Thursday, November 14, 2013

News Roundup for Me: Four pieces

News Roundup for me.

First, sorry about not posting last Friday; I was at a conference.

Part 1
Last weekend, I attended the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Meeting, held at the Renaissance Hotel attached to the Rogers centre.  It was a two day event, held over the Friday and Saturday, November 8-9.  I found it interesting to meet the different people who were involved in disability rights issues.  I networked like anything and now have a raft of emails to write, but that will happen.

I found it interesting that the focus of this group was not only on theoretical issues, but on the real-world effects that a pro-euthanasia position has on everything from attitudes to discrimination to medical care. 

By contrast, I found it interesting, the machinations about Quebec’s Bill 52: the Aid in Dying Bill.  This bill was analyzed by Amy Hasebrouck and Nic Steenhout who went through it in some detail.  When you look at the abuses already embedded in that Bill, coupled with the known abuses which have happened (sorry, DWD calls those known real world abuses, ‘myths’), it is a wonder that people can take this Bill seriously.

I know the people of disabilities who attended the conference found it worrisome and that’s an understatement.

I learned a great deal, networked and found some kindred spirits, so to speak.  I think if I can find a way to help out, I’ll be in good company.

Part 2
As the conference was happening on Saturday, there was a rally happening in Scarborough.  This rally was for awareness raising: two Scarborough hospitals have been merged.  In addition, they now have had their care cut because it has been duplicated.  However, this series of ‘rationalizations’ comes at a cost: the hospitals now have to find the savings and come in under budget or at budget.  If they do not, the hospital administrators are personally responsible for paying the difference out of their own pockets. (If I can ever find the document, I will post the text of it on this blog)

I do not now have the document in front of me but this is the point of what it said.  It is interesting that this should be happening after Kathleen Wynne has said that we ‘need to have a chat about end of life care’ – and I am paraphrasing that.  So if we also have a situation where hospitals have to save money – or else – and we have the situation where a person was denied care as in the Rasouli case, can we say that the thrust of any legislation on ‘end of life care’ would be toward euthanasia as treatment?  The latent effect would be silent cost savings.  According to what I learned at the convention over the weekend: only 15% of patients in end of life care can even get specialized palliative care in Canada, it seems clear that euthanasia is a substitute for palliative care.

So it is easy to see that we would have the same situation in Ontario.  This is even more worrying given that DWD has a push on to de-criminalize counsel to suicide.  This would have the impact of removing the charge of such counsel to suicide as a criminal act.  Let me say it again: if someone were to counsel suicide, that act would no longer be considered a criminal act.  The knock-on effect of this would be to make difficult the moral suasion of psychotherapists who were confronted with a suicidal client: would they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to agree to a client’s wish for suicide?  Would they then have to facilitate that suicide by providing support?

Fortunately this is a theoretical construct – for now.  Except that the idea was floated in the September 2013 DWD newsletter entitled A voice for choice, page 3.

Let me be crystal clear: despite DWD’s statements that there would be ‘safeguards’ for people who didn’t want physician assisted suicide, that organization is in concept proposing to weaken current laws against counsel to suicide under the guise of ‘autonomy for choice’ before physician assisted suicide is even a debate.  They are suggesting taking a current safeguard and weakening it for their own ends, regardless of that law’s universal applicability.

That suggests any safeguards they propose in any physician assisted suicide bill would be weakened over time as well, on the basis of ‘autonomy.’

Part 3
I attended a lecture last night (November 14, 2013) at the Toronto Public Library on the history of autism.  It was a very interesting lecture, delivered by a professor at U of T who specializes in biological history at Victoria College. 

The lecture was given as a series of what I call benchmarks.  Significant conceptual events and related books were shown by various years.  It started off with the initial description and diagnosis of autism in 1943 in the US; then a shift in attitude was shown by a book written in1967; then there was another book written in 1973; and finally it ended with a discussion of current concepts in autism.  I found it to be very interesting and given that there will be another such lecture at Runnymede Library in the end of November, I am planning on going to that.

After the lecture there was a lively discussion of various issues and people seemed interested and engaged.  It was interesting listening to people who were at the lecture, because everyone was  touched by someone in their lives who had autism.  So if you know someone who might be interested in going, please direct them to the Toronto Public Library, Runnymede Branch so they can get further details.

Part 4
I should perhaps have led with this but here goes: we acknowledged Remembrance Day 2013 on Monday.  I was unable to attend the ceremonies this year, but I watched from home on television.  I know it is not the same thing, but I did what I was able.

Kenneth Rhodes, Sgt, Royal Signals, served as a Territorial in the war and he was stationed in Leeds.  I understand from my late mother that he spent the war in logistics, procuring parts for H2S radar sets for anti-aircraft guns.  I have my father’s miniature medals:  1939-45 Star; George Medal; Defense Medal and the Efficient Service Medal.

My grandfather, his father – Harold Rhodes – served in World War I.   He was one of the early recipients of the Military Medal.  He was killed July 1, 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.  He died charging a German machine gun.

My grandfather’s brother had been killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

My mother’s father – my grandfather on that side of the family – was a Royal Marine.  Hubert Pierce joined the RM in 1914.  He was born in 1900.  He served in the trenches in France in the First World War.  Between the wars, my grandfather was stationed, variously, in Peking, Shanghai and in the Ascension Islands.  The Ascension Islanders were so taken with him apparently, he was given a donkey as a pet in his honour.  The animal caused no end of trouble when it got loose in the church when the Admiral was visiting…

During the Second World War, my grandfather was found to be older than he was thought to be and he was stationed as an anti-aircraft gunner on a packet steamer which made the run from Portsmouth England to Dakar Senegal.  I understand from my late mother he was also stationed on the HMS Formidable for a time, but I cannot confirm this.  It is also family legend that grandfather met Somerset Maugham, and the author was so taken with grandfather that grand-dad became a character in one of Maugham’s short stories.

To continue, I understand there was a bit of a fracas at the Remembrance Day commemorations at Old City Hall this year.  This is the story, according to the Toronto Star, so you may see for yourself.  There was a video posted of a veteran being arrested for repeatedly telling a police officer to fuck off.  Not good form.  I asked on the links to this story when it broke on facebook some simple questions: Where did this guy serve? What unit was he with? When did he serve? And what are his medals?  When I asked these simple questions, you should have seen the storm of controversy that arose.  A cursory search shows that there was a Yugoslav mission, but no other information on a well-referenced wiki site: keywords Canadian military history.  

I was called out.  That’s okay.  That still didn’t answer my questions though.  I was asked what’s your academic background?  I can’t now recall if I got any response when I pointed out that I had been reading military history for the past thirty or so years.  I undertook that study as a choice: I wanted to see if I could learn about my family’s military history to honour their memories.  I have had help: thank you Tom Stephenson, for doing the genealogical work on my – and my family’s – behalf.

And by the way, I will wear my Dad’s medals on the right side of my chest on Remembrance Day to honour my family’s service.  That’s a privilege, not a right.  I only do it on Remembrance Day, and I don’t wear casual clothes to do that with.  I have had a higher-up in CF listen to what I said just as I wrote it: he said that he had no problem with that.  And he saw the medals and asked me about them before I said anything.

A friend of mine, S/Sgt Arthur Pilcher, RCS, (Ret’d) told me that I had the privilege of doing this; the late Peter Worthington was in favour of people honouring family veterans in this fashion as well.  Personally, I would rather see a law changed to decriminalize this action rather than allowing other Canadians to kill each other and get away with it…

With fewer and fewer WWII veterans and Korean Veterans around, I do this to honour the memory.  It’s a privilege.  I can’t serve because of health issues.  But I can study, learn and respectfully ask questions when I meet veterans.  That’s why this video of the arrest was so distressing: the guy didn’t get the point and pushed himself forward in the worst way.


To all you who have served: thank you.  I will do my respectful best, as an amateur historian of some little knowledge to keep the honour of your memory and your stories alive.  It is truly the least I can do.

1 comment:

  1. Suicide is totally against my rather generic religious beliefs. I do have a DNR and a living will designating if I can't live and thrive under my own steam, then let me go but keep me comfortable.

    To think of a doctor SUGGESTING suicide imho is unthinkable. If a person WANTS to commit suicide, they will find a way to do it...pills and liquor, illegal drugs, etc. I don't think there are many people, who in the depths of depression haven't thought about it, but having (according to as I said, my rather generic religious beliefs) have to desire to spend eternity in hell. Yes, I believe in a higher power...He gives life, and He takes it away.

    No one else has that right...IMHO. To deny terminal patients pallative care; keeping them comfortable until nature takes its course is WRONG.

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