Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Leblanc Case: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and a Threat to the Individual

By Margaret Dore
January 26, 2012

"Those who believe that legal assisted
suicide/euthanasia will assure their
autonomy and choice are naive."

William Reichel, MD
Montreal Gazette,
May 30, 2010[1]

A.  Introduction

Leblanc vs. Attorney General of Canada brings a constitutional challenge to Canada's law prohibiting aiding or abetting a suicide.  Leblance also seeks to 
legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia as a medical treatment.  In 2010, a bill in the Canadian Parliament seeking a similar result was overwhelmingly defeated. 

Legalization of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia under Leblanc will create new paths of elder abuse.  This is contrary to Canadian public policy.  Legalization will also empower the health care system to the detriment of individual patients. 


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Not Dead Yet on Final Exit Network & Hospice

http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/2012/01/georgia-response-letters-to-op-ed-by.html

Georgia:  Response Letters to op-ed by Final Exit Network (FEN) President Wendell Stephenson

On January 7, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an op-ed by Wendell Stephenson, current president of the Final Exit Network (FEN).  "Ensuring death with dignity" is no longer freely available at the AJC site, but the same essay was published in December last year in the Metrowest Daily News and can still be read here.

It's the usual conflation of terminal illness with chronic illness, sensationalist language describing FEN members and supporters as victims of oppression, etc.  This blog will probably be revisiting Stephenson's piece in the near future.

In the meantime, his op-ed drew some strong reactions that were published in the letters section of the AJC on January 15.  There were three letters - the first one agreeing with Stephenson and the following letters  disagreeing with him.  The letters can all
be found on this page.

The first of the two taking issue with Stephenson and his op-ed was written by
Eleanor Smith, a long-time disability rights leader and activist who is the founder of Concrete Change, an international network whose goal is to make all new homes visitable.  Her letter:
Right-to-die argument blurs a key distinction

“Ensuring death with dignity” (Opinion, Jan. 7) blurs the distinction between the freedom to end one’s own life, which cannot be denied, and the freedom to have others end one’s life, which endangers the lives of people less valued by society.

The elderly couple referred to in this column chose to inform their assisted-living facility of their intention to starve themselves to death (which the administration, unsurprisingly, could not support). They could have chosen instead to check out of the institution for a short stay with their children. I suspect organizational (rather than personal) advice led to this public confrontation.

Older and/or disabled people can be expensive to support. It is reprehensible to select them as the population encouraged to die before their time — rather than supporting them to live and making them feel welcome in the world.


Eleanor Smith, Decatur
The next letter was from Jennifer Hale, executive director, the Georgia Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.  Her letter:


Final Exit leader’s essay ‘inherently misleading’

The piece by Wendell Stephenson of the Final Exit Network attempting to link the philosophy of hastened death and assisted suicide — or, as he terms it, “self-deliverance” — with the ideals of dignity at the end of life provided through state-licensed and federally certified hospice care providers is absolutely wrong, inherently misleading and seems mildly predatory from my perspective (“Ensuring death with dignity,” Opinion, Jan. 7).

At the Georgia Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, it is our mission to provide education, information and advocacy to the public and to providers of end-of-life care to raise awareness of the options available to every person and improve on the quality of that care. Nowhere on the Final Exit Network’s website could I find where there was any support for families.

The couple mentioned in this piece made a decision about how they wished to spend the end of their lives. Hospice did not help them make this decision and did not help them carry it out. Hospice helped them return to their family’s residence and provided them with physical and emotional support and ongoing bereavement care for the family.


Jennifer Hale, executive director, the Georgia Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Hale's letter opens with a strong and harsh assessment of both Stephenson and the Final Exit Network.

It's too bad that her concluding words contain a glaring contradiction of her claim that hospice played no role in helping the couple in question "carry out" their death through starvation and dehydration.  When she says that hospice gave the couple "physical and emotional support," that means they facilitated the process - at least to the extent that they made the couple as comfortable as possible and as free from the more unpleasant sensations of starvation and dehydration as they could manage.  That is a lot of help.  Similarly, I have concerns that "ongoing bereavement care for the family" means helping everyone in the family feel OK with themselves for their own sanction and support of the couple's long suicide through starvation and dehydration.  That, too, is a lot of help.

Maybe Ms. Hale could take a second stab at clarifying what hospice is and is not.  Because this last couple of sentences didn't help me at all.  --Stephen Drake


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ken Stevens MD: "legalizing assisted suicide can result in decreased patient choice"

Assisted Suicide
http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/53280042-82/suicide-patients-assisted-oregon.html.csp

Updated Jan 19, 2012 01:01AM

Patty Henetz' "Do Utahns have the right to choose how they die?" (Tribune, Jan. 8) refers to the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon. Utahns should understand that legalizing assisted suicide can result in decreased patient choice.

I have been a cancer doctor in Oregon for more than 40 years. The combination of assisted-suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid).

The plan limits medical care and treatment for patients with a 5 percent or less likelihood of surviving five years. Patients in that category who have a good chance of living another three years and who want to live cannot receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, the plan will cover the patient's suicide.

Oregon law says only patients with no more than six months to live are eligible for voluntary suicide, but the plan nonetheless offers suicide to patients in this category.

The mere presence of legal assisted suicide steers patients toward suicide. One patient was adamant to use the law. I convinced her to be treated. Eleven years later she is thrilled to be alive.

Kenneth Stevens, M.D.

Sherwood, Ore.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hawaii: Assisted Suicide Not Lawful, Says State

http://www.staradvertiser.com/s?action=login&f=y&id=137466873

A 103-year-old act does not let doctors kill, the attorney general's office tells proponents


By B.J. Reyes

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 17, 2012

An obscure 1909 law intended to ease suffering of Hansen's disease patients does not make physician-assisted suicide legal in Hawaii, according to an opinion by the state attorney general's office.

The opinion, dated Dec. 8, was in response to an inquiry from state Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, who sought clarification of the law amid reports that supporters of physician-assisted suicide were seeking a patient willing to test the statute.
 
An obscure 1909 law intended to ease suffering of Hansen's disease patients does not make physician-assisted suicide legal in Hawaii, according to an opinion by the state attorney general's office.
 
The opinion, dated Dec. 8, was in response to an inquiry from state Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, who sought clarification of the law amid reports that supporters of physician-assisted suicide were seeking a patient willing to test the statute. Login for more...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Massachusetts voters, reject Petition 11-12

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/11/massachusetts-voters-reject-petition-1112/

If adopted this November, a ballot initiative in Massachusetts will legalize physician-assisted suicide for patients whose conditions are predicted to produce death within six months. Initiative Petition 11-12 claims to ensure that the patient's decision to commit suicide is voluntary. That claim, however, is misleading.

The initiative petition requires that two persons witness the patient's written request for a lethal prescription. One witness, however, can have a financial interest in the patient's death. That person can be the only witness present when the lethal drug is taken. Thus, an interested heir could pressure the patient, and no one would know because no objective witness is required when the drug is taken. Also, the petition would require the death certificate fraudulently to list the patient's underlying condition, rather than the lethal drug, as the cause of death.

Initiative Petition 11-12 uses terms like life-ending "medication" and death in a "humane and dignified manner." But there is nothing medicinal about poison and nothing dignified about the prospects for the abuse the initiative petition would allow. It is a bad law that the voters of Massachusetts should reject decisively.

STEPHEN L. MIKOCHIK
Professor emeritus
Temple Law School