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.

The Deadly problems with euthanasia Bill C-14

This article was written by Dr Will Johnston and published in the Huffington Post on April 22, 2016.

Dr Will Johnston

Dr Will Johnston

Dr Will Johnston is the Chair of EPC - BC.

It is not surprising that many Canadians are concerned about the dangers of the new assisted suicide and euthanasia bill, C-14.

What is really not credible is how the word-benders who used the Charter "right to life" to legalize the intentional suicide or killing of some patients are now protesting that they have been cheated of total victory. While they were in court, they said that all they wanted was for competent consenting adults who were suffering terribly at the end of life to be able to have a doctor kill them, with no criminal consequences for anyone.

Now they are hopping mad that non-adults and those who are mentally incompetent, those unable to consent, those whose suffering is purely psychological, and those with years to live just might be excluded. They don't have to worry. The same semantic ju-jitsu which delivered the Carter decision to them will have no problem convincing the courts to invite whoever else to the death party.

Link to the full article

Liberal MP, Robert-Falcon Ouellette questions euthanasia

Robert-Falcon Ouellette MP Winnipeg Centre

Robert-Falcon Ouellette MP Winnipeg Centre

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

CBC News, Kristy Hoffman, reported that Robert-Falcon Ouellette, the Liberal MP from Winnipeg Centre, is questioning whether to support Bill C-14, the bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Ouellette told CBC news:

"Once we make a decision on this, there will be no going back,"

Ouellette continued:

"I'm concerned that we haven't thought out the complete ramifications that a decision like this might have on indigenous communities that seem to be suffering greatly," 
"This will be a right that will become entrenched and the impacts on vulnerable groups will become entrenched and it's very hard to stop."

Ouellette has not decided how he will vote on Bill C-14. He said:

"When I go to my Sun Dance ceremonies, when I go to meet with the elders and we are in our lodges, I have my Sun Dance Chief, David Blacksmith, who said, 'We must fight the spirit of suicide. We must work each and every day to defeat it.' That, to me, is important." 
Studying different people who could access doctor-assisted dying is the next step. 
"I don't think we've consulted with everyone and the impacts this might have."

Help Ouellette with his consultation by sending letters to:

Robert-Falcon Ouellette MP
House of Commons
Ottawa ON  K1A 0A6

Hugh Scher: Letter to Members of Parliament and Senators

From: Hugh Scher, Scher Law Professional Corporation (Toronto, Ottawa)

To: Member of Parliament
House of Commons, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

Dear Honourable Member: 

Re: Response to Joint Committee Report on New Assisted Suicide Law

I am a constitutional lawyer and authority on human rights and the rights of people with disabilities in Canada, particularly in respect of end of life issues. I have advocated on these issues for the past 25 years. 

I have served as counsel or been consulted on virtually every end of life case in Canada over the past 15 years. Despite this, the joint committee investigating euthanasia and assisted suicide refused to hear my testimony. 

My review of the joint Parliamentary Committee report highlights the following major concerns: 

1. The Committee appears to unquestionably endorse a Benelux style regime of euthanasia, which has proven to be the most abused system of end of life practices in the world;

2. Even the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes that 32% of cases of euthanasia in Belgium were carried out without request and without consent, despite a legal requirement for these elements. In 47% of those cases, the doctors refused to report the matter to the overseeing body, despite a legal requirement to do so. Despite these clear breaches of the legal requirements of the Belgian law, not one Belgian doctor was prosecuted;

3. The joint Committee report suggests the broadest possible euthanasia regime in the world without any meaningful safeguards or effective oversight;

4. The joint Committee report and recommendations would extend access to euthanasia to children which is clearly contrary to the recommendations of the Supreme Court of Canada;

5. The joint Committee report would extend access to euthanasia to those acting based upon an advance directive and without the requirement for consent at the time of the act. This also contradicts the recommendations of the Supreme Court of Canada;

6. The joint Committee report further supports granting access to euthanasia to people with psychiatric conditions which fundamentally undermines both suicide prevention measures as well as requirements and safeguards for voluntariness, capacity and consent in end of life practices;

Link to the full article