Tuesday, May 5, 2015

South African Health Minister determined to stop assisted suicide

This article was published on the HOPE Australia website on May 4, 2015.
Paul Russell
By Paul Russell - Director of Hope Australia

In welcome news today from South Africa's News 24, the Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, signalled an appeal to a recent court ruling that allowed for Assisted Suicide in the African nation.

The recent court ruling on an appeal by Pretorian Lawyer, Robin Stransham-Ford, that he be allowed to die by assisted suicide or euthanasia effectively struck a broad blow to the protection of human persons in South Africa because, contrary to the assertions of the judge, his decision was not limited to the person in question. Effectively, Judge Fabricius legislated from the bench.

Aaron Motsoaledi
In the article, Motsoaledi presented a cogent defence of the opposition to both assisted suicide and euthanasia:
“This judgment has the potential to give rise to fraud and unethical behaviour among doctors,” Motsoaledi said. 
“Very soon we will start hearing stories of families colluding with doctors to end the life of their loved ones because they wanted to cash in on insurance policies. Some people may even start planning their deaths because they know that their policies are maturing. 
“We can’t have that situation in South Africa because it would be difficult to police and deal with. To prevent it, we must stop it before it goes any further,” he said.
The article said that, 'So determined is the health minister to stop the decriminalisation of assisted suicide that he is prepared to go to the Constitutional Court to fight the ruling passed in favour of Advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, who wanted to be helped to die.'

It went on: 

Let’s have a big conversation on assisted suicide in Ireland – open, honest and balanced.

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Director of EPC - International and HOPE Ireland.
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Brendan O’Connor has thought about Bernadette Forde’s death more deeply than most. (Ireland’s Sunday Independent May 3 2015), though his conclusions are still wrong.

Forde was failed, miserably. But not by the lack of a euthanasia/ assisted suicide law. That is still the wrong answer to the right questions.

For a ‘big conversation’ about the complex subject of euthanasia/assisted suicide to work, it must be open, honest and balanced at all turns, not just in rare articles by more intelligent journalists - who still go badly wrong.

O’Connor chose to reinforce the dreadful idea that ‘this, or any disabled life is not worth living’. The vast majority of people with multiple sclerosis do not commit suicide or even want to (never mind the rest of us disabled people). It is not just because Forde was battling multiple sclerosis that she fell into despair, enough to want to commit suicide. By all reports, she had no real nursing care let alone very good palliative care; and she was isolated from her family apart from one niece.

Disabled people are a minority amongst those who come to suicide. Tragically, it is mostly younger, non-disabled men who find themselves in what is surely the loneliest place on the planet. But when we can we try to help them, prevent the ultimate act of despair.

So again and again, why is our reaction to disabled people so different from when an otherwise ‘healthy’ person says ‘I am going to commit suicide’? The insidious notion that obviously a disabled life is not worth living is so, so dangerous and damaging. It is actually rank disability discrimination. And it is the other side of the terrible coin of treating disabled people as ‘useless mouths’. Look what cashing that coin led to in Germany. nd that is where the ‘big’ conversation needs to be honest.

Bernadette Forde deserved better. But the better she deserved was absent.

The rest of us, disabled people especially, also deserve better, but the easy acceptance that our disabled lives are not worth living is not it. Nor is the easy jump to the false notion that the only, right answer to suffering is to end the life of the sufferer, and to give all those involved legal immunity.

We all wish for the ‘velvet cushion death’ O’Connor describes - but we must not romanticise it. Not every relative gathered at every bedside is there out of pure love. Not everyone gets to have a home death – in our time, not even many do.

Dr Ira Byock
The ‘dying role’ is extremely important. I c
ommend O’Connor for having read Ira Byock; would that more journalists took his lead. But our rituals are not merely some shallow attempt to comfort ourselves. The shallow idea is that we are more sophisticated in our time. That is the mistake Frazer famously made in the Golden Bough. Beware the ‘god’ of science. We do not become better people by developing more science. These rituals reflect something that can be described as the ‘majesty’ of death, its role in our lives. Today, we too often treat death as though it were like stepping off a bus. In a Kleenex generation everything is disposable.

To his credit, O’Connor speaks about some of these ‘higher-level’ concerns: how dying in our own clothes, at home, and done well, can be a profound and intimate death, for the loving living, maybe even for the person dying. That is where the majesty of death can lie.

Forde committed suicide. That she was left in such a state, where she came to believe suicide was her only option, is terrible. That is ‘our’ failure. Not that she should have committed suicide in a foreign death clinic at ten grand a pop, or that a law, endangering so many others to death should be absent.

Monday, May 4, 2015

New York Bill S4794 Promotes Involuntary Euthanasia by Dehydration

By Dr Jacqueline C. Harvey

Dr Jacqueline Harvey
While the battle rages over assisted suicide, many forget that in 1990, the United States Supreme Court allowed involuntary euthanasia by dehydration and starvation. First, by declaring artificially-administered food and water (ANH) as a form of “life support” and then, granting third parties the ability to remove ANH (feeding tubes) from persons with disabilities, it became effectively legal to deny a human being food and water against their will in the United States. While the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International’s efforts in the U.S. to reform this issue at the state-level are proceeding with encouraging momentum (Texas House Bill 3074, passed unanimously out of committee up for a floor vote in coming days), Senator Kemp Hannon in New York has launched an effort to make it easier to remove a feeding tube against the patient’s will and cause a death by dehydration. It appears that the euthanasia lobby, who want to kill by dehydration and starvation, are marching forward.

In spite of the Nancy Cruzan case, which granted authority to third-parties to remove food and water, ANH is pervasively considered such ordinary care that states have explicitly written into their law strict safeguards against unilateral removal. The Cruzan standard was that, in the absence of a written advance directive, the healthcare decision maker can remove life support, including food and water if they present “clear and convincing evidence” that this was the will of the patient. This was used to kill Nancy by dehydration over 12 days. In New York, Senator Hannon is attempting to flout this standard by striking the section of the law that demands an agent be aware of the patient’s desire to die by starvation and dehydration before condemning them to die that long, lingering death. Senate Bill 4794 would grant an agent decision-making authority to dehydrate a patient even when the patient’s wishes are not known and cannot be determined:

Section 3. Subdivision 2 of section 2982 of the public health law, as amended by chapter 230 of the laws of 2004, is amended to read as follows: 
2. Decision making standard. After consultation with a licensed physician, registered nurse, licensed psychologist, licensed master social worker, the agent shall make health care decisions: (a) in accordance with the principal's wishes, including the principal's religious and moral beliefs; or (b) if the principal's wishes are not reasonably known and cannot with reasonable diligence be ascertained, in accordance with the principal's best interests; provided, however, that if the principal's wishes regarding the administration of artificial nutrition and hydration are not reasonably known and cannot  with reasonable diligence be ascertained, the agent shall not have the authority to make decisions regarding these measures.
S4794 would amend the law to clarify that oral feeding is not applicable, a surprising addition. EPC has been involved with legal efforts to ensure patients with dementia are given food and water by mouth when family members object and perhaps see the person as better off dead. But it is important to note that an inability to swallow is an arbitrary standard. Several scenarios can inhibit a patient’s ability to swallow. Anyone requiring only a feeding tube is not brain dead, but often brain injured, like this man whose wife was encouraged to discontinue his feeding tube, but awakened from his coma and is recovering from his brain injury day-by-day. Even fully-conscious people may require tube feeding. In Britain, for example, a man named Leslie Burke with cerebral ataxia petitioned the court to prevent the removal of feeding tube after he lost the ability to request it, fearing an agonizing death that in another famous tragic case, Terri Schindler Schiavo, died after 13 days.

While conscious people and Mr. Burke could make their wishes known, those who do not explicitly declare their wish not to be denied food and water could be legally denied food and water. Instead of erring on the side of life, S4794 grants full life-and-death decision making capability into the hands of someone who may not know what the patient would want nor have any way to determine that information.

If S4794 passes, New York will usher in dehydration by default and all people will be at risk. Please contact Senator Kemp and declare your opposition to S4794 at: hannon@nysenate.gov

Level-headed assisted suicide debate based on real evidence, not misplaced emotion.

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Director of EPC - International and HOPE Ireland.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
Emer O’Kelly writes emotionally in the Irish Sunday Independent about Marie Fleming.

Marie was my friend and colleague in Swansea University for several years. At times we ‘colluded’ – the Northern Irish Two against the world – in the nicest and fun way of course.

I had already been disabled for twenty years when we met. My catastrophic change to wheelchair user came in an instant, collateral damage in a war I had no hand in. We did not know Marie was to become a wheelchair user herself, through progressive multiple sclerosis.

I joined Not Dead Yet UK, a loose coalition of disabled people, at the request of its founder Baroness Jane Campbell, friend, fellow Disability Rights Commissioner, and herself a lifelong disabled activist. I had visited the idea of suicide myself seriously, so I was unsure how I felt about euthanasia/assisted suicide. I began researching. When I uncovered for myself what exactly is going on where the act of taking another’s life is legal, I was horrified.

I have since appeared in front of many highly emotionally-charged audiences, extremely hostile to my opposition to legalisation. I am not usually afforded the courtesy of time to explain my position, constantly shouted down by angry people, including supposedly impartial journalists.

What most audiences, and what Emer O’Kelly fails to understand is that opposition to legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide is not about some cruel desire to stand in Tom or Marie’s way.

Disabled people reflect the views of the people around them, just as much as a studio audience, for example. So it is understandable that some disabled people think they should be allowed to die by euthanasia or to have someone else assist them to commit suicide. I can respect this and understand their fears of a painful death or of not wishing to be a burden on others. But I can still oppose such legislation for reasons of its terrible consequences.

Euthanasia/assisted suicide is an act that affects not just the individuals involved. The threats and awful consequences arrive once any third party is legally allowed to enter into the end-of-life decisions of another human being, whether spouse or close family member, doctor or carer or total stranger. Why is reaction to disabled people saying I want to die so different from when a healthy person says ‘I am going to commit suicide’?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Incompetent woman euthanized in the Netherlands.

This article was written Jeanne Smits and published by LifeSiteNews on April 30, 2015 

An 80 year-old woman in the Netherlands was euthanized last week after her family obtained a court order obliging the care facility for the elderly where she was living to let her leave in order to fulfill her “death wish.” The woman was incapable of expressing her will. She was legally killed one day after having left the Clinic “Ter Reede” in Flushing. The management, medical staff, and the woman’s general practitioner were all opposed to the euthanasia.

The case marks a milestone in the slippery slope of legal euthanasia in the Netherlands. For the first time, a court has overridden a doctor’s decision not to euthanize a patient because of his or her mental incapacitation, ordering measures to be taken for euthanasia to take place anyway. The “End of Life Clinic” took over at the family’s request to perform the act – whether in her former home or in that of her relatives is not clear. It was also involved in the euthanasia request itself.

Little is known about the woman’s condition. She was not staying in a hospital, but in one of the establishments of “WVO” (Werkt voor Ouderen : “works for the elderly”). The Clinic “Ter Reede” caters for the demented, offering them individual studios, a supermarket, a library, a café, a hairdresser’s, and even a shop selling old-fashioned Dutch sweets, as well as catering, help with domestic chores and entertainment.

Some sources say the woman was very ill. But the nature of her illness has not been revealed: it seems safe to assume that she was at least suffering from some form of dementia. Campaigns led by the “Right to die” association in Holland, NVVE, encourage elderly people in the Netherlands to make their wishes known beforehand in the event of losing their mental capacity, especially in the case of their becoming demented. The fear of losing the ability to recognize family members or of being placed in a specialized center are among the reasons given by the elderly who leave advance directives in view of euthanasia.

Most doctors in the Netherlands refuse to act on advance directives when patients have lost their ability to express their own will.

In this woman’s case, an emergency proceeding was initiated by her family in Middelburg, near Vlissingen in the south-west, once the clinic “Ter Reede” had refused to let her be euthanized there or anywhere else. The clinic’s management and the association WVO argued that the woman’s personal doctor as well as the house psychologist had found her incapable of expressing her will, and asked for an independent enquiry to be made into the woman’s condition. The judge refused, and ordered the clinic to hand her over to her family.

The clinic appealed the decision. But on learning that the woman was to be killed within a very short time, “Ter Reede” and WVO initiated a second emergency procedure in Utrecht in order to issue a stay of execution of the first court order until the affair would come before the appeals court in May, arguing that an “emergency situation” had arisen.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

South African court decision approves death by lethal injection

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Justice Hans Fabricius of the South Africa High Court signed a court order approving the euthanasia death of Robin Stransham-Ford who was living with Prostate Cancer.

Eyewitness News in South Africa reported that Robin Stransham-Ford died from his medical condition the morning of the decision. It is interesting that the timing of the court order was the same day as his death.

Justice Fabricius legislated from the bench by withdrawing protections in law from euthanasia and assisted suicide. Even though Fabricius claimed that this decision was exclusive to this situation, he in fact decided that judge's had the power to decide whether a person should be protected in law or allowed to be killed.

The court order states that Stransham-Ford, can:
be assisted by a qualified medical doctor, who is willing to do so, to end his life, either by administration of a lethal agent (euthanasia) or by providing the Applicant with the necessary lethal agent to administer himself (assisted suicide).
The court order continues by stating that doctors are not obligated to accede to the request but the doctor that does accede to the request shall not be subject to prosecution.

According to the Citizen News:
Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesperson for the Justice Minister, said the Minister intended would apply for leave to appeal against the ruling, but could only do so when Judge Fabricius gave reasons for his ruling on Monday.
Justice Fabricius claimed that his decision was an exception to the law, but his decision actually challenges the validity of the law.

Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide gives one group of people, usually physicians, the right in law to cause the death of another group of people. The law needs to equally protect every citizen, especially when they are in a vulnerable time of their life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Canadians are sick of the broken medical system.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article concerning a Cardus report entitled Reframing the end-of-life conversation in Canada  that is published in the London Free Press and written by Kate Dubinski and Randy Richmond, confirms past Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) polls remain accurate. The Cardus report was released in Ottawa today makes suggestions for changes to end-of-life care in Canada.

According to the London Free Press article the Cardus report states:
Nearly three-quarters of Canadians don’t think they or their loved ones will receive the “comfort and support” they want and expect when facing a life-threatening illness or death, the poll commissioned by think-tank Cardus found. 
The poll findings show the need for most Canadians to think of an end-of-life plan before they’re forced to and when it may be too late, said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus. 
“Lots of worthwhile things are being done, but we are still in a situation where 75% of Canadians are saying they want to die at home, surrounded by their natural caregiver, and 70% end up dying in hospital,” said Pennings, due to release a related report on end-of-life care Wednesday.
The London Free Press article continues:
People are frustrated. The health-care system is beyond failing. It has failed,” said Michelle Gatt, a seniors advocate in London. 
“We used to be seen as a leader in health care in the world. Now, we can’t even make the top 10.” 
Canada’s health care is like an old bicycle that’s been broken for years, said Kelly Meloche, a Windsor businessperson who helps Canadians get health care across the border. 
“We just keep trying to ride the broken bike,” she said. “It’s grim.”
EPC polls indicate that few Canadians strongly support euthanasia or assisted suicide and that support for euthanasia is based on a fear of a bad death. According to the Nanos poll that was conducted for Cardus, 73% of Canadians don't expect to receive the help they need from the healthcare system. It is this fear of suffering that drives support for euthanasia.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Will the Canadian government protect people from assisted suicide?

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC)

The Canadian Press is reporting that the federal government may not introduce a bill to protect Canadians from assisted suicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) responded to the irresponsible and dangerous Supreme Court decision by urging the Federal government to use the notwithstanding clause and to call a Royal Commission to protect people with disabilitieselders who live with abuse, depressed and suicidal people and others. It is not safe to give doctors, the right in law, assisted the suicide of their patients.

Opposing the Supreme Court of Canada assisted suicide decision.

EPC asked its members to write letters to Justice Minister Hon. Peter MacKay and their Members of Parliament, or to sign the online petition or to send a Give us time! post-card calling for a Royal Commission on assisted suicide and the use of the Notwithstanding clause.

Writing a letter is most effective but EPC has already distributed 80,000 post-cards. Order the Give us time! post-cards - for free - at: 1-877-439-3348 or info@epcc.ca.

Link to our campaign website at: www.giveustime.ca.

The Canadian Press article that was written by Joan Bryden, states that:

When the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on physician-assisted dying last February, it gave the federal government 12 months to craft a new law ... 
With Parliament scheduled to sit just six more weeks before an extended break for the summer and a fall election, the government has only three or four months in which to introduce, debate and pass a new law.
Earlier, the Hon Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to the health minister, argued that consultation by a committee wouldn't be broad enough to do justice to such a complex, explosive issue. Dechert stated:
"In fact, we are suggesting tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Canadians need to be heard on this issue," he said, promising that "meaningful consultations" via the Internet, public meetings and other means would be launched "very soon."
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Peter MacKay told Bryden that:
"We recognize the tight timeline imposed on us by the Supreme Court and we should be in a position to announce the way forward on this file in due course."
Letter writing is most effective, but if you only want to send a message to Justice Minister Peter MacKay then sign the online petition or order post-cards.

California Governor Jerry Brown may need to veto assisted suicide bill.

Sign the online petition urging California Governor Jerry Brown to veto assisted suicide bill SB 128 (Link).

California Assisted suicide bill SB 128 protects doctors and other participants in a patient's death, including family members - but it does not protect patients. This is done in three ways:
  1. Taking the teeth out of patient protections;
  2. Requiring the death certificate, which is the official cause of death, to reflect a natural death, rather than assisted suicide; and
  3. A near complete lack of transparency - in Oregon, similar confidentiality provisions preclude disclosure to law enforcement.
Patient choice and control is not assured by SB 128 instead it is a recipe for patient abuse. Other problems include steerage to suicide by healthcare providers and the risk of suicide contagion.

Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst for the California based Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, stated in an article published in the Los Angeles Times that:
“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.”
California: Vote NO on assisted suicide bill SB 128.

Assisted suicide bill SB 128 was introduced in the California Senate on January 21, 2015. On March 25, SB 128 passed in the Senate Health Committee and on April 7, SB 128 passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Assisted suicide bill SB 128 has not gone to a vote in the California Senate or the California House yet, but the assisted suicide lobby is running a big campaign in California which may require Governor Jerry Brown to veto the bill.

Sign the online petition urging California Governor Jerry Brown to veto assisted suicide bill SB 128 (Link).

Saturday, April 25, 2015

EPC campaign to protect people from assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) responded to the Supreme Court of Canada assisted suicide decision with a letter writing and post-card campaign to political leaders asking them to protect use the Notwithstanding Clause to protect Canadians from assisted suicide.

EPC sent-out 80,000 post-cards asking the Government to use the Notwithstanding clause.

EPC is now promoting the Give us time! campaign in English and French.

The Give us time! campaign asks the Government of Canada to:
  1. Establish a Royal Commission on assisted suicide.
  2. Use the notwithstanding clause to give us time.
We are sending the postcards to the Hon Peter MacKay Justice Minister of Canada.

Give us time post-cards, in english or french, can be ordered from the EPC for free at: info@epcc.ca or by calling toll free at: 1-877-439-3348.