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Paralyzed, terminally ill man had to sign assisted-dying papers in bus shelter

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An Edmonton woman says her terminally ill best friend, who had ALS and was effectively paralyzed, had to sign his assisted-dying request form in a bus shelter because Covenant Health would not allow it in St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital, where he had been a patient for five years.

And when the time finally came for 72-year-old Bob Hergott to receive his medically assisted death, Verna Young said it was “horrible for him.” She said he took a cab to the Royal Alexandra Hospital with a St. Joseph’s staff member and a woman from the ALS Society of Canada.

“He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t verbally scream or he would have,” Young said.

Hergott’s story is the second to emerge from a CBC News investigation into a Covenant Health policy on medical assistance in dying (MAID) that experts say is inhumane and infringes on patients’ rights.

Last week, CBC News revealed ALS patient Doreen Nowicki, 66, underwent her MAID assessment on the sidewalk in May 2017 after Covenant Health,  Alberta’s publicly funded Catholic health provider, abruptly revoked permission for her to have it by her palliative bed at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.

In response, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman released a statement saying Covenant had assured her that Nowicki’s ordeal was an isolated incident. Hoffman, however, has repeatedly refused to directly answer questions on the issue, saying she will provide more information after she meets with Nowicki’s family.

Covenant Health says facilitating medically assisted deaths is contrary to the faith that underpins its medical care. It won’t even allow patients to complete the form requesting the procedure, or undergo eligibility assessments, on its property, save for “exceptional” circumstances.

The provincial government has exempted Covenant from having to offer these services.

Covenant Health declined an interview request from CBC News about its treatment of Hergott. In an emailed statement, the health provider said Hergott, who was the first Covenant patient to request MAID, regularly left the St. Joseph’s site for medical appointments “and other social and volunteer activities.

“His care team and the Alberta Health Services navigator involved in his care determined he was able to have an off-site assessment safely in keeping with the Covenant Health policy,” the statement said.

Covenant also said it is reviewing the language in its policy “related to the use of the term ‘exceptional’ in identifying patients who may require onsite MAID assessments.

“The interpretation of that word may not have been what was intended in some cases and we are reviewing to ensure improved clarity going forward,” the statement said.

Couldn’t eat, could barely move

Young and Hergott were best friends and roommates for 25 years. Describing their relationship as “like brother and sister,” Young remembers Hergott as a thoughtful friend who had overcome a difficult past.

When he was diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 2009, Young became his caregiver, taking on the bulk of household chores.

Eventually, Hergott’s care needs grew too complex for her to fulfil alone. In June 2011, he became a patient at St. Joseph’s, a Covenant Health hospital in south Edmonton.

Young said the choice to move Hergott to a facility run by a Catholic health provider was not intentional.

The ALS Society of Canada “was desperate to find a residence for him,” she said. “They were all just filled up.”

Two or three times a week, Young would ride public transit 75 minutes each way to visit with Hergott. She watched his condition worsen.

Young says by the time Hergott requested an assisted death, he couldn’t speak or eat, and could only communicate through typing on a tablet with one finger. (Verna Young)

Young said every morning, hospital staff would use a lift to put him into a reclining motorized wheelchair. She said he would stay there all day because he didn’t want to bother the staff to put him back into his bed for a rest.

“And he couldn’t eat towards the end,” Young said. “He just sort of basically refused to eat because he was embarrassed that he couldn’t eat.”

Hergott’s wishes were clear: he wanted to die. Young said her friend was “so happy” when the federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in June 2016, but he soon learned that Covenant Health wouldn’t allow him to access any of those services in its hospital.

She said Hergott received a letter from Covenant Health that said “there would be no correspondence on their property, no correspondence of any kind and no people that were going to discuss anything about (MAID) in there.”

Young said she read the letter but she could not locate it for CBC News.

“He was really disappointed,” Young said, adding Hergott may have had the letter torn up. “He was so upset about it.”

Signed form in bus shelter

Covenant Health’s position meant Hergott could not even sign his form requesting a medically assisted death while he remained on the property.

Instead, he had to steer his motorized wheelchair off hospital property and across the street, where he met Young and her daughter, the two witnesses for his form.

“It was pouring rain and just a horrible day,” Young said. “And we waited in the bus shelter there because the car was parked further away.

“We went and did it in the bus shelter across the street from the [hospital],” she said. Young also said the experience clearly upset her friend.

Hergott also had to complete his MAID assessments off hospital property; Young went with him to every appointment. He was ultimately approved for a medically assisted death and the procedure was scheduled for Aug. 17, 2016.

Covenant Health’s refusal to allow patients like Hergott to access assisted-dying services on its property baffles Young.

“I don’t understand it,” she said.

If someone you know has had a similar experience, or you have information about this story, please contact us in confidence at cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca.

@jennierussell_

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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