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Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof

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Nova Scotia’s only Catholic hospital is at risk of being found in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation by refusing to provide medical assistance in dying, a Halifax law professor says.

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., is a publicly funded health-care facility. But due to its religious ties, staff are not permitted to provide MAID.

Dalhousie law professor Jocelyn Downie says the hospital’s refusal to provide medical assistance in dying — and the Health Department’s and Nova Scotia Health Authority’s implicit support of that policy — would not stand up to a court challenge.

It also puts vulnerable patients at risk of even greater suffering or losing capacity to consent to MAID if they are forced to be transferred to another location, she said.

“I just think it’s indefensible to have a publicly funded institution have a faith-based filter on the services that are available,” said Downie, who is also an Order of Canada recipient.

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S. (CBC)

The hospital was run by the Sisters of St. Martha until 1996, when the Eastern Regional Health Board took over. When that happened, the sisters, the board and the Health Department signed an agreement to ensure the hospital’s Catholic identity and values would be preserved.

That mission assurance agreement expressly forbids “assisting suicide” as well as abortion.

Dr. Mark Taylor, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s acting vice-president of medicine, said even assessments for MAID — used to determine whether a patient is eligible — are not permitted at St. Martha’s, although exceptions have been made.

Taylor said patients requesting MAID can receive the service at home or be transferred to another hospital.

Dalhousie law professor Jocelyn Downie says patients should have the option to receive medical assistance in dying at St. Martha’s hospital. (Courtesy Jocelyn Downie)

“The difficulty arises when patients are frail and they can’t be transferred,” he said. “That can potentially lead to significant issues.”

Taylor said he has only heard of one case in which a St. Martha’s patient was transferred, and “everything worked out well.”

But Downie said MAID should be provided at St. Martha’s, at least for patients who cannot be transferred.

She said the province could simply pass legislation requiring the hospital to offer MAID, or the Nova Scotia Health Authority could choose not to renew the mission assurance agreement.

But Downie said her preferred solution would be to have MAID provided at St. Martha’s unless a patient can be moved to another location without extra suffering or endangering their capacity to consent.

“Let’s have the solution that enables us to respect as many people’s beliefs and values while not sacrificing access to MAID,” Downie said.

‘Just a matter of time’

The CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, a charity that supports end-of-life rights, said the problem is far from unique to St. Martha’s, as there are many religious hospitals and hospices across the country that refuse to provide MAID.

“It’s a mess in terms of people’s access,” said Shanaaz Gokool. “It is just a matter of time before a case comes to court.”

In other parts of Canada, residents have been forced to have their MAID assessment or sign papers on the sidewalk or in a bus shelter outside the hospital.

Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, believes it’s only a matter of time before there’s a court challenge to bans on assisted dying. (CBC)

Gokool said that’s not acceptable.

“Is that really how we treat the most vulnerable people in our country at the time of their greatest need — to put them out on the street?”

Dying with Dignity Canada is exploring all political and legal solutions to the problem, Gokool said.

MAID policy coming soon

Although Canada’s federal legislation on MAID came into effect two and a half years ago, Nova Scotia still does not have a MAID policy. Taylor said it’s in the final stages of authorization and should be finalized in about a month.

While Taylor would not speak about the details of that policy, he said he hopes it will resolve the issue of access to MAID at St. Martha’s.

“It’s our job to ensure that appropriate health-care services are available to the entire population,” he said. “That’s what we have to take into consideration as we develop the policy.”

Taylor said as far as he knows, the NSHA is not considering lifting the restriction on abortion at St. Martha’s.

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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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