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The number of medically-assisted deaths in Canada’s prisons a concern for some experts

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Canada has performed nine medically-assisted deaths among prisoners in the last seven years, more than any other country which tracks and records such data.

The number of federal prisoners requesting medically-assisted death (MAID) in Canada has also increased, with 27 asking for permission to die between June 2016, when the legislation came into effect, and March 31 this year, according to information provided by Correctional Services of Canada (CSC) following an Access to Information Act request.

Only three other countries — Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain — have publicly acknowledged one euthanasia death each for a prisoner. Two of them were performed in February this year, the other in 2022.

Jessica Shaw, an associate professor of social work at the University of Calgary who has been studying assisted death in prisons and submitted the access to information request, said she is worried about the lack of transparency in reporting cases and how decisions are made.

“Canada is the leading provider of assisted death for prisoners,” she said. “It would appear to me that there’s a very different process when it comes to people who are dying through assisted death in prison than it is for… the general population of Canada.”

According to the data, the number of inmates requesting MAID is up from five in 2018; however, the data is heavily redacted.

The document also shows that a third of all requests for MAID from prisoners are approved. The rate of approvals is also significantly lower than the 81 per cent approval rate in the general population. No other information was provided on the medical reasons for the MAID requests, and why requests were rejected .

“For privacy reasons, we are currently unable to provide a further breakdown of these numbers,” a spokesperson for Correctional Services Canada told CTV News in an emailed statement on April 26.

However, Shaw described the lack of details as “secretive in many ways.”

“We worry about what’s happening,( and) what’s not happening behind, behind bars and behind closed doors,” she added.

The lack of transparency also troubles Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada. Zinger says his agency has a mandate to investigate all deaths of federal prisoners.

However, MAID-related deaths are not included in these investigations, he said, despite multiple recommendations from his office to open access to information to allow investigators to review cases.

“For some extraordinary reason, Corrections (Services Canada) was able to get an exemption of that requirement,” said Zinger told CTV News. “We keep raising it (the matter). But we don’t have data and they don’t have the obligation to provide us with data. And that’s the problem.”

MENTAL ILLNESS and MAID IN PRISON

In 2020, Canada’s federal prisons housed an estimated 14,000 men and women, with a further 9,000 on parole. Studies show that a growing number of inmates are aged over 50, putting them at risk of cancer and other diseases which might qualify them for medically-assisted death.

In March next year, another concern looms for Zinger and Shaw, as the criteria for applying for MAID will likely expand to include mental illness as a sole reason for requesting assisted death.

Zinger says data from CSC indicates 75 per cent of those imprisoned federally have a current mental health diagnosis, while other studies show prison life itself can worsen mental health.

“If the provisions are extended to include mental illness, there could be a lot more people that become eligible,” Zinger said, calling for more transparency in discussing MAID among prisoners. ” I believe that Corrections (Services Canada) should be reporting it in an open way…..so that we can track it better and we can ensure that how it’s being provided is in sync with the legislation and human dignity.”

Canada is the only country in the world that has approved medically assisted death as a right for prisoners, with guidelines on how it is to be provided. Requests from inmates first go to a prison official who then decides if the prisoner can proceed with the application with two outside medical assessors. But, unlike applications involving the general public, prisoners cannot choose the assessor nor ask for a second opinion.

Shaw is concerned that some of the procedures, including having guards during MAID-related appointments, may pressure prisoners into a decision.

“We really need to attend to whether or not someone can adequately consent when they’re being watched by a prison guard, for example… or whether anyone has free choice when so many of their rights have been taken away,” she added.

Jessica Shaw, an associate professor of social work at the University of Calgary. (submitted by Jessica Shaw)

Shaw spent time in prisons interviewing inmates about assisted death prior to the pandemic for her research. She says some expressed fears about raising the issue of MAID, worried they would be labelled suicidal by prison staff, which they claimed would lead to them placed in solitary confinement for their own safety.

Her other concern is whether the guidelines, and training of assessors, will adequately assess whether inmates who request MAID are, in fact, attempting to escape prison life.

In a study she co-authored in 2021, Shaw spoke to one inmate, “James,” whose identity was protected as they were advocating for MAID as a way out of their life sentence.

“There’s over 400 dangerous offenders in Canada,” she says “James” told her. “So why not give us another option? Instead of having the taxpayers pay millions of dollars (for our prison time), why not just give us that option to go to sleep?.”

A study in 2015 from Belgium highlighted a similar ethical problem. Researchers reported on 17 requests for euthanasia made by long-term prisoners who were “motivated by the constant and unbearable psychological suffering of detention.” The study reported that all of the requests were eventually declined, with authors warning that it is important for people in detention see assisted death as an “exception to be used with great caution.”

“Prison itself may be a contributing factor to decisions about wanting to end your life, right? That’s a challenge,” said Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard society, a not-for-profit agency promoting what its website calls “humanity in justice.”

She says her society believes prisoners have a right to the same services as all Canadians, including MAID. However, she has concerns as to whether medical services offered to prisoners are equal to those outside of prison because they are constrained by security and cost issues.

“My concern is we should be very vigilant about making sure that people who have mental illnesses in prison are getting the assistance that they need,” she added.

Dr. Lilian Thorpe is one of the first MAID providers to speak publicly about offering assisted death for prisoners. She is a geriatric psychiatrist and a professor in the department of Community Health and Epidemiology and Psychiatry in Saskatoon.

One inmate she assisted was allowed out of prison early and admitted to a hospital facility, where he spent his final hours with family before getting a medically-assisted death.

“(They ) had a lot of contact with family, that’s what they wanted. They wanted out of prison. And, you know, they were bed bound and very sick. But they were able to die in the way that they wanted which is with the families there,” she told CTV News.

According to the access to information data Shaw obtained, of the eight cases of MAID listed at the time of her report, seven were performed outside of prisons.

Another inmate with advanced stage cancer was given MAID in prison. Dr. Thorpe, who was also the physician on this case, said it was the prisoner’s wish to die behind bars. “He did not want to be discharged because he had been in corrections basically all his adult life and he wanted to be with people that he knew and his closest supports are actually in that facility,” she said.

However, there are other experiences that worry Zinger. In one of the early cases of MAID, detailed in a federal report, one inmate was “shackled to the bed” with officers nearby as the procedure occurred. Zinger supports the idea that all palliative and MAID should be treated out in the community, as those who are ill and dying are of little risk to the public.

“The best way of dealing with this is to try to get people out earlier…where care can be provided in a better setting than inside of penitentiary or even in a hospital with correctional staff at the door,” he added.

Correctional Services of Canada told CTV News in an email that it “is responsive to the needs of offenders, including quality and compassionate palliative and end of life care.”

Shaw, meanwhile, intends to keep tracking MAID developments globally and asking questions of Canada’s processes in this emerging ethical discussion.

 

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Talkative Giants manager Bob Melvin ejected before first pitch at Colorado

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DENVER (AP) — San Francisco Giants manager Bob Melvin wasn’t around for the finish Sunday as his team defeated the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

He didn’t even make it to the start, for that matter.

In an unusual scene, Melvin was ejected before the first pitch after he and bench coach Ryan Christensen delivered the lineup card to home plate umpire Alex MacKay.

“I just talked too much,” Melvin said following the Giants’ 3-2 victory. “Umpiring’s a hard job, I’m aware of that, just probably said too much. I didn’t plan that, it wasn’t choreographed. I probably went too far.”

San Francisco was coming off a 4-3 loss to the Rockies on Saturday night and a 7-3 loss on Friday.

Moments after Melvin was tossed, Jorge Soler led off Sunday’s game for the Giants with a 478-foot homer to centre field, the longest in the majors this season.

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LSU cornerback Javien Toviano arrested on accusation of video voyeurism, authorities say

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU sophomore cornerback Javien Toviano surrendered to authorities Sunday on charges of video voyeurism, the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s office said.

Toviano, 19, of Arlington, Texas, is accused of recording himself having sex with a woman without her consent, according to an arrest warrant. The woman told detectives she found videos of the two on Toviano’s iPad that were recorded through a clock with a built-in camera placed near the bed, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.

The woman told detectives that Toviano had recorded them having sex in the past without her consent and she told him she did not want to be recorded.

Toviano, in an interview with detectives, admitted using a hidden camera to record the sexual encounters, the arrest warrant states.

Bond information was not immediately available. It was unknown if Toviano has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Toviano “has been suspended from all team activities, in accordance with departmental policies,” LSU said in a statement.

“We will not have further comment out of respect for the legal process,” the university said.

Toviano signed with LSU last year. He appeared in every game as a freshman and made three starts over the last five games. He finished his freshman season with 33 tackles and one pass breakup.

LSU begins preseason practice on Aug. 1, and Toviano was expected to compete for playing time at cornerback.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Beltré, Helton, Mauer and Leyland inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Adrian Beltré, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton were pegged as athletic phenoms from a young age and all three lived up to expectations with their induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were so sold on Beltré early on that they broke MLB rules to sign him before he turned 16.

Beltré reached the big leagues just after his 19th birthday and was quickly considered one of the best prospects in sports as a teenager.

In Beltré’s induction speech, he says he played for his first team at the age of 13 and was a second baseman because his dad told him that’s the position he should play.

After a teammate asked him to switch and play third base, Beltré obliged and the decision paid off.

Beltré played 21 years for the Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. He became a five-time Gold Glove winner and is the first third baseman with at least 450 home runs and 3,000 hits.

During his playing days, Beltré made it clear that he did not like anyone touching his head so of course, his teammates ignored the request and made a habit of touching his head anyways. At Sunday’s ceremony, fellow Hall of Famer David Ortiz continued the tradition by touching Beltré’s head prior to his speech.

“That never relaxes me,” Beltré said with a laugh. “(But) it was a little cute to go back to my playing days. …It’s just part of being in this fraternity. Even though I don’t love it, I don’t like it, but it felt like I’m open to people to be able to play around with me. I always like that.”

Mauer was a high school phenom in both football and baseball in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was named USA Today’s High School Player of the Year in football in 200 and baseball in 2001.

He was drafted by his hometown Twins with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 MLB Draft.

“It was truly an honor to be a (Minnesota Twin) and represent my hometown team,” Mauer said.

The future six-time All-Star catcher spent just three years in the minors before spending all 15 years of his big league career with the Twins.

Mauer finished his career with one Most Valuable Player award, three batting titles and is the only catcher in history with at least 2,000 hits, a .300 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage.

Mauer noted the emotion he felt seeing all the Minnesota fans throughout the weekend.

“It’s not easy to get to Cooperstown and especially with the events that have happened this last week,” he said. “But to see that many Twins fans out there, I just felt the love and I was just hoping that I could deliver the speech that I wrote down.”

Helton was also a football and baseball star and played both sports at the University of Tennessee.

Despite his dominance in both sports at an early age, Helton never felt comfortable in the spotlight or felt like a Hall of Famer.

“Those of you who know me know I’d be more comfortable doing anything other than standing up here talking about myself,” Helton said to open his speech. “I’m just a ball player and anyone in the media can attest to that fact.”

Helton’s claim to fame could have been that he was the quarterback at the University of Tennessee between future first-round draft picks Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning, but he was destined for bigger things on the baseball diamond.

After a knee injury in 1994 paved the way for Manning to become Tennessee’s quarterback, Helton shifted all of his focus to baseball where he was named the winner of the Dick Howser Award by the American Baseball Coaches Association and named Player of the Year by Baseball America.

Helton was selected by the Colorado Rockies with the No. 8 overall pick in the 1995 amateur draft and never left the Mile High City.

After becoming the starting first baseman in 1995, Helton finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and posted a .315 batting average with 25 home runs and 97 RBIs.

He went on to become one of just three players to record multiple seasons with 100-plus extra-base hits in his career and helped the Rockies reach the 2007 World Series.

While Helton began the weekend feeling out of place, the second Rockies Hall of Famer knows he is where he belongs now.

“Just standing back there waiting to go up onto the stage, the guys were so kind, but they all came by and offered me advice,” Helton said. “For me, that was the beginning of feeling that I belong. But we have a players-only dinner tonight and I’ll probably feel like I belong after that.”

Jim Leyland was elected by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee. He managed for 22 seasons, won three Manager of the Year awards, the 1997 World Series, had a 1,769-1,728 career record as a manager and was the manager of the U.S. Olympic team in 2017 when the Americans won their only World Baseball Classic.

Leyland made sure to acknowledge the importance of the fans to the game of baseball.

“No matter which Hall of Famer you’re here to support today, or which team you cheer for, your presence is always felt,” Leyland said. “On your feet in the ninth with the home team clinging to a one-run lead, turning on your television for the first game in the World Series and seeing 50,000 fans hoping and praying that this may be their year, or a little boy or girl getting their first autograph scurrying back to the stands to show mom and dad what they just did. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s you. That’s baseball. And this is the Hall of Fame.”

Beltré led this year’s class with 95.1% of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote in his first year on the ballot. Helton followed with 79.7% of the vote in his sixth year of eligibility and Mauer received 76.1% of the BBWAA vote in his first year.

Other players included on this year’s ballot who fell short of the 75% threshold were Billy Wagner (73.8%), Gary Sheffield (63.9%), Andruw Jones (61.6%), Carlos Beltrán (57.1%), Alex Rodriguez (34.8%), Manny Ramirez (32.5%), Chase Utley (28.8%), Omar Vizquel (17.7%), Bobby Abreu (14.8%), Jimmy Rollins (14.8%), Andy Pettitte (13.5%), Mark Buehrle (8.3%), Francisco Rodriguez (7.8%), Torii Hunter (7.3%), David Wright (6.2%), José Bautista (1.6%), Victor Martinez (1.6%), Bartolo Colon (1.3%), Matt Holliday (1%), Adrián González (0.8%), Brandon Phillips (0.3%), Jose Reyes (0%) and James Shields (0%).

Sheffield was on the ballot for the 10th time without reaching the 75% mark and is no longer eligible for BBWAA consideration. Bautista, Martinez, Colon, Holliday, González, Phillips, Reyes and Shields did not receive the minimum requirement of 5% of the vote and are also no longer eligible for BBWAA consideration.

Joe Castiglione and Gerry Fraley were also honored during Hall of Fame weekend. Castiglione has been the Boston Red Sox radio broadcaster for a record 42 seasons and received the Ford C. Frick Award. Fraley was posthumously honored with the BBWAA Career Excellence Award for his work as a writer. During his career, Fraley covered the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and worked as the national baseball writer for the Dallas Morning News.

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