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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thank You for a Busy & Fulfilling 2010!

2010 has been a rebuilding year for Dying With Dignity Canada. We’ve revitalized our Education and Client Support Program, re-initiated members’ meetings, launched new education sessions and presented to a parliamentary committee. None of this would have been possible without your support. To our members and donors who have stood by us in our times of recent adversity, we are most deeply grateful.

If you have not done so yet, but would like to add an end-of-year donation, you can do it easily online here, or see the donations page of our website.

We take this time to wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons and the best for 2011.

Take good care.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Submission to Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care

After the defeat of Bill C-384 (a bill to amend the Criminal Code to permit medical assistance in dying), an new all-party committee to conduct a country wide consultation on palliative and compassionate care was formed. This committee has already conducted consultations in many places across Canada. At the consultation in Victoria our new Executive Director, Wanda Morris, made a presentation, and a full submission from Dying with Dignity was provided to the committee. You can download this presentation in pdf format from the link below.

If you wish to make a submission of your own, you can email albreH8@parl.gc.ca or mail your submission or letter to: Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care Rm. 402, Justice Building Ottawa, ON. K1A 0A6.

It is important for as many people as possible to contact the committee. To some extent, at least, the purpose of the committee seems to be to explore alternatives to assisted dying, instead of recognising that, for some people, at least, there are no satisfactory alternatives. Palliative and hospice care are vital, and we must make sure that these options are available to all Canadians, so that no one need suffer needlessly when they are dying, as so many now do. But it is time for our parliamentarians to recognise that assisted dying is a legitimate option at the end of life, and that the refusal to provide this option by criminalising assistance in dying, is a form of cruel injustice.

As we say in our submission to the committee, enforced life, by any other name, would be called slavery. Forcing someone to stay alive when they believe that only death can release them from intolerable suffering is an unjustified restriction of individual freedom. Let the committee know that, while we all want to see improvements in end-of-life care, the option of assisted dying must be provided for those who have made an informed, stable choice to die. Dying with dignity is available only if the choice of assisted dying is available. Perhaps only a few will avail themselves of it, but, without it, people are being forced to die in a way of someone else's choosing. Let your MP know that this is wrong.

If you would like a copy of the full submission made to the parliamentary committee, please email our National Office at info@dyingwithdignity.ca, or you can download it directly from our website, by clicking here.

Whose Death is it Anyway?

Canada’s highest court ruled that euthanasia is illegal, but that won’t stop some doctors from helping terminally ill patients die.

By Daniel Wood, November 18, 2010

Kwantlen Polytechnic University instructor Russel Ogden says that polls have
indicated a significant increase in Canadians’ support for right-to-die legislation.

Stephen Gardiner’s real name or where he lives cannot be divulged because well-intentioned friends might try to stop him from killing himself. And he doesn’t want them implicated. Wolf Obgielo’s name can be made known because the details of the assistance he’ll get when he decides to die will not be revealed here. Both men are terminally ill with cancer and both want to choose—without the interference of authorities—the time and circumstances of their death.

.... read more

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our New Executive Director

Donald Babey, President of the Board of Directors of Dying With Dignity Canada is pleased to announce the appointment of Wanda Morris as Executive Director. 

Wanda Morris is a Vancouver-area Chartered Accountant with over 20 years of business experience.  She has held senior financial roles in both the profit and not-for-profit sectors.  Ms Morris holds a Master of Arts Degree in Transforming Spirituality and is a member of the Canadian Association of Public Speakers.

Our members will be familiar with the name: For the past two years Ms Morris has served with distinction on the Board of Directors of DWD Canada, most recently as Vice-President and Chair of the Fundraising and Membership Committee. In recognition of our membership strength on the West Coast, she will continue to be based out of Vancouver but will travel to Toronto on a regular basis.  This is a part-time (50%) position.

Donald Babey says: “I am absolutely thrilled that Wanda has agreed to take on this role.  The organization acknowledged that we needed an Executive Director to move forward, and we wanted to ensure that we found the right person.  I feel that having Wanda in this role is an extremely positive step forward for Dying With Dignity Canada.”

Wanda kicked off her new role by presenting to the all-party parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care on Wednesday, November 9th.

Her presentation, and our complete submission, is available by email. If you would like a copy, or if you should like to contact Wanda, please email wmorris@dyingwithdignity.ca.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blog Submission from a Member

We welcome any members to write in and share your story or opinion with us. One member wrote the following piece, sparked by an earlier blog post "We've Still Got a Lot of Work to Do...

REVIEW OF "THE QUALITY OF DEATH" -  Economist Intelligence Unit
Commissioned by the LIEN FOUNDATION,  2010
By: John A. Thomson   MD  DPH

It was pleasing to note that the discussion of these subjects has reached an impressive level on a global basis - a discussion long overdue. The principal Canadian expert consultant was Sharon Baxter, Executive Director, Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association.

I have become accustomed to reading medical scientific papers, and the methodology employed in this EIU paper may not meet usual rigorous scientific standards in all respects, but given the limitations of sources available the results are still quite impressive. It is hoped that in Canada a more detailed presentation may eventually become available to guide those in need of help and those engaged in planning, investigations in a milieu where essential details for sources are forthcoming.

The vexing Hippocratic Oath so often quoted in the popular press is as usual not specifically identified, but no doubt its reference in the paper is to some more recent revision of the original oath. (Wikipedia explains).

There seemed to be a considerable bias in this paper in favour of government involvement in distributing services, but in Canada we find that comprehensive national medical care has obviously serious shortcomings and apparently will soon run out of funds. I agree with a later comment in the paper that the movement for hospice and palliative care needs to stay close to government essentially to change legislation or the administration of it to favour improved relief for problems of pain. At least we should be able to return to the patterns of patient care which existed prior to “The War on Drugs“.

The opioids question is attacked on page 28 quite well. In Canada deficiencies in this respect are almost as severe as in less fortunate countries. Some of my own experiences and those of friends with younger physicians indicate a considerable physician ignorance about opioids. To correct it we need to look carefully at universities to discover why this phase of teaching has become so reduced. Some debates become quite irascible, where one side may accuse others of being “junkies”, or the opposite side may consider their opponents as “sadistic monsters”. There are numerous references to various opioids in this paper, but it needs to be understood that some medical conditions are beyond the reach of opioids and require other techniques.

On page 13 for example, the fact that “in Canada hospitalisation is 100% funded by the state” is presented as if it would be an advantage rather than have the usual retardant effects we so frequently see. So that if we are looking for niche types of problems and solutions, I would expect answers to arise from the private sector first, then eventually be developed by the government when political decisions direct action.

In scientific medical papers it is now quite refreshing to note the addition of ethical considerations such as liens with or support by pharmaceutical firms or tendencies of some physicians to create iatrogenic diseases - quite blunt approaches to these issues compared to the past. More discussion about these patterns may have been perhaps added to the cultural issues section (2) or the economics of health care (3) insofar as the general health care industry is concerned - an expansion perhaps of Dr. Kevorkian’s original complaints about what is “good for business” or “bad for business”. 

*** Note: The opinions and views above are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, stance or mission of Dying With Dignity Canada, it's staff or volunteers.***

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Doctors and nurses launch campaign for right to help terminally ill to end their lives

Dr. Ann McPherson
Leading doctors who endorse assisted dying for the terminally ill will this week launch an unprecedented campaign to change the law on the right to die.

Healthcare Professionals for Change, a group of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, says it wants to challenge bodies such as the British Medical Association, which opposes any change in the law that would allow others to help terminally ill people to die.

The group is the first professional body of its kind to be set up with the explicit aim of changing the 1961 Suicide Act, which forbids such assistance.

The group will be chaired by Dr Ann McPherson, a GP and fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and of Green College, Oxford, who is dying of pancreatic cancer.

Read more....

Friday, October 1, 2010

What is human dignity?

The Quebec National Assembly hearings on Dying with Dignity have, of course, been met with the opposition of many people and groups, the latest one being the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (the nurses association). (See the Montreal Gazette for 28 September 2010.) The argument, as usual, pertains to palliative care.

In a news release, before its testimony, order president Gyslaine Desrosiers said the risks of legalizing medical means to ending life are very real.
"It would be premature to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide when there remains so much to do in the area of end-of-life care," Desrosiers said. "Protection of the dignity of people is a daily task.

"Euthanasia and assisted suicide are acts which must remain exceptional."

It is important to note that the idea that "protection of the dignity of people is a daily task" is taken directly out of the Roman Catholic moral play book. It neglects the most important question: What is human dignity? In what does human dignity consist?

The Roman Catholic Church holds that human dignity pertains merely to biological human life. Therefore, in Roman Catholic theology, the embryo has as much dignity as a woman who has lived, faced challenges, made decisions, developed a plan of life, has hopes, fears and aspirations, etc. ... Therefore, even if a woman's life is in danger, the Roman Catholic Church forbids abortion. It excommunicated the medical team and the mother of a 9 year old Brazilian girl who was raped by her step father, and made pregnant with twins, because they had participated in aborting the 9 year old's foetuses. It excommunicated a nun in the United States because she had permitted an abortion (at a Roman Catholic hospital) rather than let a woman die.

When we are talking about human dignity, it is important to bear in mind just what the Roman Catholic Church means by this term. It has nothing to do with individuality, with personal decision or the capacity for personal decision. It is simply a matter of biological human life. It is a brutally inane concept, deeply immoral, with tragically immoral consequences, and should be seen to be so. It should not govern our laws, and no one should be held hostage to it. If Roman Catholics want to vest dignity in the simple fact of biologically life, they are welcome to do it, but it should not be forced on anyone else.

Aside from this Gyslaine Desrosiers' argument is empty. Of course, we should make sure we have the best end-of-life care possible, but we know, too, that there will always be more that we can do. Suggesting that people should not be permitted to choose assistance in dying because our end-of-life care is not perfect is laughable. It never will be perfect, and even if it were, individuals should still have the right to choose.

The further claim made by Gyslaine Desrosiers that "the risks of legalizing medical means to ending life are very real" is simply false. It is one of those run-of-the-mill scare tactics that opponents of assisted dying always use. But there is absolutely no reason to believe it to be true. Certainly, the law must ensure that any law enabling assisted dying cannot be used for the purposes of murder, so there must be clarity about consent and the ability to consent; but is this not already required in cases where patients choose not to undergo treatment, or to have treatment withdrawn? Opponents will use every dirty trick in the book, and this is one of them.

The important questions are: What is human dignity? How can the dignity of persons be best preserved and enhanced? Is refusing to assist a person to die in a way and at a time of their own choosing compatible with respecting that person's dignity?

Monday, September 27, 2010

SOARS: An Interesting New Society

The picture is the banner on the homepage of a new British Society: SOARS. It stands for "Society for Old Age Rational Suicide." SOARS, founded in December 2009, states its purpose like this:

Presently, the main objective of SOARS is to begin a campaign to get the law eventually changed in the UK so that very elderly, mentally competent individuals, who are suffering unbearably from various health problems (although none of them is “terminal”) are allowed to receive a doctor’s assistance to die, if this is their persistent choice. Surely the decision to decide, at an advanced age, that enough is enough and, avoiding further suffering, to have a dignified death is the ultimate human right for a very elderly person.

Basically, what they are asking for, is what Dying With Dignity Canada stands for, a change in the law, so that those who have a good reason to die may receive assistance to do so. The first annual SOARS lecture was given this year by Baroness Mary Warnock on 17th September. Baroness Warnock has written, with Elisabeth Macdonald a very good introductory book on assisted dying entitled Easeful Death. You can access SOARS by clicking on this link: SOARS

The Banned Assisted Suicide Video

Is it illegal to post this video?

The Television Bureau of Canada has been nobbled by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Write to the Television Bureau of Canada to voice your complaint that the freedom of Canadians to debate the question of Physician Assisted-Dying is being denied. You can access the TVB here. Alex Schadenburg and Hugh Scher should not be able to stop Canadians from watching this TV ad.

In the Canadian Criminal Code -- the law that Dying With Dignity Canada wants to change -- citizens are forbidden to counsel suicide or to assist suicide. The law does not prohibit providing information about suicide. Nor does it prohibit arguing or campaigning for a change in the law. This is what this video does. It is not against the law. Complain to the TVB for interfering with freedom of speech, your freedom and mine to argue for a change in the law. Once again, the address for the Television Bureau of Canada. Tell them you disapprove of their decision to ban this ad.

Ad Campaign for Assisted Suicide Banned in Canada

Opponents of assisted suicide have successfully lobbied to ban from Canadian airwaves a TV commercial promoting the right to choose death, and now they're taking aim at the controversial messenger.

..Dr. Philip Nitschke, an Australian physician at the forefront of promoting doctor-assisted suicide in that country, planned an ad campaign in advance of presenting his “Safe Exit” workshops in Toronto, Vancouver and several U.S. cities next month.

The Television Bureau of Canada imposed the ban Friday, saying the spot, combined with Dr. Nitschke's open instruction on how to commit suicide, might break Canadian law.

Read more

Friday, September 24, 2010

Member Activism

We do so appreciate all of our members who lend their voice to the cause. The constant letters, phone calls and talks our members do on behalf of the movement and on behalf of the organization are brilliant.

Thanks to Susan Bracken, who made this video - among others - as just another step in her unending support.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We've still got a lot of work to do...

It seems Britain is the best place in the world to die. Canada sits tied with America in 9th place out of 40 countries, based on the results of the newly created Quality of Death Index, which ranks countries according to their provision of end-of-life care. It also shows the best places to die in Canada are Victoria, Edmonton and the Niagara region

Britain topped the index, prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, because it takes hospice and palliative care seriously: It has decided, as a matter of public policy, that the quality of death is as important as the quality of life.

There are four principal reasons for the mediocre showing:
  • End-of-life care is poorly coordinated
  • It is expensive and many services and drugs needed at the end of life are not covered
  • Patient-centred care is lacking - wishes of patients are not respected nearly enough
  • There is a shortage of policy leadership
André Picard from the Globe and Mail writes:
As the quality-of-death report notes, there are many taboos surrounding death that have hampered open discussion of end-of-life care. We have to move beyond the religious sentiment that holds life is sacrosanct, and ensure palliative care so that death is dignified. We also have to make the distinction between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, which relate to a tiny minority of deaths, and the broader concept of hospice/palliative care, which is a must for everyone with a terminal illness.
Patients should be able to expect, as an integral part of their health care, effective pain management, emotional and spiritual support, and comfort and care from compassionate and skillful people who are committed to honouring their dignity.

WE welcome your comments on this article. This news definitely deserves thoughtful, clear discussion.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Voice; July 2010 Issue

Below is a link to our July 2010 issue of The Voice

The focus of this issue is on our Annual General Meeting, held on June 05 in Toronto, with summaries of most presentations and questions asked. 

We were happy to have had almost 60 members attend our AGM - however, many more were not able to attend. For those who were not in attendance, we hope you find this summary full and inclusive of topics discussed at the three hour meeting. 

If you were among the members at the AGM, there is also new information for you in this 8 page issue: new Canadian cancer statistics, international news, new Canadian polls, book reviews and more.

If you would like to receive a paper hard-copy, please email us at info@dyingwithdignity.ca

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Choice Reads

Imperfect Endings: A Daughter's Tale of Life and Death; Zoe FitzGerald Carter      

After living with Parkinson's for 20 years, Carter's headstrong mother, Margaret, decides she wants to end her life - and have her three daughters by her side when she goes. It's a decision that leaves Carter, the youngest child, in distress.

Will her mother really go through with it? If so, how soon? Margaret, it turns out, has already contacted the Hemlock Society. Bookshelves loaded with literature about death and dying further attest to her convictions.

Bringing a provocative new perspective to the assisted suicide debate, Imperfect Endings is the uplifting true story of a woman determined to die on her own terms and the family who has to learn to let her go.  

Available for $20 through Dying With Dignity Canada. Contact us at 1. 800. 0495. 6156 or info@dyingwithdignity.ca

For more information on the Author or the book, see: www.zoefitzgeraldcarter.com

Friday, June 25, 2010

International News: Germany Clarifies Assisted-Dying Laws

In a landmark ruling that will make it easier for people to allow relatives and loved ones to die, Germany’s highest court ruled today that it is not a criminal offense to cut off life-sustaining treatment for a patient.
The verdict is likely to spur significant changes in the practice of assisted suicide and is certain to restart the debate over euthanasia and the right to die in Germany.

In its decision, the court clearly distinguished between “killing with the aim of terminating life” and an action, “which let a patient die with his or her own consent.”
The ruling strengthens the individual’s right to die with dignity, since terminating life-sustaining treatments will no longer be a crime if patients have declared their wishes.
Lawyer, Wolfgang Putz says: “It protects against abuse and it sets down clear boundaries. It helps the patients and it helps the doctors. It takes away at last the fear of punishment.”
In the case before the court, the woman, Erika Küllmer, was in a persistent vegetative state for five years after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in 2002. Although the woman had expressed the wish not to be kept alive under such circumstances, the management at her nursing home had refused to let her die.
Chairman of the German Doctors’ Association, Rudolf Henke says: “Before life-sustaining measures are stopped, legal regulations must determine what kind of action is required to reflect the will of the patient. The killing of people remains prohibited.”


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

TVO's The Agenda: Whose Death is it Anyway?

Two weeks ago, Dying With Dignity Canada was invited to a live debate on TVO's The Agenda. Part of a week long series on death and dying, the discussion, "Whose Death is it Anyway?" featured Sholom Glouberman, President of Patients’ Association of Canada; Eric MacDonald, Dying With Dignity Canada; Jose Pereira, Professor of Palliative Care at the University of Ottawa and Margaret Somerville, an ‘Ethicist’ with the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law.

The full, hour long episode can be watched here:

You can also see the episode page here for more information, and to read the live chat discussion that was had during the original airing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Study: Parents Weigh Hastening End for Dying Children

Watching a child suffer from a fatal illness is undoubtedly one of the greatest agonies a parent can face. Less discussed, however, are the lengths to which a parent may be willing to go to end such pain.

An intriguing new study led by doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston aimed to explore that question through a series of interviews conducted with 141 parents whose children had died of cancer.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Debbie Purdy: I suck the marrow out of life, I'm not ready to die

Damian Whitworth

From: The Times March 19, 2010

In a wallet on her kitchen table Debbie Purdy keeps the two pieces of plastic that will enable her to make her final journey. The Visa credit cards — one for her and one for her husband, Omar Puente — have a limit of £7,500. She has not spent a penny because she wants to keep them clear to pay for her death.

“We don’t carry them with us because it’s only for use . . .” She stops short of referring specifically to the trip that she plans to make to the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland. “We haven’t really talked about the cards but we both have copies because I am worried that he will need it to get home and stuff like that.”
We would not be having this conversation if Ms Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, had not won a landmark legal victory last year forcing the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to clarify the law on assisted suicide. “I would probably have been dead for six months at this point. It’s terrifying. I love being alive.”  .......read more....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A.C. Grayling on Diane Pretty's right to die

Well known for his impressive mane, Professor A.C. (Anthony Clifford) Grayling is a prominent English philosopher, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne's College, Oxford. He is a prolific author, publishing, last year alone, three or four books, amongst them the encyclopaedic book, Ideas that Matter: A Personal Guide to the 21st Century, which gives succinct, elegant, and thoughtful essays on many things of contemporary interest and concern, including assistance in dying (see under 'euthanasia'). He was closely involved with the legal team for Diane Pretty, a woman suffering from ALS (which is called motor neurone disease in the UK), who brought her case before the High Court in London, and also before the European Court of Human Rights in The Hague, arguing for her right to assistance in dying. While she lost her case, and the appeal to the ECHR, Diane Pretty, who sadly died as she feared that she would die, was, like Sue Rodriguez, a brave advocate for the right to die with dignity, and paved the way for many of the changes that are now taking place in England and Wales. Professor Grayling wrote a paper supporting Diane Pretty's right to assistance in dying, entitled "Diane Pretty - the case for her right to choose", and you can read it here, on Professor Grayling's web site.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why is Choice in Dying so Important?

As Canadians, we value the freedoms we have to make choices in our lives.

Whether it is the freedom to choose how to participate or celebrate spiritual beliefs, the freedom to participate in democratic elections, or the freedom to speak our minds without fear of reprisal enjoying these freedoms in life is our protected right. In fact, it is one of the reasons we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and value that so dearly.

But even though dying is something that every Canadian will face, unfortunately we do not have the same freedom of choice at the end of our lives.

Even with an Advance Directive (sometimes referred to as a “Living Will”) in place, or a designated substitute decision maker, there is no guarantee that your wishes will be respected. As an example, legalized aid-in-dying is an option that is not currently allowed in Canada, regardless if someone has specifically requested it.

As the “Boomer” generation swells our aging population and advances in healthcare are achieved that both prolong life and the dying process, there has never been a greater need to face these issues, learn about them, and talk about them openly.

We need change. And that change can only come when dialogue and information sharing is activated among elected officials, policy-makers, spiritual leaders, healthcare practitioners and advocates for choice.

Dying with Dignity is committed to ensuring that dialogue and debate on these critically important topics continues until our freedom choose our end of life options are as firmly entrenched as our freedom to choose to vote, to worship or to speak our minds.