Canadian Doctors Get Ready for Child Euthanasia

Canadian Doctors Get Ready for Child Euthanasia

In the United States’ most culturally aligned nation, a race toward the once-unthinkable accelerates.It never made any sense. The assurance that active euthanasia would always be limited to terminally ill, competent adults just never made any sense. Here’s the problem: Once a society widely supports eliminating suffering by eliminating the sufferer and redefines as a “medical treatment” the act whereby doctors kill seriously ill patients, there is no logical argument for limiting euthanasia to adults with legal decision-making capacity. After all, children suffer too, so how can they be logically refused “medical aid in dying” — or MAID, the current euphemism for euthanasia and assisted suicide — only because of their age?

Euthanasia has popular support in the Netherlands as well. There children down to age twelve are permitted to be euthanized, with parental permission required until age 17. Infanticide is also practiced openly by Dutch doctors, even though it is technically illegal. Indeed, the “Groningen Protocol,” a bureaucratic checklist published by Dutch pediatricians, describes which terminally ill and seriously disabled babies can be put down.

The Canadian Supreme Court in 2015 created a right to be euthanized, followed by enabling legislation in the national and provincial parliaments. The law basically guarantees the availability of euthanasia to adults experiencing intractable suffering — as defined by the patient — in circumstances where death is reasonably foreseeable. Serious discussions are now underway to expand that license to children. That development is especially alarming for the United States, given that Canada is our closest cultural cousin.

Member pediatricians were polled about the question. Only one-third of respondents opposed expanding Canada’s euthanasia law to children in all circumstances. Almost half (46 percent) were in favor of extending the MAID option to “mature minors experiencing progressive illness or intractable pain.” (According to the report, “the mature minor doctrine recognizes that a patient’s comprehension of the nature and consequences of a treatment has determinants beyond age, and that children’s wishes should be granted degrees of deference that reflect their evolving maturity.”) There’s more: Twenty-nine percent of answering respondents believe in making euthanasia available to mature minors experiencing “intolerable disability,” while 8 percent would even extend the killing to mature minors with “intolerable mental illness as the sole indication”!

Some parents are already open to having their sick children killed. A startling 40 percent of those responding to questionnaires reported having already held “exploratory discussions” with parents about killing their seriously ill mature children — and that’s while child euthanasia remains illegal in Canada.

While the paper did not take an explicit position on legalizing child euthanasia, it is not reticent about forcing doctors’ participation once it becomes legal. Even though only 19 percent — still a startling figure — of responding doctors stated they would personally euthanize children, the society argued that, on legalization, dissenting doctors would have the ethical obligation to “inform” patients about the euthanasia option and to “refer requesting patients or families appropriately” to doctors known to be willing to do the deed. (In Canada, this is known as an “effective referral.” An Ontario judge has even ruled that Catholic and other dissenting doctors morally and religiously opposed to euthanasia must so participate in adult euthanasia or get out of medicine. One presumes that the same coercion would apply to pediatricians should pediatric euthanasia become legal.)

The authors assume that pediatric euthanasia will be soon legalized in Canada, at least for mature minors — a good bet, as the government has planned legalization as a two-step process, starting with competent adults and then potentially expanding to the legally incompetent. Accordingly, the paper describes the bureaucratic process the hospital plans to implement once minors can be given lethal jabs.

I found this point particularly startling: Doctors will be allowed to euthanize “capable minors” — akin to a “mature minor,” as previously described — without parental consent or even their notification (my italics):

If . . . a capable [legally underage] patient explicitly indicates that they do not want their family members involved in their decision-making, although healthcare providers may encourage the patient to reconsider and involve their family, ultimately the wishes of capable patients with respect to confidentiality must be respected. If we regard MAID as practically and ethically equivalent to other medical decisions that result in the end of life, then confidentiality regarding MAID should be managed in this same way.

The paper was not as explicit about doctors euthanizing children who do not have the perceived mental capacity to decide for themselves. But the paper does state that lethal jabs should be considered “practically and ethically equivalent to other medical practices that result in the end of life.” That means parents would be able to request pediatric euthanasia in the same way they can now order the removal of life support in an ICU.

The members of the working group are also intent on doing what they can to normalize pediatric euthanasia as a standard part of medical practice, stating, “We will . . . as an institution, publicly discuss the provision of MAID in an effort to normalise this procedure and reduce social stigma for everyone involved.” Good grief. Sometimes “social stigma” serves a positive social purpose by preventing immoral acts regardless of legality.

Here’s the bottom line: Countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and now our most culturally aligned nation, Canada, demonstrate that once a society popularly accepts euthanasia, there are no brakes to prevent the steady expansion of the killing license, to include eventually even children and babies — acts that, until very recently, were universally condemned in the civilized world. Those with eyes to see, let them see.

WESLEY J. SMITH — Wesley J. Smith is an author and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

I Depend on Life-Support To Stay Alive. Why I Oppose Assisted Suicide Laws by Diane Coleman, CEO of Not Dead Yet

"People who need home care shouldn't be treated as disposable," says Diane Coleman, CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group, founded to oppose legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. (Courtesy of Diane Coleman)
“People who need home care shouldn’t be treated as disposable,” says Diane Coleman, CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group, founded to oppose legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. (Courtesy of Diane Coleman)

By Diane Coleman 

I have an advanced neuromuscular condition and must use breathing support with a mask 18 hours a day. As a severely disabled person who depends on life-sustaining treatment, I would be able to qualify for assisted suicide at any time where it is legal.

If I became despondent, for example if I lost my husband or my job, and decided that I wanted to die, I would not be treated the same as a nondisabled, healthy person who despaired over divorce or job loss.

If anyone doubted that someone like me would qualify for assisted suicide in a state like Oregon, those doubts were laid to rest in December 2017 when an Oregon Public Health Department official clarified in writing:

“Patients suffering from any disease (not just those that typically qualify one for the DWDA [Death With Dignity Act]) may not be able to afford some treatments or medication, and may choose not to pursue some treatments or take some medication for personal reasons. . . . If the patient does not receive treatment or medication (for whatever reason) and is left with a terminal illness, then s/he would qualify for the DWDA.”

In the decade leading up to the passage of Oregon’s assisted suicide referendum in 1997, proponents often revealed their view that people with disabilities should be eligible. Two thirds of “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian’s body count were people with non-terminal conditions like multiple sclerosis.

The Hemlock Society contributed to his legal defense fund.

When the Hemlock Society morphed into “Compassion and Choices,” the messaging shifted, partly in an effort to exclude disability rights organizations from the public debate. Assisted suicide is only for people expected to die within six months, they said. The person must self-administer the lethal drugs, so no one else could kill them, they said.

Any reasonably trained lawyer should be able to see the absence of meaningful patient protections in assisted suicide bills. It took a decade to pass the Washington State statute that came next.

All along, disability groups have pointed out the inherent discrimination and empty pretense of safeguards in these bills. Why does everyone else get suicide prevention, while old, ill and disabled people get suicide assistance? How could a doctor who’s known a person for an average of 13 weeks know if they are being pressured to ask for assisted suicide?

Reported reasons for requesting assisted suicide pertain to disability, chronic or acquired due to illness.

Three of these reasons (feeling a loss of autonomy, loss of dignity, feelings of being a burden) could be addressed by consumer-directed in-home care services. However no disclosure or provision of such services is required. Basically, the law operates as though the reasons don’t matter, and nothing need be done to address them.

Assisted suicide proponents are fond of saying that many people don’t go through with it, but the lethal drugs give them peace of mind. What if some of the many who change their mind have family members who are not happy about it?

If the only other person present at the end is a greedy heir or tired caregiver, there are no safeguards to determine whether they self-administered the lethal drug or were cajoled, tricked or forced.

Although these and other obvious weaknesses persist in New Jersey’s assisted suicide bill (AB1504), the New Jersey Law Journal not only endorses it, but openly advocates expanding it to include active euthanasia and eligibility for people who are not expected to die in six months. No more incremental strategy, no need to hide the broader agenda.

Throughout last summer, people in wheelchairs with the group ADAPT were dragged out of Congressional hearings and arrested, leading successful efforts to save healthcare for millions of Americans. This same group asserts that Assisted suicide is not about relieving the suffering of the dying: it is an expression of the most toxic and deadly form of ableism.”

We urge New Jersey lawmakers to reject ableism, to look behind the public relations images of assisted suicide and consider the dangers to the many elders, ill and disabled people who are not safe from mistake, coercion and abuse.

Diane Coleman is the president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group which she founded in 1996 to give voice to disability rights opposition to legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
www.nj.com

NJ Should Reject Assisted Suicide bill

Currently the New Jersey Legislature is considering assisted suicide legislation known as A1504. Proponents claim this is a compassionate law that is limited in scope and has a number of safeguards. That characterization is not only inaccurate; it fails to recognize some very serious problems in both its language and implementation. The New Jersey bill is modeled after the law enacted in Oregon in 1997 and, since then, a generation of disability rights advocates have been trying to sound the alarm over this horribly dangerous and discriminatory law.

 In Oregon last year, the three most frequently reported end-of-life concerns were decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (88.1%), loss of autonomy (87.4%), and loss of dignity (67.1%). As proponents of Oregon’s law admit, and as Oregon’s physician reporting form states, it is psycho-social pressures like these that drive the movement for legalized assisted suicide. Doctors also report people requesting assisted suicide because of loss of control of bodily functions. Over 55% of persons who took their lives last year in Oregon reportedly felt like “a burden to their family friends or caregivers.” Certainly these are issues for a wide variety of people who face life changing illnesses and disabilities, but these issues are socially driven and while many of these conditions, such as incontinence, can be tiring, frustrating and at times humiliating, people have a natural capacity to adapt. Our society has made tremendous strides in the ways we can manage these issues; one doctor or even several may not be aware of all the treatment and support options available to a patient.

The current legislation also has no real requirement for mental health or depression screening or treatment, even where depression or suicidal thoughts are considered normal side effects for certain medications. Some disabilities, such as epilepsy, have a high rate of suicidal thoughts that come with the diagnosis. If we are a society that shudders in horror as teen suicide rates spike compared to decades past, especially teen youth who are sexual minorities, and where teen youth dealing with mental illnesses or bullying are at the forefront of our efforts to prevent suicide, why are we even considering a law that proposes suicide as a solution for some adults?

Finally, the Oregon “model” law has no safeguards to protect a patient who may be in an abusive situation. The vast majority of people in Oregon who have used the law are elderly. The wording of the law is so flawed that people who have a direct conflict of interest not only can be a witness to sign a patient’s written request, but also, after the lethal prescription, there is absolutely no oversight in the law, significantly raising the potential for elder abuse or abuse of a medically fragile disabled adult as a result of this law. The patient is supposed to self-administer the drug, but there are no safeguards or procedures in the law to ensure this happens, while the minimal “reporting” requirements virtually ensure that wrongdoing will never be uncovered.

 Certainly, with the many flaws in this legislation, it would be a tragedy for the state legislature to endanger the people of New Jersey with its passage.

 Kate Blisard is a board member of Not Dead Yet, a disability rights advocacy group.

Take Action to stop Physician Assisted Suicide poison in NJ!

Update:  The Senate Health Committee released A2451/2474 from Committee on 11/3/16 by a vote of 5-3 with one abstention.  Please take the action listed below immediately!

The full Assembly passed A2451, the Physician Assisted Suicide bill on 10/20/16.

Below is the 10/20/16 Assembly Roll Call Vote on A2451.

Action needed:  Call your state Senator and urge him/her to vote NO on A2451/S2474, Then call Gov Christie and urge him to veto A2451/S2474 if reaches his desk.

Phone # for Governor:  609 292 6000.  You can also take action by clicking on the “legislation” heading from this webpage and taking action on the third item that is titled, “No Assisted Suicide.” Thank you!

Asm.  10/20/2016  –  3RDG FINAL PASSAGE   –  Yes {41}  No {29}  Not Voting {5}  Abstains {5}  –  Roll Call

Andrzejczak, Bob – Yes Auth, Robert – No Barclay, Arthur – Yes
Benson, Daniel R. – Yes Bramnick, Jon M. – No Brown, Chris A. – No
Bucco, Anthony M. – No Burzichelli, John J. – Yes Caputo, Ralph R. – No
Caride, Marlene – Yes Carroll, Michael Patrick – No Chaparro, Annette – Yes
Chiaravalloti, Nicholas – Abstain Ciattarelli, Jack M. – Yes Clifton, Robert D. – No
Conaway, Herb, Jr. – Abstain Coughlin, Craig J. – Yes Dancer, Ronald S. – No
Danielsen, Joe – Yes DeAngelo, Wayne P. – Yes DeCroce, BettyLou – No
DiMaio, John – No Downey, Joann – Yes Egan, Joseph V. – No
Eustace, Tim – Yes Giblin, Thomas P. – Not Voting Gove, DiAnne C. – No
Green, Jerry – Yes Greenwald, Louis D. – Yes Gusciora, Reed – Yes
Handlin, Amy H. – No Holley, Jamel C. – Yes Houghtaling, Eric – Yes
Howarth, Joe – No Jasey, Mila M. – Yes Jimenez, Angelica M. – Yes
Johnson, Gordon M. – Yes Jones, Patricia Egan – Yes Karabinchak, Robert J. – Abstain
Kean, Sean T. – No Kennedy, James J. – Yes Lagana, Joseph A. – Yes
Lampitt, Pamela R. – Yes Land, R. Bruce – Yes Mazzeo, Vincent – Yes
McGuckin, Gregory P. – No McKeon, John F. – Yes McKnight, Angela V. – Yes
Moriarty, Paul D. – Yes Mosquera, Gabriela M. – Yes Mukherji, Raj – Not Voting
Munoz, Nancy F. – No Muoio, Elizabeth Maher – Abstain O’Scanlon, Declan J., Jr. – Yes
Oliver, Sheila Y. – No Peterson, Erik – No Phoebus, Gail – No
Pinkin, Nancy J. – No Pintor Marin, Eliana – Yes Prieto, Vincent – Yes
Quijano, Annette – Yes Rible, David P. – No Rodriguez-Gregg, Maria – Not Voting
Rumana, Scott T. – Not Voting Rumpf, Brian E. – No Russo, David C. – No
Schaer, Gary S. – No Schepisi, Holly – Abstain Singleton, Troy – Yes
Space, Parker – Not Voting Sumter, Shavonda E. – Yes Taliaferro, Adam J. – Yes
Tucker, Cleopatra G. – No Vainieri Huttle, Valerie – Yes Watson, Blonnie R. – No
Webber, Jay – No Wimberly, Benjie E. – Yes Wisniewski, John S. – Yes
Wolfe, David W. – No Zwicker, Andrew – Yes

Lack of safeguards worries advocates and opponents on both sides of suicide debate

, Des Moines Register 7:02 a.m. CST November 25, 2016

Betsy Davis was too weak to kill herself.

So when it came time to end her life under a new California law for the terminally ill, her caregivers propped her up and held the cup as she drank a fatal mix of prescription drugs.

But physical assistance in taking the toxic medications is illegal, multiple experts contend.

Davis, a 41-year-old artist, suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The complications she experienced in taking her life while trying to comply with California’s assisted-suicide law are far from unique, a Des Moines Register investigation of assisted suicides around the nation found.

Such complications also offer reason to reconsider or adjust “right to die” efforts in Iowa, say both proponents and opponents of such a law here.

“This story and this data should give all Iowans reason to pause and to ask ourselves: Is this really the path we want to go down,” said Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, a group that is most commonly known for its fight against abortion but that also opposes assisted suicide.

The Register this year launched a review of national data on assisted suicide in other states, prompted by renewed political debate over efforts to make Iowa the seventh state to allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

But records on hundreds of deaths in the six states that allow physician-assisted suicide are nonexistent or incomplete. That makes it impossible to decipher whether applicable state law was followed or if vulnerable patients suffered unintended consequences, the Register found.

“Assisted suicide is nearly untraceable. There is minimal reporting and tracking,” said Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in California. “It almost appears as if the practice of assisted suicide has deliberately been made secretive, all with the claim of patient confidentiality.”

Among the 1,642 documented assisted suicides in Oregon and Washington since the states began reporting statistics in 1998 and 2009, respectively, the Register found:

  • COMPLICATIONS: At least 38 people (about 2.5 percent) experienced complications as they were dying, including regurgitation of the fatal medicine, seizures or waking up after taking the medication.
  • INCOMPLETE RECORDS: At least 478 deaths occurred without record of key details, such as whether complications occurred. At least 203 people have died without a record of whether the deaths were from ingesting medication or from natural causes.
  • PROLONGED DEATHS: In 2009, a person in Oregon took more than four days to die after taking the medication. Of the two states, Washington had the most complete data. For deaths where time was recorded, 17 percent took 91 or more minutes. In Oregon, the median time before death in 2015 was 25 minutes.
  • NO DATA: Two of the states where assisted suicide is an option — Vermont and Montana — do not track deaths at all. Data from California and Colorado, the most recent states to legalize assisted suicide, is not yet available.

Golden argues for ending legalized assisted suicide based, in part, on the data. But others warn the information should instead be used to rally for better laws. That camp includes Jennifer Holm, a 46-year-old Ankeny mother with multiple terminal illnesses.

Holm has been one of Iowa’s most outspoken advocates for assisted suicide. She says the data tell her that doctors should be allowed not only to prescribe the lethal drugs but to administer them as well, to help avoid complications.

“I know there are a lot of people who say, ‘That becomes a slippery slope,’ but that’s just not true,” Holm said, pushing back against critics who contend the physical act of a doctor’s assistance would lead to unsolicited euthanasia.

Struggling to die with her failing strength

Davis’ suicide became a team effort by sheer necessity.

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Heather Okray, Davis’ caregiver for two years who helped steady Davis’ hand as she drank the fatal mixture of medication and coconut gelatin. “They give us this completely absurd time limit you have to down your liquid in. And for an ALS patient — that I know every day can’t drink that much — we were looking for a Hail Mary there.”

Her withering body and what it meant to comply with the new law were very much on Betsy’s mind in her final weeks. “I’ve been meeting with doctors, and filing paperwork, and, well, this is my window,” she wrote to friends in an email. “I have just enough strength in my arm to self-administer the drug.”

But Betsy, one of the first patients approved under California’s End of Life Option Act, ended up needing more help than expected. According to her sister, a doctor at the scene told the group it was OK, but she declined to identify the doctor.

The California Board of Medicine and other experts consider that help illegal.

“At that point, our understanding of the law was that we couldn’t assist her,” Kelly said. “But we knew that no one was going to come and arrest — no one was going to get in trouble. But it was still just this kind of concern.”

Disputed meaning of ‘self-administer’

Kelly and Okray, Betsy’s caregiver, were left with a lingering question: Is there an easier way to do this?

Suffering from ALS, Betsy typifies patients in the end stages of a particularly scary, ruthless disease that leaves them powerless. Many advocates of assisted-suicide laws would consider somebody like her in desperate need of such an option. Yet the very law intended to help such patients is written so that it might exclude her.

And the family was unable to obtain secobarbital, a drug commonly used in assisted suicides. Secobarbital sodium is the most commonly prescribed drug in assisted suicides and widely considered to be the most effective. But Betsy, faced with a local shortage of the drug, was unable to attain it in time for her own suicide.

So instead, friends and family devised a plan to make a gelatin concoction to help make the morphine, chloral hydrate and phenobarbital more palatable.

“I think out of all of this, that’s what makes me upset,” Okray said, “is watching somebody die like that and knowing there was an easier solution to it.”

Kelly said she also was troubled by the legal gray area: Had they violated the “self-administer” clause of California’s law?

The law defines “self-administer” as the “physical act of administering and ingesting the aid-in-dying drug to bring about his or her own death.”

Kelly said she was reassured to learn, after consulting with the organization Compassion & Choices, that “taking the medication needs to be a conscious, affirmative act on the part of the patient.”

“That doesn’t mean they couldn’t hold a cup that a person is drinking out of,” said Matt Whitaker, state director in California of the organization, which supports assisted-suicide laws. “That would be fine.”

A spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California referred to her organization’s analysis of the law, which, in its view, “permits a person who is present to prepare the aid-in-dying drug (but not assist in the ingesting of the drug) without civil or criminal liability.”

Groups like the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which has challenged California’s law, believe physical assistance is illegal.

Claire Marblestone, an attorney with the Foley & Lardner firm in Los Angeles, specializes in health care law and regulation. She and a colleague wrote about key requirements of the California law for the National Law Review.

The law’s requirements that patients “self-administer,” Marblestone said, is “a little bit untested.”

“It’s a very touchy subject with a lot of potential areas for gray,” she said.

What it could all mean in Iowa

California’s legal gray area now spreads to Colorado and may have consequences in Iowa as such laws reach further across the country.

Iowa Poll results in March showed 59 percent of Iowans favor allowing the terminally ill to end their own lives. That included a slim majority of Republicans (51 percent).

Iowa Republicans, including Gov. Terry Branstad, have not thus far supported physician-assisted suicide. But Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, noted the effort has seen bipartisan backing in other states. He believes the lack of GOP support for the option in Iowa might change in the face of public support.

The GOP has majority control of the Iowa House and Senate, beginning in January. Without Republican support, any bill on the issue cannot advance through the legislative process.

“I’ve not abandoned hope,” said Bolkcom, who plans to reintroduce a bill for the option in next year’s Legislature.

Bowen, of Iowa Right to Life, says her group is beefing up its opposition despite Republican control. She cited GOP lawmakers around the nation who have supported assisted-suicide laws. She believes her group must maintain an aggressive, ongoing educational effort about the issue.

“There may have been a Republican surge on election night, but we saw Colorado that night approve assisted suicide,” Bowen said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”

Tamales, a Tesla and a sunset: How Betsy Davis chose to die

Forty-one-year-old Betsy Davis went through the screening steps with her primary care physician soon after California’s End of Life Option Act took effect on June 9. 

By this time, the neurodegenerative disease known as ALS had robbed her of the ability to walk, lift her arm to her face, or eat and drink without choking. Davis, the focus of a Des Moines Register investigation regarding the complications arising from physician-assisted suicides, dragged her right pinkie across the smooth surface of an iPad to control her TV with what little strength she had left.

“She was done living with ALS,” said her sister, Kelly Davis. “She wanted to put an end to her suffering.”

Betsy’s family was unable to obtain secobarbital, a drug commonly used in physician-assisted suicides but in short supply where Betsy was living. Instead, friends and family devised a plan to make a gelatin concoction to help make the morphine, chloral hydrate and phenobarbital more palatable.

On July 24, about 30 people gathered at Betsy’s rental home in Ojai, Calif., including her three caregivers and her doctor.

After a final dinner of homemade tamales, Betsy was dressed in a ceremonial kimono. (One of her unfulfilled bucket-list items had been to visit Japan.)

She was taken outside and driven in a new Tesla to a favorite spot near a grove of fruit trees and empty horse stables. She was seated on her massage table, which was sheltered by a canopy, and faced west, toward the evening sky.

That’s when one of her friends discovered the Jell-O mix wouldn’t congeal.

“It was kind of like Elmer’s glue,” said Heather Okray, Betsy’s caregiver. “It smelled like it, too. Like a really strong paint smell.”

Most of the assembled group said their final goodbyes before Betsy swallowed the medicine. The doctor stayed to watch.

The massage therapist helped Betsy sit upright and then leaned her back as she drank the glop. Okray helped Betsy with the cup. They stopped just once to wipe her chin and make sure she was taking all of the mixture.

“(Betsy) just totally focused on getting all the medication down as fast as she could,” Kelly said, noting the drink had to be completed in a window of two to eight minutes to quickly end her sister’s life.

“When it got to the point where Heather was just actually going to have to take the cup and hold it for Betsy, that’s when we turned and, like, looked at her doctor,” her sister said. ” ‘What are we supposed to do here? This is going to take too long.’ And the doctor said, ‘Go ahead and hold it for her.’

“What we thought the law said was that Betsy had to take the medication herself. So it was this effort to not — that we weren’t the ones holding the cup. That ended up just slowing down the process. And her doctor said, you know, ‘Go ahead and hold the cup for her; that’s OK.’ Because if she didn’t take all the medication — if she fell asleep before taking all the medication — she would be in a coma for a couple days and wake up. She had to take all of it.”

It took Betsy nearly nine minutes to drink the lethal dose — about a cup and a half of what her sister described as “sludge.”

“As soon she was done, she was out; we just kind of laid her down, and she was out,” Kelly said.

“This,” Kelly said of her sister, “is something that she felt strongly about — being able to have this choice.”

How California will track assisted suicides

Public records don’t yet show whether the complications Betsy Davis and her family experienced with California’s new End of Life Option act are common or a rarity.

Davis, a focus of a Des Moines Register investigation about complications with assisted suicides, was too weak to drink a deadly concoction of drugs without help.

Davis is one of the first to use the state’s assisted suicide law, which went into effect June 9.

The state’s first annual report compiling data on California’s physician-assisted suicides is due July 1. The California Department of Public Health is hiring two employees to manage data tracking for the End of Life Option Act.

That report, similar to those being kept in Oregon and Washington, will contain:

  • The total number of lethal prescriptions written;
  • The number of patients who died from those drugs and the rate of those deaths per 10,000 deaths in California over the same period;
  • The total number of patients with prescriptions who died, regardless of cause of death, with the cause of death listed;
  • The number of patients with prescriptions who died in hospice or a similar palliative care program;
  • The number of physicians who wrote lethal prescriptions;
  • The demographic percentages of those who died from the lethal drugs, according to the following categories: age at death, education level, race, sex, type of insurance (including whether they had insurance) and underlying illness.

California compiles the data through forms submitted by “secure fax or mail.”

Within 30 days of writing a lethal prescription, the attending physician must submit a copy of the patient’s written request, the three-page attending physician checklist and compliance form and the one-page consulting physician compliance form.

Within 30 days of the patient’s death from the lethal drug — or any other cause — the attending physician also must submit the attending physician follow-up form.

The law requires physicians to submit the forms but does not outline penalties if they fail to comply. The Medical Board of California could issue citations and fines to physicians who don’t comply, as well as follow existing California law that would allow it to suspend or revoke licenses, among other professional penalties.

Des Moines Register

**Updated 8/2/16 ** Physician Assisted Suicide Bill (A2451/S2474) Reintroduced in Both Houses. Take Action

stop physician assisted suicide

 

**Updated 8/2/16**

“No matter how much proponents try to portray their support for this misguided bill as compassionate, the reality is that the bill is anything but,” said Marie Tasy, executive director for New Jersey Right to Life. “The legislation is deeply flawed and will place the lives of our most vulnerable populations at risk of misdiagnosis, coercion and abuse.”

Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22) reintroduced The Senate version of the Physician Assisted Suicide bill (S2474) on August 1, 2016.  According to an article written by Star Ledger reporter Sue Livio,  proponents are pushing for action on the bill by the fall of 2016.  Read the article

 

 

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) reintroduced the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill (2451) in February of 2016.  The text of the new bill, A2451, is now available on-line, is the identical to the previous version.  We expect the Senate version to be introduced shortly.

Background on NJ Physician Assisted Legislation

The previous bill (A2270/S382) passed the NJ Assembly by one vote on November 13,  2014, but failed to garner enough support in the NJ Senate, and consequently, expired in the last session.  Read the January 12, 2016 Press Release from the Alliance Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide here

11/13/14 State Assembly Vote

To see how your Two Assembly Members voted on November 13, 2014 and for background information on the Assembly legislative process in the last session, please click here

More information on efforts to legalize physician assisted suicide in NJ can be found on our webpages.

Take Action:

If you don’t know who your legislators are, go to the tab on the njrtl webpage marked, “Legislation” and add your 9 digit zip code.  Once you add your 9 digit zip code, click “Go.  A page will open that will provide pictures and names of your federal and state elected officials. (Helpful hint:  you will need to use the scroll bar on the right hand side and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find your State Senator and Two Assembly Members.)

If your Two State Assembly Members voted No previously, please contact them and thank them for their No vote. Urge them to vote No again on A2451/S2474 if it comes up for a vote.

If your Two State Assembly Members Voted Yes, please contact them and tell them you are disappointed in their vote and that you expect them to vote No on A2451/S2474 if it comes up again.

If one or two of your State Assembly members are newly elected, schedule a meeting to speak with them and educate them about the dangers of Bill A2451/S2474.

Assisted Suicide bill dies in NJ Senate: An Important Victory That Bolsters Opposition Nationwide

NJassisted suicide

 

 

For Immediate Release

January 12, 2016

 

Contact: Tim Rosales

929.244.3297

Assisted Suicide Bill Dies in New Jersey Senate

An important victory that bolsters opposition nationwide

Trenton, NJ – “The New Jersey Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide applauds the New Jersey Senate for recognizing the dangers to older people and those with disabilities and allowing S 382, legislation to legalize assisted suicide, to die without a vote on the floor of the Senate,” stated Kate Blisard of Not Dead Yet.   “People are surprised to learn that all major national disability groups that have taken a position on the issue oppose the legalization of assisted suicide because the dangers of misdiagnosis, coercion and abuse put us at great risk.”

 

“A bi-partisan group of New Jersey Senators took the time to listen to the disability-rights community and to understand why it is important that doctor-prescribed suicide not become law in New Jersey,” continued Democratic Senator Peter Barnes. “It became clear that this bill would have a detrimental impact on vulnerable populations and expose them to abuse, coercion and possible denial of health care because it costs more than suicide drugs. While the bill’s few, vocal supporters educated legislators as to their personal concerns, it became clear that there are other solutions than doctor-prescribed suicide to address end-of-life pain.  For that reason, there was never a groundswell of support for this bill and, on balance, we heard from many more voices opposed to this bill.”

 

The New Jersey Alliance exposed the following flaws in S 382:

 

  • No requirement of mental health evaluation or pain relief consultation.
  • Permits an heir to witness a death request.
  • Requires no oversight on whether the patient was willing to take the lethal drugs.
  • No requirement that a medical person be present to supervise the ingestion of lethal drugs.
  • Allows a third party familiar with how the patient communicates to make the death request.
    • Permits lethal drugs to remain in a patient’s home without securing them.
    • Relies on the inaccurate premise that a doctor can predict death within six months.
    • No distinction as to whether the death prediction is with or without treatment of the patient.
    • No required notification of family members.
    • Immunizes from prosecution anyone participating in administering lethal drugs,  even if their participation was coercive and out of self-interest
    • Falsely certifies the cause of death.

 

The New Jersey Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide is a broadly-based, diverse coalition of organizations strongly opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide.  Alliance organizations include:

 

Resources for Independent Living

Dial, Inc. Center for Independence

Center for Independent Living

Heightened Independence and Progress – Bergen

Heightened Independence and Progress — Hudson

Progressive Center for Independent Living

Total Living Center

National Council on Independent Living

Not Dead Yet

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living

United Spinal Association

New Jersey Catholic Conference

New Jersey Right to Life

New Jersey Family Policy Council

American Academy of Medical Ethics

 

The Alliance website is located at www.noassistedsuicidenj.org. It can also be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/NoAssistedSuicideNJ/ and followed on Twitter at: @NoNJSuicide

 

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The Dangerously Contagious Effect of Assisted Suicide laws

assisted suicide not safe

Action: Contact your State Senator today and urge him or her to Vote No on S382, The Physician Assisted Suicide bill!

You can obtain your Senator’s contact information by calling 1-800-792-8630 or visiting the NJ Legislature webpage HERE

 

Opinion: The dangerously contagious effect of assisted-suicide laws

By Aaron Kheriaty November 20, 2015

Published in the Washington Post

Aaron Kheriaty is an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the medical ethics program at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine. This piece is adapted from a longer commentary that appeared in the Southern Medical Journal in October.

The debate over doctor­assisted suicide is often framed as an issue of personal autonomy and privacy. Proponents argue that assisted suicide should be legalized because it affects only those individuals who — assuming they are of sound mind — are making a rational and deliberate choice to end their lives. But presenting the issue in this way ignores the wider social consequences. What if it turns out that the individuals who make this choice in fact are influencing the actions of those who follow?

Ironically, on the same day that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill to legalize physician­assisted suicide in California last month, an important study was published by British scholars David Jones and David Paton demonstrating that legalizing assisted suicide in other states has led to a rise in overall suicide rates — assisted and unassisted — in those states. The study’s key findings show that, after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic factors and other state­specific issues, physician­assisted suicide is associated with a 6.3 percent increase in total suicide rates. These effects are greater for individuals older than 65 (for whom the associated increase was 14.5 percent). The results should not surprise anyone familiar with the literature on the social contagion effects of suicidal behavior. You don’t discourage suicide by assisting suicide.

Consider what social scientists call the Werther effect — the fact that publicized cases of suicide can produce clusters of copycat cases, often disproportionately affecting young people, who frequently use the same method as the original case. The name comes from Goethe’s 18th­century novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” in which the protagonist, thwarted in his romantic pursuits, takes his own life with a pistol. After the publication of this immensely popular book, authorities in Germany noted a rash of suicides among young men using the same means. This finding has been replicated many times since in rigorous epidemiological studies, including research demonstrating this effect following cases of doctor­assisted suicide.

Because this phenomenon is well validated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the U.S. surgeon general have published strict journalistic guidelines for reporting on suicides to minimize this effect. It is demoralizing to note that these guidelines were widely ignored in the reporting of recent instances of assisted suicide, with the subject’s decision to end his or her life frequently presented in the media as inspiring and even heroic.

A related phenomenon influences suicide trends in the opposite direction, however; the so­called Papageno effect suggests that coverage of people with suicidal ideation who do not attempt suicide but instead find strategies that help them to cope with adversity is associated with decreased suicide rates. The name comes from a lovesick character in Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute,” whose planned suicide is averted by three child spirits who remind him of alternatives to death. The case of Valentina Maureira, a 14­year­old Chilean girl who made a YouTube video begging her government for assisted suicide, illustrates the Werther and Papageno effects. Maureira admitted that the idea to end her life began after she heard about the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29 ­year­ old woman with terminal brain cancer who campaigned prominently for the right to assisted suicide before ending her life last year. But Maureira changed her mind after meeting another young person also suffering from the same disease, cystic fibrosis, who conveyed a message of hope and encouraged her to persevere in the face of adversity. With our laws, we can encourage vulnerable individuals in one of these two directions: the path of Werther or the path of Papageno.

Aside from publicized cases, there is evidence that suicidal behavior tends to spread person to person through social networks, up to three “degrees of separation” away. So my decision to take my own life would affect not just my friends’ risk of doing the same, but even my friends’ friends’ friends. No person is an island.

Finally, it is widely acknowledged that the law is a teacher: Laws shape the ethos of a culture by affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviors and influencing moral norms. Laws permitting physician­assisted suicide send a message that, under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living — and that suicide is a reasonable or appropriate way out.

This is a message that will be heard not just by those with a terminal illness but also by anyone tempted to think he or she cannot go on any longer. Debates about physician­assisted suicide raise broad questions about our societal attitudes toward suicide.

Recent research findings on suicide rates press the question: What sort of society do we want to become? Suicide is already a public health crisis. Do we want to legalize a practice that will worsen this crisis?