Kevin Yuill: Me Before You is fiction, but so are most arguments for assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill

Kevin Yuill, a history professor at Sunderland University, wrote an excellent article that was published in the Telegraph today. Yuill's argues that Me Before You is simply one of many fictional stories about assisted suicide, but then he also states that arguments supporting assisted suicide are also fictionally based. Yuill writes:

There is an outbreak of fictional assisted suicides, of which the film released this week, Me Before You, is simply the most recent example. Before, we had Million Dollar Baby, The Sea Inside, One True Thing, and episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Coronation Street, and Hollyoaks. Such a plot-device is neither new nor "taboo-busting" – that taboo has been well and truly busted. 
It is interesting that the case for assisted suicide exists more in the fevered imagination of authors and screenwriters than in reality. Only a handful of Britons kill themselves in Swiss assisted suicide clinics every year; the rate of fictional representations to people actually killing themselves in Switzerland must be nearly 1:1. But Me Before You has sparked protests, mostly from disabled groups, because it implicitly asks the question: If you were quadriplegic (or severely disabled), would/should you kill yourself? 
Of course, the film is fiction and not particularly imaginative fiction at that, but there is a real context to the unease of groups of disabled activists like Not Dead Yet who have protested outside cinemas.

Yuill outlines some of the information from his book: Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization (2015) 

The whole case for assisted suicide is fictional. Rather than empathy, it is based on anxiety in the worried well. “I’d rather die than suffer like you do”, some actually say out loud to disabled people, who, in my experience are a feisty lot who enjoy (and all too often must fight for) their lives. There are real disabled lives – and there is the narcissistic projection of gloomy imaginings onto the disabled. 

Link to the full article

Euthanasia for Psychiatric reasons is complicated

Dr K Suno Gaind

Dr K Suno Gaind

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Doctor K Suno Gaind, who is a President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and an associate professor at the University of Toronto wrote an article that was published in the Globe and Mail on Friday May 27, 2016; where he states that there are no known standards for approving euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

Dr Gaind questions how euthanasia fits with  - Do No Harm - ethic:

Do no harm. How do we square this guiding tenet with medically assisted death? Which is the greater harm – helping a person to end his life, or allowing continued suffering when he seeks death? 
When it comes to mental illness, it is even more complicated. The 2015 Supreme Court decision emphasized the need to protect the vulnerable from seeking suicide at a time of weakness. Less clear is how we actually do that. 
Mental illness can affect how a person thinks. Depression fuels negative self-thoughts, self-blame, hopelessness and struggling with one’s place in the world. Negative events are dwelt upon and positive ones discounted, with emotional resilience lowered until mundane stresses seem overwhelming. 
This is not to deny the real pain and suffering of mental illness, nor to imply that it invariably compromises clarity of thought. However, in severe cases, teasing apart how illness-based cognitive distortions can influence decision making is a formidable challenge. Heart disease might produce suffering but not necessarily alter thought processes; with depression, people often say they no longer feel or think like themselves. 
This predicament could be moot if suffering continued indefinitely. The value of suicide prevention is not to stay alive with intolerable suffering, but to avoid ending life during a vulnerable period. Unfortunately, cognitive distortions can lead some to decline treatment and seek death, despite the prospect of a healthy future. 

Dr Gaind explains how difficult it is to assess irremediable suffering of psychiatric patients. 

Link to the full article

Military Veterans Threatened by Assisted Suicide

This article was published by True Dignity Vermont on May 14, 2016.

Rep Al Baldasaro

Rep Al Baldasaro

Representative Al Baldasaro of the New Hampshire Legislature on gave an impassioned speech on May 11 against a proposed “study committee” to look at “end of life choices.” Speaking on behalf of Veterans’ PTSD/TBI Commission, he cited the fact that New Hampshire is facing an epidemic of suicides among Veterans, and said: 

“What message are you sending to the community out there and all the good work every one of us has done to protect people from killing themselves? Now we want to make it easy?”

Link to the video/speech by Representative Al Baldasaro.

He said that opening the door to such a practice would have grave consequences for veterans at risk for suicide, and that even studying such a bill would threaten efforts to help veterans. He clearly states that euphemisms such as “aid in dying” don’t change the fact that such laws promote suicide and threaten efforts to protect people from killing themselves.

Native leaders oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The chair of Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Health Authority Elders' Advisory Council, Francois Paulette told CBC news that: 

Indigenous people are bound by spiritual law, not man-made law.
Francois Paulette

Francois Paulette

Last week Jorge Barrera from APTN News reported that Robert Falcon Ouellette, the Liberal MP from Winnipeg Centre, said that he will vote against Bill C-14 the bill that will legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide

According to the APTN report:

Ouellette said the federal government should work around the deadline and delay legalizing assisted death for at least five to 10 years until it’s absolutely clear what sort of impact it would have in all corners of Canadian society. 
“I think we need to take more time, especially in light of Attawapiskat,” 
“I think there are communities that have this issue and if you allow, all of a sudden, this to occur…it might be very difficult,”

“I am afraid if we open this little door right now we won’t be able to fight that suicide spirit.”

CBC reporter, Sonja Koenig reported that Canada's Indigenous community is concerned about legislation that legalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide. Bill C-14 was introduced in the House of Commons on April 14

According to the Koenig report Indigenous leaders have not been consulted. Dr. Alika Lafontaine, the president of the Indigenous Physicians Association said, 

so far, there's been no meaningful consultation with Indigenous groups.  
Lafontaine says even though the new legislation has been tabled, it isn't too late. 
"Even if these regulations are written up, there is still an opportunity to create our own in-house solutions when it comes to medically-assisted dying in our communities." 

Paulette spoke to the issue at a Dene leadership meeting today in Yellowknife.

Canada's Indigenous communities need to organize in opposition to assisted dying before Bill C-14 becomes law.

Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette will vote against euthanasia bill C-14

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Robert Falcon Ouellette (Liberal MP)

Robert Falcon Ouellette (Liberal MP)

Jorge Barrera from APTN News reported that Robert Falcon Ouellette, the Liberal MP representing Winnipeg Centre, said that he will be voting against Bill C-14 the bill that will legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide

According to the APTN report:

Ouellette said the federal government should work around the deadline and delay legalizing assisted death for at least five to 10 years until it’s absolutely clear what sort of impact it would have in all corners of Canadian society. 
“I think we need to take more time, especially in light of Attawapiskat,”

Attawapiskat is a Cree community in the James Bay region that is experiencing a suicide crisis. Ouellette stated to APTN:

“I think there are communities that have this issue and if you allow, all of a sudden, this to occur…it might be very difficult,” 
“If grandma, grandfather decides they had enough in life…if they weren’t able to carry on, why should I carry on? If they weren’t strong enough, why should I be strong enough? 
I think that is a question that is asked in Attawapiskat more often than not and the ripple effect of assisted dying is not the same in Toronto as in other places.”

Ouellette explained that his position on the issue was influenced by a conversation he had with his Sundance chief about three years ago.

“We were talking about suicide and he was talking in the lodge about this and he said, ‘Never forget the spirit of suicide, you have to fight the spirit of suicide, make sure it doesn’t come into our lives,’” 
“I am afraid if we open this little door right now we won’t be able to fight that suicide spirit.”

The Liberal government should use the Notwithstanding clause to give them more time, as Ouellette has said is necessary. The Notwithstanding clause would give the  government at least 5 years to determine how to handle this issue.

[1] Section 33 of the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, also known as the “notwithstanding clause,” is a legislative power that allows the Parliament or a Legislature to override certain Charter section.

Assisted Suicide Advocacy & the Increase in Suicide

This article was published by Wesley Smith on his blog on April 22, 2016

By Wesley Smith

There has been a huge and alarming increase in the U.S. suicide rate. From the CDC announcement

From 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 24%, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population, with the pace of increase greater after 2006… 
Suicide is increasing against the backdrop of generally declining mortality, and is currently one of the 10 leading causes of death overall and within each age group 10–64…  
This report highlights increases in suicide mortality from 1999 through 2014 and shows that while the rate increased almost steadily over the period, the average annual percent increase was greater for the second half of this period (2006–2014) than for the first half (1999–2006). 

Color me decidedly not surprised. We are becoming a pro-suicide culture. 

I believe the assisted suicide movement bears partial responsibility. Suicides have increased at the very time the assisted suicide movement has been vigorously and prominently promoting self-killing as a proper means to alleviate suffering. 

Moreover, assisted suicide is often portrayed sympathetically in popular entertainment and the media is completely on board the assisted suicide bandwagon. Don’t tell me that doesn’t give despairing people lethal ideas. 

At the same time, suicide prevention campaigns usually ignore this toxic elephant in the room. 

It is also noteworthy that the suicide rate increased faster after 2006–the very time when the assisted suicide movement has become the most vigorous and made its most dramatic advances. 

There is no question that assisted suicide advocacy is not the only factor causing this alarming increase in suicides. But I am convinced that the correlation could also be at least a partial causation. 

Look at it this way: If we say that suicide is okay in some circumstances–but not others–at best we are sending a mixed message, making it more difficult for the anti-suicide message to sink in. 

In this regard it is like telling someone, “Don’t smoke, but if you do, use filter cigarettes.”

One study has already found a weak linkage. I would like to see a more concerted investigations that aren’t afraid of making a controversial connection.

Jean Echlin: Letter to the Minister of Justice on euthanasia

Jean Echlin RN, MScN

Jean Echlin RN, MScN

As a nurse consultant for 36 years in palliative care & gerontology I believe that hospice palliative care for every Canadian must be the priority. 

How dare we ask our doctors and nurses to put patients to death when a safer option exists. Healthcare providers must never assume the role of killers or refer to another who will provide the "death management." Trust and legal issues will make more problems for our sick and elderly. 

Abuse of the elderly and "copycat" suicides will increase. If economics are driving this movement and if we are honest cost-savings will be an outcome, we are a society bereft of moral and ethical values. 

Just study the statistics from the Netherlands, especially Belgium and you will understand the fatal results of this death promotion. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that in 2013, more than 1000 deaths were hastened without explicit request and more than 2800 died by euthanasia in Belgium. Does that promote a feeling of safety and security when we require acute or chronic care? Certainly many will fear institutional admission when the future reveals the magnitude of the coming "death tsunami." 

I fear that the "true north strong and free" is no longer a democracy if those who help us get cures and stay well are also denied their conscience rights. Please think how you would feel if society (government) stripped you of your rights and freedoms under our Canadian Charter? Would you quietly acquiesce or demand fair treatment under your Charter Rights? Please consider these thoughts. 

Thank you.
Jean Echlin RN, MScN
President - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition