Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vermont: Repeal Physician-Assisted Suicide, Now.

The following article was published in the Burlington Free Press on July 30, 2014. 

I'm confused. Years ago we did away with the death penalty in Vermont (and rightly so) because we understood that despite the care and precision of our legal system, mistakes could be made and an innocent person could be wrongly put to death. The Legislature wasn't willing to take that chance and so abolished the death penalty.

Now we have Act 39 (physician-assisted suicide), another law whose only purpose is to result in the death of one of our citizens. Yet this law, with shockingly few protections and no oversight at all by our judicial system, passed the Legislature.

What is the difference here? A wrongful death is a wrongful death is a wrongful death.

Does the Legislature honestly believe our health care system is so perfect that there is absolutely no chance for error? It doesn't appear so since the Legislature is spending almost all their time trying to reform health care. That doesn't leave me feeling confident that the system is working 100 percent perfectly.


So, if the death penalty is wrong because an innocent person might die, why does the Legislature magically believe that no one will ever wrongfully die under Act 39?

Physician-assisted suicide is just as bad a law as the death penalty, and the Legislature needs to repeal it.

Now!

Michele Morin lives in Burlington Vermont.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Canadian Medical Association: 71.5% of physicians oppose the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide. Doctors should be excluded from doing euthanasia.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director: Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) published the results of its online poll and it national dialogue concerning euthanasia, assisted suicide and end-of-life care

The CMA consultation report determined that 71.5% agreed with the current CMA policy on euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Death, 25.8% disagreed with its current position and 2.6% were unsure.

The current CMA Policy on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Dying states, in part:

“Physicians, other health professionals, academics, interest groups, the media, legislators and the judiciary are all deeply divided about the advisability of changing the current legal prohibition of euthanasia and assisted suicide.” 
“Canadian physicians should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.” 
“For the medical profession to … participate in these practices, a fundamental reconsideration of traditional medical ethics would be required.” 
“The CMA recognizes that it is the prerogative of society to decide whether the laws dealing with euthanasia and assisted suicide should be changed. The CMA wishes to contribute the perspective of the medical profession to the examination of the legal, social and ethical issues.”
The consultation report indicated that supporters of the current CMA position cited the following main reasons for their position:
  • „„Legalizing medical aid in dying would negatively affect the trust patients have in physicians and would jeopardize the physician–patient relationship.
  • „„The physician role is to heal, not end life.
  • „„Legalization is “a slippery slope” and would lead to an increase in the scope of conditions and patient populations for which physician-assisted dying can be applied — especially vulnerable populations.
  • „„Legalizing medical aid in dying could be used for economic purposes to save money in the health care system.
The CMA consultation document indicated that physicians should not be involved in the act of euthanaisa. The document stated that since the final decision concerning the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide rests with society, that if society legalizes euthanasia, that doctors should be excluded from doing euthanasia. The document stated:
The perspective of removing physicians from the equation if physician-assisted dying becomes legal in Canada arose at several public town hall and member meetings. 
“We have no training in killing people, quite the opposite” was how one member framed it. 
“I think that if the law is changed they need to pick on someone else to be the euthanologist. It’s not going to be me and I suspect it’s not going to be most of my colleagues,” said an attendee at one meeting. 
Many felt the CMA should advocate for removing physicians from the process of euthanasia and lobby for some other group to provide these services. 
Many called for the CMA, at a bare minimum, to protect the rights of physicians who do not want to provide euthanasia services, a stance that was adopted at the CMA General Council meeting last August.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition opposes concept of doctors becoming killers and we support the call of physicians to never take part in the act of killing.

Lithuanian Health Minister: Euthanize the dying poor.

The article was written by Wesley Smith and published on his blog on July 27, 2014.

Wesley Smith
The new Lithuanian Health Minister–apparently not having yet received her talking points from the Hemlock Society Compassion and Dying–clearly followed this logic in describing why she might support legalizing euthanasia. From the Delfi.It story:
New Health Minister Ilze Šalaševičiūte took an awkward and sensitive topic – it proposes to legalize euthanasia debate… 
According to Salaseviute, Lithuania is not the welfare state, which would be enough to focus on palliative care, euthanasia legalization would help so fatal in patients who do not want to agonize and torture your family members, relatives who care for them. He find an alternative way to get out of life. It would inject medication or another approach, which is equivalent to euthanasia “- television said the Minister.
So, rather than develop a palliative care sector, just open the door to euthanasia to help the poor. That’s the false compassion of euthanasia.

Relevantly, the health system in the euthanasia capital of the world, the Netherlands, has been criticized frequently over the years as having a stunted palliative care sector.

For example, Dr. Bert Keizer, a Netherlander nursing home doctor, wrote in Dancing with Mr. D of angrily warning his colleagues not to talk about trying “cortisone” as he was on his way to euthanize a patient he thought had cancer. Cortisone!? For cancer? He didn’t care enough, apparently, to learn what real pain control can do.

Dame Cecily Saunders, the developer of hospice, told me that she knew of many cases in which people wanted suicide until receiving proper hospice care. I suggest the Lithuanian Health Minister work to improve the quality of care in her country rather than open the door to medicalized killing.

No dignity in a syringe full of poison.

The following letter was published by The Star newspaper in South Africa (Link).

Eusebius McKaiser’s column headlined “Put my dignity first, kindly” (see related articles below) supports euthanasia, particularly in the aftermath of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s recent declaration favouring assisted suicide or euthanasia to ensure death with dignity.

Of course everyone wants to die with dignity. But I cannot understand what is dignified about a doctor terminating (aka killing) a patient’s life, even at the patient’s request.

The point is, quite apart from the serious moral issues involved, such drastic action is unnecessary. I assist in a unit where many patients die from terminal disease, yet they are all counselled, cared for and appropriately medicated, so that their last days are as serene and peaceful as possible. Isn’t that dying with dignity?

It is true that many do die undignified deaths, at home or in hospital. But that only reflects failure to access the care available, such as the involvement of hospice, adequate sedation, good counselling and many other strategies to effectively reduce suffering and preserve dignity.



Please, Archbishop Tutu and Eusebius McKaiser, when you come to the end of life’s road, don’t look for a doctor with a syringe full of lethal poison. There is no dignity in that.

Look instead for a doctor who knows how to fulfil his responsibilities to his patients, and provide a peaceful environment that allows life to slip serenely away. That is the death with dignity you are looking for.

Dr Terry Gilpin
Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"People with disabilities feel threatened by moves to legalize killing by the state"

This article was written by Audrey Cole and published in the Calgary Herald on July 22 under the title: Living through war made us value life more.

Audrey Cole
I wonder why discussion of end of life options comes mostly from people younger than I am.


Recently, I was on a panel at a meeting of Liberal senators. Their open caucus initiative reaches beyond politics and invites other Canadians to share information and discussion on topics of national importance — an admirable endeavour.

The topic was end of life care choices. The first speaker was the MP whose private member’s bills in the Commons would legalize doctor-assisted dying in Canada. Three of us spoke from personal knowledge of people who have disabilities; another from the perspective of dying with dignity; another about palliative care. Personally, I believe that palliative care should not be considered an option, but as good medical practice. That it is not available to all who need it, is to our collective shame.

After almost 50 years of voluntary effort in the disability community, it is not unusual for me to be the oldest person in a room. On this occasion, most of the others were also seniors. Yet, with mandatory retirement at 75 for senators, there was still more than a decade between our ages. By the birth date of the eldest of Canada’s senators, I had completed my first year in high school.

“With our aging population, the numbers in need of end of life options will only increase,” said the invitation. I was struck by this implied link between the demand for options and aging. I had never considered needing end of life options. I grew up believing life was a precious gift that we should respect as we lived it fully but carefully until, at some time in the future (hopefully far distant), we would die. It is relatively recently that we have been hearing about options in the dying process to which many Canadians believe we are, or should be, entitled.

Conversations about how people with disabilities have died are not unknown in the disability movement. We can tell horrific real-life stories that are unbelievable to citizens unfamiliar with the realities of living with a disability in a society that tends to see such people as “other” or “them” rather than ”us.”

People with disabilities feel threatened by moves to legalize killing by the state of those who request it. They know what it is to be unwanted in an uncaring society and they know that the steps that would further threaten their lives and social image are much smaller and easier to take than most would care to admit or believe.


I have also had conversations about dying with older friends from school days in the U.K., where I was born. We all married and remained with our partners until their deaths. None of us talked about options with respect to that final reality. I don’t know any people my age or older who talk about options.

If the expectation of availability of those options is linked to aging, I found myself wondering why it had occurred to the senators, but not to me or to others of my age that I knew? What was it about that decade or so difference in our ages that had changed long-standing life and death expectations? Could it have something to do with the Second World War?

People of my age and older learned much during the war about dying, particularly dying before one’s expected time. We attended memorial services for friends, neighbours, perhaps relatives, none of whom had asked to die. Full of life when they left to serve their country, they never came home. No “options” for them.

But we also learned about sharing life. There was certainly fear and threat, but there was also a sustaining unity in the war years. People of all ages volunteered in that united effort on the home front. Guides, Scouts, Girls’ Training Corps, Cadets, all contributed. Adults too old or too young for the armed forces joined the civilian war effort — Home Guard, Air Raid Wardens, Women’s Voluntary Service — in my case, the Women’s Land Army, women who worked the farms until the men returned.

The war experience had great influence on my life and the lives of millions. It was that sense of unity and selflessness epitomized by those who will never return that helped to provide the foundations for the United Nations and for laws on fundamental human rights, the benefits of which we all now share. But other elements are creeping into that recognition of equality and mutual respect. Now we hear mostly about autonomy, the freedom to live life without external influence, the presumed right to exercise one’s will irrespective of its implications for others, even a “right” to have the state assist us in dying the way we, individually, might want to die. Deep down, I know that those are not the rights for which my friend, Jack, my occasional dance partner; Jimmy, my neighbour; Lou and countless others, gave their lives.

Audrey Cole, 86, has deep roots in Canada’s Community Living movement. The birth of her now 54-year-old son with Down’s syndrome, energized her advocacy in human rights, values and ethics and the social well-being of disadvantaged people. She shares the concern of the disability rights movement that the incessant call for assisted suicide sends a cruel but implicit message that life with disabling conditions is a life not worth living.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ohio man charged with fatally drugging his wife.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Jon James Costell

The Marysville Journal-Tribune reported yesterday that Jon James Costell (56) of Milford Center Ohio has been charged with:
one count each of aggravated murder, failing to provide for a functionally impaired person, domestic violence and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of his wife.
The news report indicated that Ohio Medicaid was paying for in-home help for Debra Lynn Costell, who had medical conditions causing paraplegia. The report stated that due to prior domestic violence convitions, authorities were concerned when she Debra died. The report stated that:
Mr. Costell has three prior domestic violence convictions — two in 1998 in the Marysville Municipal Court and a felony conviction in 2002.

Capital Punishment, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.

This article was written by Wesley Smith and published on his blog on July 24 under the title: Another Cruel and Unusual Death with Dignity.

By Wesley Smith

The drugs that are used in lethal injection executions are also used in assisted suicide/euthanasia.

Yet, we are told with regard to the former lethal use, that they cause pain and suffering–but with the latter use, it is peaceful, calm “death with dignity.”

Another execution using lethal injection has gone wrong. From the FNN story:
A so-called botched execution in Arizona is reigniting the debate over the death penalty and how lethal injections are administered. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of the state’s execution process after a convicted double murderer gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half before his death Wednesday.
Studies have shown that euthanasia and assisted suicide killings can also take much time and cause adverse side effects – other than death, I mean–such as vomiting and seizures.

But that fact interferes with the death with dignity narrative, while promoting these problems furthers the cruel and unusual punishment meme.

Which is why I calls stories like this, “cruel and unusual death with dignity.”