Thaddeus Baklinski

Euthanasia is inevitable, time to move on: Canadian Medical Association Journal article

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski

OTTAWA, April 10, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada is “obsolete” and the deadly practices are inevitable, so it’s time to move on, argues a commentary this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“Physician-assisted death is going to become legal in Canada in the very near future by one means or another and crucial questions need to be answered,” wrote Dr. James Downar, an assistant professor in the division of critical care and palliative care medicine at the University of Toronto, in a piece titled, "Physician-assisted death: time to move beyond Yes or No." 

Downar argues that the debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide has become irrelevant and that physicians could soon be left in a legal vacuum if the Supreme Court of Canada rules later this year that laws banning doctor-assisted suicide violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case before the high court is an appeal of the recent British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling in Carter v. Canada that upheld the nation’s ban on assisted suicide.

The case was launched by the family of Kay Carter, who died by assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2010. The family claims Carter was denied the "right" to die with dignity in Canada and her family was forced to break the law by assisting her travel to Switzerland for suicide. The BC Civil Liberties Association represented the Carters.

Downar said Canada could end up in a similar position on euthanasia as it has been on abortion since the 1988 Morgentaler ruling.

“Abortion was never legalized by statute in Canada — the laws limiting it or restricting it were simply struck down,” Downar stated. “That left physicians in a legal vacuum. Physicians were left scrambling to come up with rules, policies and guidelines to follow.”

“There is a very distinct possibility that could happen” with physician-assisted death, Downar wrote.

Downar also noted that legalizing doctor-assisted killing may come about by legislation, citing the assisted suicide private member’s bill recently introduced by Manitoba Conservative MP Steven Fletcher.

“Through either route, physician assisted-death may become legal in Canada, and our well-rehearsed debates about whether sanctity of life is more valuable than personal autonomy or whether people can experience intolerable suffering despite receiving optimal palliative care may become obsolete,” Dr. Downar wrote in the CMAJ.

However, the Canadian Medical Association, which has no editorial control over the opinions expressed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, was quick to state that Dr. Downar put “the cart well before the horse” by focusing his commentary on doctor-assisted death over better access to palliative care.

In a letter to the CMAJ editor, CMA President Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti said that while Downar's commentary presents "a very detailed examination of many of the issues involved in our growing national examination of how Canadians expect to manage their care at the end-of-life they unfortunately get the cart well before the horse by focusing solely on physician-assisted death.”

"Addressing the dire need for improved access to palliative care services … and Canada's lack of a national pain strategy would be much better places to start," Francescutti wrote.

Dr. Francescutti noted that "contrary to the author's assertion" there is little support for doctor-assisted death among Canadian physicians, as shown  by the vote at the CMA annual general meeting last August where delegates made it clear the doctors' association will not change its formal position against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Dr. Francescutti added that the CMA is gathering input from Canadians online and is holding public town-hall meetings on end-of-life care to sound out society's position on the issue.

"While physicians may indeed need to be prepared for the challenges of physician-assisted death, we are hearing from Canadians that there is an even greater need for our society to ensure we provide high quality palliative care to everyone who would need it as well as a better understanding among the public about advance care directives," Dr. Francescutti wrote.

In his commentary, Dr. Downar argued that data from other jurisdictions where doctor-assisted death is legal show that vulnerable groups, including the institutionalized, “are actually less likely than non-vulnerable groups to receive assisted death.”

However, Alex Schadenberg, president of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, points out that abuses that contravene the law and put vulnerable people at risk are rampant in countries with legal assisted death.

"In Belgium, where euthanasia was legalized in 2002, studies published in the CMAJ and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) indicate that as many as 32% of the assisted deaths are done without request and many of the assisted deaths are not reported," Schadenberg said.

"In January, Belgian euthanasia doctor, Marc Cosyns admitted that he does not report the euthanasia deaths that he does, even though reporting is a requirement of the euthanasia law. Recently Belgium extended euthanasia to children," he said. "The former leader of the euthanasia lobby in the Netherlands stated in January that the Netherlands euthanasia law has derailed and doctor-assisted death is out of control."

"The fact is that legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is lethal and not safe," Schadenberg concluded.


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African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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