Friday, June 29, 2012

"Especially if older people have money or real estate, our laws against assisted suicide are there to protect them"

Editor, the Times:

Assisted suicide should not be legal because older people are at great risk for abuse. In my experience as a licensed practical nurse working with older people in home care, I have come across many concerning situations.  I have seen firsthand a family fighting over the will of their parents while they are still alive.

I see that this greatly affects the way the parent feels as they grow older.  They feel as if the family wants them to die so they can have their money.  Some express the pain that they feel when they see loved ones discussing their money as if they have already passed away.

If assisted suicide was legal, some older people would feel the need to say yes - to die - because they are given the message that they are a burden to their family. Some of these older people can be easily convinced and put their trust fully in their caregivers and families.

If assisted suicide were legal, then some would really not make the decision, but let someone else make the decision for them. How is this right?  

Especially if older people have money or real estate, our laws against assisted suicide are there to protect them.

Changing the law to allow assisted suicide would violate their right to be protected in this way.

Arlena Vane Aldergrove

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Canada, Carter & Outrage!

"Canada will be known as the country where a Provincial Judge has more power than the Federal Government. "

* * *

Dear Ms. Kerry-Lynne Findlay MP,

I am angry and upset about Justice Lynn Smith's decision in the Carter case, giving Ms. Carter the "right" to assisted suicide/euthanasia. 

This erroneous and presumptuous decision by Justice Smith is a guarantee of elder abuse unto death. We already have a problem with elder abuse in Canada. I witnessed this firsthand with my mother, when, after a mild stroke, the relative holding power of attorney decided my mother would have no treatment. I sat by my mother's bedside in a Nova Scotia nursing home, unable to do anything except hold her hand while she suffered for six days, before finally succumbing to dehydration and starvation. If Justice Smith's decision is allowed to stand, there will be no need for inconvenienced or greedy relatives to wait for even this questionable medical procedure of withholding treatment.

It appears that Justice Smith holds herself above the Government of Canada. She has given our elected representatives, such as yourself, a year to comply with her decision to allow people to "help" kill other Canadians. This is the right to commit homicide. The Federal Government of Canada decided many years ago that Canada would not kill convicted murderers, even if they want to die, but now Justice Smith had deemed that anyone in Canada can kill another person who allegedly asks to be killed. 

MP Findlay, the "right" to kill someone is not a decision for a Provincial Court Justice to make. If Justice Smith's decision is upheld, Canada will be a place of supreme irony. We will have the distinction of protecting the lives of convicted murders, while allowing our vulnerable elders and others to be subject to human error or deliberate murder. We will also be, I believe, unique as a nation: Canada will be known as the country where a Provincial Judge has more power than the Federal Government. 

I look forward to your response on this matter.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Kate Kelly, B.A., B. Ed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Carter Opinion: Unclear Legal Effect & Invalid Reasoning

By Margaret Dore

On June 15, 2012, Justice Lynn Smith of the BC Supreme Court issued an opinion purporting to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.[1]  As discussed below, the legal effect of this opinion is unclear.  The reasoning is also invalid. 

A.  Legal Effect 

The opinion was the result of a summary trial in which both the Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of British Columbia argued that the court had no power to do anything other than dismiss the case.  This was due to the Supreme Court of Canada's prior decision on similar facts (the Rodriguez case).  The opinion states:

"They [Canada and British Columbia] say that it is not open to this Court to do anything other than dismiss the plaintiffs' claim."[2]

If Canada and British Columbia are correct, the opinion is nothing more than an advisory document.  Unless and until this point is resolved, any person participating in a death under the opinion will remain at risk of criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits and/or professional discipline.

B.  Invalid Reasoning

The opinion is also written in double-speak, which means to say one thing and to mean another, sometimes the opposite.  Most centrally, the opinion bases the plaintiff's "right to die" on her "right to life" in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[3]  These are opposite concepts.[4] 

The opinion also argues that because Canadian law does not prohibit suicide as a crime, that commiting suicide is a right.[5]  This claim ignores other Canadian law  discouraging suicide. Indeed, a suicidal person can be committed against his or her will in order to prevent a suicide.[6]  With suicide actively discouraged under the law, it cannot be said that the law somehow grants a right to commit suicide.   Once again, the opinion's logic is flawed.

* * *

[1]  To view the opinion, click here.
[2]  Opinion, page 251, paragraph 891.
[3]  Id., pages 365-8.
[4]  See e.g., the opinion at 366, pargraph 1314, which states:  "Canada argues that the right to life does not include the right to choose death.  [Canada] submits that such an interpretation would directly contradict the plain and obvious meaning of a right to life and would mark a significant departure from existing Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence."
[5]  See e.g., the opinion at 10, pargraph 15:  "The claim that the legislation infringes Ms. Taylor's equality rights begins with the fact that the law does not prohibit suicide.  However, persons who are physically disabled such that they cannot commit suicide without help are denied that option because s. 241(b) prohibits assisted suicide."
[6]  See BC Mental Health Act, Part 3, Section 22 (allowing involuntary admissions "to prevent the person's or patient's substantial mental or physical deterioration or for the protection of the person or patient or the protection of others").

Monday, June 11, 2012

From Afghanistan to Activist Against Assisted Suicide: "These are things worth fighting for"

By John Coppard

To view the original publication in Brain Tumour Magazine, click here.
To learn more about Brain Tumour Magazine, click here.

It was early summer 2009 and I was on my second “tour” in Kabul, Afghanistan, this time as NATO’s civilian spokesman.  I was responsible for representing NATO to media from the Alliance’s 28 member nations - regional powers such as Iran, Russia and Pakistan, and other troop contributing nations to the International Security Assistance Force, as well as Afghanistan’s own emerging media.  While my military counterpart handled military-specific issues, I was responsible for explaining the political and diplomatic aspects of NATO’s support to this brave and tragic country. With lukewarm support for the mission in many contributing nations, and a traumatised Afghan population bombarded by Taliban propaganda and wary of Western intentions, the stress of the job could be intense.

I felt up to the challenge.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Oregon, other suicides have increased with legalization of physician-assisted suicide

Scott Helman's article about legalizing assisted suicide in Massachusetts implies that doing so will eliminate violent suicides.  I am physician in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal.  Official statistics from the state of Oregon do not support this claim.

Based on an Oregon Public Health report released in 2010, Oregon's overall suicide rate, which excludes suicide under Oregon's assisted suicide act, is 35% above the national average. The report documents that the rate has been "increasing significantly since 2000." 

Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized assisted suicide.  Suicide has thus increased, not decreased, with legalization of assisted suicide.  Moreover, many of these deaths are violent.  For 2007, which is the most recent year reported on Oregon's website, "[f]irearms were the dominant mechanism of suicide among men."  The claim that legalization prevents violent deaths is without factual support.

Factual support for the above statistics:
Oregon Health Authority News Release September 9, 2010 at and,
"Suicides in Oregon, Trends and Risk Factors," Executive Summary, p.4, at  

William L. Toffler MD
Professor of Family Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University
Posrtland OR