Monday, November 28, 2011

Canada: "It's too dangerous to allow others to kill us"


By Brian Purdy - Calgary Herald - November 28, 2011

Suicide is legal, assisting it is not. The debate about the legalization of assisting suicide is in the news again, with another court case approaching the Supreme Court of Canada.

There are two points of view. The first is that every person has a right to end one's own life, so why should it not be legal to assist someone to do so? A person at the end of life can get help to end suffering and an unbearable dwindling away to an inevitable end. Why should a doctor or anyone else be made a criminal for an act of mercy?

The second view is that legalizing assisting a suicide is a dangerous slippery slope. Lord Acton, who famously said "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," also said something else about power. He said, "do not grant powers on the assumption they will not be abused."

Those who take the second view think that legalizing assisting suicide would lead to the likes of "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian not only assisting but encouraging people to commit suicide, often in highly inappropriate cases. It might lead to "suicide parlours" where depressed but otherwise healthy people could have a final lethal cocktail. Doctors might rid themselves of long term comatose patients without proper consent. Licia Corbella has pointed out in these pages that a very large number of patients in the Netherlands have been terminated by their doctors without any consent by the patient.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Montana: The Purpose of the Medical Examiner Board is to Protect Patients, NOT doctors

In Montana, there is a proposal before the Montana Medical Examiner Board to provide rules or a position paper on assisted suicide.  Below is the response of Bradley D. Williams, Coordinator of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity.
___________________________________________________

Regulations governing the Board of Medical Examiners demonstrate that its purpose is to protect the public, NOT doctors.  ARM 24.1.101 (H) states:

"Board of Medical Examiners. Ensures that the public is properly protected against unprofessional, improper, unauthorized, or unqualified practice of medicine. All credentials of physicians, nutritionists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, physician assistants, podiatrists, and emergency medical technicians are reviewed by the board to ensure that only those individuals who meet the requirements of the statutes are licensed to practice in Montana."

The Board has now been requested to violate this purpose by enacting a position paper or rules to encourage doctors to cause and/or assist patient suicides.  This would be the "unprofessional, improper, unauthorized, or unqualified practice of medicine" for the following reasons: 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Washington: A Better Response Would be to Repeal the Act as a Fraud on the Voters


By Margaret Dore

On November 16, 2011, an article appeared in a Washington State newspaper arguing for expansion of Washington's physician-assisted suicide act to direct euthanasia and to persons without a terminal disease.[1]  The author, Brian Faller, candidly admitted:  "To improve the chances of passage, the Death with Dignity Act was written to apply only to the choices of the terminally ill who are competent at the time of their death."[2]  Now, he shows the other side's true colors.

In any case, this is my response:

Dear Editor:

I am an attorney who has written multiple articles about our physician-assisted suicide act. I am also President of Choice is an Illusion, a non-profit corporation opposed to assisted-suicide. I disagree with Brian Faller that our physician-assisted act should be expanded to include direct euthanasia. A better course would be to repeal that act as a fraud on the voters.

Our assisted-suicide act was enacted as Initiative 1000 in 2008 and went into effect in 2009. During the election, proponents claimed that its passage would assure individuals control over their deaths. The act is instead a recipe for elder abuse. Key provisions include that a patient’s heir, who will benefit financially from his death, is allowed to actively assist him to sign up for the lethal dose. Specifically, an heir is allowed to be one of two witnesses on the lethal dose request form. In the context of a will, the same situation would create a presumption "duress, menace, fraud, or undue influence." (RCW 11.12.160(2)).

There are also no witnesses required at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else, including an heir, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?

The idea that our act promotes patient control or individual liberty is untrue. Our act instead puts older people and others in the cross-hairs of abuse. For more information, please see www.choiceillusion.org and click on the page for Washington State.

* * *
[1]  Brian Faller, "Perhaps it's time to expand Washington's Death with Dignity Act, The Olympian, November 16, 2011, available at http://www.theolympian.com/2011/11/16/1878667/perhaps-its-time-to-expand-washingtons.html
[2]  Id.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Canada: Anti-suicide laws have served him well

http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Anti+suicide+laws+have+served+well/5731465/story.html
By John Coppard, Times ColonistNovember 18, 2011

The editorial "Time to talk on right to die" asserts the time is now right to discuss this critically important topic (Nov. 16). 

I submit that the time passed a little over a year ago, when parliamentarians overwhelmingly rejected private member's bill C-384 seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia by a vote of 228 to 59.
Representatives of all parties recognized the dire risks to public safety of giving physicians the legal right to take their patients' lives, and our health-care system, and even friends and relatives, the legal right to steer ill people toward suicide. Our democratic representatives correctly saw this as open to abuse, and bad public policy.

The "Carter case" now ongoing in Vancouver is an attempt to end-run Parliament.

As a person who is "grievously and irremediably ill" with Grade IV brain cancer, I would be affected should this case succeed. Two and a half years after being given a 20 per cent chance of surviving five years, I am doing very well on a medication approved by Health Canada only a year ago, within a week of my cancer coming back.

Had I been given the legal choice of assisted suicide when I first received my terrible prognosis, or when my cancer returned, when I felt hopeless, I don't know what I would have done.

Now I'm doing very well, thanks to medical advancements that are coming faster than at any time in our history. Our anti-suicide laws protected me and gave me a chance for a long and happy life, just as they were intended to do.

John Coppard
Victoria

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Montana Bar Article by Senator Jim Shockley and Margaret Dore

"No, physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana:
 It's a recipe for elder abuse and more" [1]

By State Senator Jim Shockley and Margaret Dore

Published in The Montana Lawyer, the official
publication of the State Bar of Montana.

There are two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.  These states have statutes that  give doctors and others who participate in a qualified patient’s suicide immunity from criminal and civil liability.  (ORS 127.800-995 and RCW 70.245). 

In Montana, by contrast, the law on assisted suicide is governed by the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234 (2009).  Baxter gives doctors who assist a patient’s suicide a potential defense to criminal prosecution.  Baxter does not legalize assisted suicide by giving doctors or anyone else immunity from criminal and civil liability.  Under Baxter, a doctor cannot be assured that a suicide will qualify for the defense.  Some assisted suicide proponents nonetheless claim that Baxter has legalized assisted suicide in Montana.

Legalizing assisted suicide in Montana would be a recipe for elder abuse.  The practice has multiple other problems.