Will Johnston: The case against physician-assisted dying

This article was published by the CanadianHealthcareNetwork.ca on June 1, 2016

Discussed: The 'wedge' cases, the language of the debate, the moral culpability of the doctor, and the question of pure autonomy
Dr Will Johnston

Dr Will Johnston

By Tristan Bronca.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was officially founded in 1998 in response to rising public support for physician-assisted dying. It’s made up of about 2,000 donors—both members and organizations—who began to come together in about 1993 during the Sue Rodriguez case. One of those members is Dr. Will Johnston.

Now the chair of the B.C. chapter of the coalition, the family physician took a strong stance against euthanasia about 22 years ago, when he began writing about it and speaking to high school students and church groups. He also testified opposite euthanasia advocates in the Carter case, which led to the legalization of medically assisted death in Canada. Dr. Johnston spoke with the Medical Post about his concerns with the legislation recently passed through the house of commons, the laws around the world, and why he feels Canada is about to make a dangerous mistake.

Q: Explain the impetus for a coalition of bodies who are opposed to physician-assisted dying.

The bodies that are involved in the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition might not agree on any other issue but they share in common a sense of the huge societal mistake that is being made in euthanasia and assisted suicide. We realize that there is some strength in numbers. Obviously not enough strength to stop the freight train that ended with the Supreme Court being unanimous in its decision—which I think is a troubling sign of the shallowness of the Supreme Court’s reasoning—but nonetheless more power than we would have as individual activists.

Q: Which elements of the proposed federal legislation do you personally find most troubling?

The legislation doesn’t yet allow the euthanasia of children, psychiatric patients, or mentally incapable patients long after they consent, but the preamble to the legislation promises to explore those areas further, which is deeply troubling.

Link to the full article

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.

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

'Cowboy' suicide doctor in Australia may be riding into his own sunset

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

This article was written by Paul Russell, the director of Hope Australia and published by Hope Australia on March 9, 2016.

By Paul Russell

My colleague, Alex Schadenberg called Dr Rodney Syme ‘a cowboy’ last year in relation to Syme admitting to have supported the suicide deaths of approximately 100 people over a number of years.

Syme seems either to have been beguiled by the cult of celebrity or maybe he truly wants to become a martyr for a cause. Either way, he seems comfortable appearing in the press from time to time making outrageous and unsustainable claims about having helped yet another ill person to take their own life. I say ‘outrageous and unsustainable’ because while seeming to be goading the authorities to arrest him and to make a test case out of his actions, he never provides enough (if any) evidence to them or to the public to back up his claims.

And while he told Andrew Denton recently that he gets ‘annoyed’ when the word ‘suicide’ is used, it is against the statute that prohibits assisting in ‘suicide’ that his actions might be measured if he ever backs up his rhetoric with proofs. When a person kills themself, it is a suicide; the circumstances don’t change that reality.

But he provides no proof. Even in the death of Ray Godbold, covered extensively by the Fairfax Press in May 2015, where the journalist reports on a moment in time (with pictures) that perhaps should have had the authorities acting.

Link to the full article

Senator Denise Batters opposes euthanasia for psychiatric reasons

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Senator Denise Batters

Senator Denise Batters

Canadian Senator Denise Batters, who became a widow after her husband David Batters, a former Member of Parliament, died by suicide. Batters, who is a mental health advocate, is speaking out about her opposition to euthanasia for psychological suffering.

Batters, who was interviewed by Kristy Kirkup for the Canadian Press, opposes euthanasia for psychological suffering based on her personal experience with suicide and as a mental health advocate. The Canadian Press reported:

Batters said she unfortunately has insight into how a suicidal mind works because her husband took his own life in 2009 after a battle with severe anxiety and depression. 
"I have seen ... the devastating impact, not only for the individual that goes through that pain themselves ... but at the same time ... I've seen the devastating consequences that it can have on the immediate family members,"

Batters recognizes the reality that assisted death has been imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada, but she also recognizes that Canadians want a tightly worded law.

Link to the full article

Healthy 24-year-old woman to be euthanised in Belgium - Update

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Belgian euthanasia insanity continues with the case of a 24-year-old healthy woman (Laura) who will die by euthanasia this summer for psychological reasons, now the Inquisitr has provided more information on this horrific story.

The June 19 DeMorgen article by Simone Maas explains (google translated):

She has good friends, loves good coffee and theater. And she has felt that she wanted to die ever since childhood. Laura (24): "Life, that's not for me." This summer, euthanasia will end her life full of inner conflict, depression and self-destruction. 
I met the West Flemish Laura at the presentation of the book 'Libera me' euthanasia for psychological reasons. Writer Lieve Thienpont is one of the psychiatrists who gave Laura a positive opinion for euthanasia.

Today the Inquisitr published an interview with Laura that explains the story in an even more shocking manner. According to the Inquisitr, Laura experiences suicidal thoughts, otherwise known as suicidal ideation.

Laura, a 24-year-old woman is planning on dying this summer via euthanasia. Unlike many cases before, Laura is not sick with cancer or dying. She simply has had suicidal thoughts since childhood and claims, “Life, that’s not for me.”

Laura claims that she has been living with suicidal ideation since kindergarten.
The medical news defines suicidal ideation as:

Suicidal thoughts, also known as suicidal ideation are thoughts about how to kill oneself, which can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration and does not include the final act of killing oneself. The majority of people who experience suicidal ideation do not carry it through.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact Your Life Counts.

According to the Medical news suicidal ideation can be triggered by other suicides.

Link to the full article

Supreme Court Assisted Dying Decision: A New Social Disorder

By Jean Echlin RN, BScN, MScN

Jean Echlin

Jean Echlin

After 35 years of many fearing and rejecting hospice palliative care programs that provide life and death with dignity, we now have Canadians enamored with doctor provided death. The Supreme Court of Canada has abolished a portion of our Criminal Code that prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide. They have designated physicians as the group in our society to carry out the act of putting patients to death upon request. The patient must be suffering in a manner that is intolerable to them including both psychological and physical issues. 

It must be remembered that nurses work closely with doctors following their orders and monitoring patients for any positive or adverse effects to treatment. Therefore nurses will automatically be assistants and collaborators in any type of inflicted death.  In addition social workers, chaplains and other members of the inter-professional team will be affected.

Inflicting death on another human being is considered the ultimate act of violence so I ask: “How dare we ask our doctors and nurses to kill us?” But this is exactly what is proposed. 

In my opinion, those who opt to carry out euthanasia and assisted suicide will no longer be trusted. As well I believe that acute and long term care institutions that enable patients to be put to death will not be trusted. Persons afraid of being euthanized will avoid admission on the basis of fearing an untimely death.

Link to the full article