Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Be wary of assisted dying.

By Derek Miedema - published in the National Post on August 20, 2014.

Derek Miedema
Dr. Brett Belchetz seems to think that legalizing assisted suicide is a no-brainer (‘Zero progress on assisted dying,’ Aug. 12). He says the federal government is alone in its opposition to legalized doctor-assisted suicide. He believes the slippery slope is a myth and that helping patients kill themselves is consistent with the concept of doing no harm. But the case for legalizing the practice is not as open-and-shut as Dr. Belchetz would have you believe.

Public support for legalizing assisted suicide hovers around 70%, but a 2013 Environics poll found that only 29% “strongly” support the practice. In comparison, only 26% of doctors agree with doctor-assisted suicide. Is it possible that doctors are more familiar with the vagaries of death than the general population? Or possibly that most doctors entered the profession, in order to help, not kill, people?

Seeing the slippery slope isn’t terribly hard either. The situation on the ground in Belgium (which legalized euthanasia is 2002) and the Netherlands (which has a long history of access to euthanasia, even before legalization in 2001) points to a different reality than the one Dr. Belchetz describes.

In Belgium, like the Netherlands, euthanasia started with terminally ill people, then it was allowed for the mentally ill. Now, even though the law itself hasn’t changed, anyone with unbearable physical or psychological suffering can be killed this way.

Twin deaf brothers who were going blind found a doctor who would kill them. A depressed mother was killed (her son found out when asked to collect her things from the morgue).

Earlier this year, the Belgian Parliament voted to make euthanasia legal for children, with parental consent.

A public campaign in the Netherlands argued that anyone over 70 and tired of life should be able to get euthanasia. It garnered enough support to force the Dutch Parliament to consider the proposal. In 2013, Dutch doctors killed a 70-year-old widow who was going blind. She wasn’t dying, but she was a stickler for cleanliness and couldn’t bear not being able to see the dirt on her clothes.

The movement in both countries is aimed exclusively at making more people eligible to be killed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An open letter to the Canadian Medical Association

By Amy Hasbrouck

I am writing on behalf of Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet to members of the Canadian Medical Association to encourage you to communicate a clear and strong rejection of medical aid in dying and other ending-of-life practices due to their discriminatory impact on people with disabilities.

Amy Hasbrouck with John Kelly
oujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet is a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities Ending of Life Ethics Committee to unify, inform and give voice to the disability opposition to assisted suicide, euthanasia and other ending-of-life practices.

As noted in the report “End of Life Care: A National Dialogue” the CMA’s current policy states that “Canadian physicians should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide,” and that to permit this, a “fundamental reconsideration of traditional medical ethics would be required.” This is a laudable statement.

However the last paragraph of the report offers a very different message, when it speaks of “a general acknowledgement that society would make the final decision concerning euthanasia and physician-assisted dying and that it was not the role of the CMA or the medical profession to dictate what this should be, as a reflection of patient-centred care.” This kind of equivocal language is troubling to the vast majority of disability rights activists, who have vocally opposed assisted suicide and euthanasia for more than 30 years.

Professor Death supports Dr Death.

By Wesley J Smith, originally published on his blog - August 18, 2014

Wesley Smith
I think it is time to start calling Peter Singer ”Professor Death.”

The Princeton moral philosopher–an oxymoron in his case–is the world’s foremost proponent of infanticide. He usually uses examples of disabled babies, but the reason he believes they can be killed is that they are supposedly not “persons.” Thus, Singer has refused to state that killing a baby because she was ugly would be wrong.

Professor Death also supports euthanasia, both voluntary and non voluntary against ill human non-persons, such as Alzheimer’s patients.

He has also stated that cognitively devastated people should have been used in developing the hepatitis vaccines instead of chimpanzees. Not surprisingly, he advocates duty-to-die health care rationing based on quality of life invidious discrimination.

Professor Death has come to the defense of his colleague in nihilism, Australia’s Doctor Death, Phillip Nitschke, who favors suicide availability for troubled teenagers and the selling of suicide pills in super markets.

Nitschke has had his medical license suspended for “death coaching,” that is, giving active encouragement and how-to instructions to suicidal people. One such person was a suspected murderer, who received suicide encouragement through Nitschke’s organization, learned how to get the drugs, and did the deed.

Canadian Medical Association votes on euthanasia resolution.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Canada Health Network reported that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), at their annual general meeting in Ottawa, maintained their policy opposing euthanasia while the Canadian Press reported that the CMA voted on a compromise motion on euthanasia and assisted suicide that supports:
"the right of all physicians, within the bonds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide so-called medical aid in dying."
John Haggie
The Canadian Press article stated that there was a significant debate at the CMA meeting. The article quoted the Past President of the CMA, Dr John Haggie, as saying:

"The driver for this discussion is a desperate lack of palliative-care services," John Haggie, a Newfoundland physician, told the conference. "We don't have a hospice in the province anywhere." 
Haggie responded with an "unequivocal no" to a question posed by the CMA to its members on whether their patients have access to adequate palliative care.
At the release of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care report (November 18, 2011) Dr. Haggie, who was the President of the CMA, in response to a question, told the media:
"requests for euthanasia usually reflect a failure to access adequate palliative care." 
Haggie then called on the Federal government to institute a national palliative care strategy. On May 28, 2014 Motion 456, concerning a national palliative care strategy, received near unanimous support in parliament. 

The resolution may mean that if the euthanasia legislation in Québec is put into place, physicians in Québec can decide to kill or not to kill, but outside of Québec, where euthanasia and assisted suicide would remain illegal, doctors must follow the law.

On June 5, 2014, the Québec National Assembly passed Bill 52, a bill that legalizes euthanasia in Québec and defines euthanasia as "medical treatment."

The Physicians Alliance for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia and Vivre dans la Dignité in Québec launched a legal challenge to Bill 52 on July 17, 2014. The legal challenge to the Québec euthanasia law states that Bill 52 is unconstitutional since the Québec government cannot legalize euthanasia, which is prohibited by the federal criminal code. The legal challenge also says that:
the impugned provisions, of Bill 52, unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mother was dehydrated to death; assisted suicide will lead to more patient abuse.

This letter by Kate Kelly was published on August 18 in the Montana Revalli Republic

The letter by Gail Bell rang true to my own experience (“Mother’s death provided painful, personal example of need to stop assisted suicide,” Aug. 5).

In 2009, my mother died a painful death. It wasn’t from her condition or a disease. You see, my mother was starved and dehydrated to death with massive doses of morphine after she’d had a mild stroke. It had not mattered that she had been trying to speak and had indicated that she wanted water. The family member holding power of attorney, affirmed by a young doctor, had decided that it was time for her to die.

I watched my mother die, day and night for six days. She tried to fight, to wake up, but to no avail, and she suffered. To use the vernacular of assisted suicide proponents, she did not get her choice.

If these terrible deaths happen when aid in dying (assisted suicide and euthanasia) is not legal, what will happen if these practices are made legal? Doctors will have even more power to take away patient choice. If we can’t stop the abuse now, how will we be able to stop the abuse then?

In 2011, I published my mother’s story, which can be viewed here.

I have since been contacted by adult children in both the U.S. and Canada whose parents were involuntarily starved and dehydrated to death. I hope that this practice can be stopped before it is too late. I offer my heartfelt condolences to Gail Bell.

Kate Kelly,
Delta, British Columbia, Canada

Shakira Hussein: Euthanasia threatens the lives of people with disabilities.

This article was written by Dr Shakira Hussein, a post doctoral research fellow at the University of Melbourne. It was published on August 16 by The Saturday Paper and republished by HOPE Australia.

Living with dignity.

By Shakira Hussein
Euthanasia can’t be considered voluntary in a society that stigmatises the disabled, the suffering and the aged.
The pain when it strikes at full force is so shatteringly powerful that it’s hard to believe the blast is contained within my own body. There ought to be a flash of blazing light as it explodes, debris scattered around its perimeter. Yet not even my face shows a visible sign of damage beyond, I assume, a grimace.

Eventually, an MRI scan will reveal a lesion in the relevant area of my brain, but for the moment it’s up to me to report my symptoms to the triage staff at the hospital with whatever similes I can find. It’s like being burned. Flayed. Slashed. The slightest breeze against my skin is torment.

I’m told that this particular form of pain is called trigeminal neuralgia. Dr Google tells me that it’s also known as “the suicide disease” because of the high number of patients who take their lives to escape the anguish it inflicts. My real-world doctor tells me it’s the worst pain that there is. In my case, it’s a symptom of remitting-relapsing multiple sclerosis, a disease that ebbs and flows but never entirely disappears from my life. During relapses it has blurred my vision, detached limbs from my central nervous system, tumbled the world upside-down into vomit-ridden vertigo.

During remission, life is more than tolerable, if hard work. My balance and physical strength have been eroded and something always hurts if I pause to take an audit. All the same, I remain in paid employment and I share my life with a funny and resilient teenage daughter. I try not to think too much about the future and all the unpleasant possibilities it may hold.

I understand why some patients with multiple sclerosis say they want euthanasia, rather than enduring protracted physical pain, decline and dependence, to be an option. I have no trouble visualising scenarios in which I ask my health professionals to assist my suicide – in fact, I have to battle to keep such visions at bay. But if and when I reach that point, I want those who I may ask to be legally obliged to refuse me.

I do not believe it is appropriate for the state to determine that the desire to end one’s life is in some circumstances a symptom of depression to be combated and controlled and in other cases a rational decision. Advocates for the legalisation of euthanasia stress that they have no intention of making it compulsory. Since they do not plan to impose their beliefs on me, I am not entitled to impose my beliefs on them.

However, I do not believe that legalised, state-endorsed euthanasia would be an autonomous decision, either in terms of the circumstances in which it is made or in terms of its consequences for others. The social stigma attached to diseased and disabled bodies would both shape euthanasia decisions and be reinforced by them. Even those who would not themselves choose to make use of access to euthanasia would have their lives devalued by its availability to them. How “voluntary” would voluntary euthanasia be in a society that stigmatises physical impairment and dependence, and which regards ageing as decline rather than accumulation? Does a society that tells patients there is a months-long waiting list for an appointment with a pain management clinic – as I was told during my most harrowing struggle with the suicide disease – have any business legalising euthanasia under the banner of autonomous choice?

Suicide promotion websites should be policed with the same vigour as pornography websites.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article written by E Jane Dickson and published in the UK Independent newspaper on Friday August 15 argues that Pro-suicide sites aimed at teenagers should be policed in the same way as online pornography and violence.

Dickson writes:
The mushrooming, in the unregulated waste of the internet, of pro-suicide sites, many of them aimed at teenagers, is a long way from Neverland. This week, Martyn Piper, head of internet safety campaigns at Papyrus, a charity for the prevention of young suicides, called for tighter Government control over websites which he considers “the greatest risk to young people online today”. Piper’s son, Tim, killed himself at the age of 16 after consulting and following instructions on such a site. 
Some 700 under-25s take their own lives each year in the UK. We cannot guess what goes through their minds – this must be their parents’ daily torment – but we can assume that a “how to” manual is not what they need at their lowest ebb. Pro-suicide sites range from the baldly functional to pseudo-literary blogs wallowing in death’s dark glamour.
Dickson  reminded her readers that in 2008, Maria Eagle, Justice Minister at that time, promised to crackdown on suicide websites.

In 2010, the assisted suicide law in the UK was updated whereby the language of the assisted suicide act was changed from the crime of aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring a suicide to the crime of encouraging or assisting a suicide.

Dickson suggests that the current assisted suicide law in the UK does not effectively protect vulnerable young people:
mentally unbalanced youngsters are falling prey in their hundreds to anonymous promptings from their laptop. At the very least, pro-suicide sites aimed at teenagers should be policed with the same vigour as online pornography and violence.

Dickson ends her article by stating:
We want to believe Marilyn Monroe’s assurance that: “When you’re young and healthy, you can plan on Monday to commit suicide, and by Wednesday you’re laughing again.” It didn’t work for Marilyn. And it’s not a risk we can take.
I agree with Dickson that society needs to protect young people from suicide promotion sites, but it is a form of discrimination to not equally be concerned for people with disabilities, who live with discrimination, the frail elderly, who are living with elder abuse and the average person who is living with depression.

Everyone, including the troubled teen, can be victims of suicide promotion websites. Everyone, including depressed terminally ill people deserve to be protected from suicide promotion websites.

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