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
1-877-439-3348

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

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Protect+health+care+system/5922060/story.html

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/]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Canadian Assisted Suicide Case Sparks Dueling Letters on Disability

http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/2011/11/canadian-assisted-suicide-case-sparks.html

By Diane Coleman & Not Dead Yet


Canadian assisted suicide proponents lost a bid to legalize assisted suicide through Parliament last year.  This year, they turned to the courts to challenge Canada’s laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia as unconstitutional.  The case is now before the Canadian court in Vancouver and the proceedings began November 14, 2011.  Plaintiffs include a woman with ALS.
The public debate is well underway.  On November 13, the Calgary Herald published an op ed by three opponents of legalization entitled “Why we should be afraid of assisted suicide.”   The authors describe the case as follows:

Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada brings a constitutional challenge to Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia. The case also seeks to legalize these practices as a medical treatment. Last year, a bill in Parliament seeking a similar result was overwhelmingly defeated…. The vote was 228 to 59.

Carter seeks to allow a medical practitioner or a person "acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" to assist a patient's suicide. … In the context of traditional medical treatment, "a person acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" would include a family member. …

As the authors point out, eligibility would not be limited to people whose condition is terminal:

In Carter, the amended notice of civil claim argues that laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide are unconstitutional for patients who are "grievously and irremediably ill." The term is not defined. The amended notice of civil claim does, however, give these examples of qualifying diseases/ conditions: "cancer, chronic renal failure and/or cardiac failure, and degenerative neurological diseases such as Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis." The phrase "grievously and irremediably ill" would also appear to apply to chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. People who have these diseases and conditions can have years and, sometimes, decades to live.

In response to this op ed, James Swanson, a man with a severely disabled father and friend, sent an angry letter filled with the rhetoric of disability bigotry, which the Herald’s editors entitled “Trapped alive”:  

Oregon Doctor Speaks Out: "Help with Depression, not Suicide"

http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Help+with+depression+suicide/5754424/story.html

I am a physician practicing medicine in Oregon where physician-assisted suicide is legal. I disagree with a writer's assessment that Oregon's law has worked well.

As one example, a few years ago, my patient, a 76 year-old man presented with a sore on his arm which turned out to be cancer. I referred him to an cancer specialist for evaluation and therapy. He was an avid hiker and as he went through his therapy, he became less able to do this activity and became depressed, which was documented in his chart.

He expressed a wish for assisted-suicide to the cancer specialist, but rather than taking the time and effort to address his depression, or to contact me as his primary physician and as someone who knew him, she asked me to be the "second opinion" for his suicide. I told her that I did not concur and that addressing his depression would be better than simply giving him a lethal prescription. Unfortunately, two weeks later my patient was dead from an overdose prescribed by this doctor.

In most jurisdictions, suicidal ideation is interpreted as a cry for help. In Oregon, the only help my patient got was a lethal prescription intended to kill him.

Don't make Oregon's mistake.

Charles J. Bentz, MD
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics Oregon Health & Sciences University Portland

Monday, November 28, 2011

Derek Miedema: My right to live trumps your right to die


Letter-writer Anneke Jansen thinks her two severely disabled sons would be better off dead (Bring An End To My Children’s ‘So-Called’ Life, Nov. 23). I give thanks every day that my disabled twin brother is alive.

Due to complications at birth, he is still in diapers and fed via a feeding tube even though he’s 39. He gets around in a wheelchair only when pushed by someone else. He can’t talk, and yet, he has taught me more about what it means to be human than anyone else I know.

Though the euthanasia question is framed in the language of choice and personal autonomy, the legalization of assisted suicide endangers those with no voice.

In Belgium, one-third of euthanasia deaths done by doctors occur without the explicit request of the person killed, according to a 2010 study of euthanasia in Belgium. Why? Some doctors decided for the patient that euthanasia was the best option. Though hard to believe, others thought the conversation about dying would be too stressful for the patient, so they killed them instead.


In Switzerland, a 23-year-old rugby player, paralyzed as a result of a training accident, was depressed. Who wouldn’t be? He was euthanized despite research that shows people with a spinal cord injury can and do create a satisfying quality of life with time and proper societal and family support.
Reports from the Netherlands indicate that 500 people died without their consent in 2005 alone. A woman in the advanced stages of dementia was recently euthanized there. A long-time supporter of euthanasia, doctors killed her even though she was incapable of deciding for or against the euthanasia decision at the time of her death.

"It's too dangerous to allow others to kill us"


By Brian Purdy - Calgary Herald - November 28, 2011

Suicide is legal, assisting it is not. The debate about the legalization of assisting suicide is in the news again, with another court case approaching the Supreme Court of Canada.

There are two points of view. The first is that every person has a right to end one's own life, so why should it not be legal to assist someone to do so? A person at the end of life can get help to end suffering and an unbearable dwindling away to an inevitable end. Why should a doctor or anyone else be made a criminal for an act of mercy?
The second view is that legalizing assisting a suicide is a dangerous slippery slope. Lord Acton, who famously said "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," also said something else about power. He said, "do not grant powers on the assumption they will not be abused."  Those who take the second view think that legalizing assisting suicide would lead to the likes of "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian not only assisting but encouraging people to commit suicide, often in highly inappropriate cases. It might lead to "suicide parlours" where depressed but otherwise healthy people could have a final lethal cocktail. Doctors might rid themselves of long term comatose patients without proper consent. Licia Corbella has pointed out in these pages that a very large number of patients in the Netherlands have been terminated by their doctors without any consent by the patient.

When my mother died years ago, she was old, and in a hospital bed for the last 18 months. Before that, for years, she hadn't been able to care for herself. No one could say she was productive in her last years. There was constant, expensive care.

After she died, I thought again about intervention to end the life of people like Mother, who dwindle into a prolonged dying. She had, after all, been declining for years. Should she have been put out of her misery?
Well, she wasn't miserable, as far as anyone knows. She had strokes and couldn't talk for the last two years, but didn't seem to be in pain.

Besides, who would make that decision to end Mother's life? Me?

Another family member? Hell no. We stood to profit by inheriting her estate. And, we could eliminate our burden of care. Either way, definite conflict of interest, no matter how good the intentions. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"We deserve the same suicide prevention as everybody else"


By Diane Coleman, Calgary Herald - November 23, 2011

Re: "Trapped alive," Letter, Nov. 21.

James G. Swanson's letter demonstrates the profound devaluation that too many feel toward those of us with severe physical disabilities. Swanson describes his father and a friend, disabled by an accident and ALS, respectively, as "trapped" and "condemned to a life in hell." Social messages that one is "better off dead than disabled" permeate society, including our families.

Swanson's solution to the so-called problem of disability is assisted suicide. Like most, he hasn't noticed the difference between suicide and assisted suicide. Apparently, he doesn't think it matters if someone's family views their life as devoid of quality. There's no sign of concern that we might feel that our existence is a burden to those closest to us. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities rightly opposes assisted suicide. A society that not only agrees with a disabled person's suicide, but guarantees that our suicide attempt results in death, is not treating us as equals. We deserve the same suicide prevention as everybody else, not a streamlined path to death.

Diane Coleman, Rochester, N.Y. Diane Coleman is the founder of the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet.

Glad to be Alive



By Alison Davis, Calgary Herald - November 23, 2011
Re: "No right to be killed; Doctor assisted suicide should not be allowed," Editorial, Nov. 20.

I was glad to see your excellent editorial stating the case against euthanasia. If [assisted suicide/euthanasia] had been available to me some years ago, I wouldn't now be writing to you. I have several severe disabling conditions. I use a wheelchair full time and a vent at night. I have severe pain, which even morphine can't control.

I wanted to die for more than 10 years, at a time when doctors thought my life expectancy was very short. I attempted suicide seriously several times, and was saved, only because friends found me in time and took me to the emergency room, where I was treated.

At first, I was angry with them for thwarting my wishes. Now, I'm eternally grateful. I want to live now, even though my pain is worse than it was when I wanted to die. What changed my mind is friends who refused to accept my view that my life had no value, and a group of very poor children, who loved me wonderfully and overwhelmingly. I found a reason to live in reaching out to help others, rather than turning the negativity on myself. If assisted suicide had been available then, no one would ever have known the doctors' prognosis was wrong, or that I'd be missing the best years of my life.

Alison Davis, Blandford Forum, U.K.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Doctor-assisted suicide is dangerous for us all

By Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald
November 19, 2011 

It's been a sickly couple of weeks for life. This past Monday, a B.C. Supreme Court case kicked off in which five people are seeking the right to choose to be killed by a physician. The very next day, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) released a report that urges the federal government to legalize assisted suicide in Canada. A summary of the End of Life Decision Making report states: "The evidence from years of experience and research where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are permitted does not support claims that decriminalization will result in vulnerable persons being subjected to abuse or a slippery slope from voluntary to non-voluntary euthanasia."

Wow. The RSC panel members must be really lousy researchers. At the very least, someone should teach them how to use Google. Why? Because on Nov. 9, it was announced that a woman with advanced Alzheimer's disease was euthanized in the Netherlands in March. In Holland, this was not even big news.  The horror stories in the Netherlands, where euthanasia was legalized in April 2002, but where it was practised for years prior to that without censure, go way back and prove that there is not just a slippery slope, but a veritable vertical skating rink. Two comprehensive studies, headed up by the Attorney General of the High Council of the Netherlands - Prof. J. Remmelink - reveal utterly shocking examples of abuse, or rather, murder.The first of these reports was released in September 1991. It found that in 1990 alone:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anti-Assisted Suicide Laws Have Served Him Well

http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Anti+suicide+laws+have+served+well/5731465/story.html

By John Coppard, Times Colonist, November 18, 2011

The editorial "Time to talk on right to die" asserts the time is now right to discuss this critically important topic (Nov. 16). 

I submit that the time passed a little over a year ago, when parliamentarians overwhelmingly rejected private member's bill C-384 seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia by a vote of 228 to 59.
John Coppard

Representatives of all parties recognized the dire risks to public safety of giving physicians the legal right to take their patients' lives, and our health-care system, and even friends and relatives, the legal right to steer ill people toward suicide. Our democratic representatives correctly saw this as open to abuse, and bad public policy.

The "Carter case" now ongoing in Vancouver is an attempt to end-run Parliament.

As a person who is "grievously and irremediably ill" with Grade IV brain cancer, I would be affected should this case succeed. Two and a half years after being given a 20 per cent chance of surviving five years, I am doing very well on a medication approved by Health Canada only a year ago, within a week of my cancer coming back.

Had I been given the legal choice of assisted suicide when I first received my terrible prognosis, or when my cancer returned, when I felt hopeless, I don't know what I would have done.

Now I'm doing very well, thanks to medical advancements that are coming faster than at any time in our history. Our anti-suicide laws protected me and gave me a chance for a long and happy life, just as they were intended to do.

John Coppard
Victoria

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Carter Case and Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and a Threat to Individual Rights

For shorter print versions of this article, click here and here.
For talking points, click here.

Will Johnston, MD
Margaret Dore, JD
Alex Schadenberg
November 1, 2011
"Those who believe that legal
assisted suicide . . . will assure their
autonomy and choice are naive."

William Reichel, MD
Montreal Gazette,
May 30, 2010[1]

A.  Introduction

Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada brings a constitutional challenge to Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia.[2]  Carter also seeks to 
legalize these practices as a medical treatment.[3]  Last year, a bill in Parliament seeking a similar result was overwhelmingly defeated.[4] 

This article's focus is physician-assisted suicide.

Legalizing this practice would be a recipe for elder abuse.  Legalization would also empower the Canadian health care system to the detriment of individual patient rights.  There would be other problems.

B.  Parliament Rejected Assisted Suicide

On April 21, 2010, Parliament defeated Bill C-384, which would have legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.[5]  The vote was 228 to 59.[6]
C.  The Carter Case

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Patient wishes opposed

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/132679923.html

I read with sadness the Oct. 21 article about Anne Rostecki, Alleged deprivation of senior probed, by Alexandra Paul.

My mother died in a similar situation. A mild stroke led to her involuntary starvation and dehydration in a Nova Scotia care facility.

There is now a push in Canada to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia as a supposed voluntary choice. But as evidenced by my mother's and Rostecki's cases, doctors now impose their wishes on patients without their consent.

Doctors cannot be trusted with the power they have. Legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia would give them even more power to effect patient deaths. The idea that legalizing these practices will somehow give patients more autonomy and choice indicates a society gone mad.

KATE KELLY
Coral Harbour, Nunavut

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"How exactly are we going to detect the victimization when we can’t do it now?"

Dear Editor:

Patrick Stewart concedes that legalizing assisted suicide would be a problem if “you can bump off your old granny.” [“Spare the dying . . .,” Oct. 15].  This is a major reason why assisted suicide must not be legalized in Canada.  As a Vancouver family doctor I see elder abuse in my practice, often perpetrated by family members and caregivers.  A desire for money or an inheritance is typical.  To make it worse, the victims protect the perpetrators.  In one case, an older woman knew that her son was robbing her blind and lied to protect him.  Why? Family loyalty, shame, and fear that confronting the abuser will cost love and care.


The result: elder abuse is often a hidden and unreported situation.  Indeed, a 2008 government poll found that “96% of Canadians think most of the abuse experienced by adults is hidden or goes undetected.” [1]    
Under current law, abusers take their victims to the bank and to the lawyer for a new will.  With legal assisted suicide, the next stop would be the doctor’s office for a lethal prescription.  How exactly are we going to detect the victimization when we can’t do it now?
Will Johnston   MD
Chair
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC
[1]  For the poll source, scroll down at this link: http://www.seniors.gc.ca/c.4nt.2nt@.jsp?lang=eng&geo=110&cid=154#f

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Assisted Suicide Too Easily Abused

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Assisted+suicide+easily+abused/5525325/story.html

By John Coppard, Times ColonistOctober 9, 2011

Re: "Assisted dying should be an option," Oct. 4.

The danger in legalizing assisted suicide is that people's choices can so easily be undermined and abused. Whether it's greedy relatives hoping to speed up their inheritance, or cash-strapped bureaucrats looking to save on health-care costs, the weak and vulnerable can be all-tooeasily steered toward a death they do not truly want.

In Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal and the government health plan is empowered to steer patients to suicide, two cases have gained public prominence - Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup. Both wanted treatment, but their plan offered them suicide instead. Canadian laws prohibiting assisted suicide exist for a reason. Let's keep it that way.

John Coppard Victoria

Friday, September 9, 2011

Don't Follow Oregon's Lead


By Charles Bentz, MD, for print version, click here.

I am an internal medicine doctor, practicing in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. I write in support of Margaret Dore’s article, "Aid in Dying: Not Legal in Idaho; Not About Choice." I would also like to share a story about one of my patients.

I was caring for a 76 year-old man who came in with a sore on his arm. The sore was ultimately diagnosed as a malignant melanoma, and I referred him to two cancer specialists for evaluation and therapy. I had known this patient and his wife for over a decade. He was an avid hiker, a popular hobby here in Oregon. As he went through his therapy, he became less able to do this activity, becoming depressed, which was documented in his chart.

During this time, my patient expressed a wish for doctor-assisted suicide to one of the cancer specialists. Rather than taking the time and effort to address the question of depression, or ask me to talk with him as his primary care physician and as someone who knew him, the specialist called me and asked me to be the “second opinion” for his suicide. She told me that barbiturate overdoses “work very well” for patients like this, and that she had done this many times before.

What People Mean When They Say They Want to Die


 (originally published as a Statement for the BBC)
For a print version, click here
by William Toffler, MD
______________________________________________________

There has been a profound shift in attitude in my state since the voters of Oregon narrowly embraced assisted suicide 11 years ago.  A shift that, I believe, has been detrimental to our patients, degraded the quality of medical care, and compromised the integrity of my profession. 

Since assisted suicide has become an option, I have had at least a dozen patients discuss this option with me in my practice.  Most of the patients who have broached this issue weren't even terminal. 

One of my first encounters with this kind of request came from a patient with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis.  He was in a wheelchair yet lived a very active life. In fact, he was a general contractor and quite productive.  While I was seeing him, I asked him about how it affected his life.  He acknowledged that multiple sclerosis was a major challenge and told me that if he got too much worse, he might want to “just end it.” “ It sounds like you are telling me this because you might ultimately want assistance with your own assisted suicide- if things got a worse,” I said.  He nodded affirmatively, and seemed relieved that I seemed to really understand.

I told him that I could readily understand his fear and his frustration and even his belief that assisted suicide might be a good option for him. At the same time, I told him that should he become sicker or weaker, I would work to give him the best care and support available. I told him that no matter how debilitated he might become, that, at least to me, his life was, and would always be, inherently valuable. As such, I would not recommend, nor could I participate in his assisted-suicide.  He simply said, "Thank you."The truth is that we are not islands.  How physicians respond to the patient’s request has a profound effect, not only on a patient's choices, but also on their view of themselves and their inherent worth.

'I was afraid to leave my husband alone'”

Letter from Oregon resident, Kathryn Judson, Published in the Hawaii Free Press, February 15, 2011.  To view the original letter, click here and scroll down towards the bottom of the page.   

Dear Editor,

Hello from Oregon.

When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor's office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought).

To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. 'Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her' he said, as a clincher.

Now, if the doctor had wanted to say 'I don't see any way I can help you, knowing what I know, and having the skills I have' that would have been one thing. If he'd wanted to opine that certain treatments weren't worth it as far as he could see, that would be one thing. But he was tempting my husband to commit suicide. And that is something different.

I was indignant that the doctor was not only trying to decide what was best for David, but also what was supposedly best for me (without even consulting me, no less).

We got a different doctor, and David lived another five years or so. But after that nightmare in the first doctor's office, and encounters with a 'death with dignity' inclined nurse, I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses, for fear they'd morph from care providers to enemies, with no one around to stop them.

It's not a good thing, wondering who you can trust in a hospital or clinic. I hope you are spared this in Hawaii.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Judson, Oregon

" If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead"

I'm so glad doctor didn't assist me with thoughts of suicide
http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/oct/19/letter-im-so-glad-doctor-didnt... 

Letter, Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I disagree with Marshall Frank's column, "Florida ready for its own Death with Dignity Act, to give terminally ill patients a choice." Here in Oregon we have such a law. In other words, assisted suicide is legal. Our law was enacted via a ballot initiative that I voted for.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer and told that I had six months to a year to live. I knew that our law had passed, but I didn't know exactly how to go about doing it. I tried to ask my doctor, but he didn't really answer me. I did not want to suffer. I wanted to die and I wanted my doctor to help me. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. I am so happy to be alive!

It is now nearly 10 years later. If my doctor had believed in
assisted suicide, I would be dead. I thank him and all my doctors for helping me choose "life with dignity." Assisted suicide should not be legal. Don't make Oregon's mistake.


Jeanette Hall
King City, Ore.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

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