How Can Belgian Catholic Psychiatric Hospitals “Adjust” for Euthanasia?

I was in disbelief when I read Michael Cook’s article “Belgian Catholic psychiatric hospitals ‘adjust’ their view of euthanasia”.  I had to read the translated version on the Brothers of Charity order’s statement itself  myself to see if this was “fake news”.

Thankfully, Brother Rene Stockman, the superior general of the Brothers of Charity order, spoke out and said he was devastated by the news and then did three things:

“(F)irst we informed the whole congregation that as general superior we cannot accept this decision, because it is going totally against our charism of the charity. Secondly, we informed the Belgian Bishops conference about the situation and I am in contact with the president, Cardinal De Kesel. Also the Nuncio is informed. Thirdly, we informed the Vatican and all the information has been given to the Secretariat of State. In the meantime we continue to offer our clear arguments why we can never accept euthanasia.”

Brother Rene also warned that:

“In reality, only a few brothers are still involved in the government of the organization, so the majority are lay-people. Yes, there was a lot of pressure, but pressure doesn’t mean that we have to capitulate”

And

“Indeed, the presence of the brothers is not nearly sufficient, but also secularization is also poisoning the congregation in Belgium.”

Ironically, this comes less than 2 years after a pro-assisted suicide UK news service documentary titled “24 and Ready to Die” about Emily, a depressed young Belgian woman, was released but ended with the young woman changing her mind at the last moment.    Despite this, the documentary continued to support euthanasia even though one psychiatric “expert” who treated Emily was obviously wrong when she claimed that Emily’s suffering was so bad that it was “not compatible with life” and that her life did not have “sufficient quality”.

Emily is not the only one to change her mind. A 2014 Belgian study of 100 psychiatric patients  asking for euthanasia  showed that  “8 postponed or cancelled the procedure”. The study’s authors rationalized that these cancellations were “because simply having this option gave them enough peace of mind to continue living”! (Emphasis added)

Fortunately in 2016, the American Psychiatric Association passed a resolution opposing assisted suicide for the mentally ill.

Conclusion

As at least 3 European countries now allow assisted suicide for people with psychiatric problems and other countries like Canada are debating similar measures. Ethicists now write articles like ”Euthanasia for Reasons of Mental Health”  exploring the concept of including people with mental illness.

In the meantime, families like mine will continue to struggle with safety and treatment issues for our severely and chronically mentally ill relatives. We want real help for our loved ones, not assisted suicide or euthanasia. It is not compassionate, supportive or humane to have our loved ones “put down” like dogs.

Health Care Bullying Over Conscience Rights

Years ago, some of my fellow nurses were talking about assisted suicide and two of them supported physician-assisted suicide. I asked if they were comfortable with participating in an assisted suicide. Both were shocked and said no.

They believed the myth that doctors just write lethal prescriptions that patients then go home and take privately. It never occurred to them that they could be involved if the assisted suicide occurred in a healthcare institution, home health situation, etc. where they-unlike the doctor-could not just walk away.

These nurses were unaware that there were already nursing journal articles like “Assisted Suicide: What Role for Nurses?”  (2000) that quoted one Oregon hospice administrator:

“Initially, when the law was designed, the assumption was that physicians would be the first ones to explore PAS with patients…but in reality, nurses are usually the ones in the line of fire.

While Compassion and Choices leaders now talk about “integrating” and “normalizing” assisted suicide in end of life care , this 17 year old article already stated that “Much of nurses’ roles lies behind the scenes long before the drama of PAS unfolds. Home care and hospice nurses actively help patients understand their rights, acting as advocates for those who are considering PAS.” (Emphasis added)

Now, two recent articles expose the lengths that assisted suicide activists will go to  legally bully health care professionals to participate in medically assisted suicide.

VERMONT

In an April 5, 2017 article titled “This State is Trying for Force Doctors and Health Care Workers to Give Patients Info on Assisted Suicide”, the Alliance Defending Freedom organization  filed a lawsuit against Vermont’s Act 39, arguing that

“Vermont’s Act 39 makes the State the first and only one to mandate that all licensed healthcare professionals counsel terminal patients about the availability and procedures for physician-assisted suicide, and refer them to willing prescribers to dispense the death-dealing drug. Act 39 coerces professionals to counsel patients about the ‘benefits’ of assisted suicide—benefits that Plaintiffs’ members do not believe exist—and in addition stands in opposition to a federal law protecting healthcare professionals who cannot participate in assisted suicide for conscientious reasons.” (Emphasis added)

CANADA

In a stunning March 28, 2017 Canadian Catholic Register article titled “Doctors being ’bullied’ over assisted suicide, legislators told at Bill 84 hearings” , doctors in Ontario, Canada spoke out about “being bullied, silenced and coerced in a pro-euthanasia environment which is forcing those who object to medically assisted suicide to provide an “effective referral” for patients who wish to die”. (Emphasis added)

Dr. Jane Dobson testified about the pressure she has faced: “If I don’t comply, I face fines and the possible suspension of my license.”

University of Toronto School of Medicine professor Dr. Maria Wolfs added that medical schools are facing pressure to “weed out students who might object to assisted suicide”. (Emphasis added)

Psychiatrist Dr. Janice Halpern testified that the policy is also “at odds with the subtleties of a psychiatric doctor-patient relationship and asked how long can a psychiatrist work with a patient “on finding their will to live again” before referring the patient for assisted suicide.

The Canadian Supreme Court legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2015 and as of the end of 2016, at least 744 people have died from physician assisted suicide with Ontario having the highest number.

One doctor who assisted the suicide of at least 40 patients in 2016 said that those numbers will increase “to the point of the Netherlands and Belgium because their laws are similar to ours, and that would mean about 5 % of all deaths.”

UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES

Ironically, there has been an unusual backlash in Canada.

According to a February 2017 article in Canada’s National Post newspaper , an increasing number of doctors performing assisted suicide are now saying “‘Take my name off the list, I can’t do any more”.  As the article states:

“In Ontario, one of the few provinces to track the information, 24 doctors have permanently been removed from a voluntary referral list of physicians willing to help people die. Another 30 have put their names on temporary hold.”

And

“The Canadian Medical Association says reports of doctors backing away from the act are not just anecdotal. “I can’t tell you how many, but I can tell you that it’s enough that it’s been noted at a systemic level,” said Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA’s vice-president of medical professionalism.”

CONCLUSION

Groups like Compassion and Choices depend on assisted suicide being portrayed as a victimless and necessary medical intervention while, at the same time, they oppose conscience rights for ethical doctors and nurses trying to help and protect their patients and their professions.

However, it is hard to escape the reality that legally forced participation in medically assisted suicide damages the health care system, health care providers and even patients.

Conscientious Objection, Conscience Rights and Workplace Discrimination

The tragic cases of  Nancy Cruzan and Christine Busalacchi , young Missouri women who were claimed to be in a “persistent vegetative state” and starved and dehydrated to death, outraged those of us in Missouri Nurses for Life and we took action.

Besides educating people about severe brain damage, treatment, cases of recovery and the radical change in medical ethics that could lead to the legalization of euthanasia, we also fought for healthcare providers’ rights against workplace discrimination for refusing to participate in deliberate death decisions. We talked to nurses who were threatened with termination.

Although Missouri had some protections against forcing participating in abortion, there were no statutes we could find where health care providers were protected against being forced to participate in deliberate death decisions. We were also told by some legislators that our chance of success was almost nil

Nevertheless, we persisted and after years of work and enduring legislators watering down our original proposal to include lethal overdoses and strong penalties, Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 404.872.1 was signed into law in 1992. It states:

Refusal to honor health care decision, discrimination prohibited, when.

404.872. No physician, nurse, or other individual who is a health care provider or an employee of a health care facility shall be discharged or otherwise discriminated against in his employment or employment application for refusing to honor a health care decision withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment if such refusal is based upon the individual’s religious beliefs, or sincerely held moral convictions.

(L. 1992 S.B. 573 & 634 § 7)

Fast Forward to Today

In 2016, we face groups like Compassion and Choices that have pushed assisted suicide legislation through in some states and hoping for an eventual sweeping Supreme Court decision making assisted suicide a constitutional right like abortion.

Some European countries like Belgium and Holland have virtual euthanasia on demand for even non-terminally ill people of any age. In Canada, their Supreme Court has forced assisted suicide on that country and now the province of Quebec has lethal injection kits available to any doctor.

Not surprisingly, conscience/workplace rights for health care providers are being vigorously fought both in those countries and here in the US.

For example, Compassion and Choices’ Barbara Coombs Lee, one of the architects of Oregon’s assisted suicide law, claims that strong conscience-right protections encourage “workers to exercise their idiosyncratic convictions at the expense of patient care” at the end of life.

Hope on the Horizon?

In May, a hospital in Poland stopped performing abortions after every single doctor signed a pledge refusing to do them.

Now, several hospitals in Santa Barbara  and Palm Springs as well as Providence medical centers are opting out of the new California assisted suicide law.

Personally, I believe that if people are given a choice when they are sick, they would naturally prefer a hospital that is committed to care rather than assisted suicide.

Thus, conscientious objection, workplace discrimination/conscience rights laws and the power of institutions dedicated to ethical health care can help turn the tide against assisted suicide laws or at least save some lives and mitigate some of the damage caused by assisted suicide laws. It may take a long time before killing sick or disabled people is again seen as abhorrent and unethical but the effort will be worth it.

As I have said before, “NO!” is a powerful and potentially lifesaving word.

 

Canada and Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Patients

My first husband and the father of my children was a caring man and dedicated psychiatrist who himself eventually became disabled by mental illness. Early in our marriage, I helped him write his medical journal articles and we planned to eventually include me in his psychiatric practice to work with the families of his patients. As a nurse, I always believed that families were ideally the best support system for patients and our goal was to improve the care and outcomes of people with mental illness.

Tragically, my husband’s mental illness worsened despite intensive treatment. He ultimately abandoned our family and lived the next 26 years in and out of hospitals and assisted living places before he died of natural causes in 2014.

Thus I have a unique perspective on the legal, medical and personal aspects of mental illness.

At one point, a family member sympathetically suggested that it might be better for everyone if he committed suicide. I was horrified. You don’t give up on sick people and I told this person that I would do anything in my power to stop him if he tried to kill himself. Suicide would be the ultimate tragedy.

Canada and Its New Assisted Suicide 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, posttraumatic 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. (Emphasis added)

However, even Dr. Vandenberghe recognizes the problems while still calling for more “safeguards”:

“I am generally not opposed to our euthanasia legislation and agree that patients suffering from psychiatric conditions should not be excluded from our legislation. However, extra precautions are urgently needed.

“I’m not happy with the way things work here [in Belgium]. Sometimes euthanasia is used with insufficient reluctance on the part of the healthcare professionals involved. We’re missing opportunities for treatment, and we need more safeguards,” said Dr. Vandenberghe.

So for me, the answer lies in a thorough evaluation of a patient prior to euthanasia. There really is no time pressure in psychiatric disorders, and if you have a multidisciplinary committee involved in the evaluation, you can take care of lot of the concerns we now have about euthanasia in the setting of psychiatric illness.”

The reality is that very few psychological or psychiatric referrals are even now made for anyone considering assisted suicide either in the US or in Europe. The answer is not more “safeguards” for assisted suicide practitioners to disregard while enjoying virtual legal immunity but rather an emphatic “No!” from the public as well the legal and medical systems. We also need an unbiased media to publicly expose the real facts about legalized medical killing.

 Conclusion

I have seen both the legal and medical systems often fail people with mental illness like my ex-husband who desperately need treatment and safety.

On the medical side, I begged for direction from my ex-husband’s doctors about what I could do to help him but I was told that there was nothing I could do or not do since the doctors were seeing him regularly. I was not allowed to even know his diagnosis without his permission.

On the legal side, I had problems getting supervised visitation even after a hostage situation.  Due to almost constant harassment, I had multiple orders of protection violated without adequate legal response. And despite being on mental illness disability, my ex-husband was allowed to file and lose several frivolous lawsuits-until he ran out of money.

It was a heartbreaking situation.

However, I always hoped that my ex-husband would improve so that he could at least have a better relationship with his children. Even though that did not happen, I am grateful that he did not die by suicide, assisted or otherwise.

Unfortunately, my family’s experience is not unique among families with a member who is mentally ill.

If our medical and legal systems are already often failing people with mental illness and their families, how can we allow them the power to “assist” our loved ones’ suicide?

That would be the ultimate betrayal of an already stigmatized and vulnerable group of people.

Tolerating Evil

Years ago, one of my daughters was caught after she did something she knew was wrong. “But it looked so good!” she wailed. I told her that if evil looked like it really was, no one would choose it.

I thought of this incident when I read Kathleen Parker’s June 10, 2016 USA op-ed titled “Freedom to kill and permission for sick people to die”.

In the article, Ms. Parker reveals her struggle:

“Here, I should confess my own ambivalence. Basically, I’d like to have the means to end my own life on my own terms when my body has clearly called it quits. I’m just not sure I like the idea of the state and doctors lending a hand.”

Many people can find physician-assisted suicide alluring when they ponder their own potential demise. As a former hospice nurse myself, I recognized this in some of my patients even before assisted suicide was legalized. However, with care and treatment, we were able to help these patients live as well as possible before death. And I never saw a patient go on to die by suicide or assisted suicide.

It is a myth that a personal choice for assisted suicide will not affect others or have far-reaching consequences.

Ms. Parker’s conclusion recognizes this:

“As more than a dozen other states consider similar legislation, it isn’t irrational to wonder whether, in tampering with our medical culture of healing, we aren’t inviting unintended consequences that we’ll live — or die — to regret.”

The truth of her conclusion became starkly obvious when a few days after California’s new assisted suicide law took effect,  one doctor immediately opened up a dedicated assisted suicide clinic in San Francisco.

Dr. Lonnie Shavelson, 64 and a long-time supporter of assisted suicide, was an emergency room doctor for 29 year and then spend 7 years at an Oakland clinic for immigrants and refugees before taking a 2 year break.

His new assisted suicide business could be quite lucrative. Although Medicare will not pay for assisted suicide costs, Shavelson says he will charge $200 for an initial patient evaluation. If the patient is deemed qualified under California law, Shavelson said he would charge another $1800 for more visits, evaluations and legal forms..

Like the past so-called “back alley” abortionists, Shavelson defends his business by claiming that “..the demand (for assisted suicide) is so high, that the only compassionate thing to do would be to bring it above ground and regulate it.”

We cannot afford to be ambivalent or tolerant about evil, whether it is abortion, assisted suicide, terrorism, etc. Evil never limits itself because evil always seeks to expand unless it is stopped

We only have to look at Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries where assisted suicide has already expanded to direct euthanasia and, in some of those countries, even without consent and for virtually any psychological, emotional or physical condition.

Canada’s Assisted Suicide Law to Cover Mental illness, Dementia and Minors

In a Canadian CBC News article titled “Mature minors, mentally ill should have right to doctor-assisted death, report advises”, a special committee of MPs (members of Parliament)  and senators issued a 70 page report “Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach”  stating that mature minors and mentally ill people should not be excluded from the right to “doctor-assisted death” (physician-assisted suicide).  It also states that Canadians should have the right to make an “advance request” for physician assisted suicide, termed “medical aid in dying”,  after being diagnosed with certain debilitating, but not necessarily terminal, conditions.

There is not even a requirement that the lethal overdose be oral or self-administered and the Canadian province of Quebec has already started lethal injections.

Ironically, capital punishment existed in various forms in Canada until 1998, when the federal government completely abolished the death penalty.

How can lethal injections be “cruel and inhumane” for convicted murderers but a civil right when it is chosen by an ill person?

And while physician-assisted suicide laws in the US routinely provide immunity for physicians, the Canadian recommendations also exempt nurses, pharmacists and other health care practitioners from key criminal code provisions.

Age of Consent

Although the Canadian Pediatric Society pushed to exclude minors regardless of competence, the report states that

“Given existing practices with respect to mature minors in health care and the obvious fact that minors can suffer as much as any adult, the committee feels that it is difficult to justify an outright ban on access to medical assistance in death for minors.”(Emphasis added)

Mental Illness

The report states that the right to assisted death should not be limited to physical conditions, and that Canadians with psychiatric conditions should not be excluded from “doctor assistance to end suffering” (physician-assisted suicide).

However

“As reported by Medscape Medical News, the inclusion of psychiatric suffering in assisted death laws in European countries such as Belgium has sparked significant debate, particularly with research showing that many individuals who have a history of suicide attempts later regret taking such action.

“Most people who consider or attempt suicide never die by suicide [and] the conviction that there is no alternative but to end their lives often passes with the resolution of an acute crisis,” medical ethicist Paul S. Applebaum, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

“By making the option of suicide easier, ie, a painless, certain death with medical assistance, the Dutch, Belgian, and similar laws may encourage many people, especially women, who would not have ended their lives to do so,” said Dr Applebaum, Dollard Professor of psychiatry, medicine, and law and director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City.” (Emphasis added)

“Advance Consent” for Assisted Suicide for People with Dementia

The advocacy group Dying With Dignity Canada applauded the report’s recommendations, especially the one to allow advance consent.

“Patients deserve real choice,” said CEO Shanaaz Gokool in a release.

Without the option to consent in advance to assisted dying, Canadians with dementia who want to die in peace with the help of a physician face a dire choice: access assisted dying prematurely, while they are still competent; or risk losing competence before their wishes can be carried out, only to be condemned to the exact fate they sought to avoid.” (Emphasis added)

Actually, that result was already on the agenda when “living wills” were first proposed by Chicago lawyer Louis Kutner in his 1969 article “Due Process of Euthanasia: The Living Will, A Proposal” .

Some people say that Holland, Switzerland and Belgium are not like the US so that their virtually unregulated euthanasia policies should not affect us. But no one can deny the potential lethal impact on our own society from this terrible “right to be killed” propagated by our neighbor to the north.

Arguing Life, Death and Assisted Suicide

In the article “Sides discuss NY proposal for aid in dying”, the exchange between Diane Coleman, a founder of Not Dead Yet, the foremost disability organization fighting physician-assisted suicide, and  Dr Timothy Quill, who fought for the constitutionality of physician-assisted suicide in the landmark 1997 US Supreme Court Vacco v Quill decision, is very enlightening.

Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet spoke simply and eloquently:

“I don’t think I speak for all (opponents), but the disability community’s core message is that if assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be lost due to mistakes, coercion and abuse, and that’s an outcome that can never be undone.

There is inherent discrimination in assisted-suicide laws. Most suicidal people receive suicide prevention. Assisted suicide laws would carve out an exception to that, and that exception would apply to people who are elderly, ill, disabled, and those are devalued groups in society. … Assisted-suicide laws would say, ‘these certain people, we not only agree with their suicide but give them the means to carry it out.’ We’re saying it comes down to social justice. Equal rights means equal suicide prevention.”

And

“It’s really not about physical pain. If you look at Oregon reports, about reasons people want to commit suicide, the reasons are things like feeling like the person has lost their autonomy, they’ve lost their dignity, they can’t do the things they used to do. They feel like a burden on their families. Those are psychosocial reasons that relate to the disability that people have when they have an advanced stage or chronic condition.”

On the other hand, Dr. Quill portrayed assisted suicide as little more than a benign discussion:

“Whether or not this practice is legalized, seriously ill patients are asking us to talk about it, they’re asking us to consider it” said Quill, founding director of the palliative care program at URMC and a board-certified palliative care consultant. (Emphasis added)

But to the question “Why do people with a terminal illness want to end their lives?”, Dr. Quill telling states:

“Some of it has to do with severe symptoms. I would say that’s not the majority. The majority is people who are tired of dying. It’s going on way too long for them. The kind of debility and weakness that accompany it, particularly for people that are used to being in charge of their lives, is very, very, very hard. Some of those people want to talk about what options they have to accelerate the process.” (Emphasis added)

This is very different from the way physician-assisted suicide has been sold to the public as a necessary last resort for terminally ill people in “unbearable pain”. However, as a 2014 article  “Dignity, Death, and Dilemmas: A Study of Washington Hospices and Physician-Assisted Death” admits, pain is not even a requirement for receiving physician-assisted suicide  in Oregon and Washington state:

The authorizing legal statutes in both states make no reference to the experience of severe pain or intolerable suffering as an indication for a patient to make a request for physician-assisted death but rely entirely on the entitlement due a patient in respect of their personal dignity. A patient rights framework provides the primary moral structure… (Emphasis added)

Thus, physician-assisted suicide is really about power and control over death, not the  suffering of the individual. And it is this power and control that has led European countries like the Netherlands to expand physician-assisted suicide even to non-terminally ill people who cannot or have not made the death decision themselves such as babies with deformities and people with dementia, mental illness or other impairments.

Closer to the US, the Canadian Supreme Court  has legalized physician-assisted suicide but still  without formalized rules, even on conscience rights.  In the province of Quebec, legal injection euthanasia kits  can be distributed to any doctor who wants them.

The Assisted Suicide Agenda in the US

It is alarming that the influential American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine that had this same Dr. Timothy Quill in the article as a recent past president and honoree of their Visionary award. But it should not be surprising that the AAHPM has changed its former position of opposition to physician-assisted suicide to a position of “studied neutrality” towards what it now calls “physician-assisted death”.  Neutrality is progress to physician-assisted suicide activists like Dr. Quill and organizations like Compassion and Choices that need to neutralize medical opposition as much as possible while quietly setting up relentless campaigns to legalize assisted suicide in every state. If enough states give in, a new Supreme Court decision may even overturn the Vacco v Quill decision and legalize physician-assisted suicide throughout the US.

But in the meantime, trying to sell “neutrality” to doctors and convincing the media to change the term “physician-assisted suicide” to  “physician-assisted death” cannot mask the inevitable and lethal damage done not only to individuals but also to our medical and legal institutions that can no longer ensure ethical protection for our lives.

Euthanasia Kits, Conscience rights and Coercion

The country that gave us Celine Dion, Mike Myers and Joni Mitchell is now giving doctors euthanasia kits?

As I wrote in a September blog “Disaster in Canada, this past February, the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously ruled to end the long-standing ban on physician-assisted suicide and gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling. Despite concerns raised by opponents of assisted suicide, the Canadian supreme court agreed with the trial court that physician-assisted suicide laws like that in Oregon has curtailed such abuses and missteps. “The risks associated with physician-assisted suicide,” the high court stated, “can be limited through a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards.

But even before such legislation is made, Canada’s second largest province Quebec is jumping to allow to active euthanasia via lethal injections.

In a shocking article in the British Medical Journal titled “’Euthanasia kits’ are prepared for Quebec doctors as palliative care centres rebel on right to die” , new guidelines from the College of Medicine in Quebec on physician-assisted suicide include “euthanasia kits”. These kits contain three sequential injections: a benzodiazepine sedative to relieve anxiety, a barbiturate to induce coma, and a curare-type neuromuscular block to stop the heart and respiration with backup doses, and detailed instructions. These kits will be available to all licensed physicians in Quebec. (Emphasis added)

Ironically, this lethal injection protocol mimics the lethal injection protocols used in the US for executions that are now being challenged by groups like the ACLU as “cruel” and “inhumane.”

The rationale for doctor-administered lethal injections over the self-administered oral lethal overdoses just signed into law in California is explained in the BMJ article:

The college decided that doctors should administer the drugs intravenously rather than simply prescribe an oral drug. Yves Robert, secretary of the college, said that this had involved seeking advice from abroad, including speaking to the first doctor to legally prescribe life ending drugs in Oregon, USA, nearly 20 years ago. “He told us there were some bad side effects,” Robert said, including regurgitation and, in a few cases, reawakening days later.” (Emphasis added)

Apparently, the annual Oregon state health reports on assisted suicide that rely merely on the assisting doctors’ self-reporting of problems are not much of a “safeguard”. Nonetheless, all the public (and the Canadian supreme court) continues to hear is that physician-assisted suicide laws are working well without any problems.

PUSHBACK

But the existence of euthanasia kits is not the whole story.

As the BMJ article reports, all 29 of Quebec’s palliative care centers announced a collective decision not to offer physician-assisted suicide, now renamed “medical aid in dying.” At least for now.

One director stated that “There is no doctor here who’s willing to push that syringe.”

This refusal has apparently enraged physician-assisted suicide supporters like Gaétan Barrette, Quebec’s health minister, who stated:

“Once again, this is a comment that prioritizes the views of the physician, when the law is made for the patient,” said Barrette. “I have a very formal announcement to make to these doctors: physicians, nowhere in Quebec, are owners of the institution. Not of the institution, nor of the floor, nor of a single bed. In no way can a doctor say: ‘In room 326, this will never happen.’ That is completely inappropriate.”

So now there are now efforts to challenge the conscience rights of objecting doctors.

Euthanasia/assisted suicide supporters know that without enough medical professionals willing to perform medicalized killing, the movement itself is dead.

Unfortunately, such supporters have had better luck in the US with convincing groups like the California Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, The American College of Legal Medicine, American Medical Student Association and American Medical Women’s Association and The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine to support legalized physician-assisted suicide or take a “neutral” position using polls, not principles.

It is a myth that physician-assisted suicide will only ever involve oral lethal overdoses requested by terminally ill patients in unbearable pain. As we have seen with the relentless progression of medically assisted killing in Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium, it is just a matter of time before lethal injections are considered more humane than unreliable oral overdoses and the pool of potential victims expands beyond the terminally ill and just those who request it.

Tragically, it is a very short step from saying “I would not want to live like that” to saying “No one should live like that.”

Like those doctors of conscience in Quebec, those of us in the US who are also medical professionals need to be our own Resistance Movement against medicalized killing and the efforts to coerce us into participating.