Monthly Archives

January 2017

Doctor-assisted suicide could save Canada up to $139 million each year, Alberta study suggests

By | Recent News

National Post 23 January 2017
Family First Comment: The ‘elephant in the room’ in the debate over euthanasia…
According to the authors, “as death approaches, health care costs increase dramatically in the final months. Patients who choose medical assistance in dying may forgo this resource-intensive period.”
Shocking
#rejectassistedsuicide
Doctor-assisted suicide could save Canada tens of millions of dollars annually by avoiding costly “end-of-life” care, according to a provocative new analysis.
The savings — up to $139 million annually — will almost certainly dwarf the costs associated with helping dying patients kill themselves, University of Calgary researchers report.
The authors go to pains to state they aren’t suggesting people be voluntarily euthanized to save money. “Neither patients nor physicians should consider costs when making the very personal decision to request, or provide, this intervention,” they write in this week’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
However, their attempt to cost out the controversial practice is an issue many have avoided touching.
According to the authors, “as death approaches, health care costs increase dramatically in the final months. Patients who choose medical assistance in dying may forgo this resource-intensive period.”
Their analysis is based on the number of Canadians expected to choose an assisted death, the amount of time a person’s life might be shortened and the costs of care immediately preceding death in the final week or month of life, such as emergency department visits, dialysis and hospital admissions.
They also calculated the cost of offering doctor-hastened death — including life-ending drugs that can run as little as $25, depending on the regimen.
READ MORE: http://www.nationalpost.com/m/wp/news/blog.html?b=news.nationalpost.com/news/0124-na-assisted-dying
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I'm terminally ill and the debate on euthanasia scares me

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Sydney Morning Herald 17 January 2017
Family First Comment: “Recognising the full scope of human dignity, we stopped capital punishment a long time ago. Now bringing in legislation that allows a group of experts to determine who can “legally” die, seems a retrograde move. Intellectually, that worries me. And once the legislation has been approved, experience tells us that it is likely to grow exponentially. I can imagine a time when particularly frail and vulnerable people will succumb to the thought that it might be best for their families and for society in general for them to let go and die – they will agree to something because they think they ought to. That scares me.”
It scares us all.
The NSW community is about to debate physician-assisted death or voluntary euthanasia. No doubt one of the key ideas will be the notion that we ought to have a “free choice” when it comes to the manner of our death. This is coupled with the different understandings that people have about what it means to die with dignity. These are vitally important conversations. However, it often feels to me that the voices who want physician-assisted dying are given extra amplification by celebrities, and that, because they talk about dying with dignity, they somehow must be right. But the past four years have confirmed for me everything that my two ethics degrees have taught me: that human dignity is so inherent that it is expressed even in extreme vulnerability and not just in the good times.
The debate worries and scares me on several levels. Fortunately we just don’t go around killing each other any more, so the notion that it’s a person’s “free choice” to die just doesn’t make sense. Recognising the full scope of human dignity, we stopped capital punishment a long time ago. Now bringing in legislation that allows a group of experts to determine who can “legally” die, seems a retrograde move. Intellectually, that worries me. And once the legislation has been approved, experience tells us that it is likely to grow exponentially. I can imagine a time when particularly frail and vulnerable people will succumb to the thought that it might be best for their families and for society in general for them to let go and die – they will agree to something because they think they ought to. That scares me.
I have always been an extremely private person, so the thought that my increasingly frail body will need intimate help does not thrill me. But just as I cared for and loved my friend in all her messiness and fragility, I will have to let others care for and love me in the same way. There is nothing undignified about that. So my experience of being a primary carer tells me that as I’m dying, the presence of people who have the emotional capacity to sit with me during long hours, who have the strength to continually stroke my arm, to bring me cups of water in the night, to tell me that they love me and to stay with me even if it seems that I am no longer present to them is of beyond measure. I’m sure that I will know their voices, and that I will know their touch. So as the doctors relieve my physical pain, I trust that my family and friends will abide with me so that just as I have lived, so will I die, with integrity and grace.
READ MORE: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/im-terminally-ill-and-the-debate-on-euthanasia-scares-me-20170117-gtt0kn.html
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Terminally ill patients need relationships with carers – health advocate

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Radio NZ News 17 January 2017
Family First Comment: If we get this right, we remove the need for assisted suicide!
“You need a relationship, a safe, trusting environment and a relationship with someone who knows you in order to start discussing end-of-life care.
“And I know from many of the focus groups and the meetings I’ve attended on cancer services that a lot of people don’t get the kind of care and support.”
A leading patient advocate is calling for more continuity of the carers who help those with a terminal illness.
Aucklander Lynda Williams, a longtime staunch advocate for health consumers, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October last year.
But she remains the spokesperson for the Auckland Women’s Health Council and has put out its regular newsletter while receiving chemotherapy and organising her affairs, including helping family members prepare for when she is no longer there.
She is well known in health circles as an advocate on women’s issues, and for her evidence-based, forthright approach.
She said being “bolshie” has served her well as a patient.
“If I don’t get to see the same person I make a bit of a fuss. Given that it’s pancreatic cancer and I don’t have time to muck about I’m not at all backward in sticking up for myself and saying ‘this is what I need’.
“You need a relationship, a safe, trusting environment and a relationship with someone who knows you in order to start discussing end-of-life care.
“And I know from many of the focus groups and the meetings I’ve attended on cancer services that a lot of people don’t get the kind of care and support.”
End-of-life and palliative care were under the spotlight last year as Parliament’s health committee considered a petition seeking legislation to facilitate voluntary euthanasia under certain circumstances.
Ms Williams said end-of-life care was an area where New Zealand needed to do better.
“I think it’s absolutely vital that people facing the end of their life have access to that kind of care.
“We’ve got a long way to go and there’s not a lot of informed consent going on in some of these services either.”
This mirrors the views of former health and disability commissioner Ron Paterson, who said informed consent was often more honoured in the breach.
READ MORE: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/322545/terminally-ill-patients-need-relationships-with-carers-health-advocate

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Terminal brain cancer patient chooses life over suicide

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Stuff co.nz 15 January 2017
Family First Comment: “My fear is if they introduce euthanasia, there are a lot of people that think I should die, that I’ve had my treatment. I was supposed to die and I’m still living. I believe there would be a lot of people who say I’ve done my dash and should go.”
#rejectassistedsuicide
“I just decided, ‘Right, today I’m going to kill myself’.”
With pills set out on her kitchen counter, Vicki Walsh prepared to end her own life to escape the constant exhaustion of her cancer.
But after a cup of tea she decided otherwise.
Walsh had been given 12-14 months to live due a terminal brain tumour — that was five years ago.
During one of her darkest points she decided it was too much.
“I was mentally and utterly exhausted and I just thought if this is it, this isn’t what I want.”
She tidied the house, made herself a cup of tea and put a set of pills on the kitchen counter.
“I went and had that cup of tea, came back inside and thought ‘not today’.
READ MORE: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/88299808/Terminal-brain-cancer-patient-chooses-life-over-suicide?cid=app-iPhone

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Most Kiwis support euthanasia for those with painful, incurable diseases

By | Recent News

Stuff co.nz 13 January 2017
Just 12 per cent of Kiwis are completely opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying, according to a University of Auckland study.
In a survey of 15,822 people, 66 per cent supported euthanasia as a legal means of ending the lives of people with painful, incurable diseases.
“There is strong public support for euthanasia when people are asked whether doctors should be allowed by law to end the life of a patient with a painful incurable disease upon their request,” concluded the authors, led by post-graduate psychology student Carol Lee.
The results were taken from the 2014-15 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) survey, which Lee said provided “reliable demographic and personality differences in support for euthanasia”.
Non-religious, younger, employed, rural people were more likely to support euthanasia, the authors said.
Bob McCoskrie, spokesman for Family First, rejected the survey’s findings, labelling it a “weak, incomplete survey, drawing dubious conclusions, by its own admission”.
“It appears to be set on finding the answer it wants, despite its own admission of significant limitations.”
READ MORE: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/88349694/most-kiwis-support-euthanasia-for-those-with-painful-incurable-diseases
Most New Zealanders support euthanasia, study suggests
NewsHub 13 January 2017
A majority of New Zealanders support euthanasia, according to a new study.
More than 15,000 people took part in the 2014/15 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study which, for the first time, included a question on assisted dying.
Respondents were asked: “Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?”
Sixty-six percent of participants were in support, 21.7 percent indicated they were neutral/unsure and 12.3 percent were strongly opposed.
The researchers found non-religious, younger, employed, and rural people were more likely to support euthanasia, whereas people with lower income, who were parents, or of Pacific or Asian ethnicity tended to be less supportive.
“Because we have such a national representative example of New Zealanders, findings of our study are likely to reflect what the general New Zealand public over the age of 18 think about this issue,” study author, University of Auckland masters student, Carol Lee says.
READ MORE: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/health/2017/01/most-new-zealanders-support-euthanasia-study-suggests.html
NZ study shows strong euthanasia support
NZ City 13 January 2017
Most New Zealanders support assisted dying for patients with painful terminal conditions, Auckland University researchers have found.
Nearly 16,000 people were surveyed for the research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday, which also found demographic and personality differences in people’s opinions on the issue.
Two thirds were in favour when asked if a doctors should be allowed to end the life of a patient with a painful incurable disease if the patient requested it.
Just 12 per cent were opposed, while 22 per cent said they were neutral.
Act Party leader David Seymour, who is seeking to have his End of Life Choice member’s bill put before parliament, says it’s now impossible to deny public support for assisted dying.
“The sample size of this survey eclipses previous polling on this topic, while also backing up previous findings: New Zealanders support the right to an assisted death for the painfully ill,” he said.
The wording of the poll has been questioned by Family First’s Bob McCoskrie, who argues the scenario of a person suffering a painful death is no longer valid thanks to “the availability and effectiveness of palliative care”.
Mr Seymour admitted polling could be influenced by the wording but rejected the views of Mr McCoskrie and other deniers as “living in dreamland”.
READ MORE: http://home.nzcity.co.nz/news/article.aspx?id=240758
Desperate euthanasia opponents are dishonest or innumerate
Scoop 13 January 2017
READ MORE: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1701/S00030/desperate-euthanasia-opponents-are-dishonest-or-innumerate.htm

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Euthanasia Survey Admits Its Own Unreliability

By | Media Releases

Media Release 13 January 2017
Family First NZ is labelling a University of Auckland survey on attitudes to euthanasia as a weak incomplete survey with the authors drawing dubious conclusions by their own admission.
 
“This survey “Demographic and psychological correlates of New Zealanders support for euthanasia” should be ‘dead in the water’. It suggests support for euthanasia, but then by its own admission acknowledges that its results only measure attitudes in one particular scenario – and that scenario may no longer be valid,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“This survey adds nothing to the debate and simply challenges polling companies to work harder to find out attitudes to euthanasia when the full smorgasbord of options and outcomes are presented along with the potential risks they present to society. As this study admits, the “findings do not represent peoples’ support for the concept of euthanasia per se.” Those relying on it cannot do so with confidence.”

“It also appears to measure attitudes from as far back as 2009 – but there has been a lot of debate and education of the risks of euthanasia since that time, and significant increases in the availability and effectiveness of palliative care,” says Mr McCoskrie.

It says
“..we measured support for euthanasia using the single item “Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?” This item has been used previously in the British Social Attitudes Survey and assesses levels of support versus opposition to euthanasia as a general concept only. As such, our results do not provide information about potentially more nuanced differences in support for euthanasia in different contexts and for different types of illnesses. For example, previous studies using vignettes have found that people tend to exhibit differing levels of support depending on the subject, type of illness and voluntariness of euthanasia.” (our emphasis added) 
And
“It is also important to note that, due to the improvement in palliative care and pain-management in Western countries, most patients today should die without physical pain. As a result of effective palliative care, the avoidance of physical pain may no longer be the central motivation for desiring euthanasia. Moreover, patients’ definition of ‘unbearable suffering’ and reasons for requesting euthanasia now revolve around psycho-emotional and existential factors such as feelings of meaninglessness, loss of self and being a burden on others. The question used in our study included the term ‘painful’ but did not mention any psychological factors associated with desires for euthanasia. This raises the possibility that our findings do not represent peoples’ support for the concept of euthanasia per se, but instead, support for assisted death in the face of severe physical pain.” (our emphasis added)

“The truth is that to legalise assisted suicide / euthanasia 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.

As American lawyer and author Wesley J Smith says, once killing is seen as an appropriate answer in a few cases, the ground quickly gives way, and it becomes the answer in many cases. 
It is also noted that Auckland University has previously been under fire for euthanasia research, conducted by Dr Phillipa Malpas and Dr Pam Oliver, which was the subject of complaints to the University of Auckland’s Human Participants Ethics Committee.

Family First is calling on ACT’s David Seymour to focus on providing a palliative care regime in New Zealand that is fully funded and world class and is a clear alternative to assisted suicide – and not to remove the protection for vulnerable people, including children.
ENDS

One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die

By | Recent News

New York Times 3 January 2017
How B.J. Miller, a doctor and triple amputee, used his own experience to pioneer a new model of palliative care at a small, quirky hospice in San Francisco.
First, the back story, because, B.J. Miller has found, the back story is unavoidable when you are missing three limbs.

Miller was a sophomore at Princeton when, one Monday night in November 1990, he and two friends went out for drinks and, at around 4 a.m., found themselves ambling toward a convenience store for sandwiches. They decided to climb a commuter train parked at the adjacent rail station, for fun. Miller scaled it first. When he got to the top, electrical current arced out of a piece of equipment into the watch on his wrist. Eleven-thousand volts shot through his left arm and down his legs. When his friends reached him on the roof of the train, smoke was rising from his feet.

Miller remembers none of this. His memories don’t kick in until several days later, when he woke up in the burn unit of St. Barnabas Medical Center, in Livingston, N.J. Thinking he’d resurfaced from a terrible dream, he tried to shamble across his hospital room on the charred crusts of his legs until he used up the slack of his catheter tube and the device tore out of his body. Then, all the pain hit him at once.

Doctors took each leg just below the knee, one at a time. Then they turned to his arm, which triggered in Miller an even deeper grief. (“Hands do stuff,” he explains. “Your foot is just a stinky, clunky little platform.”) For weeks, the hospital staff considered him close to death. But Miller, in a devastated haze, didn’t know that. He only worried about who he would be when he survived.
READ MORE: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/03/magazine/one-mans-quest-to-change-the-way-we-die.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=3

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