Monthly Archives

October 2014

Assisted suicides often involve pain, suffering

By | Recent News

Providence Journal 17 October 2014
Did you know that many assisted suicides experience complications? Assisted suicide is wrongly marketed to the public as a flawless, peaceful escape from suffering. It can be a painful and scary death. It can include gasping, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, panic, confusion, failure to produce unconsciousness, waking from unconsciousness and a failure to cause death.
Just recently, we saw a heartbreaking article about a woman named Brittany Maynard who has planned her assisted-suicide death for Nov. 1. She is clearly terrified of a hard and painful death, and has been led to believe that assisted suicide is the best way out. However, Compassion and Choices, the leading advocates of assisted suicide, cannot guarantee her the easy death they advertise.
The most comprehensive study on clinical problems with assisted suicide (published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2000) was conducted over a six-year period in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for many years. It found that over 18 percent of assisted suicides experienced problems severe enough to cause a doctor to step in and euthanize the patient. In at least 14 percent of assisted suicides the patient had problems with completion including waking up from coma, not becoming comatose, and not dying after becoming comatose. Another 7 percent of assisted suicides reported muscle spasms, extreme gasping for air, nausea and vomiting.
The New England Journal of Medicine study insightfully mentions that all reporting doctors are practitioners and supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia who are less likely to report unfavorable data. They “may have underestimated the number and seriousness of problems,” causing complications to be underreported to an unknown degree.
Assisted suicide supporter Sherwin Nuland of the Yale University School of Medicine referred to the above study in a 2000 editorial also printed in the New England Journal of Medicine:
“This is information that will come as a shock to the many members of the public — including legislators and even some physicians — who have never considered that the procedures involved in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia might sometimes add to the suffering they are meant to alleviate and might also preclude the tranquil death being sought.”
Lani Candelora is the special adviser for policy and legislative affairs for Rhode Island Right to Life. She blogs for

There can be dignity in all states of life

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Ottawa Citizen 15 October 2014
In his article of Oct. 9, Desmond Tutu emphasizes the importance of language on the sensitive issue of medically assisted dying. In the spirit of advancing a respectful dialogue, I must urge him to consider the deeper meanings of dignity, and how our experience of human dignity leads disabled Canadians to a very different conclusion about end-of-life interventions.
Last week I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with a small group of parliamentarians on the subject of medically assisted dying.
I was not alone. Several friends and colleagues from the disability rights community were each given five minutes to present an argument against amending the criminal code to sanction medically assisted dying.
One spoke about the discriminatory implication of offering state-sanctioned assistance not for everyone, but only for persons who are frail, very ill, or seriously disabled. Another presented a chilling account of the “creep” of euthanasia in permissive jurisdictions.
Another spoke from personal experience, about the time someone said to him, “I don’t know how you do it; I’d rather be dead than in a wheelchair.” There were nods of recognition around the room. This is a common experience.
I spoke about dignity. The suffering that medically assisted dying is said to alleviate most often correlates with loss of dignity. I don’t believe that anyone should take a position on medically assisted dying without first understanding what dignity is, and what it is not.
Catherine Frazee is Professor Emerita at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, and former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

I'm Dying, too, Brittany, but Suicide Is not the Answer

By | Recent News 18 October 2014
My oncologist and I sat for a long time with hurting hearts for your story. We spoke in gentle tones discussing the hard path you are being asked to travel.
I came home and my friend and I sat on the bed of my five-year-old and prayed for you. We simply prayed you would hear my words from the most tender and beautifully broken place of my heart.
We prayed you would hear my words that are on paper coming from a place of tender love and knowing. Knowing what it is to know the horizon of your days that once felt limitless now feels to be dimming.
So hear these words from a heart full of love for you.
Brittany, your life matters, your story matters and your suffering matters. Thank you for stepping out from the privacy of your story and sharing it openly.
We see you, we see your life and there are countless lovers of your heart that are praying you would change your mind. Brittany, I love you, and I’m sorry you are dying. I am sorry that we are both being asked to walk a road that feels simply impossible to walk.

Euthanasia: Lethal dose has fearful consequences

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Sydney Morning Herald 15 October 2014
On Wednesday, a Senate committee will hear evidence on a euthanasia bill that would allow some people to be given a lethal injection on compassionate grounds.
I understand why some people want this. It’s often because someone they’ve known and loved has had a “hard dying”. Or because they are exhausted from caring for someone who is dying very slowly. Or because they are afraid of their own decline.
I sympathise with these reasons. I know that those who support euthanasia are not all grizzly Dr Deaths. This challenges me to think about what “a good death” means and how our community responds to the elderly, frail, disabled and dying.
But, however well-meaning, I don’t think giving people a lethal dose is the answer.
Reason and experience show that euthanasia can’t be made safe, because no law can prevent abuse in this area. In places like Holland and Belgium the numbers being medically killed are escalating and the range of cases keeps expanding beyond the “last resorts” for which it was first sold to the public.
Now people who aren’t terminally ill, aren’t even physically ill, people who haven’t volunteered or can’t volunteer, can legally be killed in those places and some want to extend it further – for example, to long-term prisoners and children.

The danger of assisted suicide laws

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CNN 14 October 2014
My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard, who is dying of brain cancer and who wrote last week about her desire for what is often referred to as “death with dignity.”

Yet while I have every sympathy for her situation, it is important to remember that for every case such as this, there are hundreds — or thousands — more people who could be significantly harmed if assisted suicide is legal.

The legalization of assisted suicide always appears acceptable when the focus is solely on an individual. But it is important to remember that doing so would have repercussions across all of society, and would put many people at risk of immense harm. After all, not every terminal prognosis is correct, and not everyone has a loving husband, family or support system.

As an advocate working on behalf of disability rights for 37 years, and as someone who uses a wheelchair, I am all too familiar with the explicit and implicit pressures faced by people living with chronic or serious disability or disease. But the reality is that legalizing assisted suicide is a deadly mix with the broken, profit-driven health care system we have in the United States.

At less than $300, assisted suicide is, to put it bluntly, the cheapest treatment for a terminal illness. This means that in places where assisted suicide is legal, coercion is not even necessary. If life-sustaining expensive treatment is denied or even merely delayed, patients will be steered toward assisted suicide, where it is legal.

This problem applies to government-funded health care as well.

In 2008, came the story that Barbara Wagner, a Springfield, Oregon, woman diagnosed with lung cancer and prescribed a chemotherapy drug by her personal physician, had reportedly received a letter from the Oregon Health Plan stating that her chemotherapy treatment would not be covered. She said she was told that instead, they would pay for, among other things, her assisted suicide.

“To say to someone: “We’ll pay for you to die, but not for you to live” — it’s cruel,” she said.

Another Oregon resident, 53-year-old Randy Stroup, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Like Wagner, Stroup was reportedly denied approval of his prescribed chemotherapy treatment and instead offered coverage for assisted suicide.

Meanwhile, where assisted suicide is legal, an heir or abusive caregiver may steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and even give the drug — no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? This can occur despite the fact that diagnoses of terminal illness are often wrong, leading people to give up on treatment and lose good years of their lives.

True, “safeguards” have been put in place where assisted suicide is legal. But in practical terms, they provide no protection. For example, people with a history of depression and suicide attempts have received the lethal drugs. Michael Freeland of Oregon reportedly had a 40-year history of significant depression, yet he received lethal drugs in Oregon.

These risks are simply not worth the price of assisted suicide.

Available data suggests that pain is rarely the reason why people choose assisted suicide. Instead, most people do so because they fear burdening their families or becoming disabled or dependent.

Anyone dying in discomfort that is not otherwise relievable, may legally today, in all 50 states, receive palliative sedation, wherein the patient is sedated to the point at which the discomfort is relieved while the dying process takes place peacefully. This means that today there is a legal solution to painful and uncomfortable deaths, one that does not raise the very serious problems of legalizing assisted suicide.

The debate about assisted suicide is not new, but voters and elected officials grow very wary of it when they learn the facts. Just this year alone, assisted suicide bills were rejected in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, and stalled in New Jersey, due to bipartisan, grassroots opposition from a broad coalition of groups spanning the political spectrum from left to right, including disability rights organizations, medical professionals and associations, palliative care specialists, hospice workers and faith-based organizations.

Assisted suicide is a unique issue that breaks down ideological boundaries and requires us to consider those potentially most vulnerable in our society.

All this means that we should, as a society, strive for better options to address the fear and uncertainty articulated by Brittany Maynard. But if assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can properly prevent this outcome, one that can never be undone.

Ultimately, when looking at the bigger picture, and not just individual cases, one thing becomes clear: Any benefits from assisted suicide are simply not worth the real and significant risks of this dangerous public policy.

Editor’s note: Marilyn Golden is a senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. The views expressed are her own.

Britain warned, as euthanasia rate in the Netherlands soars

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The Christian Institute 6 October 2014
Euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands have risen by 151 per cent over the last seven years, prompting fears about “steady extension” if Britain legalises assisted suicide.
According to Dutch media reports, the number of euthanasia deaths last year increased by 15 per cent to 4,829, compared to 4,188 in 2012.
Last year, 3,600 people in the Netherlands were euthanised because they had cancer, and there were 42 reports of euthanasia due to severe psychiatric problems, compared with 14 in 2012 and 13 in 2011.euthanasia dutch rates graph
In 97 euthanasia cases, dementia was the reason given. These patients were mainly in the early stage of the condition, when they were able to communicate properly their wish to die.
Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, commented: “What we are seeing in the Netherlands is ‘incremental extension’, the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included.”
He highlighted statistics from Switzerland and Belgium, which show similar steep increases in cases of assisted suicide since the practice was legalised.


Relentless rise in euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands

By | Recent News

Christian Concern 1 October 2014
Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship has described euthanasia in the Netherlands as “way out of control”, highlighting the escalation of the practice of Dutch doctors intentionally ending the lives of their patients by administering lethal drugs and withdrawing hydration.

He reports that euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2013 increased by 15% to just under 5,000, and that over a period of seven years there has been a 151% increase.
“What we are seeing in the Netherlands is ‘incremental extension’, the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included,” says Dr Saunders.