Assisted Death Debate – News from May 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 May 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

Dike Drummond, MD: Death with Dignity in the emergency department (5/9/2012)

The Non Sequitur by John Casey: Bad Company (5/5/2012)

The New Old Age Blog: Massachusetts Debates ‘Death With Dignity’ (5/29/2012) –  At the end a rush to the ER (5/6/2012) – Among the very ill confusion about life’s end (4/6/12)

American Medical News (Opinion) – Obstacles in providing end-of-life care (5/7/2012)

Pain Policy & Palliative Care – Relieving the supreme Court’s Pain…  Revisiting the constitutional right to Palliative Care (5/12/2012)

GeriPal – A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Blog: A Thin Reed to Hang On by guest author, Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices (5/16/2012)

Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith: Palliative Sedation Not = To Terminal Sedation/Euthanasia  5/18/2012 – Should we kill Alzheimer’s patients? 5/24/2012

Physician-assisted death commercial

Book Recommendation – In Search of Gentle Death: The Fight for Your Right to Die With Dignity by Richard N. Cote

UNITED STATES

(Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington)

Arizona

Prescott man kills wife, self, after telling police they planned suicide (The Repubilc 5/4/12) – Police in Prescott say an 88-year-old man killed his wife and them himself after calling 911 and saying both were terminally ill and planned to commit suicide.
Police spokesman Lt. Andy Reinhardt says the man called police at about 8 p.m. Thursday from a medical center parking lot and told dispatchers where they could be found. Arriving officers discovered the man dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and his wife severely wounded. She was flown to a Phoenix hospital where she died.
Reinhardt says the couple lived in a nearby assisted living facility and had apparently walked to the medical center where they were found.
The couple were identified as Robert Grossman and his 85-year-old wife Joanne Grossman.

California

92-year-old retired school teacher faces sentencing for selling helium suicide kits (CBS News 5/7/2012) – A 92-year-old retired school teacher who sold $40 helium kits to people who could use it to kill themselves faces sentencing in San Diego for failing to file federal tax returns.
Sharlotte Hydorn faces a maximum term of one year in prison when she is sentenced Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal.
The Spokane, Wash, native began assisting physicians with patient suicides after her husband, Rex, died of colon cancer, said Charles Goldberg, her attorney. Her husband was in “agonizing pain” and did not want to die “filled with tubes in a hospital.”
(more)

Assisted suicide or a show of love? by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times 5/16/2012 – SAN MARCOS, Calif. —When paramedics arrived at the Purdy home March 20, Margaret was seated in her favorite chair in the living room. The morning sunshine streamed in through a picture window that overlooked a valley. A plastic bag was over her head, tied securely at the neck.
A suicide note in her handwriting was in a folder on her desk, beneath a shelf with books about death and dying. She had written that the pain from her various medical conditions had become unbearable.
Alan Purdy met the paramedics at the door. He said that his 84-year-old wife had taken 30 sleeping pills mixed with applesauce and then suffocated herself.
(more)

Dr. Drew – Is suicide ever OK? – interviews John West, author of The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents With Their Suicides (4/2012)

Colorado

Death with dignity: why Coloradans should legalize assisted suicide by Sam Smith, The Catalyst 5/20/2012 – Here in Colorado, we have a statute in place that explicitly criminalizes assisted suicide. Thirty-three other states, from Florida to Alaska, have statutes that do the same. Nine more states, from Vermont to Idaho, criminalize assisted suicide through common law. The other eight states, from North Carolina to Utah, have not criminalized nor legalized assisted suicide.

The fact of the matter is that even if you are against assisted suicide on a religious or moral ground, it should not be up to you what people do with their lives and deaths. People should be able to control their own lives–it’s that simple. Just like abortion is legal and regarded as a matter of choice, assisted suicide should be legal and regarded as a matter of choice.

Some terminally ill patients are allowed to end their lives by refusing medical treatments; in all fairness, those who don’t have that option should be allowed to choose death.

Connecticut

CT Golden Years: Euthanasia, Death Penalty for Connecticut’s Seniors? by Ron Winter (ctwatchdog.com 5/2/2012) – In April Connecticut officially abolished the death penalty for people convicted of murder, making it the 17th US state to do so, even though a majority of state residents wanted to keep it intact.
But as one class of residents gets a reprieve, another class may be vulnerable to continuing efforts across the country to deprive them of life, quite possibly without their knowledge or consent.
(more)

Georgia

Georgia Governor signs ban on assisted suicide by Patrick B. Craine (LifeSiteNews.com 5/2/12) – Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a bill banning assisted suicide that will now take effect immediately.
The bill, HB 1114 sponsored by Rep. Ed Setzler (District 35), was passed in response to last February’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court that struck down the state’s previous law that pro-lifers considered weak and ineffective. It had only prevented advertising assisted suicide services, but did not prohibit the procedure itself.
“Stopping the immoral and barbaric practice of killing in the name of compassion is the right thing to do,” said Dan Becker of Georgia Right to Life. “Governor Deal deserves credit for endorsing this measure.”
“Any society that claims to value life cannot justify taking a life lest we risk establishing a public policy with its attendant expectation of a ‘duty to die,’” Becker said. “The Hippocratic Oath says, ‘I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel …’”
“We should instead devote our knowledge and resources to helping people in desperate situations,” he added.

Assisted Suicide Group Indicted (Kennesaw Patch by Gaetana Pipia 5/15/2012) – A Kennesaw man and three other members of the nonprofit Final Exit Network right-to-die group were indicted Friday for their alleged roles in the 2007 suicide of a Minnesota woman, reported Apple Valley Patch.
Thomas “Ted” Goodwin, 65, of Kennesaw and Punta Gorda, FL faces a felony charge of assisting 57-year-old Doreen Dunn to commit suicide and a gross misdemeanor charge of interference with a death scene.
An autopsy initially found that Dunn died of coronary artery disease. But Minnesota authorities reopened their investigation into her death in late 2009 after Georgia officials contacted them about a similar case.
Goodwin was arrested in Georgia in 2009 and accused of assisting in the suicide of a 58-year-old Cumming man, but the charges were dismissed against him and three others in February of this year. Georgia’s Supreme Court cited free speech violations as the basis for its unanimous decision. At the time, Georgia law prohibited advertising assisted suicide services, but not the act of assisted suicide itself.
(more)

Hawaii

Civil Beat Poll – Assisted Suicide Support Strong by Michael Levine (Honolulu Civil Beat 5/4/12) – Hawaii voters support the rights of doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives by better than a 2-to-1 margin, according to The Civil Beat Poll.
Liberal, well-educated and wealthier voters were most likely to say physician-assisted suicide — also known as “death with dignity” — should be legal, the survey of 1,162 registered voters1 found.
Proponents have argued that death with dignity is already legal in Hawaii. Doctors and have formed an aid-in-dying advisory council and are already offering to help terminally ill patients end their lives.
Past attempts by the Hawaii Legislature to clarify the legal status of assisted suicide have failed. They’ve been opposed primarily by religious groups like the Catholic Church. As of today, death with dignity is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana.
(For more about the status of aid in dying in Hawaii, read Chad Blair’s two-part interview with Compassion & Choices: A Conversation About Aid In Dying In Hawaii and How Other States Treat Aid In Dying)
Civil Beat asked voters, “Do you believe that doctors should be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives?”
(more – lots of charts)

Kansas

Death with dignity by Hilda Enoch, Lawrence 5/1/12 (LJWorld.com) – To the editor: This may be the next needed and, one day in Kansas, protected human right: the right to die with dignity, for those requesting it, physician-assisted dying, an earnest choice between a patient and her/his physician in the privacy of their shared conversations.
The anguish of imposing on one’s loved ones that prolonged period of enduring the suffering and irreversible deterioration of one so well-loved, when it’s against her/his wishes should be finally eliminated, not to mention the costs to the family of those last excruciating months. Shouldn’t such compassion be among the personal choices afforded the person who is dying? It’s her life, isn’t it? Let it end with her personal wishes for a death with dignity and compassion.

Death With Dignity: How Doctors Die (Doctors routinely administer intensive care to patients who say they want it, but many refuse lifesaving treatment themselves. by Ken Murray (Utne Reader May/June 2012) – Doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us.
Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment.
(more)

Lousiana

Bill would strengthen La. ban on euthanasia (KATC.com News 5/29/2012) – A bid to strengthen Louisiana’s ban on euthanasia is headed to the governor’s desk after receiving final legislative passage.
The state has a prohibition in criminal law against euthanasia and assisted suicide. The bill (House Bill 1086) by Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, will add the prohibition to the state’s medical consent law.
Seabaugh’s proposal will spell out that someone authorized to approve medical procedures for another person may not approve any procedure that would be considered assisted suicide. That prohibition also will extend to include surgical or medical treatment for the developmentally disabled or nursing home residents who may be unable to make their own medical decisions.
Gov. Bobby Jindal supports the bill.

Maine

Obama administration is no Third Reich by Maureen Gill, Journal Tribune 5/16/2012) – In Hitler’s Third Reich, euthanasia became a euphemism for the secret, systematic murder of the mentally and physically disabled, and it predated the genocide of the Jews by two years. It was but one of many eugenic measures to secure the “racial purity” of the German nation. The euthanasia program was intended to eliminate what eugenicists considered “life unworthy of life” – individuals whom they believed were genetic and financial burdens to the nation.
Hitler called such people “useless eaters.”
One of the topics I’ve lectured about in the college classroom and public square is whether America’s physician-assisted suicide movement represents a moral slippery slope analogous to Germany’s descent into madness. This is a discussion uniquely suited to my training as a historian with expertise in German fascism and medical ethics. Since passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” such discussions expanded with a plethora of nonsense about “death panels” and rationing. This hyperbole has taken a particularly venal turn since the Department of Health and Human Services initiated efforts to protect women in the workplace from the overreach of their employers, relative to insurance coverage for contraception. President Obama has also been under attack for his administration’s pro-choice stand and defense of same-sex marriage.
(more)

Maryland

Baltimore Doctor Who Helps Terminally Ill Patients End Their Lives Faces New Charges (CBS Baltimore 5/15/2012) – These charges are just the latest legal challenge for the right-to-die movement.
Dr. Lawrence Egbert from Baltimore is the modern-day Jack Kevorkian. He’s been arrested numerous times for illegally assisting in suicides.
Egbert was medical director of the Final Exit Network, a group that offers support and a suicide plan for people suffering from a variety of fatal diseases and conditions. Authorities in Minnesota are the latest to criminally charge the doctor and his colleagues. In 2007, prosecutors say Egbert traveled to the Twin Cities to see a patient.
(more & video interview with Dr. Egbert)

Massachusetts

Physician-Assisted Suicide Ballot Push In Massachusetts by Jessica Pieklo (4/30/12) – This November voters in Massachusetts will do more than just help elect a president. They may get a say on whether or not terminally ill individuals should have the ability to get a fatal prescription and control the terms of their own death.
Patient advocates are pushing a ballot initiative to legalize the practice they call “Death with Dignity,” or more commonly known as physician-assisted suicide. If the measure makes it on the ballot, and if voters approve it, Massachusetts would become the third state, joining Oregon and Washington, where voters have explicitly endorsed it.
(more)

Konchok Rangdrol’s Blog: Support the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act 5/15/2012

Legal Challenge to Assisted Suicide Initiative! Mass Against Assisted Suicide (5/18/2012) – On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Massachusetts voters including members of the disability rights group Second Thoughts filed a challenge before the Supreme Judicial Court regarding the proposed ballot language for the measure that, if approved, would legalize assisted suicide in the state.
“The ballot language is clearly misleading,” said Second Thoughts director John Kelly of Boston. “We want the voters of Massachusetts to know exactly what they are voting on this November,” he said.

Doctor-prescribed suicide may not bring ‘dignity,’ say workshop presenters by Christopher S. Pineo (PilotCatholicNews.com 5/25/2012) – The realities of physician assisted suicide could reverse social stigmas against suicide, de-personalize care for people facing terminal illness, and create undignified final moments of life. Those points were the focus of the speakers at the Braintree presentation of the Archdiocese of Boston’s educational campaign “Doctor-Prescribed Suicide is Suicide… and suicide is always a tragedy!” Similar education sessions were held through the archdiocese during the month of May.
(more)

Death with Dignity or Murder? Francesca Bastarache interviews Dr. Marcia Angell and Heather Clish  5/24/2012 – Dr. Marcia Angell, former executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, now a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School; Time Magazine named her one of the 25 most influential Americans, is a woman on a mission. I assure you. She is NOT amusing herself.  If she has anything to say about it, this fall we will be voting in Massachusetts for the Death With Dignity Act.

Death Panels: Massachusetts is about to approve them by Julia Goralka, The Washington Times Communities 5/29/2012 – I am dying. I don’t have an incurable illness or suicidal thoughts, although with three teenagers those thoughts have flitted through my mind occasionally. At 48, I am not old; I am snuggling nicely into middle age. But make no mistake. I am well aware that I am dying. And so are you.

Minnesota

Minnesota grand jury to review right-to-die case (10tv.com 5/8/2012) – A grand jury is expected to hear evidence this week about the involvement of a national assisted suicide group in the death of a Minnesota woman in 2007.
Apple Valley resident Doreen Dunn, then 57, suffered through a decade of intense, chronic pain before she reached out to the New Jersey-based Final Exit Network. She used helium and a plastic bag to suffocate herself in May 2007, said Robert Rivas, a Florida attorney representing the group. He said he believes four members are now at risk of indictment.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom issued a statement Monday confirming his office is investigating Final Exit Network and that he will be convening a grand jury.
(more)

Should assisted suicide be an option for people in chronic, incurable pain? (MPR by Eric Ringham 5/9/2012) – opinions

Minnesota prosecutor obtains grand jury indictment of Final Exit Network and four of its volunteers (5/15/2012) – James Backstrom, the Dakota County prosecutor, called a press conference to deny that he has initiated a war on the right-to-die movement by securing a 17-count indictment against Final Exit Network and four of its volunteers.
As Final Exit Network had predicted, the grant jury handed down the indictment on Friday, May 11, 2012.  But the indictment remained sealed until Monday, when Backstrom called a 3 p.m. press conference to release the indictment and plenty of misinformation about Final Exit Network.
“It is appalling that the government would spend so much of its resources in this political prosecution,” said Final Exit Network’s president, Wendell Stephenson.  “We look forward to an opportunity to bring out the truth about Final Exit Network’s compassionate volunteers in court.”
(more)

Legal fight looms in Apple Valley suicide case by Katie Humphrey, Star Tribune (5/15/2012) – Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced Monday that a local grand jury had indicted the Final Exit Network and four of its members on 17 counts of assisting a suicide and interfering with a death scene.
The network faces four counts, two of them felonies. Altogether, the grand jury returned indictments on nine felonies related to assisting in a suicide and eight gross misdemeanors for interference in a death scene.
“If the people of our state wish to authorize assisted suicide, this should be done through clearly defined laws enacted by the Minnesota Legislature with proper restrictions and requirements to ensure the protection of a terminally ill patient and the direct involvement of the patient’s physician and immediate family,” Backstrom said during a news conference at the county law enforcement center in Hastings.
Lawyers for the network and one of the defendants vowed vigorous defenses, starting with a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the Minnesota law prohibiting assistance of a suicide is overly broad and violates the First Amendment right to free speech.
(more)

Dr. Jon Hallberg: Clearing up confusion about palliative health care – MPR 5/16/2012 – ST. PAUL, Minn. — Palliative care is an approved medical subspecialty that’s present in 85 percent of larger hospitals. But a new survey in the Journal of Palliative Medicine shows that many patients and health care professionals are still confused about the concept. Many even confuse palliative care with euthanasia. (more: transcript & broadcast)

Legal, moral struggles to ‘death with dignity’ (StarTribune Editorial  5/19/2012) – Facing serious illness, most of us don’t want to suffer ourselves or stand by and see another person in pain.
That sentiment is understandable, especially in cases of terminal illness. However, it’s still illegal in most states, including Minnesota, to help someone end their life.
(more)

Nebraska

The Choice of Life or Death (1011now.com 5/14/2012) – Doctor assisted suicide, death by choice or dignified death, whatever you chose to call it, it’s an issue many are fighting for — the freedom to choose when and how you die.
It emerges as the most controversial cultural issue in a recent Gallup Poll. Americans are divided 45% to 48% over whether it is morally acceptable or morally wrong.
One Lincoln couple made that choice.
“It’s going to be a process, but I get it and I am so ok with it and I am happy they are together,” said Kim Miller, the daughter of Carol and Ray Miller.
It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to lose a parent.
Imagine the heartbreak of losing both your parents at the same time because they took their own lives.
To help you understand why the family is so ok with it, you first have to know the great love story of Ray and Carol Miller.
(more)

New Mexico

Cancer patient joins NM ‘right-to-die’ law fight (NECN.com 5/9/2012) – ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 48-year-old Santa Fe woman with advanced uterine cancer is joining two doctors in their challenge against a decades-old New Mexico law that prohibits doctors from helping terminally ill patients die.
Aja Riggs publicly announced her decision to join the lawsuit during a news conference Wednesday in Albuquerque.
The lawsuit asks courts to clarify a state law that makes assisted suicide a felony. Lawyers intend to argue that the state law does not legally prohibit doctors from ending the lives of terminally ill patients.
According to the lawsuit, the doctors, both who work at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center, seek to be allowed to prescribe medication to terminally-ill patients who want to end their lives.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is helping with the lawsuit.

Some want a choice at the end of the road by Leslie Linthicum, ABQJournal 5/30/2012 –  “I’m actually going to take a pen and write a prescription for something that will end someone’s life.”
That was Katherine Morris, an oncologist and surgeon, facing a documentary filmmaker’s camera and summing up her role in helping an Oregon woman with terminal cancer give herself a lethal dose of barbiturates.
The film, a Sundance Film Festival winner last year, is called “How To Die in Oregon” and it follows Cody Curtis, a 54-year-old woman with advanced liver cancer, as she prepares for and then carries out what is commonly, but inaccurately, called “physician-assisted suicide.”
Morris is at UNM’s Cancer Center now, and she is one of two New Mexico oncologists bringing a lawsuit that asks the court to make a distinction between “assisting suicide,” which is a felony in New Mexico, and a physician “aiding in dying,” which is doing just what Morris did twice in Oregon — prescribing a lethal dose of medicine, usually Seconal pills, to mentally competent patients who are terminally ill and want to choose their time to die.
(more)

New York

New York assisted suicide bull loses support by Hillary Senour, EWTN News, Global Catholic Network 5/27/2012 – A bill that would have helped legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state of New York has lost its only sponsor thanks to the influence of the New York State Catholic Conference.
In early May, director of Pro Life Activities for the Conference, Kathleen Gallagher, met with bill sponsor Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Bronx) and convinced him to remove his support.
(more)

Daunting questions on our fate – Michael Brannigan, timesunion.som 5/31/2012 – Does the case for terminal sedation actually weaken the case against physician-assisted suicide?
Terminal sedation, more clinically referred to as “palliative sedation,” is a legally sanctioned alternative to physician-assisted suicide, a last resort in palliative treatment. It involves inducing and maintaining unconsciousness in a terminally ill patient until the patient dies, and is often accompanied by withholding or withdrawing medical feeding and hydration.
For example, if, in my advanced cancer, I experience intolerable pain, delirium, dyspnea or distress, to alleviate these unmanageable symptoms I let my physician sedate me into unconsciousness until I die. Sort of like undergoing anesthesia before surgery, without waking up.
(more)

Five tips for families facing end-of-life care by Alexandra Sofferlin, Time Healthland (5/31/2012) – In this week’s TIME cover story, “The Long Goodbye”, journalist Joe Klein writes about the loss of his parents. They both suffered from dementia and died within months of each other. Through their end of life, Klein became his parents’ death panel. Video – How to Die
For the many other families facing the same journey, experts’ best advice is to prepare early. As with most difficult transitions, caring for a parent or loved at the end of life is easier if you’ve planned for it. Trying to make the best possible decisions about care often leads to added stress and confusion, especially if your family is already in a difficult situation. “It’s all pre-planning really,” says Malene Smith Davis, CEO of Capital Caring, which provides palliative care and guidance for families. “People really do cope well if they have a conversation about care with their families early. When families don’t have the conversation, that’s when there’s turmoil because no one is prepared and it’s inevitable.”

Oregon

Dragging out death has become an unpleasant societal epidemic by Todd Huffman, OregonLive.com (5/21/2012) – So desperate are we to prolong our curtain calls that hospitalizations during the last six months are rising. The average time spent in hospice and palliative care, which stresses comfort and quality of life once an illness becomes incurable, is falling. The fatally and frightened ill, or their anguished surrogates, are choosing needless medicine over comfort care, compounding and prolonging physical torments beyond any sensible point.
We have become a society that does not allow those who are close to death to die quickly and peacefully.
As a result, people today are actually sicker than ever as they die. Patients agree to treatments in the end more injurious than was their illness. Families push for treatment, only to discover that there are worse things than having someone you love die.
(more)

Texas

Euthanasia is a choice we don’t have yet (The Daily News-Galveston by Pepper Montague 5/9/2012) – In the state of Texas, if we choose, we can be taken off life support, kept out of pain and “allowed” to die, but it is illegal to be “assisted” in dying. There is a problem with that.
(more)

Vermont

Momentum in Montpelier for Death with Dignity Bill by Dick Walters, President Patient Choices at End of Life Vermont (5/3/12) – The majority of Vermonters support the Death with Dignity bill. They can be proud of the progress made in the 2011-12 legislative session toward enactment of this civil right. The issue has gained real momentum in the state capital.
The Death with Dignity bill would give terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live the option – the choice – to request medication that they would self-administer as a way to control the timing and manner of their death.
(more)

Washington

Wash. Death with Dignity Act annual report released by Dan Thesman (KVEWTV.com 5/2/12) – OLYMPIA– The state’s third annual Death with Dignity Act report released today shows that 103 people requested and received lethal doses of medication in 2011. Since the 2009 law was passed, 255 terminally ill adults have received medication in Washington.
According to the report by the Washington State Department of Health, the 103 prescriptions were written by 80 different physicians and dispensed by 46 different pharmacists. The report covers January 1 to December 31, 2011. Participation increased 16 percent in 2011 from 2010.
(more)

One story behind Washington 2011 Death with Dignity Act Statistics by Colin Fogarty, OPB News 5/2/12) – The latest statistics on Washington’s Death with Dignity Act show a steady increase in the people who have legally ended their lives under the law. Seventy terminally people hastened their deaths in 2011 with the help of a doctor’s prescription. That’s according to a new report out Wednesday from the state Department of Health. Since 2009, a total of 255 terminally ill adults have ended their lives in this way.
Meg Holmes of Seattle held brain cancer at bay for 16 months. Surgeries and radiation couldn’t keep her down. Seven months after an MRI in March, Meg lost her ability to see and move around. And then suddenly… “She told me out of the blue that she had been thinking about the Death with Dignity Act and now that was something she was really interested in,” her husband said.
(more & listen to story)

Access to Aid in Dying Brings Peace of Mind (blog.compassionandchoices.org 5/2/12) – Compassion & Choices of Washington, a nonprofit organization that advocates excellent, patient-centered end-of-life care and stewards Washington’s Death With Dignity Act (DWDA), today responded to the state’s report on its third year of experience with the DWDA. “The report shows patients benefit from the peace of mind and comfort the law provides,” said Robb Miller, the group’s executive director. “The reports required under the DWDA confirm the safety of aid in dying. The law is working as intended and with no unintended consequences.”
The number of written requests, filed with the state under the provisions of the Act, rose only slightly, from 95 in 2010 to 103 in 2011. The number who self-administered medication to achieve a peaceful death in 2011 was 70. Of all the Washingtonians who died in 2011, those who self-administered life-ending medication obtained under the law represent only about 1 in 500.
(more)

INTERNATIONAL

(Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Oman, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom)

Argentina

Argentina’s senate votes for “dignified death” law (CBS News 5/10/2012) – BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina’s senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a “dignified death” law giving terminally ill patients and their families more power to make end-of-life decisions.
The law passed by a vote of 55 to zero, with 17 senators declaring themselves absent. It passed the lower house last year.
Now Argentine families won’t have to struggle to find judges to order doctors to end life-support for people who are dying or in a permanent vegetative state. Getting such approval can be very difficult in many countries, particularly in Latin America, where opposition from the Roman Catholic church still runs strong.
(more)

Australia

Suicide on agenda at forum – SunshineCoastDaily.com.au (5/13/2012) – The Your Death Your Choice community forum will tackle a range of controversial issues when it is hosted by Palliative Care Queensland and Cancer Voices Queensland, two of the state’s leading advocacy bodies for cancer and end of life.
“Queenslanders are suffering more and more because the Queensland Government has no end-of-life policy, and unlike other states, Queensland has no statewide plan for providing palliative care,” said Associate Professor Rohan Vora, president of Palliative Care Queensland.
(more)

Call for action by parliament on euthanasia by Lisa Cox, canberratimes.com.au 5/17/2012) – When he talks about euthanasia, Professor Bob Douglas borrows a line from a former health minister by saying it’s an issue that has politicians ”hiding under their desks”.
Studies have shown that the number of Australians who support voluntary euthanasia is greater than the number that oppose it.
A poll published last year by the Australia Institute put the figure in favour at three in four. Other surveys have had the percentage as high as 85 per cent.But despite the apparent endorsement, there has been no policy change around assisted dying and attempts to have legislation passed have failed.
(more)

Belgium

Euthanasia should also be possible for minors – FlandersNews.be 5/5/2012 – The Flemish socialist lawmakers Marleen Temmerman and Myriam Van Lerberghe want to make euthanasia possible for minors and those suffering from dementia. That’s according to a report in De Standaard. The two politicians are planning to propose a bill by the end of May.
They hope that the time is right to liberalize euthanasia. It should also be allowed for minors, people suffering from dementia or people who are permanently unconscious.
“Society is ready for this”, Ms Temmerman argues. She claims that a big majority of the people agrees with her, especially when a patient previously indicated that he or she would like to escape from this life in these special cases mentioned above.
(more)

Canada

Edmunton

Alzheimer’s and euthanasia by P.J. Cotterill, Edmonton Journal 5/23/2012 – I couldn’t agree more with the Calgary Herald’s editorial that Canada needs to copy the U.S. idea of a national Alzheimer’s plan.
Given Alzheimer’s current incidence and expected increase because of our aging population, we need to pay more attention to this dreadful disease and other forms of dementia.
Because a cure appears distant, however, any national plan should include legalized voluntary euthanasia, allowing those who do not wish to continue living without a functioning brain to die with dignity and less suffering.

Montreal

Term ‘medical aid in dying’ only confuses issue by Eric W. Mauser, Catholic Times Montreal 5/28/2012 – The recommendations of the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity have been tabled and the first round of public consultation concluded, but the most important public debate is yet to take place, according to the English Speaking Catholic Council (ESCC) and like-minded organizations.
The committee’s report recommended expansion of palliative care in Quebec asked the National Assembly to legalize euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, which the report calls “medical aid in dying.”
While there is near unanimous approval for improving palliative care throughout the province, the provisions for “medical aid in dying” are cause for alarm, some groups say.
(more)

Saskatoon

A conversation about medically-assisted suicide at a Saskatoon library – Heads of major Canadian organizations debated the legalization of medically-assisted suicide – Reported by Jared Knoll, CKOM NewsTalk 650 5/3/12) – Saskatoon’s Frances Morrison Library hosted a public debate Thursday night on the legalization of medically-assisted suicide.
Wanda Morris, executive director for Dying with Dignity, faced off against Alex Schadenberg, executive director with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
Morris said that it’s a matter of choice and compassion.
(more)

France

Pope urges France’s Hollande to ‘respect life’ (expatica.com French News 5/16/2012) – Pope Benedict XVI has urged French President Francois Hollande to “respect life” — a reference to abortion and euthanasia, the I.Media news agency for Vatican affairs reported on Wednesday.
The pope congratulated Hollande on his appointment and said he should protect “the dignity of everyone.” The Socialist Hollande supports euthanasia for terminal patients, a stance that is worrying the Catholic Church.
Hollande has also proposed including legally-enshrined principles of secularism in the French constitution.
“I ask God to help you so that, respecting its noble moral and spiritual traditions, your country may continue with courage its efforts to build an ever more just and fraternal society,” the pope said.

Video – Riz Khan: Should assisted suicide be allowed debate (3/9/2012)

Germany

German doctors vote against commercial suicide – BioEdge (May 5, 2012) – Earlier this month the German Medical Association apologized for human rights violations by Nazi doctors and asked for forgiveness from victims and their descendants. It also admitted that “outstanding representatives of renowned academic medical and research institutions” had cooperated in the Holocaust enthusiastically, and not under necessarily under duress from Hitler’s government.
(more)

India

Video – Choosing to Die (India – Nurse Aruna Shaunbaug has been in a vegetative state since she was strangled and sodomized by a disgruntled ward clerk 37 years ago. The Supreme Court rejected a mercy killing plea to end this woman’s life. Children with a debilitating condition with no cure and no money for treatments. Is euthanasia a reasonable request? Cases of active and passive euthanasia (2 parts)

Ireland

Exit International Ireland reports growing interest in assisted suicide by James Fogarty, Medical Independent 5/17/2012 – Three to four Irish people a week contact Exit International, a group campaigning for the legalisation of assisted suicide, according to the group’s Irish spokesperson Tom Curran.
(more)

New Zealand

Man admits helping his wife die by Victoria Robinson, AucklandNow 5/4/12 – An Auckland man has admitted helping his wife die to end her suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Evans James Mott, 61, appeared in Auckland District Court this morning, where his lawyer, Ron Mansfield, entered a guilty plea on his behalf.
No conviction was entered, and Mansfield indicated he would seek a discharge without conviction at sentencing in the High Court.
(more)

Kiwis back euthanasia – by Sarah Harvey (stuff.co.nz 5/5/2012) – New Zealanders are in favour of euthanasia for personal reasons, and often because they don’t want money spent on themselves that could benefit younger, healthier people, a soon-to-be-released study will show.
The University of Auckland study by clinical medical ethics lecturer Phillipa Malpas, to be published in the New Zealand Medical Journal this year, discusses the ethical implications around end-of-life decision-making through a number of interviews with New Zealanders.
Malpas said she interviewed a group of people aged 65 and over who were healthy, and expressed interest in, or were part of, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
(more)

Legal euthanasia kills justice for all by John Kleinsman (Sunday Star Times-Opinion 5/5/2012)

The euthanasia debate – DPF’s Kiwiblog 5/6/2012 – If the debate is about how do we make euthanasia safe, rather than does a person have a right to end their own life, then that is a step forward.
We should firstly recognise that we already have unregulated passive euthanasia in New Zealand, where people are allowed to die, even though they could be kept alive. I think there is far greater risk in the status quo, than in legislating the circumstances under which someone’s wishes to die can be implemented with assistance.
(more)

YourNZ – links and news 5/4/2012 – Political and social information and discussions – left, right, out and in centre

The Bioethics Center Blog – If you can tolerate this, then will your granny be next? Colin Gavaghan on New Zealand’s euthanasia debate 5/15/2012

Oman (Sultanate of)

Oman Daily Observer (May 1, 2012) – Fresh Debate by David Barber – The cases of two men charged with helping terminally ill relatives to end their lives have sparked a fresh debate about voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand.
Opposition politician Maryan Street is pushing legislation that would allow a person to help someone end their life without facing criminal charges. Parliament last debated the issue in 2003 after a woman was jailed for 15 months on a charge of attempted murder after her terminally ill mother died.
(more)

Scotland

Dignity in Dying’s response to the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill – 5/5/2012

Call for debate on assisted suicide (heraldscotland.com 5/9/2012) – A woman whose husband has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for 17 years has called for the debate over the right to die through assisted suicide to include patients with dementia.
Liz Jamieson, whose husband Hugh was diagnosed with the condition in 1995, said patients who are newly diagnosed should be able to decide, with the help of lawyers and relatives, about ending their lives.
(more)

South Africa

Emotional reunion for prof by Daneel Knoetze (DailyNews-South Africa 5/3/12) – Davison also thanked South Africans for the messages of support, especially Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who sent a letter pleading for leniency to the judge in the case.
“In New Zealand they have a great admiration for Tutu. I have no doubt that I would have served jail time had it not been for his support,” said Davison.
In 2006, Davison gave his 85-year-old mother, Dunedin resident Patricia Davison, a lethal dose of morphine after she tried to starve herself to death.
(more)

Dignity SA petitions for assisted suicide – by Kaylee Kruser, Eye Witness News 5/5/2012 – Cape Town – Non-governmental organization Dignity SA believes terminally ill people should have the right to choose end of their life. The organization started a petition to bring a bill before parliament to legalize assisted dying after the return home of Professor Sean Davidson from serving house arrest in New Zealand after helping his mother die in 2006.

Campaign to legalize assisted suicide in SA – Mail & Guardian News 5/17/2012 – A controversial campaign to legalise doctor-assisted suicide and active euthanasia was launched in Cape Town on Thursday, spearheaded by the Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA) and Dignity SA.
The launch comes two weeks after the much-publicised return to South Africa of Dignity SA founder Sean Davison, following his five-month house arrest in New Zealand for assisting his aged mother to die.
(more)

Switzerland

Vaud Canton in Switzerland to vote on new step in Right to Die laws – The World Federation of Right to Die Societies (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.
(more)

World-weary Swiss seniors seeks suicide help – The Local-Switzerland’s News in English 5/9/2012 – New figures show that more and more Swiss seniors are taking advantage of assisted suicide even when they do not suffer from any terminal diseases.
The latest reports from Exit, the organization that offers assisted suicide to the Swiss, show that one in every five French speakers and one in every three German speakers opting for assisted suicide are not suffering from a life-threatening illness, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.
(more)

Switzerland voters rejected ban on assisted suicide for foreigners (jurist.org) – On May 15, 2011, voters in the Swiss city of Zurich rejected a proposed ban on assisted suicide for foreigners as part of a plan to stem the rise of “death tourism,” in which foreigners take advantage of Swiss assisted suicide laws. Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1941 and permits a non-physician with no vested interest in a person’s death to provide passive assistance such as prescribing necessary drugs. In 2010, Switzerland’s Federal Council and Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) had introduced legislation establishing stricter rules on assisted suicide based on a consensus of local governments and agencies. UK Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer also published a policy in 2010 outlining public interest considerations against prosecution of those who assist in a suicide including, among other factors, efforts made to dissuade the victim.

Video – The Suicide Tourist (5 parts)

United Kingdom

Patient denied dignified death (itvNews 5/4/12) – The family of a brain tumour patient from Tameside believe he was denied the dignified death he wanted, because medics didn’t turn off an implant designed to keep his heart beating.
Brian Williams, from Hattersley, asked to drift off gently during his final hours at Tameside Hospital. But he’d had a personal defibrillator implanted in his chest for heart problems, years earlier, and it kept shocking him when he was close to death.
(more)

Supporters of euthanasia and abortion ‘use same arguments as the Nazi’s did to promote genocide,’ says Vatican newspaper – Daily Mail Reporter 5/5/2012) – The Vatican’s semi-official newspaper has angered supporters of euthanasia and abortions by suggesting they apply the same justifications that were used by the Nazis to champion their murderous eugenics programme.
(more)

MPS welcomes GMC guidance on assisted suicide but calls for greater clarity – 5/4/2012 – The Medical Protection Society welcomes the General Medical Council’s guidance for its Investigation Committee and case examiners when considering allegations about a doctor’s involvement in assisted suicide, but calls for greater clarity.
Assisted suicide is a complex issue and doctors need clarity, certainty and consistency on their professional and legal responsibilities, when placed in these difficult and emotionally charged situations.
(more)

Assisted suicide law will force chemists from their jobs, says Wirral pharmacist (Diocese of Shrewsbury 5/9/2012) – Rosemary Baker of Hoylake warned pharmacists that they could be ostracised and ultimately driven from their jobs if they refused to dispense lethal drugs needed for assisted suicides if British laws were further weakened by either Parliament or the courts.
Her warning was sounded in a full-page article in the highly-respected Pharmaceutical Journal this week entitled “Stop and think! Are pharmacists really prepared to assist people to die”.

Majority of Ambulance Trusts have polices to ensure patients are not treated or resuscitated against their wishes at the end of life (Compassion in dying 5/24/2012) – Mrs Davis* contacted Compassion in Dying, concerned that her wishes at the end of her life may not be respected by her local ambulance service. Paramedics had told her that they would not take her Advance Decision into account when transporting her, reporting that they would only respond to a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) form signed by her doctor.
(more)

MS sufferer rode wheelchair for two hours to kill herself (The Telegraph 2/24/2012) – The day before Carol Hutchins died, she arrived home in floods of tears after the lever on her buggy had jammed leaving her unable to throw herself over a 3ft fence and into the water.
Determined to end her life, Mrs Hutchins returned to the canal the following day and got the mechanism working to lift the chair above the height of the fence.
(more)

Acutely ill patients prevented from dying with dignity in hospital by Sarah Boseley, The Guardian 5/31/2012 – A third of acutely ill patients in hospital, many of them nearing the end of their lives, are not getting the best care and may be subjected to futile resuscitation attempts that prevent them dying with dignity, according to a new report.
The report, from doctors at the influential national confidential enquiry into perioperative deaths (NCEPOD), paints a disturbing picture. Focusing on patients who suffered cardiac arrest in hospital and were given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), it finds that less than a third (29%) got good care.
(more)

Video – Euthanasia clarification hearing for Debbie Purdy (10/2/08)
Video – Purdy loses appeal (10/29/08)
Video – Debbie Purdy: I’ve got my life back (7/30/09)

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