Victory in New York Court - No right to assisted suicide

This article was published on the Not Dead Yet website on May 3, 2016

A clear and welcome ruling came down Tuesday, May 3rd, from the NY Appellate Division in an assisted suicide case in which NDY filed a friend-of-the-court brief joined by ten other national and state disability organizations. The Court found no constitutional right to assisted suicide. Below is an excerpt from the 36-page decision: 

[P]laintiffs rely on two papers that purport to offer empirical evidence that Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, now in effect for over 20 years, has not invited the fears articulated by people opposed to aid-in-dying, such as an adverse impact on vulnerable populations, and the difficulty in distinguishing whether a wish to end one’s life is driven by a desire to control one’s death, clinical depression, or something else. However, even were a finder of fact to determine that aid-in-dying is “workable,” the issue before us transcends mere practical concerns. As the Supreme Court stated in Glucksberg, a state’s interest in preserving human life “is symbolic and aspirational as well as practical” (521 US at 729), favorably quoting the New York State Task Force, which observed:

“‘While suicide is no longer prohibited or penalized, the ban against assisted suicide and euthanasia shores up the notion of limits in human relationships. It reflects the gravity with which we view the decision to take one’s own life or the life of another, and our reluctance to encourage or promote these decisions.’ New York Task Force 131-132” (id.).

. . . . We find that, even giving plaintiffs the benefit of every reasonable inference, they have not presented sufficient allegations to suggest that the Penal Law has an implicit carve-out for aid-in-dying, or that, notwithstanding the precedents on the matter, the constitutionality of aid-in-dying is ripe for judicial reconsideration. 

The issue before us unquestionably presents a host of legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate. As discussed above, plaintiffs present some compelling reasons for making aid- in-dying a legitimate option for those suffering from terminal illness. At the same time, the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law in 1994 “unanimously recommend[ed] that New York laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be changed” (see Task Force, When Death Is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context [May 1994]). The Task Force based its view on the risks that could be presented to the elderly, poor, socially disadvantaged, and those without access to good medical care; and the role of treatable symptoms such as pain and depression in creating a desire for lethal medications. It also noted that most doctors lack a sufficiently close relationship to their patients to appropriately evaluate a request for help in ending life, and expressed the concern that it could open the door to euthanasia of those incapable of giving consent. We are not persuaded from the record before us that, even though society’s viewpoints on a host of social issues have changed over the last 20 years, aid-in-dying is an issue where a legitimate consensus has formed.

Angus Reid survey: Canadians oppose for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons and forcing hospitals to do euthanasia

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
 
An Angus Reid Institute survey of 1517 Canadians focusing on euthanasia and assisted suicide (also known as assisted death) done between March 21 - 24 found that the majority of Canadians oppose many of the recommendations in the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying report (report). The report made 21 recommenations including euthanasia for: people with dementia, people with dementia, and people with psychiatric conditions. The report provided recommendations for legislation on assisted death.

The survey found that 78% of Canadians opposed euthanasia for people with severe psychological suffering but no terminal illness, meaning they oppose recommendation 3, in the report, that supported euthanasia for people with psychological suffering.

The survey found that 68% of Canadians opposed forcing religiously affiliated hospitals to participate in euthanasia while 62% supported religiously affiliated nursing homes from having to participate in euthanasia. Therefore they oppose recommendation 11 in the report.

The euthanasia lobby has pressured the government to reduce funding for institutions that refuse to kill their patients. The survey found that only 24% of Canadians supported this idea.

The survey found that only 36% of Canadians supported forcing medical professionals who oppose euthanasia to refer their patients to a doctor who will kill their patient.

Link to the full article

Catherine Frazee - “The Vulnerable”: Who Are They?

This article was originally published by the virtual hospice on March 31, 2016.

By Catherine Frazee, OC, D.Litt., LLD. (Hon.) Professor Emerita, School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University

We must protect the vulnerable, the Supreme Court told us in its landmark decision establishing a limited right to physician-hastened death in Canada. In my work with the federal External Panel appointed last year to facilitate a national consultation on physician-hastened death, there was wide agreement. On March 1, an impressively diverse coalition of advocacy, faith and medical organizations issued the Vulnerable Persons Standard, a clear articulation of what protections for vulnerable people should include.

There is very little argument that our new regulatory scheme for hastened death must build in safeguards to protect the vulnerable. But what exactly does this much-repeated phrase mean? Who is vulnerable, and why?

***

To be vulnerable, quite simply, is to be without defence.

For some persons – infants, toddlers, persons with extensive and severe impairments – vulnerability may be intrinsic to their condition of life. Without muscle to flee or resist, without words to request or refuse, without art or philosophy to reinvent or transcend, such persons are nearly fully at the mercy of others.

Yet even in these most seeming absolute expressions, vulnerability presents itself by degrees. The infant born in Oshawa in 2016 shows herself in fact to have robust defenses, compared to the infant born simultaneously in Aleppo, Syria. Likewise today’s toddler with Down syndrome from Kamloops is doubtless far less vulnerable than was her counterpart in Hadamar, at the peak of Nazi rule in 1941.

Vulnerability is as much a matter of context as it is of personal condition. In this way, for each and every one of us throughout life, vulnerability is situational, experienced when our defenses are stripped away.

Link to the full article

“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

Assisted suicide: An idea that loses its appeal when it is understood

Charles Camosy

Charles Camosy

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The State of Minnesota is currently debating assisted suicide bill SF 1880. Today, there is a hearing in the Minnesota Senate’s Health, Human Services and Housing Committee on the bill. Yesterday, an article by Charles Camosy, Assisted suicide: An idea that loses appeal as it becomes tangible - Liberals may find themselves opposed, as they should be. Camosy is a professor of bioethics at Fordham University.

Camosy first explains why assisted suicide is opposed: 

The truth about assisted suicide is that it 1) takes time to understand and that it 2) turns political stereotypes on their head. 
Let’s go back to June 2012, five months before the elections that year. Massachusetts has assisted suicide on the ballot. Polls indicate “overwhelming support” in that liberal state: 68 percent support legalizing it, while 19 percent favor its remaining illegal. 
But then something remarkable happened. The people of Massachusetts began to understand the issue. 
Support of assisted suicide is thought to be a liberal idea, but supporters often sound quite conservative. “I want my personal freedom! Government stay out of my life! My individual rights trump your view of the common good!” 
The summer of 2012 saw Massachusetts liberals calling this out. Victoria Kennedy, wife of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, published a piece titled “Question 2 Insults Kennedy’s Memory.” Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. also wrote a piece arguing against the measure, “Liberals Should be Wary of Assisted Suicide.” Disability-rights and physicians groups also were fundamentally opposed. 
The result? In a mere five months, the liberal case defeated assisted suicide.

Camosy then explains why assisted suicide causes concerns.

Link to the full article

Physician Assisted Suicide Proponents Will Say Anything to Pass the Assisted Suicide Bill

This article was published on February 22, 2016 by Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide.

  • Requiring a professional mental health evaluation would “unnecessarily slow down” patient’s access to physician assisted suicide.
  • Terminal patients are in pain so this bill must be passed. 
  • [Including] too many regulatory requirements [in this bill] would make it impossible for a dying person to access death with dignity. 
  • It’s not falsifying the death certificate [by only listing the underlying terminal diagnosis instead of listing assisted suicide as reason for death] because that’s the way it is done in Oregon and Washington. 

It goes on and on like this. The list of false and misleading statements that physician assisted suicide proponents said at the House hearing on HB 404 last Friday is hard to believe. But let’s take them at their word and address each of these assertions one by one:

   1. Medical studies show that terminal patients have high rates of depression: according to this study “best estimates are that between 15% and 50% of cancer patients experience depressive symptoms, and 5% to 20% will meet various diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder.” These depressed, terminal patients have a poorer quality of life and a higher likelihood of having suicidal thoughts.

Proponents of physician assisted suicide and HB 404 are blatantly ignoring these data and argue that nothing should slow down a terminal patient’s quest to commit suicide, even if they are seriously depressed.

The 2015 data from Oregon show that an optional psychiatric evaluation does not work! Only 5 out of 132 patients receiving an assisted suicide prescription were referred for a professional mental health evaluation. That’s 3.8%. Far lower than the 15%-50% of cancer patients estimated to have depression (where 72% of OR residents receiving assisted suicide in 2015 had cancer!) 

   2. Pain isn’t even in the top 5 reasons why patients in Oregon chose assisted suicide. The 2015 Oregon “Death with Dignity” annual report shows that pain was the sixth highest reason stated for requesting assisted suicide – far behind “less ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable”; “losing autonomy”; and “loss of dignity.”

   3. More regulatory requirements are exactly what an issue like physician assisted suicide demands and what legislators should seek in issues that are literally life and death. It’s insulting for assisted suicide proponents to argue that receiving a prescription to commit suicide should be as simple as possible.

   4. Just because Oregon and Washington “death with dignity” laws allow for the falsifying of a death certificate doesn’t mean it is OK to do in Maryland.

Contact Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide.

Assisted suicide lobby: force doctors to kill

Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

This article was written by Wesley Smith and published by the National Review on February 4, 2016.

When seeking to convince a wary public to legalize assisted suicide, euthanasia pushers ooze with promises and assurances that it will only be a last resort–never actually a legal requirement–and that doctors and religious facilities can always opt out.

But once euthanasia consciousness is widely accepted by a population, we find that these promises were made to be broken.

In Oregon, doctors are protected in law if they don’t wish to assist suicides, and religious medical institutions can legally opt out–which many do.

That doesn’t sit well with David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion and Choices–the George Soros-funded assisted suicide promoting and facilitating death organization. Based on a column published in the Register Guard, he wants religious medical facilities forced into cooperation.

From the column:

However, some dying and suffering Oregonians are still not allowed the choice of a death with dignity as they would define it. Some private institutions, particularly those owned and operated by religious institutions, do not allow their employed staff (physicians, hospice workers, etc.) to participate in the process.

Because there can never be enough assisted suicides. 

Besides, C & C has a list of death doctors ideologically predisposed to lethally prescribe. Indeed, the majority of Oregon’s assisted suicides have the hemlockers’ finger prints on them.

What to do? Coerce!

No physician who is personally opposed to helping her or his competent and dying patients end their suffering is obliged to participate. But all physicians should consider referring their patients when the occasion arises — and, in my opinion, no institution should prevent their medical providers from considering legal medical decisions. The state of Oregon, not the church, licenses physicians and determines their competencies and privileges. 

Institutions have the right to choose who can be on their medical staffs. Forcing a Catholic hospital (say) to employ or give staffing privileges to death doctors would violate the free exercise of religion, the right to free association, and all the (false) assurances made by the right to die crowd when they cajole people into legalizing prescribed death.

Lest you think religious institutions will never be forced to act lethally, they already are in Quebec, where euthanasia is euphemistically called “aid in dying,” and from all appearances, an approach that will be taken throughout all of Canada when the euthanasia-is-a-right Supreme Court decision goes into effect nationally.

This despite the Canadian Charter’s guarantee of “freedom of conscience and religion.”