bullet PREVIEW Includes New Books by Wesley J. Smith

I. Death by "choking" is a myth for Lou Gehrig's disease

II. Kevorkian's 27th victim "was in no danger of an early death from multiple sclerosis" rules medical examiner

bullet Death by "choking" is a myth for Lou Gehrig's disease

Dr. Cicely Saunders, of St. Christophers, in London England, is the founder of the modern palliative care movement. Physicians from many parts of the globe come to St. Christophers to learn more about her hospice and palliative programs which span nearly 3 decades of service. Moreover, having cared for nearly 300 patients with ALS and having written authoritative articles on ALS (see below) would naturally qualify her as being an expert. Dr. Saunders told Cheryl Eckstein on the phone "... I can only repeat...that out of nearly 300 patients we have seen now, we have not had a distressing death that could be referred to as "strangles or suffocates." Adequate sedation can be given for a respiratory death, which is what is most likely, and this is very rarely an acute episode of say a few minutes but rather a quiet letting go of life over a day or two. We may need to give drugs, but that is perfectly possible and is, of course, described in our article."

Later Dr. Saunders wrote Eckstein included comments from our phone call and also express that "doctors should have no difficulty in enabling... [ALS patients] to die peacefully without having to help ... [them] kill [them]self." [Saunders, Dame Cicely, O.M., D.B.E., F.R.C.P. Chairman: St. Christophers Hospice, London England, personal letter to president of CHN, Mrs. Cheryl Eckstein, March 11, 1992; CHN FACTS-BRIEF April/May 94, Issue No. 7, page 4]

Cicely Saunders referred to several documented studies on ALS [or Lou Gehrig's Disease]. Notably, "Not one ALS patient has choked to death." - "The term choking is both inaccurate and inappropriate in describing the cause of death in motor neurone disease (ALS) and its use should be abandoned" [British Medical Journal, 22.11.92: Vol.304: 471] {see also, CHN FACTS-BRIEF, Jan.1993:2; CHN FACTS-BRIEF April/May 94, Issue No. 7, page 4]


bulletKevorkian's 27th victim "was in no danger of an early death from multiple sclerosis" rules medical examiner

L.J. Dragovic, Oakland County Medical Examiner, said on Tuesday that the "woman who died in assisted-suicide activist Jack Kevorkian's latest case was in no danger of an early death from multiple sclerosis." The medical official also said that Linda Hensless's "heart and lungs were like the ones of a teenage person." Hensless's death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning and has been ruled by Oakland County Medical Examiner as a homicide.

Dragovic said Henslee "showed signs of incontinence and had one bed sore on her back, but otherwise was in good condition for a woman of her age with the disease" and that her life was not "in jeopardy for many, many months -- years probably," he said. Kevorkian's lawyer, Geoffry Fieger had not been reached by press time for comment.

Dragovic disputed with Fieger over the condition of one of Kevorkian's assisted suicides cases that occurred last November. Fieger insisted that Patricia Cashman had cancer throughout her body. "But Dragovic said he only found evidence of microscopic cancer in her bones, which was not yet terminal."

Patricia McDonald, executive director of the Michigan Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, "took issue Tuesday with Fieger's characterization Monday that the disease is a fatal one." McDonald said, "I am very frustrated by the message that Mr. Fieger sends when he is talking about a non-terminal disease, essentially." McDonald stated that "less than one percent of the estimated 350,000 people who have the disease in the United States die from it. Fewer than 10 percent die from complications of multiple sclerosis, which attacks the central nervous system...." At a news conference Monday, "Fieger defended his position, citing his own cousin who had died of multiple sclerosis." [REUTER, January 30, 1996]

Wesley J. Smith, a California author, consumer advocate and attorney who has debated Fieger on CNN and other forums warned "Fieger often exaggerates the suffering that ill people may experience in order to promote his agenda particularly people who suffer from Lou Gehrig's disease. Fieger is fond of saying 'they choke on their own spit.'" Smith says, "This simply isn't true if the patient receives proper care. Fieger's advocacy does a terrible disservice to medical patients and their families. I just wish the media would take the time to expose his misinformation." [Interview with Wesley J. Smith, January 31, 1996, C. Eckstein, CHN]

bulletRecent Books by Wesley J. Smith

Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America by Wesley J. Smith

Hardcover - 250 pages (February 2001) Encounter Books; ISBN 1893554066

Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder by Wesley J. Smith

 Hardcover - (May 1997) 304 pages

You can order these and other books by Wesley J. Smith online at:, Wesley J./107-0298254-0427701

CHN DIGEST ONLINE  VOLUME I No. 5 Feb. 2, 1996,The CHN DIGEST ONLINE is researched and edited by Cheryl Eckstein, president of CHN and is copyright © of the Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN).



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