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Friday, December 30, 2011

"A closer look at this complex issue raises so many doubts that only two of our fifty states have legalized the practice by ballot referendum, and no bill has made it through the scrutiny of a state legislature, even after 100 attempts"

Tom Blackwell’s article reporting that 67% of Canadians poll in favor of assisted suicide is déjà vu all over again for readers in the U.S.  The superficial and often misleading poll questions on this topic produced similar statistics in a number of U.S. states over the years.

One superficial assumption is that there’s no meaningful distinction between suicide and assisted suicide, but most people know that it could “tip the scales” if your doctor and family members agreed that it was time for you to go.

Another factor is that the phrase “physician assisted suicide” implies that a trust-worthy doctor is the only “assistant”, but the language of assisted suicide laws actually immunizes all potential suicide assistants from any type of liability, not just doctors.

And, finally, there’s a vague sense of comfort that “safeguards” can ensure that the process is voluntary.  But even if the relatively flimsy protections leading up to the lethal prescription are assumed to be ironclad, once the lethal drugs are in one’s home, the law does nothing to ensure that they are taken voluntarily.

All in all, a closer look at this complex issue raises so many doubts that only two of our fifty states have legalized the practice by ballot referendum, and no bill has made it through the scrutiny of a state legislature, even after 100 attempts.

Diane Coleman, JD, President/CEO
Not Dead Yet

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"If euthanasia were legal, the wife, not wanting to die, would still be a victim"

Dear Editor:

Marcel Lavoie implies that legalizing euthanasia would stop violent deaths in the elderly, such as the death of Doreen Flann by stabbing at the hands of her husband, Ian. [“Time to rethink euthanasia,” Dec. 29th
]. In many of these deaths, the perpetrator-husband also kills himself for a murder-suicide.   

In Oregon where assisted-suicide has been legal since 1997, murder-suicide has not been eliminated. Indeed, murder-suicide follows “the national pattern.” Moreover, according to Donna Cohen, an expert on murder-suicide, the typical case involves a depressed, controlling husband who shoots his ill wife:
“The wife does not want to die and is often shot in her sleep. If she was awake at the time, there are usually signs that she tried to defend herself.”
If euthanasia were legal, the wife, not wanting to die, would still be a victim.

Our laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia are in place to protect vulnerable people. Assisted suicide and/or euthanasia should not be legalized in Canada.
Link to a Canadian study published in September 2010 - http://www.jaapl.org/content/38/3/305.full
[Note to editor: You may be interested in these articles: Don Colburn, "Recent murder-suicides follow the national pattern," The Oregonian, November 17, 2009,  and “Murder-suicides in Elderly Rise: Husbands commit most murder-suicides – without wives’ consent.”
Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Box 25033
London ON, Canada, N6C 6A8

"I do not trust the government to make decisions for me"


Protect health-care system

By Louis Cass, Edmonton Journal December 29, 2011 

I heard about something that happened in Ontario. From what I understand an elderly woman in her 90s who was already in the hospital had a person with the respiratory flu placed in the same room as her, supposedly because there were insufficient beds.

She then came down with the flu and after a short period of time she died.
Could this be considered euthanasia with-out consent? Is this what we have to look forward to in the future as we age?

This makes me wonder whether we need rules that will give each of us the ability to decide what is best in our specific situation. I do not trust the government to make decisions for me.

It appears the federal government wants to distance itself from the issues. Private medical care is obviously on the way. We can then be a twin of the United States and have half our population without adequate medical care.

Am I scared? Yes and you should be, too.

Louis Cass, Edmonton

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Justice Smith seemed skeptical at Mr. Arvay's argument"

This Report is from the Farewell Foundation for the Carter Case, December 16, 2011:
Zero-Tolerance for Wrongful Death
Joe Arvay submitted that Canada's closing argument amounts to a "zero-tolerance" policy because it says Parliament can't enact a law that "might create even the 'risk' that one person might die who should not have died."  Arvay said Canada's counsel is "simply wrong" and clarified that Parliament could "leave the matter unregulated as a private matter between the physician and patient," but he hoped government would create some sort of law to regulate assisted death.
Justice Smith pointed out that Canada did not have capital punishment because of the risk that one wrongful death of an innocent person is too many.  "What do you say to that?"
Mr. Arvay answered "Let us put to rest once and for all the complete red herring of capital punishment.. Canada says capital punishment was abolished 'precisely because even the best justice system in the world makes mistakes that, if capital punishment were an option, would result in the death of innocent individuals.' . It need hardly be mentioned that we can assume that everyone on death row wants to live and is being killed involuntarily.  Involuntary death is not only not sought in this case, it is the polar opposite of what is sought in this case - the right to control one's own life and death."
Justice Smith seemed sceptical at Mr. Arvay's argument.  She pointed out that some voluntary deaths may involve people who do not really mean to die. In answer, Arvay said that the risks had to be reconciled somehow, that we don't live in a totally risk free world and that the Court should look at the risks that are already inherent in the medical system every day.  Arvay said that if Justice Smith chose to strike the law, the federal parliament had the option of crafting the best law humanely possible.
To view the entire report, go here: 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hassan Rasouli & The Right to Consent

Dear Editor:

The article about Hassan Rasouli hit close to home. [“Doctors fight to remove man from life support”].  Thirteen years ago, I too was on a ventilator and a feeding tube.  This was after I was paralyzed by a disease and all four of my doctors felt that I should be removed from life support.  Fortunately, my wife requested that one of the doctors ask me first.  Although the only thing I could move was my eyelids, I somehow communicated that I was not giving consent.

 The doctor who spoke with me told me that there was no chance of recovery, “not even one chance in a million.”  He said that if I lived, I would always be respirator dependent and a quadriplegic.  Instead, I eventually lost my paralysis and even went back to work.  My doctors, excellent doctors with years of experience, were wrong.

According to the article, there is a dispute over whether Mr. Rasouli can communicate.  Is he gesturing a “thumbs up” or are his gestures “the automatic reflexes of an irreversibly unconscious man?”  When I was first paralyzed, other people attempted to communicate with me by pointing to an alphabet board.  Like Mr. Rasouli, my eyes were unfocused.  For this reason, I could not see the board and therefore could not make a meaningful response.  Perhaps Mr. Rasouli could be asked to move one finger for “yes” and do nothing for “no?”  Maybe there is another way he can communicate?

The article also describes how doctors in Canada want the right to withdraw treatment without first getting patient consent.  If my doctor had not asked for my consent, I would likely be dead.  I hope that your Supreme Court upholds your right of consent. 

Jerry L. Jacobson
Glasgow, MT USA

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"It was only money and not her life."

Dear Editor:

I was disturbed by Mark Hume's article, "A B.C. family's secret:  How they helped their parents die," which treats as a given that a father and mother, who died via secret assisted suicides, wanted to die.  We don't know that.  What we do know is that the adult children left behind, who state that they fear prosecution, have presented a somewhat loving account of the story.  I say somewhat loving because they admittedly allowed their mother to die alone, upstairs, while they gathered together in the kitchen below.

In my life, I have not experienced children who "helped their parents to die."  I have, however, had contact with women abused by their spouses, who outright deny that the abuse occurs.  The victim protects the perpetrator.  I have an older friend who wired $5000 to a stranger who had phoned impersonating her grandson.  Yes, she acted voluntarily to send the money, but she had been manipulated to do so.  When she later realized what had happened, she was so embarrassed, it took her three weeks to tell me.  The money was long gone.  But it was only money and not her life.

The Government of Canada website describes elder abuse as a widespread and hidden problem.  The abuse is often perpetrated by family members such as the adult children described in Humes' article.  We can't stop the abuse now.  Relaxing our laws on assisted suicide will only increase it.  I can only hope that our country does not take this course.

[Editor, this is a link to the Government of Canada website:  http://www.seniors.gc.ca/c.4nt.2nt@.jsp?lang=eng&geo=110&cid=154#e    You may also be interested in this study describing the high prevalence of elder abuse in the United States:  http://www.metlife.com/mmi/research/broken-trust-elder-abuse.html#findings ]

Annette Turgeon

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"The idea that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia will somehow increase patient choice . . . is a society gone mad"

Dear Editor, 

Mark Hume's article cheering on the anonymous family "forced" to kill their parents is a not-so-subtle endorsement of the current challenge to our laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia. The article is titled "A.B.C.'s family's secret: how they helped their parents die." My question is, what were the family's other "secrets"? How much did they inherit, who got the house, or were the killings done as payback for long past wrongs? Elder abuse is a terrible problem in this country and the scenario I describe is not uncommon.

Hume's article also ignores that older people are already being killed in our health care facilities via dehydration, starvation, and/or morphine overdose. For one instance, see this article in the Winnipeg Free Press, "Alleged deprivation of senior probed: Denied food, water in hospital." ( http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/alleged-deprivation-of-senior-probed-132297303.html ) My own mother had a similar experience in an extended care facility in Nova Scotia. A mild stroke led to her forced starvation and dehydration. It didn't matter that she was conscious and trying to speak, or that she had indicated she wanted water.

As evidenced by the overreaching doctors described in the above article and my mother's experience, some doctors cannot be trusted with the power they already have. Legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia will give them even more power to effect patient death. The idea that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia will somehow increase patient choice and autonomy is a society gone mad.

To read my mother's story, please click here: http://www.choiceillusion.org/p/mild-stroke-led-to-mothers-forced.html

Thank you,
Kate Kelly, B.A., B.Ed

[Ms Kelly is responding to this story:   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/end-of-life/shareTweet/article2262311/]