Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Not Dead Yet Denounces California Governor’s decision to sign Assisted Suicide Bill

This article was published by Not Dead Yet on October 5, 2015.

Diane Coleman
By Diane Coleman, the President and CEO of the disability right group Not Dead Yet.

Today, NDY was devastated and disgusted to learn that California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the assisted suicide bill that proponents rammed through a “special” session of the legislature convened to address the state’s Medicaid budget.

Governor Brown’s message accompanying his action states that he “carefully read” materials from opponents such as “those who champion disability rights,” but he nevertheless seems to have missed key facts.

For one, he says that “the crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life . . ..” Suicide is not a crime under California law (nor in other states), but assisted suicide proponents love to confuse people about that. The crime is when physicians and other third parties, such as the individual’s heirs, assist in suicide.

When confronted with that fact, proponents then often argue that old, ill and disabled people need help to commit suicide, which is another falsehood. As proponents promote on their website, any old, ill or disabled person can already commit suicide legally and peacefully in any state. So it is not a crime for a dying person to end his or her life peacefully, and Governor Brown’s stated “crux of the matter” is therefore mistaken.

Near the end of his short statement, Governor Brown said:
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. 
I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain.”
This reveals that he didn’t really learn very much about the advances in palliative care when it comes to physical pain. At this point in time, palliative care physicians are able to relieve physical pain, even if that may in some instances require palliative sedation. Some people may feel that they don’t want to be made unconscious to relieve pain, but that’s a psycho-social issue. The implication that assisted suicide is needed to relieve physical pain is mistaken.

The Governor’s stated reasons are based on fallacies and his action must be denounced. When held up alongside the factually based and well considered reasons that disability rights organizations oppose legalization of assisted suicide – mistaken prognoses, insurance denials, family coercion and abuse, among others – his failure to veto the bill amounts to a breach of his duty to protect all Californians, not just the privileged few who can count on high quality health care and the support of a loving family.

Mary Karner: Why my mother, who just died from brain cancer, opposed assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday was a terrible day for those who believe in true dignity and oppose assisted suicide. Governor Jerry Brown signed the California assisted suicide bill into law.

The California assisted suicide bill passed in a subversive legislative process. The assisted suicide bill originally stalled in the State Assembly Health Committee. Then the assisted suicide bill re-appeared in a special session that Governor Brown called to examine the health care funding shortfall. In the meantime, the governing caucus re-arranged the committee members to ensure that the assisted suicide bill would receive committee support. Therefore the assisted suicide bill was passed in a two-week session without the scrutiny of other legislation. Governor Brown signed the bill into law, enabling California doctors to prescribe lethal doses for suicide to their patients who are living in a low time of their life.

Maggie Karner
But today, the Federalist published a poignant and personal letter by Mary Karner, a nurse and the daughter of Maggie Karner titled: My Mom Just Died Of Brain Cancer, Here's Why She Opposed Assisted Suicide.

I admired Maggie Karner for her ability to express her opposition to assisted suicide and her daughter appears to have inherited this gift. Mary Karner wrote:
I’ve performed CPR till I thought my arms would fall off to keep blood pumping through a child’s body. I’ve administered life-saving medication to a patient having a stroke and seen the joy on his face when he regained his speech. I’ve had a patient fall through a ceiling onto another patient (I can’t even make that up.) I’ve held the hand of patients as they’ve taken their last breath, and I’ve hugged family members so tight I couldn’t breathe. I really thought I’d seen it all. 
And then last week, my mom died. She had a glioblastoma brain tumor. I knew all about it, even cared for patients with her same diagnosis. I knew what was going to happen. But no matter how much I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. Death stings. And my beautiful, 52-year-old mother’s grave is freshly dug. 
But my mom’s name was Dr. Maggie Karner. And she was the textbook definition of awesome. Don’t take my word for it, Google her. She devoted her entire life to helping others... I’m not sure I’ve ever heard my mom speak more passionately then when she was talking about the word “mercy.” And that’s why my mom used her last days on Earth to campaign against a very dangerous use of that word. A “merciful death” some would call it, or a “right to die.” 
Mary Karner
My mom is most famous for a YouTube video that went viral entitled “A Letter to Brittany Maynard.” In the video my mom pleaded with Brittany, who had the same diagnosis, not to commit assisted suicide. Unfortunately, Brittany eventually chose to end her life, but my mom never stopped advocating for life. In her words, “How long will it be before the right to die quickly devolves into the duty to die? What does this mean for all who are elderly, or disabled, or just wondering if they’ve become a burden to the family?” Even while she was receiving chemotherapy, my mom spoke at the Connecticut state house to lobby against a “right to die” bill. The bill did not pass. 
Difficulty Doesn’t Justify Suicide 
That’s why my heart breaks tonight to learn the news that California’s governor has just signed legislation allowing residents of the state to take their own lives in the face of terminal illness. This makes five states in our nation allowing assisted suicide. 
Believe me, terminal illness sucks. There is no way to sugar coat that. It stole my mom from me along with so many others. But it also gave me something that I could never begin to describe, the opportunity to serve her. My family and I cared for her when she could no longer care for herself. We were her left arm when hers was paralyzed. And when that became too much, we had the distinct privilege of being able to visit her at her hospice facility during the last month of her life. She was not herself, and many times confused, but she could laugh. Even up until the day before she died we laughed about seagulls that she thought were drones. We laughed about how much she loved chocolate and McFlurry’s from McDonald’s. We laughed about all the stupid things I did as a kid. And then when she could no longer laugh, we sang to her and we prayed with her. 
My mom said it best in an op-ed in the Hartford Courant: “My brain may be cancerous, but I still have lots to contribute to society as a strong woman, wife and mother while my family can daily learn the value of caring for me in my last days with compassion and dignity.” 
I’m here to say that she was right. No matter how hard it was and still is. She was so right. And the greatest honor of my life was to care for my mom in her last days. I hope and pray that her legacy will continue to inspire caring American voters to support those choosing to squeeze life for every drop that it has to give. Support hospice and palliative care programs that give true meaning to “death with dignity.” Let those fighting illness and disabilities know that they are precious, no matter what. They should never have to feel for a second that they might have a “duty to die” just because the option is available.
Thank you Mary for sharing your experience with your incredible mother. Your mother was right. 

Mary Karner is a Registered Nurse currently working in Connecticut.

Barrie: The Memoirs of Dr. L.L. deVeber

The founding President of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), Dr L.L. (Barrie) deVeber was a leader who initiated many important initiatives. 

The newly published book - Barrie: The Memoirs of Dr. L.L. deVeber, is the story of the life of a man who was a Pediatric Oncologist, a Hemotologist, a researcher, an innovator, a leader, and a founder of many organizations.

Dr deVeber is historically known for his work in the development of the Serum for treating Rh factor pregnancies. Countless children survived thanks to this research by Dr. deVeber. 

Dr deVeber also developed the first pediatric palliative care guidelines, that were developed while he was treating children who were dying from cancer in London Ontario. 

He also authored and co-authored many research papers that remain important today.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is selling the book: Barrie for $25 (inludes postage). Books can be ordered by calling the EPC office at: 1-877-439-3348 or email: info@epcc.ca or by purchasing through paypal (link). (please state Barrie in paypal purchase)

The editor states in the Forward of Barrie: The Memoirs of Dr. L.L. deVeber:
Dr. L.L. deVeber M.D., F.R.C.P. (C)
• Professor Emeritas Paediatrics and Oncology, University of Western Ontario
• Former Director Paediatric Oncology Children's Hospital of Western Ontario 
Dr. L.L. "Barrie" deVeber is internationally recognized as a pioneer in paediatric palliative care. 
His innovative work with children with cancer, pregnant woman and the Rh factor, and hemophilia patients, has affected the lives of many. His medical career has taken him around the globe, from Canada to England to the USA, to Saudi Arabia to Africa. 
Dr. deVeber is a founding member of various organizations including Camp Trillium, the Sunshine Foundation, the Montessori School of London ON, the Ronald McDonald House in London ON and the London and Area Right to Life. He is the founding President of the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Barrie & Iola deVeber (2012)
Dr. deVeber spent a career challenging the status quo. He has made countless presentations to government and local communities on the importance of respecting all human life. 
Dr. deVeber is a man who has truly lived: his caring and compassion has touched the lives of thousands of people and his Irish charm has made him a friend of many. 
His story is worth reading.      S.M.S
Among his many accomplishments, Barrie is a family man who was married to Iola for 61 years and who had 6 children. The book is dedicated to Iola who passed away on June 19, 2015.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Governor Brown delivers death sentence to California.

This article was published on the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC) website

By Jennifer Lahl, CBC President - October 5, 2015.

It is with heavy hearts that we at the CBC report that Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law ABx2 15. California becomes the fifth state to allow physician assisted suicide after Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

In his signing message to the California State Assembly, Governor Brown states that he weighed the arguments of those who support and those who oppose physician assisted suicide and concluded that he could not deny those dying and in “prolonged and excruciating pain” the right to end their lives.

Dr Aaron Kheriaty
CBC Board Member, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Irvine, who has worked tirelessly to oppose AB x 2 15 said:
Naturally, I’m very disappointed that Governor Brown signed into law today legislation that will permit doctor assisted suicide in California. His letter stating why he signed the bill indicated that he made his decision in the end based upon what he would want in the face of his own death, and suggesting that while he might not avail himself of this option he would want it available.

Among the many problems with this reasoning is this: Governor Brown is among the socially and economically privileged Californians who are least likely to be adversely impacted by this legislation—with access to the best healthcare and plenty of financial resources. But he has a responsibility not only for the impact of the legislation on him, or on those like him, but on all Californians. Those others who are economically and socially marginalized, who do not have access to even decent medical care, will be vulnerable to pressures to accept this cheap and expedient “option” for dealing with difficult, complex, and frequently expensive situations at the end of life. We have to look at the impact of this law not only for ourselves or for those close to us. We need to look at how it will impact the common good, on how it will affect healthcare institutions and the entire practice of medicine for patients at the end of life.

Only just today, a study by Jones and Paton in the Southern Medical Journal demonstrates that the permissive assisted suicide laws in Washington and Oregon have led in those states to at least a 6% rise in overall suicide rates. While this study was not published in time to impact the debates in California, hopefully other states will take into account this and other studies that demonstrate the negative impacts on public health from such legislation. Suicide is among the health-related behaviors that tend to spread from person to person through social networks, up to three degrees of separation. We know also that publicized cases lead to clusters of copycat cases. A Swiss study in 2003, for example, indicated evidence for suicide contagion following media reports of doctor-assisted suicide. Furthermore, the law itself is a teacher. These laws communicate the message that under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living. This message will be heard by not only those with a terminal illness but also any person struggling with the temptation to end his or her own life.”
We at the CBC reject policy that suggests people have a right to die, that medicine should be corrupted to include killing as part of patient care, and that exposes the vulnerable among us to schemes that suggest assisted suicide is a compassionate choice to those in need of care.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia: political parties are fleeing their responsibilities

The election campaign is moving ahead and politicians are firing out their promises. Yet despite their life or death implication for all Canadians, the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia remain taboo! The next government will have as a first duty the enormous responsibility of passing a law to regulate assisted suicide in time for the Supreme Court’s February 6, 2016 deadline.

Moreover, the aggressive reaction of Quebec politicians against palliative care professionals who refuse to kill people under their care announces a serious danger for all of Canada. This attack on freedom strongly suggests that the "right to die" will inevitably become an obligation to kill if we do not take all legislative precautions to avoid it.

We recognize that the wording of laws and regulations will either enable or discourage misuse of assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, it is well known that no safeguards can entirely prevent the deaths of ineligible and non-consenting people. The data from a recent study in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, found that 1.7% of all deaths were intentionally hastened without request and people with depression and cognitive disorders are dying by euthanasia. The new Canadian government must use all means available to prevent such tragedies.

Faced with the silence of the political parties, the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), the EPC – BC, and Living with Dignity are adding their voice to those calling for a clear position with firm commitments from all political parties before the end of the election campaign so that Canadians can make an informed choice.

Together, we ask that all political parties publicly commit themselves to enact legislation and implement regulations which:

• protect vulnerable citizens from inducement to suicide, including people with physical and intellectual disabilities, those with mental illness, loss of autonomy or advanced chronic disease, and those at the end of life; 
• improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care for all Canadians, for there is no true free and informed consent to death if the patient is not aware of, or has no access to, the alternatives; 
• uphold freedom of conscience for caregivers in all health care environments by preventing any form of coercion and pressure to participate in the killing of persons under their care.
It would be a serious injustice to Canadians to leave unaddressed such fundamental issues for the future of our society. Canadians have the right to know how our elderly, disabled and terminally ill citizens will be treated after the federal election of October 19.

For more information contact:

Suicide assisté et euthanasie : les partis politiques fuient leurs responsabilités

La campagne électorale avance et les politiciens mitraillent leurs promesses. Or les enjeux liés au suicide assisté et à l’euthanasie continuent d’être un tabou, même s’il s’agit d’une question de vie ou de mort qui concerne toute la population canadienne! Le prochain gouvernement aura comme premier devoir l’immense responsabilité de faire passer une loi pour réglementer le suicide-assisté à temps pour la date d’échéance donnée par la Cour suprême, soit le 6 février 2016.

De plus, la réaction agressive des politiciens du Québec contre les professionnels des soins palliatifs qui refusent de tuer des personnes sous leurs soins annonce un sérieux danger pour tout le Canada. Cette attaque à la liberté suggère fortement que le "droit de mourir" versera inévitablement dans l’obligation de tuer si nous ne prenons pas toutes les précautions législatives pour l'éviter.

Nous reconnaissons que les termes utilisés dans les lois et la réglementation auront pour effet d’encourager ou de décourager l'utilisation abusive du suicide assisté ou l'euthanasie. Cependant, il s’agit d’un fait avéré qu’aucune protection ne peut complètement empêcher les décès de personnes non admissibles et non consentantes. Les données d’une récente étude belge, où l’euthanasie est légale, montre que 1,7% des décès ont été intentionnellement hâtés sans qu’il n’y ait eu demande. Et des personnes souffrant de dépression et de troubles cognitifs meurent par euthanasie. Le nouveau gouvernement canadien devra utiliser tous les moyens pour prévenir ce genre de tragédies.  

Ainsi, devant le silence des partis politiques, le Collectif des médecins contre l’euthanasie, la Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, la Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – BC , et Vivre dans la Dignité ajoutent leur voix à toutes celles qui réclament une prise de position claire avec engagements fermes de la part de tous les partis politiques avant la fin de la campagne électorale pour que la population canadienne puisse faire un choix éclairé.

Ensemble, nous réclamons que tous les partis politiques s'engagent publiquement à adopter une législation et à mettre en œuvre des règlements qui vont:
 protéger les citoyens vulnérables contre l'incitation au suicide, y compris les personnes avec des handicaps physiques et intellectuels, celles atteintes de maladie mentale ou de maladie chronique avancée et celles en perte d'autonomie ou en fin de vie; 
  améliorer la qualité et l'accessibilité des soins palliatifs pour toute la population canadienne parce qu’il n'y a pas de véritable consentement libre et éclairé à vouloir la mort si le patient n’a pas connaissance ou n’a pas accès aux alternatives; 
   respecter la liberté de conscience pour les soignants dans tous les environnements de travail en prévenant toute forme de coercition et de pression contre les professionnels qui refusent de tuer des personnes sous leurs soins. 
Ce serait une grave injustice envers la population canadienne que de laisser en suspens des enjeux aussi fondamentaux pour l’avenir de notre société La population a le droit de savoir comment les citoyens âgés, handicapés ou en fin de vie seront traités après l'élection fédérale du 19 octobre.

Pour plus d’informations, veuillez contacter:
  • Aubert Martin, (Montréal QC), info@vivredignite.org, 438-931-1233
  • Catherine Ferrier, (Montréal, QC), info@collectifmedecins.org, 438-938-9410
  • Dr Will Johnston, (Vancouver BC), willjohnston@shaw.ca, 604-220-2042
  • Alex Schadenberg, (London ON), info@epcc.ca, 519-851-1434

Friday, October 2, 2015

Subverting the legislative process: How the Assisted Suicide Lobby circumvented the California Legislature

By Dr Jacqueline Harvey

The media has branded ABX2-15, the bill that would legalize assisted suicide in California as Landmark legislation. Landmark legislation can serve as a catalyst for reform nationwide or it can becomes a cautionary tale. In the case of ABX2-15, my prediction is that it may be both, and the consequences will be catastrophic.

California is not the first state to legalize assisted suicide. What qualifies this bill as landmark is the influence California has on other states as a leader in policy innovation and in particular the underhanded strategy used to pass this bill.

If Governor Brown allows this tactic to prevail, California will be the first state to enable assisted suicide to pass the legislature without sufficient committee hearings, testimony and debate through misuse of a special session. Both this dangerous legislative precedent, and this dangerous legislation, is likely to spread.

If AB2X-15 is signed, this new strategy, to use the legislature against itself, would represent a significant shift in the suicide lobby’s already unethical tactics. Education on the ramifications of assisted suicide that occurs in the formal legislative process presents such an obstacle, that suicide lobbyists have changed their strategy and are now avoiding the legislature completely and they have sought the support of the uneducated voter through ballot initiatives or unethical judges who will legislate from the bench. Legislative hearings broadcast the very evidence that sabotages assisted suicide bills. The data is so damning that only one bill in over 175 has ever prevailed. Yet, for the first time, with ABX2-15, the suicide lobby did not have to circumvent the legislature to suppress education, just abuse it at a time when the process was relaxed to deal with different issues.

If signed, Governor Brown will not only be passing dangerous legislation that was not vetted, but worse, he will be validating a tactic which would encourage additional abuses of special sessions that yield more bad law. Any legislation that requires ignorance to pass is evidently flawed and the hallmark of a dangerous bill. It is not simply that legislation passed in haste and without proper scrutiny is cause for concern, although it is. The greater concern is how abusing the special session enables legislation that could not satisfy lawmakers even with ample time, debate and compromise. This would create a loophole for legislation so inherently problematic it has little hope to pass, unless it is done too quickly and superficially to truly consider the consequences.

Assisted suicide bills are a prime example of fundamentally flawed legislation that virtually never survive debate. Decades of data on assisted suicide overwhelmingly indicate criticisms of the bill cannot remedied enough by amendments to secure passage. This was the case with SB 128. When legislators in the Assembly health committee thoroughly examined SB 128 and found no compromise to abate their concerns. The suicide lobby used the special session to navigate around those that opposed the bill. The defects in SB 128 were not remedied. The fact that ABX2-15 has these same provisions and yet passed shows that it was only a procedural ploy and strategic efforts to keep lawmakers in the dark that allowed the bill to pass.

Reinforcing this behavior by signing impertinent bills like ABX2-15 encourages disordered use of the special sessions, particularly as a mechanism to pass these fundamentally flawed bills. If this bill is signed, California can expect more bills that are clearly lacking in merit and pushed by lobbyists who are hoping to capitalize on the lack of time, public involvement and committee oversight (which exists to find these flaws and hopefully amend them).

Ultimately, signing AB2x-15 would not only harm California with flawed public policy and dangerous precedent but sets a bad example and promulgates this flawed policy nationwide. History and academic research validate how influential the state is among others. In fact, California was the first state to adopt end-of-life legislation in 1976. The legislature passed the nation’s first advance directive law so patients could have a natural death, not one postponed, prolonged or worse- caused by overburdensome life support or unwanted medical treatment. This law went through the legislative process where it was amended to address serious concerns before it was viable for passage. This took two years. That carefully-crafted law in 1976 rapidly diffused to all fifty states.

This rapid diffusion of a bill that prevented artificial, prolonged death could be that AB2X-15 follow a similar path to allow artificial premature death. Only the former bill to protect life from unnatural death needed years to perfect, yet AB2x-15, allowing unnatural death, only needed a few weeks of little to no scrutiny. The procedural ploy that allowed such will surely be used in other states to spread similar bills that would assuredly die if lawmakers were afforded the education intended by the legitimate legislative process.

If Governor Brown reinforces the particularly underhanded tactics used to exploit the special session and fast-track ABX2-15, it would expand the suicide lobby’s corrupt modus operandi, a playbook which is already rife with unethical tactics designed to suppress scientific evidence, deceive and manipulate. He will not just be signing a bad law, but validating a tactic that yields dangerous policy for not just California, but all states that follow her lead.

Jacqueline C. Harvey is a public-policy scholar with Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International. She has a Ph.D. in public administration and policy and focuses on end-of-life legislation at the state level.

Not Dead Yet and Five Other National Disability Groups File Friend of the Court Brief in New Mexico Supreme Court in Assisted Suicide Case

Diane Coleman, President Not Dead Yet
This Press Release was published by Not Dead Yet on October 1, 2015.

[The October 1, 2015 press release below is also available online in PDF format through PRWeb here. The friend-of-the-court brief described in the release can be read here.]

Press Release

On September 30, 2015, Not Dead Yet and five other national disability rights organizations filed a friend-of-the-court in the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of the State Attorney General’s request that the state’s high court uphold a Court of Appeals ruling that physician assisted suicide is not a right under the state constitution. Joining in the Not Dead Yet brief are ADAPT, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the National Council on Independent Living and United Spinal, collectively referred to as the “Disability Amici.”

The case is Morris v. Brandenburg (S. Ct. No. 35,478) and the disability brief supports the Court of Appeals ruling, which was issued August 11, 2015 (Court of Appeals Case No. 33,630), and the State Attorney General, who is seeking to uphold the appellate ruling.

According to the brief filed in the New Mexico Supreme Court, “State-sanctioned assisted suicide degrades the value and worth of people with disabilities and violates the antidiscrimination rights, protections and mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.”
“Our basic position is that when some people get suicide prevention while other people get suicide assistance, and the difference is the person’s age, disability or health status, that’s a problem,” said Not Dead Yet’s president and CEO, Diane Coleman.
The dissent in the Court of Appeals decision that is the subject of the appeal to the state Supreme Court noted that the State Attorney General did not call witnesses or submit evidence of alleged any abuses in Oregon and Washington state where assisted suicide is legal. In their Supreme Court brief, the Disability Amici urge that, if the Court is not prepared to simply uphold the Court of Appeals at this stage, the Court should remand the case and allow one or more of the disability groups to assist the Attorney General or intervene as defendants in the case to ensure a full hearing of facts that were allegedly omitted in the original trial court.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Judge upholds Tennessee assisted suicide law.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A Tennessee Judge, today, upheld the state law protecting people from assisted suicide. (Link to the decision).

Chancellor Carol McCoy, ruled today, that former Democrat politician, John Jay Hooker, does not have standing to bring action and challenge the Tennessee assisted suicide law.

The Tennessean reported McCoy as saying:

"The aid-in-dying prescription involves a script for a lethal dose of medication to cause quick death, not to provide palliative care to relieve physical pain and discomfort, as is allowed," 
"If the physicians intend to provide lethal drugs to end their patients' lives, they engage in criminal conduct."
Chancellor Carol McCoy
According to the Tennessean, Hooker will continue lobbying for assisted suicide.

Last week, Hooker appeared in a wheelchair before the Davidson County Grand Jury. He presented his case, and asked the grand jury to request the state legislature to support his request to end his life with the help of a willing doctor. 
The jury issued its report earlier this week. It showed support for aid-in-dying legislation. 
"This Grand Jury overwhelming supports Mr. Hooker's desire to have the laws of Tennessee amended to permit a severely ill patient to have option to end his or her life, thus ending all the pain and suffering for the patient and his or her family," the report reads.

Hooker said he has forwarded the grand jury's report to the members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
In the past year the New Mexico court of appeal and two California judges have upheld laws that protect people from assisted suicide.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Euthanasia: Theory and reality

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s assisted suicide law, opening the door to assisted death (Carter v. Canada).

Canadians have been sold the theory that euthanasia can freely end one’s life at the time and place of their choosing. This theory assumes that euthanasia will be voluntary and that the decision and the act is controlled by the person who dies by euthanasia.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) contends that the theory of legal euthanasia and its practice are very different. Since euthanasia, by definition, means that the physician will cause the death of the patient, therefore misuse of the law resulting in a person’s death would normally be understood to be homicide.

Euthanasia in practice

A study published in March 2015 concerning end-of-life practices in 2013 in Belgium found that 4.6 per cent of all deaths were euthanasia. The same study also found that 1.7 per cent of all deaths were hastened without explicit request. This means that approximately 1000 people were intentionally killed without request in 2013. The data indicates deaths that were hastened without request were more likely to occur when a patient was in a hospital and incompetent to make medical decisions.

How did this occur?

The guidelines in Belgium and the Netherlands require the physician who causes death by euthanasia to report the euthanasia after the patient has died. Since the doctor who approves the death is the same doctor who submits the report, and since there is no third-party oversight of the law, therefore the system has been designed to “cover up” misuse of the law.

The same misuse of the law will likely occur in Canada. The proposed Quebec euthanasia guidelines also require the physician who lethally injects the patient to submit the report to the government. The Quebec system also provides no third-party oversight of the law, while enabling physicians to cover up misuse of the law when directly killing a patient.

The announcement that Quebec doctors will be sent euthanasia kits with step-by-step instructions is also rife with possible misuse of the law. The physician will receive the euthanasia kit, containing a double dose of lethal drugs. These kits will be used to lethally inject patients without third-party oversight of the use of the kit. Once again, reporting of the death will be done, after the death, by the doctor who lethally injects the patient.

The data in the Belgian study on end-of-life practices in 2013 also uncovered that almost half of the assisted deaths were not reported. The data in the study suggests that when the euthanasia death may not have followed the guidelines of the law, that Belgian physicians failed to report it.

Further to that, in January 2014, Dr. Mark Cosyns admitted in an article published in a leading Belgian newspaper that he does not report the euthanasia deaths that he does. Dr. Cosyns has not been penalized for his indiscretion.

The theory that euthanasia will always be voluntary

The Quebec government recently announced that doctors would need to falsify death certificates when the patient died by euthanasia (by representing the cause of death as the underlying illness of the person, rather than euthanasia). This is an affront to medical ethics, transparency and accountability.

When euthanasia becomes legal, doctors are given power to cause the death of their patients. Life and death decisions should require the highest level of oversight and transparency.

What about patients who are not terminally ill but living with psychological conditions such as mental illness, depression or loneliness?

In 2013, euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in the Netherlands tripled and euthanasia for dementia more than doubled.

The data from a study — published in July — concerning 100 requests for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in Belgium indicated that: 58 people were depressed, 50 had a personality disorder, 13 had post-traumatic stress disorder, 12 were autistic, 11 had anxiety disorder and 10 had an eating disorder. The 100 requests for euthanasia resulted in 48 people with psychiatric conditions being approved for euthanasia.

The proposed Quebec euthanasia guidelines and the Supreme Court of Canada decision allows euthanasia for psychological suffering, a term that they did not define.

The practice of euthanasia is very different than euthanasia in theory.

In reality, legalizing euthanasia gives doctors the right, in law, to cause the death of their patients. The decision to lethally inject a patient is made by two doctors without third-party oversight and the doctor is required to report their decision after the patient has died.

The concept that euthanasia is about individual choice and autonomy is only a theory.

In other jurisdictions there is proof that the law is misused, that lives are ended without request, that the reporting procedure is intentionally ignored, and that euthanasia is regularly ending the lives of people who are depressed and/or incompetent.

In theory euthanasia appears to offer freedom; in reality, legalizing euthanasia is not safe.