Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Palliative care leaders oppose Québec Liberal government's plan to re-introduce euthanasia bill.

By: Dr Balfour Mount, the father of palliative care in Canada.
and Dr Serge Daneault, the chief of palliative care at University Hospital in Montreal.

Dr Serge Daneault
Dr Balfour Mount
We congratulate Philippe Couillard on his victory in the April 7 election. Nonetheless we feel compelled to express our deep disappointment, and that of many medical colleagues and other Quebec citizens, at his announcement the day after the election that he intends to reintroduce Bill 52, including medical aid in dying.

Knowing that in October 2013 he expressed serious reservations about the “medical aid in dying” component of Bill 52, we are mystified by his about-face on this very grave question. It is impossible to legalize euthanasia without putting vulnerable patients at risk, as the experience in Belgium and other countries shows clearly. Bill 52, with or without the amendments, goes even farther than the Belgian law; it defines medical homicide as health care and requires that it be available to all patients who meet the exceedingly broad criteria set out in the bill. As a physician, he is conscious of the power imbalance between physicians and their patients, and how patients can be manipulated to consent even by well-meaning health professionals.

The majority of the citizens and health professionals who made submissions to the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity in 2010-11 opposed legalization of euthanasia, but the report recommended it. The fact that the vast majority of palliative care physicians oppose euthanasia was systematically ignored by the commission and the preceding government. The public, which seems to be clamouring for so-called death with dignity, is largely unaware that what is being proposed to them is a homicidal act and that skilled palliative care and wise management of end-of-life decisions are sufficient to address the fears leading to their request.

From the legal and political point of view, it is clear that the Quebec government lacks jurisdiction to legalize euthanasia, which is contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada, and that this component of the bill will be challenged in court, cause a confrontation with the federal government and ultimately be found illegal. We urge Couillard to examine the legal opinions of the ministry of Justice on this aspect and to publish them as he has promised to do with those regarding the validity of the Secularism Charter (Bill 60).

Balfour Mount MD
Emeritus Eric M. Flanders Professor of Medicine, McGill University

Serge Daneault MD
Chief, Palliative Care Service, Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)

Euthanasia undermines protection in law for me.

By Steven Passmore - The Hamilton Spectator, April 23, 2014.

Steve Passmore met with
Steven Fletcher in 2009.
After significant reflection concerning Steven Fletcher’s response to my letter about his euthanasia bills, I find it interesting that he stated that my concerns about his motives are ridiculous.

When I was younger I had several very painful surgeries. If someone had asked me, while I was in severe pain, if I wanted to die, I would have said Yes. When I am at a low point in my life, I do not want someone questioning me about whether I should live.

Fletcher’s euthanasia bills undermine protections in law for me.

Fletcher states that his bills will “empower competent adults to make decisions for themselves based on their own values and ethics.”

His bills actually empower physicians and the state to kill people by euthanasia.

People with disabilities, people with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, people with cognitive disabilities, are all at risk by Fletcher’s bills. Fletcher speaks about choice, but these people are dependent on others to make decision for them.

In Belgium a recent study found that people withAlzheimer’s/Dementia or in coma were often being killed without request, and yet the Belgium law has the same – supposed safeguards – as Fletcher’s bills.

In Switzerland the assisted death groups haveestablished themselves in nursing homes. Once assisted death becomes a legal option it also becomes an ever present suggestion.

Legalizing euthanasia does not create greater rights for people with disabilities and the frail elderly but rather it will often lead to the death of vulnerable people.

Steven Passmore

Hamilton Ontario

Links to similar articles: 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Euthanasia cannot be contained, especially if the criteria is to eliminate suffering.

By Paul Russell - the Director of Hope Australia and Vice Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - International. This article was originally published by Hope Australia.
Paul Russell
In November last year I attended a debate in Brussells between my Canadian colleague, Alex Schadenberg and two leading Belgian pro-euthanasia academics.
As I reported at the time, the comments made by Professor Etienne Vermeersch in not only defending the Belgian laws but also in arguing that there was ‘not enough euthanasia’ in his country left many of us speechless. Vermeersch was very clear: his aim to eliminate all suffering is a program of eliminating all sufferers. His observation that ‘not enough euthanasia’ deaths were occurring followed by a pointed attack on an audience member where Vermeersch said, ‘Wait until you are paralyzed’ said it all.
No-one wants to suffer and no-one wishes suffering upon another. This point, at least, we can say that we share with Vermeersch. But once we make the elimination of suffering the criteria for killing people were spinning out of control in a vortex that has only one logical conclusion: totally unfettered and unregulated euthanasia – with or without request.
We should be wary of accepting the opinion of one academic to draw such a calamitous conclusion. But Vermeersch’s words are also supported by what has occurred and what continues to occur in his country.
One recent example of what we could call ‘euthanasia anarchy’ should send shivers down the spines of any thoughtful observer. An official recent statement from the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine boldly asserted that doctors need to be able to give lethal injections to shorten lives which are no longer worth living, even if the patients have not given their consent.
Michael Cook, from Mercatornet reports:
The Society has decided (decreed may be a better word) that it is acceptable medical practice to euthanase patients in critical care who do not appear to have long to live — even if they are not suffering, even if they are not elderly, even if their relatives have not requested it, even if they have not requested it and even if it is not legal.
The Society spells out its policy very carefully. It is not about grey areas like withdrawing burdensome or futile treatment or balancing pain relief against shortening a patient’s life. It clearly states that “shortening the dying process by administering sedatives beyond what is needed for patient comfort can be not only acceptable but in many cases desirable”.
“Shortening the dying process” is a euphemism for administering a lethal injection.
Most dying patients in intensive care have not made advance directives and “are usually not in a position to request euthanasia”.
Therefore, “difficulty can arise when the purpose of the drugs used for comfort and pain relief in end-of-life management is misconstrued as deliberate use to speed the dying process.” The Society’s solution to this difficulty is to allow its members to kill the patients.
Note: Belgian law does not support such behaviour, but it is likely, in a country that recently supported euthanasia for children, that this is being received by the Belgian populous with little more than a passing thought.
And for those who might be tempted to find solace in the thought that euthanasia laws might somehow protect vulnerable people, think again: This behaviour shows up the recent intense parliamentary debate on child euthanasia in Belgium as the sham that it really always was.
Whilst the law makers deliberated over euthanasia for children, including so-called safeguards, the medicos themselves have said, in very clear terms, that the law–regardless of what it does and does not allow–is redundant; that they and they alone will decide who lives and who dies. The statement is, by the way, inclusive of euthanasia for children in the same terms.
This kind of thinking, that the doctors are the prime (if not sole) moral agents and ethical guides in determining who should die by euthanasia, is quite common. We first saw a public expression of this kind of development in 2004/5 in The Netherlands with the advent of the Groningen Protocol which allows for the euthanasia of disabled neonates.
This remains, as it was then, outside the parameters of the Dutch law. As a postscript, the Dutch Medical Association said in 2013 that ‘parental suffering’ was a sufficient reason for infant euthanasia, even in circumstances where the child might not actually be suffering.

Celebration Dinner - May 30 - Nashua New Hampshire

John Kelly
Nancy Elliott has organized a Victory Celebration Dinner on Friday, May 30 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua New Hamphsire to celebrate the overwhelming defeat of assisted suicide in NH. The celebration extends to other New England states, including: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Quebec. 

John Kelly the New England regional director for Not Dead Yet, will be the dinner speaker. The cost for the dinner is $35.

There will be a leaders meeting in the afternoon of May 30. 
For more information contact Alex Schadenberg.

Book a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for $119 under the name "Euthanasia Prevention Coalition". 

Payment to (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition) Box 611309 Port Huron MI 48061-1309 or contact Alex Schadenberg at: 1-877-439-3348 or

Monday, April 21, 2014

Patients diagnosed as PVS can be dehydrated to death. What if the diagnosis is wrong?

This article was written by Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo. Bobby and his family operate the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network. This article was published by LifeNews on April 21, 2014.

Bobby Schindler will be speaking at the First National Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide on May 2 -3, 2014 in Minneapolis Minnesota.
The parents of Terri Schiavo.
By Bobby Schindler
I have written time and time again about the dangerous and dehumanizing persistent vegetative state (PVS) diagnosis. Actually, we saw in my family’s battle to save my sister, Terri Schiavo, from death by dehydration, that a tremendous amount of debate raged over whether or not she was in this condition.
In fact, this diagnosis is what allowed the court to order the removal of Terri’s food and water. Yet despite continuing research validating that the PVS diagnosis is growing in its inaccuracy, the medical community uses this diagnosis to end countless lives of our medically vulnerable patients who are allegedly in this condition.
The Journal’s report, released on Feb. 3, revealed that some patients who were believed to be in a PVS were actually able to understand and communicate. Through the use of functional magnetic resonance scanning (fMRI), researchers in the United Kingdom estimated that a percentage of those patients suffering from profound brain injuries possessed the capacity to comprehend and communicate in limited ways.
Terri Schiavo
Indeed, every time these studies are published we should move to abolish the PVS diagnosis, in particularly, using it as a reason to kill. Sadly, however, despite these imaging studies and what they reveal about the human brain, the vast majority of the medical community sees nothing improper about using such an unscientific diagnosis for, what usually turns out to be, reasons almost never in the best interest of the patients.
Furthermore, not only can the PVS diagnosis be used as an actual death sentence for a patient, but as a death sentence figuratively speaking, as well. And it seems both are supported under the pretext to save health care costs. You see, the PVS can also be used to cut off funds for a person in need of vital rehabilitation. Because once insurance providers receive the PVS diagnosis in regards to the patient’s condition, no longer are they willing to pay for any rehabilitative services.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Susan Martinuk: Euthanasia debate is alive and well

This column was written by Susan Martinuk and published in the Calgary Herald - April 18.

Susan Martinuk
By Susan Martinuk

When you don’t have facts and/or good arguments, the only way to win a debate is to declare the discussion obsolete and anoint yourself the winner.

That’s what happened last week in the debate over euthanasia (where one individual deliberately kills another to “end their suffering”) and assisted suicide (where one individual provides the means, information or whatever is required for another to commit suicide so as to “end their suffering”).

An April 7 commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal arrogantly suggested that the “yes or no debate” is over, arguments about sanctity of life, personal autonomy and intolerable suffering may now be obsolete and it’s time for doctors to focus on establishing guidelines and policies (“we may need them very soon”) that would “suit the Canadian context.”

As the authors no doubt hoped, the editorial created substantial media buzz, and some headlines and news reports gave the public the incorrect perception that this was a dictate of the Canadian Medical Association or Canada’s palliative care physicians.

That it was printed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in no way means that it is CMA policy. As in any truly free academic journal, editorial opinions and scientific interpretations are not censored. However, in this particular case, this commentary runs counter to CMA policies (reaffirmed as recently as 2013) that overwhelmingly oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, calling it “unethical” and “in conflict with basic ethical principles of medical practice.”

In addition, the suggestion that the debate is over and doctors should practically prepare to deal with euthanasia does not have the support of Canada’s doctors or palliative care physicians.

A 2013 Canadian Medical Association poll showed that just 16 per cent of its members would be willing to participate in the taking of a life. A 2010 survey by the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians found that 88 per cent of its members were opposed to euthanasia and 80 per cent were against legalization of assisted suicide.

The American Medical Association says euthanasia/assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role” and the World Medical Association calls it “unethical” and asks all national medical associations and physicians to refrain from participating in it — even if laws allow it.

In other words, the vast majority of physicians oppose any legalization of the practice and the insistence on calling it an unethical practice reinforces the idea that even if these practices are legalized, they will still be anathema to a physicians’ role and responsibility to a patient.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Harold Shipman: Euthanasia without request or consent?

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Harold Shipman was responsible
for at least 218 deaths.
The Associated Press reports that a recent two-part documentary marking ten years since the death of serial killer, Dr Harold Shipman, refers to his actions as euthanasia.

In 2000 Shipman was given 15 life sentences for murder, “although many more were suspected,” as the Press Association so cautiously phrases it. (According to The BBC, “police believe he may have actually killed up to 215 patients.”)

The documentary examines some of the deaths attributed to Dr Shipman and interviews some of the family members of his victims. The Associated Press article reports:
Jack Shelmerdine, whose father - also called Jack - died at the hands of the GP, said he and his family had a greater suspicion that there was a problem with hospital care than their doctor being at fault. 
The son of one of serial killer Harold Shipman's victims still maintains he was a "good doctor" and said he views the killing as "euthanasia". 
He had been present when Shipman delivered the lethal injection. Mr Shelmerdine recalled: " I was concerned that my father was still unconscious, still asleep as we were thinking, and I rang Dr Shipman and I remember his words were, 'Oh, he might well make it'. But those words, 'he might make it' seemed odd to me. 
"And I just wondered whether questions ought to be asked. I wasn't thinking in terms of Dr Shipman having done anything. We were more inclined to think that the hospital had done something wrong rather than Shipman.
Michael Swango was responsible
for approximately 60 deaths.
The problem with euthanasia without request is that some family members support euthanasia and often the family members are unaware of what is actually happening or comments from a family member are misconstrued resulting in death. This explains why statistics from Belgium indicate that up to 32% of all assisted deaths are done without request.

Reporting on part one of the documentary the article states:
In the first programme, Harold Shipman: Driven To Kill, a former colleague from his early years practising medicine at Pontefract General Infirmary, the then ward sister Margaret Sivorn, said he was a "brilliant doctor". 
"The consultants liked him. He got on well with his colleagues. The patients absolutely couldn't ever say a bad thing about him," she said. 
"They felt calm and comfortable with him and knew that he was looking after them properly. He was always professional, always, and you always felt at ease with him. He'd have a smile with them, a little joke with them, but professional to his fingertips."