2 days prior to “a vote in principal” of Bill 52 at the Quebec National Assembly, the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice invited an Oregon physician, Dr Kenneth Stevens, who described how Oregon’s physician assisted suicide law had caused hundreds of physician assisted suicides over the past fifteen years. He also described how if the current Bill 52 on euthanasia is passed in Quebec, hundreds of Quebecers will die annually at the hands of doctors.
Dr Kenneth Stevens is a leading cancer specialist with more than 40 years’ experience. He is also a Professor Emeritus and a former Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Oregon Health & Sciences University, and Portland, Oregon. He has treated thousands of patients with cancer.
According to Oregon law, patients must be considered to have less than 6 months to live. Dr Stevens stated that the ability to diagnose and predict the survival of people at the “end of life” with months to years to live is inaccurate. Many patients who are considered “terminal” or “end of life” are not necessarily dying.
Dr Stevens described one patient in his 40’s who was diagnosed in 2004 with advanced cancer with 13 tumors in his liver and more than 70 tumors throughout his lung. The original biopsy showed “adenocarcinoma of the liver.” He was told that he would probably be dead in 6 weeks. After the bad news, he sold off many of his assets and bought his burial plot. When he realized that he was feeling well he sought second opinions. After consulting other pathologists he was finally told that the condition was “epithelioid hemangioendothelioma” which can be chronic and not fatal. Now 9 years later he is doing well and happy to be alive without any cancer treatments.
Dr Stevens described how hundreds of so-called “hopeless cases” with treatment can go on to survive many profitable years or be cured. Hospital administrators and doctors would have abandoned and not treated these people. Four other of his patients were discussed. One was a 30 year old woman with liver cancer which had metastasized to her chest and was told “she did not have long to live.” With combined radiation/chemotherapy she lived over 20 years with quality life. An 18 year old college man with glioblastoma multiforme (the most malignant brain cancer) was treated. He graduated from college, law school, passed the Oregon bar exam, married had 2 children, was elected to city council and survived over 20 years. Another 50 year old woman with advanced lymphoma, was bedridden and not able to stand or walk. She received radiation treatments with total resolution of her disease. All these patients were treated despite “poor prognosis” and other physicians questioning the reasonability of such “aggressive and futile treatment” for these very severe conditions.
According to Dr Stevens; other people are encouraged to give up on care because of the existence of the assisted suicide law. The message of the proponents of assisted suicide is that “doctors can do a better job of killing you than caring for you.”
Present at the conference and giving her testimony was a patient of Dr Stevens, Jeanette Hall. She was diagnosed in 2000 with lower bowel cancer and told that she had six months to a year to live. She considered chemotherapy and radiation therapy futile. She asked for assisted suicide as provided by the state of Oregon. Dr Stevens disagreed with her decision for assisted suicide and was able to convince her to undergo radiation and chemotherapy. She is now thrilled to be alive 13 years after undergoing cancer therapy and not killing herself with a lethal dose of barbiturates.
Dr. Stevens believes that people who are not dying are being lured into assisted suicide. They are misguided to believe that their medical condition is irreversible and discouraged to undergo any treatment that is “overaggressive and futile.” Dr Steven’s states that “overaggressive and futile therapy” is a relative term—and can only be defined in hindsight. If a patient undergoes therapy for a very severe condition and survives—such therapy is not overaggressive and futile because it was successful. People are being denied therapies that could prolong and save their lives. Dr Stevens also talked about how financial incentives in Oregon’s government health plan steers patients to suicide. In Oregon, the government insurance sets limits on cancer care. Dr. Stevens warned that if assisted suicide or euthanasia is legalized in Quebec, then the Quebec government health program could follow a similar pattern—that is limit coverage for cancer care and thus encourage euthanasia.
Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and co-president of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice explained how Québec’s proposed euthanasia law would encourage people, including young adults 18 and over with treatable conditions such as depression, chronic lung and heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia to agree to euthanasia and end their lives.
The Coalition’s position against euthanasia is supported by the World Medical Association representing nine million physicians.
For additional reference videos please visit the CoalitionYoutube channel