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 by Not Dead Yet. 
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.”

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, 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:

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!