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:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Disability advocate: Abandoned, neglected and brokenhearted after Canadian Assisted Death decision

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
November 17 2015

Abandoned, Neglected, brokenhearted I am left crying myself to sleep” - What the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case has meant to me and many other Canadians.”

Dear Prime Minister

When I was a child my family placed me in a “home” for kids like me – I had disabilities because of cerebral palsy. Over the course of my six years stay I felt totally abandoned by my family. One question would often fill my thoughts, “does anyone really care?” In the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Carter, decriminalizing euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, I feel that same abandonment and again the question circles my mind after all these years – “does anyone really care?”

I have been abandoned by several key sectors of society -  among these are, the Canadian Supreme Court, the Canadian Government, Canadian Law, the Canadian Medical Association, the Church in Canada and the Canadian Media.

You may ask why a sense of abandonment and this would be my answer. These sectors were the pillars of society on which, I knew as a Canadian living with disabilities, I could depend upon to look after me, uphold my rights, to life, to support, care and protection.

Now with the Supreme Court decision in Carter, I have lost my confidence in these institutions to protect me. I was told recently, “Steven you should not go to the doctor alone – make sure you have someone to go with you.” So what am I left to do – who will hold my hand? The sense of abandonment, my sense of grief and disappointment is so palpable it is like a yoke on my shoulders. Where do I go now, to whom do I speak?

I want to live even though some people may not find my life worth living. I am grateful to all of the key sectors that I mentioned for the life I have had so far. But when the law allows physicians to kill patients and those with consciences are forced to kill or pressured out of medicine. When people who want to kill themselves are exulted in the media to the point where we change the law and the voice of those of us who wish to live is disregarded and silenced – what am I to think?

Over the last 25 years, I have spoken about three key issues facing people with disabilities, equality, value and acceptance. I have tried to communicate to all Canadians that these three things must be protected under Canadian law to keep us all safe. People like me have always known that we were just tolerated, not really accepted, had no value and no equality in the eyes of many Canadians. Society built us ramps to buildings but not to Canadian hearts.

The Supreme Court judgement, added to the betrayal and neutrality of key sectors of society that has reinforced the concept of out of sight, out of mind,  and now out of the way!

That is why I feel so deeply abandoned because the Carter decision proves I have no equality no value or acceptance. If my choice to live can be circumvented, in my best interests of course - where is my autonomy? Who gave anyone the right to take away my autonomy?Choices are made for me every day. Where I may live, how much money I receive and now finally, with these changes, when I will die.

They will provide various reasons, such as economics, dependency, pain and suffering or quality of life and then they will decide. Society will decide for me, based on what it thinks not what I think. After all Canadian society knows what is best for me – who would want to live like Steven anyway. I shout but no one wants to hear. The Carter ruling establishes two types of Canadians, those upon whom we confer equality, value and acceptance and those, like me, to whom they will be withheld.

There is great talk about being more inclusive, a kinder and gentler Canada – is that just rhetoric – or does that really include the elderly, disabled the marginalized? Or have we become so cold that we will no longer provide the essentials of human life, the supports needed like health care and financial aid to those who require such assistance. I feel as though I need to apologize for being born with a disability, as though somehow it is my fault.

Someone recently said that because the government is our provider the key sectors of society do not want to look after us anymore. Why give him healthcare? Why provide for or assist him we certainly do not want to extend his future? Is this because I am different, because I need a hand, a lift up?

What we are about to do, allowing physicians to kill patients or helping them to commit suicide, is so dangerous, so horrific, so detrimental to Canadian values.

It is said that how a nation treats its most vulnerable is the measure of that nation. Please speak up for my right to live. Our future as Canadians must include the vulnerable and marginalized. As a man living with disabilities I have no voice, and unless I want to kill myself I am closed out of Canadian media. Please ensure that all Canadians have a future – protect us from those doctors who will kill us, protect us from the media which asks you who would want to live like them? Defend us from the law which has been turned upside down and from government which threatens refusal to protect our lives.

Whatever happened to Canada the good? I am on a ledge right now will Canada pull me back or push me off?

Forever committed to making a stronger and more inclusive Canada and an advocate for the marginalized.

Yours sincerely,

Steven Passmore
404- 165 Queen Street South
Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4R3
(905) 529-9689

Previous articles by Steve Passmore:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

25 most popular articles on euthanasia & assisted suicide.

1. Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Personal Choice - Feb 17, 2011.

2. A healthy 24 year old Belgian woman is scheduled for euthanasia - June 24, 2015

3. Euthanasia is out-of-control in the Netherlands – Sept 25, 2012.

4. Depressed Belgian woman dies by Euthanasia – Feb 6, 2013.

5. Oregon 2012 assisted suicide statistics: An analysis - Jan 25, 2013

6. 5 reasons why people devalue the elderly – May 25, 2010.

7. Twins euthanized out of fear of blindness in Belgium – Jan 14, 2013.

8. Nitschke continues to promote Nembutal sales over the internet – June 22, 2010.

9. Declaration of Hope – Jan 17, 2013.

10. Petition: Stop euthanasia Bill in Quebec – May 24, 2014

11. Dutch ethicist changed his mind - Assisted Suicide: Dont Go There - July 16, 2014.

12. Opposing the Supreme Court of Canada assisted death decision - Feb 17, 2015 

13. Trisomy 18 is not a Death Sentence. The story of Lilliana Dennis – May 29, 2012.

14. Woman with Anorexia Nervosa dies by euthanasia in Belgium – Feb 10, 2013.

15. Mild stroke led to mother’s forced death by dehydration – Sept 27, 2011.

16. Québec's euthanasia Bill 52 is lethal - Dec 12, 2013.

17. Netherlands 2012 euthanasia report: sharp increase in euthanasia deaths - Sept 24, 2013.

18. New Jersey Senate may vote on assisted suicide bill - Dec 16, 2014

19. Governer Jerry Brown - veto the assisted suicide bill - Sept 17, 2015.

20. Dr Phil show: Woman wants to euthanize her adult children with disabilities – April 16, 2012.

21. Botched sex-change operation victim euthanized in Belgium – Oct 1, 2013.

22. Belgium study finds that nearly half of all assisted deaths are not reported – Dec 4, 2010.

23. Elder abuse caught on video, incident is not isolated - May 22, 2013.

24. A letter of Hope to Laura - July 8, 2015.

25. Euthanasia in Canada: Letter writing campaign. Feb 24, 2015.

Become a member of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition ($25) membership.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This blog does not publish Anonymous comments.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

During the last few days there have been many excellent comments posted on blogger that I did not published because the comments were Anonymous.

I only publish comments from people who publish their name with their comment. Anonymous comments will not be published on this blog.

Comments that attack a person, have dangerous, illegal, or unethical content will also not be published on this blog.

Comments will be published when you post your name with your comment.

Canadian government will not seek advice from federal panel on assisted dying.

Media Release

The Canadian Press reported on November 14 that the new federal Liberal government will not be seeking advice from the federal panel on assisted dying that was appointed by the previous Conservative government. According to the Canadian Press:
A federal panel created in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on assisted death will no longer be asked to make recommendations to the government and will now simply report on its consultations on the issue. 
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpott say in a statement that along with the modified mandate, the date for the panel to make its report has been extended by a month to Dec. 15.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is concerned that the Federal government is planning to follow the recommendations of the one-sided panel that was appointed by the Ontario Provincial government that features Jocelyn Downie, Canada's leading pro-euthanasia academic and Maureen Taylor who describes herself as an advocate of assisted death.

Considering the investment in time and research by the panel and the many groups who presented to the panel on assisted dying and the potential for positive insight from the panel members based on their professional and personal experience EPC finds this decision to be short-sighted and motivated by partisan politics.

The panel was appointed by the previous federal Health and Justice Ministers is composed of Dr Harvey Max Chochinov, the Canada research chair in palliative care at the University of Manitoba who is the chair of the panel, Catherine Frazee, a former co-director of the Ryerson-RBC Institute for Disability Studies Research and Education and a former chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and Benoît Pelletier, a University of Ottawa law professor and former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister.

The new Liberal government is not forced to accept the recommendations of this panel but it is wrong for them not to consider the recommendations of this excellent panel.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wesley Smith: Ten percent of elders are abused.

This article was published by Wesley Smith on his blog on November 14, 2015

Wesley Smith
By Wesley Smith.

There is a phenomenon in assisted suicide advocacy, I call it Euthanasia World, in which a terrible problem is discussed with nary a mention that it could impact decisions for assisted suicide.
For example, one day citizens of Euthanasia World wring their hands about HMOs cutting costs by reducing levels of care. But then, when they discuss assisted suicide, all doctors are committed professionals dedicated only to what is best for their patients!
This time it is elder abuse. The NEJM warns that 10 percent of older Americans are abused. From the “Elder Abuse" study:  
Physicians may find the evaluation and treatment of elder abuse unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, since it presents several challenges. 
First, victims may conceal their circumstances or be unable to articulate them owing to cognitive impairment. 
Second, the high burden of chronic illness in older people creates both false negative findings (e.g., fractures misattributed to osteoporosis) and false positive findings (e.g., spontaneous bruising misattributed to physical abuse) in the evaluation. For these and other reasons, screening for elder abuse and neglect has not been recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. 
Third, cultural and language barriers may hinder the disclosure of abuse. 
Fourth, in some cases, a definitive determination that abuse is taking place may take weeks or months, and physicians may be required to intervene before such a determination has been made — a strategy that is not typically used in the management of medical conditions. 
Does anyone think such findings have no relevance to assisted suicide? 

But the denizens of Euthanasia World will ignore this study, and tell us that doctors can be trusted to discern whether assisted suicide requesters are being pressured or coerced. 

Know this: Assisted suicide legalization will lead to the ultimate elder abuse–pressured death, and all under the cover of law.