended but costly cancer treatments and offered instead to pay for less-expensive suicide drugs. 
These intractable, recurrent drawbacks are but one side of the problematic transaction involved with assisted suicide. The other, more telling side is the way assisting in patients’ suicides hollows out the heart of the medical profession.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Assisted Suicide lobby group loses its charitable status

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Alex Schadenberg

The leading assisted suicide lobby group in Canada, has lost its charitable status.

In Canada, charities are allowed to allot 10% of their financial and time resources to political activities. The charities act defines political activity as lobbying and working to change Canadian law. 

The Canadian Press falsely inferred that Dying With Dignity lost its charitable status based on its opposition to government policies. Revenue Canada defines political activity, not based on whether they advocate for a particular political point of view, but rather because they are actively lobbying government for political change.

The Ottawa Citizen report appears more balanced:

Isn't assisted suicide really suicide?

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Nick Clegg
Yesterday Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister in the UK, announced at a mental health conference, the government's intention to reduce suicide to zero by working in cooperation with every part of the National Health Service and other agencies.

According to The Telegraph news, Clegg is modeling this suicide prevention program on the successful program that was implemented in Detroit Michigan. The article stated:

... every suicide is preventable if NHS trusts provide better care for people suffering from depression and other serious illnesses. 
The “zero suicides” target can be met through simple measures, such as keeping in touch with patients who have been discharged from mental health wards and creating a plan so that patients and their friends know whom to contact if they are placing themselves in danger. 
Police and transport agencies will be called on to examine whether safety measures can be put in place in “hot zones” where high numbers of suicides occur, such as shopping centres or bridges. 
The plans have been inspired by a mental health programme in Detroit, US, where a “zero suicide” commitment resulted in no-one in the care of state depression services taking their lives in two years.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and similar organizations encourages the UK government to implement a goal of ending suicide. We recognize that suicide is 100% preventable.

At the same time the British House of Lords continued their debate on Lord Falconer's assisted dying bill, a bill that proposes to legalize assisted suicide in the UK.

Kevin Yuill
In response to the assisted suicide debate, Dr Kevin Yuill asks the question - isn’t assisted dying really suicide? Yuill states in his article:

Yet the campaign against suicide throws up questions about assisted dying, which was debated in the House of Lords last week. Here we find another example of the “massive taboo” that people are scared to talk about. That is: isn’t assisted dying really suicide? How can we wage a war against suicide for some whilst encouraging it as a legitimate choice for others? ... it is difficult to argue that what is being proposed is not essentially suicide. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gov Christie will not sign New Jersey assisted suicide bill

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Gov. Chris Christie

During his monthly appearance on New Jersey 101.5’s “Ask the Governor” show on Thursday night, Governor Christie was asked by a female caller to rethink his opposition to physician assisted suicide, NJ.com reported.

Gov. Christie replied that he will consider it, but he is unlikely to sign it into law. He said:

"I understand that these are very, very difficult issues and I promise you that I will, if there’s any legislation that comes to my desk from the Legislature, that I will look at it and carefully consider it because of how important the issue is to so many people across the state." 
"But I also don’t want to mislead you," the governor said. "I have real concerns about this and it goes in line with my general philosophy, which is whether we’re talking about a drug-addicted teenager, whether we’re talking about homeless adults, whether we’re talking about someone suffering from mental illness, or someone suffering from physical illness, all life is precious and is a gift from God, and no life is disposable. That belief of mine. . .informs my policies in a lot of deferent ways, and always has."

"And so, we’ll certainly take a look at it, but I don’t want to give you false encouragement either — I have grave concerns about it," he added.
To encourage Gov. Christie to veto New Jersey assisted suicide bill sign our petition by clicking on the link below:

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill

More Information:

Dutch euthanasia clinic was 'careless' in the death of woman with tinnitus.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Levenseindekliniek euthanasia clinic, that is operated by the Dutch euthanasia lobby, has been reprimanded for a third time in the past year.

The NL Times reported that the euthanasia clinic was reprimanded in the euthanasia death of a woman with tinnitus (ear ringing). The Review Committee declared that the doctors were "careless."

According to the NL Times:

In the opinion of the review committee “the patient did not seem to be out of treatment options”. The physician of the Levenseindekliniek did too little research into alternative treatments to alleviate Olthuis’ suffering and “hence the hopelessness of suffering was not sufficiently established”. 
According to the committee, a more extensive psychiatric examination also should have been done.
This is the third time the Levenseindekliniek euthanasia clinic has been reprimanded this year. In April the Review Committee found that the mental competence of a depressed elderly woman should have been evaluated by a psychiatrist and in August the Review Committee found that the doctor did not substantiate the unbearable suffering of the patient.

I applaud the Review Committee for its attempt to control the euthanasia law, but due to the - after the death - reporting system in the Netherlands, these people are already dead.

It is even more concerning that since the introduction of the euthanasia law in 2002, there has never been a doctor prosecuted for abusing the law.

Recent statistics from the Netherlands indicate:
  • there 4829 assisted deaths in 2013 - a 15% increase from 2012,
  • there were 42 assisted deaths of people with psychiatric problems and 97 assisted deaths of people with dementia,
  • there are about 300 assisted deaths without request each year.
  • there are about 23% of all assisted deaths that are not reported to the Review Committee.
The term assisted deaths refers to either euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Links to more information:

Experts say: Scotland's assisted suicide bill will undermine suicide prevention efforts.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Herald newspaper in Scotland is reporting that experts are warning that the assisted suicide bill that is being debated in the Scottish parliament would undermine efforts to prevent suicide.

The Herald reported that:

A law that would legalise assisted suicide is facing growing opposition, as academics and ethicists raised fresh concerns that it would lead to the elderly being put under pressure to kill themselves. 
Figures within the medical profession have also raised new concerns that if the Bill currently making its way through Holyrood passes, it would undermine efforts to reduce suicides generally and open the door to euthanasia.
The article continued by quoting from the experts who submissions to the Scottish Health Committee on the assisted dying bill:
J Kenyon Mason Institute
The J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law, based at the University of Edinburgh, said in its submission that there were insufficient safeguards to protect patients "from coercion or undue influence in making decisions". 
... Robert Preston, director of Living and Dying Well, a research body established in 2010 to examine the evidence surrounding the end-of-life debate, claimed there was "no effective safeguarding system to protect the public and especially its most vulnerable members". 
He went on to argue that there are a number of important weaknesses in the Bill, including the lack of the need for a psychiatric assessment before an assisted suicide could take place. 
Mr Preston added: "In these days when home visits are not as common as was once the case, doctors often know little of their patients' lives beyond the consulting room. Yet the Bill is asking them to make life or death decisions without any objective assessment regime to guide them."
The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics stated:
labelled the proposals "dangerous" and said elderly and other vulnerable people may feel it is their "duty to die" as they are a burden or because their care was eating up family members' inheritance.
The Scottish government opposes the assisted dying bill but Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) will be given a free vote on the bill.

The previous assisted dying bill was sponsored by Margo MacDonald (MSP), that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Scotland was overwhelmingly defeated on Dec. 1, 2010 by a vote of 85 to 16.

The current assisted dying bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald (November 2013). After she died it was picked up by Patrick Harvie (MSP).

Links to more information:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Montero: Euthanasia in Belgium has expanded considerably

This article was originally published on the Hope Australia website on January 16, 2015.
When euthanasia was authorized twelve years ago in Belgium, it was presented as an ethical transgression, an exception reserved for extreme situations. Twelve years later, its scope has expanded considerably.” Montero.
Etienne Montero
Etienne Montero, Dean of the Faculty of Law of Namur was interviewed by Violante De Montclos for the French journal Le Point recently.

This is the translated text of the interview:

Montclos: For the first time, the law authorizing euthanasia in Belgium is being criticized. We talked with Etienne Montero about the case of Van Den Bleeken, of this "death penalty in reverse"...

Montero: The death of Frank Van Den Bleeken has not occurred, but after him, 15 other detainees have already made a request for lethal injection. It has been forgotten that in September 2012, a 48 year old psychiatric inmate was indeed euthanized ... Our country has been condemned 14 times by the European Court of Human Rights because we continue to hold such prisoners under conditions that do not correspond to their state of psychiatric patients judged responsible for their actions. This lack of care, being accepted as a reason for euthanasia, reveal how the barriers posed in 2002 have been jumped one after the other.
Montclos: Has the number of euthanasia deaths increased?
Montero: Exponentially, yes. In twelve years, it went from 199 to 1,454 deaths per year. And I speak here about the referrals (reports) from doctors to the Board of Control, as the authorities admit they have no way to assess the number of actually practiced euthanasia deaths, probably much more important. Furthermore, in November 2014, euthanasia was legally open to minors, regardless of their age ...
Montclos: How is the legality of lethal injections controlled?
Montero: By a commission that scrutinizes the files forwarded by the doctors. But it is an a posteriori review, that is to say, once people have already died, and the Commission only has at its disposal the information that the doctor is willing to provide. Everything is biased. Moreover, in twelve years, no records were sent to court ...

Assisted Suicide: “No amount of safeguarding will ever be enough”

The following article was published on the blog of the disability rights group Scope in the UK.

Juliet Marlow
Juliet Marlow, a disability rights campaigner and member of Not Dead Yet UK, explains why she is against legalising assisted suicide.

"I want support to live, not to die!"
By Juliet Marlow

Lord Falconer’s Private Member’s Bill proposing the legalisation of doctor-assisted suicide (AS) for those with six months or less to live will receive its third reading in the House of Lords today, Friday 16 January.

This isn’t the first time the matter has been debated. Every few years somebody will make the proposal only for it to be nervously put aside. But this time feels different. Despite its controversial nature it seems the idea has somehow caught public imagination and there is a very real chance that this time it could become law.

My name is Juliet. I’m 44, married, a PhD student and freelance writer. I sing in a rock/pop band and mostly love my life. I have been disabled since I was four; I use a wheelchair and rely on PAs to assist me with pretty much everything. I am also passionately opposed to the legalisation of AS.

On the surface, AS doesn’t look that unreasonable. People know that sick and disabled people have had to fight hard for control of our own lives so naturally they assume we want to control our deaths too.


Not Dead Yet

I am proud to belong to the anti-AS campaign group Not Dead Yet UK. Most of us have personal experience of disability and our reasons for opposing the Bill will vary. But our core arguments are that it is unnecessary and unsafe. No amount of safeguarding will ever be enough to protect all vulnerable people, all the time. And that is a terrifying thought for those of us who face illness and death every day.

Sympathy and fear are the pro-AS lobby’s weapons of choice. Sympathy is hard to fight because some of their campaigners genuinely want to try and prevent future suffering. Nevertheless, I respectfully suggest they have missed the point – it is society that robs people of a ‘good death’, not illness. With proper pain medication and decent patient-centred palliative care, a ‘good death’ can be had. It’s never easy but it can be effectively managed to prevent unnecessary suffering.

Fear is much harder to counteract. People will die in pain and distress unless the authorities ensure all terminally ill people get the palliative support they need. It is no coincidence that at a time of savage public funding cuts, the AS question has raised its ugly head again. It is because the misguided belief that society will always take care of its most vulnerable citizens has been tarnished, exposed as a lie.


Life not death

Our solution is not to control when and how we die, but to focus on life rather than death. We choose to campaign, protest and fight until the authorities introduce a cast-iron, needs-led end-of-life service that allows each of us to live to our natural end without pain and imagined ‘loss of dignity’.

The suggestion that dignity is lost through illness and can only be reclaimed by controlling the manner of your death is not only ignorant, but insulting to disabled people who have fought to build a meaningful life. If there is any loss of dignity then it is inflicted; it is not a natural state that can be avoided by dying early. I want support to live, not to die!

Disability rights leader opposes assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
"No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed that can prevent an outcome that can never be undone."
Yesterday, the Jewish Weekly news published an interview with Marilyn Golden, the Senior Policy Analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF).

Marilyn Golden
Golden comments on DREDF, disability rights and assisted suicide.

What is DREDF
DREDF is a foremost national law and policy center on disability civil rights. We work on policy such as the Americans with Disabilities Act — which I had the great honor of participating in the development of — and other training, technical assistance and disability rights litigation. I’ve been here since 1988.
You were honored this year by the White House as a transportation “Champion of Change.” What did you do specifically to earn that award? Did you go to the White House?
... I have spent a number of years pushing the envelope to have stronger civil rights protections in transportation for people with disabilities, whether we’re talking about bus, train, ADA paratransit or privately funded transportation. I wrote a number of guides [that] brought together all the information [and] emphasized the rights of people with disabilities. The ceremony was in the old executive office, near the White House, with the secretary of transportation conducting it.
With DREDF, you are also a strong voice against physician-assisted suicide. Why do you oppose it?
Because of direct threats to the disability community, but also because it’s a danger to everyone. People often think, “This is the right position for a liberal to take.” But it turns out that where assisted suicide is legal, some people will lose their lives without their consent through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed that can prevent an outcome that can never be undone
People often support it because they’re concerned about end of life pain, but, in fact, anybody dying in pain can avail themselves of something that’s already legal: palliative sedation. 
The disability community is very much at risk — as our lives are not deemed to be as valuable as others — but we’re not alone in the risk. There’s also significant risk of elder abuse. An heir or an abusive caregiver can steer the person toward assisted suicide, pick up the lethal dose and, in the end, even administer it to them because no witness is required at the death.
Assisted suicide articles by Marilyn Golden:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

If assisted dying is a medical treatment, then all are entitled to it – including convicted murderers.

This article was published by HOPE Australia on January 15, 2015.

By Paul Russell - The Director of Hope Australia

Kevin Yuill
Kevin Yuill in an article published in Spiked, reflects on the situation of the Belgian prisoner, Frank Van Den Bleeken. Van Den Bleeken was granted his requeswt for euthanasia only to have it cancelled days before it was to be carried out.

Yuill observes the hypocrisy of some in the British commentariat:
“British commentators were mainly aghast at what they saw as the reintroduction of the death penalty. Some objected to Van Den Bleeken’s death on the basis that he, as a prisoner, should not determine his own sentence. Others, such as barrister and ethicist Daniel Sokol, felt that Van Den Bleeken’s death would not be a voluntary act because he had been denied psychiatric treatment. Sokol also argued that ‘[a]llowing a prisoner, who is not terminally ill, to die by euthanasia has a whiff of the death penalty’. In other words, the same people who support Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill in the UK, as well as others who support right-to-die laws in the US, shuddered at the thought of granting the right to die to a prisoner.”
Frank Van Den Bleeken
However, if euthanasia is ‘medical treatment’ as it is often defined, Van Den Bleeken should rightfully be allowed access:
“Indeed, every country and state where voluntary death of one sort or another is legal allows it only as a medical procedure – with the exception of Switzerland, where it is legal for anyone with good motives to assist a suicide. As the UK organisation Health Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) notes: ‘Assisted dying should be just one of many options at the end of life… Those wanting an assisted death should be supported by their healthcare professionals to die.’ 
“Moreover, the criteria for who qualifies for an assisted death in Belgium is medically defined, as it is elsewhere, and is overseen and agreed by doctors. Even in Switzerland’s infamous Dignitas clinic, operations are overseen by a doctor and those who use the services are referred to as patients.”

Media Advisory: Disability Advocates Prepared to Oppose Flurry of State Assisted Suicide Bills Being Introduced in 2015

“If these bills pass, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse,”
Rochester, NY (PRWEB) January 15, 2015

Disability rights advocates are preparing to work in broad coalition with medical and other groups that oppose legalization of assisted suicide, as proponents announce plans to introduce bills in several states in the wake of Brittany Maynard’s tragic death. Representatives of Not Dead Yet, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund and Second Thoughts are available for interviews.

Marilyn Golden
... Disability advocates are deeply sympathetic to all people with a terminal illness, facing the difficulties that lie ahead. Legalization of assisted suicide can look acceptable and safe when the focus is solely on one individual. However, a closer examination of the issue reveals the immense harm legalization poses to vulnerable people, the elderly and society as a whole.

“If these bills pass, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse,” said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”
Assisted suicide legislation was defeated last year in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts by a broad coalition of disability rights organizations, medical associations and professionals, palliative care specialists, hospice workers and right to life groups. Similar coalitions are forming in many states in 2015 to oppose assisted suicide bills.

The following individuals are disability rights advocates who are experts and active on the issue of assisted suicide and able to speak on the record.

Marilyn Golden
Senior Policy Analyst
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Berkeley, CA
(510) 703-0696

John B. Kelly
Director
Second Thoughts
Boston, MA
(617) 536-5140

Diane Coleman
President/CEO
Not Dead Yet
Rochester, NY
(708) 420-0539


More information:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Assisted suicide makes a mockery of us as guardians of justice and compassion

The Herald Newspaper in Scotland published this commentary on January 13, 2015.
In the debate on assisted suicide, we are all ultimately on the same side: we all want to limit suffering.
Compassion motivates all those who are genuinely interested in the debate. There is all the difference, however, between limiting suffering and ending life.
Committed supporters of assisted suicide have to as ask themselves two fundamental questions. First, how much risk to the vulnerable are they prepared to accept in order to facilitate suicide by the invulnerable? Secondly, where to draw the line in determining what suffering "qualifies" for assisted suicide?

No safeguard can ever be 100 per cent effective. As well as the clear abuses, there would also be the inevitable subtle pressures on those whose illness or condition met the criteria. On a recent BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in, Michael, who has motor neurone disease, explained how he is asked several times a week whether he would consider assisted suicide.
He said: "It makes one feel like I should be contemplating it for sake of the health service or my family watching what I'm going through. And I'm afraid that it will extend into the social conscience that people almost expect assisted dying."
There is a real danger of this societal pressure subtly eroding free choice from within. And this is something that no safeguard could ever protect against. Legalising an action normalises it so that it often becomes expected.

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