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

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide

Grandma’s Suicide Kit Backfires

June 3rd, 2011 · No Comments

You’d think that a woman over ninety would have better things to do than sit around all day sewing suicide kits. But hey, her business took in almost $100,000 last year.

Sharlotte Hydorn sells suicide kits at $60 a pop from her home in El Cajon, California. She considers herself on a “mission of compassion,” a kind person who helps others. She recalls her husband’s death from cancer some 35 years ago, and regrets that he went through prolonged treatments and died in a hospital instead of at home. Inquiring minds want to know: why didn’t he just refuse treatment and enter a home hospice? Or if his wife had medical authority, why didn’t she do that for him? But whatever, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it.

So Hydorn sits all day sewing together plastic bags and tubes so you can create your own do-it-yourself gas chamber. For 60 bucks, you don’t get your money’s worth. The suicide kit is a tacky mess, and it does not provide a dignified death, as advertised. You die wearing a plastic dry cleaning bag over your head.

Hydorn brags that she brings “eternal sleepiness” to people. Where’s the evidence for that? Even genius Shakespeare, who was not particularly religious, called death that “undiscovered Country, from whose bourn no traveler returns.” One of the time-honored ways psychiatrists still use to talk people out of suicide is to say things like, “Well, are you sure you want to risk it? After all, you can’t be sure where you’re going once you leave here …” But Hydorn was a science teacher, and as a scientist, she knows more than all of us.

One of the people who bought a Hydorn kit, shipped to him in a box decorated with butterflies, was a young man in his twenties, a recent college graduate. Nick Klonoski came from a nice family of five boys. His mom is a U.S. District Court Judge, his late father taught political science at the University of Oregon. Although he had battled depression for years, Nick was known for his mischievous smile and brilliant potential, and he certainly was not terminally ill. Over a thousand people came to his funeral.

His brother Jake told reporters, “They made money off my brother. They gave him the tools to take his own life without knowing him, without knowing anything about him. For $60, they blew his life apart. It breaks my heart.”

The Klonoski family lives in Oregon, one of three states in the USA that has legalized assisted suicide. Since it became legal there and thus sanctioned by adult society, the suicide rate of young people in that state has gone up.

Hydorn told reporters that she “feels sorry for Nick Klonoski’s mama, but I cannot take all the sadness of the world on my shoulders.”

Yet when it came to this one young man, Hydorn succeeded in making this world a sadder, less merciful place. And that was no mission of compassion.

References

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

Conley, Mikaela. “FBI raids home of suicide kit maker,” ABC News, “Health” topics, May 26, 2011.

Ertelt, Steven. “91-year-old grandma busted for suicide kit business,” LifeNews, May 27, 2011.

Marosi, Richard. “Woman selling suicide kits reignites right-to-die debate,” the Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2011.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call 1-800-SUICIDE now and get help. People care.

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

17 Provocative Quotes Against Assisted Suicide from People with Disabilities

May 25th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jane St Clair

Author of Walk Me to Midnight

People who argue in favor of assisted suicide and euthanasia often say they and others should not live if they are a burden and require help in feeding and self-care. They say that such a life lacks dignity and autonomy. They say such people are a drain on the health care system.

At the International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Washington, DC, many speakers were handicapped or else they were people with profoundly disabled family members, including the brother of Terri Schiavo. They spoke up against assisted suicide because of the above ideas held by so many people, even people in the media.

I copied 17 provocative quotes from their speeches here.

Bobby Schlinder, director of the Terri Schiavo Foundation:

Rolling Stone published an article about Terri’s ..”vegetable life … her dead fish eyes … and her doped up smile …” This was my sister they were talking about. It was just one example of the media’s profound prejudice and bigotry against handicapped people, and their slander and defamation of my sister.

My sister was never dying. We took her everywhere in her wheelchair. The media distorted her condition. She only required food and water to live, like everyone else.

The diagnosis “persistent vegetative state” dehumanizes people. It is a subjective diagnosis. My sister was not a diagnosis. She was a human being with a profound brain injury.

The number one question that I am asked all the time is, “Who would want to live like your sister?” That question is used to leap frog into killing people. But the question was never about Terri. It was always about us and about how we are going to treat our most vulnerable.

Diane Coleman, founder, the Not Dead Yet organization

Every time read the phrase “burden of care” I feel a threat.

We are sometimes asked, “Who are you – the disabled – to take away our rights to euthanasia?” However, the reasons for euthanasia are disability-related — the things like loss of autonomy, loss of dignity. We don’t believe in that. We do not believe those are reasons for physician-assisted suicide.

We’re not dead yet and we will fight back.

Randy Richardson, father of Lauren

I want to say that my word “compassion” is not followed by the word “choices.” My word compassion means someone with a heart taking care of someone else.

When we told Lauren, “Lauren, we’re going to take you home,” she cried. Lauren is not a vegetable. Carrots can’t cry.

Lionel Roosemont, father of Tikvah

I thought they would do everything possible to help my child. Instead, they told us that we should have an abortion as soon as possible. They told us she would be born blind, deaf, paralyzed and helpless. When she was born, she was not blind, she was not deaf, and she was not paralyzed. Her APGAR scores were nine and ten.

The newest developments in Belgium society are that newborn babies are being killed and pharmacists are selling “euthanasia kits.”

Please publish the Belgium story to put them under pressure. Stand up for your country and for Belgium. You don’t have to be afraid.

Stephan Drake, Not Dead Yet organization

When I was born, the doctors put the odds at 100 to one that I would survive the night. They worried that I might survive and I did. I am living against medical advice.

The restriction of physician-assisted suicide to just the terminally ill should not be regarded as permanent. We know their strategy. They have laid it out for us.

Alison Davis, No Less Human

Once I accidentally went into the wrong room where proponents of assisted suicide were working. Everyone assumed I was pro-euthanasia because I am in a wheelchair.

The other side thinks we disabled people are clamoring for such laws. Most of us are terrified of these people and we are afraid of euthanasia becoming law.

About twenty years ago, I just wanted to die and this feeling lasted for years. Once I took a large dose of pills, slashed my wrists, and then I drank an entire bottle of martini. A friend took me to the Emergency Room where I was treated against my will. If suicide had been legal then, I would have satisfied all the criteria. It took me years to decide that my life was worth living. I have not thought about suicide since. I had no idea of the good times that were ahead of me.

I have experienced much pain in my life. When my pain is bad, I do not need to be told that I am burdensome. I need to hear that my life has meaning. The feeling that I may be abandoned is worse than any pain.

→ No CommentsTags: Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

Murder by Suicide … Internet Predator Claims Right to Free Speech, even if it costs others their lives

March 28th, 2011 · No Comments


By Jane St. Clair

One thing cops know is that some people enjoy murder. That is their motive. Your average person does not understand this.

This month a court in Minnesota decided the case of William Melchert-Dinkel, an ex-nurse who trolled the Internet for victims the way sharks hunt for bleeding prey. He looked for depressed people so he could talk them into committing suicide on video.

The reason he did it was he liked to watch people kill themselves. The prosecutor in his case said, “Melchert-Dinkel wanted to see people die.” While this is appalling to the average person, to the police, it’s nothing new.

Melchert-Dinkel assumed an Internet identity of a young nurse working in an emergency room, calling himself Cami, Falcon Girl or Li Dao. “I only want to help you do what’s best for you,” Cami would tell victims, offering technical advice on ropes and nooses as well as medical expertise, and even entering into suicide pacts with many of these people.

Facsimile of A Final Exit Billboard…

“If you wanted to do a hanging,” he told 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, “we could do it together so it would not have been so scary for you.” She drowned herself in a frozen river instead.

Melchert-Dinkel counseled Mark Drybough, age 32, that “You can easily hang from a door.” A witness claimed that Melchert-Dinkel told her he watched Drybough hang himself via webcam, but he denied that.

Melchert-Dinkel’s lawyers argued that their client was exercising his right to free speech, and that he could not be guilty because the two victims were so depressed they would have killed themselves without him.

The judge did not buy it.

“These arguments are irrelevant,” said Judge Thomas Neuville. “The predisposition of a suicide victim actually makes the victim more vulnerable to encouragement or advice, and their deaths more imminent and foreseeable.”

Facsimile of A Final Exit Billboard…

In a strange coincidence, billboards are popping up in Florida, Cleveland and Boston as part of a national campaign to promote suicide among people who have “irreversible illnesses.” Diabetes, polio, asthma, emphysema and the common cold are not curable, but whatever.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the overlap with the Minnesota case.

The spokesperson for Final Exit Network said the sign is all about “self-deliverance,” which sounds uncannily like Cami’s “I want you to do what’s best for you.”

Right now four members of the Final Exit Network are facing charges of assisting a suicide in Georgia. Their defense is similar to Melchert-Dinkel’s — the law infringes on their right to free speech.

“Attorneys for the Final Exit Network said their clients do not assist with suicide,” according to an article from an Atlanta newspaper posted on Final Exit’s website. “Instead, they claim the group offers only support to those seeking their services and observes their deaths.”

Observes their deaths, watches their deaths, it’s all the same thing.

And by the way, why do they need to watch?

####

References

Anderson, Joel. Attorneys of the right-to-die group, Final Exit Network, argued that Georgia’s statute covering assisted suicide is unconstitutional. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 14, 2010, posted on Final Exit website.

Dunbar, Elizabeth. Guilty verdict in suicide case; appeal likely. Minnesota Public Radio, March 15, 2011.

Knutson, Leif. Ex-Nurse Convicted in 2 Suicide Encouragement Cases, FOX 9 News, the Twin Cities, MN, March 16, 2011.

Leibowitz, Barry. William Melchert-Dinkel, ex-nurse, convicted of aiding suicides by targeting the weak online. CBS-TV News, March 16, 2011.

Watt, Nick, Marko Zorro, Mary Flynn. A Former Nurse Faces Charges on Assisting the Suicides of People He Met in Online Chat Rooms. ABC News, June 8, 2010.

Winter, Michael. Former Minn. nurse guilty of using chats to encourage 2 suicides. USA Today, March 15, 2011.

UPDATES:

May 19, 2011 Letter from a victim’s mother regarding the case

Below, a letter from Nadia Kajouji’s mother, Deborah Chevalier,
responding to the article by Senator Blewett and Representative Barrett:

Re: Aid in Dying: No Victory for Nadia

Dear Editor:

My daughter, Nadia Kajouji, killed herself after entering a
suicide pact with another young woman she had met online. Cami was
actually a middle-aged man, William Melchert-Dinkel.
<http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2010-2011/justicefornadia/>http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2010-2011/justicefornadia/

I was disturbed to read the article by Anders Blewett and
Dick Barrett celebrating the defeat of SB 169, which would have
increased penalties for suicide predators. The article states that
the defeat of SB 169 was a “victory for individual rights.” I disagree.

William Melchert-Dinkel trolled the internet impersonating
young women so as to induce victims to hang themselves in front of a
webcam so that he could watch. Instant messages from Melchert-Dinkel
to Nadia include the following:

“Get a yellow nylon rope about eight feet. . . . [L]ook around your
apartment for somewhere to hang from. I can help you with the cam
when you need to.”

Melchert-Dinkel was recently convicted for encouraging and
causing Nadias suicide.

This last January, I came to Montana to speak to your
legislators in support of SB 169. My hope was to send a clear
message to people like Melchert-Dinkel, who encourage others to
commit suicide, that their conduct is illegal and will be
punished. My hope was to protect young people like my daughter. I
am disappointed that SB 169 did not pass.

I also invite you to visit my website in Nadias memory,
<http://www.nadiaslight.ca/>www.nadiaslight.ca Our message is:
“There is hope. There is help.” Thank you.

Deborah Chevalier
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

May 6, 2011: Internet Predator receives sentencing

Melchert-Dinkel was given a sentence of 360 days in jail and fines and restitution payments equaling $47,450. His actual sentence was for two – 15 year sentences, with 15 years probation. If he breaks his probation by committing similar crimes, he would supposedly have to serve the full-sentence.

Melchert-Dinkel was also told that he must do 8 hours of community service each year in the months of March and July for 10 years, that he must serve 2 days in jail on the anniversary of the deaths of Kajouji (18) and Drybrough (32) for 10 years (nice touch, Judge), he cannot have any internet access, other than for work, he cannot be employed within the health care profession, and he must continue therapy.

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

End-of-Life Directives, Compassion and Choices, and the New York Times

January 18th, 2011 · No Comments

Compassion and Choices is a group that pushes the legalization of assisted suicide. They began as the “Hemlock Society,” more or less an underground movement in which their members helped people commit suicide. They are 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 today’s Times, 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 medical care. If you sign it 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.

Traditionally, you sign an end-of-life directive with your lawyer because end-of-life directives 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.

Doctors and other healthcare providers would like to get to the point where everyone has a directive stored in a computerized system so that they can easily assess them in case of a life-threatening accident or other emergencies, and protect themselves against lawsuits. But 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, something not all of us agree with. You might also want to look at a pro-life directive and contrast the two. She can point to studies that say you 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.

January 18, 2011
by Jane St Clair
Author of Walk Me to Midnight

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

A Real “Bucket List” Man Cheats Death

December 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

Your doctor gets this terrible look on his face. It’s the dreaded end-of-life chat.

“We’re very sorry, but we have bad news. You have only three months to live.”

What do you do?

If you’re like Dave Ismay, a comedian who lives in England, you make out a bucket list and then you go for it. You just don’t care if doing your list means you go through your entire life savings. Your life is over, after all.

Dave’s list went like this:

1. Buy a $40,000 Mercedes (hey, he wants to go out in style)

2. Appear in a pantomine show (He plays Mother Goose on stage and has a blast)

3. Play golf at a very snazzy club in Ireland (why not?)

4. Go to Australia (always wanted to see it)

5. Take grandson to a soccer game (male bonding thing).

6. Write a book (leave something behind)

Three months later, Dave’s time is up on earth and he has gone through his life savings for his bucket list. He is planning a big kick-off party, but first he has to go back to his doctor.

The doctor tells Dave that he does not have a terminal illness after all. Dave’s going to live.

When this physician says it’s time to celebrate, Dave replied, “Since you’re not going to be at my funeral, you can’t come to my party either.”

Today Dave says life is great even though his savings are all gone, and he’s not sure whether to laugh or cry. He also says that “When you are told that you only have three months to live, all the things you said you were going to do but never did suddenly become really important.”

Good for Dave Ismay that he did his bucket list.

Good for his doctor that their end-of-life chat wasn’t about a physician-assisted suicide. That could have been the last thing on his bucket list.

Felice Navidad from Arizona, Dave Ismay.

Life, what a beautiful choice.

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

To Molly With Love on National Survivors of Suicide Day

November 16th, 2010 · No Comments

National Suicide Survivors’ Day is for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. This year it is the Saturday before Thanksgiving, November 20. If you have struggled with this issue, you can find help at www.afsp.org.  The National Association for Suicide Prevention is sponsoring over 275 local conventions and events on Saturday to help people who have been through this terrible trauma.

To Molly, with love and remembrance

Saturday is a day of remembering things you don’t want to remember. A day of honoring someone you lost in a way you still can’t understand.  A day of recalling what you should have done differently.

My friend Molly was a knock-out gorgeous woman, but she thought she was fat and unattractive.   I used to try to talk her out of that crap — Do you know how many woman would trade places with you? How many would like to look like you? Huh?– But she never saw it. She never saw her own beauty.

Molly gave in little ways, like making sure you were included in a conversation, and in big ways, like putting the needs of her son before hers no matter what. But she never saw her generosity. She never gave herself credit for being wonderful.

Molly could be funny, and that made her a great friend.  After a few margaritas, she’d get earthy and talk dirty. Our book club wasn’t half as much fun when Molly wasn’t there. She read everything from the Enquirer to Dostoevsky, and her opinions of books were thoughtful and generous, but she thought she was dumb. —I had the baby so I didn’t get to college.  I wish I was smarter. I wish I had college —

When she was laid off from a job that she had held for almost 15 years, she never really recovered. The money pressures and the rejections that she took on job interviews and from men pushed her into some sad spiral I didn’t really understand. The last year of her life was one drama after another, and I got tired of high maintenance. Toward the end I didn’t always answer her phone calls, and that is something I will never forgive myself for.

Then there came that terrible day that her parents and her son found her. A beautiful vibrant 36-year-old woman had taken her own life, and that was impossible to understand.  She died alone, and that wasn’t right. Her funeral was the saddest one I ever attended.

After Molly died, I would drive by her house and cry, because I didn’t have my friend anymore and because I hated myself for getting tired and dropping out. Molly, I can’t forgive myself.  Molly, I’m so sorry.

It’s five years since then, and now when I go by her townhouse, I feel her in her best times.  I remember Molly all excited about some new man in her life. Molly at book club, bubbling over the latest Oprah.  Molly at soccer with her kid. Molly, smiling and laughing. Molly, I hardly knew you, you should have told me and not covered it up. Molly, I’m sorry.  Hey girlfriend, I miss you.

by Jane St. Clair

Author of Walk Me to Midnight

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

About The Compassionate Choice: Against Assisted Suicide

November 12th, 2010 · No Comments

Hello! My name is Jane St. Clair, and I wrote this website.

Assisted suicide is not a compassionate choice — it is about giving into despair. The compassionate choice is caring for your loved one, staying with that person, giving hope and love. If your loved one is talking about suicide, that means he or she needs your help in finding treatment for depression. Despair and depression is a stage you go through to get to something better.

Tell that person, “I can not help you kill yourself. I love you too much for that. I will not leave you. I will help you. We are in this together, and we are not giving into despair.”

If you feel that you need help yourself to get through this or if you are the one who is suicidal, call 1-800-suicide or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and they will find you help where you live.

Sometimes you just need to talk. You can find the courage and hope you need, and often your best life is yet to come.

All of us want to live in a world where people care and love each other. That change starts with each of us, right now, today. Be hopeful, be brave. The best is yet to come.


“My life is full because I know that I am loved …”

….. John Merrick, the famous “Elephant Man”

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention

30 Logical Arguments Against Assisted Suicide

November 7th, 2010 · No Comments

Thirty logical arguments against assisted suicide came out when the issue of assisted suicide was on the ballot in the state of Washington in November 2008. At that time I pledged to give voters one new secular argument against assisted suicide every day for thirty days why they should vote against this and I took out a new ad in the Seattle Times every day until Election Day.

During that election, our opponents presented their views emotionally, and they wanted to talk about religion. We wanted to talk about the issues, logic, reason and history.

Despite help from celebrities like Martin Sheen, we lost this one. They had ten times as much money to spend.

Today over 11,000 people have read this article. My reasons remain sound and logical, and I am glad I was part of this effort, even though we lost in Washington.

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 10
Skilled 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 9
The 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 5
Assisted 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.

Bookmark and Share

→ No CommentsTags: Against assisted suicide · Assisted suicide · Choices and Compassion · Compassion and Choices · Physician ASsisted Suicide · Suicide Prevention · Walk Me to Midnight

Hospice Patients Wants Candidates Views on Assisted Suicide, End-of-Life Care

October 20th, 2010 · No Comments

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized