Why on Earth is Anyone Surprised By the Rise in US Suicides? Advertising Works.

This article was published by True Dignity Vermont on April 22, 2016.

News sources are reporting with surprise and seeming alarm on the Center for Disease Control’s newly released statistics showing that deaths by suicide in the entire US are on the rise. Why the surprise? It has been common knowledge since the rise of mass media, and even before, that advertising works. 

True Dignity has neither the expertise nor the time to analyze the CDC report’s statistics in detail. A few quotes will suffice to paint the picture of our current situation.

“The suicide rate in the United States increased by 24% from 1999 through 2014…among all groups. The increase in suicide rate has been steady since 1999, before which there was a consistent decline since 1986…” (USA Today, April 22, 2016).

The USA Today article speculates (which is all anybody can do) that the rise is linked to a poor economy. We at True Dignity cannot fail to note that the rise began just as the economic boom of the 1990s was beginning to wind down, and continued through the fairly affluent 2000s, admittedly rising at a higher rate beginning in 2006, on the brink of the Great Recession. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Though the economy may well have contributed to this rise, True Dignity calls everyone’s attention to a fact that is being ignored. 1998 was the year in which Oregon became the first state in the nation to put legalized assisted suicide into practice. This happened after a furious and widely publicized public argument between pro-assisted suicide forces and those opposing it, an argument waged in the courts and eventually decided by the US Supreme Court, which allowed it in Oregon but declined to make it a right nationally. 1999 was the first year for which the state of Oregon issued its annual report on its assisted suicide deaths. Ironically, this supposedly neutral government report called assisted suicide by the attractive name given to the law that made it legal: Death with Dignity.

The World Health Organization has warned the media that: 1) “Language that misinforms the public about suicide or normalizes it should be avoided”, and that the media should 2) “Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide.” Yet, beginning in the period leading up to the implementation of the Oregon law and reaching a climax with Brittany Maynard’s picture on the cover of People, there has been relentless media promotion of suicide, relentless misinformation about laws that allow medical professionals to facilitate deaths of people who could have lived years and that contain virtually no protections against euthanasia or even murder of a person who, believing him or herself to be terminally ill, has obtained a lethal prescription. We have detailed the ways in which the laws allow this to happen so many times that we won’t repeat ourselves here, only urge you to search our topic list.

Bottom line: Compassion and Choices has engaged in an ad campaign, both paid and freely given by the media, and it has been effective. The only thing that should surprise us about the rise in suicide deaths is that it has not been even bigger. We hope that the efforts of many individuals and groups, including ours, have, by calling suicide exactly what the World Health organization has urged the media to call it, “a public health problem”, contributed to that fact, the only silver lining to a terrible cloud hanging over our nation and the world.

Will we be able to hold the line? California has been the only US state to [pass] assisted suicide legislation since the Maynard campaign, but legalization is a threat in multiple states. Canada’s highest court has ruled that assisted suicide is a right, and has ordered Parliament to write laws to regulate it.

“60 Minutes” - and the selling of assisted suicide

Nancy Valko

Nancy Valko

This article was published by Nancy Valko on her website on March 16, 2016

By Nancy Valko

In the March 13, 2016 TV “60 Minutes” segment titled “Aid in Dying” (re-titled: “Should the terminally ill control how they die?” in theonline transcript, the vaunted investigative news show crossed the line from presenting facts to enthusiastic advocacy.

The stage was set when medical correspondent Dr. John LaPook, an internist and son-in-law of liberal activist Norman Lear, opened the segment by stating:

This is not euthanasia, when a doctor gives a patient a lethal injection. That’s illegal in all 50 states. Aid-in-dying, or what opponents call “assisted suicide”and supporters call “death with dignity,” relies on people taking the medication themselves. Oregon became the first state to legalize it 18 years ago, but because a nurse or doctor is rarely present, it’s remained mostly a private affair, practiced behind closed doors. We wanted to hear from patients and family members who’ve experienced it and are fighting to make it legal nationwide.

If you go to the link for the transcript, you will also see “related videos” with segment extras not included on the TV show.

One titled “ethical concerns” is an interview with Dr. Katrina Hedberg, state epidemiologist of the Oregon Public Health Division, to discuss “ethical concerns raised by her state sanctioning aid-in-dying”. Not surprisingly, Dr. Hedberg strenuously denies that assisted suicide is a danger for the “disenfranchised” or for medical economic or family burden reasons. Instead, she says “the opposite has happened” despite cases like Barbara Wagner’s.

In the segment extra “How does the medicine work?”, the assisted suicide doctor explains that the medicine simply just “shuts off the brain” starting “at the top” where consciousness is and then goes to “the bottom” of the brain where heartbeat and breathing occur. Not a very accurate or scientific explanation but designed to reassure the public.

Link to the full article

Dana Palmer: Against Colorado's assisted suicide bill

This article was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette on February 3, 2016.

Dana Palmer

Dana Palmer

My name is Dana Palmer. In 2005, I was diagnosed with Glioblastoma-terminal brain cancer. My prognosis was only 3-12 months. Shortly after my diagnosis, my doctor received a form asking, "When will the patient recover sufficiently?" He drew a horizontal line through it, and wrote never!

My experience is similar to that of thousands of Coloradans who every year face terminal diagnoses and the stigma that they don't have a chance to live, and may be better off dead!

Assisted suicide only worsens this stigma.

After surviving my terminal prognosis for 10 years, I heard the story of the young California woman named Brittany Maynard who faced the same disease I did, and at the exact same age. She took her cancer story public, and it was used to headline a national effort to "normalize" assisted suicide. Immediately, she and other assisted suicide supporters sent a message to patients across the country: Assisted suicide is for you" and "There is no reason for hope." This is a very dangerous message for current and future patients!

Assisted suicide supporters call it a "choice," but to people facing a diagnosis like mine it can be interpreted as an obligation since many patients already feel like a burden. At any time after a terminal diagnosis emotions can run wild, and minds often change daily regarding treatment and care. But assisted suicide is final, it's an action that can't be undone. It can leave doctors and loved ones with regrets.

Link to the full article

Canadian doctors have developed a new technique for treating brain tumors

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

One of the more devastating diagnosis, is to be told that you have a brain tumor.

Researchers at Toronto's Sunnybrook hospital have developed a new technique for treating brain tumors. The difficulty with treating brain tumors is that the brain has a Brain Blood Barrier that naturally protects the brain but also makes it difficult to effectively target brain tumors for treatment. As reported by the Globe and Mail:

The hospital said it made history last week by using a “focused ultrasound” to breach the blood-barrier in the brain to treat patients. 
“The blood-brain barrier (BBB) has been a persistent obstacle to delivering valuable therapies to treat disease such as tumours,” says Dr. Todd Mainprize, principal investigator of the study and neurosurgeon in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in a media release. 
“We are encouraged that we were able to temporarily open this barrier in a patient to deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain tumour.” 
The chemotherapy treatment begins with the patient being given injections of micro-bubbles or microscopic bits of air which circulate in the bloodstream. 
Researchers said they then use a state-of-the-art MRI-guided focused low-intensity ultrasound (sound waves) to target blood vessels in the BBB area near the tumour. 
This causes micro-bubbles to shake and temporarily rip holes in the BBB allowing medication to seep into the tumour.

This new treatment technique creates new hope for people with brain tumours and also for people who are living with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.According to the Globe and Mail:

Scientists said the trial will include six to ten more patients over the coming months to make sure opening the BBB is safe to penetrate. 
The hope is that the new treatment will help patients suffering from brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. 
“Breaching this barrier opens up a new frontier in treating brain disorders,” says Dr. Neal Kassell, chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. 
“We are encouraged by the momentum building for the use of focused ultrasound to deliver therapies for a number of brain disorders.”

Many of these medical conditions are associated with requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide. Brittany Maynard died by assisted suicide last year to avoid living with a brain tumor. California legalized assisted suicide in response to the Brittany Maynard campaign.

Society needs to care for people, not kill them.

How the assisted suicide lobby won in California

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Michael Cook wrote a very insightful article today titled: How the assisted suicide lobby won in California that was published in the online bioethics site Careful. 

Another good analysis of the assisted suicide lobby was titled: Subversive strategies to sell assisted suicide, by Dr Jacqueline Harvey.

Cook bases his analysis on information from the assisted suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock society. Cook writes:

According to Barbara Coombs Lee, the head of America’s leading assisted suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices (C&C), it was Brittany Maynard, the just-married woman who drank a lethal dose of barbiturates on November 1 last year, a few weeks short of her 30th birthday. She died in Oregon because assisted suicide was illegal in her home state of California. 
Brittany, who had an aggressive brain tumour, wanted to use her death to send a message pleading for the legalisation of assisted suicide. A C&C video about her did exactly that. On October 6 last year it was released on YouTube; on October 5 this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill legalising assisted suicide, a measure which had failed six times since 1988.

Defeat in America's biggest state has been a bitter pill for opponents of assisted suicide. But if you're handed a lemon, make lemonade. It’s also an opportunity to learn the lessons in propaganda which are exemplified so brilliantly in Brittany’s video. 

Link to the full article

Mary Karner: Why my mother, who just died from brain cancer, opposed assisted suicide

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday was a terrible day for those who believe in true dignity and oppose assisted suicide. Governor Jerry Brown signed the California assisted suicide bill into law.

The California assisted suicide bill passed in a subversive legislative process. The assisted suicide bill originally stalled in the State Assembly Health Committee. Then the assisted suicide bill re-appeared in a special session that Governor Brown called to examine the health care funding shortfall. In the meantime, the governing caucus re-arranged the committee members to ensure that the assisted suicide bill would receive committee support. Therefore the assisted suicide bill was passed in a two-week session without the scrutiny of other legislation. Governor Brown signed the bill into law, enabling California doctors to prescribe lethal doses for suicide to their patients who are living in a low time of their life.

Maggie Karner

Maggie Karner

But today, the Federalist published a poignant and personal letter by Mary Karner, a nurse and the daughter of Maggie Karner titled: My Mom Just Died Of Brain Cancer, Here's Why She Opposed Assisted Suicide.

I admired Maggie Karner for her ability to express her opposition to assisted suicide and her daughter appears to have inherited this gift. Mary Karner wrote:

I’ve performed CPR till I thought my arms would fall off to keep blood pumping through a child’s body. I’ve administered life-saving medication to a patient having a stroke and seen the joy on his face when he regained his speech. I’ve had a patient fall through a ceiling onto another patient (I can’t even make that up.) I’ve held the hand of patients as they’ve taken their last breath, and I’ve hugged family members so tight I couldn’t breathe. I really thought I’d seen it all. 
And then last week, my mom died. She had a glioblastoma brain tumor. I knew all about it, even cared for patients with her same diagnosis. I knew what was going to happen. But no matter how much I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. Death stings. And my beautiful, 52-year-old mother’s grave is freshly dug. 
But my mom’s name was Dr. Maggie Karner. And she was the textbook definition of awesome. Don’t take my word for it, Google her. She devoted her entire life to helping others... I’m not sure I’ve ever heard my mom speak more passionately then when she was talking about the word “mercy.” And that’s why my mom used her last days on Earth to campaign against a very dangerous use of that word. A “merciful death” some would call it, or a “right to die.” 
My mom is most famous for a YouTube video that went viral entitled “A Letter to Brittany Maynard.” In the video my mom pleaded with Brittany, who had the same diagnosis, not to commit assisted suicide. Unfortunately, Brittany eventually chose to end her life, but my mom never stopped advocating for life. In her words, “How long will it be before the right to die quickly devolves into the duty to die? What does this mean for all who are elderly, or disabled, or just wondering if they’ve become a burden to the family?” Even while she was receiving chemotherapy, my mom spoke at the Connecticut state house to lobby against a “right to die” bill. The bill did not pass. 

Link to the full article

Governor Brown, do not sign the death warrant of unhappy people

This article was originally published by Careful on September 25, 2015.

By Nancy Valko, a registered nurse living in St Louis, Missouri.

My daughter was the victim of assisted suicide, but she is not the only one.

Right now, a law hurriedly pushed through the California legislature after multiple defeats sits on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown and awaits his signature. As both a mother and a nurse I beg Governor Brown to veto it.

In 2009, I lost a beautiful, physically well 30-year-old daughter, Marie, to suicide after a 16-year battle with substance abuse and other issues. Her suicide was like an atom bomb dropped on our family, friends and even her therapists.

Despite all of our efforts to save her, my Marie told me that she learned how to kill herself from visiting suicide/assisted suicide websites and reading Derek Humphry’s book Final Exit. Derek Humphry is the founder of The Hemlock Society, now included with other assisted suicide groups and known as Compassion and Choices. The medical examiner called Marie’s suicide technique “textbook final exit” but her death was neither dignified nor peaceful.

Marie was not mere collateral damage in the controversy over physician-assisted suicide. She was a victim of the physician-assisted suicide movement, seduced by the rhetoric of a painless exit from what she believed was a hopeless life of suffering.

Adding to our family’s pain, at least two people close to Marie became suicidal not long after her suicide. Luckily, these two young people received help and were saved, but suicide contagion, better known as “copycat suicide”, is a well-documented phenomenon. Often media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way.

Think of Brittany Maynard, the young woman with a brain tumour who moved to Oregon to kill herself last November with a doctor prescribed overdose. Weeks before she killed herself, Ms. Maynard partnered with the well-funded Compassion and Choices organization to raise even more money to promote the legalization of physician-assisted suicide throughout the US.

There was an immediate and unprecedented media frenzy surrounding Ms. Maynard’s tragic story that routinely portrayed her pending suicide as “heroic” and even counting down the days to her suicide. Personally, I thought this looked like a crowd on the street shouting for a suicidal person on a window ledge to jump, but the narrative worked with much of the public.

Link to the full article