Accept and Be – A Great Holiday Message from the Trevor Project

December 10th, 2012 · No Comments

by Jane St Clair

Author of Walk Me to Midnight

 

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that benefits gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. Its mission is to prevent suicide among a group of kids that is too often bullied and ridiculed to the point where they want to end their own lives. This holiday season the Project is offering beautiful tee shirts and posters with the wonderful message, “Accept and Be.” Chicago artist Matthew Lew designed it.

When you are suicidal, the last thing you can do is simply accept and be who you are. You are so filled with self-hate that you want to execute yourself, and you feel that your life is completely unbearable and will never get better.

Princess Diana of Great Britain, Britney Spears, Owen Davis, Drew Barrymore, Sammy Davis Jr., Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor and Halle Berry are just a few of the wonderful people we would have lost if they’d been any good at suicide.

Suicide rates tend to go up during the holidays, when it looks like everyone else is at a holiday party and having a great life but you. This is all Hollywood — there’s not a person on the planet who has not or will not go through a bad time and have their heart broken. Oscar Wilde said that the human heart was meant to be broken. That’s what hearts do, and then hearts recover.

Accept and Be.

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The “Oregon Model” of End-of-Life Care

November 25th, 2012 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Author of Walk Me to Midnight

 

Sunday, November 25, 2012 – This morning the New York Times’ lead editorial is about how everyone should consult their doctor or nurse and fill out a medical end-of-life form.  Those of us who participate in the movement against assisted suicide generally have no objection to these forms, although we think they are better done when a person is healthy and at a lawyer’s (not doctor’s) office.

We are not against end-of-life forms. We are against assisted suicide as a “medical treatment”.  The Oregon model, which the Times cites in its editorial, has legalized assisted suicide. In the past, Oregon’s medical officials have sent letters to poor people with advanced cancer saying that the state won’t pay for their care because is too expensive and probably will not work — however,  suicide is painless and cheap. And Oregon will happily pay for their suicides. (1)

The New York Times is staffed by those wonderful people who gave us Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  For years the Times defended him as a courageous American hero until his “assisted suicides” of healthy people finally became too bizarre and immoral even for them.  Yet they keep pushing assisted suicide in their editorials and news columns.

The article below is one I wrote a while ago, but it still stands.

1.   Springer, Dan. “Oregon Offers Terminal Patients Doctor-Assisted Suicide Instead of Medical Care,” Fox News, July 28, 2008, see http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,392962,00.html#ixzz2DGV6ksuH

 

The New York Times And End-of-Life Forms

Compassion and Choices is a group that pushes the legalization of assisted suicide. They began as the “Hemlock Society,” a more or less an underground movement in which their members helped people commit suicide. They are still coming from the premise that people have a right to a painless death through suicide.

Many people who agree with Compassion and Choices are well-meaning people like New York Times columnist Jane E. Brody. In a recent Times article, she discusses end-of-life directives and tells people to contact Compassion and Choices, which she describes as “an organization that helps people negotiate end-of-life problems” and one that can provide you with “an excellent free guide and tool kit to help people prepare advanced directives.” Then Ms. Brody tells you how to get their guide.

Her column has a veneer of rational, impartial journalistic advice but yet she never once mentions Choices and Compassion’s mission of legalization of assisted suicide or presents an opposing point of view.

Most of the column is a discussion about why you should plan for end-of-life medical care, and why Obamacare might include having elderly Medicare patients discuss end-of-life care with their doctors before they are terminally ill.

Many Americans have objected to this provision of Obamacare with reasons Ms. Brody and others who present themselves as impartial refuse to discuss.

One reason is that end-of-life directives are not strictly medical documents. If you sign something to the effect that you don’t want antibiotics, you don’t want respirators, you don’t want food and water tubes, and you don’t want surgeries done, you have just signed away your right to certain medical care. Many such forms oppose religious teachings.  For example, the Catholic Church teaches that food and water are not medical treatments and should be available to everyone, regardless of physical condition.

If you sign such a directive in a doctor’s office, and the paper does not designate that you want your husband or wife or other loved one to take charge should you become incapacitated, you just signed away who gets to choose what happens to you. When you sign it with a government doctor, keep in mind that he or she is under pressure to keep your medical costs down.

Traditionally, you sign an end-of-life directive with your lawyer because end-of-life medical forms are legal statements about who you are morally, ethically, religiously, atheistically, or whatever. They should not be initiated by a doctor paid by the government to do so, but rather by you and according to your personal beliefs. My own lawyer told me that when he explains directives to clients and tells them to take them home to think about them, many don’t want to sign them because it takes away choices that they think may be better made hour-by-hour at the time of the occurrence or illness.  For example, if you have cancer and sign into hospice care, you are no longer eligible for certain treatments because you only receive palliative care. This may take away the option of having surgeries to remove tumors, performed not to prolong your life but to relieve pain.

Doctors and other healthcare providers would like to get to the point where everyone has a signed medical form stored in a computerized system so that they can easily assess them in case of life-threatening accidents or other emergencies, and thus protect themselves against lawsuits and performing medical treatments they consider fruitless. But let’s say your college-aged child has one on file. The directive might cut you as a parent out of the decision to “pull the plug”.

Ms. Brody directs you to Compassion and Choices, a group promoting assisted suicide, to find your end-of-life medical forms. You might also want to look at a pro-life directive and contrast the two. She can point to studies that say you’ll have a smoother death if you do end-of-life planning. I can point to studies that show you’ll live longer if your doctor is coming from a religious, pro-life perspective.

“Judging from national studies and people I know (including a 90-year-old aunt),” Ms. Brody writes, “most Americans regardless of age seem reluctant to contemplate the certainty that one day their lives will end, let alone discuss how they want to be treated when the end is near.”

But maybe her 90-year-old aunt has thought about it, and decided on a different course. It’s still her aunt’s right to do that.

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Thanks, Massachusetts, for Voting Down Doctor-Assisted Suicide

November 7th, 2012 · No Comments

The day after Election 2012 ….

Thank you, Massachusetts, for voting against physician assisted suicide.  Our opponents carefully chose your state when they decided to put their initiative on your ballot, and you said no. Good for you!

These laws ultimately endanger all of us, but pose an immediate threat to our most vulnerable population of people who are elderly, desperately ill or physically challenged.  Thank you for protecting them.

In the past few weeks, the widow of  Senator Ted Kennedy and the brother of one of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers wrote editorials in the New York Times against the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide. Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, who has a degree in neuroscience from Yale University, wrote a really funny piece for the Wall Street Journal recommending that life guards and police officers be given the power to assist suicidal people instead of talking them out of it.  Their support for truly compassionate choices shows that people from all walks of life and with all kinds of  political views have a problem with making it legal for our trusted doctors to end the lives of patients.

The suicide rate for Americans went up last year by 4%, the highest rate in 15 years.  Every 13 minutes, someone in the United States chooses to end their life.  We know that the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in other countries led to an increase in their general suicide rates.  It’s simple. When you give societal approval to suicide, suicide rates go up.

Thank you, Massachusetts, for choosing compassion.

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30 Logical Reasons for Massachusetts to Vote No on Physician-Assisted Suicide

August 15th, 2012 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Author of Walk Me to Midnight

I wrote “Thirty Logical Reasons to Vote No on Assisted Suicide” when the issue was on the ballot in Washington state.  It’s now on the ballot in Massachusetts. These reasons first appeared as a series of tiny cheap advertisements I took out every day during that election cycle, and they have since been read by over 30,000 people.  This article is now widely imitated — there is even a website ongoing right now that gives one reason every day to vote for a certain presidential candidate.  You saw it here first.

Voters of Massachusetts: You don’t have to be religious to vote “no” on doctor-assisted suicide.  Many in the international movement against physician-assisted euthanasia are not religious but motivated by the logical reasons against assisted suicide given below.

 

Reason #30- No on Assisted Suicide Sunday, November 2

Today’s AD-Some terminally ill people recover and get well.

A hospice nurse told me about a lovely 24-year-old given three months to live. Five years later, she is still with us and the mother of a child.

Every good doctor knows that medicine is an art as well as a science. No one can predict with 100% certainty who will live and who will die. Although it is rare, some terminally ill people can and do get better. Everyone who works in hospice can tell you at least one story attesting to that. They personally knew a patient who beat the odds and is still vertical today.

Offer them suicide and you take everything away from them. You take away hope. You take away their lives.

Reason 29: No on Assisted Suicide Saturday, November 1 Today’s Ad: Doctors make mistakes in medical care.

This week, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a $4 million award to the family of a woman misdiagnosed with cancer and then given a lethal dose of painkillers.The 66-year-old woman received massive doses of painkillers at a hospice for cancer, which an autopsy showed she never had, according to court records.

That’s just this week’s news. It happens all the time.

For more horror stories from families who suffered this way, see http://www.hospicepatients.org/.

The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, reports that medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the United States at 225,000 deaths per year. Half are medical mistakes, including 2,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery; 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals; and 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals.

Do you want to give doctors the right to administer suicide medications? Hey, mistakes happen.

Reason 28- No on Assisted Suicide Friday October 31 Today’s AD-Assisted suicide laws give societal approval to suicide.

These laws create a world where everyone agrees it’s okay to check out at certain times. In fact, we’ll help you do it. We’ll make it legal. Society approves. This creates more suicides among people who are not sick, and leads to increased medical killings. It creates incentives to do less medical research and to save money on medical care by offering people poison pills. This is already happening in Oregon. According to a report from the Oregon Health Authority called “Suicides in Oregon: Trends and Risk Factors,” Oregon’s suicide rate is now 35 times the national average. It had been declining before voters in Oregon made assisted suicide legal, thus making all suicides socially acceptable.

In the Netherlands, assisted suicide has moved into mercy killings of deformed babies, and into allowing mentally ill people to kill themselves rather than seek treatment. There is no reason to believe the United States would do any better if such laws are passed here.

Reason 27- No on Assisted Suicide October 30 Thursday Today’s AD No one, not even incapacitated people, needs an assisted suicide.

This is the worst case scenario argument from people who want assisted suicide laws. It goes like this: people who are paralyzed cannot commit suicide themselves. Therefore, they are denied a right. Therefore, we have to pass assisted suicide laws.

First of all, assisted suicide laws are written only for the terminally ill. Someone like Christopher Reeve and Terri Shiavo may have been too incapacitated to commit suicide but they were not terminally ill. Assisted suicide laws have nothing to do with their cases.

The vast majority of people who are terminally ill do not become incapacitated until the very end. They have plenty of time to kill themselves without help. If they ask friends and doctors to help them commit suicide once they become incapacitated, they are often looking for approval of their act or sympathy for their condition. It’s no one’s job to kill another person, and unfair to ask that of doctors and family members.

Reason #26- No on Assisted Suicide October 29 Today’s AD You already have control over your final illness.

Many people believe that assisted suicide laws are bad for society, but they want them just in case they personally need them. They want control over their dying process. It’s a me-first attitude.

What they do not understand is that they already have control of their dying process. My own grandfather pulled out his feeding tubes and respirator himself, telling his doctor and his son that he was an old man and his time had come.

You already can kill yourself any time you want. You have the right to refuse any medical treatment at any time. You can choose pain relief only. You can choose to be completely doped up and unconscious. You can tell your hospice nurses and caretakers to keep everyone out of your room, if you want control over who sees you when you are sick. You already have control, and you don’t need assisted suicide.

Reason #25- No on Assisted Suicide October 28 Today’s AD-We can come up with better ways of helping the dying besides assisted suicide.

A young man was diagnosed with HIV in the Netherlands. Even though his doctors told him he could live many years free of symptoms, he asked for an doctor-assisted suicide. No one talked to this young man and helped him work through his feelings of depression and of being overwhelmed by his own diagnosis. His culture accepts suicide, so that was that, and he ended his life in despair.

In our own country, oncologists routinely walk away from cancer patients they have been treating for months or even years once they are terminal. The person’s death becomes a personal failure on the part of the physician, even though it’s nothing of the kind. The only failure is the doctor’s lack of caring and lack of courage to stay involved. Caring is not always curing, but every bit as important. If you only think in terms of curing and winning battles against illness, you walk away from your “losers” and you walk away from caring.

We can come up with better ways of dealing with death than this, but we never will if we pass assisted suicide laws.

Reason #24- No on Assisted Suicide October 27 Today’s AD Oregon offers terminally ill people assisted suicide in lieu of medical care.

Oregon and the Netherlands, where assisted suicide is legal, keep expanding it. This passage, written by Dr. Herbert Hendin in Psychiatric Times, sums up what’s happened in the Netherlands: “The Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia (called “termination of the patient without explicit request”).”

The Dutch now end the lives of psychiatric patients and deformed babies.

In Oregon, medical systems are already offering people assisted suicide in lieu of chemotherapy. Cancer victim Randy Stroup got a letter from the state saying it would pay for his assisted suicide or painless death, but not his chemotherapy. See “Oregon Offers Terminal Patients Assisted Suicide in Lieu of Medical Care,” FOX NEWS, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,392962,00.html.

Reason #23- No on Assisted Suicide October 26 Today’s AD Assisted suicide laws give more power to the government, not the individual.

On the surface, it looks like you gain a new “right” when you vote for assisted suicide. Actually, you turn over more power to the government and medical establishment.

You already have the power to commit suicide at any time. But if you sign a paper agreeing to have your doctor do it for you, you are turning over your power to someone else. You are creating a mechanism for the government and medical people to enter into decisions as to who lives and who dies. You are taking away the power of the individual. If the federal government takes over even more of the medical care system, you will be turning over your right-to-decide to the federal government.

Reason #22- No on Assisted Suicide October 25 Today’s AD-Assisted suicide laws removes incentive to do medical research.

If cancer patients routinely kill themselves rather than undergo treatment, you have removed a reason to perform medical research to cure cancer. Research scientists receive funding based on how much money illnesses are costing insurance companies and how many people suffer from them. If an illness is rare, it gets less funding.

Also, think about the parents of terminally ill children. They will move mountains to cure that child. Rich parents fund research. Average people find breakthroughs themselves, like the parents in Lorenzo’s Oil.

Suicide laws remove such incentives for medical research and human progress.

Reason #21- No on Assisted Suicide October 24 Big financial interests are often behind assisted suicide laws.

When are you dead? When your brain dies? When your heart stops beating? When you stop breathing? When you are in an irreversible coma? No one really has come up with a working definition of death, so the concept gets abused, especially since death involves money.

The longer we keep sick people alive, the more they cost us. Last illnesses cost more than any other medical category. About one-third of Medicare’s budget goes for costs incurred in the last one year of life, and 40% of that goes for expenses in the last one month of life. If we convince you that you have no hope for a future, we save money on your care and make money on your organs. If we convince you to die early, we inherit your money more quickly. The government saves on Social Security and Medicare. Your company saves pension money.

So. Are you going to let such financial interests promote assisted suicide as a new public policy?

Reason #20- No on Assisted Suicide October 23 Today’s AD Christopher Reeve considered assisted suicide.

In his autobiography,”Still Me,” Reeve describes the despair he felt after becoming paralyzed in a riding accident. Within seconds, he went from being a handsome, extremely physically fit person to one who could not move from the neck down. He could speak and drink through straws, and that was pretty much it.

He asked his wife to help him commit suicide, and she said, “I understand how you feel, but you’re still you and I love you.” Hence, the title of the book.

What Reeve confesses is that he was testing her to see if she was willing to take over his care.

He went on to live a life of example. Not only did he write an inspiring book, he also acted in and directed several movies and worked tirelessly to get funding for victims of paralysis. He never gave up trying to walk. He became a real superman.

Reason #19- No on Assisted Suicide October 22 Today’s AD Assisted suicide asks too much of loved ones.

In the movies and on TV shows, the dying person is always in excruciating pain and crying out for help to the only one who will listen: an old friend or spouse or daughter or whatever. The writer presents the scene as totally hopeless unless the loved one helps the dying person commit suicide.

This is, of course, absolute nonsense.

The correct response is, “I can’t do that, but I can stay by you, love you, help you through this, make sure you get pain relief, counseling and help. We can get through this together. Please don’t ask me to hurt someone I care about. I love you.”

By the way, pain relief has never been more effective. You can already choose to stay doped up and unconscious until you pass away.

Reason #18- No on Assisted Suicide October 21 Today’s AD-Assisted suicide laws put poor people at risk.

This is the Martin Sheen argument against assisted suicide. He is making radio ads in Washington partly because he believes that assisted suicide laws will put poor people and those without health insurance at an extreme disadvantage within the medical system. Think of the money we’d save on CAT scans, x-rays, medicine, nursing care, rehabilitation, disability payments, etc if we had this cheap alternative: suicide.

Martin Sheen is right.

Reason #17- No on Assisted Suicide October 20 Today’s AD-Suicide interrupts a natural path to wisdom.

At the very end of human life, everything happens faster and better. When you don’t have much time, you prioritize. People become more authentic when they are dying, which is why courts give so much credence to a person’s “last words.”

Hospice nurses have shared many stories with me about how people come to realize new things about themselves, what was really important to them after all, who loved them and whom they really love, what the meaning of life is and what the afterlife, if any, looks like to them. They may go through a period of regrets, sorrow and mourning before they find wisdom, but it’s there. If you cut off your life too soon, you miss your chance for wisdom. The vast majority of people want to live every last minute of their lives, and don’t want to be pressured by assisted suicide laws to end them.

Reason #16- No on Assisted Suicide October 19 Today’s AD-The first Nazi victims were terminally ill people.

The Nazi party used very emotional propaganda films about terminally ill people who needed the compassion of assisted suicide. Today we Americans are watching similar movies like “Million Dollar Baby,” which got the 2004 Academy Award for Best Picture. The most effective Nazi film told the heart-breaking story of a doctor’s wife who begged her husband to kill her.

Once they sold the German people on assisted suicide and had some doctors on board, the Nazi party moved into the concept of “useless eaters.” Germany was in a terrible depression in the 1930s, worse than America’s. “Useless eaters” were criminally insane, severely handicapped children, very very elderly, etc. Once they eliminated “useless eaters,” the Nazis went on to killing —- well, you’ve got the idea.

For more information, go to article “Hitler, the Nazis and Four Arguments Against Assisted Suicide.”

Reason #15- No on Assisted Suicide October 18 Today’s AD-Assisted suicide laws cannot be written so as to prevent abuse.

This is the reason the American Medical Association opposes assisted suicide. Doctors know that there is no way to control assisted suicide once you make it legal. There is no foolproof way to write the law without opening it to abuse.In Oregon and the Netherlands, for example, assisted suicide laws require two physicians to “sign off” on a suicide. However, some doctors “sign off” routinely without examining patients. One Dutch doctor hurried up a suicide because he needed the bed for another patient. You can’t write a law that covers every contingency so there’s no way to control what happens to your patients once you open that door.

Reason #14- No on Assisted Suicide October 17 Today’s AD-Dying people can be treated for depression.

Many people who are terminally ill are not depressed. At the end of her life, my sister became like a poet or artist, sitting outside and just taking in the beauty of everything. She got an enhanced sense of life, everything became so incredibly beautiful to her because it was not going to last very much longer. However, some terminally ill people are depressed and talk about suicide. If they get antidepressant medications, a good psychologist and a caring spiritual counselor, they can recover emotionally. They often find the courage to face the final work of dying: reconciliations, settling of old disputes, telling others how much they have meant to them, and so forth. Suicide is always an act of despair, and it’s not good to leave the planet in despair.

Reason 13- No on Assisted Suicide Today’s AD October 16 -The arguments for assisted suicide are all based on emotion.

Emotion is a kind of thought, but emotions are unreliable. We feel empathy when we see a dying person. Our first impulse is to hurry it along, end his suffering. However, behind that emotion of empathy hides a judgment: that person’s life is not worth living and needs to end now.

We can have a similar emotion when we see someone very very old or in a wheelchair or someone like Terri Shiavo. That life is not worth living. Are you feeling compassion or making a judgment?

Reason #12- No on Assisted Suicide October 15 Today’s AD- Assisted suicide sets a bad example for other people.

A handsome young man, the father of two young children with a beautiful wife, a brilliant scientist passionate about his life’s work, was dying much much too young. Yet Randy Pausch inspired us all with his incredible “Last Lecture.” He knew he was dying, but he looked back to check on his two young sons, to make sure they and his wife would be all right, and to leave them and all of us all with a little bit of wisdom. When he was toward the end, his doctor said, “Randy, this may be it.”

He answered, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

Those were his last words.

He took control and he did it his way. We are all grateful for his example.

For more information on Randy Pusch, go to http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/.

Reason #11- No on Assisted Suicide Today’s AD October 14 -Insurance companies love assisted suicide.

About 27% of Medicare’s annual $327 billion budget goes to care for patients in their final year of life. That’s a lot of money, and one poison pill is so much cheaper.

You may be young and think that this is a great way to save money in the middle of a health care crisis. You may even think the elderly have a crappy quality of life. The insurance companies believe that too. They like doctors to help people commit suicide. It saves money.

However, what’s going to happen when it’s your turn to die?

Reason #10 Today’s AD October 13 -The American Medical Association opposes assisted suicide.

Here’s the American Medical Association’s statement as it appears on their website:

E-2.211 Physician-Assisted Suicide Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act (eg, the physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide). It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress–such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness–may come to decide that death is preferable to life.

However, allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good.

Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks. Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. Patients should not be abandoned once it is determined that cure is impossible. Multidisciplinary interventions should be sought including specialty consultation, hospice care, pastoral support, family counseling, and other modalities. Patients near the end of life must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.

Reason #9- No on Assisted Suicide Today’s AD October 12 -Allowing assisted suicide increases teen suicides.

American teens kill themselves at a rate of about one every two hours. About 19% of our teens tell researchers they have experienced depression, and half of those have had suicidal thoughts. Our kids take three times the number of prescription drugs for depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions than do European teens. We have watched them glamorize death in vampire-worship, the Goth culture, and suicide pacts. We have seen kids hold hands and jump in front of trains, believing they are going on to some twilight fantasy of Bella and Edward. Gee Mom, I’m only seventeen.

The teen suicide rate increased since assisted suicide was legalized in Washington and Oregon.

By okaying assisted suicide laws, we are telling our teenagers that suicide is okay and necessary sometimes. Do you really think that’s a good idea?

Reason #8- No on Assisted Suicide Today’s AD October 11 - You don’t need a doctor to commit suicide.

Assisted suicide gets lumped into abortion issues, but the two are very very different. You don’t need a doctor to commit suicide. There are many ways to do it, and it’s not my place to show you how (even though I am a crime writer and know a lot about painless quick poisons and such).

Suicide is an intensely private act. You don’t need to involve anyone else, and society is better off not approving of it.

Reason #7- No on Assisted Suicide Today’s AD October 10Skilled hospice caregivers can control physical pain.

Some people are more afraid of physical pain than of actually dying.

There is no need for that fear because of modern pain control methods. I watched both my parents and my sister die from cancers that had spread through their bodies, and they did not feel pain, even in their last days. Morphine and other drugs did the trick, and they were not even that sedated, although you can choose that route if you want to.

One reason hospice nurses can control pain is that they don’t have to worry about addiction and can use higher levels of medications. They know how to look for and take care of blockages and other problems. Please do not be afraid of pain.

Reason #6- No on Assisted Suicide Today’s AD October 9The American Nurses Association opposes assisted suicide.

Official Position: “The American Nurses Association (ANA) believes that the nurse should not participate in assisted suicide. Such an act is in violation of the Code for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (Code for Nurses) and the ethical traditions of the profession. Nurses, individually and collectively, have an obligation to provide comprehensive and compassionate end-of-life care which includes the promotion of comfort and the relief of pain, and at times, foregoing life-sustaining treatments.”

Today’s Ad #5- No on Assisted Suicide October 8 -All humans have dignity, even the sick and dying.

One old man was taking care of his wife who had Alzheimer’s disease. His friends said, “Why do you put so much into her care? Can’t you see what she has become?” The old man answers, “Maybe, but I remember who she was.”

No matter where you are in your life, you are still human and you have the dignity of being human. Babies are helpless but they have human dignity. People with terrible handicaps, scars, amputations, mental illness — they still have human dignity. No one and no sickness can take your human dignity away from you. You are still someone’s spouse, someone’s parent, someone’s child, someone’s loved one. No matter what happens to you, you are still you. No one can take that from you, no matter what.

Today’s Ad #4- No on Assisted Suicide October 8 - Suicidal people have a diminished capacity to make the decision to end their lives.

If you tell a psychologist that you are suicidal, he or she has the power to put you in a hospital because you are a danger to yourself. Legally, you have diminished capacity and are unable to make important and rational decisions.

If you say a dying person has a good enough reason to kill his/herself, why not a person in a wheelchair? Someone whose family was killed in an accident? Someone who faces financial ruin? Suicidal people need treatment for depression, not help committing suicide.

Today’s Ad #3- No on Assisted Suicide October 7 - Assisted suicide laws put pressure on dying people to end their lives.

One hospice nurse told me that he has seen families fight over estates and money even as their relative lay dying and could listen to them. The attitude was: Please get this over so we can get our inheritance.

Likewise, in the Terri Schiavo case, her ex-husband stood to gain money and freedom to remarry once she died.

On the other hand, it is very hard for most people to stay near someone they love who is dying. If you want to get your pet’s life over, multiple that by thousands when it’s a person you love. You really want it over, but that’s making it about you. The loving attitude is “I want every possible moment with you. Take your time.”

Today’s Ad #2- No on Assisted Suicide October 5Assisted suicide laws make doctors accessories of fact to homicide.

“Accessories before the fact” is a legal term. Let’s say you buy someone a gun, knowing that he plans to kill someone with it. You are an accessory before the fact of homicide and could go to jail for doing that. Similarly, when a doctor provides a dying person with poisons, knowing that the person is going to kill himself, he is an accessory before the fact. This is why the other side now wants to call it “compassion and choices” in dying rather than assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide laws are written so as that all doctors get off the hook for helping murder someone. It becomes a legal parsing of morality. Isn’t that what we hate about lawyers?

Today’s Ad #1- No on Assisted Suicide October 4 - Assisted suicide laws create a world without caring or love.

When we think of people who showed great love and compassion — the Good Samaritans and Mother Teresas of the world –we think of how they stopped and they took the time to help others.

When they saw suffering, they didn’t shoot the person to put him out of his misery. That creates a world without love or caring.

Do you want your kids to grow up in a world like that? When people are so sad they say they want to die, they need love and understanding.

Killing is not compassion. To say that killing is a compassionate choice is to speak in Orwellian Newspeak, a language without meaning. If love is death and compassion is killing, then words mean nothing.

Every human being knows what love is. Love is compassion. Love is caring. Love is saying I’ll walk with you no matter what. I’ll stay with you no matter what. I love you. We both know what that involves.

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Murder/Suicide As Alternative Care Option for Alzheimer’s Disease

April 9th, 2012 · No Comments

April 9, 2012. … David Brooks wrote a touching column in the New York Times last week about an old man, with the surprisingly fitting name of Charles Darwin Snelling, who killed himself and his wife after six years of taking care of her. She had Alzheimer’s Disease.

In the past month or so the Times treated its readers to similar stories with headlines like “Push for the Right to Die Grows in the Netherlands,” “How About a ‘Do Not Treat’ List?”, “British Stroke Victim Wins Right to Seek Legal Euthanasia,” and even one hitting our dogs: “New Treatments to Save a Pet, but Questions About the Costs.” Readers have also enjoyed morbid stories about doctors in Louisiana getting prosecuted for letting some patients die or even killing them during Katrina, horrible descriptions of people’s prolonged deaths, and plenty of advice on how to use end-of-life planning kits from Choices and Compassion, which used to be the Hemlock Society. This is all from the news staff that promoted Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s “work” in the 1990s. (By the way, Dr. Kevorkian died of liver cancer in June 2011, after demanding every possible treatment for himself at age 83 years old.)

Often the readers of the Times show more insight, sensitivity and complexity in their view of life than the Times staff itself. The Brooks column about the Alzheimer’s murder/suicide was no exception. Here are some of their readers’ views from the Letters to the Editors today.


Letters Re: A Caregiver’s Decision to End Two Lives

A professor wrote that the murder-suicide might have been the result of a “fragmented health care system inadequate to provide the support that the Snellings needed.”

A man from Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, said he has been questioning some of the suicides lately that result from desperate situations in which people are not thinking clearly, and certainly not clearly enough to make such a permanent, irreversible decision. ”I question whether there can truly be a “decision” in these situations,” he says. “What is pulling the strings: a true decision-making power, connected to the depths of oneself, or forceful impulses that, in David Brooks’ words, “foreclose future thinking”?

A male reader of West Shokan, NY, suggests that Mr. Snelling could have used a care facility and simply visited his sick wife instead of doing 24/7 care himself. “My mother had Alzheimer’s and lived in a nursing home for the last two and a half years of her life,” he writes. “Though my mother didn’t recognize me, I wondered how she felt in herself. Perhaps she experienced a richness I couldn’t perceive; perhaps her sense of self — her soul — was even more expansive or satisfying than my own.

“Maybe Mr. Snelling had stopped believing that his wife still possessed an inner life, or thought her pain greater than any rewards of living. But how could he be sure?”

Finally, a reader from Vermont writes that he truly identifies with Mr. Snelling because he too had cared for a wife with Alzheimer’s Disease. “His response to the challenge so closely paralleled my own. I understood so well where he was coming from. But the end of his story I cannot fathom. Taking the life of someone whose love was surely gifted to me by some power beyond my knowing would be unthinkable.”

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Brain-Dead Teenagers Capable of Texting Put to Death: From the Onion

February 12th, 2012 · No Comments

This from the Onion!

Brain-dead 13-year old, capable of rolling her eyes and texting, to be euthanized. Devastated parents tell reporters they will donate her organs ….
Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable Of Rolling Eyes And Texting, To Be Euthanized

The Onion is a satire, but in their search for hysterical laughter … sometimes they are dead-on.

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My Grandma, Myself – A Compassionate Death for Both

January 22nd, 2012 · No Comments

“Compassion and Choices” wants Arizona and other states to pass laws that allow doctors to poison their patients. They used to be “the Hemlock Society” but now they call themselves “Compassion and Choices.”

One of their slogans is “LET ME DIE LIKE A DOG.” Apparently, they believe that if we offer dogs “compassionate choices,” why not the same for Grandma? This is hard for so many of us simple Westerners to understand. Most of us are not intellectual enough, advanced enough, or living life on a high enough plane of compassion to compare our grandmothers to our dogs.

For example, a dog does not look back on his life when he is dying the way Grandma does. Dogs don’t say goodbye to other dogs or to their children — in fact, the dog’s children probably got sold off years ago. Dogs don’t analyze their past mistakes. Dogs don’t make out wills. Dogs don’t think about much when they’re dying because they don’t realize they are dying. The truth is dogs don’t think much even when they are not dying , which is why most of us do not compare our grandmas to our dogs.

To the ordinary dumb person, it sounds as if Compassion and Choices would put our dying Grandma in a car and drive her to a veterinarian and have her put her to sleep or some such thing. She deserves a compassionate death because she, like a dog, is no longer wanted or needed because she is dying. But is this truly the compassionate death “Compassion and Choices” believes it to be?

What if we could really ask our dog’s opinion? Especially because in real life a dog cannot express his opinion when you put him to sleep.

If you could ask your dog if he wants to be put to sleep, he would no doubt say “I do not wish to be put to sleep. No thanks. I’ll take my chances with life. I’ll crawl under the bed. I’ll eat grass for a few days. I do not wish to be put to sleep. That is your idea, not mine. I’m sorry you can’t stand to see me so sick, but that’s your problem, not mine. You’re being compassionate to yourself, not me.”

Most dogs hate to go to the vet for any reason whatsoever. They particularly do not wish to go to the vet to be put to sleep.

Dogs want to live. How do we know this? They avoid death. They hide from danger. They run away from fires and mountain lions. They growl or attack if another dog threatens them. Dogs take a pro-life stance all day long. They believe “where there’s life, there’s hope.”

While you will not necessarily hurt your dog’s feelings by offering him death by lethal injection or poison, you will definitely hurt your grandmother’s feelings if you do this. Grandma can think through such things, and she may decide you are after her money. If she dies now, she won’t waste your inheritance on nursing home bills and doctors. You won’t have to wait around for your money.

If you gave your dog a vote about turning over his health care and end-of-life issues to the government, your dog would probably vote no. The government already runs dog pounds that routinely execute three million dogs and cats a year for no real reason except humans do not wish to take care of them. Dogs in “shelters” get killed for what dogs probably consider silly reasons — because humans move into apartments that don’t allow dogs, because dogs are not obedient or because they are old or because they are sick. This would not seem like choices and compassion to dogs. Is that the government model we want for dying people — round them up and put them in nursing homes or hospices? That’s the compassionate choice government gives dogs.

Someone once observed that your average dog is nicer than your average human. This is probably true. When dogs threw their lot in with us thousands of years ago, they definitely got the short end of the stick.

Do you really think the way we treat dogs is all about compassionate choices?

My dog Sherman

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“I SURVIVED HOSPICE!” Wear it proudly! If you walked out of hospice alive!

January 10th, 2012 · No Comments

Right now there are about 1.1 million people in hospice care. These people are supposed to die within 180 days or else.

Or else what?

What happens if they miss their deadline? And what happens if their deadlines get missed a lot?

And deadlines do get missed a lot, according to a new article from Bloomberg News. Over 20% of the people in hospice stay longer than 180 days, and an incredible 200,000 get out hospice alive every year.

The fact that people survive hospice worries people like Robert Berenson, an Urban Institute fellow and an adviser to Congress.

“The potential for hospice to neglect these people and then abandon them when they do not decline is a major quality challenge,” as he puts it, using the language of bureaucrats.

In plain English, hospices keep people comfortable until they die. They don’t help people get well. The typical hospice patient sees a doctor every 100 days, which means most patients never see one.

One such man who was neglected and abandoned in hospice care was Charles Groomes. He entered Horizon Hospice, LLC in Pittsburgh, PA, in 2007 and was given 180 days to live. One of the doctors who later examined him said he “clearly was not dying” when he entered hospice, and all he really needed drug rehabilitation and care for a heart condition.

Just as you’d imagine, Charles Groomes grew depressed during his 32 months in hospice. He told his family that he felt “worthless” just lying around hospice, and the idea that he was dying destroyed his will to live. He especially got depressed making a “good-bye” video, which the nurses urged him to make for his family and loved ones.

Luckily, assisted suicide was not a legal option for Charles Groomes in Pennsylvania.

Assisted suicide is, however, legal in Washington, Montana, and Oregon, and it may soon be legal in several other states.

This leaves open the possibility that the thousands of people in hospices who are not terminally ill could be offered the legal option of euthanasia. After all, they are officially dying, even though they are not.

In order to prevent this, everyone who walks out of hospice alive should be awarded a T-shirt. The “I SURVIVED HOSPICE” shirt will raise awareness that not everyone in hospice dies or needs help with suicide. As more and more people win their shirts, within four years, one million people will be wearing them! — that’s more than the population of San Francisco! and one in 300 Americans! The mind boggles.

Just as mind-boggling is the thought that all these people could be offered the “compassionate choice” of a quick painless death — even though they are clearly not dying.

Reference

Waldman, Peter. “Hospice Turns Months-to-Live Patient Into Years of Abusing Drugs”, Bloomberg News, December 30, 2011.
See:

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-30/hospice-turns-months-to-live-patient-into-years-of-abusing-drugs?category=%2Fsustainability%2Fpolicy%2F

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10 Dangerous Myths About Legalizing Assisted Suicide

September 10th, 2011 · No Comments

October 28, 2012. Today in the New York Times Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (Rahm’s brother), a famous bioethicist, wrote a similar column called “Four Myths About Doctor-Assisted Suicide.” We thank him for his support and welcome him to this controversy.

10 Dangerous Myths About Legalizing Assisted Suicide

by

Jane St. Clair

(1st published 9-10-11)

1.  Suicide is a medical procedure that needs to be supervised by a doctor.

Suicide is by definition something you do yourself.  If you involve someone else, that person becomes an accessory to murder, even if that person is a doctor.

2.  Terminally ill people suffer from excruciating pain, which is why they want to end their lives.

Pain relief for the terminally ill is better than ever. Nurses and doctors use a looser set of rules for morphine and other highly-controlled substances than they do for ordinary care, because terminally ill people do not live long enough to become drug addicts. It is possible to choose to be completely sedated and to shun all visitors while you are dying. Oncologist Dr. Desiree Pardi chose this way when she was dying.[i]

In one study of Oregon patients who wanted assisted suicide, no one wanted to have an assisted suicide because they were in immediate pain[ii].   Their main reasons were depression, becoming a burden, and not having family or friends to help them.  The issue of isolation and despair is an issue of compassion that society needs to address. Encouraging people to commit suicide is not a compassionate answer.

3.  Physician-assisted suicide is a legal “right”.

You don’t need a doctor to commit suicide, and in that way, it is nothing like abortion rights, gay rights, or civil rights. You already have the power to commit suicide.  No one can stop you. No one is going to prosecute you if you succeed.

4.  Physician-assisted suicide is a more dignified way of death than dying naturally.

This is a judgment and not a scientific fact.

Final Exit sells a suicide kit that looks like a plastic dry cleaning bag you put over your head.[iii]

How dignified is that?

5.  Laws can be written in such a way that there will be no abuse of the elderly or handicapped.

Any lawyer can tell you that there is no way to write a law legalizing assisted suicide without opening the way to abuse, especially elder abuse. The proposed law in Massachusetts provides that two doctors sign off on each case of suicide. Hitler’s regime passed the same law. Doctors rubber-stamped every application, and the Nazis began their killing spree with the terminally ill, and moved on to the insane, the developmentally handicapped, the very elderly, gay people, etc. (F-4)

Today where assisted suicide is already legal, accurate records and follow up on abuses are simply not being done.  In several cases where a depressed person should have been examined by a psychiatrist, the family just filled out the psychological test forms themselves.

6.  Everyone who opposes assisted suicide does it based on religious beliefs.

We are a motley crew that cannot agree on anything, except that legalizing medical suicide is wrong.  Though some of us are nuns and priests, some are doctors and nurses who hate the idea of executing our patients, some are lawyers specializing in elder abuse, some of us are activists in the disability rights movement, some of us are artists, some of us are scholars who oppose legalizing killing based on a study of history, some of us support Obamacare and some of us don’t. We are citizens of the USA, Britain, Belgium, France, Canada, Africa, and every country in the world.

Martin Sheen, who starred as a Democratic president on TV’s West Wing, did commercials for free against legalizing assisted suicide. How cool is it to have him playing with our team?

Compassion & Choices, the group promoting assisted suicide, has a $5 million annual budget. Their director is paid $147,000 a year. [iv]

We are unpaid volunteers.

7. If you are against legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, it means that you want to force people to undergo medical care, even when it is expensive and will do them no good.

Many people are against legalizing assisted suicide, but for informed choices by terminally ill people.

While some people voluntarily decide to stop all aggressive treatments and opt only for pain relief and palliative end-of-life care, the majority of people want everything possible done. Whether society can afford all these treatments is a different question than whether society should encourage end-of-life suicides for cost-effectiveness.

8.  Offering terminally-ill people suicide is an act of compassion.

Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup didn’t think so. Both had cancer, and both got letters from the state of Oregon that said the state would not pay for their chemotherapy because they had such low odds of surviving. However, Oregon would pay for their suicide.  Wagner and Stroup did not find these letters compassionate.  They found these letters outrageous. Offering them suicide only increased their suffering.[v]

9.  Assisted suicide will never become mandatory medical treatment.

10.  If it does become mandatory treatment, it can’t happen to me.

Very dangerous! You go first!

Footnotes

 

 


[i] Hartocollis, Anemona. “Helping Patients Face Death, She Fought to Live,” The New York Times, April 3, 2010.

[ii] Ganzani, Linda, and Elizabeth R. Goy, and Steven K. Dobscha. “Oregonians’ Reasons for Requesting Physician Aid in Dying,” Archives of Internal Medicine, Mar. 9, 2009

[iii] Bjornstad, Randi. “Suicide kits sell death by mail,” The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, May 11, 2011.

[iv] Mitscherlich, Alexander and Mielke, F. The Death Doctors. London: Elek, 1962.

[v] Springer, Dan. “Oregon Offers Terminal Patients Doctor-Assisted Suicide Instead of Medical Care,”  July 28, 2008, see http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,392962,00.html#ixzz1Xa94lUeo

James, Susan. “Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon,” ABC News, August 6, 2008, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492&page=1

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Baby Joseph And the Kindness of Strangers

June 30th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

If your heart breaks easily, you don’t need to read this thing.

In February 2010, Joseph and Sandra Maraachli became the parents of a baby boy they named Joseph.

Just having another baby was an act of faith for them. Eight years earlier, they lost a daughter to a rare genetic condition called Leigh’s Syndrome. With this terrible disease, a baby is fine until she is about three months old or so, and then she develops symptoms of a failing nervous system, such as loss of motor skills, seizures, and impaired breathing. The Maraachili’s little girl lived to be only 18 months old. Their second child, a seven-year-old, is fine.

At first Baby Joseph seemed fine too. And then the family’s tragic history repeated itself. As Baby Joseph struggled to breathe, the long nightmare began again.

The Maraachli’s knew how they wanted to handle things, having been through it once before. They were accepting that Joseph was not going to live long, but they wanted to take him home to die. Doctors had performed a tracheotomy on their first child so she could breathe, and she lived another six months at home with her parents. She was not stuck in some impersonal hospital bed with her tiny body filled with tubes and medicines, and she died in her parents’ arms.

The Maraachi’s wanted a tracheotomy for Joseph and they wanted to take him home.

Now it’s not as if a tracheotomy is a big major deal. It only costs about $1000, cheap as surgeries go. It’s a very old, familiar surgery, dating back to 3500 BC. Alexander the Great used his sword to perform a tracheotomy on one of his soldiers. You can do it yourself in an emergency with a razor and a straw. You open the throat, insert a tube, and that’s it.

Yet Baby Joseph’s doctors refused to do a tracheotomy. They worried he could die from the procedure, which meant they were taking a position that made no logical sense. They also said Baby Joseph was already in a vegetative state, his situation was hopeless, and under Canadian rules, that means you do not do surgery.

In any kind of humane world, where parents in a desperate situation have rights and emotions and others are kind to them, Baby Joseph’s parents would have the final say in what happened to their child. They were not, after all, asking for a miracle. They were only asking for a tracheotomy. They appealed to the Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario to overrule their doctors. On January 26, the board said no. After a Superior Court judge in Ontario refused to change that ruling, Baby Joseph’s parents tried to take him to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in the USA. On February 24, that hospital refused to admit him.

Baby Joseph was only a few hours away from being pulled off life support against his parents’ wishes when the national director of Priests for Life helped the family by arranging and paying for a trip to the United States. On March 21, Baby Joseph got his tracheotomy at the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Now he could breathe on his own.  Now his parents could take him home.

Baby Joseph is still at home with his mother, father and big sister. His prognosis is still the same, but he is alert, he recognizes his parents, and he even throws an occasional tantrum like any other 15 month-old. He is more comfortable and on much less medication than he was at the hospital and, as a family friend says, “he’s doing phenomenally.” Despite everything that happened, and despite their personal ordeal and tragedies, the Maarachlis are not bitter. They have the grace to be thankful to others.

“So many people from … all around the world have reached out, sent letters and called my family to let us know they were praying for us and thinking about us,” Baby Joseph’s dad told CBS-News. “This has really helped us. There is just so much kindness in the world.”

As Anne Frank wrote in her diary in 1939, despite everything, we have to believe that people are good at heart.

May God bless Baby Joseph and the family that loves him.

References

“Baby Joseph gets second chance at life in the U.S.,” Fox News, March 14, 2011, see http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/13/baby-joseph-gets-second-chance-life/

Ertelt, Steven. “U.S. Hospital Rejects Baby Joseph,” Life News, February 24, 2011.

“Euthanasia Prevention Coalition seeks Intervener Status,” The Interim, June 30, 2011.

Katz, Neil. “Who has the right to tell Baby Joseph to die?” CBS News, April 22, 2011, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20056434-10391704.html?tag=mncol;lst;2

Millette, Rebecca. “Ontario Appeals Court rules doctors don’t have right to remove life support,” Lifesite News, June 29, 2011.

Rice, Sabriya. “Baby Joseph returns to Canada breathing on his own,” CNN News, April 21, 2011, see http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/21/baby.joseph.goes.home/index.html.

Sher, Jonathan. “Court sides with Patient’s King,” The London Free Press, June 2, 2011.

Another Canadian case involving a family’s right to make its own end-of-death decisions about loved ones is now going through the Canadian courts. If you believe that euthanasia is wrong, please contribute to the legal defense fund of the Rasouli family through the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/Donations.htm

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