Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Québec Superior Court decision prevents December 10 launch of Québec euthanasia law.

For Immediate Release - December 1, 2015

Today, the Québec Superior Court made the right decision by preventing the Québec euthanasia law from coming into effect on December 10, 2015.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) intervened in the court case by the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice.

EPC is a national non-profit corporation that exists to build a broad based network of groups and individuals that support measures that will create an effective social barrier to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

EPC argued that euthanasia does not constitute health care. EPC Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg, stated:

Euthanasia is done by lethal injection which does not constitute a form of health care.
EPC is also convinced that Québec does not have jurisdiction to legalize euthanasia. EPC legal counsel, Hugh Scher, stated that the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the role of the federal government to legislate on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The federal government either has sole jurisdiction or shared jurisdiction concerning these issues. The decision was necessary based on the federal right to legislate on these issues.
Amy Hasbrouck, the Director of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet said:
Inconsistency between federal and provincial regulation for death could foster confusion and dangerous errors. We must handle these policies with extreme care.
For more information contact:

Hugh Scher, EPC legal counsel (Toronto): (416) 816-6115 or hugh@sdlaw.ca
Amy Hasbrouck, Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet (Montréal): (450) 921-3057 or tigrlily61@gmail.com
Alex Schadenberg, EPC Executive Director (London): (519) 851-1434 or info@epcc.ca

Monday, November 30, 2015

Founder of American assisted suicide lobby urges legalization of euthanasia.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Derek Humphrey
Derek Humphrey, the "father" of the modern assisted suicide lobby in America and co-founder of the Hemlock Society, now Compassion & Choices, is urging the assisted suicide lobby to extend the criteria for assisted suicide laws and to legalize euthanasia or lethal injection in America.

An article written by historian Ian Dowbiggin and published by the Prince Arthur Herald suggests that Compassion & Choices have hidden or destroyed the euthanasia movement archives.

In an article published on his website, Humphrey states:

Passing these so-called ‘prescription laws’ is a wonderful start but it is not the complete answer. 
The future in the choice in dying movement lies with a deliberate widening of the scope of people for whom we will campaign publicly and whom we will help. (This is already happening in Europe.) Then who?
Humphrey outlines five directions that the assisted suicide lobby in America should go:
1. It is time to consider more seriously offering to help persons with long-term, untreatable, serious mental illness. 
2. Persons with what I call ‘terminal old-age’ whose advanced years and accompanying medical problems no longer make their life worth living. 
3. We should begin to argue for the current Death With Dignity Acts now passed in the four states to be improved. Humphrey suggests that the laws be extended to include people who are likely to die within 12 months, rather than 6 months, and to legalize euthanasia (lethal injection) for people who cannot swallow. 
4. We must think through and tackle the problem of when and how Alzheimer’s patients and persons with long-term degenerative diseases can be helped to die ... 
5. Long-term, we should consider opening a clinic to help the sort of people I’ve just been talking about.
Humphrey concludes his article by stating that these are his thoughts only.

Ian Dowbiggin: A scandal in the euthanasia archives

The Prince Arthur Herald published this article on November 30, 2015. Ian Dowbiggin is the author of the book: A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America

Why has the euthanasia movement hidden or destroyed its history?
By Ian Dowbiggin 
Imagine for a moment that reporters broke the news that the Vatican had destroyed the bulk of its archival records. Researchers around the world justifiably might accuse the Roman Catholic Church of a deliberate cover-up. 
Well, the Vatican has done no such thing. But it appears as if the right-to-die movement has. If so, one might well ask; why did people in the movement do it? Are they trying to hide something about their past? 
One thing is clear: if the euthanasia movement’s records have indeed been destroyed, a lot of history has vanished, Orwell-like, down a cavernous memory hole. And with it, information the right-to-die movement doesn’t want you to know. 
I should know, because I saw these records and I know what was in them. I wrote up my findings in my 2003 book on the history of the movement, published by Oxford University Press. 
The story of my involvement in these valuable records begins about fifteen years ago when I was given permission to explore the archives of what used to be called Partnerships for Caring, Inc. PFC was a successor organization to the defunct Euthanasia Society of America (ESA). The ESA records, housed in a law firm in Baltimore, consisted of 15 large cardboard boxes holding correspondence, financial records, press releases, published materials and minutes of meetings, much of it uncatalogued. 
There were literally thousands of items in these boxes documenting the entire 20th c. history of the U.S. and non-American activists who advocated the legalization of various forms of euthanasia. The ESA archive contained materials relating to the careers of noteworthy social activists such as Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society (now called Compassion and Choices), Joseph Fletcher, the founder of “situation ethics,” Alan Guttmacher (after whom the population-control Guttmacher Institute in New York City is named), and the birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger who, unbeknownst to all her biographers, was also a vocal proponent of legalized euthanasia. 
Not only did these activists urge governments to permit voluntary mercy-killing and physician-assisted suicide, many also supported the involuntary mercy-killing of handicapped people. For example, despite his knowledge of widespread Nazi murder of people with disabilities, in 1943 the ESA’s president thought it was a good idea to legalize euthanasia in time for returning veterans who suffered from mental and physical wounds. 
As recently as 2000, Derek Humphry proclaimed that because of escalating health care costs the elderly had a “duty to die.” 
There was a good deal else in my book which would cause eye brows to arch in this day and age. The picture that emerged from my account was of a movement which harbored many people like the infamous “Dr. Death,” Jack Kevorkian, whose views on end-of-life care included the beliefs that experiments should be performed on dying persons and the mercy-killing of individuals whether or not they requested it was perfectly ethical. 
The overlap between the eugenics and euthanasia movements was particularly eye-opening. For much of the twentieth century the same people who urged governments to permit mercy-killing and physician-assisted suicide typically applauded the courts and elected officials when they legalized the forced sterilization of people with disabilities. 
My research did not always go smoothly. One right-to-die activist warned me that if I included anything he said to me over the phone he would sue me and my publisher. Clearly, the right-to-die movement did not like the contents of my book. Some in the movement must have regretted that I had gained access to their archives in the first place. 
But the story did not end there. About five years after the book’s publication, I was contacted by a US graduate student researching the history of euthanasia. She told me that in trying to track down the ESA records she had been informed that the collection had been intentionally destroyed. 
Just this year another US graduate student got in touch with me, also trying to locate the ESA archives. She too has been told the records no longer exist, although she is still investigating. 
Of course, it might be that the ESA records are sitting somewhere safe and sound. Yet why do groups like Compassion and Choices ignore my own requests for information? Why, when a published scholar in the history of medicine enquires about the whereabouts of this important archive, is there a resounding silence? 
Yet, if, as is highly likely, this magnificent archive is gone forever, one is perfectly entitled to call the right-to-die movement to account. What are they afraid of? The historical truth? 
As a researcher, I am saddened and angry that such a treasure trove is likely gone forever. The scholarly community rightly protests when a similar destruction of historical records occurs. It’s time that its outrage was directed against the people who today tell us mercy-killing and doctor-assisted suicide are the latest “freedoms” you and I ought to enjoy. 
In light of the disappearance of the ESA archives, can they be trusted?
Ian Dowbiggin, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, teaches history at the University of Prince Edward Island. He is the author of A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America (2003) and A Concise History of Euthanasia (2006).

Tom Koch: Provide real alternatives rather than a fatal injection.

This article was published by the Huffington Post on November 30, 2015.
Tom Koch

By Tom Koch, who is an ethicist, author and gerontologist.

The first person who asked me to kill him was my then 72-year old father. If he couldn't work and couldn't drive, what was there left to live for, he asked. "Lots," I said in refusing his request. "I'll show you."

He died peacefully in his sleep five years later.

My oldest brother, seeing our father in decline, asked me to promise to kill him as "an act of brotherly love" if he ever became infirm. During a period of depression resulting from an adverse prescription drug reaction, he refused hospital-based treatment. Instead he put his affairs in order and killed himself, suicide by pistol.

There have been others who wanted my help in dying after amputations, cancer diagnoses, while struggling with multiple sclerosis, paralyzing strokes, and a range of other incapacities.

I told each my job was to help them live as fully as possible despite their limits. That meant fighting for the best possible counseling, palliative (pain control), rehabilitative, psychiatric and social services available. I told each of them that before they gave up, they should try a life that while different could still be worthwhile.

In striking down the section of the Criminal Code that makes "aid in dying" illegal, the Supreme Court justices argued last February for individual autonomy and choice. The courts "pro-choice" judgment made overly simple what is in fact complex. If choice is our goal, we first need to address the reasons people with limits think life has lost its meaning. That's the basis of current challenges to Quebec's law legalizing what the Dutch call physician-assisted or directed termination.

A 74-year-old woman told me she doesn't want to die in pain as others have. "If I get there, end me," she said recently. I told her (and have told others) palliative medicine has come a long way and promised her pain would be treated. And, yes, I can make that promise given the state of medications today if -- a big if -- they're administered by professionals expert in their use.

Some years ago following a stroke, a woman looked down at her body, paralyzed on one side, and said to me that she didn't want to live. I told her she would improve with therapy and time and if she wanted to die today she might not tomorrow, or next week.

She lives, ten years later, with some paralysis but without pain. She uses a cane and has other mechanical aides. She is a volunteer advising new stroke patients of the possibility of life with a body some of whose parts do not respond.

A young amputee lost his right leg in an accident and could not see a future without football, baseball or dancing at parties. It took weeks to get him to accept rehabilitation, and eventually prosthesis. He's alive and well today.

The point is two-fold. First, what we request today or this week, following a grievous injury or serious diagnosis, may not be what we'll want in a month or a year. All those paralyzed by spinal cord injuries go through a depressed period of suicidal thinking. Over two-thirds find, after two years of counseling and rehabilitation that life is at least equally good, if different.

It is not "paternalism" to insist the newly injured or diagnosed take the time to adjust. It is good care and a recognition born of experience that the depressed and fearful patients does not yet have.

The second point is there is no real choice when pain control is absent or inadequate; when rehabilitation is minimal or simply unavailable. Where counseling and support are absent depression is a constant and death seems an increasingly welcome alternative.

Canada has no national program to assure a balance between "aid in dying" and assistance in living despite restrictions. While most major hospitals provide at least some pain management the demand far exceeds the ability to provide relief. In rural areas expertise is limited or non-existent.

Similarly, we have no national rehabilitation program to assure every Canadian receives the best possible rehabilitative services to strengthen the limbs that have been weakened and accommodate to the new realities of a limited body.

Nor do we adequately support the families and friends who assist our fragile citizens on a daily basis. If the newly limited feel themselves a burden on family and friends then, like Willy Loman in A Death of a Salesman, they'll see a quick death as the honorable thing.

In law it's called a predicate act or cause. It's the context in which decisions are made. People usually seek aid in dying because we have not provided aid in living. And if we believe the Supreme Court's insistence on choice, before offering an easy death we need first to assure the support is there for a life with dignity despite restrictions.

In crafting law in this area, Parliamentarians need to insist that jurisdictions offering physician-assisted termination first assure adequate support for the fragile is in place. Where that is not in place, there will be no real choice at all.

Some will say this is simply unaffordable. It will take too long to assure the resources for all Canadians facing limiting conditions. But, if we believe in choice we have to afford it. We have no alternative if we accept the Supreme Court's call for real patient choice. Think of it as infrastructure spending, a predicate act permitting people real alternatives other than a medically delivered, fatal injection.

Without, there is no real choice at all.

If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Under-ground euthanasia in the Netherlands.

By Michael Cook

The leading Dutch right-to-die society is seeking talks with the Dutch medical association (KNMG) for approval of a “peaceful pill” which will allow its members to kill themselves without the help of a doctor.

As usually happens in the progress of euthanasia, supporters are now telling the media that this already occurs illegally on a vast scale and that legislation is essential to guard against abuses.

People who believe that their lives are “complete”, need a pill, says the Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE) in a recently-published policy paper. The details have yet to be worked out with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Security and Justice and the KNMG. As the NVVE acknowledges, the peaceful pill could be used to murder people, or taken impulsively by otherwise healthy people, or used by young people with mental health issues. Therefore the NVVE would like to run a pilot project so that authorities will have “scientific research” to back up a decision.

NVVE director Robert Schurink told the media
“We see that society wants such a pill, particularly among the babyboomer generation which is not afraid to speak its mind. They want control over the end of their lives.”
For the first time, NVVE and another group, Stiftung De Einder, have acknowledged that they are already promoting a “peaceful pill” outside the existing legal framework. The lethal drugs are ordered from overseas. From China come pills and from Mexico come liquid barbiturates. The packages arrive quickly, sometimes disguised as a birthday card. NRC says that although this arrangement is illegal, there is no chance that the public prosecutor will charge anyone.

About 5300 people are euthanased legally in the Netherlands every year. The NVVE did not disclose how many commit suicide using overseas drugs over and above this figure. De Einder told NRC that it had given advice about its own service to 607 clients last year, although it is unclear how many committed suicide.

One of NVVE’s clients is 75-year-old Jannes Mulder, a doctor who had helped to euthanase several people himself. A feature story in the NRC describes how he contacted China:

Mulder ordered through the mail powder for two people – himself and his wife. Payment was made through Western Union. Two weeks later came a brown envelope with red Chinese postmarks. There was a birthday card for “John”: happy birthday. It is a subterfuge that Chinese suppliers often use. Inside the card was a sachet of powder. Mulder put it in the basement. Those around him know about it -- Jannes H. Mulder is in charge of his own life. He will soon test some of the powder on his goldfish. "I want to make sure it works," he says.
NRC also tells the story of another client, 83-year-old Tom van Manen, who stirred the Chinese powder into his breakfast yoghurt one morning in 2012 with the help of his daughter, Kika Notten. It sounds like a typical “completed life” scenario – except that van Manen was quite demented and may not have understood what he was doing. Ms Notten knew that she was in a grey zone, legally speaking. However, she was careful to inform a local doctor and two police officers. They did nothing.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ottawa asks Québec to postpone implementation of euthanasia law.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Canada's new Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, wants Québec to wait until the federal government has legislated on assisted dying, before Québec implements its own euthanasia law, that was to begin on December 10, 2015. 

Send a message and sign our online petition to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

According to Le Devoir (translated from French):
If it was up to the new Federal Justice Minister, medical aid in dying would not be available in Quebec starting next December 10. Jody Wilson-Raybould would like the province to suspend the application of its law on time for Ottawa concocts his own. 
"We'd like to avoid the uncertainty of our approach about medical aid in dying by having the federal legislative framework implemented before the legislation in Quebec is effective", said Ms. Wilson-Raybould in an interview with Le Devoir Wednesday. When asked ... if it means that she would like Québec to wait, the Minister answered "yes".

The Supreme Court of Canada made a dangerous and irresponsible decision to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide on February 6, 2015 and to give parliament only 12 months to bring forth new legislation. Since Canada had an election on October 19, implementing new legislation by February 6, 2016 was impossible.

EPC is urging  the Justice Minister to use the notwithstanding clause, or at least, ask the Supreme Court of Canada for an extension. Send a message and sign our online petition to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

EPC intervened, on November 24, in a court action by the Physicians Alliance for Social Justice to obtain an injunction to prevent the December 10, implementation of the Québec euthanasia law. The judge is likely to release a judgement on Monday.

More information about the Québec euthanasia law:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When assisted suicide become banal

This article was published in the CMAJ blogs on November 24, 2015

Dr Rene Leiva
By Dr Rene Leiva

I read with interest the CMAJ Editor in Chief’s latest editorial about protecting the right of physicians to conscientiously object to being party to physician hastened death. Principled medicine has dealt with suffering since Hippocratic tenets were first formulated about 2400 years ago. It is only in the last fifty years that causing death has been construed as ‘medical treatment’ for suffering, which I firmly believe to be erroneous. I’m disturbed to see that while Quebec is leading the country on euthanasia only a fraction of its population has access to palliative care. Palliative Care has been around for close to forty years, but Quebec's new law on ‘medical aid in dying’ expects to make that option available to 100 per cent of Quebecers in a matter of months.

In Belgium, hastened death has become part of the culture: despite having initially focused on the competent adult who is terminally ill, it has quickly moved into euthanasia for mental suffering and dementia, and for those tired of living, as well as children; it is commonly practiced by other health professionals such as nurses despite this being illegal. Medically assisted deaths have risen by 640% in Belgium since the law was adopted in 2002 and there are a significant number of deaths without consent as well as under reporting.

When I first met Tom Mortier through mutual acquaintances, he impressed upon me his concerns about the dangers of living in a society that embraces hastened death and shared the sad and tragic account of his mother’s euthanasia under the Belgian law. Her story was the focus of a recent article in the New Yorker and part of an Australian TV documentary. He often forwards me information on euthanasia cases and events that in a different culture or time would have been unthinkable: from the doctor who euthanized his mother leading an ‘educational trip’ to the Nazi camp Auschwitz to leaders in the field celebrating euthanasia as having ‘a life-intensifying and sacred dimension’.

Not all the founders of the hastened death movement have remained convinced they were doing the right thing. Ann Humphry, the late co-founder of the Hemlock Society, now Compassion and Choices, deeply regretted her actions. She was concerned that sick and vulnerable people might feel subtle pressures to relieve their families and friends of the emotional burdens of their lingering death. Is this unrealistic? Last year, a Canadian woman committed suicide while promoting the legalization of hastened death. Part of her manifesto stated that ‘I can live or vegetate for perhaps ten years in hospital at Canada’s expense, costing anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 per year,” she said. “Nurses, who thought they were embarked on a career that had great meaning, find themselves perpetually changing my diapers and reporting on the physical changes of an empty husk. It is ludicrous, wasteful and unfair”. Is this the message we want to communicate about the value of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives as the end approaches?

Fittingly, it was a Belgian doctor and Nazi death camp survivor who was instrumental in developing the World Medical Association position against euthanasia. He felt very strongly that ‘the natural duty of the physician is first to protect life and not to kill the patient. The main task of the doctor is to help his patient in defending his interest not only against the disease but also against any dangerous competition between the interests of the community of healthy people or society, even the family sometimes, and those of the patient’.

I, too, believe that behind the fears of existential suffering or of becoming a burden to loved ones, or feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, there is a call for help to find meaning even in the midst of such suffering. When death seems to be the answer, we as human beings have abdicated the opportunity to go beyond our limitations, to try harder, and to offer hope to these people. To agree with patients’ requests for assisted suicide is to confirm their feeling that their life is without value. Under these overwhelming fears, a free chosen decision for hastened death is an illusion.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kansas man sentenced to 195 months in prison for murder, after claiming it was an assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Vance Moulton died by asphyxiation in Sept 2014.
Judge Peggy Kittel sentenced Ronald Eugene Heskett to 195 months in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Vance Moulton who lived with cerebral palsy. Heskett, who was a care-giver for Moulton, claimed that the death was an assisted suicide.

I was interested in the case because Heskett claimed that the death was an assisted suicide. I was concerned that his claim of assisted suicide may result in a lesser sentence. 

Judge Kittel was asked by Michael Warner, the defense attorney for Heskett, to apply a lesser sentence, but Kittel rejected that suggestion and applied the full 195 months of jail time to the conviction.

According to the Lawrence Journal World news:
Ronald Eugene Heskett
During his September 2015 trial, prosecutors presented evidence to suggest that Heskett killed Moulton, who had cerebral palsy, for a financial motive, pointing to an approximate $13,000 in cash from government refunds missing from Moulton’s apartment.
They also looked at a series of expenditures Heskett made, shortly after the checks were cashed, on a 1972 Chevelle and numerous car parts. 
Heskett had claimed since Sept. 22, 2014, that the killing was an assisted suicide. He said Moulton, of Lawrence, had been persistently asking him to “shoot him” for six months to a year before Moulton’s death. Heskett testified at his trial that the missing $13,000 did indeed go to the car and car parts, but that it was as part of a plan with Moulton to “flip” the car and sell it for $25,000. 
At Heskett’s sentencing hearing Friday, Prosecutor Eve Kemple read letters from Moulton’s friends to the court. Moulton’s college roommate and friend, Keith Slimmer, said Moulton “had the greatest laugh to light up any room.” Another friend, Adam Burnett, said Moulton was a “role model” and he “genuinely cared about other people." 
Burnett, who uses a wheelchair, as Moulton did, said his friend's murder has shaped the way he views his own home-care attendants. 
"I cannot look at (my care-attendant) workers the same again," Burnett said. "We depend on them; we trust them. It bothers me knowing there is nothing he could have done to defend himself." 
After sentencing Heskett, Kittel acknowledged the judgment would be of little comfort to Moulton's loved ones. 
"No sentence ... will bring Mr. Moulton back," Kittel said. "People will leave here likely feeling as bad as they did when they arrived."
Justice has been done. Justice Kittel respected the life of Vance Moulton by not considering the medical condition of the victim when deciding on the punishment the man who killed him.

I published articles for everyday of the trial. The first day of the Heskett trial, the second day of the trial, the third day of the trialthe fourth day of the trial, the fifth day of the trial, the sixth day of the trial and the decision of the jury finding Heskett guilty of second-degree murder.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognizes that if legalized, falsely claiming the death was an assisted suicide can become a defense for murder.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Connecticut Suicide Prevention Plan Includes Concerns About Disability & Assisted Suicide

This article was published on the Not Dead Yet website on November 18, 2015.

Stephen Mendelsohn

By Stephen Mendelsohn, a leader of the disability rights group Second Thoughts Connecticut

This is likely a first from the mainstream suicide prevention community: The Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB) recognizes that legalizing assisted suicide encourages people with disabilities to commit suicide. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the State of Connecticut Suicide Prevention Plan 2020 at p. 43, 44:
People with Chronic Health Conditions and Disabilities 
Living with chronic or terminal physical conditions can place significant stress on individuals and families. As with all challenges, individual responses will vary. Cancer, degenerative diseases of the nervous system, traumatic injuries of the central nervous system, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, chronic kidney disease, arthritis and asthma are known to elevate the risk of mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety disorders. 
In these situations, integrated medical and behavioral approaches are critical for regularly assessing for suicidality. Disability-specific risk factors include: a new disability or change in existing disability; difficulties navigating social and financial services; stress of chronic stigma and discrimination; loss or threat of loss of independent living; and institutionalization or hospitalization. 
Until recently, the CTSAB was considering assisted suicide of the terminally ill as a separate issue from suicide prevention. The active disability community in Connecticut, however, has been vocal on the need for suicide prevention services for people with disabilities. There may be unintended consequences of assisted suicide legislation on people with disabilities. Bill Peace (2012)** writes that “Many assume that disability is a fate worse than death. So we admire people with a disability who want to die, and we shake our collective heads in confusion when they want to live.” 
People with disabilities have a right to responsive suicide prevention services. The CTSAB intends to continue to explore the needs of the disability community for such services. 
Targeted Recommendations:
  • Develop greater scrutiny of someone’s intentions to die.
  • Identify and train practitioners to develop expertise in the work with disabled people who are suicidal.
  • Do not “assume” suicide is a “rational” response to disability.
  • Treat mental health conditions as aggressively as with a person without disability.
  • CTSAB should encourage and increase participation from the disability community and encourage educational presentations.
Cathy Ludlum
Cathy Ludlum presented our issues to the CTSAB back in March 2014 and it appears they have taken our concerns about disability discrimination in suicide prevention seriously. Second Thoughts Connecticut is now listed on their website as a member. Other states still need our input into their state suicide prevention plans to include the disability perspective. Some states, such as Oregon and Washington (the first two states to legalize assisted suicide), have state suicide prevention plans that only focus on youth while ignoring elder suicide. Our success in Connecticut can be useful not only in encouraging a change in other states’ suicide prevention policies, but in making our case that what Compassion & Choices calls “aid in dying” is suicide that should be treated no differently merely because the person affected is old, ill, or disabled.

** This refers to the Hastings Center article by Bill Peace, an NDY Board member, entitled Comfort Care As Denial of Personhood.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Belgian prisoners denied euthanasia, for now.

Thjs article was published on the Bioedge on November 21.

By Michael Cook

Frank Van Den Bleeken
Belgian serial rapist and murderer Frank Van Den Bleeken, who was serving a life sentence, sparked a controversy by asking for euthanasia in 2014. The government at first granted his request and the bureaucratic machine began whirring. However, it quickly backtracked and placed him in a specialised psychiatric unit where he could get better care.

In the wake of his highly-publicised request, 15 other prisoners have asked for euthanasia in Belgium on the grounds that they have unbearable psychological suffering. This week the head of the country’s euthanasia commission declared that they are not eligible. Dr Wim Distelmans told De Morgen that:
The unbearable suffering that these prisoners describe is due in large part to the context (ie, prison) and is not the result of an incurable disease … We have advised the interested parties that they are not within the framework and conditions provided by law.
However, this may not be the end of the story. De Morgen reported that better psychiatric treatment would be made available to some or all of the 15 prisoners at the Sint-Kamillus university psychiatric center in Bierbeek. "If the patients maintain their request for euthanasia, then we'll reconsider," Dr Distelmans said.

After the apparently unstoppable expansion of euthanasia requests, Belgium may be applying the brakes, possibly in response to adverse international publicity. Apart from denying euthanasia to the prisoners, a prominent euthanasia doctor, Dr Mark Van Der Hoey, was recently charged with breaking the law after he was filmed euthanasing a patient in an Australian documentary. It was the first time since euthanasia was legalised in Belgium that a doctor has been charged, let alone convicted.

More information on this story: