Introduction

Webcast archive: Strong commentary in Quebec press

This week, we discuss a column in the Journal de Montreal, two serial killer doctors, and new developments at the American Medical Association.

Webcast archive: Strong commentary in Quebec press

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck, Christian Debray, and Taylor Hyatt discuss:

  • A strong commentary in the Québec press
  • News briefs:
    • German nurse and American doctor accused of serial killings
    • The American Medical Association reaffirms opposition to assisted suicide

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.

A STRONG COMMENTARY IN THE QUÉBEC PRESS

  • We’ve often spoken about the pro-euthanasia bias in the mainstream press, especially in Québec. But on Monday, June 10, the Journal de Montréal published an article by columnist Lise Ravary about a disturbing proposal from Dutch politician Corrine Ellemeet, a member of the GreenLeft party.  In February, Ellemeet encouraged doctors to think twice before providing certain medical treatments to people over 70, such as hip replacements or kidney dialysis. The plan was reportedly inspired by some doctors’ tendencies to approve intensive treatment that offered no improvement in quality of life.
  • In her article, Lise Ravary suggests that “medical down-sizing” (“reducing health care for the elderly, helping the planet and saving money at the same time”) has become a “fad among radical ecologists.” Ms. Ravary notes that, even though people with depression or addictions can be euthanized in the Netherlands, and Belgian authorities “admit to losing control” of their euthanasia program, other countries still look to these societies as models and trailblazers.
  • In 2013, Ms. Ravary interviewed Veronique Hivon, the politician who sponsored Bill 52 in Québec’s National Assembly. At the time, Ms. Hivon stated that the “end of life” restriction would “protect us from any slippage.” Yet the Québec government was already considering the possibility of advance requests for euthanasia as early as 2012 and 2013. Advance euthanasia requests are usually intended for people with dementia, who will lose the capacity to consent at the time of the lethal injection.
  • Since one of the first clauses in Bill 52 refers to “the primacy of freely and clearly expressed wishes with respect to care,” Ms. Ravary cautions against adding this kind of provision on the “back of an envelope.”
    • She quotes a Dutch doctor who finds the practice of euthanizing incompetent people “intolerable.” “’You have to kill someone who does not understand what is happening’, who doesn’t remember signing the paper a long time ago, and who isn’t necessarily unhappy?”
    • The author also questions the social factors that influence the decision to die, including: medical professionals’ fear of causing addictions with powerful pain medication, poor pain management as a result of that fear, the neglect and inhumane conditions in nursing homes, and the desire not to burden loved ones.
  • When times get tough, disadvantaged people (elders and children, poor and disabled people, and racial minorities) become the scapegoats for society’s problems.  We are described as “useless,” “scroungers,” and “a waste of resources” in societies that value people for their productivity.
  • Climate change is starting to put real pressure on the developed world, and as usual, disabled people are severely affected, and the response often puts disabled people at a disadvantage.  For example, disability advocates have spoken out against bans on drinking straws designed to cut down on the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and oceans. They point out that, while plastic straws may contribute a small amount to the problem, banning them would require disabled people to plan ahead (by carrying their own straws) in a way non-disabled people don’t have to, or be unable to drink, resulting in a “failure in equity.”
  • While taking action to ensure everyone gets good health care and to reduce the negative impact of human activity on the planet, we have to place the responsibility and accountability on the powerful interests which have caused, and continue to benefit from, the consequences of runaway consumerism.

NEWS BRIEF: FORMER GERMAN NURSE AND AMERICAN DOCTOR ACCUSED OF SERIAL KILLINGS

  • Former German nurse Niels Hoegel, already serving a life sentence in the deaths of two people in his care, was convicted of the murder of 85 more people on June 6, 2019. During his trial, Hoegel admitted to injecting people with drugs to stop their hearts, then attempting to resuscitate them.
  • Reports suggest Hoegel was bored and wanted a challenge, that he enjoyed the “game” of causing cardiac arrests, bringing people back to life, and then being praised for his skill.
  • Court-appointed psychiatrist Konstantin Karyofilis said Hoegel wanted to “earn the respect of his colleagues” but eventually “stopped seeing his patients as people.”
  • Closer to home, William Husel, a doctor in Columbus, Ohio, faces 25 murder charges following an investigation by the County prosecutor. He reportedly prescribed “excessive and potentially fatal doses of opioids,” including fentanyl, for people in the intensive care units of the hospitals where he worked. The state medical board suspended Husel’s medical license in January.
  • Though Husel’s attorney claims he did not intend “to euthanize anyone,” prosecutor Ron O’Brien said the high doses of medication “could not support any legitimate medical purpose,” because the people who received them were not alert or able to feel pain.
  • Officials are also concerned about the failure of safeguards that lead to the deaths. Electronic red flags designed to point out “questionable” orders should have alerted pharmacists and nurses to the high doses ordered by the doctor. Lawyers for the victims’ families are still trying to find out what went wrong.

NEWS BRIEF: THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION REAFFIRMS OPPOSITION TO ASSISTED SUICIDE

  • Delegates at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association voted on Monday to reaffirm the AMA’s opposition to physician assisted suicide. LifeSite News reported that delegates endorsed the current policy by a margin of 392 to 162.  The policy states: “Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
  • The vote comes after years of lobbying by euthanasia proponents encouraging the AMA to take a neutral position on assisted suicide.  The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs chose to use the phrase “physician assisted suicide” because it “describes the practice with the greatest precision.”