Assisted Death Debate – News from April 2012

End-of-Life discussions about Assisted Dying/Suicide/Euthanasia in news articles, blogs, videos from the left, right and center during the month of April 2012. This is a place to find out what’s being talked about around the world as we sort out this highly emotional and controversial issue.

Become informed, open your mind,  join in the discussions. Our leaders need to know what people are thinking and we need to know what our leaders are considering in terms of laws. These are conversations we all need to have!

 

Blogs

Choosing DeathThis story deals with a hotly debated issue, sometimes referred to as Death with Dignity, Physician Assisted Death, or Euthanasia.  The patient depicted is a composite, and all identifying facts have been altered to protect patients’ privacy, and to avoid the possibility that this story be wrongly construed to refer to any specific person, living or dead.   The subject matter in this post is graphic.  I have not sugar-coated the information.  If you do not want to feel uncomfortable, if you don’t care to read about uncomfortable truths, please don’t read this article. Lastly, it’s important to know that each state has its own laws in regard to the subject matter being discussed.  It’s important to check with your state of residence to find out about current laws in effect in your area. (more)

Physician Assisted Suicide-Once again conservatives argue for government control of private livesA person who believes that government should not interfere with the private lives of its citizens would seem to be the strongest advocate of legally allowing this practice. (more)

A Few Things to Ponder regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicideWhat liberty or autonomy is being enjoyed when a person is deprived of the one thing that makes it possible to enjoy liberty and autonomy – his or her life? (more)

The EXIT Euthanasia BlogLight the paths for self-deliverance… Enable choose at the end of life (more)

UNITED STATES

Arizona

Assisted suicide in Switzerland unethical by Natasha Reeves (Northern Arizona News 4/9/12) – Can you make a good living off of killing someone else? Assisted suicides have been legal in Switzerland for 70 years, even foreigners can get non-doctor suicide help. Two groups that offer assisted suicide in Switzerland are Dignitas and Ex International. These two organizations will rarely assist those with mental health issues and they usually help the elderly or severely ill. Women commit suicide in Switzerland more than men and 560 people died by assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2011. Of the 560 people, 164 of them were foreigners. There is an ethical problem with these services along with the problem of numerous foreigners who go to Switzerland solely for the assisted suicide.
The legalization of assisted suicide attracts a certain type of tourism to Switzerland. Allowing foreigners to take part in suicide can in a way step on other countries toes as it is illegal in many parts of the world. Allowing foreigners to take part in this activity will create an influx of people that want to take advantage of this system for their own gain.
Allowing assisted suicide in general is dangerous. It can set a standard that governments can decide who should be terminated when they are no longer useful or a burden to the state. For example, Dutch doctors in the Netherlands originally only killed the terminally ill, and then it moved on to “assisting” the disabled and assisting the depressed or mentally unstable. Soon the termination of dying and disabled babies will be legal for the Dutch. This could mean in time doctors will decide if your life is worth living or not, or if your disabled or a burden to the health care system. Doctors deciding a patient’s fate may seem far fetched but it is a possibility that needs to be considered. Doctors take an oath to preserve human life when they begin practicing. How can Dutch doctors justify assisted suicide of any kind when they take that oath?
“Mercy Killings” comes from good intentions yet there are so many ways this system can become corrupt. Greed and financial gain can become tangled in this system. What if a person with money is sick and the family decides to have them put down so they can take “better” care of their assets?
Assisted suicide is ethically wrong because it reduces an individual to a number. These organizations take people’s lives away just because they are sick or because they simply do not want to live anymore. Dignitas and Ex International will not help those who are mentally unstable but the Dutch doctors will assist the depressed. This is wrong considering these mentally unstable people could get help and live to see happier days. The thought of helping another person kill themselves is immoral.
Assisted suicide can help the elderly or terminally ill; However, the system is far too risky. Assisted suicide can easily get out of hand and it interferes with others laws and morals.

Hawaii

Hawaii Doctors Form Aid in Dying Advisory Council (Honolulu Civil Beat 4/3/12) – To help doctors, Miller has helped form a new group called the Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying, or PACAID. The four-member council will help doctors “empower” their terminally ill patients, including prescribing lethal barbiturates.
PACAID is likely to have an impact locally on the socio-political debate over aid in dying.
So-called Death With Dignity legislation has met with strong opposition from churches, some social-service agencies and end-of-life care providers at the Hawaii Legislature, and lawmakers have repeatedly heeded their concerns.
But PACAID’s establishment also comes in the wake of a January survey by QMark Research of Hawaii that found 76 percent of doctors agree that “people in the final stages of a terminal disease should have the right and the choice to bring about their peaceful death.”
Equally important, say supporters of the aid-in-dying movement, is a growing belief that the courts and state and federal governments do not have to be involved.
(more)

Kansas

Lawrence group wants to legalize physician-assisted death in Kansas by Karrey Britt (4/14/12) – Physician-assisted death is legal in only three states: Oregon, Washington and Montana. A Lawrence group would like Kansas added to the list.
“I think people should have the option to decide when they are going to die,” said Helen Gilles, 89, a retired Lawrence pediatrician. “When you have lived as long as I have, you realize there are people who want to die, and I think they should be allowed to.”
In March, The Kaw Valley Older Women’s League hosted a program “Life and Death Decision — Who Decides?” The program focused on the three main choices that people have when it comes to end-of-life care. They are:
• Preserving life at all cost.
• Maintaining quality of life but letting the dying process take its course, so you don’t opt to slow down or speed up the process.
• To pursue end of life with a physician’s assistance when death is inevitable.
After the program, members discussed how they thought the third option should be available for Kansans, and then voted unanimously to initiate a community discussion about the issue.
The group also is circulating a petition that requests Kansas lawmakers to introduce legislation that would make physician-assisted death legal with specific restrictions similar to Oregon, which enacted the Death With Dignity Act in late 1997.
The group is calling the legislation Death with Dignity, just like it is in Oregon, and they prefer to call it physician-assisted death instead of physician-assisted suicide. Members say suicide is an expression of despair and futility while death with dignity is a form of affirmation and empowerment.
“We want to emphasize that it is physician-assisted and it’s compassionate end-of-life and we think that’s a much more important and accurate term than assisted suicide,” said Forrest Swall, 80, an OWL member.
Swall said if he were to become terminally ill, he would like to have the option to have a physician-assisted death especially after watching his brother, Jack, suffer.
“He had palliative care. He had hospice care, but when it came down to the last two, three or four weeks of his life, he was in absolute misery,” Swall said. “There was no hope that there was going to be any recovery. He wanted to die but hospice was not able to provide that final physician-assisted choice for him.”
(more)

Louisiana

Bill would strengthen La. ban on euthanasia (NECN.com 4/11/12) – A proposal to strengthen Louisiana’s ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide will be debated by the full House.
The measure by Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, would spell out that someone authorized to approve medical procedures for another person may not approve any procedure that would be considered assisted suicide or euthanasia.
That prohibition also would be extended to include surgical or medical treatment for the developmentally disabled or nursing home residents who may be unable to make their own medical decisions.
The bill was supported without objection Wednesday by the House Health and Welfare Committee.
Louisiana already has a prohibition in criminal law against euthanasia and assisted suicide. But Seabaugh said he wanted to make sure it was clear in the state’s medical consent law.
“It makes it very clear that in this state we do not condone euthanasia,” said Jeff White, a Shreveport cardiologist who supported the bill on behalf of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation. He added, “There are always concerns in the medical community as to the rights of the disabled and how their care is handled.”
HB1086 now moves to the House floor for debate.

Massachusettes

From Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (National Right to Life News Today) – Second Thoughts Grow on Assisted Suicide: The risks of mistake, coercion and abuse are too great to warrant legal immunity for doctors who help end lives by Diane Coleman and Stephen Drake (Wall Street Journal 4/5/12)-  Assisted-suicide proponents have been pushing the term “aid-in-dying,” hoping to get people to view a life-ending prescription as merely one option on a continuum of palliative or “end-of-life” care.
People already have the right to refuse unwanted life-extending treatments, and they have the option of using advance directives to determine their care when they can no longer express their wishes. But death that results from withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment has always been separated by a bright line from active measures to cause death. Assisted-suicide proponents seek to blur this line, while opponents want to hold the line against increased medical authority to end life.
The Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Hospice and Palliative Care Federation testified against the ballot initiative. The Medical Society has stated that “allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good.”
Proponents say that assisted suicide increases self-determination, but actually it puts one’s life in the hands of others. It gives doctors the power to issue a lethal prescription with blanket legal immunity for any mistake as long as they claim “good faith.” It gives insurers a cheaper option than providing the care you need.
People assume there are safeguards to ensure that withdrawing life-sustaining treatment is voluntary or at least consistent with the patient’s directive. Few are aware that most states have laws granting doctors a “safe harbor” for denying care the patient wants if the doctor feels that it’s “futile” or inconsistent with local standards of care. Aside from such futility policies, studies show that the protections people expect have proven unreliable.
A recent study in the Journal of EmergencyMedicine found that having a living will might give people a false sense of security about getting the treatment they want. Based on survey responses from more than 700 physicians in 34 states, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that over 50% of physicians misinterpreted a living will as having a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order when it did not. About the same percentage over-interpreted DNR orders as meaning no treatment except “comfort care” or “end-of-life” care.
(more)

Mass. group hails defeat of Vermont suicide bill (BostonGlobe.com 4/14/12) – A Massachusetts advocacy group opposed to measures that they say would make suicide a medical option is hailing a recent vote by the state senate in Vermont to block a bill allowing what backers call death with dignity.
Opponents said the Vermont proposal would legalize physician-assisted suicide.
The Massachusetts Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide said the bill lacked safeguards and has a high potential for elder abuse.
The group said the Vermont bill is similar to a proposed ballot question in Massachusetts that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending drugs.
The Dignity 2012 coalition, which supports the measure, says the proposal will give terminally ill patients greater peace of mind, choice, and control.
Supporters say they’ve cleared the initial signature hurdle to get the bill on the November ballot.

Massachusetts groups rally against assisted suicide proposal (Catholic News Agency 4/14/12) – Efforts are underway to fight a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would allow doctors to assist patients in ending their lives.
“There’s nothing dignified about suicide,” said the Massachusetts Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide, “and there’s nothing compassionate about encouraging it or presenting it as a rational alternative.”  
 
The alliance argued that “encouraging self-destruction” is completely unnecessary when “hospice and palliative care are common and highly developed.”
Supporters of assisted suicide have succeeded in placing a measure to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide on the 2012 ballot in Massachusetts.
The initiative would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to patients with terminal conditions seeking to end their lives.
Critics of the measure argue that it fails to respect the dignity of human life and promotes the message that suffering renders life unworthy of living.
(more)

A “Doctor & Heir Protection Bill” by Margaret Dore, Washington State Attorney (4/11/12) – On April 2, 2012, the Attorney General issued draft ballot question title and draft yes/no statements for the assisted suicide initiative.  Below please find my objection based on the initiative’s being a doctor and heir protection bill.
The proposed act in Petition 11-12 protects persons who cause or assist the death and/or suicide of another person.  This memo discusses why the draft title and one-sentence statements for the act are misleading and should be amended.
Under current law, people who cause or assist another person’s death or suicide face serious legal consequences.  They can be convicted of a crime, including murder.[1]  They can be found civilly liable for assisting a suicide, committing malpractice and/or causing a wrongful death.[2]  They can also be deprived of an inheritance or life insurance proceeds payable due to the death.[3]
With the proposed act, however, persons who cause or assist another person’s death and/or suicide are protected from these consequences.  The act also opens the door to new paths of elder abuse.
How the act works, some of its protections and how it will promote elder abuse are described below.
(more)

Proposed Public Position Statement: Death With Dignity Act – First Unitarian Society in Newton (MA) April – Whereas the pending ballot Initiative known at the Death With Dignity Law will appear on the Massachusetts ballot in November, 2012, and
Whereas members of this congregation have closely compared the language of the proposed Death with Dignity Law with the principles enunciated in The Right to Die with Dignity General Resolution, and find the former to be in basic agreement with the latter in both letter and spirit, and
Whereas we find the Death With Dignity Law is consistent with our interpretation of the First UU Principle (The inherent worth and dignity of every person) and the Second UU Principle (Justice, equity and compassion in human relations), and
Whereas thorough discussion among our members have resulted in general agreement,
Be it therefore resolved that the First Unitarian Society of Newton, in general membership meeting on this the 10th Day of June, 2012, supports the proposed Death With Dignity Law, and urges others to do the same, and empowers its officers and staff to take good-faith public actions with the objective of advancing general societal support for the enactment of that law.

Dying wishes expected to be decided on November ballot by Scott Helman (The Boston Globe Magazine, 4/29/12) – It’s not often that voters face a moral question like the one expected on November’s ballot: Should terminally ill patients have the right to get a fatal prescription? It’s up to the people of Massachusetts.
(more)

Commentary by Natalie M. Rosen – A Dignified Death – The link here is to the Boston Sunday Globe article “Dying Wishes” [see above] which is about a little discussed topic of death with dignity.  In addition to explaining what Death with Dignity means it offers the reader the ability to vote yea or neigh to this procedure if it were put to a vote. Very few want to discuss this but I believe in speaking truth and looking reality in the face.
I vote a resounding yes to death with dignity or assisted suicide for TERMINALLY ILL patients.
(more)

Montana

Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living With Dignity – Request to Retract Solicitation Letter – On April 6, 2012, attorney Craig Charlton wrote Dr. George Risi and Dr. Stephen Speckart requesting a retraction of their solicitation letter encouraging other doctors to engage in assisted suicide contrary to state law.
(more)

New Mexico

Last Request by Marisa Demarco (4/12/12) – Dr. Aroop Mangalik has been a cancer specialist for 30 years. He cares for a lot of people who are nearing the end of their lives. Sometimes—rarely—a terminally ill person in a lot of pain asks for a lethal dose of medication. “And the few times that request has been made, I told the patient, Sorry, given the law in New Mexico, I cannot do that.”
It’s a hard thing to say, he acknowledges, when someone is suffering immensely and there is no cure in sight. “We try and find as many other ways as we can to keep them comfortable.”
Mangalik and his colleague, Dr. Katherine Morris, are part of a lawsuit filed in District Court requesting clarification of a state law. The statute on the books makes it a fourth-degree felony to help someone take his or her life. The suit argues that the law doesn’t apply to a licensed physician providing aid to a dying person who’s mentally competent. The suit also makes the claim that state law is overly vague and violates the state’s constitution.
Complicated issues surrounding what’s being termed “aid in dying” have become more prevalent in the last 40 years, Mangalik says. “The problem has been aggravated by the development of intensive care units and other advances in medicine.” It used to be that when people became seriously ill, they would grow weaker and eventually die. “But now, with the use of all variety of drugs, oxygenation and all of these things, you can keep the body going for long periods of time.” He avoids the word “alive” deliberately.
While a patient is propped up by modern medicine, family members hope for recovery. “That does happen in some cases.” But for certain stages of disease, he adds, there is no treatment.
(more)

New York

New York Times-The Opinion Pages Room for Debate (4/10/12) – Why Do Americans Balk at Euthanasia Laws? – several debates available

Pennsylvania

Murder-Suicide, a love story?

Tale of Love and Illness Ends in Deaths by Matt Flegenheimer, NY Times-3/30/12 – His was a love story, Charles D. Snelling wrote — a tale of a shiftless dreamer and the woman who saved him, of the life they built over six decades and the disease that stood no chance of erasing it. By the end, he said, their time together had become a case study in reciprocity.
(m0re)

Bill White’s Blog on Euthanasia(4/2/12) – I wasn’t surprised that a couple of the voice mails in response to my Charles Snelling column Saturday complained that The Morning Call and I went too easy on him.
Snelling killed his wife, Adrienne, Thursday and then shot himself. She has had Alzheimer’s for the last six years, and their family issued a statement that said he apparently had reached the point where he could no longer bear to see the love of his life deteriorate further.
(more)

Health Care Organizational Ethics – Euthanasia and suicide (Blog of Jim Sabin, MD 4/3/12) – On March 29 Charles Snelling killed Adrienne, his wife of 61 years (the mode of her death has not been publicly revealed) and then shot himself. Both were 81.
Several hundred readers commented on the New York Times obituary, creating a kind of Rorschach test of our attitudes about euthanasia, suicide, and the right to control the manner of our own death.
(more)

Vermont

Vermont Senate Rejects Assisted Suicide Effort (4/24/12) – The Vermont Senate has defeated for the second time this legislative session an effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide, Baptist Press reports. On April 12, supporters of assisted suicide failed to get the votes needed to suspend Senate rules to consider the proposal as an amendment — they needed 22 votes, a three-fourths majority, but gained only 11. Eighteen senators voted against suspending the rules. Under the measure, people considered to have fewer than six months to live would have been granted the legal right to request a lethal drug dosage.

Washington

A Dying Man’s Last Wish: Change Our Laws by Pat LaMarche, The Pulse Morning Show (4/16/12) – …like many well intended laws passed across the U.S. — the effective reality of physician assisted suicide falls far from its intended mark. Curtis Johnson, a 55-year-old business man and educator who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis otherwise known as ALS, finds that even though he lives in Washington he cannot get the assistance he needs to end his suffering when the time comes.
ALS rarely kills someone in less than a year. Tragically, in Johnson’s case, the disease has progressed so rapidly that within a few months of his diagnosis he faced the dilemma of picking when he will die. He could have much more time to live if the law did not require him to administer the lethal drugs himself. If Washington State allowed a physician to physically assist his suicide, Johnson could wait until long after his hands stopped working to end his life.
This week Johnson penned a “Final Essay” for his family and friends. He wrote that the “lack of any real assistance” means he won’t be able to hang on between when he loses the motor skills necessary to take his life and when he actually needs a merciful end to his suffering.
Johnson must die prematurely in order to control his death at all.
Johnson will die soon. He’ll die sooner than he needs to or wants to so that no one who loves him will be tempted to help him take the lethal dose of medicine his physician has prescribed, and his potentially lifesaving organs will die with him.
There is only one remaining good thing that could come from Johnson’s grim reality. Well-meaning progressive lawmakers could read his “Final Essay” and enact legislation allowing physicians — not just the patient — to administer the lethal dosage when the patient is ready to go. Not only would folks like Johnson continue witnessing and experiencing life after they lose motor control in their hands, but they would also be able to donate their organs because they would die in a hospital.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Medical Society Rejects Assisted Suicide Again by Andrew Bair, Lifenews.com – The Wisconsin Medical Society has rejected a resolution that would have changed the organization’s longstanding opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
It has long been the strategy of euthanasia advocates to win over medical associations in hopes of ultimately winning over state legislatures and the general public. This resolution is not the first attempt by euthanasia advocates to change the Wisconsin Medical Society’s position. Similar resolutions have been rejected several times since 2009.
The Massachusetts Medical Association made a similar decision in December 2011. Euthanasia advocates targeted Massachusetts in preparation for a referendum this year on the legalization of assisted suicide, which will appear on the November ballot. The American Medical Association also rejects physician-assisted suicide.
Wisconsin Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life organization, applauded the decision by the Wisconsin Medical Society.
Executive Director Barbara Lyons said,  “Doctor-prescribed suicide is most detrimental to older people and those with disabilities. Given the way it is carried out in the few states where it is legal, it is a recipe for elder abuse, giving a few selected medical professionals and family members too much power in determining when a person should die.”

INTERNATIONAL

Albania

Albania was one of the first European nations to allow legalized euthanasia in 1999. Passive euthanasia, where the patient is unable to give consent due to a condition like a coma, is also legal given the agreement of three family members. The law has remained controversial within the country, however, largely due to the major influence of the Catholic Church in Albania.

Azerbaijan

Euthanasia to be Illegalized in Azerbaijan (News.az 4/25/12) – The doctors will be banned to satisfy request of patient, his relatives and people representing his interests on ending the life of the patient.
APA reports that it was reflected in bill on “The rights of patient”. According to the bill, during the pronouncement of clinical death a council of physicians passes a decision in written form on shutdown of means for maintenance of life of a patient.

Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg

Belgium – Active voluntary euthanasia was legalized in September 2002.
Netherlands – Euthanasia including physician assisted suicide legalized in 2002.
Luxembourg – Parliament legalized euthanasia on March 19, 2009.

BeNeLux Parliament’s resolutions on euthanasia and advance directives (4/30/12) –
The Advisory Interparliamentary Committee of the BeNeLux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg) organised a conference on “End of Life” in Brussels last year December, with the participation of experts and MP’s of the three countries.
In line with the results of that meeting the BeNeLux Parliament unanimously carried a resolution at their session in March in The Hague, advising the three constituting countries to make arrangements in which
•    Advance Directives of each of the BeNeLux countries are acknowledged in all three
•    Euthanasia can (and will)  be applied in accordance with the regulation of the country in which the request is made
(more)

Should the European Commission make a decision on assisted suicide? I talk with AlexTaylor (Brussels – euronews video 4/26/12) – Should those suffering from incurable diseases have the right to assisted suicide? At the moment this issue varies from country to country, and some have yet to decide. Should you have the right to die with dignity?
Euronews’ Alex Taylor speaks to Doctor Bernard Devalois, Head of the Palliative Care Unit at the Hospital of Pontoise in France, putting forward your questions on I-talk.

Canada

Choice in Dying (blog of Eric MacDonald) Arguing for the right to die and against the religious obstruction of that right – Alex Schadenberg, Mistaken Presuppositions, Religious Prejudices and Being Wrong – Alex Schadenberg, the Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, a Canadian Roman Catholic pressure group opposing assisted dying of any kind — holding even that the death of the brain-dead Terry Schaivo was murder! – and takes every possible opportunity to oppose the right to assistance in dying on the basis of Roman Catholic “pro-life” dogma (but what I choose to call the Roman Catholic death cult). He and his tiresome organisation intrudes in people’s lives even when such intervention is not only unwelcome but insulting and demeaning, and despite the fact that he has no special qualifications in bioethics, has managed to get his tendentious nonsense published in the National Post.

Calgary

Legalize euthanasia by Patricia Remmers, Calgary Herald (4/12/12) – Re: “When doctors and nurses become death’s servants,” Monique David, Opinion, April 9.
Rather than lose autonomy, as Monique David suggests, the right to choose to end one’s life is an affirmation of autonomy. The state is not forcing euthanasia on anyone.
We have a constitutional right to die as we see fit, to die as we have lived – with dignity. There is no dignity when there is intolerable suffering.
Individuals, with fore-thought and planning, are asking for assistance. Doctors and nurses are not death’s servants. They are responding to the specific request of their patients.
Mature, competent Canadians should have the right to make decisions about all aspects of their end-of-life care, and medically assisted dying, with appropriate safeguards, should be legal in Canada.

Edmunton

Is a dignified death too much to ask? The Vancouver Sun, Jodie Sinnema, PostMedia News (4/10/12) – At 87, Lochan Bakshi’s sharp mind has decided when to free his failing body.
When he dies — sooner rather than later, he plans — he wants his body to be burned, the ashes mixed with garden soil and used to plant a rose bush. When the flower buds, he imagines his grandsons exclaiming, “‘Grandpa has come to life.’ That is my reincarnation. What else?”
The retired biology professor has thought hard about death and about the way he wants it to arrive. After all, he’s seen men like himself hunched over in chairs in long-term-care centres, their minds absent, unaware there hasn’t been a visitor for years.
“I will take myself off dialysis when I cannot stand my present life anymore, when the pain in my feet increases,” Bakshi said. For others, he would like a committee created to make right-to-die decisions, especially for patients with dementia and no family.
“Being a biologist and having dissected animals and cut up plants, and simply being an ecologist tells me I have got to go someday,” he said. “My body is telling me, you have done enough.”
“When I sit down, I say, ‘What am I doing here?'” he said. “You have lived a good life; why should you have a terrible death?”
(more)

Fiery euthanasia debate expected in B.C. (The Vancouver Sun 4/11/12) – Two staunch foes in the euthanasia conflict are set to face off in a debate scheduled for Thursday evening, April 12, at SFU Harbour Centre.
Will Johnston is one of the debaters. He is chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of B.C., which is sponsoring the event. His opponent is Wanda Morris, executive director of Dying with Dignity.
The debate is taking place just days before B.C. Supreme Court Judge Lynn Smith is expected to release her decision regarding a precedent-setting case heard last fall.
Gloria Taylor, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, is among those petitioning the court to allow terminally ill Canadians the right to choose what the Okanagan woman considers a good death.
Johnston, a family doctor who frequently takes part in anti-euthanasia demonstrations, has referred to Taylor as one of several “poster cases” for assisted suicide.  Frequently interviewed by Christian and secular media outlets,  Johnston has urged people not to have their views swayed by empathy for people like Taylor.
For her part, Morris, a chartered accountant who has a masters degree in spiritual studies, says: “I think as a society we are too scared of death.  We need to see death as part of the cycle of life and not go to extraordinary lengths (and expense) to preserve life when death is the kinder option.”
(more)

Law forbids a dignified end for some – Edmunton Journal Editorial (4/12/12) – Though suicide was decriminalized in 1972, counselling or assisting the act is still illegal in Canada, a fact that damns every resurgence of intelligent debate on euthanasia to an unjust end.
Ironically, that’s the same fate for many Canadians who would choose to hasten a peaceful, civilized death rather than suffer pain for an extended period or exist only with the aid of medicine and machinery, living lives suddenly devoid of the dignity, independence and quality that had been their hallmarks.
On this issue, the Criminal Code does much worse than merely fail the people it is designed to protect – it makes illegal what ought to be a basic human right: dying on one’s own terms.
If a person terminally ill with cancer chooses to end his or her suffering, and can accomplish the deed without help, that final act does not contravene the laws of the land. If a similarly placed person enlists assistance, either because he or she no longer has the ability to act alone or because of a desire for a more painless, peaceful end than is available without a prescription, that constitutes a criminal conspiracy.
Surely this contradiction is incongruous with the moral and ethical codes on which a civilization is founded.
Until a government summons the backbone necessary to take a libertarian stand on assisted suicide and empower Canadians to dictate their own last wishes, those who desire death on their terms will be faced with choices that are flawed and lacking a base level of compassion.
(more)

A dignified farewell (video) by Jodie Sinnema, Edmunton Journal 4/27/12 – Watch Dr. Lochan Bakshi talk about his decision to go off dialysis and prepare to die.

On Tuesday evening, Bakshi said his final goodbye, dying painlessly and peacefully at 87 in his sleep — except for his signature loud snoring, say friends who were by his side — having decided to stop kidney dialysis and quicken death without experiencing more pain in his feet from diabetic sores and the possibility of amputation.

Quebec

Quebec’s bishops oppose government committee’s call for euthanasia by Patrick B. Craine (3/30/12) – The Quebec bishops are opposing a report issued last week proposing the legalization of euthanasia, and are threatening to pressure the government to ensure the respect for life.
“While we are pleased that the members of the Commission recommend greater access to palliative care for all people, we disagree with the recommendations that propose to change the laws ‘to recognize medical aid in dying as care appropriate at the end of life,” the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops wrote in a statement Thursday.
Changing the terms ‘assisted suicide and euthanasia’ to ‘medical aid in dying’ does not change the reality,” they added.
The bishops were reacting to a report released March 22nd by a National Assembly committee charged with exploring the issue of “dying with dignity.”
The report called on the provincial government to legalize euthanasia according to a Netherlands/Belgium model. “The pertinent laws should be modified to recognize medical aid in dying as an appropriate end to life option,” states the report.
In yesterday’s statement, they pledged continued vigilance and warned that they would consider intervening if the government decides to act on the report.
“The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops continues to pursue this issue and will consider appropriate ways of intervention to use in order that the government would take into account the requirements of the respect for life that were expressed with force throughout the process of the commission. In this respect, there are numerous moral and ethical consequences,” they wrote.
(more)

France

Strong public support for euthanasia by Annabel Tautou (FrenchTribune.com 4/29/12) – The euthanasia issue recently got a new lease of life, with reports revealing that Labour MP Maryan Street is drafting a Bill which will essentially be aimed at providing legal protection to families and doctors who help patients prepare for suicide.
According to Street, the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ – for which she has been working with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – will give the people the right to “choose how and when they exit this life.”
The effort being undertaken by Street on the euthanasia front have further been buoyed by the findings of a recent Sunday Star-Times reader poll which have revealed that over 85 per cent of respondents expressed their opinions in favor of voluntary euthanasia.
The results of the poll – which involved the participation of 1000 people – also showed that nearly three-quarters of people were willingly to extend help to a terminally-ill loved one for committing suicide. Furthermore, the findings also revealed that it is the men – especially those over 60 years of age – who showed support for a law change on the euthanasia issue.
Noting that the Sunday Star-Times reader poll marks the highest-ever public support for euthe ehe euthanasia issue recently got a new lease of life, with reports revealing that Labour MP Maryan Street is drafting a Bill which will essentially be aimed at providing legal protection to families and doctors who help patients prepare for suicide.uthanasia issue recently got a new lease of life, with reports revealing that Labour MP Maryan Street is drafting a Bill which will essentially be aimed at providing legal protection to families and doctors who help patients prepare for suicide or euhanasia – with most of the other polls having witnessed a 75 percent support for a law change -, Street said: “There is more support out in the community for this than people imagine.”

Germany

Administrative Court in Berlin lifts ban on assisted suicide (4/3/12) – 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).
(more)

German doctors can assist terminally ill (World News 4/4/12) – 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.
The court lifted a physician’s association ban on assisted suicide that included fines of up to $65,722 on doctors who provided their patients with enough drugs to kill themselves, The Local reported Wednesday.
Court spokesman Stephan Groscurth said the judges found the ban “too general.”
Euthanasia is currently illegal in Germany. However, if a doctor is certain a dying patient wishes to end his or her life, a physician can provide that patient with the means to commit suicide.
Observers said the court’s action means terminally ill patients will no longer have to travel to countries where assisted suicide is legal.
“This is a step towards stopping ‘suicide-tourism’ that is happening in Germany right now,” said Dieter Graefe, a judge who is an expert on assisted suicide.
“We are very pleased with the decision,” said Berlin urologist Uwe-Christian Arnold.
(more)

Ireland

Active euthanasia is prohibited, passive euthanasia (removing life support) is legal.

Group seeks law change on assisted suicides by Pamela Duncan, irishtimes.com (4/13/12) – A group which intends to campaign for a change in the law surrounding assisted suicide in Ireland has been established.
The goal of the Campaign for the Legalisation of Assisted Suicide is not just to allow Irish people who wish to avail of assisted suicide to travel to Switzerland where it is legal, but also to change the law in Ireland to bring about legal assisted suicide in the Republic.
Tom Curran, the co-ordinator of Exit International Ireland, an Irish group with about 120 members, which is part of a wider international assisted suicide information and advocacy organisation, is one of the three founding members.
Mr Curran, whose wife Marie has multiple sclerosis, has pledged to assist his wife in ending her own life should she take the decision to do so in future.
He said the purpose of the group was to campaign to “provide safeguards for people like myself, to allow partners or friends, not just to travel, but to assist them in taking their own lives within Ireland. Suicide has been legal in Ireland since 1993 so it’s quite legal for a person to take their own life,” he said.
“People with disabling terminal illnesses are deprived of the right to take their own life because their disability prevents them.”
However, Dr Regina McQuillan, a consultant in palliative medicine and spokeswoman of the Irish Association for Palliative Care, said changing the law to allow a person’s life to be ended with the assistance of another would “change society’s attitude to and relationship with people with disabilities or terminal illnesses”.
(more)

Korea

Beautiful final exit by Nam Sang-so (The Korean Times Opinion 4/12/12) – Late President Roh Moo-hyun was very considerate when he asked his security guard to fetch a pack of cigarette before he jumped off the cliff.
It was a beautiful final exit, which is comparable to a Samurai’s honorable seppuku (suicide by slicing his own abdomen with a dagger). With no witnesses, the security officer might have had a lot of work convincing people of his innocence, or that he didn’t push the former President.
Suicide is legal and assisted suicide is not. Some 110,000 South Koreans attempt to kill themselves annually for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, attempted suicide is not illegal.
It is one of the ironies of modern medicine that technology can now prolong life past its natural span. And once those miracle machines of devilfish’s hands are turned on, it is illegal to turn them off. We are sometimes faced with very tough choices in the name of medical progress.

So as unnatural as it may seem to take one’s own life, some say ungodly, is it any more natural or godly to live hooked up to a machine because one’s life has been extended by science? Some people want to eke out every second of life ― no matter how grim ― and that is their right. But others do not. And that should be their right.
One of my brothers was terminally ill, all medical treatment acceptable to him having been exhausted, and the suffering was unbearable. He also had numerous other illnesses which, singly or in combination, would eventually have killed him. It was a matter of which illness got him first.
He longed to die. “I pray to God to take me now,” he would say. But he lingered on for months and suffered physically and mentally. Standing by his death bed watching his unbearable pain, I was tempted, many times, to help him go. His exit wasn’t beautiful.
(more)

New Zealand

Husband charged with aiding wife’s suicide by Jessica Tasman-Jones, Auckland N0w 4/10/12) – An Auckland man has been charged with aiding his wife’s suicide, even though he wasn’t home when she died.
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Rosemary Mott died at her Paritai Drive home on December 28. Her husband Evans Mott, 61, is accused of assisting her suicide and will appear in the Auckland District Court on April 20 for a plea inquiry hearing.
Voluntary euthanasia supporters say Rosemary Mott should not have had to die alone.
Exit International says Rosemary Mott, who had chronic multiple sclerosis, contacted their Auckland chapter about a year ago.
They say she accessed a book, according to co-author and Exit International director Dr Philip Nitschke, which is partially censored in New Zealand, about voluntary euthanasia.
Mott was charged for allegedly assisting his wife to research euthanasia and acquiring equipment and material for her.
His lawyer Ron Mansfield said no decision had been made about his client’s “approach to the charge”.
He said the relevant facts in the case were “not really” in dispute.
“The issue is, whether what he has done is an offence as charged under our criminal code.”
Nitschke says it is tragic the current law means Rosemary had to be alone when she died.
“If you had legislation in place where you could legally help someone, he could have been present.”
Nitschke says as well as providing support to people considering voluntary euthanasia Exit International lobbies for law change to decriminalise voluntary euthanasia.
“These are actions of compassion and love by people who have generally never broken a law in their lives – they’re scarcely criminals, but they’re criminalising these people.”
In November last year, Auckland-born scientist Sean Davison was sentenced to five months home detention for assisting the suicide of his terminally ill mother in Dunedin.
Last month Labour MP Maryann Street announced she was putting a private members bill in the parliamentary ballot box to legalise euthanasia.
However, when it gets drawn from the ballot box, if at all, is luck of the draw and it may potentially never appear before Parliament.
Street says the bill, due to be completed by the end of this month, will protect the person who wants euthanasia, their physician and their family.
She says doctors will be protected from being coerced in euthanising a patient if they are opposed on ethical or religious grounds.
She says it has been nine years since a voluntary euthanasia bill was narrowly defeated in Parliament and now is the right time to put it before Parliament again.
Janet Marsland of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society says the current law has “no sense of compassion”.
“Rational people, particularly people who were suffering, as Rosemary was, should be allowed choice.
“And if their choice is to no longer cope with this unbearable suffering then they should be able to exit life at their time and their choosing and the method of their choosing.”
She says the criminalisation of assisted suicide is “strange” because suicide in itself is not illegal.
“It’s a very strange situation when you’re accused of assisting someone commit a legal act.
“There is nowhere else that we can find in New Zealand law where it is illegal to help someone else commit a legal act.”

Pro-euthanasia campaigners use of celebrities to boost support may well fuel more suicides (Christian Medical Comment 4/19/12) – This is all part of the recent move by Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) to fuel support for its campaign by involving celebrities. Terry Pratchett and Patrick Stewart are both DID patrons and Philip Nitschke, like the others, is an enthusiast for new legislation.
…author Ian McEwan and former England cricketer Chris Broad have all pledged their support by joining as Dignity in Dying’s newest Patrons.
Further new arrivals include Simon Weston and fashion designer Jasper Conran, adding to an ever growing list of high profile support for change.
DID, their celebrity patrons and the media outlets who are giving them a platform need to be aware that, on the basis of the available evidence, their activities are likely to lead to more vulnerable people being pushed over the edge into taking their own lives.
Suicide contagion is real, and it does not occur only in young people.

Euthanasia Bill would end ‘meaningless’ prosecutions by John Gibb, Otago Daily Times 4/27/12 – Labour Party list MP Maryan Street told a packed public meeting yesterday her proposed “end of life choices” private member’s Bill would avoid the “meaningless prosecution” of people like Prof Sean Davison.
Prof Davison, a South African-based scientist, was convicted in October of aiding the death of his 85-year-old terminally-ill mother, Dunedin doctor Patricia Davison, in 2006, after a trial that sparked debate on voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand and South Africa.
Earlier this week, he completed five months’ home detention to which he had been sentenced after admitting a charge he “counselled and procured” his mother to commit suicide.
Ms Street and Prof Davison were among panellists who last night addressed more than 300 people at an open public form in Dunedin, which focused on “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Discussion We Need to Have”.
Her proposed Bill will include protective measures, including assessments by two physicians, to prevent any abuse of terminally ill patients’ wish to have their lives ended, she said.
Prof Davison, a New Zealander who will return to South Africa this week, told those at the meeting it was “a great pleasure to be here but an even greater pleasure to be a free man”.
With the ending of his home detention, he had been having a “dramatic and traumatic” time, and he emphasised his love for Dunedin and its people.
His mother, who had chosen to end her days at her Broad Bay, Dunedin, home had been facing a “dreadful, dreadful situation”, after remaining alive despite refusing all food for many weeks.
“I believe any humane person would have done exactly the same thing [I had done],” he said.
(more)

Strong public support for euthanasia by Sarah Harvey (stuff.co.nz 4/29/12) – The MP campaigning for the right to die has been buoyed by a poll that shows more than 85 per cent of respondents to a survey supported voluntary euthanasia.
The Sunday Star-Times reader poll of more than 1000 people also found almost three-quarters of people would help a terminally-ill loved one commit suicide, and that support for a law change is highest among men, and those over 60. Labour MP Maryan Street has been working with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society on her End of Life Choice Bill, which would give people the right to “choose how and when they exit this life”.
The private members bill will have to be drawn from the ballot to get a hearing, but Street says the reader poll had the highest support she had seen, with most polls getting 75 per cent backing for a law change.
“There is more support out in the community for this than people imagine,” Street said. She had seen a change since a 1995 euthanasia vote was lost 61-29, to 60-57 when it was revisited in 2003. “And, nine years on, attitudes have changed again.”
Her bill includes three levels of protection. “The first is for the patient themselves. They would have to be tested by two physicians to prove they are of sound mind and understand what they are asking for, and the consequences.
”The next is for doctors, so they are not compelled to assist if it doesn’t fit their beliefs, and to protect them from criminal liability if they help. And the third is for a loved one who agrees to assist. People who have been asked by their loved one, should be protected from criminal liability.”
Choice would be available to the terminally-ill and those with irrecoverable conditions.
“It’s different from other jurisdictions, which only cover terminal illnesses. There would be protection from coercion though, so no-one could pressure someone into making a decision. But you also need confidence your wishes won’t be overturned once you have ceased to be competent to argue the point.”
A medical law and ethics specialist said New Zealand could benefit from clarifying a grey area around assisting suicide, euthanasia and the rights of patients, doctors and family members. End-of-life issues authority, Otago University bioethics centre Professor Grant Gillett, said the issue was not clear.
The terminally-ill were often unsure about the situation, and wanted to know their options but not go through with any.
(more)

Russia

Euthanasia: a right to die Voice of Russia radio (4/1/12) – President of Russia’s Patients Rights Protection League Alexander Saversky thinks that a commission of physicians and relatives must be set up in each individual case for an ultimate decision that must also be approved by an executive, for example, a governor.

“We will thereby assert that we have done everything possible for that person who experiences terrible suffering and that we cannot do more. Only then can euthanasia be considered as a last resort. If a patient can press the button himself, he should be given it. If not, several people should press the button simultaneously so that neither of them could blame each other. But there must be no doctors among those people.”

Dmitry Aivazian, a lawyer with the Patients Rights Protection League echoes that there can be no uniform euthanasia rules and that each such case is unique and must be approached individually.

United Kingdom

Assisted Suicide Would ‘Contaminate The Medical Profession’ (HuffPost Politics, UK 4/4/12) – Allowing doctors to assist terminally ill patients to commit suicide would “contaminate the medical profession”, campaigners against changing the law have warned.
Robert Preston, the director of the campaign group Living and Dying Well, which argues against legalising the practice, said assisted dying was a euphemism for allowing doctors to kill people.
Speaking at a debate at the Law Society in London on Tuesday, he said most medical professionals did not want to be given responsibility for ending someone’s life.
Lawyer Paul Bowen… said the current situation was unacceptable because it drove the practice of assisted suicide “underground”.
Bowen warned that this meant it was impossible to know how many cases of assisted suicide were taking place in the UK and there was therefore no way of ensuring people were not being coerced into agreeing to it.
Under current rules the decision whether to prosecute someone who helps someone else die lies with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), who must take account of whether it would be in the public interest to pursue the case as well as look at the suspect’s motivation.
Bowen said the current law appeared to say that “it’s OK to have an amateur DIY suicide but not to have professional help”.
And Baroness Young of Stone Old Scone, who was a member of the Commission on Assisted Dying, said people who wanted to have the choice to end their lives if they were suffering “intolerable” pain should have the right to be assisted “with professionalism not amateurism”.
“Parliament should get off its bum” and address the issue, she said.
(more)

Sandbach and Middlewich MP speaks out in assisted suicide debate by Simon Halewood, Crewe Chronicle 4/11/12 – Sandbach and Middlewich MP Fiona Bruce has voiced strong objections to any proposals to change the laws on assisted suicide.
The Congleton MP spoke in the emotive debate in the House of Commons during which MPs backed the existing ‘realistic and compassionate’ official prosecution guidelines on assisted dying.
Conservative Richard Ottaway proposed a motion praising guidance issued in 2010 by the director of public prosecutions, which was passed without a vote.
The advice says a decision to prosecute someone who helps another to die must be in the public interest and must take account of the suspect’s motivation.
Assisting a suicide remains illegal and highly controversial.
The Commons Backbench Business Committee allowed the debate, the first full one on the subject in parliament since 1970.
(m0re)

Assisted Suicide: The New Right to Choose? (Blog by LadyRaRa) – As The Commission on Assisted Dying publishes their proposed reforms for assisted suicide legislation in England and Wales and MSP Margo MacDonald re-launches her bid for legalization in Scotland, RaRa discusses one of Britain’s historical taboos: dying. (more)

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