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Thursday, April 21, 2016

"No" on Bill C-14 and Carter; No Assisted Suicide; No Euthanasia

I was happy to see the CBC article concerning your reluctance to endorse Bill C-14. You are right to be concerned.

Robert-Falcon Oulette, MP

I am a lawyer in Washington State USA where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal. Bill C-14 and legalization generally will encourage people with years to live to throw away their lives. Carter was wrong. Legalization does not promote the right to life.

Please consider the following reasons:


1.  The bill's title, "medical assistance in dying," implies that eligible people are dying. There is no requirement that people be dying. They are instead required to have a "grievous and irremediable medical condition." See Bill C-14, § 241.2(2).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Carter Decision: Not Safe for Doctors


The Carter decision has been heralded as legalizing "physician-assisted death," more commonly known as physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.  A closer reading of the decision reveals, however, that these practices are not "legalized" in the sense that they are safe for doctors to perform.  This will be the case until the expiration of a 12 month suspension AND the imposition of regulations by parliament to create safe harbors for practice. 

Carter merely provides that the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting physician-assisted death are of no force or effect when three factors are satisfied: patient competency; clear consent; and a "grievous and irremediable medical condition."  (Decision, paragraph 147).  The problem is that physicians are not always right regarding these factors.

Consider, the Victorio Noval case, in California, where a hospital performed a "terminal extubation," causing his death.  http://legalstuff.kaiserpapers.org/victorino-noval.html  After the fact, the hospital learned that Noval's daughters had lied about his condition for the purpose of a quick inheritance, and that consent from his son had been required, but not obtained. Id.  The hospital and other parties have now been sued.  Id.  Hospital staff are reportedly refusing to testify in order to avoid incriminating themselves on criminal charges.Id.

If, by contrast, Noval had died under a regulatory scheme such as Washington's death with dignity act, there would have been no basis for liability as long as the act was used.  See e.g., Washington State's death certificate instruction for prosecutors, which requires that a death be treated as "Natural" as long as the act was "used."  To view the instruction, please click here.
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Without the imposition of a similar regulatory scheme by Parliament, no doctor who assists a suicide, or who performs a euthanasia, can be assured of his or her safety to do so.  Even after the 12 month suspension period, doctors will be at risk of homicide charges because, like the hospital in  Mr. Noval's case, they learn after the fact that they were wrong on the facts of the case.  
Doctors go forward under Carter at their peril.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Perils of Assisted Suicide

11:15 a.m. EDTOctober 2, 2014


This story illustrates a fundamental problem with legalizing assisted suicide. The assistant can have his or her own agenda to encourage someone to kill themselves.

Bradley D. Williams, Hamilton, Mont.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Family members banned from care facilities threaten legal action

People who say they're being prevented from visiting family members at long-term care facilities in Alberta, but not told why, are asking the government to step in.

'I was threatened by the physician," said Huguette Hebert, who was banned for a day from seeing her husband staying at a Covenant Health facility in Edmonton, after she asked to stay in the room while he was changed.

She said she wanted to check for bedsores.

"It's time that somebody does something at the government level, like the minister of health," she said at a news conference Thursday. "You know my name, I really request that you intervene now."

Hebert is one of many Albertans who've had problems seeing their loved ones at continuing care facilities, says lobby group Public Interest Alberta.

Shauna McHarg hasn't seen her father in his care facility for two years ­ and has severely restricted visiting hours with her mother.

"They give no reason," she said. "My parents are aging. This started in 2010. It needs to end immediately."

McHarg appealed to the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner, but Covenant Health refuses to release the reason why she was banned, even fighting the matter in court last week.

People banned from facilities should have more options, said the PIA lawyer Allan Garber.

"These decisions are being made without the due process of law," he said. "And that is a fundamental problem. Especially when we know the people on the other side are frail, elderly people."

Covenant Health said it bans visitors only on rare occasions and only when it believes safety of the patients is in jeopardy.

But the facilities have all the power, leaving banned family members with little recourse, said PIA executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.

"They cannot just ban people from seeing their loved ones without a strict process, evidence and guidelines," he said.

"If the government is not willing to act to empower families with real due process, then we will explore taking legal action to represent the rights of these families to be together," Moore-Kilgannon said.