Saturday, December 14, 2013

This is Insanity! Child Euthanasia! Where Will It Stop?


3 of 4 Belgians Support Child Euthanasia With No Age Limit
Nicole Bailey
Dec 13, 2013
Euthanasia in the case of the elderly and terminally ill is controversial in America, especially as the population ages and medical technology improves. However, euthanasia-friendly Europe puts the US in perspective: an overwhelming majority of Belgians support a proposed euthanasia law with no age restrictions.
Many in America argue that there is no such thing as an individual "right to die," a concept that is particularly opposed by the religious community. Yet others who see dying loved ones in extreme physical pain and unable to perform basic functions of life argue that euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide, is the humane option. The artist behind the popular workplace-themed comic strip Dilbert evoked both compassion and anger when he wrote passionately in favor of euthanasia last month (emphasis mine):
My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has left is hours or possibly months of hideous unpleasantness in a hospital bed. I'll spare you the details, but it's as close to a living Hell as you can get.
If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon.
Because it's not too soon. It's far too late. His smallish estate pays about $8,000 per month to keep him in this state of perpetual suffering. Rarely has money been so poorly spent.
I'd like to proactively end his suffering and let him go out with some dignity. But my government says I can't make that decision. Neither can his doctors. So, for all practical purposes, the government is torturing my father until he dies.
He goes on to say that any politician and any citizen who has actively supported laws against physician-assisted suicide in the US deserves to "die a long, horrible death."
Anecdotes like those complicate the debate in America. However, the most unwavering opponents of euthanasia often cite a "slippery slope" argument, which holds that if euthanasia is permitted in cases that are voluntary and extreme then it will inevitably expand to a much broader range of cases as well. Their position has only been strengthened by the recent developments in Europe.
The Agence-France Presse reports that euthanasia has been legal for anyone over 18 in Belgium since 2002. Overall, 75 percent of Belgians support a new proposed law to remove age restrictions on assisted suicide decisions, which also has the backing of the country's medical community. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders lead the minority opposition, but the law is expected to pass despite their efforts. Any child who wants to be euthanized after the law's passage would need to meet the following conditions: Grounds including: a terminal illness, great pain, and no alleviating treatment
Parental consent
Approval of the patient's medical team
In the absence of an age limit, the legislation will establish a guideline for maturity that is widely open to interpretation: "The Belgian legislation does not set an age limit but states that the patient has to be conscious of their situation and understand the meaning of a request for euthanasia." Critics have pointed to echos of Nazi Germany-era "cleansing" and the consequences that child euthanasia will have for society's moral foundations, including the "trivialization" of death. The non-specific definitions of the legislation also hold the potential for abuse. However, defenders of the law claim that dying children can have maturity beyond their years and should not be denied the dignity of the right to die.
America is watching Europe and Canada, and has looked to Belgium in the past to see what the consequences may be of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Regardless of one's opinion on euthanasia, it would be foolish to ignore the consequences it has had in countries like Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other test cases when making decisions for our own country's future.
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Belgium Senate’s Gift of Death Comes Wrapped in Children’s’ Euthanasia
Government-sanctioned childhood euthanasia brought to you courtesy of only so many faceless legislators
By Judi McLeod
Friday, December 13, 2013
Belgium, soulless Home of the European Union, has taken its next step to becoming the first country in the world to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children—extending to toddlers a 2002 law legalizing euthanasia for adults in a 50-17 vote.
Life has no value for 50 Belgian Senate members spurred on by a 13-4 vote from a Senate Committee long pushing for euthanasia for children.
In typical Belgium Senate style, the vote-by-number, aping paint-by-number vote tally, divulges no names attached to the vote, making government-sanctioned childhood euthanasia brought to you courtesy of only so many faceless legislators.
Canada Free Press (CFP) was able to find both a screen shot of the paint-by-number style vote, and by applying the screen shot to the Senate seating chart, was at least able to find photos of 16 of the 17 senators (See Below) who voted ‘Against’ the euthanasia vote.
“Currently the Belgian euthanasia law limits euthanasia to people who are at least 18 years old. This unprecedented bill would extend euthanasia to children with disabilities,” says Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “The Belgian Socialist government is adamant that the euthanasia law needs to extend to minors and people with dementia even though there is significant examples of how the current law is being abused and the bracket creep of acceptable reasons for euthanasia continues to grow. The current practice of euthanasia in Belgium appears to have become an easy to cover-up medical errors.”(, Dec. 12, 2013).
Tragically, in a European Union-controlled world from secular Belgium, people die in incidents of covered up medical error and due to deliberately imposed, government-sanctioned euthanasia, numbers of which are on an uptick.
“Before yesterday’s 50-17 vote, the number of death by euthanasia in Belgium was already skyrocketing with an increase of 25% in 2012. Recent studies indicate that up to 47% of all assisted deaths are not being reported, 32% of all assisted deaths are being carried out without request and nurses are killing heir patients, even though the law restricts euthanasia to doctors. (
“Some Belgian experts are supporting the extension of euthanasia to children with disabilities because they say that it is being done already. The same medical experts suggest that the extension of euthanasia will result in an increase of 10 to 100 euthanasia deaths each year.
“The Belgian euthanasia law appears out-of-control. The Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission appear to be in a conflict of interest. The Commission supported the euthanasia deaths of Nathan Verheist, 44, who was born as Nancy Ann G who had Anorexia Nervosa and was sexually exploited by her psychiatrist, Mark & Eddy Beressem, and at least one depressed woman. These are only the cases that we know about.
“Dr. Wim Distelmans, who is the leading euthanasia doctor in Belgium has also been the chairman of the Belgium euthanasia commission for more than 10 years, and the commission has been stacked with supporters of the euthanasia lobby.
“The Netherlands already allows children over the age of 12 to request euthanasia with the consent of their parents.
Short of a miracle, euthanasia in Belgium adds to the millions of world-wide abortions in depleting the ranks of society’s most valuable and most vulnerable members: its children.
The date of the Belgian Senate’s extension of euthanasia to children coincides with the Feast Day of St. Juan Diego, of Maria of Guadalupe fame in the year 1531, just a few years after the coming of the Europeans and their Catholic faith to Mexico.
“So there hangs today in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the outskirts of Mexico City that nearly 500-year-old cloak bearing the picture of the young woman who said to Juan Diego and says to the entire world, “I am your mother.” (Father Victor Brown).
Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh,, Drudge Report,, and Glenn Beck.
Judi can be emailed at:
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What the Belgium Senate’s vote to legalize euthanizing children tells us
(left: Jean-Jacques De Gucht of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats spoke in favour of the bill.)
We’ve already posted twice on Thursday’s vote by the Belgium Senate to make it legal to euthanize children ( and However this evidence that Belgium has “leaped head-first off a moral cliff’ represents something so utterly dangerous and symptomatic that it deserves further scrutiny.
Here are four considerations raised by the 50-17 vote which extends the “right” to be euthanized to children under 18. I could list 100.
#1. The euthanasia express is like a freight train racing down the tracks without brakes. “It is widely acknowledged that euthanasia is out of control in Belgium,” wrote Dr. Peter Saunders. There’s been “a 500% increase in cases in ten years; one third involuntary; half not reported; euthanasia for blindness, anorexia and botched sex change operations; organ transplant euthanasia; plans to extend euthanasia to children and people with dementia.” Writing before the Senate vote, Saunders observed, “[I]t is clear that in practice the boundaries are continually migrating and the nation’s moral conscience is shifting year on year. Call it incremental extension, mission creep or slippery slope – whatever – it is strongly in evidence in Belgium.”
#2. We are supposed to take consolation in assurances that supposedly “only” 10-15 children a year will be euthanized and that what is already taking place “secretly” will now be brought into the open and regulated. Forget that this is sheer poppycock. Forget that there is no blunter (or more stupid) argument used to demolish legal protections than the assurance that once death is bureaucratized, the numbers will go down. They always, always, always go up. And no matter how wide the net is cast, it is never cast widely enough for “reformers.”
In that vein note that one reason the killing will be minimal is (as Dr. Kenneth Chambarae, an ardent advocate, told CNN ) that there is strict medical criteria before a child can be euthanized. “This is different from adults, who can also request it if they are suffering psychologically.” How long before that “limitation” is eliminated? After all, as Chambarae told CNN, the reason to extend the “right” to be euthanized to children in the first place is that “the law now discriminates them.”
#3. A story in the National Post swallows hook, line, and sinker the myth that euthanasia is already closely monitored in Belgium. “Since its 2002 adoption of legalized euthanasia, Belgium maintains it has rigorous safeguards to prevent frivolous or malicious use of euthanasia laws,” writes Tristin Hopper. “On the Belgian government’s official website an info page is headlined ‘Euthanasia: A strictly regulated right.’” Heck, that alone is proof positive, right?
More than 8,000 euthanasia cases since 2002? A change of the first order to allow euthanasia for “psychological suffering” and for the mentally ill? The elevation of proponents to media icons? Most people might consider that less than “a strictly regulated right.”
#4.When it comes to euthanasia the Netherlands and Belgium are joined at the syringe. And they are targeting Canada. Kevin Yuill, writing on today observes
“In a poll published today in the British Medical Journal, over half of respondents in the Netherlands (57 per cent) agreed that everyone should have a right to euthanasia, and a similar proportion (53 per cent) agreed that everyone has the right to determine their own life and death. One in four (26 per cent) agreed with the vignette in which a doctor helps an elderly person to die who is tired of living. One in five (21 per cent) agreed with the statement: ‘In my opinion, euthanasia should be allowed for persons who are tired of living without having a serious disease.’ Just over half disagreed (52 per cent), while one in four (25 per cent) neither agreed nor disagreed. Such a change in opinion has taken place after a Dutch citizens’ initiative called Uit Vrije Wil (Out of Free Will) attracted more than 117,000 letters of support in 2010 for its proposal to extend assisted dying to all persons over 70 who are ‘tired of life’.“Voters in Quebec who will soon consider Bill 52, which would legalise euthanasia in the Canadian province, should keep in mind that this is where voluntary-death campaigns are headed, despite the much-vaunted ‘safeguards’. A society that thinks those who are terminally ill and depressed should be given the option to die will logically extend such ‘benefits’ to those who are over 70 or to others who are simply ‘tired of life’. [emphasis added]
It is assumed by everyone that Belgium’s measure will pass the House (by May) and become law when the King signs it (a formality). It is difficult to exaggerate how dreadful, how menacing, how threatening this will be to vulnerable populations all over the world.
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‘It has corrupted the practice of medicine’: Lonely crusader stands against Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act
Brian Hutchinson
As Canada moves toward legalizing assisted suicide, our special series looks at the places it is already happening.
Oregon Health & Science University physician Dr. William Toffler warns of the medical risks associated with doctor assisted suicide. 
William Toffler is one of the few medical doctors in Oregon still concerned enough — and willing — to speak against the state’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), legislation that opened the door to physician-assisted death in North America when it was passed two decades ago.
Since then, most of the controversies around the law have diminished; more than 700 terminally ill patients in Oregon have used the legislation to end their lives with doctor-prescribed doses of strong sedatives. Dr. Toffler despairs. “People have become desensitized to assisted death in Oregon,” he says. Worse, “it has corrupted the practice of medicine in this state.”
Despite his high profile and his steadfast opposition to the law — Dr Toffler is a well-known professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, and a founder and national director of Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation, a non-profit organization opposed to assisted suicide — he reckons at least 20 patients have asked him to help plan and execute their deaths.
He has always refused. Under the Oregon law, doctors cannot be compelled to participate in assisted suicide. But that doesn’t satisfy Dr. Toffler, who says that prescribing a lethal dose of barbiturate to any patient, even one suffering from great pain, is indefensible. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest for doctors,” he says. “For 2,400 years, we followed the Hippocratic tradition.”
The ancient oath has been revised over time, but the central tenet remains: Physicians may do no harm. “That’s the solid ground we stood on for centuries, and suddenly, it’s gone? We should be helping people live well with dignity,” says Dr. Toffler, “not helping them to die.
“The notion that when a doctor prescribes a patient a lethal dose of Seconal [barbiturate] he’s somehow personally invested in that person, is specious. That’s apathy. It raises questions in the minds of patients about the motivation of their doctors.”
Tough words, and seldom heard anymore in Oregon, where the majority of laypeople have moved on. But the majority of people don’t practice medicine or deal with patients. They’ll never be asked to assist with someone’s suicide.
The best advice for everyone, says Dr. Toffler, is not to consider it at all.
‘Suicide with the approval of society’: Belgian activist warns of slippery slope as euthanasia becomes ‘normal’
Graeme Hamilton
As Canada moves toward legalizing assisted suicide, our special series looks at the places it is already happening.
Tom Mortier, whose mother was euthanized by Dr. Wim Distelmans when she was suffering severe depression, poses in Leuven, Belgium. 

Tom Mortier never paid much attention to the discussion about euthanasia in his country. “I was like just about anyone else here in Belgium: I didn’t care at all,” he said in a recent interview. “If people want to die, it’s probably their choice. It didn’t concern me.”
Then in April 2012, Mr. Mortier, a university lecturer, got a message at work. His 64-year-old mother, in the throes of severe depression, had been euthanized the previous day. He would need to make arrangements at the morgue. His mother, Godelieva De Troyer, had largely broken off contact with her family but informed him by email three months earlier that she was looking into euthanasia. He never dreamed her request would be granted because she was in perfect physical health.
His mother’s death has transformed Mr. Mortier, 37, from a typically indifferent Belgian into a raging critic of the country’s euthanasia law, which came into force in 2002. “This is suicide with the approval of society,” he said of her death. “This has nothing to do with euthanasia.”
When Belgium legalized euthanasia, there were assurances that it would be tightly controlled and limited to exceptional cases. But the number of cases rises every year – reaching nearly 2% of total deaths last year — and the definition of what is acceptable is expanding. The country’s Senate is currently debating a proposal to permit euthanasia of minors with a “capacity of discernment” and of people suffering from dementia.
The Belgian experience is of particular interest in Quebec, where a bill to legalize euthanasia passed second reading last month and is now undergoing detailed study in committee. Architects of the Quebec legislation, Bill 52, were inspired by the Belgian example. Last year, a special committee of the Quebec legislature studying euthanasia and assisted suicide visited Belgium and reported back in glowing terms. “Everyone agrees that there has been no abuse. No slippery slope has materialized,” the committee concluded. If there was any problem in Belgium, it was insufficient euthanasia: Patients were being denied euthanasia because of doctors’ “personal reluctance,” the committee said.

Terminally transsexual: Concerns raised over Belgian euthanized after botched sex change
As Canada moves toward legalizing assisted suicide, our special series looks at the places it is already happening.
Nathan Verhelst, a transgender man, born a girl called Nancy, decided to end his own life through euthanasia after a botched sex change surgery.
SINAAI, Belgium – On Sept. 23, Nathan Verhelst invited his friends to an intimate farewell party. They danced and laughed, raised glasses of champagne “to life” and shed tears. A week later, the 44-year-old departed — for a university hospital in Brussels where he was given a lethal injection.
Under Belgium’s euthanasia law, doctors approved Mr. Verhelst’s request because of the unbearable psychological and physical suffering he was experiencing following childhood abuse and a failed sex-change operation. His euthanasia made international headlines because it was the country’s first known case involving a transsexual patient, but it is just the latest death to raise questions about how Belgium’s euthanasia law is being stretched to include patients who are not terminally ill and whose suffering is primarily psychological.
Mr. Verhelst’s death came less than a year after 45-year-old twin brothers, who were deaf and lived together in Putte, Belgium, were granted euthanasia after learning they had a genetic condition that would cause them to lose their eyesight. The same year, a 44-year-old anorexic Belgian woman identified as Ann G, a victim of sexual abuse by a prominent psychiatrist, was euthanized to end her mental suffering.
Eleven years after Belgium legalized euthanasia for humans, Quebec is preparing to adopt legislation modeled after the Belgian law: The province’s Bill 52, which passed second reading last month and is currently undergoing study in committee, would be the first attempt to legalize euthanasia in Canada. A special committee from the Quebec legislature came back from a fact-finding trip to Belgium last year persuaded they had found a model to emulate. They found “no abuse” of the Belgian law, no “slippery slope.” If anything, doctors there were being too conservative in euthanizing patients, due to personal misgivings.
But Chris Gastmans, a professor of medical ethics at Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven, thinks his country may well be heading down a dangerous path. “I’m not totally against euthanasia. I’m not saying there aren’t cases where euthanasia can be considered as a good solution,” he said in an interview. “I think that now it’s going too far. There is not enough control.”
Death by doctor: Controversial physician has made his name delivering euthanasia when no one else will
As Canada moves toward legalizing assisted suicide, our special series looks at the places it is already happening.
Dr. Wim Distelmans, a cancer specialist, professor in palliative care and the president of the Belgian federal euthanasia commission poses in Wemmel, Belgium.
BRUSSELS — Wim Distelmans is unusual among physicians: when one of his patients dies, it means his treatment was a success. A long-time crusader for euthanasia, which was legalized in Belgium in 2002, Dr. Distelmans has made his name delivering death.
In September, the 60-year-old physician gave a lethal injection to Nathan Verhelst, 44, depressed over a failed sex-change operation. Last year, he oversaw the double euthanasia of Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old deaf twins who chose to die after learning they would lose their eyesight. Also last year, he euthanized a despondent Godelieva De Troyer, 64, whose children learned of her death after the fact. And he acknowledges there are many more “borderline” cases that the public never hears about.
To some, Dr. Distelmans has come to embody the dangers of legalized euthanasia. “What is he? Is he God or something?” Ms. De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, asked in a recent interview.
But while he has his critics, more Belgians see the charismatic Dr. Distelmans as a hero. On one Wednesday night last month, more than 300 people turned out in Zemst, north of Brussels, to hear Dr. Distelmans talk about dying. Dressed in jeans, a polo shirt and a black sweater, he explained how to request euthanasia in a two-hour presentation peppered with jokes. One audience member, 76-year-old Simone Vleminckz, hailed Dr. Distelmans as someone who has devoted his career to ending people’s suffering. “I think he knows the pain people feel,” she said. “You see it in his face.”
Polls here show broad support for euthanasia, and the number of cases has grown steadily every year, from 235 in 2003, the first full year it was legal, to 1,432 last year. While the Quebec government pushes forward on a euthanasia law modeled after Belgium’s — the province’s Bill 52 passed second reading last month and is now under study by a legislative committee — the current debate here in Belgium is about expanding the euthanasia law rather than restricting it. And Dr. Distelmans is on the front lines.
In an interview at a clinic he runs in the Brussels suburb of Wemmel, Dr. Distelmans defended his actions and argued that Belgian euthanasia law — which some argue has opened the door to abuses — should be expanded to cover children and people suffering from dementia.
A cancer specialist by training, Dr. Distelmans pushed to have palliative care introduced in Belgium 25 years ago, modeling it on pioneering work in the United Kingdom. But he quickly realized pain relief was not enough. “From the beginning, I saw that even with very good palliative care, there will always be some people who don’t want to suffer any longer,” he said. “It’s often not only physical suffering, because nowadays we can very well [treat] pain and so on, but there is also psychological and existential suffering.”
In order to qualify for euthanasia in Belgium, a patient must suffer from an incurable (though not necessarily terminal) condition and experience unbearable physical or mental pain. While about 80% of the cases involve cancer patients in the final stages of life, Dr. Distelmans said the law also applies to a paralyzed accident victim who after years of immobility sees no future. “They estimate that their lives have no value any more,” he said.
B.C. group hopes to take assisted suicide fight to Supreme Court for first time in 20 years

Grace Pastine of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association: “This is a matter of extreme urgency.”
VANCOUVER — Twenty years after the Supreme Court of Canada denied a terminally ill woman’s bid to seek assisted suicide, a B.C. justice group is wagering that Canada’s “social and legal landscape” has shifted enough to try again.
Coming just as the Quebec National Assembly prepares to pass a provincial law legalizing medical euthanasia, the B.C. case has emerged as one of two major challenges to Canada’s entrenched ban on assisted suicide.
“This is a matter of extreme urgency; the fate of gravely ill Canadians hangs in the balance,” said Grace Pastine, litigation director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which launched the case in 2011.
On Friday, the Civil Liberties Association filed for a Supreme Court hearing of Carter v. Canada, the landmark B.C. case that legalized assisted suicide in June 2012 before it was overturned earlier this month by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
If Canada’s top court agrees to hear the case, it will be the first time since 1993 that it has tackled the issue of assisted suicide.
At Ms. Pastine’s side at a news conference in Vancouver on Tuesday was Elayne Shapray, 67, a former pediatric nurse suffering from multiple sclerosis who filed an affidavit in support of the appeal.
“My pain or discomfort is virtually constant,” said Ms. Shapray, speaking in a strained whisper. “My MS now impacts my quality of life to the point where I no longer consider life worth living unless I also possess the means to leave it at the time of my choosing.”
In its Supreme Court application, the Civil Liberties Association also made the unusual request that the case be “expedited” to the front of the line, arguing that it must be heard “before lives are lost as a result of the progression of diseases and the passage of time.”
“In these circumstances, justice delayed will be justice denied for many,” reads an association motion filed last week.
The motion noted that in the Civil Liberties Association’s initial case before the B.C. Supreme Court, four out of nine critically ill patients who had filed affidavits in support of the case had died before the case was decided in June 2012.
Among them was Gloria Taylor, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) last fall without the help of a doctor.
The last time the Supreme Court of Canada decided on the issue of assisted suicide was in 1993,
when it heard the case of Sue Rodriguez, a 42-year-old Victoria woman suffering from ALS.
In a 5-4 decision, the court denied Ms. Rodriguez’s appeal, arguing in its majority decision that “no consensus can be found in favour of the decriminalization of assisted suicide. To the extent that there is a consensus, it is that human life must be respected.”
Ms. Pastine argued on Tuesday that much has changed in the intervening two decades since the Rodriguez decision.
With assisted suicide now legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and three U.S. states, traditional counter-arguments to assisted suicide — such as the fear of a “slippery slope” — are “no longer credible,” she said.
Four months after the 1994 decision, Ms. Rodriguez died by assisted suicide in her B.C. home. The procedure, a lethal injection, was carried out illegally by an anonymous doctor.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Ms. Shapray vowed to follow Ms. Rodriguez’s example if the Supreme Court failed to uphold Carter v. Canada.
“I have resolved, given the absence of a legal right to seek a physician-assisted death, that I must take my own life without assistance while I remain able,” she said.
“This means that I will die unassisted at an earlier point in time than I would die if physician-assisted dying was available to me.”
Quebec’s National Assembly is on the cusp of passing legislation that would make medical euthanasia a legal procedure. Although doctor-administered euthanasia is slightly different than assisted suicide, the measure could put the province in a legal showdown with Ottawa, who could argue that the Quebec law contravenes the Criminal Code.
We do not support assisted suicide — that is our government’s clear position,” federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said early last month.
Although Ottawa has faced no shortage of attempts to amend Canada’s assisted suicide law, the measures have repeatedly failed to be put to a vote. In 1991, 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2005, assisted suicide bills died with the dissolution or prorogation of Parliament.
Most recently, in 2010 the House of Commons roundly voted down a “die with dignity” bill introduced by the Bloc Quebecois.
National Post
Euthanasia: Putting the Elderly at Risk
By Irene Ogrizek
October 26, 2013
The photo above is of the chapel at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, after the effects of Hurricane Katrina compromised the ethics of some staff there. This is what euthanasia can look like.
Authur’s disclosure: I have no religious affiliation and my politics, if you are new to this site, are left of centre. In online debates about this topic, two assumptions are frequently made about me: that I have conservative politics and am against Bill 52 on religious grounds. (Bill 52 will introduce euthanasia to Quebec.) My concerns are secular: I worry about the effect this bill will have on the elderly and the vulnerable in Quebec.
The current euthanasia debate in Quebec frightens me. As a woman of a certain age, I fear I am heading into a future where I may lose meaningful control over my life. Whether I live or die may hinge on the kindness of individuals unknown to me, perhaps nurses or doctors, who will be put in the position of determining my worth. If I’m lucky and live past my retirement, evidence of all the things I’ve accomplished in my career will be gone. How will I look as a 75 year-old to myself and others? How will I be judged?
A photo of me now. What will I be worth at 75?
When it comes to euthanasia, the slippery slope aspect of it keeps being swept under the carpet. For me, it is the single most compelling reason not to go forward and here’s why: I have seen the slippery slope played out in the care my mother receives at her nursing home.
First I’d like to say that I chose this nursing home carefully; the staff to resident ratio was good and the building was clean and bright. It is located in a large Canadian city and is part of a government network of homes. My mother’s pension plan covers her monthly bill, so I use leftover money to pay for extras, like paid companions to visit her. She has been disabled by a stroke and needs help wheeling herself around.
Despite having helpers, my mother has experienced three bouts of unauthorized medicating. I believe she has been given medications that make her drowsy and docile and are not included on her chart. Because of her fragile health, and the fact that she tires naturally, I had some difficulty, at least initially, detecting the problem.
The first time I noticed, it took a few visits to make sure I wasn’t catching my mother during an unstable phase in her health. When I saw her drowsiness was ongoing, however, I brought it up with a nurse who said my mother was simply tired. I asked to see her chart anyway, just in case her medications had been changed and they’d forgotten to tell me.
The nurse promised to leave a note for the doctor, reporting my mother’s lethargy and asking him to examine her. I didn’t hear back from anyone, but on my next visit, my mother was back to her old self, sharp as a tack and telling me I needed to do a better job combing my hair before I left the house. It was a good sign and when I asked about the doctor’s examination, I was told it had been conducted and that there were no new developments. I let the matter go, but of course wondered.
The next time it happened, the drowsiness was far more pronounced. Using my phone, I took videos of my mother having lunch and then supper every day for several days. At lunch she was her usual chipper self; at supper she was unconscious. When I presented my evidence to the head nurse, he didn’t even try to deny it. He said he would take care of it internally – under his authority, that is – and that I could trust him when he said it would stop. I did trust him and it did stop. However, he resigned a few months later.
That was a year ago and I have just come off the third round of this same problem. Starting a few weeks ago, I kept finding my mother unaccountably drowsy, asked for a doctor to examine her and, within days, she had miraculously recovered. Earlier in the month, her eyes had been glassy and unfocused and she could barely communicate. Fearing the worst, I had called her partner, who is now living near his children, to come and say goodbye.
Now, I am sympathetic to nursing and personal support care staff. I took care of my mother for some time before she went into a home and so have a realistic idea of the energy it takes to care for her properly. There’s no doubt about it: it’s hard work.
However, what is important, for the purposes of this discussion, is the phenomenon of rogue healthcare workers. I believe this last bout of over-medicating came about because there is probably one newly-placed employee, on the morning shift, who wants to decrease his (or her) workload and this is how he is doing it. The problem is that the oversight at the home is adequate: it has a good reputation deservedly. It’s just that elderly residents like my mother are expected to be poorly at times. Drugging her, under these circumstances, is easy.
I am worried about legalizing euthanasia because the chances are excellent that similar patterns will arise but with graver consequences. Think of administrators being to urged to open beds in hospitals or nursing homes. Imagine they are being asked to clear out the most “expensive” patients. They would not have to euthanize, necessarily. They could present an elderly patient in a drugged state and convince a family that a catastrophic neurological event had happened. They could also claim a sedated patient was simply withdrawing from life. Having just seen my mother in this condition, without any medications on her chart to explain it, I know it could happen. It’s sad, but not all families are engaged enough to question an institution’s findings.
The elderly are the most vulnerable to the unethical use of “voluntary” euthanasia. They have financial and material wealth younger relatives may covet, and they are more likely to be nudged into this kind of “beyond hope” scenario. A little Benadryl or Dilaudid is all it would take. (Benadryl has been cited in the deaths of children under the care of unscrupulous caregivers.)
These problems will touch the rest of us. I keep hearing over and over again, from supporters of euthanasia, how “It’s my life; I have a right to take it if I want.” It’s true people have a right to commit suicide. However, what I object to is the involvement of healthcare staff. As someone who has seen abuse in the system, I do not want a doctor who believes in euthanasia. I do not want this because if I am given a bad diagnosis, he or she may push me toward it and away from a more expensive life-saving option.
And there are more complications.
Narcissism: an inability to balance communal and personal well-being. At the crux of the euthanasia debate?
Given the protectionism I’ve seen among most (although not all) doctors, I don’t think it likely Quebecers will be told which doctors are practicing euthanasia. I suspect the doctors who choose to do it will not, perhaps for reasons of safety, be putting their names out in the public sphere. Despite the fact that users of the system have a right to know, I doubt we will.
So for all the cries of “It’s my life; I can do what I want with it,” I say this: involving a doctor, a doctor in a pool of doctors we all use, contaminates and compromises their decision-making and contaminates and compromises our ability to trust them. In a sense, by insisting on your rights to such an individualistic extent, you are peeing in our pool.
Another argument I keep hearing is this: why would you insist on making someone suffer through unimaginable pain? How can you truly know what another person is feeling? Here’s my answer: I believe my mother was deliberately under-treated by a physician who tried to make a life and death decision for her. Perhaps it’s because he heard my mother had been athletic and decided she should not live out her years in a wheelchair. I suspect important procedures had been postponed — too often — because he had prioritized younger patients and de-prioritized her. Ironically, those postponements are what led to her poor condition in the end.
And that’s the problem. Assumptions were made in my mother’s case too. Healthcare workers saw her future and decided it would be “cruel” to let her live. This was said to me even after my mother had been told of her prognosis, accepted her fate and told me she wanted to go on. However, had she not become conscious when she did, and insisted on that right, I have no doubt the infection she was suffering from would have been allowed to take its course.
I’ve got a phrase for this: I call it euthanasia by attrition. Where my mother was concerned, it was a back-room decision that could not have been undone. In my view, the suffering of a small percentage of patients, at the end of their lives, is not worth the taking of another life arbitrarily. Even if my mother is sick and elderly, she still has rights, including the right to go on living.
Here’s my final argument. Every time my mother has been drugged, I myself was going through a down period, a period, in other words, when my energy was flagging and I scheduled my visits in the evenings and made them quick. I am the sole caregiver for my mother and after years of taking care of her, there are just times when I need to go easy on myself.
An expensive patient?
It’s been at those times that the illicit medicating started. So if this pattern of events is anything to go by, a heightened vigilance is what is needed for me to prevent yet another episode. However, this is easier said than done.
Being vigilant takes time and energy and is not always possible, for individuals like myself and institutions like hospitals. It’s this kind of naive faith – that we have the time, energy and resources to oversee euthanasia – that is an illusion. It’s this same naive faith – that the paperwork controlling euthanasia will do its job – that is equally illusory. The controls will slip. Crack open a history book is what I want to say when I hear euthanasia supporters accusing me of being a holy-roller and going on about their rights.
That’s right, a history book. Our province’s future, when it comes to euthanasia, is in one.
Rebranding Killing and Suicide: The Ugly Truth About Euthanasia Dr. Will Johnston08/19/2013
The Canadian Medical Association is meeting this week, and the buzz is that euthanasia and assisted suicide will be discussed. Euthanasia activists are striving to neutralize the medical opposition to their plans, and want the CMA to compromise its clearly stated principle forbidding doctors killing patients. If this principle is broken, an invasive weed will have entered our garden.
As an analogy, remember it took centuries of work to rid our society of capital punishment. Finally, we reached the point that we did not trust any system with the legal power to kill. Did we say to ourselves, "There are probably only a few innocent people executed, and one of them is very unlikely to be me... or someone I care about." ? No, the mere possibility that the law would be wrongly used -- on anyone -- was finally enough to justify a complete prohibition of the death penalty.
Moreover, it was time for the state to stop implicating itself in any killing. Why then, a few years later, are we talking about the state giving legal power to doctors to allow them to kill selected patients? Do we truly believe that those failures to protect the depressed and vulnerable under other suicide and euthanasia systems could never happen here? Do we have any idea what we would be trading for our present privilege of insisting that our doctors and nurses are not willfully implicated in any killing, ever?
The art of euphemism -- of sugar coating your verbal meaning -- has been raised to a syrupy peak by the proponents of euthanasia. When killing and suicide can be rebranded in the hearts and minds of average Canadians, the death lobby wins. What is truly being promised is the medical equivalent of a silent bullet in the head. The irony is that we don't need it. Symptom control at the end of life has never been better, and the right thing to do is to deliver it when needed.
Most of the euthanasia advocates I have met witnessed the poorly managed death of someone close to them and so joined the nearest right-to-die lobby group. This is naive but understandable. For these activists, indignation at seeing substandard care has trumped common sense. Common sense should tell us that we and our loved ones will not be safer or more empowered when the right to kill is given to doctors and nurses, under any system that can be dreamed up.
Canadians were recently horrified by the deaths of two children when a deadly snake could not be kept caged. The suicide and euthanasia system so desperately wanted by some activists would be like that cage: The snake would not stay in it forever. We are now the fortunate inhabitants, like most people in the civilized world, of a place where euthanasia has been banned. If ever legalized, it will send its tendrils into every hospital and care facility.
With each challenge to the ban, the euthanasia promoters have only to win once. In defending itself, Canada has to win every time. The vote against euthanasia was 79% in Parliament in 2010, and it was rejected by 74% of doctors in a recent CMA poll. This should not lead to complacency. The assaults on the key medical principle will not stop. Our wisdom will need endurance.
Deaf twins killed by legal euthanasia had to search two years before they found someone who would do it
Bruno Waterfield, The Daily Telegraph, National Post Wire Services
An "euthanasia kit" available in the 250 Belgian Multipharma's chemist shops for the general practitioners who want to practise euthanasias at the patients' homes. Family doctors who wish to carry out euthanasia at an patient's home can now procure a kit containing the necessary material at 250 pharmacies throughout Belgium.
The deaf twins killed by legal euthanasia in Belgium were frightened of losing their independence in an institution and had “nothing to live for,” their brother said Monday.
The 45-year-old twins, identified as Marc and Eddy Verbessem, from the village of Putte, near the city of Mechelen, were both born deaf and asked to die after finding that they would also soon go blind.
Dirk Verbessem, 46, explained that his younger brothers had lived together for all their adult lives and could not communicate with the outside world.
“Their great fear was that they would no longer be able to see each other. That was for my brothers unbearable,” he said.
The twins had spent their entire lives together, sharing a flat while both working as cobblers and could communicate only with special sign language understood by each other and their immediate family.
“They lived together, did their own cooking and cleaning. You could eat off the floor. Blindness would have made them completely dependent. They did not want to be in an institution,” said Mr Verbessem.
“I sometimes think, if they had their own wives and children, perhaps they would have had something to live for.”
The brother and his parents, Mary and Remy, tried to stop the twins but were eventually persuaded by them that their lives should be ended under Belgium’s euthanasia laws.
After enlisting the support of their local doctor, it took the twins almost two years to find a medical institution to administer a lethal injection after being turned down by their local hospital.
Four weeks ago, dressed in new shoes and suits, Marc and Eddy bade farewell to their parents and brother at Brussels University Hospital in Jette.
“I tried to talk them out of it even at the last moment,” said their brother. “Together with my parents, I said goodbye. Marc and Eddy waved again at us. ’Up in the sky,’ they said. ’Up in the sky,’ we replied. And then it was over.”
David Dufour, their local doctor, told The Daily Telegraph that as well as congenital deafness and approaching blindness caused by a genetically caused form of glaucoma, the twins had other severe medical problems. “All that together made life unbearable. I have been very surprised but there is so much interest and debate about this,” he said.
Dr. Dufour said that the Verbessem family had overcome their opposition to the idea of euthanasia to help the twins make their case to doctors.
“I have boundless respect for their parents and brother,” he said. “Their family gave them the best, but hardest gift.”
Under Belgian law, euthanasia is allowed if a patient is able to make their wishes clear and a doctor judges that they are suffering unbearable pain.
The Verbessem case is unusual because neither of the men was terminally ill or suffering physical pain.
Prof. Wim Distelmans, the doctor who took the decision that the twins could be euthanised, defended his actions.
“It’s the first time in the world that a ’double euthanasia’ has been performed on brothers,” he said.
“There was certainly unbearable psychological suffering for them. Though there is of course it always possible to stretch the interpretation of that. One doctor will evaluate differently than the other.”
Last month, Belgium’s government announced plans to amend the law to allow the euthanasia of children and Alzheimer’s sufferers. If passed, the new law will allow euthanasia to be “extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate”.
Chris Gastmans, professor of medical ethics at the Catholic University of Leuven, expressed fear over the wider implications for the welfare of disabled people after the assisted suicide.
“In a society as wealthy as ours, we must find another, caring way to deal with human frailty,” he said.The Daily Telegraph