Monthly Archives

March 2015

Evidence shows not all assisted deaths are requested or reported

By | Recent News

The Windsor Star 29 March 2015
In his righteous indignation, Gifford-Jones claims that: “Nor is there any evidence that the elderly, those with disabilities or those who simply do not want to be part of assisted death, have ever been forced to seek it.”
In 2002, Belgium legalized assisted death, giving doctors the right in law to lethally inject patients. Three studies concerning the experience with assisted death in Belgium clearly indicate that Gifford-Jones is wrong.
The first study (Canadian Medical Association Journal June 2010) found that 32 per cent of those who died by assisted death did not request it. The second study (CMAJ June 2010) found that in 45 per cent of the assisted deaths that nurses were involved with, the person who died didn’t request it.
The third study (British Medical Journal, October 2010) found that 47.2 per cent of all assisted deaths were not reported.
When analyzing the data from the studies, all of the studies found that those who died by an assisted death without request or without reporting it tended to be over the age of 80, incompetent to make a decision for themselves, had an unpredictable end-of-life trajectory and died in a hospital.
http://blogs.windsorstar.com/open-newsroom/letters/evidence-shows-not-all-assisted-deaths-are-requested-or-reported

Family–Supported Suicide and the Duty to Die

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First Things 20 March 2015
In 1991, my friend Frances invited me to a “going away party.” She wasn’t moving or going on vacation. Frances wanted her closest friends to come to her home, to tell her how much she meant to us, and to hold her hand as she committed suicide.
We refused. Validating Frances’s suicide was unthinkable. We supported her life, not her death.
After an intervention, she called the suicide off. But Frances was in the thrall of the then–nascent “death with dignity” movement. A year later, having been diagnosed with treatable leukemia, she paid a cousin to accompany her to a hotel where she took a lethal overdose and placed a plastic bag over her head—following instructions published in the Hemlock Quarterly. (Frances’s suicide became the subject of my first anti-euthanasia column, published by Newsweek in 1993.)
Times have changed. It is increasingly common for friends and family to support—and even to attend—the suicides of their ill, disabled, or despairing loved ones. Brittany Maynard’s husband and mother, for instance, fully backed her assisted suicide and are now on the advocacy circuit promoting its legalization.
Maynard’s case is hardly unique. When English teenager Daniel James was paralyzed playing rugby, he became distraught and suicidal. In 2008, his parents flew him to a Swiss suicide clinic. They later defended their participation in his death as an act of love, telling the media that their son “was not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence.”
In Belgium, elderly couples have been euthanized together because they would rather die than face future widowhood. Astonishingly, these joint killings have been supported by family and friends. In one reported case, the death doctor was procured by the couple’s son—even though his folks were not ill. Similarly, the English conductor Sir Edward Downes died with his cancer-stricken wife Joan at a Swiss suicide clinic, a decision quickly endorsed in the media by their children.
Most recently, NPR-syndicated radio personality Diane Rehm very publicly supported her husband John’s suicide by self-starvation—a process known in euthanasia advocacy as (voluntary stopping eating and drinking). She told the New York Times that they had made a pact to help the other die if suffering seriously with a terminal illness. (John had Parkinson’s disease.) “There was no question but that I would support him and honor whatever choice he would make,”she said. “As painful as it was, it was his wish.” Rehm, like Maynard’s family, is now using her experience as an argument in favor of assisted-suicide legalization.
Is it right or wrong to support a loved one’s suicide? This seems to be one of those issues, increasingly prevalent in our society, about which debate is not possible: The answer depends on one’s overarching worldview. Some will believe that their duty is to support their family member’s choice, come what may. Others, including this writer, believe that supporting suicide is an abandonment that validates loved ones’ worst fears about themselves—that they are a burden, unworthy of love, or truly better off dead.
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/03/family-supported-suicide-and-the-duty-to-die

Politicians shy away from 'risky' euthanasia issue

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Stuff co.nz 23 March 2015
Politicians are lagging a long way behind public opinion on euthanasia but refuse to debate the issue because of the political risk, says a Green Party MP.
A prominent Wellington lawyer is looking to set a legal precedent by asking the High Court to allow her to die on her own terms.
Lecretia Seales, 41, a public law specialist, is dying of an inoperable brain tumour and is petitioning to uphold her right to die at the time of her choosing
Both the Government and Labour were steering well clear of any policy around the legalisation of euthanasia, but Green Party MP Kevin Hague said their position came down to the issue being too controversial and divisive.
The chances of the Government addressing it were greater if an organisation, such as the Law Commission, led public consultation on euthanasia, he said.
“That would kind of relieve some of the political risk that I know governments are scared of.”
This isn’t the first time the debate has surfaced.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/67474284/politicians-shy-away-from-risky-euthanasia-issue

Euthanasia court challenge not in society’s best interests

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MEDIA RELEASE: EUTHANASIA – FREE NEW ZEALAND.
Application for a change to New Zealand Law on assisted suicide and euthanasia is not in society’s best interests.
“Lecretia Seales is a courageous woman, afflicted with a terrible disease. It is impossible not to be moved by her tragic situation. Yet her application to the High Court for a ruling on whether current N.Z. laws in respect of euthanasia and assisted suicide breach her rights under the Bill of Rights Act, although intended only to relate to her case, will, if successful, in the long run adversely affect the rights of many others in our society” says Professor David Richmond, a spokesperson for Euthanasia-Free New Zealand.
“Ms Seales’ request is superficially a simple one based on personal choice and autonomy.  Unfortunately the issues are far more complex for society than that”, he said. “Current laws were drawn up to guarantee citizens the right to life.  If Ms. Seales’ actions were to lead eventually to the decriminalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide as she apparently hopes they will, citizens will be guaranteed the right to State sanctioned death – presumably at the hands of doctors. Our observation of how these things work in Holland and Belgium where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal does not encourage us to think that significant abuses, including being killed without a specific request, will not occur”, he said. “There are compelling reasons for leaving the law as it is whilst concentrating on providing every care possible to relieve suffering in dying and upholding the dignity of those close to death.”
Euthanasia–Free New Zealand hopes that this court action will result in a fresh impetus in our society to uphold the right of every citizen including the most vulnerable of us: the elderly, those with disabilities, the dependent and those near the end of life, to respect, care, support, honour – and life.
ENDS
CONTACTS: Professor David Richmond MD FRACP. Phone; 09 5705458, Email: d.richmond@clear.net.nz
Renee Joubert, Executive Officer. 021 167 4042
 

Dying with Dignity Lies In Love and Best Palliative Care

By | Media Releases

Media Release 21 March 2015
Family First NZ says that the heartbreaking situation that Lecretia Seales faces should not be solved in the courtroom or by a change in law, but through the guarantee of the best palliative care that the country can offer her and others in a similar situation.
“Patients facing death have a fundamental human right to receive the very best palliative care, love and support that we can give to alleviate ‘intolerable suffering’ that they fear. This is real death with dignity – surrounded and supported by loved ones, rather than a right to try and preempt the ‘uncertainty’ and timing of the end. Suicide is not the answer,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“We have massive empathy for the situation she faces. But if her legal challenge was successful, it would be the thin edge of the wedge. However well-intentioned, the old adage that “Hard cases make bad law” comes into play.”
“To allow assisted suicide would place large numbers of vulnerable people at risk – in particular those who are depressed, elderly, sick, disabled, those experiencing chronic illness, limited access to good medical care, and those who feel themselves to be under emotional or financial pressure to request early death. Patients will come to feel euthanasia would be ‘the right thing to do’, they have ‘had a good innings’, and they do not want to be a ‘burden’,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“Euthanasia will also send a dangerous message to young people about suicide and the value of life.”
“International evidence shows that deaths by assisted suicide and euthanasia have been increasing wherever the practices have been legalised, and that the door is opened to a world of abuse. There is a slippery slope, and the Belgium and Dutch experience has proven this. A recent documentary in Belgium featured a doctor killing a healthy young woman who was struggling with mental illness.”
Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, warned that “assisted suicide is not progressive, in fact, it puts many vulnerable people at risk, and we have already seen examples of that where it is legal.” Those concerned about the rights of people with disabilities are rightly worried about this.
The majority of the medical profession and national medical associations around the world have been resolutely against the introduction of voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
Family First is calling for a palliative care regime in New Zealand that is fully funded and world class – and not a court case or legislative change to remove the protection for vulnerable people including children.
ENDS

Lawyer with brain cancer in legal bid for right to die

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NZ Herald 21 March 2015
A terminally ill woman is mounting a legal challenge seeking the right for a doctor to help her die without criminal prosecution.
Lecretia Seales, 41, is dying from brain cancer and believes it’s a “fundamental human right” to be able to choose to end her life with medical assistance, if she wants to, before her suffering becomes intolerable.
In a legal first in New Zealand, the senior legal and policy adviser at the Law Commission has filed a statement of claim in the High Court seeking a ruling to determine whether her GP could lawfully administer a lethal dose of drugs.
Assisting suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison but Ms Seales’ case relies on the provisions in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act which protect the rights to not be deprived of life or subjected to cruel treatment.
If successful, the bid would allow the doctor to euthanise Ms Seales because of her specific circumstances and would not set a precedent. But a favourable High Court ruling would allow others to follow suit and potentially send a signal to Parliament for further law reform.
Diagnosed in 2011 with an aggressive brain tumour, Ms Seales has suffered gradual paralysis, which has robbed her of the ability to move her hand, arm, leg and eyesight on the left side of her body.
She’s not afraid of death, but of losing her remaining physical and mental abilities. Even if the case is successful, Ms Seales is uncertain about ending her life with medical assistance.
But I want the right to choose. That would give me comfort if I knew that [option] was there. I don’t know whether I necessarily would because I’m certainly not suffering intolerably now,” she told the Weekend Herald.
In a statement issued today, Family First NZ described Ms Seales’ situation as “heartbreaking”, but said it “should not be solved in the courtroom or a change in law but through the guarantee of the best palliative care”.
“Patients facing death have a fundamental human right to receive the very best palliative care, love and support that we can give to alleviate ‘intolerable suffering’ that they fear,” Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First NZ, said.
“This is real death with dignity – surrounded and supported by loved ones, rather than a right to try and preempt the ‘uncertainty’ and timing of the end. Suicide is not the answer.”
The organisation had “massive empathy” for Ms Seale, but said if her legal challenge was successful, “it would be the thin edge of the wedge” and a “slippery slope”.
“However well-intentioned, the old adage that. ‘hard cases make bad law’, comes into play,” Mr McCoskrie said.
“To allow assisted suicide would place large numbers of vulnerable people at risk – in particular those who are depressed, elderly, sick, disabled, those experiencing chronic illness, limited access to good medical care, and those who feel themselves to be under emotional or financial pressure to request early death.”
Euthanasia-Free New Zealand also issued a statement to media saying a change to New Zealand law on assisted suicide and euthanasia was “not in society’s best interests”.
While Ms Seales’ case was intended for her individual circumstances, it would “in the long run adversely affect the rights of many others in our society”, Professor David Richmond, spokesman for the organisation, said.
“Ms Seales’ request is superficially a simple one based on personal choice and autonomy. Unfortunately the issues are far more complex for society than that,” he said.”Current laws were drawn up to guarantee citizens the right to life.
If Ms Seales’ actions were to lead eventually to the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, as she apparently hopes they will, citizens will be guaranteed the right to state-sanctioned death – presumably at the hands of doctors.”
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11420767

Almost 1000 deaths are hastened without explicit request each year in Belgium.

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Alex Schadenberg Blog 18 March 2015
Contrary to the recent Supreme Court decision striking down Canada’s laws that protect people from assisted death, in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, a significant number people are being killed without request. In fact a recent study showed that 1.7% of all deaths in 2013 in Belgium were intentionally acts to cause death without request. A similar study in 2007 indicated that 1.8% of all deaths were hastened without explicit request, no change.
Yesterday I wrote an article about the new study that was published in the NEJM on March 17, 2015  on the experience with euthanasia in the Flanders region of Belgium. The Belgian study was done by sending questionnaires to the physician who certified a death certificate in 6188 deaths in the first half of 2013. The data indicated that euthanasia represented 4.6% of all deaths and assisted suicide represented .05% of all deaths.
The Supreme Court of Canada assisted dying decision last month stated that abuse of euthanasia laws are anecdotal, but the previous Belgian study in 2007 stated that 1.8% of all deaths were hastened without explicit consent and the new Belgian study stated that 1.7% of all deaths were hastened without explicit consent in 2013.

The Associated Press article interviewed Belgian ethicist Freddy Mortier. The article stated

Mortier was not happy, however, that the ‘hastening of death without explicit request from patients,’ which can happen when a patient slumbers into unconsciousness or has lost the capacity for rational judgment, stood at 1.7 percent of cases in 2013. In the Netherlands, that figure was 0.2 percent.

Therefore almost 1000 Belgian deaths are hastened without explicit request each year. People need to recognize that euthanasia or assisted suicide laws will be abused.
http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca/2015/03/almost-1000-deaths-are-hastened-without.html?utm_source=Euthanasia+Prevention+Coalition+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3fc737db3a-1000_hastened_deaths_without_consent_in_Belgium&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_105a5cdd2d-3fc737db3a-157142057

French parliament passes 'deep sleep' bill for end of life

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Reuters 17 March 2015
France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill on Tuesday allowing patients near the end of their lives to stop medical treatment and request deep sedation until they die, a move that critics say is effectively a form of euthanasia.
The draft law, which polls show is backed by most French, passed in the lower house of parliament with 436 members voting in favor and 34 voting against. It is expected to get the final approval from the upper house in May or June.
It builds on Socialist President Francois Hollande’s legacy as a social reformer after he pushed through a controversial law legalizing gay marriage in 2012, and widened education on gender equality in primary schools.
The government is defying critics that range from religious leaders to medical professors and pro-life advocates who argue the new bill ushers in a form of euthanasia in disguise.
Allowing doctors to put patients within “hours or days” of their death under deep sedation until they die, as the law foresees, differs only from euthanasia in that precise time of death cannot be determined, they argue.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/17/us-france-euthanasia-idUSKBN0MD1YC20150317