MONTREAL, June 5, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, at home and at the bedside
of Dr. Frank Humphrey, a press conference emphasized the value of human
life. Mr. Humphrey is a quadriplegic suffering from the ravages of
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease). He is a
sixty-five-year old survivor who lives at home connected to a
He recently published a book on the origins of the universe.
During the press conference, two doctors were present. Dr. Paul Saba is
his family doctor and Co-President of the Coalition of Physicians for
Social Justice. Dr. Ron Olivenstein, Medical Director of the Montreal
Chest Hospital, has an in-depth experience with patients who fit the
profile of "ideal candidates" for euthanasia, such as those with
neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and
These doctors discussed the importance of making available appropriate
medical resources to ensure patients have an acceptable quality of life
for themselves and their family. According to Dr. Olivenstein, the vast
majority of patients express their concern of suffering rather than
dying. They want to live a quality life for as long as possible and
only then to die with as little pain as possible. If they are not
abandoned and deprived of resources necessary to provide quality life
during their final days, few will seek euthanasia.
Dr. Saba said that Dr. Humphrey's condition demonstrates the intrinsic
value of every life. Furthermore, his situation proves that more
patients can live their last days in dignity with proper care. Before
being connected to the ventilator, Dr. Humphrey clearly expressed his
position against euthanasia which he now communicates by simple facial
movements. He lives his last days at home surrounded by his family. For
him, every human being is of value and should never be terminated
intentionally. According to Dr. Humphrey, governments that pass laws
will promote them. In the case of euthanasia, there is a serious risk
that such a law would be promoted and increase the incidence of early
termination of patients suffering chronic illnesses. Dr. Saba
underlined the fact that the best guidelines governing euthanasia in
the Netherlands, Belgium and the state of Oregon in the U.S. has failed
to prevent medical errors on patient selection and consent, in
particular, with the psychiatric population.
Daria Humphrey, the wife of Dr. Humphrey, explained that there is a lack
of support for patients on respirators. Although she praises and
appreciates the expertise and support of the Montreal Chest Hospital,
the 17 hours per week of home care is insufficient.
In summary, Dr. Saba states that there is no reason to introduce
euthanasia legislation for very sick patients who do not want
aggressive medical care and/or who want to die. Currently all patients
have the right to refuse treatment, the right to discontinue care, the
right to refrain from specific care and the right to palliative care.
What is lacking is access to supportive medical and palliative care to
allow seriously ill patients to die with dignity and without pain.
Presently, only 20 percent of Quebeckers have access to palliative
care. What is required are resources to provide quality life and
dignity in the last days for these patients and their families.
SOURCE: Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice
For further information:
Dr. Paul Saba