Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Banned execution drug is used to kill people with disabilities in Belgium.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On Friday I published an article on a study concerning 100 requests for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in Belgium.
Lieve Thienport, the psychiatrist who approved the euthanasia death of "Laura" the 24-year-old physically healthy Belgian woman who lives with suicidal thoughts is also the psychiatrist who examined the 100 people who requested euthanasia in this study.

A Medical Daily report, concerning the same study also focussed on the drugs that are used for euthanasia in Belgium.

The  Medical Daily report explains that the euthanasia drug of choice in Belgium was banned by the European Union to stop executions in the United States. From the article:
To end their lives usually at home or in a hospital, the majority used sodium thiopental, the researchers reported. This barbiturate, ... is commonly known as the first of three lethal injection drugs administered to American prisoners who are executed under a death sentence. In 2011, Hospira Inc., the only company still making the drug at that time, stopped production at its Italian plant when the European Union banned export of the barbiturate as a way to end executions in the United States. However, this same drug has been chosen as Belgium’s standard protocol for euthanasia. 
The study indicates that people with disabilities are far more likely to die by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. According to the study euthanasia for psychiatric reasons included people with Autism and people with eating disorders. From the study:
Most of the patients suffered from a treatment-resistant mood disorder (n=58, including 48 with major depressive disorder and 10 with bipolar disorder) and/or a personality disorder (n=50), while 29 patients had both. 
Other psychiatric diagnoses included post-traumatic stress disorder (n=13), schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders (n=14), anxiety disorders (n=11), eating disorders (n=10), substance use disorders (n=10), somatoform disorders (n=9), pervasive developmental disorders (n=8; including 7 with Asperger syndrome—an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—and 1 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), obsessive–compulsive disorders (n=7), dissociative disorders (n=7) and complicated grief (n=6), among others.
People with disabilities are right to be concerned about euthanasia.

Canadian government consultation on legislative options for Assisted Dying begins.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

The consultation website is now online.

On July 17, the Canadian government announced the appointment of an expert panel to examine the Supreme Court of Canada assisted suicide decision, to enable groups and individuals to be part of a consultation and to make recommendations to the government concerning legislative options for assisted suicide legislation.

The panel is composed of: Dr Harvey Chochinov, a psychiatrist and palliative care leader, Catherine Frazee, a disability rights leader and past co-director of disability studies at Ryerson University, and Benoit Pelletier, a member of the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa.

The consultation website is now online in English and Francais.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is urging all of our supporters to "sign up" for the consultation notifications on the main page of the consultation website and entering the required information.

EPC urges every group and individual to submit their thoughts to the consultation. The euthanasia lobby is also urging their members to get involved.

Talking Points:
  • People with disabilities, frail elderly people and others who are dependent on others for their basic needs can be subtly pressured.
  • Elder abuse has become a scourge on our culture. Euthanasia may become the ultimate form of elder abuse.
  • Euthanasia has accepted for depression or other psychiatric reasons in Belgium and the Netherlands. These are people who need help not death.
  • Canadians need better end-of-life care. Caring Not Killing.
  • The law needs to protect Canadians, especially when we are at the most vulnerable time of our lives.
It is important for you to state your opinion now.

Links to resource articles to help you respond to the consultation.

Killing for Organs

This article was published on Wesley Smith's blog on July 28, 2015.

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

We are a society of public policy promise breakers. Advocates for radical transformations in law and culture promise their proposed changes will be constrained and regulated by strict guidelines. 

Then, when the policy becomes law, it is often Katy bar the door and the old promises are forgotten. 

That pattern has not played out with organ transplant medicine. Yet. 

Not for lack of trying. Many in bioethics and the transplant field want to break the important promise solemnly made that vital organs would only be taken from patients who are dead. This is known as the “dead donor rule.” 

But with the backlog of organs growing due to fewer catastrophic brain injuries and improvements in transplant medicine, the utilitarians want to make the dead donor rule dead (as I have written about often over recent years). 

The latest promise breaker pusher is Walter Glannon, a Canadian bioethicist, writing in the philosophical journal Aeon. First, Gannon says honoring patient choice to be killed and harvested is more important than that the patient actually be dead first. 

Glannon has a whole list of people who could be killed for their organs. First sophistry, taking kidneys before death, and pretending it doesn’t actually cause death. From the piece
In a protocol developed by the transplant surgeon Paul Morrissey at Brown University in Rhode Island, for instance, kidneys can be taken from patients while they are alive because doing this does not cause brain death or heart death. Death is declared after the kidneys, and then life-support, are removed. This scheme applies only to kidneys, though, and is thus limited. 
I was unaware this is happening. If so, “scheme” is the right word since it is crass sophistry that pretends that the taking of the kidneys would not cause death. Ironically, kidneys don’t deteriorate as fast as other organs. So, this seems to me a gambit to destroy the DDR. It should be stopped. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

CA Judge: No right to Assisted Suicide in California.

This article was published by Wesley Smith on his blog on June 24.
Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith

Assisted suicide advocates care about results, not methods. If they can’t win in legislatures or in a popular vote, they try to have a judge impose their will.

Two such cases have been filed in California. One trial judge nixed the assertion that there is a right to assisted suicide. From the Times of San Diego story:
Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack said the case was not about the “right to die” but whether a law making assisted suicides in California illegal was constitutional. Pollack said appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have made a distinction between “letting a person die and making a person die.” “You can’t do that (make a person die) in California,” the judge said
Lest anyone cheer too loudly, the other case was filed in San Francisco–where anything can happen.

Of course there will be an appeal!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Study: 100 requests for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in Belgium.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a "study" on July 28, 2015 examining 100 requests for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in Belgium. 

Four of the six authors of 
the study are connected to the euthanasia clinic in Belgium.

Wim Distlemans operates the euthanasia clinic in Belgium, and Lieve Thienpont, Kurt Audenaert, Peter P De Deyn work with the euthanasia clinic. 

Distelmans has been connected to many of the high profile euthanasia deaths, including Godelieva De Troyer, the mother of Tom Mortier.

Thienport is the psychiatrist who approved the euthanasia death in the recent story of "Laura" the 24-year-old physically healthy Belgian woman who lives with suicidal thoughts. 

Thienport was the psychiatrist who examined the 100 people who requested euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. 

Link to a Youtube video of Thienport speaking about the study.

The stated objectives of the study are: 
first, to report on characteristics of psychiatric patients requesting euthanasia because of psychological suffering; and second, to describe the formal assessment procedures and outcomes of the euthanasia requests. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the determinants, procedures and outcomes of euthanasia requests in a relatively large group of psychiatric patients with psychological suffering.
The objectives of this study should state: 
this study was written to justify lethal injection for people who are healthy but living with psychological suffering in Belgium. 
It is possible that Distelmans and Thienport designed the study in defense of the practice of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons after receiving complaints.

What did the study find?

The "study" examines 100 consecutive requests for euthanasia at a psychiatric out-patient clinic between October 2007 and December 2011. The analysis of the data closed in December 2012. The data states:
  • 77 euthanasia requests were made by woman, 23 were men,
  • of the 48 approved requests, 35 died by euthanasia, 
  • 1 died by palliative sedation (sedation with withdrawal of water),
  • the average age was 47,
  • 58 were depressed, 50 had a personality disorder,
  • 12 were autistic, 13 had post traumatic stress disorder, 11 had anxiety disorder, 10 had an eating disorder, and more
The study begins by promoting the "safeguards" in the Belgian euthanasia law and explaining how the safeguards for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons follows tighter guidelines. The first section of the study takes pains to convince the readers that euthanasia is carefully done in Belgium.

It then examines the data from the reported euthanasia deaths indicating that the number of reported euthanasia deaths has been increasing in Belgium from 742 (2004/2005) to 2086 (2010/2011). Belgian statistics indicate that there was a 26% increase in euthanasia deaths in 2013.

The study suggests that an increase in reporting of euthanasia, a requirement of the Belgian euthanasia law, may be reflected in the increased number of reported euthanasia deaths.
"This rise over a 6-year period may reflect a true increase or better reporting of cases of euthanasia."
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) (March 19, 2015) found that euthanasia represented 4.6% of all deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium in 2013, while the official reports indicate that euthanasia represented 2.4% of all deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium in 2013.

When comparing the NEJM (March 2015) data (Jan - June 2013) from Flanders Belgium to the data in a previous study that was published in the BMJ (November 2010) (June - Dec 2007) from Flanders Belgium, it appears that the percentage of unreported euthanasia deaths is statistically unchanged between 2007 (47%) and 2013 (49%).

Last year, Dr Marc Cosyns, a Belgian euthanasia doctor, admitted that he does not report his euthanasia deaths. With nearly half of all euthanasia deaths not being reported one can safely conclude that the "safeguards" in the Belgian euthanasia law are often ignored.

The study continues to suggest that the Belgian euthanasia law is careful. The study states:
Legally, the physician is required to discuss the wishes of the patient with the relatives named by the patient. Consent from the relatives is not required, and the attending physician needs the patient’s permission to inform family members of the euthanasia request.
This statement may be a response to complaints by families. Tom Mortier was shocked when his depressed mother died by lethal injection, and that her  family was not informed of her impending death.

People with disabilities are more likely to die by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

Of the 100 requests for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, 81 of them were not employed (8 were retired, 73 were receiving disability allowances or retired early), 14 were working or on a temporary leave, 1 was a student, 1 was in prison, and 1 was on welfare. Primarily, these were people with disabilities who are receiving a disability allowance

The study does not examine whether the person also had physical disabilities but it indicates that people with disabilities disproportionately die by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

Euthanasia as "treatment" for psychiatric reasons:

The study states that:
  • 38 people who requested euthanasia for psychiatric reasons were referred for further testing. Out of these, 17 of them were approved for lethal injection and 10 died by euthanasia.
  • 62 people who requested euthanasia for psychiatric reasons were not referred for further testing. Out of these, 31 were approved for lethal injection and 25 died by euthanasia.
  • 35 of 48 people who were approved for lethal injection died by euthanasia. The 13 people, in this group, who did not die by euthanasia, 8 changed their mind, 2 withdrew their application based on family response, 2 died by suicide and 1 was in prison.
  • 65 people did not die by euthanasia. By the end of 2012, 57 were alive, 48 of the 57 cases were on hold based on the person receiving therapy or not needing therapy, 9 of these cases the euthanasia request was still being considered.
  • of the 35 people who died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons, 14 of them were lethally injected by a doctor at the euthanasia clinic.
The authors should have collected further data for the 57 people who were alive at the end of 2012. Since the study was published in July 2015 and since all of the participants were Lieve Thienpont's patients, therefore further information would have been available and helpful, if the authors had wanted the study to be valid.

Psychological suffering?

The study concludes by pointing out that the concept of "unbearable suffering" is subjective and undefined. The study states:
A literature review made clear that the concept of ‘unbearable suffering’ has not yet been defined adequately, and that views on this concept are in a state of flux. It is generally accepted that this concept is considered to be subjective, dependent on personal values, and that it must be determined in the first place by the patient.
Unbearable suffering for psychological reasons is even be more subjective and undefined, as stated by the study:
Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for the management of euthanasia requests on grounds of mental suffering in Belgium.
To reiterate, this "study" has been carried-out by members of the euthanasia movement. All of the requests for euthanasia were made by people who were patients of Lieve Thienpont, a psychiatrist who works with Wim Distlemans at the euthanasia clinic.

This may be the first study to examine the experience with euthanasia for psychological pain, but it is also a study that appears to have been done to create more acceptance of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

Netherlands euthanasia clinic specializes in psychiatric patients.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Dutch media has reported that the Netherlands euthanasia clinic euthanised 18 people with psychiatric conditions in the first half of this year, more than double the number of psychiatric euthanasia deaths in 2014.

The media reported:

In the first six months of this year, 18 people with severe psychiatric problems have been helped to die at a special euthanasia clinic, the NRC said on Thursday. 
This is more than double the total figure of 17 in 2014 as a whole, the clinic’s first half figures show. 
In addition, almost 100 psychiatric patients are on the waiting list for help, the NRC said. This is because of a shortage of psychiatrists to make the assessments and manage the requests. 
The clinic was set up in 2012 to help people whose doctors are unwilling to grant euthanasia requests, and operates a nationwide network of teams made up of doctors and nurses.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition predicted that the Dutch euthanasia clinic would focus on people with disabilities, those who lacked mobility and those with psychiatric conditions.

The 2013 Netherlands euthanasia report stated that there were 42 reported euthanasia deaths of people with psychiatric problems and 97 reported euthanasia deaths of people with dementia. The number of reported euthanasia deaths was up by 15% to 4829 in 2013.

Theo Boer
Last year, Professor Theo Boer, an ethicist and nine year member of a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands, stated:
I used to be a supporter of legislation. But now, with twelve years of experience, I take a different view.

At the very least, wait for an honest and intellectually satisfying analysis of the reasons behind the explosive increase in the numbers. Is it because the law should have had better safeguards? Or is it because the mere existence of such a law is an invitation to see assisted suicide and euthanasia as a normality instead of a last resort? Before those questions are answered, don’t go there.
Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.
It appears that the euthanasia genie is out of the bottle in the Netherlands. Let us take Professor Boer's advice by rejecting euthanasia everywhere.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Job Opportunity: (EPC) - Office Assistant.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is hiring a full time Office Assistant to start in September. Our current staff is leaving for further studies.

This position requires many office skills including:

  • Receive direction and assignments from the executive director and the accountant,
  • Answer phones and take messages,
  • Competency in WordPerfect, Microsoft Office package and other computer skills,
  • Updating, maintaining and searching database,
  • Preparing for newsletter mailings and other special mailings,
  • Fulfilling orders for materials by phone, email and in-person,
  • Maintain inventory, and provide an accurate physical count of inventory,
  • Record daily receipts in database and receipt book, process payments for orders, 
  • Send out thank you letters to donors,
  • Experience with Sage 50 or Simply Accounting is an asset.
  • Bilingual in French and English is an asset.
Send resume to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) at:
Box 25033, London Ontario N6C 6A8 or Email: info@epcc.ca

Canada’s euthanasia legislation: From the perspective of a Canadian with disabilities

The following article was published by Ottawa Life Magazine on July 23.

Peter McGrath, a Counsel in the Department of Justice, gives
his opinion from the perspective of a Canadian with a disability.
By Peter McGrath

On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s assisted suicide law, opening the door to physician-assisted suicide. This is an incredibly complex topic, one fraught with moral and ethical issues. Peter McGrath, a Counsel in the Department of Justice, gives his opinion from the perspective of a Canadian with a disability:

There are valid points to both sides of the debate on Canada’s euthanasia legislation. Steven Fletcher — a Member of Parliament from Winnipeg with a disability — is the most visible proponent of physician-assisted suicide in Canada. Some would argue his position has merit. Many people with disabilities live in fear of not being able to control the end of their lives. Poorly funded palliative care combined with the possible inability to make one’s wishes clear has led to many people living painful lives.

The occasional media horror story has magnified those fears tenfold. But isn’t the answer to fix the system, rather to provide people with a lethal end? Isn’t the answer to think beyond causing death and provide all of us — including people with disabilities — with dignified lives?

People with disabilities live far from inclusive lives in Canadian society. With low levels of education and employment, inadequate housing and transportation services, and even a medical system that is not designed to handle our needs, people with disabilities have a long way to go to be considered equal members of our society.

The new euthanasia legislation is intended to provide some level of control over ending our lives, yet it’s sad that we’ve achieved equality in death before we’ve achieved equality in life. In Canada, like much of the world, people with disabilities do not have sufficient access to education, transportation, housing, medical care, employment, or recreation and leisure activities.

First and foremost, what Canadians with disabilities seek is an end to inequality and an end to the lack of access to the basic quality of life enjoyed by average Canadians.

The positioning of people with disabilities in euthanasia legislation is somewhat off-putting. It is as if to say we define people with disabilities as suffering, and now they can have the option to end their life. People with disabilities are as much or more interested in their rights to life, because being disabled means living with a disability; it doesn’t necessarily mean dying with a disease.

All too frequently, people with disabilities can recount a time when a well-intended medical professional said to their parents that the disabled life of this baby or injured child would be one of suffering and perhaps not worth living. In effect, we have provided those children with disabilities the means to die before they have the means to live.

Physically and/or developmentally Canadians with disabilities remain a marginalized segment of Canadian society. Our interests lie far more in rights to leading productive lives of equality, rather than achievement in ending of life options.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Belgium's sad assisted suicide path.

Published by OneNewsNow on July 22.

By Charlie Butts

Alex Schadenberg
An expert on the subject contends that Belgium provides ample evidence of the room to abuse euthanasia and assisted suicide after it is legalized.

Sign the letter of Hope to Laura.

One case in question is a 24-year-old woman in Belgium who has received permission to have her doctor kill her this summer. The reason is that she has experienced suicidal thoughts since childhood. Alex Schadenberg of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International tells OneNewsNow that although her disorder is treatable, she decided to request suicide for another reason.
“In fact, you have the sad reality of a woman who has been suffering with suicidal thoughts, but at the same time she had a friend who also died by euthanasia,” he says. “You put the two together and [can see that] she's seeking to follow that same sad path. What she needs is someone who really wants to support her, who is going to journey with her, who is going to give her good counseling and support. She doesn't need death.”
He says that's how far down the path to a death mentality Belgium has gone, offering a lethal injection for someone who has treatable depression.
“Once you allow killing for one reason, there are many reasons people might want to die,” he says. “The only question is what are we going to say yes or no to, and in Belgium they've gone far down that road. It is better never to enter that road.”
Schadenberg says that's a warning not only to the United States but also to Canada, where doctor-assisted suicide was legalized this year by Supreme Court edict.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

TV Ontario promotes assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Ontario government funds, TV Ontario,  a broadcaster that has scheduled to air the one-sided documentary "Gloria and Me", on July 29. The documentary is about Gloria Taylor, the woman whose case led to the dangerous and irresponsible Supreme Court decision that struck down Canada's laws protecting people from euthanasia and assisted suicide.

EPC does not oppose TV Ontario airing "Gloria and Me" but rather we oppose the one-sided promotion of euthanasia and assisted suicide by the media. TV Ontario is primarily funded by the Ontario government.

Send emails or phone TV Ontario (link) expressing your opposition to airing a one-sided documentary without providing equal time by airing a program against euthanasia and assisted suicide. They could at least have set-up a debate after the airing of the program.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are issues of life and death. It is in the public interest to always air all sides of this issue.

Link to a previous TVO program from 2011 that was fair and balanced.