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True Dignity is a grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide. Originally started in 2010 as True Dignity Vermont, our fight has extended beyond Vermont as assisted suicide advocates are pushing their agenda across the U.S. and other nations. Vulnerable people deserve true dignity and compassion at the end of life, not the abandonment of assisted suicide. Killing is not compassion and True Dignity will work to ensure our end-of-life choices respect the dignity of all.

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From a media release issued yesterday by the Alliance Defending Freedom:

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit in federal court in Burlington Tuesday against officials in the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation on behalf of health care professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.” The state agencies are construing Vermont’s assisted suicide law as requiring them, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option.

According to the agency, only physicians must refer patients to others who will counsel for assisted suicide; however, all of the health care professionals filing suit contend it is unethical for them to counsel for, refer for, or in any other way participate in suicide at the hands of medical personnel.

“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “These doctors and other health care workers deeply believe that suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves. The state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction.”

Although Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with limited protections for healthcare providers, state medical licensing authorities have construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include the option of assisted suicide. The Vermont Department of Health adopted this expansive reading.

The department’s FAQ page on Act 39 says the following: “Do doctors have to tell patients about this option? Under Act 39 and the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a patient has the right to be informed of all options for care and treatment in order to make a fully-informed choice. If a doctor is unwilling to inform a patient, he or she must make a referral or otherwise arrange for the patient to receive all relevant information.”

Echoing this position, Cindy Bruzzese, executive director of the Vermont Ethics Network, which the state has given authority to speak about the standard of care in Vermont, stated in a 2013 presentation on Act 39 that physicians have a duty to inform patients of the availability of assisted suicide.

“This is nothing but the redefinition of ‘palliative care’ to mean providing assisted suicide, an intolerable position for Plaintiffs and other conscientious physicians and healthcare professionals,” the complaint filed in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser states. “Plaintiffs, state and national associations of conscientious healthcare professionals whose personal and professional ethics oppose the practice of assisted suicide, bring this action on behalf of their members against the operation of Act 39 to force them to counsel and/or refer for the practice.”

Today, with very little notice, no public testimony, no public expert testimony, and almost no discussion in committee, the New York Assembly’s Health Committee voted 14-11 to report out an assisted suicide bill, A.10059, euphemistically entitled “Medical Aid in Dying Act”.

The bill was sent on the the Assembly’s Codes Committee. Please email every member of that committee. It doesn’t matter where you live. If this bill passes, it will be viewed by the proponents of assisted suicide as another domino’s falling, a big domino like California. Your voice can make the difference.

Here is the contact information for the Codes Committee members:

Thomas Abinanti: abinantit@assembly.state.ny.us
James Brennan: BrennanJ@assembly.state.ny.us
Vivian Cook: CookV@assembly.state.ny.us
Stephen Cymbrowitz: CymbroS@assembly.state.ny.us
Joseph Giglio: GiglioJ@assembly.state.ny.us
Al Graf: grafa@assembly.state.ny.us
Charles Lavine:LavineC@assembly.state.ny.us
Tom McEvitt:MckeviT@assembly.state.ny.us
Michael Montesano :MontesanoM@assembly.state.ny.us
WalterMosley:MosleyW@assembly.state.ny.us
Daniel O’Donnell:OdonnellD@assembly.state.ny.us
N. Nick Perry:PerryN@assembly.state.ny.us
J. Gary Pretlow:PretloJ@assembly.state.ny.us
Edward Ra:rae@assembly.state.ny.us
Robin Schimminger:SchimmR@assembly.state.ny.us
Claudia Tenney:enneyc@assembly.state.ny.us
Michele Titus:TitusM@assembly.state.ny.us
Helene Weinstein:WeinstH@assembly.state.ny.us
David Weprind:weprind@assembly.state.ny.us
Keith L. T. Wright:WrightK@assembly.state.ny.us
Kenneth Zebrowski:ZebrowskiK@assembly.state.ny.us

Rep. Al Baldasaro of the New Hampshire Legislature on May 11 gave an impassioned speech against a proposed “study committee” to look at “end of life choices.”  Speaking on behalf of Veterans’ PTSD/TBI Commission, he cited the fact that New Hampshire is facing an epidemic of suicides among Veterans, and said, “What message are you sending to the communityout there and all the good work every one of us has done to protect people from killing themselves? Now we want to make it easy?”

He said that opening the door to such a practice would have grave consequences for veterans at risk for suicide, and that even studying such a bill would threaten efforts to help veterans.   He clearly states that euphemisms such as “aid in dying” don’t change the fact that such laws promote suicide and threaten efforts to protect people from killing themselves.

 

 

News sources are reporting with surprise and seeming alarm on the Center for Disease Control’s newly released statistics showing that deaths by suicide in the entire US are on the rise.  Why the surprise?  It has been common knowledge since the rise of mass media, and even before, that advertising works.

True Dignity has neither the expertise nor the time to analyze the CDC report’s statistics  in detail.   A few quotes will suffice to paint the picture of our current situation.

“The suicide rate in the United States increased by 24% from 1999 through 2014…among all groups.  The increase in suicide rate has been steady since 1999, before which there was a consistent decline since 1986…”  (USA Today, April 22, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/04/22/suicide-rate-rise-us/83284568/).

The USA Today article speculates (which is all anybody can do) that the rise is linked to a poor economy.  We at True Dignity cannot fail to note that the rise began just as the economic boom of the 1990s was beginning to wind down, and continued through the fairly affluent 2000s, admittedly rising at a higher rate beginning in 2006, on the brink of the Great Recession (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm).

Though the economy may well have contributed to this rise, True Dignity calls everyone’s attention to a fact that is being ignored.  1998 was the year in which Oregon became the first state in the nation to put legalized assisted suicide into practice.  This happened after a furious and widely publicized public argument between pro-assisted suicide forces and those opposing it, an argument waged in the courts and eventually decided by the US Supreme Court, which allowed it in Oregon but declined to make it a right nationally.  1999 was the first year for which the state of Oregon issued its annual report on its assisted suicide deaths.  Ironically, this supposedly neutral government report called assisted suicide by the attractive name given to the law that made it legal: Death with Dignity.

The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/resource_media.pdf) has warned the media that 1) “Language that misinforms the public about suicide or normalizes it should be avoided”, and that the media should  2)“Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide.”  Yet, beginning in the period leading up to the implementation of the Oregon law and reaching a climax with Brittany Maynard’s picture on the cover of People, there has been relentless media promotion of suicide, relentless misinformation about laws that allow medical professionals to facilitate deaths of people who could have lived years and that contain virtually no protections against euthanasia or even murder of a person who, believing him or herself to be terminally ill, has obtained a lethal prescription.  We have detailed the ways in which the laws allow this to happen so many times that we won’t repeat ourselves here, only urge you to search our topic list.

Bottom line: Compassion and Choices has engaged in an ad campaign, both paid and freely given by the media, and it has been effective.  The only thing that should surprise us about the rise in suicide deaths is that it has not been even bigger.   We hope that the efforts of many individuals and groups, including ours, have, by calling suicide exactly what the World Health organization has urged the media to call it, “a public health problem”, contributed to that fact, the only silver lining to a terrible cloud hanging over our nation and the world.

Will we be able to hold the line? California has been the only US state to legalize assisted suicide since the Maynard campaign, but legalization is a threat in multiple states.  Canada’s highest court has ruled that assisted suicide is a right, and has ordered Parliament to write laws to regulate it.

On October 19, 2015, a NY civil court judge rejected a lawsuit brought by three people who want to be allowed to commit suicide with the help of doctors.  These people have illnesses that will probably kill them, but not necessarily within the six month period cited by Oregon, Washington, and Vermont laws as qualifying a patient for help with suicide.  One has ALS, with which physicist Stephen Hawking has been living for more than 40 years. Another has AIDS, which can be managed for many years.  The third, who has metastatic bladder cancer, may indeed be close to death, but we know that other people given terminal diagnoses by doctors have far outlived their prognoses .  Yesterday’s ruling maintains the patient protections afforded by NY’s current law, which makes it a crime to assist in a suicide.  The opinion holds that a patient’s civil rights are fully protected by his or her right to decline medical treatment.

Of course the proponents of assisted suicide have announced their intention to appeal.

While this ruling is very good news, two assisted suicide bills remain active in the NY legislature, and Compassion and Choice’s website makes it very clear that New York is the state where proponents of assisted suicide will concentrate their efforts this year.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/judge-rules-n-y-die-assisted-physician-article-1.2403502.

 

According to the New York Daily News, the Patients Rights Action Fund, a national group that has long opposed the legalization of assisted suicide, has a new president.  He is 34 year old ex-marine JJ Hanson, who worked for NY Democrat governors Eliot Spitzer and  David Patterson  as Director of Regional Affairs for the mid-Hudson Valley (http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/ex-political-aide-lead-fight-ny-assisted-suicide-article-1.2402442?cid=bitly).

In 2014, Hanson, who is married and has a young son, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same cancer Brittany Maynard had.  Unlike Maynard, he is fighting his cancer and also fighting to keep assisted suicide “from becoming the social norm”.

Though his work will be national, he has already begun to work against assisted suicide in New York, meeting with the bill’s sponsor and attending a forum sponsored by another state legislator.  There are currently two assisted suicide bills active in the New York legislature, and New York is a large and influential state that Compassion and Choices would love to add to its list of conquests.  Hanson will be a great asset in stopping that from happening.

A former supporter of assisted suicide, Hanson now believes it is bad for people with serious illness.  One reason he gives for this change of opinion, is that assisted suicide has the potential to hinder efforts to find cures by reducing the pool of patients available for clinical trials.

It took a third medical opinion and subsequent surgery, but Hanson, who was originally told by two doctors that he had only a short time to live, is now “managing” his disease.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if brain cancer went the way of AIDS, another disease that used to be considered fatal within a short time and can now be managed, if not cured.

True Dignity is overjoyed to have JJ Hanson on our side.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

 

 

 

 

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