Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Patients: Canada and Its Carter v. Canada Law

In February 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Carter v. Canada case to legalize physician-assisted suicide for competent, consenting adults whose suffering is due to a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition and gave Parliament a year to develop a regulatory regime along these “parameters.” The Parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted “Dying” suggested that the “grievous and irremediable” criterion includes nonterminal medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders. The federal government’s Bill C-14, on the other hand, defined “grievous and irremediable” as an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capabilities” in a person for whom “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.” The Senate ultimately passed the bill but the controversy about assisted suicide for psychiatric patients is still raging. In a June 21, 2016 commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal “Should assisted dying for psychiatric disorders be legalized in Canada?”, authors Scott Y.H. Kim MD PhD and Trudo Lemmens LLM DCL warn against this. As they note: In Belgium and the Netherlands, medical assistance in dying has been provided to people with chronic schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe eating disorders, autism, personality disorders and even prolonged grief. The authors conclude that: Because of the necessarily broad criteria used to regulate assisted dying (in Canada), legalizing the practice for psychiatric conditions will likely place already vulnerable patients at risk of premature death. However, others like Belgium psychiatrist Joris Vandenberghe, MD, PhD disagree: “I think the current approach taken by the Canadian government is a bit too strict because it doesn’t fully recognize the enormous impact that psychiatric disorders can have on patients,” Dr Vandenberghe told Medscape Medical News....

Statement of Solidarity to Better Observe Suicide Prevention Month

September is suicide prevention month, and grim though it may be, the disability, aging, and veterans communities are among the most likely populations to feel pressure to end their lives and, sadly, do so. In an effort to re-claim conversations about quality of life and to highlight the deficits in our nation’s current healthcare and long-term services systems that often foster feelings of desperation, we’ve written a Statement of Solidarity in Observance of Suicide Prevention Month, affirming the values of dignity, diversity, and full participation. Please review the Statement and consider signing on in solidarity as an organization and sending it out over your networks and to any chapters or affiliates you may have. To sign on, send us an email to [email protected] and note your organization’s name as you’d like it to appear, and the state in which you are located. We would prefer you send your sign-on as quickly as possible, but we will be receiving sign-ons until close of business, September 25, 2015. Please feel free to forward this to other interested individuals and organizations, as we’re hoping to generate a large list of those who stand in solidarity with the values of suicide prevention: Statement of Solidarity in Observance of Suicide Prevention Month Affirming the Importance to People with Disabilities of Access to Services, Real Choices, and Self-Determination September is suicide prevention month, and during its observance, we, the undersigned, express our sincere sorrow that any human ever experiences a level of despair or hopelessness that results in a choice to end one’s own life. The concern of the disability, military and veterans, and aging...

Disability Rights Organizations Led By ‘Not Dead Yet’ Issued Open Letter Criticizing ‘Respecting Choices Program’ for Bias Against Feeding Tubes and Breathing Devices

Led by Not Dead Yet, eleven national and twenty-three state and local disability organizations, as well as individuals, have sent an open letter to Respecting Choices, a prominent advance care planning program operated by Gundersen Health Systems in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The letter criticizes two “Fact Sheets” distributed nationally by the program because they discourage people from choosing to use feeding tubes, “BiPAP” breathing devices and ventilators, despite the fact that the alternative is usually death. The documents, entitled “Tube Feeding: What You Should Know” and “Help With Breathing: What You Should Know”, have been posted with permission on the website of an Ohio hospice. They are sold on the Respecting Choices website for use in advance care planning. The Gundersen documents express a strong bias against long-term use of feeding tubes, BiPAPs and ventilators, discouraging health care consumers and medical professionals from using these life-sustaining devices except for short-term recovery and not as part of a viable disability lifestyle. The Not Dead Yet letter was signed by twenty-five individuals who have successfully used one or more of these devices for years, and in some cases for decades. “By their own explicit terms, these advance care planning documents are not only for people who are close to death no matter what they do, but also for people who could live a long time if they choose to use these health care devices,” said Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet who has used a BiPAP breathing device at night for twelve years. Cathy Ludlum of Manchester, Connecticut, who uses both a feeding tube and BiPAP, was involved in...

Not Dead Yet: Support to Live, Not to Die

GOODBYE DEAR FRIEND! It is with sadness that we learned today of the death of our friend Alison Davis. Alison worked long and hard to promote the dignity of every human life and stood steadfastly against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Following is her article from the HLA Imposed Death publication: Not Dead Yet: Support to Live, Not to Die I have spina bifida, hydrocephalus, emphysema, osteoporosis, arthritis and kypho-scoliosis. I use a wheelchair full time. Due to the osteoporosis, my spine is slowly collapsing, trapping nerves in the process. This causes extreme spinal pain which even large doses of morphine cannot fully control. When the pain is at its worst I cannot think, speak or move. It can go on for hours. The prognosis is that it will continue to get worse. Twenty-three years ago, due to several factors, I decided I wanted to die-a settled wish that lasted over ten years. I seriously attempted suicide several times and was saved only because friends found me in time and got me taken to the hospital, where I was resuscitated against my will. Then I was extremely angry that my life had been saved. Now I’m eternally grateful. I still have the same severe pain I had then. What has changed is my outlook on life. If “assisted dying” had been legal, I wouldn’t be here now. I would have missed the best years of my life. What I wish most for those who despair of life is that they could have the sort of support and the reasons for hope which turned my life around, bringing me from the...