Updates to Right to Die Laws 4/30-5/2/2012

Georgia (USA) now legally prohibits Assistance in a suicide

May 2, 2012

On May 1, 2012 Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 1114 into law. The Bill was enacted hurriedly after the Supreme Court of Georgia struck down Georgia’s former statute on assistance in suicide as an unconstitutional infringement of the free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The verdict was given in a case brought by Final Exit Network.

Under the former law, it was perfectly legal for anyone to assist in a suicide so long as the act was kept private. Only if one publicly advertised an offer to assist in a suicide would the assistance in the suicide be a crime.

Under the bill signed into law Tuesday, any assistance in a suicide is a crime.  The new law defines “assisting” in a suicide as “the act of physically helping or physically providing the means” for another to commit suicide.

Although the law was held up to the lawmakers as one that would prohibit Final Exit Network from operating in Georgia, the leadership of Final Exit Network said they were pleased with the new definition of “assisting” and would not stop operating in Georgia.

Under its protocols, Final Exit Network volunteer “Exit Guides” do not provide the means for anyone to commit suicide. They provide information, education and emotional support, including a compassionate presence at the bedside during a self-deliverance, but they carefully do not provide “physical help” to the member in his or her death.

Administrative Court in Berlin lifts ban on assisted suicide

Monday, April 30, 2012

UPI reported this month that “….an administrative court in Berlin has given German doctors the power to use their own judgment in cases involving terminally ill patients who want to die”.

This decision ends the ban on assisted suicide by the Bundes Ärzte Kammer, i.e. the ban on providing patients with enough drugs to end their lives.
If a doctor is certain a dying patient wishes to end his or her life, a physician in Germany was already legally allowed to provide that patient with the means to commit suicide, but the BAK (German Physicians Organisation) had declared such behaviour as “unethical” and  not professional (un-ärztlich) .

Vaud Canton in Switzerland to vote on new step in Right to Die laws

Monday April 30, 2012

Following the initiative of 3 October 2009 launched by EXIT ADMD Suisse romande,  a vote will be held in the Canton of Vaud on 17 June 2012, hoping to change existing Swiss law in such a way that assistance for suicide will also be allowed in Socio-medical Establishments (so called SME’s), as it is in private homes.

The vote will be on:

Do you accept the initiative “Assisted suicide in SOCIO-MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENTS (SMEs)”?

The initiative requests that the Swiss Law on Public Health of 29 May 1985 be amended as follows:
–    The introduction of an Article 71(b) entitled “Assisted suicide in SMEs” with the following text: “SMEs in receipt of public subsidies must allow assistance for suicide to be provided in their establishments for any resident who makes a request to this effect to an association supporting the right to die with dignity or to the doctor responsible for his or her treatment, in accordance with Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code and Article 34(2) of the Constitution of the Canton of Vaud”
–    The amendment of Article 184(1)(a): introduction of a new Article 71(b)

The Position of the Action Committee

In its judgment of 3 November 2006, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court confirmed that every human being who is capable of forming his own opinion has the right, guaranteed under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to decide when and how he wishes to die. This right to decide results from the right to self-determination within the meaning given under Article 8(1) ECHR for as long as the individual concerned is capable of choosing freely and acting in accordance with his wishes.

A room in an SME (Socio-Medical Establishment) provides the resident with a private place where he may freely exercise his right and make his choice.

Our initiative seeks to guarantee the right to self-determination without restriction for SME residents, who may request assisted suicide in an informed manner. A resident may be very frail physically, but he should not necessarily be presumed to have lost the ability to form his own opinion solely on the grounds that he requests suicide. His individual rights may not be limited simply because he is living in an SME and the nursing staff consider that a request which does not comply with the values they uphold is invalid. Problems of neutrality and objectivity arise where nursing staff assess a request.

The counter-proposal which we reject is a path favouring palliative care and medical paternalism. It puts the patient under institutional protection.

We hope that our senior citizens living in SMEs will be able to express their views, and chose and act as if they were still at home.

This document represents the personal opinions of its authors.

(articles from The World Federation of Right to Die Societies)

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