Diane Goble, MS – Master Transition Coach

My Mission

My mission as a Transition Coach is to empower my clients to overcome fear of death and dying by providing them with the methods and resources to be in control of this profound transformational journey we all get to experience no matter what one’s physical or mental condition– by preparing long before the time comes and being in control when it does.

What is a Transition Coach?

A Transition Coach functions as a facilitator to empower the patient to take control of his or her own end-of-life decisions from terminal prognosis to transition and final disposition coaching the patient and caregiver to play an active and informed role in developing and carrying out a personalized end-of-life strategy.

What is Advance Care Planning?

End-of-life or advance care planning involves making decisions about one’s circumstances and the care we expect when we’re not able to speak or communicate our wishes ourselves, such as in the case of a stroke or heart attack, a sudden accident or near the end of a long life.

In these written documents, we appoint a healthcare representative we trust to carry out our wishes and include directions as to whether we want artificial hydration or feeding, if or how long we’d want to be on life support and what treatments we’d accept, including surgeries, procedures, treatments, blood transfusions, resuscitation– from do everything to do nothing.

It also includes one’s personal decisions your healthcare representative may have to advocate for you concerning how to pay for the health care and what to do after the death, such as organ donation, funeral and burial arrangements, writing our obituary, and many other details that come with wrapping up one’s life on earth.

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When Should I Consult a Transition Coach?

While there is never a good time to be told there is nothing more medical science can do for a person and no way to predict the course any illness will take, the sooner the patient and the family start talking about a plan and dealing with the what ifs, the less stress on all concerned, and the more peaceful and loving the entire process will be. The family may be at odds with the wishes of the patient or each other, sometimes old hurt feelings stir up arguments, and the Transition Coach will facilitate family discussions to bring about forgiveness and healing.

Even when there is one more clinical trial or one more new drug to try, the Coach will facilitate the family’s involvement in planning for palliative care, organizing caregivers, home health aides, in-home ADA adjustments through various health changes, and finding help from various agencies and services. With the help of the Transition Coach, time spent writing one’s Will and Advance Healthcare Directive, looking into assisted living arrangements and hospice services, thinking about memorial services, deciding on burial or cremation arrangements, discussing DNRs, POLSTs and Death With Dignity options, can  replace the worrying and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about the patient’s medical issues and health concerns during this stressful time.

Does the Transition Coach Help the Caregivers?

The goal of the Transition Coach is to build a team of caregivers around the patient to support the patient’s journey. The primary caregiver may be the main contact person with the Transition Coach and the second question is always “and how are you doing?”

Caregiver burn-out is inevitable among loving people who want to do everything they can to keep their loved one comfortable, and free from pain and suffering. The Transition Coach will help the primary caregiver come up with a stress management plan that involves the family and all caregivers involved.

What is the Role of the Transition Coach?

The role of the Transition Coach is not to be a service broker or care manager, but rather, to provide support, guidance, resources, and spiritual comfort to the patient and caregiver(s) as they explore the workbook Beyond the Veil: Our journey home by Diane Goble. The Transition Coach may facilitate discussions between the patient and caregiver, and other family members to get everyone on the same page with decision-making or help clarify values and mediate belief differences when it comes to changes in health conditions and end of life decisions.

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What Action Can You Take Now?

It is suggested that interested parties first purchase a copy of the workbook Beyond the Veil: Our journey home which may be ordered here or from any online or onland bookstore. After reading through the workbook, if you and your family think you may be interested in working through it with a Transition Coach you’re invited to email Diane to request an appointment for a free half hour phone or Skype call to assess your needs and help you make a decision to proceed to the next step.

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What’s the Next Step?

If you decide you’d like to work with a Transition Coach, we’ll set up payment arrangements and book an appointment for a phone or Skype call. During that call, we’ll go through an initial needs assessment, which could take an hour or more, and result in a coaching plan.

For the coaching plan, some people prefer a weekly phone call, others want to be able to call when questions come up. There may be more frequent calls early on, then less need for a period, then greater need as the end nears. You can email a list of questions and we’ll discuss them during phone calls. You can text if it’s a short, quick question or emergency. Every case is different and Diane is flexible… Email

BIO

Diane Goble, MSCC, CCHt

Master Transition Coach

 

Diane Goble has a Master’s Degree in Psychology (CSULB, 1983) and another in Clinical Hypnotherapy (St. John’s U, 1992). Over the years she has taught stress management, had a practice in hypnotherapy and past life regression therapy, became an ordained spiritual minister, meditation teacher, and was a hospice volunteer off and on for over 25 years in Florida, California and Oregon. She is the author of Beyond the Veil: Our journey home, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Cosmic Consciousness, Reincarnation and the Evolution of Consciousness, Sitting in the Lotus Blossom and the website BeyondtheVeil.net (1996-2018).

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In 1971, at age 30, Diane drowned while white water rafting and had an extensive near-death experience, which is what changed her life path and led her to return to education and eventually to explore the field of death and dying. She is the author of Beyond the Veil: Our journey home, which is based on an online course she developed in 2007 to train Transition Guides (Death Doulas, Spiritual Midwives) to empower terminally ill patients to take control of their own end of life planning. You can read her extraordinary journey into the afterlife in the book.  After training a number of practitioners from around the world, she turned that training course into a workbook, which patients and caregivers could use together for advance planning and learning the Art of Conscious Dying… being aware of and involved in one’s personal transformational journey home.

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The message I was given to share with those whose lives I touch is that WE don’t die! Only our physical form expires while the essence of who we are is released and returns home in full consciousness– an exhilarating Aha! moment of understanding everything while being filled with overwhelming love, peace and joy… finally remembering who we really are and what the heck this lifetime on planet Earth was all about… being greeted by our loved ones who have gone on before us, and the realization that we are returning home to the Source of our being– from whence we came.

I don’t just base this on my own experience. I’ve been reading other experiences and participating in and following the literature concerning the research into the survival of consciousness after death for decades. These experiences are not hallucinations or delusions or wishful thinking… and I believe so many are surfacing now because it’s time for humanity to collectively wake up and realize there is  more to “life and death” than we’ve been led to believe and a higher purpose for humans to exist and maintain this planet for that purpose.

My story of transformation is in Chapter 10 of The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences: How the Messages of NDEs Positively Impact the World by Dr. Penny Sartori and Kelly Walsh…

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My coaching is non-denominational yet adaptable to any belief system or none. I respect all religions and beliefs for their intrinsic beauty and compassion but do not hold one over another. In the Light I found only Universal Love at the Source.  My mission as a Transition Coach is to empower my client families with the resources and tools to assist them in carrying out their personal last wishes and final arrangements for a peaceful conscious dying experience based on their own values and beliefs.

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If Beyond the Veil: Our journey home resonates with you and your beliefs, feel free to use all the resources it contains. If you feel you and your family could benefit from having the Transition Coach who wrote the book on it available to help you and your family work through the difficult parts, schedule a free half-hour phone or Skype conversation with Diane to assess your needs… email

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If, after your initial conversation, you decide you and your family would feel comfortable working with a Transition Coach, we’ll book an appointment for a phone or Skype call and set up initial payment arrangements through PayPal. During the call, we’ll go through an initial assessment of your needs, which could take about an hour, and develop a Coaching Plan.

  • For the Coaching Plan, some clients prefer a scheduled weekly phone call; others want to be able to call when questions come up
  • There may be more frequent calls early on, then less need for a period, then greater need as health changes
  • It is up to the client to end the phone session. There is a 30 minute minimum (except for pre-paid plans) and two hours is the upper limit
  • If Client has a time limit, please say so at beginning of call. The Coach may do the same
  • Clients may email a list of questions ahead to be discussed during phone calls to save explanation time
  • Clients may text if it’s a short, quick question or emergency and Diane will respond as quickly as possible (no charge)

Fee Schedule

  • Diane only works with a limited number of clients at a time and for many families the duration may extend over six months or longer so there may be a waiting list at times.
  • Diane is available every day between the hours of 9:00 am and 9:00 pm PST for phone or Skype calls by appointment only, and will respond to texts and emails as soon as possible
  • New clients are charged $25 to book initial appointment and create client file
  • Ongoing clients may book appointment times with 24 hours notice
  • For cancellations, please give 24 hours notice
  • Time begins at connection and stops when client requests end of conversation
  • Diane will keep a timer and it is suggested client do as well to keep track of how much time passes
  • Coaching time is billed at $1.00 per minute
  • Pre-paid packages for 3 hours, 5 hours and 10 hours are available
  • Internet research and transmittal @$25 per hour (payable prior to transmittal)

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16th…

for the month of April 2018

 10% off on pre-paid hours for new clients

who book their 1st contact during the month of April

  3 hours $180 = $162

  5 hours $300 = $270

10 hours $600 = $540

Enter appropriate payment amount thru PayPal

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Photo by Cat Connor

CONTACT

Diane Goble, Master Transition Coach

Email

Website

Facebook Page: Death and other taboo topics

Facebook Group: Having The Conversation about Dying and Death

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Having “The Conversation” about End of Life Healthcare Planning

The Nugget, Sisters, Oregon – October 15, 2014

Having “The Conversation”

By Diane Goble

Ever since Ben Franklin warned us, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” we’ve been diligently planning for everything — college, career path, marriage, children, home buying, vacations, retirement — everything, that is except our inevitable end of life. We don’t want to think about that so we tend to ignore it or postpone dealing with it, often until it’s too late. We live in the state of denial that keeps us oblivious to the unthinkable fact that this day could be our last on earth.

Hopefully that’s not true for you this day, but statistically, in this country, 1 person dies every 3 seconds, approximately 6800 of us every day, 2,468,435 every year. Most people die from health-related conditions, including (in order) heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (COPD) and stroke. Accidents are next down the list. All of these are, to some degree, preventable, treatable, manageable, mitigated by medical care and healthy lifestyle changes, and most of us will survive to live the life we planned to a ripe old age.

And that’s part of the problem. Health care has improved, we’re making progress with many cancers, we’ve recognized the problem of obesity and we’re eating healthier and exercising more so we’re living longer but we’re getting diseases now that people didn’t use to get because they died at earlier ages — Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular, but also emphysema, COPD, Parkinson’s Disease, and diabetes. And with the aging Boomer population, we wonder will there be rationing of medical services.

The health care system has us focused on treatments that almost kill us in order to make us better so we can live longer and get more diseases for them to treat. At the same time there are more people in need of care, there are also fewer doctors and medical services are stretched thin.

And within this maelstrom of activity is the elephant in the room. At some point, we are all going to die — but no one wants to admit it or talk about it and certainly know one wants to plan for it. We always think there will be more time.

This is a quote from this correspondent’s soon to be released book on amazon.com, Beyond the Veil: Our Journey Home, from a woman named Kathy who shared her experience of not planning ahead:

While we had gradually acknowledged to each other that he might not make it, we’d never really accepted it or talked about what it meant. I always thought we’d have a period of time when he was in hospice care when we would talk more and say our goodbyes. While I, and my kids, said lots of goodbyes and I love yous while he was in a coma, he was never able to communicate with us again. I still replay those last few days over and over and wonder how we didn’t know he was so close to the end and wonder if he knew.

There is a lesson in this: to say the things we want to say while we can – and it illustrates why it is so important to plan for the end of our lives, not just for our selves, but for our loved ones as well. We won’t know how we are going to die, where we will be when it happens, who will be with us or if we will be alone, but we can make our choices known about how we want to be treated at that crucial time, which will guide our loved ones to follow our wishes.

We do have some options and they are more likely to be honored if we have discussed them with our family members and doctors, appointed a healthcare representative who supports our wishes through our Advance Healthcare Directive so physicians will know what we want and don’t want if it comes down to that. The biggest hurdle is sitting down to have the conversation.

Realize that this is not a one-time conversation. It may occur in bits and pieces — a question at the dinner table, a comment during a TV program or news story, a shared article from a magazine, a book, a website, a post on Facebook. Over time and with new information or health concerns, you may change your mind several times.

You may have a conversation with your doctor or a clergy member that provides some new insight or clarifies your values. After seeing what another family went through, you may decide you do or don’t want that to happen to you. Visiting a friend in hospice care may change you mind about how soon you would want to bring hospice services into your life or the life of a family member. Advance Healthcare Directives are changeable and should be reviewed every 5 years or as you health changes.

No matter how old you are — and perhaps this is something everyone should do when they first get their driver’s license because those are extremely vulnerable years for accidents — no matter what your health status is, the time to have these important conversations is when you are healthy and mentally competent to make decisions. By the time you are in an ambulance, in the ER, or on your deathbed, it is too late. Leaving it to your distraught family members to decide what you would want during dire circumstances is setting them up for unending grief and trauma over whether they did they right thing — no matter what they did or didn’t do.

Fortunately, right here in Sisters, there are several people, including Kelsey Collins, Sue Stafford, myself and others, who are available to help people sort through the information about Medicare, home health care, palliative care, hospice services, Advance Healthcare Directives, POLST and Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Talk to your doctor, talk to your spiritual adviser and by all means, talk with your family about your last wishes — then you don’t have to think about it anymore!

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Planning Your Assisted-Suicide

I live in Oregon so I can legally request the

Death With Dignity option

at the time I deem appropriate if I choose, so I’ve thought about what medical treatments and interventions I would or wouldn’t accept and how I would want to die if this or that happens to my body and/or mind, whenever it happens.

I’ve been involved with this issue long enough (see article)– I was a hospice volunteer off and on for over 20 years, I’ve sat with numerous people and their families as they lay dying, I’ve been a caregiver and a counselor to the dying, I had a near-death experience 40 years ago (see article)– and I understand more about death and dying than most people who try not to think about it at all.

Most folks have opinions related to self-preservation, love of family and their life, or religious dogma, but a narrow perspective of the whole issue. So I’m just going to think out loud here to give others some food for thought… with the caveat that you continue this conversation with someone immediately after reading this and get to work on your own Advanced Healthcare Directive.

I’m 70+ so there’s that. Having seen first hand and studied what happens to the body and the mind of the majority of people as they age, I acknowledge my personal limits. Knowing my body and what I’ve done to it and for it, I’m hoping to live healthy to at least 75 but no longer than 80. Closer to 75, more likely. Beyond 80 things seem to fall apart more rapidly and sitting in front of a TV all day in an assisted living home with a bunch of other half comatose people is not something I could take for more than a minute. Lying in a  hospital bed staring at the ceiling with no hope of ever getting up again would be intolerable.

Now I know there are some 90-year olds still driving and playing golf or milking the cows and tilling the fields,  but that’s not me. There are also some 60-year old, overweight couch potatoes, who can hardly walk from the couch to the refrigerator any more.They’re on multiple medications with multiple side effects and are mostly miserable most of the time.

One’s past habits and lifestyle have a lot to say about how fit we will be in our old age, and we should be aware of our genes and our base lines so we can keep track of our physical health as we age. If you’re 40 and have diabetes, you’re not likely to make it to experience much of old age. If you haven’t cared about your health during your life, you’re not likely to have a healthy older age.

Of course one can always get hit by a bus or have a heart attack or get shot by a wacko on his own suicide mission. Personally if I’m too far gone and it would take too much or too long to restore me to a reasonable state of health, I would opt not to be resuscitated in the first place.

Certainly cracking open my rib cage, cutting off any limbs or hooking my body up to artificial life support are completely off the table. I want not to live without full use of my limbs or cognitive processes so don’t even think about it. If my heart stops, let me be. If I come back on my own, this time, I’ll talk about it. If my mind starts to disappear, you can bet I’ll be working on my suicide plan, physician-assisted or not, before I forget who my loved ones are.

So you have this pain or these symptoms you’ve been ignoring but it’s suddenly gotten worse and you can’t do things you used to be able to do so you finally go to a doctor and they run a bunch of tests and tell you that you have cancer of the blahblah and they’re going to have to take out your blahblah and then you’ll have to have radiation and chemo and then maybe you’ll have a few good months left but every case is different and they just know you’re going to beat this so here, sign these papers and let’s get started.

And you go… WTF? Because you never thought about it before, never allowed yourself to think it might happen to you or someone you love. You didn’t hear a word the doctor said after “cancer.” Your mind went blank and you felt like the elevator just dropped 20 floors in a second.

You are now spinning out of control but your doctor has moved on to the next patient to give him or her the same devastating news and you’re left to gather your wits and find your way home to tell your loved ones… but the only word that comes out of your mouth is… cancer or brain tumor or kidney failure or multiple sclerosis. Suddenly you’re a dead man walking.

You’ve never thought about it before? Never asked anyone what their thoughts are? Never asked someone who is dying what they think about? Would you want everything done? Do you even know what “everything” means? How much of you abilities are you wiling to do without just to see the next football game on TV?

You suddenly black out and wake up hooked up to machines in an ICU, paralyzed so you don’t try to rip out the tubes and  lines, surrounded by strangers with masks on looking down at you and one of them says sprightly, “Welcome back, Mr. Jones. We thought we’d lost you.”

And you’re thinking, “OMG, I was having this wonderful out-of-body experience. I was surrounded by loving beings of light and you brought me back to this? I’ll kill everyone of you!” But you can’t speak, you can’t move. Those people out there think you’re not aware, but you’re aware of everything, you just can’t do anything about it.

You’re wishing you had written that Advanced Healthcare Directive indicating you wanted no extraordinary measures to keep you alive if you were in this unfathomable condition. Unless you have a few lucid moments to state otherwise or can at least blink your eyes if asked, it is now beyond your control. You could end up a living, breathing vegetable for years.

If one is born disabled or becomes disabled through accident or illness, there is a whole added dimension to thoughts about one’s death. Depending on how dependent you are on others for care and whether you are able to communicate or are even aware of what’s happening, decisions are difficult, riddled with guilt and fear, no one ever sure they did the right thing. If you could convey your wishes, what would they be?

Assisted dying is not an option under the current laws unless you can self-administer. It has been tested by brave people with ALS and MS in the U.S. and foreign courts but euthanasia, which allows a physician to administer a life-ending drug to a person who is unable to self-administer because of their disability, is considered murder and many people fear that is opening assisted dying up to a slippery slope that could lead to the wholesale killing of the most vulnerable among us– the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, the poor.

Instead of showing compassion for those who are wrestling with these very personal decisions, some groups of religious protestors and bio-ethicists use fear and scare tactics, dredging up images from the Holocaust and other genocides, or hellfire and eternal damnation, to keep everyone from having control of how they end their own lives. These moral absolutists feel they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they have to protect us wayward relativists from ourselves as if we had no values. We do, just not the same as theirs.

I value human life as part of our eternal spiritual journey, I just don’t believe in the sanctity of life as the right to lifers do. Theirs is a religion based on fear and a judgmental god. I believe our Free Will gives us the right to determine when the quality of our life has fallen below our level of tolerance; that we should have the right to decide when it’s our time to die, and be able to ask our doctor to help us by giving us a prescription that will allow us to chose the time and circumstances of our own death.

Physicians, pharmacists and hospitals who provide a public benefit to a diverse society cannot impose their personal religious beliefs or moral values on patients at the end of their lives any more than at any other time in their lives. They work for us, we hire them… they are not the boss of us!

The alternative, if one is able, may be to blow your brains out or jump off a bridge or throw yourself in front of a train. What a mess! How much more peaceful and spiritual to take a pill and just go to sleep. Would you rather your family watch you suffer or allow you to die in peace? How much better for your family to be by your side instead of you having to go off like an animal to die alone.

A good way to count oneself down is to make a list of 100 things you do every day and cross items off as you can’t do them anymore until you’re down to the last 5 or 10 or 20, wherever you draw the line, then call your doctor for your prescription, pick it up when you are ready, gather your family together to say your goodbyes and have a final toast to your good death and peaceful journey home.

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Death With Dignity– right or wrong?

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The thing about laws in this country is that there is a separation between Church and State. To me that means just because some church or religion has a rule about something based on their beliefs that doesn’t make it a law of the land. They can’t impose their beliefs on the rest of us. They may express their opinion, and it should be taken into consideration in debates, but they can’t bully the rest of us with their derogatory statements or by pouring money into negative advertising to get their own way.

Calling aid-in-dying “assisted suicide” is inflammatory and demeaning to people who are dying. It is heinous attempt to frighten people, who are already frightened because they or someone they know may be dying, to coerce them into thinking they would be committing murder or suicide, let alone incurring God’s wrath. These may be the kind of tactics some people use to scare people into supporting their cause, but they do not speak for the majority as polls have so often shown.

It’s all well and good that certain religious groups want to protect vulnerable people from being murdered for convenience (and they should be), but to impose their view of morality on others, especially in personal and family matters, is beyond arrogance and presumption.

There are people who believe in the sanctity of life– that it is a gift from God and only God determines the time of death.

There are people who believe taking one’s own life is a sin, punishable by eternal damnation.

There are people who believe suffering has some redemptive value and should not be interfered with by hastening death.

There are people who believe when life is over, that’s it, dust to dust– so it does not matter what you do while you’re here. There is no God, no Heaven, no Hell. The ones with the most toys while they’re here, win.

There are those who believe one must follow the practices of a certain religion to get into “heaven” or be rewarded.

There are those who believe in a loving and forgiving God who welcomes everyone home.

There are those who believe that leaving one’s body is an adventure we get to go on at the end of this life, who look forward to their transition.

There are those who believe we are light beings who pass in and out of physical environments and less dense dimensions of the Universe as part of a greater journey, and death is just a transformation.

How do we take into account all these different beliefs when creating laws to regulate end-of-life procedures while protecting the vulnerable?

We give patients the right to make their own decisions, according to their own beliefs, regarding the care and treatment of their own body at the end of their lives, including when to end their own lives if they so choose… with the caveat that it’s a well-considered, educated decision. But it’s their business, not mine or yours or anybody else’s… least of all the government or the hospital or insurance companies or any religious group.

Protections need to be in place to prevent force or coercion. Hopefully we’ve learned from the atrocities and genocides of the past and have no need to repeat them. The elderly, the terminally-ill and people with disabilities need to make their wishes for future healthcare planning known while they are capable of doing so. They get to choose.

Those who want to do everything, try everything, fight on no matter what or how long, should write that in their Advance Directives. People who choose no treatment or to stop treatments and let nature take its course should have that written down.

Those who want to opt out early should be able to request a prescription for life-ending medication and not be forced to starve themselves to death or suffer unbearable agony. It has to be written down and Advance Healthcare Directives have to be honored.

This whole thing about whether a dying person asking for a lethal prescription is depressed is just ridiculous. They’re not just having a bad day, their boyfriend didn’t just break up with them, they don’t want to die… they are dying. Their doctor has told them there is nothing else to be done… go home, get your affairs in order, call hospice, you have 6 months or less to live. They have thought long and hard about this and made their decision with a clear mind before they made their request. And statistics show that most people who make the request don’t end up taking the pills. Just knowing they had the option was the comfort they needed and they are able to die peacefully at home in their own bed.

Then we have doctors who are against participating in assisting a dying patient by writing a prescription knowing if the patient takes it, it will end his life. They have their oath of do no harm, give no poison. They became doctors to heal people, not to kill them. Even though doctors and nurses are presumably the most qualified to administer drugs, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists say it is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath and would erode the public trust in medical professionals.

When it comes to capital punishment, medical ethics prevent doctors from participating in executions and they apply the same rationale to dying people not on death row. What often happens in prisons is that lethal injections are carried out by inexperienced technicians which increases the possibility of mistakes that can cause complications. What happens at home without proper medical care, when people take matters into their own hands, is often botched suicide attempts with dire consequences.

What is needed is a new medical specialty to insure proper administration of life-ending drugs and personal attention to  patients to assure a peaceful transition according to their last wishes. Patients need to be fully informed of procedures, effects, timelines, and so on, and the family about what to expect and how to plan by a competent, comforting person. This could be retired doctors or nurses who have the compassion to help people die on their own terms because prescriptions can be written and proper assistance rendered, and certain regulations need to be in place to assure death with dignity. We can work this out so medical care doesn’t end until after death.

It isn’t a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of choice.

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Assisted Dying debate on TV show

I gave up TV about 4 years ago (which has made a huge difference in my life, you should try it, just for 30 days and see what I mean) but after all these years I still keep up with one drama via the Internet… Grey’s Anatomy. It takes place in a hospital in Seattle and concerns the daily activities of doctors as do their work, Dr. Grey being one of the main characters. In a recent story line, a surgeon and former Chief of Staff of the hospital, is accidentally electrocuted and subsequently revived by extraordinary medical technology and drastic surgical interventions. He comes out of surgery barely alive, in a coma, on life support.

Does he have an Advance Healthcare Directive? Yes, great. Who did he appoint as his healthcare representative? Dr. Grey who is the daughter of a prominent doctor with whom the Chief had an affair many years ago and who is her superior? He didn’t bother to mention this little detail to her and it came as a complete shock. Not to mention that she was currently in the hospital after an emergency surgery during which she nearly lost her baby. She could barely think much less make a decision about her boss’ life or death.

There was pandemonium all around, everyone trying to figure out what to do with the comatose doctor. What would he have wanted? Surely he would have wanted everything and one doctor kept forcing treatments on him in his own best interests. Others thought it was time to let him go and argued to stop drastic measures.

Well, blahblahblah, more stuff happened and then he actually regains consciousness and sees what has happened to him, all hooked up to this and that, and he pitches a fit. He refuses this, refuses that, let me go, let me go. And this other doctor keeps shoving things in him and making him stay alive.

Cut to another patient who is clearly dying and the doctors are telling him there’s nothing more they can do. He needs to get his affairs in order and call hospice… and he pitches a fit. He wants everything, every test, every clinical trial, every new drug or surgery… bring it all on, I’m not going to die.

Turns out the same doctor who is trying to keep her Chief alive is also treating this dude who refuses to accept death as an option. After much back and forth discussions about choices, she puts the two men in the same room together to let them work it out. Not funny, but it was quite funny… the looks they gave each other!

What I find interesting about this is that this conversation is getting into mainstream homes and more people are going to start realizing how important it is to talk to your loved ones and your physician about end-of-life choices and filling out Advance Healthcare Directives so your wishes are carried out.

I’m hoping since their hospital is in the state of Washington where the Death With Dignity Act is law that they will take the story line to that level to help more people understand that it’s not about killing people, it’s about letting people die when they are ready to let go near the end of their lives on their own terms.

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Wrapping up the Massachusetts Death With Dignity Defeat

 sunsetcloudsDeath – the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.

–Sir Walter Scott

Now that the dust has settled around the Massachusetts ballot initiative for Death with Dignity, and the opposition and the proponents are preparing for the next battles in New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont, I’m going to provide excerpts from articles released in November leading up to the vote and its defeat to see what happened.

An interesting thing about this emotional argument is all the different players involved so I’m going to present their perspectives according to the articles leading up to the Massachusetts vote… with the caveat that I’m in favor of a Death with Dignity law but not particularly of the one that was proposed in Massachusetts or the ones that currently exist in Washington and Oregon. I will reserve my opinion for a subsequent blog post. So in alphabetical order–

THE DISABLED COMMUNITY

According to Second Thoughts (People with disabilities opposing the legalization of Assisted Suicide) director John Kelly, the only way for the law to be acceptable to them would be to make the safeguards so exacting that no one could get past them.

• They fear heirs might pressure their relatives to end their life early and with dementia they might relent.

• They stress people with mental illnesses,  including depression, are unable to make these decisions.

• They fear someone putting something into a feeding tube without the person’s knowledge.

• They fear wanton killing of  sick elderly and handicapped, disabled, challenged people as was done in Nazi Germany because they were considered unworthy, too expensive and too much trouble to take care of.

Second Thoughts contends that:

• Assisted suicide is a deadly mix with a profit-driven healthcare system. Pressure to cut costs, delays in treatment and limited coverage for home care can lead patients, families and doctors to choose the cheapest alternative, even if that is assisted suicide.

• Assisted suicide is unnecessary because current law gives every person the right to refuse lifesaving treatment, and to have adequate pain relief, including palliative sedation to die in your sleep. Assisted suicide decreases self-determination by giving doctors and insurers the power not just to cure, but to kill.

• The proposed law is a recipe for elder abuse. An heir can be a witness and help sign someone up, and once a lethal drug is in the home, no one will know how the drug is administered. If the person struggled, who would know?

•A lack of safeguards and oversight in the proposed law puts people at risk of misdiagnosis, deprivation of treatment and economic pressure to choose suicide, while protecting doctors from liability.

  • No mental health evaluation is required for depression or other treatable cause of suicidal feelings.
  • If a doctor refuses lethal drugs, the patient or family simply can—and do—find another doctor (“doctor shopping”).
  • “Terminal condition” and “death within six months” are often misdiagnosed, opening the dangers of assisted suicide to many who are not terminally ill.
  • Nothing in the law can offer protection when family pressures, whether financial or emotional, distort patient choice.
  • The law does not include enforcement provisions, investigation authority, oversight or data verification. The only foolproof safeguard is for the prescribing doctors. The law holds doctors only to a “good faith” standard, which makes any safeguards unenforceable.

• Discrimination: A law that singles out some people (such as old, ill and disabled people) for assisted suicide instead of suicide prevention is not in step with Massachusetts’ progressive tradition as a leader against discrimination.

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A writer commented– “Now is the worst time to perpetuate that death is better than disability.”

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Not Dead Yet Director Diane Coleman praised Second Thoughts Director John Kelly and the Steering committee for inserting the disability rights perspective into the Massachusetts debate. Coleman said Second Thoughts made the difference in preventing assisted suicide from gaining a foothold in the Northeast.

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A woman now confined to a wheelchair because of her MS, which she described as “the slow road to death,” was opposed to voluntary euthanasia until recently. ”As little as five years ago, I really did believe that without safeguards, voluntary euthanasia could be open to the terrible abuse of the elderly and the vulnerable in our society. I felt that quite strongly.” But she had no idea her illness would go into such a steep slide, prompting a ”drastic change in my feelings” about voluntary euthanasia. Now with her new consciousness, she wonders why it is illegal. ”If I’ve got a suffering animal, I won’t hesitate to have them euthanised,” said the keen horsewoman.

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Tony Nicklinson (58), a former soccor player in England, who developed locked-in syndrome following a stroke in 2005 and could only move his eyes, fought for the right to die by doctor-assisted lethal injection.  When his last request was turned down by the High Court in August, he felt his only alternative was to stop eating and drinking thus starving himself to death. Tony developed pneumonia and died a week after the verdict. His wife, Jane, and other people with locked-in syndrome, are continuing to pursue a change in the law to allow euthanasia for people like Tony who are incapable of doing it for themselves and need professional assistance.

THE DYING ONES

These are excerpts from various articles, letters, blogs by people who are or were in the process of dying:

“To end this suffering is not euthanasia. It is a display of pure love and decency for a fellow human through assisted suicide, and an acknowledgment of his own written wishes.”

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“It is not a choice between living and dying, but between different ways of dying.”

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“I don’t know if I’ll use the prescription but I know it’s there, just in case I decide I do. It gives me peace of mind.”

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“It’s not that I’m depressed, I’m just fed up and frustrated,” Ms Harrison (New Zealand) said. “I’ve had such a wonderful life, travelled widely, with glorious memories and now I have no control over my life whatsoever with much worry and anxiety. I am living in such despair. I want to go. I’m quite happy to go. I have no fear of death whatsoever. My one fear is, because I have spent the last 3 years in bed, that I’ll suffer a stroke or other medical disability and my wishes will evaporate with my physical or mental agility. If euthanasia was legal, I could spend more time alive without worrying that I must terminate my life as soon as possible before anything drastic happens.”

Ms Harrison has lived with MS for more than three decades but says the deterioration of her condition in recent years has made life unbearable. Confined to the living room that was once the bustling centre of her family home, she relies on her 26-year-old son, a member of the Army Reserve who is studying for his masters degree, as her primary carer. “All my loves . . . I loved nature, I love books, horseriding. Everything is now lost to me,” she said. “I have to cope daily with double incontinence, gripping spasms and physical and nerve pain, to say the least.”

As a member of Philip Nitschke’s right-to-die group Exit International, Ms Harrison had planned to travel to Dignitas. However, difficulty in obtaining paperwork led to delays and this year she fractured her femur, making the trip impossible .”I wanted to do it properly, to die in the company of friends and with dignity, I didn’t want it to be ‘suicide’,” she said.

EHTICISTS

“While I’m certainly someone who believes in increasing and furthering and advancing patient autonomy, I think that there are a lot of problems with the current ballot initiative. Primarily, the potential problems in having this initiative without any mandate for psychiatric evaluation.”

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“Euthanasia, also known as mercy killing, is the act or practice of deliberately killing a dying individual, who no longer wants to tolerate pain and suffering, in a relatively painless way. Physician assisted suicide, on the other hand, takes direct control out of a doctor’s hands. The doctor presents the patient with the means to end his life. Both issues are extremely controversial in the world of bioethics.” (Bioethicist)

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“The only really difficult ethical question surrounding assisted suicide is how we can ensure that an individual’s desire to end their life is the genuine, settled, free choice of a mentally competent individual. Of course, therefore, there must be safeguards in any future regulation of assisted dying. But as long as stringent safeguards are put in place, it is difficult to see the ethical case against it being provided at all.”

FAMILIES

“Those who have witnessed the agonies of a loved one in the final stages of ALS, MS, cancer, dementia, etc., will tell you that when there is no dignity nor purpose left, then the choice should be the patient’s.”

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I had a million questions about how he expected Ed’s decline to progress and I needed advice regarding the multitude of issues involved in end-of-life care. I wanted to know about ventilators, antibiotics, DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, living wills and so many other things. I also wanted to know how much longer he thought Ed might live, what specifically he might die of, and what signs I should look for that would indicate the end was imminent. And I had a lot of questions about hospice care, including whether I could stop it if I changed my mind later. (He told me I could stop it at any time, for any reason, and that if I changed my mind again, I could resume the services.) The conversation was incredibly stressful. At one point I realized I was holding my breath.

After answering all my questions, Doug looked at me kindly and said, “You know, Marie, the real question for the caregiver is how to help the patient have the highest possible quality of life in the time that is remaining.”That completely changed my thinking about the situation. It gave me a new and positive goal – to bring Ed as much happiness as possible. It led me to think about all the special things I could do for Ed — visiting him more often, taking my little Shih Tzu to see him, having that violinist come back and play another concert, reading to him from the New York Times, and buying him even more of the stuffed animals he loved so much. After that talk, I spent many hours pleasantly thinking up special things to do for and with Ed. Once I got my mind off his looming death, we were able to have a beautiful, pleasurable months-long conclusion of our life together.

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But in focus groups support took a nosedive when participants were told the measure did not require mental health specialists to sign off and did not mandate that family members be notified. When told that one of the common lethal prescriptions required patients to break up 80 to 100 capsules and stir their contents into a drink, support waned. People didn’t find that very dignified.

They also recoiled at the idea that the prescription would be obtained from a local pharmacy and ingested without supervision. As one guy said, ‘So, I’m waiting in line for my Sudafed and some guy waiting in front of me is trying to kill himself?” The research informed a series of powerful ads, including one featuring a pharmacist warning of the dangers and pouring out a bottle of red pills that skittered into a glass dish.“No doctors, no hospitals, just a hundred of these,” the pharmacist in the ad says. And they call that death with dignity?

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Although I asked point blank what to expect, I was told not to worry, mum would simply spend more time asleep and quietly pass away. If only. The weeks over which my mother passed away were a drawn out and traumatic experience that I would not wish on anyone. Several times I tried to get information about what would happen, from all the places you might expect, but none of it cut the mustard. It may be difficult to predict exactly what will happen in individual cases, but we weren’t even told about what might happen and how to prepare for it. Even when it was staring everyone in the face, there was little mention of the elephant in the room. Instead, the stark reality of what was happening was glossed over by those whose honest advice we might have benefited from. I’m sure our family is not alone, and although we may not all want such detail about what happens during death, most of us would admit we need to know it, however hard that might be. Informative conversations about the end of life give patients a better quality of life and help families cope with their bereavement.

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Thomas sat across from me on his sofa, holding his wife’s living will and health care proxy in his hands, still wondering if he chose the right time. Could his wife have changed her mind? Sure, she could have lived weeks or months more, perhaps, but would she have wanted that if she were able to choose?

His wife’s living will did seem to cover such a scenario, though typically such a document applies to a patient who is in a vegetative state rather than one who is conscious and talking (but not making any sense). Hers read: “If I have an incurable, irreversible condition that will cause my death within a relatively short time…I direct the withholding or withdrawal of all treatment, including nutrition and hydration, that only prolongs the process of dying.”

“I was very fortunate to have met Judy,” Thomas said of Schwarz, explaining that she had “held my hand through this process and provided advice that wasn’t coming from anyone else.” Still, Thomas is angry that the American medical system isn’t set up to deal with the complexities of the situation he faced.

“There aren’t a lot of guides for this process,” he said. “You would hope your own physician is [a guide], but they are there to treat you.”

“What am I doing?” she asked my father several times. “Life is not worth anything like this.”

Her hospice nurse was part of a team sent by Hospice and Palliative Care, which also included a doctor, a social worker and a rabbi. I was told when we met last spring that my mom’s quality of life had been deteriorating as April dragged on. She said my mom had told her, “I’m ready.” But my mom knew better than to ask a hospice nurse for help with that task. The goal of hospice is to keep the dying patient as comfortable as possible until death naturally occurs.

The associate chief medical officer told me that if a patient decides on her own to stop nourishment, medicine or machinery, no one will stand in her way.

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For months afterwards, George lay in bed, helpless and wasting away, with 24-hour nurses who washed and fed him and changed his diapers. He was lucid, and asked my mother and her sister to poison him. They told him they couldn’t do that, but my aunt Nina pointed out that his medicine was probably keeping him alive. Ending his life merely by omission hadn’t occurred to him.

“It was humane to put him out of his suffering but done through his choice,” Aunt Nina told me recently. “He certainly acted on that information pretty quickly.”

He died a few days later.

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The week she started hospice care, at the beginning of April 2011, my father contacted them. A few days later, they got a call from the clinical coordinator of Compassion & Choices, who lived nearby on the Upper West Side. She came over and spent a few hours talking with my parents, explaining her organization’s mission and discussing my mother’s illness and the options available. “She was warm and it was personal,” my father said. “She was a professional who is very skilled at dealing with situations like this.”

 The first thing she did was set me straight on the terminology when asked about “assisted suicide.” The term “suicide” has a lot of baggage whether religious, legal or moral, so to call it “assisted suicide” or “euthanasia” is to miss a crucial distinction.

We use the term ‘aid in dying because it more accurately reflects the information and support we provide to terminally ill and suffering clients”—information about how patients might control the circumstances or timing of their death. She went on to say that the motivation for suicide, which often results from mental illness and depression, is another thing entirely. We do not support suicide,” she said, noting the difference between suicide and the “thoughtful and considered decisions” made by some terminally ill patients as a means to avoid further suffering.

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Although Thomas’ wife was concerned about how this decision might affect her family members, it’s what she wanted to do. They got the lethal dose of medicine ready for when she might decide she needed it. But not long after preparing the dose, the cancer spread to her brain and she became unable to make the decision on her own. “So that plan went out the window,” Thomas said.

Even if his wife had been capable of deciding, Thomas wonders whether she would have made the decision to take the lethal dose, after all. “What point have you crossed where you truly don’t want to live in the situation any longer?” he asked. “It sounds more clear-cut when you are talking about it in the abstract than when you’re actually faced with it.”

Nevertheless, in a state of dementia, with hallucinations of snakes, Thomas’ wife was certainly not getting much in the way of dignity or quality of life. So after nearly 44 years of marriage, he decided to stop offering liquid when she stopped asking for it.

“She wasn’t able to consciously express the desire to die,” he said. “I acted on what I believed her wishes would have been.”

It took over a week before she fell into a coma and died.

HOSPICE/PALLIATIVE CARE

Patients would not be required to consult with a palliative care or a hospice expert. Hospice addresses the multifaceted distress that dying patients and their friends and families are experiencing by providing extensive palliative care, expert pain management, and extraordinary social and spiritual supports.  Hospice works with the patient to design a program that is individualized for the patient and provides choice, control and dignity when most needed.  Unlike even a few years ago, appropriate medical care is now able to keep patients comfortable and pain free. When the Oregon law was first passed, hospice care was only a glimmer of what it is today. Even though hospice services are now widely available, they are infrequently accessed.

PROCESS: Before care is provided, hospice staff meets with the patient’s personal physician and a hospice physician to discuss patient history, current physical symptoms, and life expectancy. They then meet with the patient and their family to discuss the services provided, pain and comfort levels, support systems, financial and insurance resources, medications and equipment needs. The patient must have a doctor’s referral to enter into hospice. Medicare covers all services, medications, and equipment related to the illness for patients with a prognosis of 6 months or less. (Source: http://www.hospicefoundation.org)

BENEFITS OF HOSPICE CARE: The use of hospice care can offer benefits to not only patients but their family members and loved ones as well.
1.    For terminally ill patients, the decision to receive hospice or palliative care instead of continued curative treatment can help them avoid the dangers of over-treatment.
2.    Hospice can reduce anxiety in the terminally ill patients as well as their family by helping them achieve some level of acceptance.
3.    Other than the focus on the physical health and comfort of the patients, hospice also focuses on the emotional needs and spiritual well-being of patients and their families.
4.    In-home care from a hospice IDT often means the patient receives greater monitoring than he or she would in a hospital. (Source: http://www.helpguide.org)

HELP FOR FAMILY MEMBERS:  The death of a loved one can be a difficult time and another benefit of hospice care is the support offered to family members after a patient has died. The bereavement support is when the hospice care team works with surviving family members to help them through the grieving process. This can include counselor visits to the family during the first year, support groups, and phone calls or letter contact with the family.

LAWS, COURTS

Sadly, many still believe that those living wills filled out years ago offer us some protection. They do not. We have progressed with the development of representation agreements and advanced directives, but the legal system still hovers threateningly. The author of such a directive – now in no fit state to demand execution of his wishes – must still face each day as a living hell.

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Death With Dignity Act – the state secretary, “This proposed law would allow a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at a terminally ill patient’s request, to end that patient’s life. To qualify, a patient would have to be an adult resident who (1) is medically determined to be mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions; (2) has been diagnosed by attending and consulting physicians as having an incurable, irreversible disease that will, within reasonable medical judgment, cause death within six months; and (3) voluntarily expresses a wish to die and has made an informed decision.”

There are, of course, a number of other safeguards built in, such as the need to make the request twice, separated by 15 days, in the presence of witnesses.  However, there could probably be stronger safeguards to protect individuals who are experiencing depression and anxiety, and might have preferable alternatives to physician-assisted death.

If passed on Election Day, physician assisted suicide would become legal under Massachusetts law, effective January 1, 2013. No additional legislative or other approvals would be necessary.  As written, the legislation is poorly written and lacks the basic safeguards against unintended consequences.

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Law is to make sure the assister isn’t prosecuted for helping a terminally ill person who wants to die carry out their wishes– not to determinate rightness or wrongness of the act of helping someone hasten their death. -dg

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In Montana, physician assisted suicide is not explicitly legal, but a state Supreme Court ruling gives legal protection to it.

The Montana Board of Medical Examiners has rejected a request to strike its policy on physician-assisted suicide that opponents criticize as too permissive. The board this year tried to provide some guidance to doctors on the issue that remains unclear in law. The board says it will review complaints on their merits if any are filed against a doctor for providing “aid-in-dying.”

Montanans Against Assisted Suicide says it wants the board to revoke that policy, saying it appears to condone a procedure that they argue is illegal. The board rejected the request on Friday, potentially paving the way for opponents to sue. The Montana Supreme Court in 2009 declared nothing in state law or precedent makes the procedure illegal. The Legislature has been unable to provide any further clarity.

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“Assemblyman John Burzichelli (NJ) introducted a bill modeled on the Death with Dignity Act legislation of Oregon and Washington. It is doctor-assisted suicide, NOT euthanasia. As a humane society we do not force animals to suffer an agonizing death. Why should we not be given the option of having that same right if that is our personal choice?”

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Gov. Peter Shumlin (VT) says he is confident that the Vermont Legislature will pass marijuana decriminalization and Death with Dignity or what opponents call physician-assisted suicide legislation this session.

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In recent years, Compassion & Choices has tried to do something about the shortcomings—or failure, in many opinions—of physicians to guide their patients through the dying process. David C. Leven, a lawyer and the executive director of the organization’s New York affiliate, has led the effort on the legal front.

“Why do you feel the need to urge doctors to diagnose dying?” I asked.

“Nobody tells them to,” he said. “Nobody reimburses you for that diagnosis.”

1997 Supreme Court ruling that individuals have no constitutional right to aid in dying. This ruling left it to states to decide the issue for themselves.

“We are over-treating people at the end of their lives,” Leven said. “People who are dying often suffer unnecessarily because they’re receiving aggressive interventions they may not want and don’t benefit from.”

The solution, in his opinion, is to provide patients with more information so that they can make informed end-of-life decisions that suit their needs. To this end, Leven helped enact New York’s Palliative Care Information Act, which took effect in February 2011. The act requires that doctors provide information and counseling to terminally ill patients who want it—which turns out to be most of them. But it seems that the vast majority of doctors don’t even know about the law. (In the group he spoke to at the hospital on Roosevelt Island, less than a quarter had heard of it.) Another problem is that some doctors may reject a legal mandate that tells them what to do with their patients, which is why the New York State Medical Society opposed the legislation. In Leven’s view, this shouldn’t be an issue because it is supposed to be part of a doctor’s job description.

“Doctors already have an ethical obligation to provide their patients with a diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options, and the risks and benefits of those options so that patients can make informed decisions,” he said.

Leven cited studies showing that a large percentage of doctors don’t have this conversation with their patients or don’t do it well. If they did, patients would be much better off, he said. For instance, when the big picture is explained to them and the options are reviewed, patients typically choose less aggressive treatment and opt more often for  palliative care and quality of life than for extending it. (Gawande made the same point in his New Yorker piece.)

Patients may get referred to hospice care, set up a do-not-resuscitate order, and put other measures in place to make sure that doctors don’t provide treatment against the patient’s wishes. (New York ranks 49th in the country in hospice enrollment.) The result, Leven said, is reduced medical costs, better quality care, and ultimately, a death that is peaceful and dignified; all from a simple conversation between the patient and his doctor.

Dr. Alan B. Astrow, Chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, said he agrees that it is a doctor’s responsibility to have this talk with patients. But he told me he understands why they often don’t.

“Many doctors avoid having to tell the patient that things are not going well and that the patient is at risk of dying in the near future,” Astrow said. “It’s hard to tell people, and also patients don’t really want to hear that news.”

However, he does not believe that the solution is a statute ordering doctors to do this—a point he made in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine last year. Astrow instead favors “more training in how to discuss end-of-life care issues with patients.” (David Leven agrees that doctors need more training, and is currently working on a bill that would require all healthcare practitioners in New York to get training in pain management and end-of-life care every four years.) Astrow acknowledged, however, that even with training, such care will still be very difficult for doctors. He stressed that he does agree with the goals of the Palliative Care Information Act, which provides a path toward “good medical care,” but he doesn’t think a legal remedy is enough to bring about a change in the overarching medical culture.

Considering that most doctors still don’t know about the Palliative Care Information Act, which isn’t enforced unless specific complaints are made to the New York State Department of Health, Astrow does have a point.

This is why Compassion & Choices, with a national staff of forty, has been trying to pick up the slack, making information available to anyone who needs it. After all, roughly a million and a half Americans die of terminal illness every year.

“Too many people are having bad deaths,” Leven said, “and it’s in some measure because they don’t have all the information they should have.”

NURSES

If ratified, the ANA would join the American Medical Association in saying that the “clinician’s participation in assisted suicide is incompatible with professional role integrity” and that assisted suicide and euthanasia “violate the social contract the professions have with society.”  Both organizations have “vowed to honor the sanctity of life and their duty not to inflict harm.” The document acknowledges the “distress” nurses suffer when asked to participate in active euthanasia and assisted suicide, and asserts that limits to their commitment to the patient’s right to self-determination “do exist.”The nurse is not allowed to “administer the medication that will lead to the end of the patient’s life,” says the draft document.Even in states in which assisted suicide is legal – Oregon, Washington and Montana – the ANA directs nurses to refrain from participation, as doing so would violate The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements. For anti-euthanasia advocates, there is cause for concern, however, in the section of the document on the “withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments (WWLST).

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Opponents of the proposal say doctors should never, as a matter of professional ethics, intentionally hasten the death of one of their patients, even one who is terminally ill. The codes of medicine and nursing ethics reject helping patients die.

PHYSICIANS

The AMA “strongly opposes any bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide” because the practice is “fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.”

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A difference between this proposal (called Question 2, which allows for physician-assisted death if a terminal illness is diagnosed with a prognosis of less than six months of survival) and some others is that there is no requirement for evaluation by a psychiatrist for depression before the lethal medication dose is administered. This itself is a fatal flaw.  (written by a psychiatrist)

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On being too aggressive trying to save patient, a doctor said: if you can’t save his life; sometimes, being a good doctor means learning to help people die.

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For Dr. Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer on social medicine at the Medical School and one of the initiative’s major public proponents, this question of autonomy and choice has a clear answer.“It seems to me that this most personal and faithful of decisions belongs with the patients and no one else: not the church, not the Mass. Medical Society, not the state, no one but the patient. And it hurts no one if the patient makes this choice,” she said.

Angell said that the experiences of those who have taken advantage of the law in Oregon shows that the availability of this choice is valuable, even if not used by many.“Good palliative care and assisted suicide—those two things are not mutually exclusive any more than the medical treatment of heart failure and heart transplantation. You use one when the other fails,” Angell said. “Allowing the most desperate of patients to have assisted dying to bring about a slightly faster, more peaceful death, does nothing to the other 99.8 percent of patients.”

“First of all, the totality of suffering at the end of life often involves pain, but it often reflects other reasons as well. For instance, air hunger in someone who has pulmonary disease, or sleeplessness in someone with so-called Lou Gehrig’s disease. So pain control is a major part of palliative care, but palliative care is broader than just pain control. The concept of “total pain” has been in the literature for years. “Total pain” includes physical pain but also involves spiritual or existential pain and psychological burdens. So there’s more to palliative care than pain control, and there’s more to pain than just its intensity.

In the clear majority — in most cases of, say, cancer-related pain — the figure that people quote is from studies applying a very simple three-step ladder that was developed by the World Health Organization: You can control about 90% of the pain in people with cancer. Now, I’m blending together different cancers, different stages and resting pain versus movement pain. But if you were to say: ‘Can you control most people’s pain with simple, non-invasive measures,’ the answer is yes. That’s been studied.

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As for people who have more difficult pain problems despite moving up the medication ladder, by providing a suitable nerve block or infusion, you can probably control the majority of the remainder. So the instances in which you have to choose between the patient’s being awake but in intolerable pain or being deliberately sedated to the point of unresponsiveness are very few.

If you talk to people who work in hospice or palliative care, terminal sedation is uncommon. – It’s wrong to oversimplify this. That’s why, as a program, although we have superb faculty who teach classes about end-of-life and palliative care issues, we’re not saying yes or no on Question 2.

I would say hypothetically, there may be an instance, exceedingly rare, where physician-assisted suicide is warranted. But in practice, in those infrequent instances where pain is hard to control, we now already can offer terminal sedation, where someone can be brought to a restful, sleep-like state by using medications. But even that is uncommon.

Preparing a living will and designating a health proxy before illness strikes or becomes advanced, promotes each person’s working through these issues in a thoughtful, unrushed way.

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Critics say the Death With Dignity Act as written does not provide enough safeguards against mentally ill people securing the drug or prevent patients from being coerced into killing themselves. There are also no rules regarding storage of the lethal pills once they’re brought home.

Furthermore, the Massachusetts Medical Society says that asking doctors to provide lethal drugs is antithetical to what healers stand for and goes against the Hippocratic Oath, a sort of medical code of conduct.

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As a retired clinical psychologist, I must note that there is a vast difference between the depression of a terminally ill patient, who realistically perceives his situation to be hopeless, and a physically healthy patient suffering from clinical depression.

In the case of a physically healthy patient who is clinically depressed, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are the product of inaccurate perceptions of self and circumstances — mental distortions produced by the illness itself. For such patients, treatment can produce marked improvement.The same cannot be said for terminally ill patients, whose feelings of hopelessness are, sadly, all too realistic and whose depression is often a normal response to a disheartening reality.

While the “counseling and caring” the doctor recommends can provide comfort to the terminally ill patient, they cannot change the reality of a patient whose quality of life has diminished to the point where each day is another round of frustration and pain, be it physical or emotional.

If I should become terminally ill, I would not want to cede to a third party the right to determine when my life is no longer worth living

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“With proper safeguards, this option is valuable for a very small subset of patients with terminal illnesses that would progress with unbearable physical or psychological suffering. The key is to have the right type of safeguards so only appropriate patients are given this option.”

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The Massachusetts Medical Society officially came out against the measure, arguing that, “the proposed safeguards against abuse are insufficient.” It’s difficult to determine exactly when someone’s six months would begin. More loftily, they reasserted the idea that “physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

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Assisted dying is best dealt with by preventing it from ever developing in the first place by giving patients the opportunity to talk with their physicians and families about how much care they want and offering them palliative or hospice care before being subjected to needless treatments in the first place. Most physicians and patients and their families would agree with this.

It is not surprising, however, that needless treatment can bring on the serious depression and hopelessness that in some patients can drive the desire for assisted suicide. It is hard, as it should be, and becoming harder all the time because of the rapid advances in medical science to decide when and what kind of treatment is “needless.”

Physicians usually make the judgment after considering all the possibilities that modern medicine can offer and then try to make the best medical and humane judgments, taking into consideration the patient’s prognosis and wishes. But sometimes physicians can be moved by the fear of malpractice suits for not having “done everything” and resort to over-treatment as a solution. This is called defensive medicine. It will continue, however, until the defects in the malpractice system are corrected and physicians are not penalized for using good judgment that is later seized upon as a reason for a malpractice suit.

But insurance plays a significant role in over-treatment as well because it isolates patients and families from the astronomical costs of over-treatment, making it easy for them to demand that “everything be done,” even when it is against the collective judgment of the physicians taking care of the patient. But once the decision to do everything is made, it sets in motion a steady stream of reports from CAT scans and laboratory tests and consultants that often create confusion that worsens patients’ feelings of hopelessness and loss of control.

There is a real danger that the insurance companies’ pressure on doctors to practice “economically” will subtly influence the decisions that patients, their families, and physicians make. Already physicians are under great pressure to practice medicine with severe “cost-saving” restrictions.

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WebMD’s physician web site, recently surveyed 24,000 doctors – When asked if physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in some situations, 47% of doctors said “yes,” 40% said “no,” and 13% said, “It depends.”

RELIGION

Vote NO on Question 2,” reads a sign outside St. Stephen’s Parish in downtown Framingham. The message on a second sign is printed in Spanish. The Roman Catholic Church in recent weeks has spoken out fiercely against the ballot measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide and Catholic groups nationwide have donated most of the $2 million the opposition has raised this election cycle. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston last weekend broadcast a special sermon to parishes across the state urging churchgoers to vote no on Question 2. Local parishioners last week said they agree. “It’s taking something that’s out of our control.”

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Rabbi Andrew Vogel said Judaism unlike some other religions doesn’t take a black and white stance. The religion opposes suicide but encourages compassion, he said. He opposes the measure but encouraged Jews to make their own decision.

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The flaws Meade cites include no mandatory family notification – and no mandatory counseling. Her allies include Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. In a video homily, posted on the cardinal’s blog, he makes it clear that he wants Catholics to vote no.  O’Malley says “We cannot ignore the impending legalization of physician assisted suicide as if it did not affect us. It would bring spiritual death, a cheapening of human life, the corrupting of the medical profession. PAS means making doctors nurses, pharmacists, friends, and society itself accomplishes in suicide.”

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Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel of Boston spoke in favor of the question during his Oct. 5 sermon, and he and four other reform rabbis have released a statement backing the measure.“There are a lot of people who want to know that it would be possible,” Friedman said Sunday in a phone interview. “It’s hard to imagine that level suffering if you’re not in that condition. They want to feel that if it’s intolerable, they have the right and permission to exit on their own terms. Just the knowledge provides a sense of relief.”

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Imam William Suhaib Webb, of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, said that while the question has not been formally addressed during services, “religiously we’re pretty much in agreement as Muslims” against it.“We believe that every breath is a gift,” Webb said. “Every difficulty through that suffering is a means of purifying into the life thereafter.”

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“It’s the wrong direction to go in,” said Bob Denning, 57, of Boston. Denning said that society was “looking for a quick fix” to suffering and that physician-assisted suicide was “immoral and a crime. The way the law is, it’s actually insulting to humans.”

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The Rev. Walter Kim of Park Street Church, a Protestant church in Boston, said his church recently held a panel discussion on the question, which he opposes.“It’s a moral as well as a political issue,” Kim said. “If we created a culture that really took care of the elderly and gave them vibrant communities, we’d be greatly alleviated. ”The wording of the question “is so problematic it doesn’t enable us to speak with moral clarity,” he said. He added that the lack of safeguards makes it such “that you don’t even have to get to all the moral issues. This ballot is problematic.”

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The Rev. Kazimierz Bem, pastor of the First Church in Marlborough, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, preached a sermon against the physician-assisted suicide question on Oct. 21. He said that educating the public was important and that he was moderator of a panel discussion held that same day at the church. Supporters and opponents sat on the panel, he said, but the choice is a clear one.“A person ravaged by disease has no less dignity than Michael Phelps in the swimming pool,” said Bem. “It is not up to us to decide when we go.”

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The widow of Senator Edward Kennedy has joined a line-up of high-profile liberal Catholics opposing a referendum that would permit physician-assisted suicide in the predominantly Democrat state of Massachusetts.Victoria Reggie Kennedy voiced her opposition to physician-assisted suicide in an op-ed article in the Cape Cod Times, saying that Tuesday’s referendum would turn her late husband’s lifelong commitment to health care “on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide – not patient care – as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life.” Mrs Kennedy noted that when her husband was diagnosed with cancer he was given two to four months to live and survived for another 15 months.

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According to financial reports filed with the state, the Archdiocese of Boston and some of its affiliated organizations, such as the Boston Catholic Television Center and St. John’s Seminary, spent at least $2.5 million to defeat the proposed law. He added that the American Principles Project, a national conservative organization, along with one of its founders, added another $500,000 to oppose the initiative.

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In remarks to the assembly earlier in the day, O’Malley thanked his fellow bishops and Catholic organizations for their help in defeating physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts, which he called a “terrible assault on human life.

”The Catholic church teaches that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that suicide is always objectively wrong, though whether a person bears responsibility for committing suicide depends on his or her psychological and physiological state.

In his remarks, O’Malley pointed to the Netherlands, where doctor-assisted suicide is legal and where a group is now creating mobile teams that will offer euthanasia to patients at home, making lethal drugs more widely available to patients. The United States, O’Malley said, is a long way from that scenario, but only because voters in all but two states have held the line.

“What has put the brakes on the growth of physician-assisted suicide in the US is that more than 20 states have rejected proposed legislation and ballot initiatives,” he said.

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The Archdiocese of Boston led the fight against Question 2, the ballot measure that would have allowed people with less than six months to live to obtain lethal prescriptions. The church helped build a diverse coalition of doctors, hospice workers, and interfaith leaders and helped raise more than $4 million, much of it from Catholic organizations and wealthy donors across the country.

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On Tuesday the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston did something it had not done for a while: It won a major political battle.The archdiocese and other Catholic donors supplied a significant share of the $5 million spent to defeat Ballot Question 2, which would have let terminally ill people obtain a prescription drug to end their lives. But the church did not win the fight alone. By Election Day a large, diverse coalition of opponents had united against the measure, including many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy; palliative care doctors; hospice workers; and pharmacists.

Polls in early October suggested two-thirds of voters supported the ballot question. But on Election Day it failed by 2 points. Opponents outspent proponents by a factor of six.

“Physician-assisted suicide,” Cardinal O’Malley told the assembly, ”presents a moral and ethical threat to society, the medical profession, the disabilities community and the common good. It brings spiritual death, a cheapening of human life, and a corrupting of the medical profession. During the course of preaching and speaking about this issue, I often cited the Hippocratic Oath of ‘do no harm.'”Although the measure to legalize assisted suicide was defeated, the Church is nonetheless called to “become more focused on the fact that we must do more to promote good palliative and hospice care at the end of life.”

“The Church has always been committed to compassionate and dignified end of life care,” he said. “We must work with our hospice care and palliative care communities to continue to provide quality of care for the terminally ill. Fear of tremendous pain is advanced as a reason to support physician-assisted suicide. In almost every instance palliative care can suppress pain.”

The cardinal also reminded the assembly that “people already have the right to refuse burdensome, life-extending treatments. They also have the option of leaving advance directives to determine their care when they are no longer able to express their wishes. The death that results from withholding or withdrawing 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,” he said. In preventing this measure from being passed, however, the Massachusetts prelate emphasized the importance of providing pastoral and medical care for terminally patients.

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Some religious groups, of course, have starkly different ideas. The Catholic Church has been vocal in its criticism of assistance in dying and, particularly, of Compassion & Choices. Last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops laid out its official position in a statement. The bishops make a range of well-worn arguments, including the sanctity of the Hippocratic Oath and how “suicidal” people need counseling, confusing the distinction between those who are truly suicidal—who do not want to live—and someone who is terminally ill, who wants to live but chooses to hasten their death because they can’t prevent it. The bishops also argue that allowing people to have a say in how and when they die will inevitably lead to abuse of the practice.

“Taking life in the name of compassion also invites a slippery slope toward ending the lives of people with non-terminal conditions,” the statement said.

RIGHT TO DIE

Death with Dignity 2012, the political action group supporting the measure, staunchly disagrees, saying people deserve to choose how they die.

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Compassion & Choices provides information about end-of-life choices to help patients make informed decisions that reflect their personal values and wishes for care. They don’t provide the means. They don’t administer. They don’t encourage or coerce. They have no agenda other than to provide complete and accurate information about end-of-life options.

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Final Exit instructs terminally ill people how to end their lives with helium and an “exit mask”—self-acquired and self-administered—and does not pursue legislative reform. The group has run into legal trouble in recent years, notably in Phoenix, Atlanta, and most recently Minnesota, for breaking state laws that prohibit assisting in suicide. Compassion & Choices has so far avoided such problems.

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“For the past year, the people of Massachusetts participated in an open and honest conversation about allowing terminally-ill patients the choice to end their suffering,” said Compassion & Choices. “The Death with Dignity Act offered the terminally-ill the right to make that decision for themselves, but regrettably, we fell short. Our grassroots campaign was fueled by thousands of people from across this state, but outspent five to one by groups opposed to individual choice.”

The “Death With Dignity Act,” which aimed at allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication to a terminally ill patient to end their own life, lost 49% to 51%, according to election results.

In Massachusetts, 1,439,785 voters were against the proposal, while 1,382,651 supported the measure. In Boston, however, voters didn’t share the same sentiment as the rest of the Commonwealth. Hub voters favored the act, with 111,852 of those registered casting a “Yes” vote, compared to 107,377 who voted “No.”

“Even in defeat, the voters of Massachusetts have delivered a call to action that will continue and grow until the terminally-ill have the right to end their suffering,” backers of Question 2 said on Wednesday.

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Compassion & Choices also debunks misinformation, like the idea that ceasing to eat and drink could be painful. It’s not. Terminally ill people typically don’t have healthy appetites to begin with, so hunger pangs are unlikely. Headaches are common at the beginning, but those pass quickly; thirst or dry mouth is the biggest challenge, but it’s more discomfort than pain, and there are ways to ease it.

“I never tell patients I’m going to help them have a good death,” she said. “What I say is, ‘Let’s work together to have the least bad death possible.’”

RIGHT TO LIFE

Some disability groups and religious organizations believe that the terminally ill who are disabled deserve better palliative care and emotional support rather than a prescription of deadly medicine. They also worry that people may feel compelled or coerced into choosing death because their care is expensive, they see themselves as a burden to others or because relatives are thinking that they do not want to spend the grandchildren’s college tuition to keep grandpop going in a nursing home or ICU. Given the current push to contain medical costs, the biggest fear is that the vulnerable will get the bum’s rush to the hereafter.

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Few people know that there is not a provision in this ballot language requiring family members to be notified if their loved one decides to take his or her life, that doctors are not present at the end, and that a terminally ill patient can get this prescription filled at the local pharmacy. There is a misguided perception that somehow this all takes place in a medically supervised setting. In reality, there is no tracking of these pills once they are picked up and brought to the person’s home.

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Patients would not be required to seek psychiatric care before obtaining the lethal drug.  Multiple studies show a connection between a terminal diagnosis and patients developing depression.  As it stands, no mental health professional would be required to be part of the consultative process. I don’t think that the fact that the cardinal is sending out a homily to people is changing poll numbers,” said Mark Horan, spokesman for the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide.
Horan said many voters agree the measure has flaws, such as no requirement to notify family members or for psychological counseling.

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Harvard Right to Life stands for the right to life from conception to natural death,” HLR president Matthew R. Menendez ’14 said. “So it is our view that it is never right to voluntarily end a life, and so in that sense we are opposed to [the Death with Dignity initiative].”

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Wesley J. Smith of Secondhand Smoke blog says opposition consists of:
•    Disability rights activists who see themselves and the elderly–rightly–as the targets of the movement;
•    Medical professional organizations are overwhelmingly opposed to legalizing assisted suicide.
•    Egalitarian liberals, such as Robert P. Jones, believe that assisted suicide threatens equality.
•    Pro-lifers offer a solid foundation of opposition from which to build a winning coalition.
•    Advocates for the poor who understand that assisted suicide could easily become a form of medical cost containment

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The landmark 2009 report by MetLife Mature Market Institute describes elder financial abuse as a crime “growing in intensity.” The perpetrators are often family members, some of whom feel themselves “entitled” to the elder’s assets. The report states that they start out with small crimes, such as stealing jewelry and blank checks, before moving on to larger items or coercing elders to sign over the deeds to their homes, change their wills or liquidate their assets. The report states that victims “may even be murdered” by perpetrators.

With legal assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington state, perpetrators are instead able to take a “legal” route by getting an elder to sign a lethal dose request. Once the prescription is filled, there is no supervision over administration. The elder could be cajoled or coerced into taking the lethal dose, for example, while under the influence of alcohol. The lethal dose could be administered while the elder slept. If he awoke and struggled, who would know?

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A Boston Globe poll in September showed 68 percent of voters in support and 20 percent opposed. In the end, the margin of defeat was 62,000 votes out of nearly 3 million cast. Some commentators attributed the defeat to prominent opposition by disability activists there who feared pressure to use the law, especially for older people with disabilities. Opposition also included the Massachusetts Medical Society and Senator Ted Kennedy’s widow.

INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITY

AUSTRIA

The Gallup Inc. poll for the Swiss Medical Lawyers Association (SMLA) found that Catholic Austria had the third highest support for the idea of allowing people to decide to take their own lives with 83 per cent in favour. An additional 4 per cent had no opinion and 13 per cent did not agree.

The country which showed the least enthusiasm still also had a majority in favour in Greece where just over half – 52 per cent – agreed assisted suicide should be allowed in some cases such as terminal illness. Support was only stronger in Germany and Spain.

In addition 72 per cent of people in Austria agreed that they could consider using assisted suicide themselves with 18 per cent against the idea, and of these 85 per cent said it should always be carried out with professional assistance in the form of a medically qualified person.

Most Austrians also felt it was wrong that doctors could face prosecution for helping with assisted suicide with 77 per cent calling for it to be lifted against 14 per cent that felt it was right to keep the law in place and 9 per cent that did not know.

Some 27 per cent of Austrians however also admitted that they were worried that they might be put under pressure to choose suicide if it was legalised, saying they saw it as an occasional risk and 7 per cent said they imagined it would be a frequent risk.

AUSTRALIA

Every week about five elderly Australians commit suicide, and euthanasia advocates say most of them hang themselves for lack of a better way to end their pain.

At the same time, keeping people alive with “futile” but expensive treatments in hospitals is both cruel and blowing out health budgets, an intensive care doctor says. “The vast majority is by hanging themselves. The explanation for that is that rope is very easy to get and access to information about how to hang yourself is easy to get … but information about a safe peaceful mediated death is not.

CANADA

Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide by Alex Schadenberg uncovers data from peer reviewed journal articles and studies related to the euthanasia deaths without request, the unreported euthanasia deaths, and the experience of nurses with euthanasia in Belgium. The book also examines the most recent statistics from the Netherlands.

This book exposes how vulnerable patient groups are dying by euthanasia and it also exposes how Justice Smith in the Carter case, the Royal Society of Canada end of life decision making report and the Quebec Commission on Dying with Dignity avoided the truth in order to establish false and dangerous recommendations for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. “Using already existing studies, Schadenberg has uncovered the shocking truth about euthanasia in Belgium, the lives lost and the deep threat to others. His work demonstrates unequivocally that we must never follow this Belgian pathway to the easy killing of people whose lives are not valued by those who do the killing.”

SOUTH AFRICA

Davison, author of Before We Say Goodbye: Helping my mother die and After We Said Goodbye, was sentenced to five months of house arrest in New Zealand for assisting in the suicide of his terminally ill mother. He returned to South Africa at the end of April. Davison is on the executive committee of DignitySA and they have drafted a policy document that could be used as the basis for a draft bill. The organisation is considering bringing a class action to the Constitutional Court if the bill is not adopted by parliament. They are aiming to legalise euthanasia by the end of next year.

UNITED KINGDOM

An independent review of the controversial palliative care practice known as the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) has been announced, many newspapers report.

The LCP is intended to allow people with a terminal illness to die with dignity. But there have been a number of high-profile allegations that people have been placed on the LCP without consent or their friend’s or family’s knowledge.

Concerns have also been raised about hospitals receiving payments for increasing the number of patients who are placed on the LCP.

Care minister Norman Lamb is quoted as saying ‘It is clear that everyone wants their loved ones’ final hours of life to be as pain free and dignified as possible, and the Liverpool Care Pathway is an important part of achieving this aim.’

‘However, as we have seen, there have been too many cases where patients were put on the pathway without a proper explanation or their families being involved. This is simply unacceptable.’

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Does the cost of applying heroic measures at the end of life exceed the cost of palliative care for 6 months? Can’t be about saving money. In America, nothing happens without a cost-benefit analysis. But the case for a less excruciating death can stand on a more neutral, less disturbing foundation, namely that it is simply a kinder way of death.

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A Church of England body is opposing changes to a British law on assisted dying, saying it would permit people to actively participate in someone’s death, a move unprecedented since the country’s abolition of capital punishment.

 

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Care Not Killing (UK)

Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide (US)

Compassion & Choices (US)

Compassion in Dying (UK)

Death with Dignity (US)

Dignitas (Switzerland)

Dignity in Dying (UK)

Dying with Dignity (Canada)

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Canada)

Final Exit Network (US)

Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (UK)

Not Dead Yet (US)

Patient Rights Council (US)

Second Thoughts (US)

World Federation of Right to Die Societies (UK) – The World Federation, founded in 1980, consists of 45 right to die organizations from 25 countries. The Federation provides an international link for organizations working to secure or protect the rights of individuals to self-determination at the end of their lives.

BOOKS

How to Die Consciously by Diane Goble – Practical suggestions about how to prepare yourself and your family for your transition whenever/however it happens (because we are all going to die)

Death with Dignity – October 2012

Overview of National News – October 2012

(NOTE: For list of articles quoted, go to Categories: Assisted Dying & Euthanasia: Assisted-Death Debate – October 2012)

The major news throughout October has been about the vote in a few days in Massachusetts for a Death With Dignity law, similar to the proven-effective laws in Oregon and Washington. The laws provide similar guidelines and safeguards for those dying patients who want to request a prescription from a physician to hasten their deaths if they decide to and for those physicians who may write the prescriptions.

Is it a perfect law, no. Do some of the opponents have legitimate concerns, certainly. Do they have a right to impose their beliefs on others, no. Is it a work in progress, yes. We need rational debate not fear tactics and threats of being banished to hell to consider all sides of the issue.

I found it interesting that I only came across relevant articles from 12 states and Washington, DC in October. Most articles mentioned the growing debate about the Massachusetts ballot issue to be voted on November 6… however, the one Illinois article discussed the controversy over a proposed  assisted-death bill being introduced in Quebec and the one article from North Carolina had the anti-euthanasia advocate from Canada claiming fraud and abuse at Dignitas in Switzerland. They may be testing the waters.

In Oregon, where the Death with Dignity law has already passed, some of its financially-strapped hospitals are now facing take-over by the Catholic healthcare systems whose execs tell the town folks nothing will change… well, except that abortions (unless to save the life of the mother) and writing prescriptions for a life-ending drug won’t be allowed “on their dime.”

The people of Ashland kicked them out but they continue to target other towns in Oregon and Washington. According to a Catholic Bishop in Wisconsin, supporting a woman’s right to reproductive freedom (abortion); death with dignity (euthanasia); important scientific research (stem cell research); and marriage equality for gay and lesbian citizens are all “intrinsically evil” and, of course, we are all going to hell in a handbasket.

BTW, a gay bashing group from Mississippi sent the opponents of the Death with Dignity law in Massachusetts $250,000 to help them with their campaign. It became a hot news item and they were guilted into sending at least some of it back, although they continue to accept contributions from the Catholic Church (whatever happened to separation between Church and State?) and other dubious supporters for the media blitz this week leading up to voting day.

Unfortunately, it seems their media blitz is working because the gap that according to polls was a slam dunk for passage has been shrinking the past week. Don’t take anything for granted if you want this to pass. Get out and vote, and tell your friends to vote their choice.

It seems that in some states people are beginning to look at this issue and talk amongst themselves about how they want to die when their time comes. If it passes in Massachusetts, some claim it will open the floodgates for other states to get it on the ballot. One writer prophesized: “Coming soon to your state!”

The next states getting close to having a Death with Dignity law on the ballot are New Jersey, Hawaii, Vermont and Texas… and, who knows, maybe even Montana will make it official soon!

People in those other 38 states need to wake up and pay attention not just to what’s happening in Massachusetts, but all over the world on this issue because this is an idea whose time has come. And it’s not going to go quietly away.

Overview of International News – October 2012

In Australia, euthanasia advocate Dr. Philip Nitschke is urging Tasmania’s Upper House MPs to open their minds to what he calls progressive legislation. A discussion paper on legalising voluntary euthanasia is due out in the next few months. A euthanasia bill will have to pass the Upper House before it can go to parliament next year. The issue of gay marriage has only just been dismissed from the Tasmanian Parliament but already Christian groups are preparing for the next moral battle while MLC Paul Harriss has dismissed the debate as a Green-led agenda.

Actor and Bell Shakespeare theatre director John Bell who supports the rights of patients to choose to end their life says it is not a morose or negative cause. ”We’re not about embracing death … we are about celebrating life. Once the quality of life is gone, life is not worth very much,” he said. ”I don’t want to reach that stage of being incontinent, helpless, totally dependent. It’s a dreadful way to end a life that’s been a very happy and blessed one.” John said that often children of parents are particularly torn by how to care for their dying loved one. “They often feel guilty about wanting the parent to go, and therefore not being able to let them go and not knowing how to do it.”

Sarah Edelman, clinical psychologist and vice-president of Dying with Dignity, NSW, says that under current law it is legal to starve oneself to death over several weeks in a hospital bed and to commit suicide using violent means. (In fact, it is difficult to end one’s own life peacefully without appropriate medication or ”insider knowledge”). However, it is illegal to access medical help to die peacefully when faced with intolerable suffering and no prospect of recovery, or when dying is slow, painful and undignified. Politicians should be asked why this is an acceptable state of affairs.

From a woman in Sydney– “Right now there are two people in my life wanting to die. My 19-year-old university student friend Josh made his intentions really, really clear last week. He stood in front of a train. It didn’t kill him and he is vigorously being kept alive in intensive care. My 86-year-old dad, Bob, who lives in an aged care facility, regularly quotes the Ol’ Man River song ‘I’m tired of living, but scared of dying.’ So with all this talk about the possibility of legalising euthanasia, what’s the difference between Josh’s suicide attempt and assisted suicide should my dad Bob want it?

David Leaf, a Dying with Dignity NSW board member, said mounting evidence that supported legalising euthanasia was being ignored. He said assisted dying programs worked, with no evidence of heightened risk for groups considered vulnerable to euthanasia, including the elderly, uninsured, poor, physically disabled and mentally ill.

Dr Leaf criticised Father Brennan and “other Catholic lobbyists” for using emotive terms like “legal killing,” “suicide,” “death by doctor,” and “lethal injection” in their input into the debate. “I’m not anti-Catholic, but I’m anti-bullshit,” Dr Leaf said.

More than 200 Australian doctors have banded together to call for law reform on voluntary euthanasia, but few of them would want to administer a fatal drug dose. “But doctors wouldn’t be administering the drug, because that responsibility could instead lie with the patient who would self-administer the dose, which is what happens in countries where it is legalised,” Dr Marr said.”This is not about the suffering of doctors, it’s about the suffering of the patients and that’s what the doctors signed up to our organisation recognise.”

When the swimming champion Murray Rose died on a quiet Sunday last April, he was at peace. His wife, Jodi, believes palliative care and a supported death at home helped create that peace. “There’s no greater transition than death – and you want it with dignity,” she said. “He loved being at home so I knew in general that if there was any way he could pass away at home that was our ideal scenario. I did not do it alone. I could not have done it alone,” she said. The provision of palliative care in NSW is at a critical juncture: historically underfunded services are struggling to meet increasing demand while federal funding appears to be drying up. The Roses’ experience is unusual in NSW, according to the Palliative Care Plan. One third of people who die of cancer and 90 per cent of those who die predictable deaths from other conditions do not receive palliative care.

And this is one of the problems everywhere it’s being debated. People say palliative care can help relieve the pain and suffering that often comes with the dying process. First, palliative care isn’t available everywhere, in fact hardly anywhere– it’s a new field. Second, there aren’t enough trained medical people to administer and implement palliative care programs to handle the growing need (think Baby Boomers). And third, what is available is expensive and mostly not covered by insurance– including Medicare, which will pay the MD but not the nurses, the social workers, the caregiver assistants, or the chaplains necessary to make it truly a palliative care program.

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In Belgium, deaths from “voluntary euthanasia” are approximated at 2 percent, – 2,000 annually. At a recent conference in Brussels, a Belgian doctor reported that organ transplants are being done on euthanized patients and that Belgium leads in this practice. Dr. Van Raemdonck reported that nine successful lung transplants from “voluntary euthanized” patients have been performed since 2007.

If a person who is an organ donor is brought into the emergency room and declared brain dead, his body can be kept alive by machines until his organs can be harvested. What’s the difference if a person who is dying wants to be euthanized at some point so that his still viable organs can be harvested for transplant? I’m sure there will be outcries from the right that people will want to euthanize granny and sell her lungs when this gets around.

A filmmaker researching a film about dying interviewed two doctors who told him, “Unusually, the Belgian palliative-care movement and right-to-die movement developed alongside each other. Today, following legalisation in 2002, both palliative care and euthanasia are available alongside each other in the mostly Catholic-run public hospitals as part of an integrated system of end-of-life care. Under Belgian law there two key preconditions: incurable illness and unbearable suffering. The euthanasia usually takes place in the presence of friends and family, often accompanied by prayers, music and even champagne.

In the city of Hasselt, Fr Marc Desmet, a kindly palliative-care consultant and Jesuit priest, brought us to meet an older woman, Delphine Van Hoebrock, the evening before she was euthanised. He held her hand gently as he checked whether she had any last doubts. She seemed remarkably certain and sanguine about her choice, although I couldn’t help sensing some loneliness too. It was both emotionally charged and strange to spend time with Delphine on the eve of her chosen death. Heartbreakingly sad also, even though we knew her only fleetingly. Even an assisted death is a sad and lonely affair, it seems, no matter how much it is desired.

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It looks looks Canada is set to become the next country to allow assisted dying. The Quebec legislature passed a report early in October, after two years of work from the Dying With Dignity Committee. The action was part of the Parti Quebecois’ election agenda (Parti Quebecois is the minority government in Quebec at present) and likewise had the backing of the all-party National Assembly committee.  The Liberals have remained silent on the issue.

Nonetheless, the Criminal Code still prohibits medically assisted-suicide. Social services junior minister Véronique Hivon asserts that Quebec can pass the law without the support of Ottawa as “Quebec has jurisdiction over health and also over professional qualifications” which “gives us the confidence to introduce this medical aid in dying in our bill.” The passing of the law will place Canada under the umbrella of other countries who exercise physician assisted-suicide such as Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands along with a few American states.

Wanda Morris, Executive Director of Dying With Dignity-Canada, believes Canada has a clean slate where” we can introduce any criteria for eligibility we choose, and we can adopt whatever safeguards we feel are necessary.” Canadians can look to the decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith who had access to detailed testimony from both sides, experts from around the world and the results of cross-examinations from both teams of lawyers.

Among her conclusions: there is no slippery slope; the safeguards work. “In my opinion, opponent’s presentation of data from Oregon and Netherlands is generally incomplete, frequently filled with factual inaccuracies and distortions, and often meant to construct a false empirical foundation for what is essentially a moral opposition to the practice of physician-assisted death.”

Ottawa, on the other hand, has filed its arguments in an appeal of a B.C. decision that struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted suicide, arguing the trial judge was wrong to conclude the law is unconstitutional. In documents filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal, the government says the law reflects a reasonable belief that allowing assisted suicide would put vulnerable people at risk of being coerced or even forced to end their lives. The government says the law reflects Parliament’s desire to discourage and prevent suicide in all cases, and it should be up to lawmakers, not the courts, to decide if that needs to change.

Quebec grassroots group Living with Dignity director Linda Couture expressed alarm at how fast the government is moving, noting the new government hopes to have a bill passed by June next year.

Consistent with Canadian law, most of the country’s medical governing bodies are opposed to assisted death. So taking a principled stand, even within the quiet confidence of colleagues, can trigger career-ending attacks from within.They have to worry as a physician how the public, their patients, and their colleagues are going to view them. Whenever you depart from the traditional viewpoint in medicine, it’s going to be uncomfortable.

Some doctors fear the hot-button issue is drawing focus away from a different, and widely used form of end-of-life care. Dr. Romayne Gallagher works with the palliative care program at Providence Health Care, which aims to alleviate suffering for the dying. However, even though Canada has offered palliative care since 1975, it is still largely unavailable to most Canadians.

So medically assisted death is still not an option in Canada, but it’s  only a matter of time before it is. And we’re talking a few more years, not decades. But Canadians are already finding ways to spare themselves unbearable suffering, because there are organizations out there willing to educate them about the alternatives. And those organizations are watching with interest as several court cases wind their way through the justice system — cases which could turn the tide.

Meg Westley witnessed two people die. One died painfully and slowly of the cancer ravaging her body. Another was relatively well, but decided to hasten his death before Huntington’s disease took its terrible toll. Both, she believes, were abandoned by Canada’s ban on assisted suicide.

“I think it’s barbaric that even though people want to go, we let them suffer on,” said Westley, a University of Waterloo communications professor and president of the right-to-die advocacy group Dying with Dignity. “It is about compassion,” she said. “Give them the assistance so they don’t have to suffer if that’s their choice.”

The wrenching experience was made worse knowing Nagui Morcos died when he still had months, even a couple years of relatively decent health to enjoy with his wife, family and friends. But Morcos knew he could not get the help needed later when he was no longer physically able to end his life on his own. Watching life slip away from this cheerful and passionate man who talked repeatedly of the great moments he would miss reaffirmed the unfairness of Canada’s law against doctor-assisted suicide.

Gloria Taylor, the 64 year-old Okanagan woman who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease and fought to change Canada’s law on assisted dying, died in early October. She was gradually losing control of her muscles and feared dying of the disease. Together with two others, she launched a lawsuit claiming that the Canadian Charter of Rights implied a right to choose the time of her death. Judge Lynn Smith agreed and struck down the law, but suspended her judgement until after the inevitable appeal. However, she did give Ms Taylor a personal exemption from the law, making her the only person in Canada allowed to have recourse to doctor-assisted suicide.The Association says Taylor’s death was sudden: she developed a severe infection resulting from a perforated colon. Given the acute nature of the illness, she did not need to seek the assistance of a physician to end her life.

An Ontario man also with ALS ended his life this month. Part of his final statement reads as a kind of social treatise on the role of government in the final choices of Canadians. “Any liberal, democratic system respectful of human rights should provide for a legal and humane way to exit this life at a time chosen by a rational person and with appropriate safeguards and assistance. Unfortunately, the Government of Canada and Canada’s Supreme Court do no do so. While Canada’s law criminalizing assisted death may have been conceived to protect life, it can have the effect of doing just the opposite. I am now looking for ways to die that I must implement myself, that is while I am still sufficiently strong to take all the necessary steps myself. Having in mind the nature of ALS, this will force me to terminate my life earlier than would otherwise be the case.”

“People are dying too early because of laws against assisted dying. People are killing themselves while they still have the ability to do it.” Wanda Morris, Executive Director of the national organization, Dying With Dignity, advocates with great passion and compassion the urgent need to legalize assisted dying for individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or a progressive incurable physical illness.

What choices are they left with? With the blasé patter of an airline attendant explaining the protocols of oxygen mask use, the 71-year-old retired librarian removes a microwave bag and pulls it over her head, her face shrouded beneath clear plastic, her features blurring, her graying bun compressed into a soft helmet. Slowly, her fingers begin to pinch a seal around her neck using Velcro strips she attached at the open end of the bag. Her voice muffled and faint, she points to the spot where a tube is to be inserted. “I would probably use helium,” she declares, deadpan. “A few deep breaths and you fade off.”  She is Ruth von Fuchs of the Right to Die Society of Canada who says, “No one wants to die alone. Most just want someone there to hold their hand.” Von Fuchs is a death midwife.

The Social Science Research Laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan – the only facility of its kind in Canada – created the Taking the Pulse survey in its group analysis lab, which includes multiple departments from across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Their research found that 59 per cent of Saskatchewanians surveyed believe they should have the option of doctor-assisted suicide when the end is nigh.

***

A senate committee in Colombia voted 10-4 to send a proposed measure to regulate euthanasia to the full Senate for consideration. If approved the measure would be sent to the Colombian House of Representatives for a vote.

A representative of the Colombian bishops, Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, pronounced that “No circumstance can make it legally acceptable to intentionally cause the death of a human being.  The right to life is constitutionally inviolable.”

Now here’s a country where people are lying dead in the streets due to the drug cartels and Father Pedro here is making a moral issue of people who probably have no healthcare to begin with and just want out of the misery of their lives. Take care of the people and stay out of politics Father!

***

The Law Commission in India has made a recommendation to the government to initiate measures to enact a comprehensive law on passive euthanasia, subject to certain safeguards. “It’s not objectionable from a legal and constitutional point of view,” the commission, which advises the government on legal issues, said.

Dr. Pallavi A. Roshi says  “This decade has brought a significant change in a doctor’s point of view. Many of us have changed the focus from ‘only care’ to ‘cure and comfort’ to ‘only comfort,’ when cure is impossible. Although doctors should strive to extend life and decrease suffering, they must also accept death as a defining characteristic of life. Sometimes, so-called heroic methods may lead to needless suffering instead of preventing death. So, when the incurability of a disease is confirmed, there begins the journey of palliative care to make the end of life easy, and assuring the patient of a dignified death.”

***

From Ireland… Sadly, cases like Jenny Grainger’s, who had to stand by and watch her mother stop eating and drinking to have a better death than she might otherwise have had, are not uncommon. Barbara Grainger (75), who had a motor neuron disease and was a lifelong supporter of euthanasia, told her daughter that she wanted to die and asked for her help. Barbara also wanted the tragic story of her death made public in the hope of helping bring about a change in the law which governs people’s right to choose when and how they die. She wanted to go to Switzerland to Dignitas, but unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to swallow the barbiturate pill given there. So she decided that she would die through a voluntary refusal of food and fluids.

Too often, we see accounts of people travelling abroad to die, or attempting to end their lives at home, sometimes alone to avoid implicating loved ones. For this reason, as well as the many people who suffer unbearably against their wishes, many people in Ireland are campaigning for a change in the law.

One writer says, “if we agree that people like Barbara Grainger  should not have to suffer against her wishes at the end of her life, which the vast majority of us do, then we must continue to fight for a law in the UK which allows dying, competent adults the choice of a peaceful and dignified assisted death. No one should have to contemplate travelling thousands of miles for assistance, or weeks refusing food or water to have what they consider a good death.”

Another writer goes on about all the reasons it’s a bad idea, slippery slope and all, and proclaims– “The vulnerable and sick need support and reassurance they won’t suffer alone. It is sometimes difficult for families to give this support, so there is a duty on society to provide it. The compassionate response to suffering is not to encourage suicide, but to offer the palliative care and psychological support the sick need to help them live.

Perhaps in a perfect world. Once again, I’d ask where is that support? In most cases, it’s either not available or too expensive for the people who need it most. We need to meet people where they are, not in some hoped for future.

“Regardless of their religious or political background, this is an issue which affects everyone and politicians need to take a stand and help bring about the change in the law, which currently robs people of their right to choose,” says Jenny Grainger. She has been inundated with messages of support since she shared the heartbreaking story of how her family stood by her mum when she chose to end her own life through the voluntary refusal of food and fluids. Because she did not have the option of a quick and pain-free death through euthanasia, Barbara lingered for 24 days before her heart finally stopped.

An Irish assisted-suicide campaigner will not face prosecution over his visit to an elderly multiple sclerosis sufferer (MS) who took a fatal overdose to end her life because there is “insufficient evidence.” Tom Curran, who says he will risk up to 14 years in an Irish prison to assist his partner Marie Fleming — also a MS sufferer — to die at a time of her choosing, was interviewed by British police following the death of a wheelchair-bound grandmother of five. Ann Veasey (71) died in August 2011 at her nursing home in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, after she overdosed on pills she had bought online from China.

On the face of it, there is an overwhelming case to permit assisted suicide. For the greater, if not far greater, part, it would apply to people who have lived a life, made it into the upper reaches of the average span, and, were it not for a debilitating condition, would want to cling to life. Why should somebody in that position be held prisoner by nothing more than a societal taboo? Why should that person not be afforded the comfort of knowing that they were ultimately existing on their own terms? On the other hand, there is an argument that any introduction would lead down the slippery slope to elderly people being pressured to consent to their own death.

We live in a society that values choice. We choose our careers, our partners and almost every aspect of our lives. It is then a strange situation that we are ultimately unable to choose the nature of our deaths beyond a small number of options. As the Tony Nicklinson and Marie Fleming cases reach their conclusions in the media and the courts, we may have to reassess this strange paradox and address how we ourselves want to die, on our own terms or on the terms of our final illness?

***

From Italy, an online newspaper aimed at providing the last breaking news on welfare policies, an article about the advance of euthanasia in The Netherlands.

Pioneer in Europe, with a law issued in 2002, the Netherlands explicitly guarantee to its citizens the right to interrupt treatment if they want to or can no longer stand their disease. The same right has been then recognized in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. This latter rejected a few days ago a proposal to ban assisted suicide to foreigners in its territory, thus confirming the outcome of a popular referendum held last year. After all, there is no risk that the country can be invaded by ‘mild death’ tourists: in the last few years, the number of sick persons – mainly from France, Germany and the UK –  emigrating to Switzerland to appeal to the assisted suicide law for a decent and aware end of life (even in the most serious cases of depression) was cut by half.

If in 2006 there were 199 cases of euthanasia among extra-EU citizens, in 2010 this number dropped to 97. Perhaps because, over the years, other European countries have authorized treatment interruption in different ways, while in others euthanasia is still a topic in political and social debate. This is the case of France, where President Hollande announced a palliative care reform last summer. Not the case of Italy, though. “Euthanasia” still remains an unrepeatable word here. Meanwhile, Vatican’s spokespersons in Parliament, probably alarmed by the refusal of any form of therapeutic obstinacy opposed by cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, push for the approval of a law on the living will with dubious constitutional outlines.

***

Retired film director Michael Winner has considered ending his life at a euthanasia clinic after doctors told him he has just 18 months to live. The moviemaker from New Zealand, who has battled ill health in recent years, revealed this summer that liver specialists have given him between 18 months and two years and he now admits the prognosis led him to look into the controversial Dignitas institution in Switzerland. The 76-year-old opened up about his research  insisting he was put off by the amount of paperwork required to go through with assisted suicide.

He says, “I checked Dignitas on the computer and you need to go through so much. It’s not a walk-in death. You don’t just go in and say ‘Here I am, do your worst.’ You have to go through a whole series of papers and re-examinations just to die. You have to fill in forms and things and you have to fly there, go back twice…

“I think the idea that people should be able to have an assisted suicide is absolutely highly proper. Why should people elongate life when it’s no good for them? People should have the right to terminate their own life. If you’re dead, you’re dead, so who cares? I’m very happy to snuff it. I’ve had enough time on earth. I’d be happy if someone gave me the plug to pull.”

“If you have the right to die, it’s a completely different feeling than if you do something that is not legal,” Anne Mohrdieck said. “It’s different for me and it’s different for the people around me. It is to die with dignity. “Everyone has different abilities to cope with the suffering. If my ability does not allow me to have a quality of life in any way, and I choose a better option would be to go out … then I’d be enraged if that possibility would be taken from me or wouldn’t be given to me.”
Mary Stewart says euthanasia is just a euphemism for hetero-homicide – getting someone to kill you. After 30 years as a nurse, Mrs Stewart says it will confuse the role of health professionals, who swear an oath to heal and provide comfort.New Zealand medical practitioners anecdotally report having been asked by their patients for assistance in dying gracefully, and many of them have complied. However, rather than following a protocol with built-in safeguards and safety standards, the process is unregulated. For patients and family members who decide to take things into their own hands, the outcome could be devastating.
Advanced care-planning initiatives and advance directives in New Zealand already address patients’ objectives and desires for refusing medical treatment in emergent situations. If those conversations expand to include aid-in-dying options for the terminally ill, then patients have a true grasp of the entire spectrum available to them. Further, it allows family members to discuss options and support each other, rather than have secret conversations and fear of legal prosecution if they follow a loved one’s requests. Medical practitioners have clearly defined processes in place, and medical protocols they must follow to comply with legislation. This protects medical practitioners from having to guess at an appropriate dosage or surmise which drugs to use. The process is defined and has paperwork that shows protocols are followed. There is no legal ramification for following their patient’s wishes. Further, medical practitioners may opt out of the process, which protects their rights to their own personal beliefs about death and dying.
And under the headline of Euthanasia Opens Floodgates of Nastiness— Once assisted suicide becomes legal, anyone old and frail and rich will be expected to do the decent thing by whoever stands to profit from their death. Athinly-disguised legal murder will become routine, especially as lack of respect for the old, and the belief that they don’t have any quality of life anyway, is underscored by the ease with which you can ”help” them die.***From Russia, On the death ofbard Ada Yakusheva– I had heard that Yakusheva was battling cancer, but what I hadn’t realized is that her doctors had denied her pain medication, on the basis of some bureaucratic error. When her relatives confronted them about her suffering, they were curtly told, “everyone suffers.” Only on her final day alive was Yakusheva allowed some dignity and peace. A hospice doctor had her transferred to a palliative care facility. She was given a shot of morphine, curled up, and slept for what was probably the first time in a month. The following morning, Yakusheva passed away peacefully.

The other issue here is, of course, the attitude of the actual doctors. Most are simply not trained to make their patients comfortable. Once it is clear that the patient is dying – a lot of them simply stop caring. And even though palliative care is certainly a major aspect of healthcare in modern Russia, many doctors still resist any urge to call a colleague who works in that field, if only because they don’t want anyone taking over their case. Yakusheva’s doctors went as far as to accuse her relatives of trying to use the dying woman’s condition to score drugs for themselves. The fact that this happened to a well-known personality speaks to the enormity of the problem.

***

In Scotland, there is concern that the Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas helped 217 Britons to die in 10 years. It is understood that the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland has more than 900 Britons on its books and has ended more than 20 lives a year on average since it was set up ten years ago. The new figures from Dignitas and progress of Ms MacDonald’s latest bill has led anti-assisted suicide campaigners to warn against a change in the law.

***

South Africans are discussing how voluntary euthanasia is legal for citizens of Holland and Belgium, and doctor-assisted dying is legal in a few states in the US, and in Switzerland. Lord Joffe is confident it will be legal in the UK in the not too distant future. When asked which he thought was easier — voluntary euthanasia or doctor-assisted dying? He felt it was easier to get someone else to kill you, than to kill yourself. On reflection, the reporter  could only agree. Yet no matter whether it’s voluntary euthanasia or doctor-assisted dying you’re after, the driving force behind legalising it is simply dignity in death.

***

According to a new study by the University of Zurich, Switzerland, one in four people who accompany someone to commit assisted suicide suffer massive psychological distress. Researchers at the university spoke to 85 people who went with a family member or close friend to an EXIT euthanasia clinic one to two years after the assisted death of loved ones. A quarter suffered from post traumatic stress disorder while 16 percent had depression. Five percent were found to have long-term grief. The results state that problems can surface 14 to 24 months later and that a death not from natural causes was a heavy burden for those who supported the deceased. Although the research didn’t include a direct comparison with the effects of a natural death on a loved one, the study was compared to others. This showed the researchers that post traumatic stress disorder was more common for people close to an assisted suicide case rather than a natural death.

They don’t mention the other 54% who apparently weren’t heavily burdened or traumatized– and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the whole ordeal of having to take one’s dying loved one somewhere to die, as opposed to being in one’s own bed in one’s own home surrounded by loved ones, has a lot to do with the agony of it all.

***

Dr. Peter Saunders, a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members, says the current British Suicide Act is thereby shown to remain fit for purpose. Through its blanket prohibition on all assistance with suicide, it continues to provide a strong deterrent to the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable people whilst giving both prosecutors and judges discretion in hard cases. It strikes the right balance, is clear and fair and does not need changing. The Swiss vote means that the small number of British people travelling to Switzerland to end their lives will probably continue but we should continue to resist any calls from pressure groups to weaken the law here in the UK.

A poll conducted by Christian Concern surveyed more than 150 MPs across all parties and found that only 29 per cent supported proposals to introduce assisted suicide, whilst 59 per cent were opposed to the move and 12 per cent were undecided. The poll also found that the majority of MPs believe that a change in the law would result in an increase in the number of suicides, and 72 per cent felt that it would place vulnerable people under pressure to end their lives prematurely. Almost 60 per cent were of the opinion that the current economic climate would result in more patients opting for an assisted death to avoid placing a financial burden on family members and carers.

Regarding the case of Tony Nicklinson, who chose to starve himself to death after losing his last appeal for euthanasia in September, a reporter from the Christian Institute wrote: The case of a man who campaigned for doctors to be allowed to kill him will not go to the Court of Appeal, High Court Judges have ruled. Lord Justice Toulson said the case was “plainly a matter for Parliament.” Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from a condition known as ‘locked-in syndrome’, wanted doctors to be able to end his life.

Now judges at the High Court have turned down an application by Jane Nicklinson to be made party to the proceedings. Lord Justice Toulson said: “We do not consider that the proposed appeal has any real prospect of success. Mrs Nicklinson has vowed to appeal the decision. However a second locked-in sufferer, whose case was heard alongside that of Mr Nicklinson, has been given leave to appeal.

Meanwhile, Jane Nicklinson says, “It is not easy to admit feeling relieved that the love of your life, your soul mate, has died.” But that is exactly how Jane Nicklinson feels about husband Tony Nicklinson, the assisted suicide campaigner who died of natural causes six weeks ago. Mrs Nicklinson understands that she might come across as callous or uncaring, especially by those who opposed her family’s very public battle to change the law so that locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony could be legally helped to end his life. But for anyone who has cared for a loved one with an intolerable terminal or degenerative condition, Mrs Nicklinson may just be articulating what many find too difficult to admit.

The widow is expected to call this week for Scotland to become the first part of the UK to change the law on assisted suicide. She will appear at a conference in Edinburgh with the MSP Margo MacDonald, who has already tried and failed to make assisted suicide legal north of the border. The conference will also hear from Ludwig Minelli, founder of Dignitas, the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland. Among Ms MacDonald’s new proposals is a suggestion that a “licensed facilitator”, a so-called “friend at the end”, would have to be present when someone was at the point of ending their own life. The facilitator could be a doctor, social worker, or close friend but not a relative or anyone who stood to gain from the death.

Exactly what I’ve been proposing– Transition Guides, death midwives, doulas. It doesn’t have to be a physician since they are so attached to Hippocrates and don’t understand how important healing of the soul is at the end of life. We need a new specialty and a new perspective about the end of life.

Now doctors have a new worry– Doctors are required to provide access to a patient’s records under the Data Protection Act 1998 if a ‘subject access request’ has been made. However, new GMC draft guidance for fitness-to-practise decision-makers, due to be published later this year, advises it is a criminal offence for doctors to encourage or assist a person to commit or attempt suicide. GPs should explain this to patients when faced with demands for medical records for this purpose, the guidance says. The GMC says that GPs are required to provide medical records under the Data Protection Act. However, if a GP suspects this will be used for the purposes of assisted dying, the GP will be contravening the 1961 Suicide Act by providing the medical records.

Which means if you plan to go to Dignitas, don’t tell your doctor when you ask for your medical records.

Dignitas has seen an average of 18 British citizens coming through its door each year since 2002 and many have chosen to be very open about what compelled them to travel abroad to die. Having control over the timing of their death and avoiding a painful, lingering end have been the over-riding wishes of people like Dr Anne Turner, Peter Smedley and Jackie Meacock as they made their final journey to Zurich. For those who travelled with them, there was always the fear of prosecution but, to date, no-one who accompanied any of the 182 Britons has been prosecuted.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg last year, ruled that while there is a “Human Right” to suicide, the state has no obligation to provide citizens with the means to commit suicide. Grégor Puppinck, the director of the European Centre for Law and Justice explained, “The Court notes that the vast majority of member States place more weight on the protection of an individual’s life than on the right to end one’s life and concludes that the States have a broad margin of appreciation in that respect.”

During a panel discussion with Human Rights solicitors, Richard Stein observed that the argument that there can never be adequate safeguards to protect the vulnerable  is being used as a “smokescreen”, and, equally, the notion that disabled people cannot exercise their free will to die because it reduces the value of disabled lives is a “hugely patronising” one.

All this reflects a big shift towards secular thinking and individual autonomy as well as growing worries about the medicalised, miserable and costly way of death that awaits many people in rich countries. Assisted suicide typically gains overwhelming public support; legislators, pro-family lobbies, churches and doctors’ groups tend to be more squeamish. They fear that legal, easy-to-get assisted suicide will have dire social and moral effects.

More from Dr. Peter Saunders– Now that the Tony Nicklinson case is over and the next assisted suicide bills (from Falconer in the House of Lords and Macdonald in Scotland) are not to be debated until next year one could be forgiven for thinking that the relentless media pressure for the legalisation of euthanasia might relent for a few weeks. But no – first we have the pronouncements of junior health ministers Norman Lamb and Anna Soubry giving their support for the legalisation of assisted suicide and now the BBC, in its role as cheerleader for assisted suicide, is making an international news story about the fact that it is ten years since the first Briton went to the Dignitas suicide facility in Zurich to kill himself.

As fall-outs between pro-life campaigners go, this one has yet to surface, but it could turn for the worse. The tension is over whether or not the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) is being used as a form of euthanasia. In June Dr Patrick Pullicino, a neurologist, claimed that the Pathway was an “assisted death pathway”. According to the doctor, patients are being placed on the LCP without clear evidence that they are close to death, while the sensationalised Daily Mail headline ran: “Top doctor’s chilling claim: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year” – where 130,000 is the total number of patients who are put on the LCP out of the 450,000 that are terminally ill. In other words, the majority of people who are close to death are not put on the Pathway.

Since it was rolled out across the country in 2004, it has received three glowing audits, the endorsement of this Government and, just this month, the public support of 20 respected organisations representing millions of patients, carers, doctors and nurses. Yet last week the Association of Palliative Medicine bowed to pressure from a lobby of Roman Catholic doctors, pro-life groups, some media and a small number of distressed and grieving relatives to order a review into the Pathway. Was this a victory for patients’ rights or capitulation to media hysteria and public misunderstanding?

** ** **

This will be the last month I’ll be listing all the articles that come to my email box because it just takes way too much of my time. I will, however, continue to read new articles and contribute to the debate about aid-in-dying from my perspective.

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Assisted-Death Debate – September 2012 – News and Blogs from Around the World

End-of-Life discussions about Assisted Dying/Suicide/Euthanasia in news articles, blogs, videos from the left, right and center during the month of September 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. Don’t be swayed by emotional euphemisms or dysphemisms, or religious dogma. 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! The end result should be reasonable laws that protect the vulnerable yet allow self-determination at the end of life for those who want the option of assistance.

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Care Not Killing (UK)

Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide (US)

Compassion & Choices (US)

Compassion in Dying (UK)

Death with Dignity (US)

Dignity in Dying (UK)

Dignitas (Switzerland)

Dying with Dignity (Canada)

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Canada)

Final Exit Network (US)

Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (UK)

Not Dead Yet (US)

Patient Rights Council (US)

Second Thoughts (US)

World Federation of Right to Die Societies – The World Federation, founded in 1980, consists of 45 right to die organizations from 25 countries. The Federation provides an international link for organizations working to secure or protect the rights of individuals to self-determination at the end of their lives.

BLOGS

Death with Dignity National Center – Living with Dying – This Week in the Movement
September 7
September 14
September 21
September 28

Death With Dignity Around the U.S. (as of July 23, 2012) – Death With Dignity National Center

Right-to-Die Debate Comes to Massachusetts – Governing Politics

Massachusetts Death With Dignity Act: A Crime That Anyone Would Oppose It by William Kickham, Boston Criminal Attorney Blog (9/2/12)

Huge public support for change in law on assisted dying – New Humanist Blog (9/7/12)

How do you want to die? The Week: Healthcare Reform (9/11/12)

Boston Public Radio Discussion of Massachusetts Death with Dignity  – Living with Dying: Death With Dignity National Center (9/7/12)

Karen Okada – POA Contradicts Advance Directive by Thaddeus Mason Pope, JD, PhD (9/14/12)

Going Gently into that Good Night by Daniel Krieger , Narratively/nyc

Legal Euthanasia – Death With Dignity – conversation

Respecting Uncle Jack: On Death With Dignity by Greg Pfundstein

My Demented Mom – A letter to those businesses and professionals who make dementia even more agonizing

Assisted dying: Who’s to decide when a life is not worth living? – Andrew Brown’s Blog

White Coat Notes: Physician-assisted suicide ‘in direct conflict’ with doctor’s role by Barbara Rockett

Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die: Tony Nicklinson’s Legacy by Louise Port

Maybe it’s time assisted suicide was legal by Sam Hoober

5 Reasons I won’t Die the Way My Mother Did – HuffPost-Post50

Permitted assisted dying could increase protection for vulnerable people by  Nelson Jones

Debate.org: Should assisted suicide be legalized as a measure of freedom of choice?

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death: The Libertarian Case For Euthanasia by Elise Thompson

Death with Dignity or Physician-Assisted Suicide? – The Anxious Bench by Thomas Albert Howard

BOOKS

How to Die Consciously by Diane Goble – Practical suggestions about how to prepare yourself and your family for your transition whenever/however it happens (because we are all going to die)

May Doctors Help You Die? by Marcia Angell, MD – The New York Review of Books

Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care by Marty Makary, MD – (video) Aside from errors, experts say 20% to 30% of medical care is unnecessary.

Review of book about Death-With-Dignity Movement by Zoe FitzGerald Carter – In Search of Gentle Death: The Fight for Your Right to Die with Dignity by Richard N. Cote

BROADCASTS

Election 2012: Death with Dignity – Boston Public Radio (9/5/12)

MAGAZINES

How the Catholic Church Misunderstands Death With Dignity by Wendy Kaminer, the Atlantic (9/17/12) – According to the bishops, “a society that devalues some people’s lives, by hastening and facilitating their deaths, will ultimately lose respect for their other rights and freedoms.”

This makes little sense if you consider few freedoms more fundamental than the freedom to end your own life on your own terms, when confronting a terminal illness and inevitable pain and suffering you’d rather avoid. But this concept of freedom deeply offends the Church: Physician-assisted suicide “would create pressures to limit our freedom, because it could establish an expectation that certain people will be better served by being dead, a dubious premise indeed,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley declares.

(more)

A Graceful Exit: Taking charge at the End of Life by Claudia Rowe, Yes! Magazine (9/19/12) – So while many seniors now live vigorous lives well into their 80s, no one gets a free pass. Eating right and exercising may merely forestall an inevitable and ruinously expensive decline. By 2050, the cost of dementia care alone is projected to total more than $1 trillion.

My mom’s decision to face her end came not from any of these facts, but from the nightmare of watching her own mother’s angry decline in a New York nursing home. “You’re all a bunch of rotten apples,” Grandma growled at visitors, the words erupting from her otherwise mute lips. And there she sat for three years, waiting to die. “Why can’t you just get me some pills so I can go?” she would sometimes wail.

Also see Ted Talk w/Dr. Peter Saul “Let’s Talk About Dying.”

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Euthanasia: A Good Death? by Jenni Ogden, Psychology Today (9/24/12) – In a video made by Rosie some months before she died, she made it clear that she was euthanizing herself, and that no one had coerced her. This video was one of the deciding factors for the judge when, for the first time in a case like this in New Zealand, there was no conviction. The court’s decision is in line with polls that demonstrate that the majority of New Zealanders believe that assisted voluntary euthanasia in cases of terminal illness and irreversible disease should be legalized.

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Merciful Assistance or Physician-Assisted Killing? by Ronald Pies, MD, PsychCentral.com (9/30/12) – Suddenly, he sees his very own physician, Dr. Jones, walking by. He begs Dr. Jones to help him climb atop the railing, adding, “Don’t worry, Doc, it will be my decision to jump.” The doctor is taken aback, but quickly determines that his patient is not psychotic or severely depressed, and is capable of making a rational decision regarding suicide. The doctor tries to persuade your dad that pain and suffering can usually be well-controlled during the final days, but the patient is insistent: he wants to end his life.

Would you agree that Dr. Jones is fulfilling his obligations as a physician by assisting your father in jumping off the bridge?

If not, would you support the doctor’s providing your father with a lethal dose of medication?

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Death With Dignity: Why I Don’t Want to Starve Myself to Death by John M. Grohol, PsyD, PsychCentral.com (9/30/12) – Dr. Ron Pies writes an eloquent defense of why physician-assisted suicide should not be made a legal right in Massachusetts. He compares it to a doctor helping one of his patients jump from a bridge — something most doctors would never do.

But in making this analogy, I believe we’re removing all context and logic from the decision behind wanting to end your own life because of a terminal illness. For the patient, it’s not about the act of suicide or ending their lives — it’s about alleviating suffering from the disease and choosing one’s own way of dying with a little dignity. It’s about patient empowerment, human dignity and choice.

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MOVIES

Italian director slams Catholic Church’s political role – GMA News (9/7/12) – Italian director Marco Bellocchio on Thursday condemned the Catholic Church’s interference in politics after the premiere of his new controversial film about a high-profile euthanasia case.

“As long as Catholics can condition Italian political life, things are not going to change,” said the 72-year-old Bellocchio, whose “Bella Addormentata” (“Dormant Beauty”) is one of 18 films vying for this year’s Golden Lion.

(more)

VIDEOS

A matter of respect for autonomy of dying patients by Dr. Marcia Angell  – The Boston Globe (9/2/12)

Uninformed Consent, Unshared Decision-Making in the ICU by Barbara Coombs Lee (Compassion & Choices 9/10/12)

Udo Schuklenk’s Ethx Blog – Bad News for anti-euthanasia campaigners

Choice in dying: Arguing for the right to die and against the religious obstruction of that right – Further progress in the “right to die” movement by Eric MacDonald (9/21/12)

Diagnosis: Death – Knowing how to cope in the face of a deadly diagnosis can
make life easier for terminally ill patients.

The Lady and the Reaper

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UNITED STATES

(News this month from California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin)

CALIFORNIA

Mass. critics of suicide question return $250,000 by Steve LeBlanc, San Francisco Chronicle (9/14/12) – A group opposed to a ballot question that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending drugs has returned a $250,000 donation from a conservative Mississippi-based organization with anti-gay views, but which describes itself as pro-family.

The American Family Association was the largest single donor to the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, which has raised more than $900,000 to launch a campaign against the question, which will appear on the November ballot.

A committee spokesman told the Associated Press on Friday that the organization wanted to make sure that the debate remained focused on the ballot question.

Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for the group, described the American Family Association as an evangelical group in favor of traditional marriage.

“We believe that homosexuality is sinful and unnatural and it’s not good for people,” he said.

The association has been criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center for what it calls the group’s extreme anti-gay views, including claims that equate homosexuality with pedophilia and arguments that the “homosexual agenda” will bring down American civilization. Among other activities, the association boycotts corporations it believes are too friendly to gay rights.

In August, Bryan Fischer, an official with the association, tweeted, “Why we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households.”

A spokesman for Dignity 2012, which supports the ballot question, criticized the initial decision to accept the donation, which was made in early July.

“Shame on them for taking this money in the first place,” said Steve Crawford. “Rather than return it so it can be used to spread more prejudice and hate, they should donate it to Hospice of Massachusetts, where it will do some good,” Crawford said in a statement.

The committee also has received large donations from several Catholic organizations, including $200,000 from the Knights of Columbus, and tens of thousands in donations from about two dozen Catholic dioceses from across the country.

The group also received about $175,000 from the conservative Washington D.C.-based American Principles Project. It had about $295,000 left in its account at the beginning of September.

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Do We Have a Right to Die? by James McGregor, City Watch (9/20/12) – The Hippocratic Oath, arguably one of the most important and influential texts in history, makes its view of assisted suicide quite clear. While there can be no doubt that the oath set the foundations for modern medicine, it’s worth noting that the text starts with a declaration of allegiance to the gods Apollo, Asclepius and Hygeia. So as our knowledge on medicine, spirituality and society improves, is it time to rethink the laws when it comes to assisted suicide?

To say that the subject of assisted suicide is contentious is akin to saying the Pacific Ocean is “slightly damp”. The chairman of the British Medical Association has recently been quoted as saying that the topic is “a journey that I just don’t want us to start on”. It is an ethical and ideological minefield: the more you delve, the more quandaries are thrown up. Death is a subject that we all have an opinion on, as it is something that affects every single one of us.

Given the choice, the majority of us would prefer to pass away painlessly and peacefully in our homes surrounded by our loved ones. However, the reality is frequently different.

(more)

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New Jersey could become 3rd state with right-to-die law by Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times (9/27/12) – A New Jersey lawmaker has proposed a right-to-die law for that state’s terminally ill people which, if passed, would make the state the third in the nation after Oregon and Washington to allow those with deadly diseases the chance to end their own suffering.

The Death With Dignity Act would allow a “qualified patient to self-administer medication to end life in a humane and dignified manner,” said the bill, introduced this week by Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester). But as the Star-Ledger noted, it would not be easy to qualify to receive life-ending drugs.

(more)

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D.C.

Planned Parenthood Insider Now Works for Assisted Suicide Group by Rita Diller, LifeNews.com (9/5/12) – When Compassion & Choices, formerly The Hemlock Society, convened its June 2012 conference, former Planned Parenthood insider Theresa Connor, now director of government affairs with the assisted suicide group, was a featured speaker. She was public policy director for PP in Washington state for 15 years and instituted the research and strategy behind the 2001 Erickson v. Bartell case “that required employers’ insurance plans to cover prescription birth control under anti-discrimination laws.”

Connor joined Compassion & Choices’ president, Barbara Coombs Lee, author of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” Act, were co-speakers at the conference on “the strategies for success in affirming and protecting end-of-life liberty, including aid in dying in the states.”

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Boomers Want Control of Their End-of-Life Care by Jonathon Walters, October 2012 Governing – The end-of-life care movement is clearly gathering steam. Public officials and the medical community alike are discussing the topic in growing numbers. With good reason: An aging baby boom cohort and their families are much more tuned in to the subject than previous generations.

Ultimately, the drive toward a more rational, reasoned and patient-centered approach to dying is pretty straightforward. “We are,” says West Virginia’s Moss, “spending lots of money on people who die within a year, in settings they don’t like, getting treatments they don’t want.”

(more)

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FLORIDA

Conference addresses end of life care by Mary Shedden, TampaBayOnline (9/17/12) – When Terri Schiavo died in 2005, many Americans saw the end-of-life debate as a national spectacle fueled by distraught relatives, vociferous lawyers, partisan politicians and angry protesters.

The seven-year court battle between the brain-damaged Pinellas County woman’s husband and her parents overshadowed end-of-life discussions and the need for individuals to state their medical wishes if catastrophic illness struck.

Initially, Schiavo’s death at a Largo hospice facility prompted a bump in the number of Americans filling out living wills. Estimates say totals went up nearly 30 percent nationwide.

But now, observers and those in the field of palliative care say the public and the medical community need to pay attention even earlier to the wishes of patients facing serious illness or a grave diagnosis.

“It’s not necessarily about death and dying. It’s about the care of patients with very serious illnesses,” said Howard Tuch, director of Palliative Care Services at Tampa General Hospital and a speaker at a local conference on end-of-life care to be held Friday at Stetson Law School in Tampa.

“It’s about making sure their care is respectful of their wishes. It’s about understanding what their options are.”

(more)

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GEORGIA

Palliative care fits Catholic health mission, but too few aware of it – The Georgia Bulletin, The Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta (9/21/12) – In Washington, the latest state to legalize assisted suicide, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane offers an alternative way of dying. It provides “comfort care suites” that allow family members to stay with their dying relative in a homelike environment. Music thanatologists specially trained to soothe the seriously ill with their voices or the playing of harps are on staff. Health care professionals participate in education programs on palliative medicine and the ethical, moral and legal issues involved in end-of-life care. A meditation garden outside the hospital is open 24 hours a day and gives family members and patients who are well enough an opportunity to experience a peaceful area of waterfalls, streams and walking paths.

(more)

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ILLINOIS

13th congressional race really heating up by Kurt Erikson, Bloomington Pantagraph (9/16/12) – Gill’s work history includes being fired from a job as a doctor at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington because of his views on physician-assisted suicide, which is illegal.

Here’s what Gill said about physician-assisted suicide back in 1997.

“I don’t think people should have to put up with the amount of suffering the state says they have to. A lot of physicians feel disgruntled, ashamed and disgusted in their inability to assist patients,” Gill said in an article in The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.

He added that physician-assisted suicides already occur.

For example, Gill said some doctors will keep increasing a patient’s dosage of pain-relieving morphine, fully aware that respirations will eventually stop.

“It goes on everyday,” he said at the time.

It wasn’t until two years later that he was fired by OSF after writing a letter to the editor in support of euthanasia. A hospital spokeswoman said physician-assisted suicide goes against the teachings of the Catholic church.

“In view of the fact that Dr. David Gill embraces and advocates medical treatment methods that are unlawful in this state and that are not acceptable by community medical standards, Dr. Gill cannot be employed by OSF HealthCare System,” a company representative said at the time.

Alte said physician-assisted suicide is not a high-profile issue on the campaign trail.

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Trouble for Gil – CapitolFax.com (9/17/12) – “Illinois families need to know that David Gill thinks physician-assisted suicide is an acceptable medical treatment. This is the same man that is running for Congress and wants to be put in charge of representing the healthcare needs of Illinois families in Washington. Sending David Gill and his radical ideas to Washington is dangerous for Illinois families.” – NRCC Spokeswoman Katie Prill

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Dying Wishes – Mimetalker Blog (9/24/12)

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INDIANA

Assisted suicide likely issue as Ashland City Council considers takeover of community hospital – The Republic (9/28/12) – One issue likely to come up is assisted suicide. Representatives of Dignity Health have said that physicians working at a hospital it runs would not be allowed to prescribe lethal drugs under Oregon’s assisted suicide law.

(more)

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MAINE

Physician-assisted suicide is wrong by Fitz Spencer, Bangor Daily News (9/3/12) – “Physician-assisted suicide” is a pleasant-sounding euphemism for what earlier generations called “mercy killing.” The term “mercy killing” is preferable, because it brings the ugly reality out of the shadows and into the light of day. Suicide, even when done to end suffering, is self-murder; and no one has the right to take an innocent life. Hence “mercy killing” is currently a crime under the Maine Criminal Code, as it is in all states. Oregon, Washington and Montana have made an exception in the case of physician-assisted suicide.

(more)

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MARYLAND

Call for Public Comment: Active Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Nursing World (9/24/12) – The American Nurses Association (ANA) Department of Nursing Practice and Policy is requesting public comment on the document “Active Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”. The purpose of this draft position statement is to address both topics to more clearly define what differentiates assisted suicide from active euthanasia and the nurse’s ethical obligations to the patient and the profession…

(more)

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MASSACHUSETTS

Must suffering be as inevitable at death? Letter to Boston.com (9/2/12) – I take issue with Tom Keane’s Aug. 26 op-ed column “Kevorkian comes to town.” As the owner of a home care agency that serves seniors and many clients in hospice care, I have witnessed the dying process many times. If pending death could only be as idyllic as Keane seems to believe, where the dying can spend time “admiring a grandchild’s drawing, comforting a friend, advising a one-time colleague, or just telling others they are loved.” I’m sure many terminal patients have had the opportunity to do all those things and more, but there are others whose illness is an agonizing ordeal and whose physical decline robs them of all sense of human dignity.

(more)

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A matter of respect for autonomy of dying patients. Letter to boston.com (9/2/12) – Contrary to Tom Keane’s Aug. 26 op-ed “ Kevorkian comes to town,” Question 2 has nothing to do with Jack Kevorkian and everything to do with respect for the autonomy of dying patients. It would simply give such patients in Massachusetts the right to ask physicians for medication to bring about a peaceful death if they find that their suffering is unbearable and can’t be relieved. This is not a choice of death over life, but of the timing and manner of an inevitable death.

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Physician Assisted Suicide Ballot Question 2 by St. Julia Parish (9/2/12) – Here is important information regarding a distressing and serious matter.

On November 6, Massachusetts citizens will vote not only for President and U.S. Senator, but on a ballot question (Question 2) that would legalize physician‐assisted suicide (PAS) under Massachusetts law. If passed on Election Day, PAS would become law in Massachusetts on January 1, 2013. No further approvals would be needed. This result would be a tragic outcome for our communities; namely, that suicide would be legal and approved by our government.

(more)

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Massachusetts Death With Dignity Act: A Crime That Anyone Would Oppose It by William Kickham, Boston Criminal Attorney Blog (9/2/12)

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Death with Dignity on WGBH Radio (9/5/12) – Callie Crossley moderates between Dr. Marcia Angel, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Dr. Lynda Young, former president of the Massachusetts Medical Society

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Death With Dignity – Catholic Free Press (9/6/12) – This November, the citizens of Massachusetts will be asked to cast their vote on the so-called “Death with Dignity Act”.

But the term “death with dignity” brings with it a dark deception.  We are, in fact, being asked to vote for or against the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in our state.  If passed, a person with a prognosis of six months or less to live would be permitted by law to request from their physician, a prescription for lethal drugs for the purpose of helping them to end their life “in a humane and dignified manner.”

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Death With Dignity Initiative debated – WWLP.com video  (9/6/12) – One of the three ballot questions you will be deciding on in November is the “Death with Dignity” initiative.

Should someone who’s lying in bed dying be given the choice to take life ending drugs to hurry the process?

This would allow a terminally ill person to take lethal drugs with the assistance of a doctor.

For supporters that’s a decision people should have.

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Massachusetts Assisted Suicide Proposal a Bad Prescription for Death by Judie Brown, President of American Life League in LifeNews.com (9/7/12) – The headlines in Massachusetts are telling a grim story that is repeated all too often in America. When voters in that state go to the polls in November, they will decide whether or not to approve a measure known simply as “Death with Dignity.” The proposed law “would allow individuals who have been diagnosed with an illness that will cause death within six months to obtain medication to self-administer to end their life.”

In other words, Massachusetts citizens will be using their vote to decide whether someone with a terminal illness, or even a grave illness with a poor prognosis, should have the right to be given a prescription for a drug that will kill them at a time of their choosing. This argument advocates for a freedom of choice regarding death—which is a very dangerous choice. For those who favor such an action, the choice should never be controlled by law or, for that matter, by faith principles.

(more)

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Respect Life – Physician Assisted Suicide – St. Mary’s Parish (9/10/12) – Some would have us believe this is merely a question of personal choice.  After all, freedom is near and dear to the American way of life. They claim “Its your life, do with it what you want.” Rather, physician assisted suicide is a very serious moral issue, which, has proven to have implications beyond just one’s own personal choice. Therefore, it is important you understand the issue and all its ramifications, thoroughly, before you vote.

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Massachusetts religious communities divided over doctor-assisted suicide by Lisa Wangsness, boston.com (9/11/12) – The state’s religious communities are divided over what is perhaps the most profound question on this year’s ballot: Should people nearing the end of terminal illnesses be allowed to obtain a prescription drug to end their lives?

The largest religious force in Massachusetts, the Roman Catholic Church, has come out squarely against the referendum, as have other prominent faith voices. A handful of smaller denominations support the measure known as Question 2.

But some umbrella faith organ­izations remain loath to stake out a position, reflecting, they say, the range of opinion among their membership on an issue that proponents refer to as “death with dignity” and opponents call “doctor-assisted suicide.”

“It points to the diversity of political and ethical positions within the life of the church right now,” said the Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, an ecumenical partnership of 17 Protestant and ­Orthodox denominations, referring to the lack of consensus within the council’s membership. “With complex theological issues that have public policy expression, there are Christians of strong conscience and faith who disagree.”

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Your View: Withdrawing treatment parallels assisted suicide by Joseph R.B. Levesque, SouthCoastToday.com (9/11/12) – Assisted suicide is a form of life termination that is as much the culture of death as that of abortion and euthanasia. Physicians who practice in the culture of death are knowingly and willingly violating their professional oath, “Thou shall do no harm” as well as violating the 5th Commandment of God; “Thou shall not kill.”

While a patient who fills out a “Health Care Proxy Form” indicating that he or she would not want to be kept alive indefinitely by the use of life sustaining measures; such as pulmonary resuscitation, intravenous dehydration or food supply; the question remains as to who determines the meaning of the word “indefinitely.” Medical history records that patients under care of life sustaining measures have come to be survivors after periods extending more than six months or even one year or more.

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Opinion: Vote yes for Death With Dignity by Michael Sales (9/12/12) – Why was it necessary for my parents, or for anyone, to go through such suffering? Apparently, the answer to that question is that a number of religions seem to require it. A set of religious principles has become embodied into law that applies to everyone, and a huge industry has been built up to care for people coming to the end of their lives — an industry that is paid for with taxpayer dollars. My parents didn’t die the way they would have wanted: They had no choice. I don’t want to go through the hell they had to endure. My sense is that many other people feel the same way.

(more)

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Panelists oppose physician-assisted suicide by Tanya Connor, The Catholic Free Press (9/13/12) – If the lifeguard helped people drown, would you want him watching your children?
If Massachusetts voters pass physician assisted suicide in November’s election, it will become legal in the state.
These scenarios, the first one imagined, the second really pending, were presented in a panel at St. James Parish Center Sept. 5.
The Pro-Life and Adult Faith Formation ministries of the Grafton Catholic community sponsored the presentation. Father Edward J. Hanlon, St. James’ pastor, and Father Kenneth R. Cardinale, pastor of St. Mary and St. Philip parishes, participated.
Panelists were Paul Carpentier, M.D., president of In His Image Family Medicine in Gardner; Msgr. Peter R.  Beaulieu, director of mission integration and pastoral care at St. Vincent Hospital; Atty. Henry Luthin, acting president of the board of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund, and Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office.

(more)

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Right-to-Die Debate comes to Massachusetts by Jake Grovum (9/13/12)

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Massachusetts Voters Must Vote No on 2 Against Assisted Suicide by Robin Loughman, RN,  Chairwoman of No on Question 2–Massachusetts Against Doctor-prescribed Suicide in LifeNews.com (9/14/12) – The Radical Suicide Lobby has set up camp in Massachusetts and is putting us all in danger.  Please read this entire message to see how you might be affected by the frightening developments outlined below.

We need to draw a line in the sand.  If we defeat Question 2 in Massachusetts we will deal a serious blow to the Hemlock Society and their radical pro-death movement. It will hamper or even destroy many of their other efforts.  On the other hand, Massachusetts could be Step One to their continued expansion.

(more)

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Mass. critics of suicide question return $250,000 by Seve LeBlanc, boston.com (9/14/12) – A group opposed to a ballot question that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending drugs has returned a $250,000 donation from a conservative Mississippi-based organization with anti-gay views, but which describes itself as pro-family.

The American Family Association was the largest single donor to the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, which has raised more than $900,000 to launch a campaign against the question, which will appear on the November ballot.

A committee spokesman told the Associated Press on Friday that the organization wanted to make sure that the debate remained focused on the ballot question.

(more)

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Out-of-state cash shapes Massachusetts ballot measure prospects by Scott Van Voorhis and Meg Demouth, MassLive.com (9/16/12) – An out-of-state billionaire and deep-pocketed interest groups have hijacked the ballot measure process in Massachusetts, stacking the odds against the kind of grassroots political activism it was intended to empower, a review by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting finds.

There are no caps on how much a person or organization can contribute to a ballot measure campaign in Massachusetts, unlike clearly defined limits for state and federal elections. The unlimited ability to pump millions into ballot measures gives an unfair edge to well-heeled special interests, critics claim.

“You are not supposed to be able to buy a (ballot campaign),” said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for the Washington D.C. based government watchdog group Common Cause. “Democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder.”

(more)

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Physician-assisted-suicide bill fiasco by Prudance Young Darigan, Providence Journal (9/16/12) –
I can remember being very depressed and saying, “I wish I were dead”. I meant this about as much as I meant it when I told my parents, “I hate you!” It is this type of emotionally generated utterance that makes the Massachusetts physician-assisted- suicide bill dangerous.

(more)

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Mass. Medical Society Opposes Measures on Pot and Assisted Suicide by Cary Goldberg, Common Health on Boston’s NPR (9/17/12) – The Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide professional association of physicians with more than 24,000 members, today officially declared its opposition to the November ballot questions on physician-assisted suicide and medical marijuana.

(more)

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Inspiring Words and Modern Hippocratic Oath for Doctors To Be by Carey Goldberg, Common Health Reform & Reality (NPR Boston – 9/17/12) – Tufts Medical School held its annual “White Coat” ceremony this weekend to induct some 200 new students into the profession — and yes, to give them the white coats that will mark them ever after as medical staff.

The event included a poetic speech, excerpted below, by Dr. Beth Lown, medical director of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, and the students recited the “Modern Hippocratic Oath.”

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

(more)

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Massachusetts Medical Society | Question 2: Prescribing Medication (9/18/12) – On November 6, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to vote on Question 2, “Prescribing Medication to End Life.”

We are opposed to Question 2 for these reasons:

(more)

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Primer: Pro and Con in Mass. Assisted Suicide Ballot Measure by Carey Goldberg, Common Health Reform & Reality (NPR Boston – 9/19/12) – Come November, if you live in Massachusetts, you’ll face a vote on a life-and-death issue (I mean, even more directly life-and-death than Obama v. Romney.) It’s Question 2 on the ballot, also known as the Death With Dignity initiative and the physician-assisted suicide measure.

It’s a big, rich debate infused by reports from earlier such measures in Oregon and Washington, and this 24-minute segment on Radio Boston is a great way to acquaint yourself with it.

(Points in dispute include even the language used: One of the measure’s proponents, Dr. Marcia Angell, notes: “These patients are dying. That’s why most proponents don’t like the term ‘physician-assisted suicide,’ because that compares it with a typical suicide, which involves somebody with a normal life expectancy choosing death over life. These people, unfortunately, don’t have that choice. They’re dying. And the only issue is the exact timing and the manner of death.”)

(more)

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What Mass. Can Learn From Oregon About Death With Dignity by Rachael Zimmerman, Common Health Reform & Reality (9/21/12) –  (video) – Death is an emotional thing.

And debate over whether to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives by taking a lethal dose of medication — the question facing Massachusetts voters in November — is particularly fraught. Just listen to the charged on-air exchange between supporters and opponents of Question 2 — aka, The Death With Dignity Act, aka, physician-assisted suicide — on Radio Boston earlier this week.

So we thought it might help to start with some cold, hard statistics from the state that knows the issue best.

(more)

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Massachusetts Church fights assisted suicide measure– by Brian Fraga (9/23/12) – …the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the state’s Catholic bishops, and a coalition of physicians, religious leaders and private citizens are trying to prevent assisted suicide from spreading to their state.

James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, told Our Sunday Visitor that the conference has organized a statewide campaign to educate voters about the perils of assisted suicide. The individual dioceses have also undertaken efforts to inform Catholics about Church teachings on the issue.

(more)

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Letter: In defense of assisted suicide bill – WickedLocal (9/26/12) – In a recent letter regarding the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill, Ms. Darigan asserts that she used to state “I wish I were dead” when she was depressed, but she didn’t mean it. She worries that the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act is dangerous because of that sort of “emotionally generated utterance.”

I am responding to her letter from Washington State, where we voted in our own Death with Dignity Act a few years ago. I am intimately acquainted with this law because my mother, Linda Fleming, was the first person in the state of Washington to exercise her right under our law to die at a time and place of her choosing by consuming legally doctor prescribed medication.

(more)

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Radio Boston WBUR: Question 2: Death With Dignity Act (9/18/12) – First up, we take a look at Question 2, the so-called “Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act,” which would make it legal for an adult resident with a terminal illness to receive a prescription for drugs to end his or her life.

There are many terms that are used to describe this issue, from “death with dignity” to “physician assisted suicide.” It is a controversial and weighty subject that touches on a profound question: What is the value of life and who decides when or if death is ever a better option?

Guests:

  • Marcia Angell, former editor, New England Journal of Medicine; senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • John Kelly, disabilities rights activist and founder of Second Thoughts

Poll: Massachusetts voters favor medical marijuana, assisted suicide by Chris Camire, Sentinel and Enterprise (9/19/12) – Nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, of voters support the proposed Prescribing Medication to End Life law, or Question 2, which would allow Massachusetts licensed physicians to prescribe life-ending medication at the request of terminally ill patients, according to a Suffolk University poll released late Monday night.

(more)
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Nothing dignified about suicide, doctor says by Patricia OConnell, The Catholic Free Press (9/20/12) – Dr. Mark Rollo held up a large bottle of pills. Inside were replicas of the lethal drugs that could soon be dispensed if the “Death With Dignity” act passes in Massachusetts.
This will appear on the ballot this November as Question 2.

“There is nothing dignified about suicide and there is nothing dignified about a doctor killing his patient,” he told a group of people at the Leominster Knights of Columbus hall Monday.
The presentation on physician-assisted suicide was sponsored by St. Anna Parish and the local K of C.

Dr. Rollo, a family practitioner in Fitchburg, explained why this measure is dangerous. The “Death With Dignity” act will allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription.
“The approval will accelerate the creeping culture of death into a full sprint,” he stated.
Killing patients, he noted, is not good medicine.

(more)

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Massachusetts considers bill allowing assisted suicide – The TakeAway Radio Show with John Hockenberry (9/20/12)

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Assisted suicide, three-parent families, and the future of America – Blog of Stephen Kokx (9/20/12)

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Should physicians be able to prescribe medication to end life? – NECN news story posted by  Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide (9/20/12)

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Euthanasia Opponents in Boston Grid for Ballot Battle by Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register (9/21/12) – Church leaders mobilize campaign to draw Catholics into the fight against the ballot initiative “Prescribing Medication to End Life” — which Massachusetts voters will decide this November.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference is a driving force in the Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide, a state-wide coalition that has attracted a number of religious groups, as well as organizations like the Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the National Council on Disability.

Committee members have updated their constituencies, developed voter-education websites, and have just launched a media campaign to explain their concerns on television and radio shows. In the final stretch before the election, they will provide campaign ads showcasing their concerns.

“The focus is to help people appreciate the dangers of assisted suicide and of the bill itself,” Janet Benestad, the Boston Archdiocese’s secretary for faith formation and evangelization, told the Register.

While Benestad leads the effort to galvanize Catholics, the Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide will continue to reach out to other groups within the state.

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Discussing the ‘Death With Dignity’ Law by Paul Izzo, Counsel Corner (9/21/12) – Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the group, states that “The act gives patients dignity, control, and peace of mind during their final days with their families and loved ones. These are very intimate personal choices that should remain in the hands of the individual not the government.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston also has spoken out against such laws. “We hope that the citizens of the commonwealth will not be seduced by the language, ‘dignity, mercy, compassion,’ which are used to disguise the sheer brutality of helping someone to kill themselves,” said the archbishop last year.
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Embracing ‘Death With Dignity Act’ by Alan Chartock, Berkshire Eagle Online (9/22/12) – I am certainly going to vote for Death With Dignity Act on this year’s ballot. I recommend that you do as well. We should have the right to end our own lives when things are hopeless. The state of Oregon has such a law and according to the reports I have read, it works well. We allow veterinarians to humanely help our pets when it is determined that they can’t go on, yet we are prohibited from allowing ourselves the same mercy when there is no hope for recovery from a terrible illness. I believe that some medical professionals have been assisting patients with suicide for years.
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Deserving of Dignity by Margery Eagan, bostonherald.com (9/23/12) – It’s not just that doctors can’t always relieve a dying person’s pain. Pain is sometimes a secondary concern, she said, after loss of auto-nomy, or bodily functions, or dignity and control. While palliative or hospice care has greatly improved, Angell believes good hospice care and patients’ opting to end life can co-exist. But the final decision rests not with family, or a caregiver, but with the person facing death.
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Warning to UK, Massachusetts: Health Plans Steer Patients to Suicide by Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (9/24/12) – I have previously blogged about the huge increase in assisted suicide cases in Oregon since legalisation (see graph), the shroud of secrecy which surrounds assisted suicide practice there and the worrying trends in neighbouring Washington state which enacted a similar law more recently.
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Elizabeth Warren defends work on asbestos lawsuit by Michael Levenson, boston.com (9/24/12) – “If there’s something a physician can prescribe that can help someone who is suffering, I am in favor,” Warren said when asked about the medical marijuana ballot question, adding that there have to be the “right restrictions.”

Discussing another ballot question that would legalize assisted suicide, Warren said she “turns in the direction” of wanting to give dying patients “autonomy” in making end-of-life decisions.

Warren’s Republican opponent, US Senator Scott Brown, opposes the medical marijuana question and says he hasn’t made up his mind on the assisted suicide question.

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Reader Connects Health Rationing Argument to ‘Death With Dignity’– CommonHealth Reform and Reality, discussed on WBUR Boston’s NPR (9/24/12)  – Steven Rattner wants to reduce medical costs by not offering “every treatment, regardless of expenses or efficacy” in the last year of life. That’s reasonable — if and when we give the elderly (I am one of them) the right to choose their own gentle death, something that many religions would obstruct.But even before we get to that, let’s consider the 76 million baby boomers who are or will be retiring and will drain Medicare. Would they be willing to join me in choosing death with dignity? Or would they prefer heart transplants at 85?
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The weird politics of this year’s ballot questionsby David S. Bernstein, The Phoenix (9/28/12) -It turned out that the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, funded mostly by the Boston Archdiocese and Catholic institutions across the country, had received a whopping $250,000 contribution from the American Family Association (AFA), a Mississippi-based conservative fundamentalist group labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its demonizing of homosexuals.After filing the campaign report, the committee quickly announced that it was returning the AFA’s contribution, as reported by the Associated Press. That quarter-million was a big chunk of the $900,000 raised in total by the committee, and giving it back left the committee essentially tapped out after its expenses so far.

Opponents of both measures need to raise money quickly. Prescribed suicide is polling surprisingly well — roughly 60 percent are in favor, according to polls from Suffolk University and Public Policy Polling. Medical marijuana also leads, by nearly as large margins.

But that doesn’t mean either one is a slam-dunk, cautions Suffolk’s David Paleologos. “A lot of ballot questions start out this way, and then close up,” Paleologos says. That’s often after people who like the idea in principle learn specifics about the measure that they don’t like.

That is, if they hear enough about it at all. Paleologos points out that the level of advertising and media interest in the state’s big US Senate race, between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, will make it very difficult for ballot-measure opponents to get heard.

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Social workers support ‘Death with Dignity’ ballot question–  Wicked Local (9/24/12) – Social workers on Monday announced their support for a November ballot question allowing terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending medication prescribed by a doctor. “Death with Dignity is a deeply personal choice and one that suffering patients should have the right to make for themselves,” Carol Trust, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said in a statement. “I encourage Massachusetts voters to grant terminally-ill patients this choice.”

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Disability Rights leaders reach out to Elizabeth Warren regarding ‘No on 2’ – HeraldOnline.com (9/25/12) – “Ballot question 2 contains a number of problematic issues that raise red flags with progressive voters. These are arguments and perspectives Ms. Warren may not have heard yet, and are asking for the opportunity to meet and brief her and her team,” said John Kelly, Executive Director of Second Thoughts and former Chair of the Advisory Board to the Boston Disability Commission.
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Letter: In defense of Assisted Suicide bill– WickedLocal (9/26/12) – I am responding to her letter from Washington State, where we voted in our own Death with Dignity Act a few years ago. I am intimately acquainted with this law because my mother, Linda Fleming, was the first person in the state of Washington to exercise her right under our law to die at a time and place of her choosing by consuming legally doctor prescribed medication.

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A method for dying with dignity by Dr. Marica Angell, former editor-in-chief of New England Journal of Medicine, a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School – Boston.com (9/29/12) – Good palliative care is adequate for the great majority of dying patients, but not all. Most pain can be eased, but other symptoms are harder to deal with — weakness, loss of control of bodily functions, shortness of breath, and nausea — and the drugs to treat these symptoms often produce unacceptable side effects. Even worse for many dying patients is the existential suffering. They know their condition is inexorably downhill, and they find it meaningless to soldier on.
This is not a matter of life versus death, but about the timing and manner of an inevitable death. That is why many prefer the term “physician-assisted dying” to “physician-assisted suicide.” In the usual suicide someone with a normal life expectancy chooses death over life. Terminally ill patients don’t have that choice.
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MINNESOTA

Health Notes: End-of-life workshops planned in Grand Rapids – Duluth News Tribune (9/17/12) – Barbara Karnes is author of the 1986 book “Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience.” She spent 30 years as a hospice nurse, according to a news release from the Grand Itasca Foundation, which is sponsoring the workshops along with the Itasca Hospice Foundation.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

A new first for Belgium: Prisoner Euthanasia by Michael Cook, CatholicExchange.com (9/18/12) – The case has provoked a controversy in the media -not over euthanasia but over the violation of the prisoner’s right to privacy. All of the conditions for euthanasia in Belgium were carefully fulfilled: the prisoner had a terminal illness, he had made repeated requests for death, and three doctors had independently ratified the request.

The head of the Belgian prison service defended the system against M. Ide’s criticism. “The people on the ground are doing their best and work hard. But it is almost impossible for two people to take proper care of an prisoner. This is a problem in many prisons”, Francis Van Mol told the media.

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NEW JERSEY

Controversial bill would allow terminally ill patients to decide when its time to die by Matt Friedman, nj.com (9/27/12) – A state lawmaker says it’s time for New Jersey to openly discuss the most difficult of topics: whether terminally ill patients should be allowed to decide how and when they die.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) on Monday quietly proposed a bill that would grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have less than six months to live. It’s called the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act.

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NJ could become 3rd state to legalize right to die– FoxNews.com (9/27/12) – New Jersey may become the third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after a state lawmaker proposed a bill to grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

Known as the Death With Dignity Act, the bill would allow a “qualified patient to self-administer medication to end life in a humane and dignified matter.”

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New Jersey’s Death with Dignity Bill will impact grieving children by Joseph Primo, nj.com (9/27/12) –  I’m not aware of any studies that have followed any children involved in the 596 deaths between 1997 and 2011 that resulted from Death with Dignity laws. However, I’ve witnessed and supported numerous children as they said goodbye to a dying parent in hospice. They watched their parent become emaciated or her personality alter as a result of a metastasized brain tumor. They stood by as dad lay unconscious for two weeks and died. These children understood what was happening and they felt supported by family and friends. But their grief was affected by this experience.

We know that there are three processes to a child’s grief: 1. Thinking, 2. Feeling, 3. Loving and trusting. I’ll only address the thinking process here. Children, adults too, process and come to understand the finality of death by thinking about the cause of death and the person’s dying experience. Watching a parent wither away impacts how a child will grieve their parent. Standing next to a parent, surrounded by family and friends after everyone has said goodbye and the children have been educated about what is happening, and watching mom die in a short period of time after taking pills, will affect how the child thinks about mom’s death. I don’t believe, based on what we know about grieving kids, there will be a negative impact. Here’s why: a lot of children are not given honest information about their dying parent. One day mom becomes unconscious and then the child is told mom is dead. It’s only once mom has died that some kids are brought up to speed. That has an incredible impact on a child.

Whereas waiting for the uncertainty of death and its unknown arrival leads to confusion when a child isn’t informed, determining a date and time and a ritual around that last day may be helpful and therapeutic for a child. I believe it will be empowering for the patient, family, and children. It will not diminish grief, but it will impact how a child and the bereaved understand their grief and the patient’s death. Reflecting on the latter, especially its positive implications, should be a part of this conversation as we move forward towards ethical and dignified death.

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NEW YORK

Doctor shares vision of care for the dying – Democrat and Chronicle (9/19/12) – End-of-life care provides an opportunity — not to deliver the most care, but to provide the best care at a time when families face what is likely their biggest challenge.

“In the midst of this sadness and tragedy that illness and dying represent, we want to not be blind to opportunity,” Dr. Ira Byock, director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, said Wednesday at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “People value the opportunities to say and do the things that would be left unsaid.”

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Talking About Death Helps People Live Longer, Cuts Cost – Brian Willimas, RockCenter NBC (Video – 9/20/12) – Lacrosse, Wisconsin might just be the best place to die in America. Its home to Gundersen Lutheran Hospital, where 96 percent of patients have an advance directive detailing how they wish to spend their final days.  Doctors at Gundersen say that in many cases having a game plan for death has helped people live longer and incredibly enough, costs less. In the last six months of their lives, Gundersen Lutheran’s patients spend half as many days in the hospital as the national average.

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OHIO

Pro Life Ohio is sponsoring an essay and poster contest for student in 7 – 12– WFMD.com (9/20/12) – Pro Life Ohio is sponsoring an essay and poster contest for students in 7-12 grades with two winners in each contest receiving a $50 bill.

The poster should be on 8-and-a-half by 11 white sheet of tag.

The essay should be from 200 to 300 words typewritten and double-spaced on a Pro Life topic defending the sanctity of life from conception to natural death against affronts to life ranging from contraception and abortion to euthanasia.

Posters and essays should be postmarked no later than Dec. 1 and become the property of Pro Life Ohio for promotional purposes.

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OREGON

ACH: Dignity deal won’t affect end-of-life care by Sam Wheeler, Mail Tribune (9/13/12) – Ashland Community Hospital officials insist the end-of-life care its patients receive will not change if a partnership is formed with Dignity Health.

Physicians at ACH can prescribe patients who qualify under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act medication that induces death upon ingesting, said Mark Marchetti, ACH chief executive officer.

“We have no policies that dictate the issue one way or another,” Marchetti said. “We certainly don’t monitor our physicians’ prescribing.”

The hospital’s physicians can discuss the option of self-administered death with patients, he said.

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Dignity Health officials: No assisted suicide prescriptions by Sam Wheeler, Ashland Daily Tidings (9/14/12) – Physicians at a Dignity Health run ACH would not be able to prescribe patients who qualify under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act medication that induces death upon ingesting, Dignity Health officials said.

“If the physician is on our dime “… the thing that the physician cannot do is write the prescription and hand it to the patient,” said Carol Bayley, Dignity Health’s vice president for ethics and justice education.

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Oregon end-of-life care program spreads, report finds by Nick Budnick, The Oregonian (9/20/12) – An Oregon effort to ensure people near the end of life receive the care they want continues to spread across the country, according to a new report.

The Oregon Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program, created two decades ago and put into state law by the Legislature in 2009, has been adopted by 15 states and is under consideration in 28 others, according to the report, prepared by the Retirement Research Foundation and the Archstone Foundation.

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TENNESSEE

Frist talks end-of-life health care costs, shocks Washington – The Tennessean (9/17/12) – Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist writes that America’s political leaders should address end-of-life medical costs without throwing mud about death panels, earning himself a Politico piece on his heretical embrace of “Obamacare.”

In the latest installment of his periodic column for The Week magazine, Frist says that 30 percent of Medicare dollars are spent in the last few months of recipients’ lives — often contravening the wishes of the recipients’ themselves. Frist says this is “perhaps one of the most complex, emotional, and delicate issues in all of health care.”

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TEXAS

Decisions about death belong to God, not us by Mike Wyse, Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo, San Angelo Standard Times (9/1/12) – Today the purpose, the dignity and sacredness of human life is being threatened in its weakest and most vulnerable moments at the beginning by the evil of abortion, and at its end by promoters of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

In both cases, mere human beings want to usurp the authority and eternal wisdom of their Creator and God by playing God in determining who lives and how they die.

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VERMONT

Physician-assisted suicide ballot question stirs controversy in Mass. by Steve LeBlanc, Battleboro Reformer (9/15/12) – A group opposed to a ballot question that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending drugs has returned a $250,000 donation from a conservative Mississippi-based organization with anti-gay views, but which describes itself as pro-family.

The American Family Association was the largest single donor to the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, which has raised more than $900,000 to launch a campaign against the question, which will appear on the November ballot.

A committee spokesman told the Associated Press on Friday that the organization wanted to make sure that the debate remained focused on the ballot question.

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WASHINGTON

Number of assisted suicide cases reported by Dutch doctors rose in 2011 – The Washington Post (9/26/12) – The Euthanasia Commission, set up by the government, found that doctor-reported cases made up about 2.7 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands in 2011, from 2.3 percent in 2010.

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WISCONSIN

James L. Greenwald: ‘Death with Dignity’ should be considered– Wisconsin State Journal (9/25/12) – The article in Friday’s newspaper regarding the Wisconsin Medical Society and hospitals encouraging the use of advance directives and doctor-patient discussion of end of life choices is long overdue and welcome.

Besides discussing palliative and hospice care, I hope those discussions broaden the range of topics to terminal sedation to stop uncontrolled pain and the voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.

In addition, the Wisconsin Medical Society should support the Wisconsin Death With Dignity Bill, modeled after the Oregon Death With Dignity Law, which has been supported by Sen. Fred Risser.

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End-of-life options worthy of attention by Joe Timmerman, Compassion & Choices (9/25/12) – Coming up with an advanced directive also helps to keep health care costs down. CBS News reports Medicare spent $50 billion in 2009 on doctors and hospitals over the last two months of patients’ lives. The kicker? “20 to 30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful impact.”

Over the course of one year, Medicare alone spent as much as $15 billion of treatment had no positive effect on patients’ quality of life. This is a prime example of wasteful spending that, in today’s age of fashionable austerity, needs to be eliminated. A significant portion of this spending could be eliminated if people were only kept alive as long as they wished to be.

It might seem that doing anything less than everything to extend a person’s life would be unethical. However, if the person doesn’t want to be kept alive though extraordinary measures only to suffer for longer, their wish should be honored. This can only be accomplished through people having candid discussions with their families and doctors. The fact that local health care providers are starting to encourage these discussions is good news for all Madisonians.

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INTERNATIONAL

(News updates from Africa, Arab Emirates, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, United Kingdom)

AFRICA

Dying with Dignity is a Human Right– allAfrica.com (9/18/12) – “Many people think that you go to hospice to die, but hospice is not about death at all, it is about preserving the quality of life,” said former Bafana Bafana captain, Lucas Radebe.

Radebe was speaking at the annual Hospice and Palliative Care Association (HPCA) of South Africa conference, sharing with audiences the support he received from hospice when he lost both his wife and father to cancer in 2008.

Radebe, who has since become an ambassador for the HPCA of South Africa lead one of the opening sessions. The HPCA has 189 member hospices that provide community-based medical assistance and end-of-life (palliative) care for tens of thousands of patients all over the country.

“Dignity is a central value of palliative care,” said Dr Liz Gwyther, CEO of the HPCA. She stressed the importance of upholding a patient’s self-worth and esteem throughout illness up until death. “It is a human right to die with dignity.”

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ARAB EMIRATES

Euthanasia Pacifying Painful Lives by Kanika Mehta, TopNews.com (9/15/12) – We all know that cancer is a deadly disease. After being affected by cancer, the life of a person changes in numerous ways. Happiness seems bleak and enjoyment turns painful. A Dutch GP, who operates in New Zealand, recently shared a story of cancer.

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AUSTRALIA

Corbell rejects assisted death move by Peter Jean, The Canberra Times (9/3/12) – The ACT government has knocked back a bid for an inquiry into whether legal prohibitions on assisted suicide contradict the Territory’s Human Rights Act.

Lobby group Dying with Dignity ACT was officially registered in July and supports the concept of ”elective death”, where adults could seek assistance to die at a time and place of their choice with the degree of assistance they believed was appropriate.

The group wants a ”peaceful death unit” established in, or linked to, a Canberra hospital which would offer counselling services, education and facilities where people could end their lives.

The group recently requested Attorney-General Simon Corbell to ask the Law Reform Advisory Council whether provisions of the Crimes Act which prevent people from helping others to die were incompatible with human rights.

But Mr Corbell refused because of the federal ban on the ACT Assembly legalising euthanasia or the assisting of a person to terminate his or her life.

The Labor Party has a conscience vote on euthanasia and Mr Corbell said he personally supported the right of people in the terminal stage of a illness to ”die with dignity”.

But he did not support Dying with Dignity’s push for ”elective death” to be made available to people without terminal illnesses.

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Euthanasia campaigner faces another challenge– by Phoebe Stewart, ABC News (9/7/12) – Voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke says an investigation into his suitability to practise medicine is one of the most serious challenges he has faced in his career.An inquiry into Dr Nitscke’s application to import the euthanasia drug nembutal was launched by the Australian Medical Board last year.He is now facing a second investigation, into his role in promoting and importing nitrogen cylinders that can be used for euthanasia, and his suitability to practise medicine.Dr Nitschke claims it was sparked by a complaint from anti-euthanasia Christian groups.
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Euthanasia– Free Will to choose should never infringe on Right to Life — disagree or agree?  – Yahoo! Answers – Which country were you born in and what are your views on the dilemma of Euthanasia?I was born in Australia and my views are:
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Voluntary Assisted Suicide legislation in NSW: politics vs. human rights by Geoff Wall, Online Opinion (9/10/12) – During the current term of the NSW state government, the Greens plan to introduce the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill, which, if passed, would legalise voluntary assisted suicide (VAS) in NSW.This legislation is only for sound-minded people with an intolerable terminal illness, who request to be allowed to die, rather than suffer indignity and pain before inevitable death. This legislation allows them to take a prescribed lethal sedative, ideally at home with the support of family, and hence to die peacefully.
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Euthanasia Debate – Weekends with Phil Smith, ABC Brisbane (9/17/12) – Warren Boland interviews Professor Colleen Cartwright, who will moderate the upcoming debate at The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties (audio)
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Joanne Dunne euthanasia plea soon after son Mark Leigep wastes away– Heraldsun.co.au by Jordanna Schriever, (9/28/12) – It was her only legal choice, despite her son Mark Leigep being in an unresponsive and persistent vegetative state since suffering head injuries in a March 2006 car crash.”If it happened in one day, with an injection, all of the family could have been there,” she said.”Instead, I had to watch him die and waste away for nearly four weeks.”In the wake of his death yesterday, Ms Dunn wants new laws which would allow families in similar circumstances to choose swift euthanasia by drugs.
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BELGIUM

Belgian euthanasia law allows first death of a prisoner– MedicalXpress.com (9/13/12) – A gravelly ill prisoner serving a long jail sentence has become the first inmate to die under Belgian euthanasia laws introduced 10 years ago, press reports said Thursday.

The man, who was not identified, died earlier this year after seeking permission several times when doctors decided his suffering could not be helped, the reports said. They gave no details of his illness or the circumstances of his case.
Another prisoner, locked up for 27 years for committing two murders, has also asked for permission to die and should satisfy the legal conditions, Flemish television channel VTM said.

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Prisoner euthanasia begins in Belgium – BioEdge (9/15/12) – No doubt about it: Belgium is the place to be for creative applications of legalised euthanasia.
Last year Belgian transplant surgeons revealed that they had harvested organs from four people who were voluntarily euthanased. Now it appears that one prisoner, a rapist-murderer, has already died after voluntary euthanasia and another has requested it.
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Dutch experience misrepresented in Brisbane debate by Neil Francis, YourLastRight.com (9/26/12) – Last week I spoke in Brisbane at an event hosted by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, a debate titled “Voluntary euthanasia: your right to die.”  I presented the case for, while Mr Yuri Koszarycz, a recently retired senior lecturer from Australian Catholic University, argued the case against.Mr Koszarycz, a genial and courteous fellow, certainly presented the expected arguments against restricted aid-in-dying, including the “K” word (in his view it’s “killing”) and sanctity-of-life under the “Christian tradition” (without explaining why a large majority of Australian Christians believe restricted aid-in-dying ought to be legalised).But it was other statements that proved most controversial.Anyone under the pressure of a live public presentation can get an isolated detail wrong…we’re only human after all.  However, multiple significant misstatements about the Dutch and European experience did cause some vocal dissatisfaction amongst the audience.
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CANADA

Physician-assisted suicide poisons the mission of medicine by J. Donald Bourdreau (8/28/12) – Recent events suggest that the assisted-suicide movement has gained momentum; reports from the Royal Society of Canada, the Quebec National Assembly and the British Columbia Supreme Court all support legalization of physician- assisted suicide. But the case is not closed.

Confusion reigns. Doctors opposed to physician-assisted suicide are sometimes labelled as paternalistic, disrespectful of patients’ autonomy and blind to certain aspects of human dignity. These are inaccurate and offensive descriptions of who we are and what we do in the sick room.

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Canadian Government will appeal euthanasia exemption given to Gloria Taylor… again by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews.com (8/31/12) – A letter was received by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition today from the Honourable Rob Nicholson announcing that the government of Canada intends to appeal the decision by Madam Justice Prowse.

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Times have changed by Philip Slayton, CanadianLawyerMagazine (September issue) – Assisted suicide — the issue that rips everyone’s heart out — is headed back to the Supreme Court of Canada. What will the court do this time?

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Expert: Canada Supreme Court will uphold Assisted Suicide ban by Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (9/5/12) – Philip Slayton, the author of the book: Mighty Judgement, How the Supreme Court of Canada Runs your life suggests that the Supreme Court of Canada will likely uphold the laws in Canada that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Slayton, who wrote an article that was published in the September 2012 edition of the Canadian Lawyer asked the question: Assisted Suicide – the issue that rips everyone’s heart out – is headed back to the Supreme Court of Canada. What will the court do this time?
Slayton predicts that the Supreme Court will hear the Carter case in July 2013. Considering the fact that the BC Court of Appeal will hear the the Carter case from March 4 – 8, 2013, I think that the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case after July 2013.
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Gloria’s Choice by Chelsea Temple Jones, The United Church Observer (9/6/12) – The 2012 Observer survey showed readers overwhelmingly support physician-assisted dying. Gloria Taylor’s battle for the right to end her own life could provoke an unprecedented ethical debate.
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Russia worried euthanasia would be done without consent if legalized by Eric Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, LifeNews.com (9/17/12) – See referenced article under “Russia” below.
“I am not suggesting that other nations face the same level of corruption as Russia, but corruption exists everywhere.For instance in Belgium…
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New first for Belgium: prisoner euthanasia by Michael Cook, National Right to Life News Today (9/17/12) – Euthanasia for prisoners obviously poses significant moral dilemmas. Belgium’s euthanasia laws were written for people who are not incarcerated and living completely under government control. However euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke anticipated this situation and praised it as possibly “the last frontier in prison reform” in his 2005 book “Killing Me Softly.” The latest development seems to suggest that Belgium is becoming the world leader in innovative application of euthanasia laws. Last year Belgian surgeons revealed that they had been harvesting organs obtained from persons who had requested euthanasia.
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Robert Latimer gets OK to travel to UK for panel talk – CBC News, Saskatchewan (9/17/12) – Robert Latimer will be allowed to go the United Kingdom to take part in a panel debate on end-of-life issues.
Latimer, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of his severely disabled daughter, Tracy, has been granted permission by the National Parole Board to attend the Oct. 18 discussion, which is being organized by the University of Oxford.The 59-year-old Saskatchewan farmer’s case continues to generate debate across Canada about euthanasia and the rights of people with disabilities.Latimer has always contended that he acted out of compassion when he killed his 12-year-old daughter on his family’s farm in the Wilkie, Sask., area on Oct. 24, 1993.
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Palliative doctor’s response to TV1 show – National Right to Life News Today (9/17/12) – Editor’s note. The following is a media release from ANZSPM–The Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc.
The TV1, 7pm news programme on Sunday 16th September 2012 described the tragic story of Rosie’s death, a person with multiple sclerosis.  As a society of Palliative Medicine doctors we care for patients with advanced multiple sclerosis as well as patients with advanced illnesses from many other sources.  Unlike last night’s distressing story of Rosie’s decision, the patients we care for with multiple sclerosis do not have their lives ended prematurely and do not request this.  In our experience patients with advanced illnesses such as multiple sclerosis can be supported, as well as their family and friends, by multidisciplinary team of Palliative Care with community general practice and hospital support.
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The dangerous physician assisted suicide Ballot Measure in Massachusetts – 5 key facts about Question 2 by Jennifer Popik JD, National Right to Life News Today (9/18/12) – … we quote from and talk about the position taken by the Massachusetts Medical Society in opposition to the legalization of doctor-prescribed suicide…
While the “Question 2” ballot initiative poses a real threat to the people of Massachusetts, the same pro-doctor prescribed death lobby has been promoting a nearly identical measure far and wide across the nation for nearly two decades with very limited success.   Despite numerous ballot initiatives, court challenges, and well over one hundred legislative efforts, doctor-prescribed suicide has been affirmatively legalized only in Washington and Oregon.
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New Stats: Euthanasia Out of Control in Netherlands, Up 18% by Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, LifeNews.com (9/25/12) – The media in the Netherlands has reported today that the number of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2011 increased by 18% to 3695 and there were 13 reported psychiatric patients who died by euthanasia, up from 2 reported psychiatric euthanasia deaths in 2010.Euthanasia for psychiatric patients in the Netherlands will likely increase substantially over the next few years in response to a Dutch article published last year in the Journal of Psychiatry advocating for the expansion of euthanasia for psychiatric patients.As bad as these statistics may seem they only tell part of the story.
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Physicians Alliance for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia formed by Alex Schadenberg, executive director Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, National Right to Life News Today (9/26/12) – The Physicians Alliance for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia has formed in Quebec. This group has established themselves under the banner to push for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia while promoting Caring, Not Killing.The website has been launched in English and French. The Physicians Alliance is asking physicians to Sign the Declaration in English and French.The websites also provide facts and support for the physicians who join together to oppose the implementation of euthanasia in Quebec.
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Major split in LibCon Coalition over assisted suicide by Dr. Peter Saunders, former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members.National Right to Life News (9/27/12) – Both party leaders, David Cameron [Prime Minister and leader of Conservative Party] and Nick Clegg [Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrat Party], are opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide, but a poll published last week by Communicate Research demonstrated graphically just how deep the gulf is between Members of Parliament in the two parties on this issue.
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Good news for euthanasia advocates– deaths are up: Opinion of Lucia Corbella, Calgray Herald (9/28/12) – The slippery slope just keeps on getting longer and steeper. When the debate about euthanasia began in the Netherlands decades ago, proponents insisted that it should and would only be made available to terminally ill, elderly people, who were suffering and in full control of their mental faculties. Period.They insisted then, as they continue to insist now, that no slippery slope exists with regard to euthanasia. The people who say that are, inarguably, bald-faced liars, ill informed or delusional. There are no other options.(more)*New Jersey legislator introduces assisted suicide billby Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, LifesiteNews.com (9/28/12) – This bill is designed to be debated and voted on by the legislature and, if passed, to bypass the governor and go before the voters as a ballot question in the next election.Burzichelli, a Democrat, stated about Assembly Bill A3328 that: “It’s not a Dr. Kevorkian bill where someone who’s 45 years of age who’s depressed and lost their job decides they don’t want to live and wants to call someone to assist them in suicide. This bill is very narrow.”
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Swiss parliament refuses to regulate assisted suicide groups by Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, National Right to Life News (9/28/12) – A vote in the Swiss parliament yesterday rejected a proposal to regulate the assisted suicide organizations and their suicide clinics. The two main assisted suicide organizations are Exit and Dignitas. Members of the lower house of parliament voted against changing the code, arguing self-regulation by right-to-die organizations such as Exit and Dignitas worked and the liberal rules protected individual freedoms.A German assisted suicide group recently announced its intention of establishing a assisted suicide clinic in Zurich. The group Verein Sterbehilfe Deutschland(StHD), that is founded by Roger Kusch, opened an office in Zurich on September 14, 2012.Last year, voters in the Zurich canton rejected similar proposals to restrict assisted suicide.(more)*

Assisted-suicide advocate’s resolve bolstered by terminally ill friend’s early death– therecond.com (9/30/12) – Westley saw the devastating effect of not having a choice in Nagui Morcos. The Toronto man chose to end his life this spring to avoid an agonizing death from Huntington’s, the degenerative and incurable nerve disease that he watched claim his father.

Morcos, an outspoken advocate for Dying with Dignity, shared his story publicly to urge people to change the laws to give terminally ill people like himself the choice to medical assistance to end their life when it becomes unbearable.

Westley was at his side when he died on the day he chose. He was 54.

The wrenching experience was made worse knowing Morcos died when he still had months, even a couple years of relatively decent health to enjoy with his wife, family and friends. But Morcos knew he could not get the help needed later when he was no longer physically able to end his life on his own.

“He knew what he was giving up and he had to give it up too soon and that was heartbreaking to me,” Westley said.

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CHINA

Hong Kong needs legal clarity on assisted suicide – South China Morning Post – The University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention reported last month that the suicide rate now stands at 13.6 per 100,000 people, and predicted a rise in 2012.

While most suicides are associated with personal tragedy or despair and involve individuals acting alone, there are, inevitably, cases of assisted suicide, although these rarely come to light.

Although suicide itself was decriminalised in 1967, a person who assists another’s suicide is guilty of an offence, punishable with 14 years’ imprisonment. A prosecution, however, requires the consent of the secretary for justice, who has not disclosed the criteria he applies to cases.

(more)
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FRANCE

Belgian euthanasia law allows first death of a prisoner– FRANCE24.com (9/13/12) – A gravelly ill prisoner serving a long jail sentence has become the first inmate to die under Belgian euthanasia laws introduced 10 years ago, press reports said Thursday.The man, who was not identified, died earlier this year after seeking permission several times when doctors decided his suffering could not be helped, the reports said.They gave no details of his illness or the circumstances of his case.Another prisoner, locked up for 27 years for committing two murders, has also asked for permission to die and should satisfy the legal conditions, Flemish television channel VTM said.
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Film relaunches Euthanasia debate– The Connexion (9/20/12) – A FRENCH film about a man’s difficult relationship with his dying mother has put the euthanasia debate back in the public eye.Quelques heures de Printemps, by Stéphane Brizé, out in cinemas this week, tackles the topic of “dying with dignity”. The main character, Alain, 48, has to go back home to live with his mother, and finds out she is incurably ill.The end-of-life debate had gone off the radar slightly since July, when it was announced that President Hollande had appointed a medical professor, Didier Sicard, to do a study into the possibility of euthanasia in “exceptional cases”. His conclusions are expected by the end of the year.
(more)
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GERMANY

German assisted suicide group opens Swiss office – NECN.com (9/15/12) – A German group dedicated to helping terminally ill people commit suicide has opened an office in Switzerland in case it is banned at home.

The head of Sterbehilfe Deutschland says proposed legal changes could soon make it illegal for the group to offer its services in Germany.

Roger Kusch told The Associated Press on Saturday that by opening an office in the Swiss city of Zurich the group would be able to continue operating from a country where assisted suicide is legal.

The German government recently proposed making it illegal for groups to receive money, including membership fees, from people they help to commit suicide.

Unlike Switzerland where assisted suicide is widely accepted, many in Germany object to the practice because of its association with Nazi euthanasia programs.

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New rules drive suicide firm to Switzerland – TheLocal.de (9/15/12) – The group Verein Sterbehilfe Deutschland (StHD) told reporters in Zürich that it was pushing for Germany to adopt legislation similar to that in Switzerland, which allows assisted suicide.

The group, which has some 300 members and claims to have assisted in around 60 suicides, has no plans to help anyone take their life in Switzerland, StHD head Roger Kusch said, according to Swiss news agency ATS.

The group’s decision to open up shop in Zürich was instead linked to fear that it could be prosecuted under a law that is likely to be passed in Germany making assisted suicide for profit a criminal offense, he explained.

On its website, the Hamburg-based organisation says it charged an annual membership fee of €200, or a life-long membership fee of €2,000.

(more)

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INDIA

72-yr-old’s mercy killing plea rejected – Times of India (9/27/12) – Karibasamma, who claimed to have suffered slip disc (inter-vertebral disc prolapse) and was bedridden for 10-11 years, had written to local authorities and even the President and Prime Minister, seeking permission for euthanasia since 2003. Karibasamma claimed the Rs 8,968 she was getting as monthly pension in 2010, wasn’t enough to meet her medical expenses. Because of her age, doctors had opted for non-surgical treatment, and the pain she’s undergoing is excruciating.

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With time, India will accept mercy killing– Times of India (9/28/12) – “As a retired teacher I manage with my pension. But others who are poor and do not have money should not suffer like me. How will they cope if they are poor?” she asks.

She recently collected over 1,500 euthanasia supporting letters from retired state government employees, and another 10,000 letters from people from other walks of life. “My 14-year struggle for this new law may become fruitful in the future with these letters,” she contended.

“From my childhood I used to read newspapers regularly and articles on euthanasia intrigued me. This prompted me to take the step,” Karibasamma recalled.

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IRELAND

Wicklow couple to challenge assisted suicide laws – Irish Examiner (9/16/12) – It is reported that a landmark challenge to Ireland’s assisted suicide laws will be lodged in the High Court next month.

Reports in today’s Sunday Times and Sunday Business Post said the case is being taken by a Wicklow woman, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and her husband.

The couple said that the current law, under which anyone assisting a suicide is open to prosecution, is unconstitutional.

It is understood the couple’s lawyers will argue that the law is flawed because it allows able-bodied people to take their own lives, but not those with disabilities.

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Couple in right-to-die case want to stay anonymous by Lousie Hogan, Irish Independent (9/17/12) – The matter is expected to be brought before a judge as a severely disabled and wheelchair-bound woman suffering from multiple sclerosis requests her partner be allowed to help her end her life without fear of prosecution.

Suicide is not illegal in Ireland but assisting suicide can be punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment. The couple’s legal team are expected to argue the legislation is unconstitutional as an able-bodied person can end their own life without penalty, yet someone with a disability or terminal illness can’t do so as anyone who helps them faces prosecution.

(more)

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Courts facing tough task on issue of euthanasia by Dearbhail McDonald, Irish Independent (9/29/12) – It is impossible not to be moved by the plight of Marie Fleming, who is in the terminal stages of multiple sclerosis.

Wheelchair-bound, she registered five years ago with Dignitas, the controversial clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, where terminally ill but competent patients are allowed to die under the supervision of doctors.

But Marie opted not to end her life in Zurich as her partner of more than 20 years, Tom Curran, vowed that he would help her die at home.

If Curran, Fleming’s full- time carer, accedes to her wishes, he faces a jail term of up to 14 years — or life if convicted of murder — for assisting her suicide.

It is a price Mr Curran is willing to pay.

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Right to die raises serious questions– Editorial, Irish Independent (9/29/12) – While we can sympathise with this woman and her partner, there are also very strong counter-arguments. With an ageing population and rapidly-rising life expectancies the twin issues of death and palliative care are going to become ever more prominent in public debate.

How do we die? Should we be assisted to die? What sort of pain relief, even if it shortens their lifespans, is acceptable for terminally-ill patients? What is the legal status of “living wills”?

Who gets to make life-and-death decisions when the person is no longer competent? This case, regardless of the legal ruling, marks the beginning of what will almost certainly prove to be a very long debate.

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I would risk jail to end Marie’s needless suffering, says partner – Irish Independent (9/29/12) – The Co Wicklow-based couple taking a landmark right-to-die action by challenging Ireland’s suicide laws gave up their anonymity to speak to the Irish Independent today.

Marie Fleming (59), who is in the terminal stages of a debilitating illness, wants the option to end her own life with the help of her partner, who is also her full-time carer.

The former UCD law lecturer, a long-term multiple sclerosis sufferer, wants to secure “peace of mind” that she will not die in needless pain.

She is challenging — in the High Court — our suicide laws to spare her partner, Tom Curran, the threat of up to 14 years in prison for helping her die.

Mr Curran is the co-ordinator of the Irish branch of Exit International, the end-of-life information organisation that campaigns across the world for the legalisation of assisted suicide.

(more)

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THE NETHERLANDS

Dutch debate euthanasia of their prince by Michael Cook, BioEdge  (9/1/12) – Nearly six months ago Prince Friso, the son of Queen Beatrix, of the Netherlands, was buried in an avalanche while skiing in Austria. By the time he was rescued, he had already suffered severe brain damage. Ever since he has been in Wellington Hospital in London, where he was living and working before the accident. There is little chance that he will recover.

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EPPSP Event on Assisted Dying – The European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Poitics (9/5/12) – video

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Speech by Dr. Irwin on assisted dying at EPPSP Event (9/5/12) – A recent UK report stated that someone, who became 65 in 2010, could, on average, expect another ten to twelve years of a healthy life, and then, eight years of declining health – for so many people, dying has become a slow process.

Personally, I believe that, in the UK, there will be the legal possibility of PAS, for the terminally ill, in five to ten years. Then, there might be legalized PAS for the severely disabled (like Tony Nicklinson) in another ten years. Finally, I am hopeful of the possiblity of PAS for the very elderly, suffering from ill health, by 2060.

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A Society for Old Age Rational Suicide was established in the UK on December 10, 2009 (Human Rights Day) – two national opinion polls show 66% to 67% support for this concept.
In April 2002, the European Court of Human Rights noted, “In an era of growing medical sophistication, combined with longer life expectancies, many people are concerned that they should not be forced to linger on in old age or in states of advanced physical or mental decrepitude which conflict with strongly held ideas of self and personal identity”.

(more)

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Dutch man could face charges for helping mother to die – Radio Netherlands Worldwide (9/10/12) –  Assisted suicide is banned in the Netherlands. Helping someone end their life can be punished with a three year jail sentence. Albert Heringa helped his mother take an overdose of pills, leading to her death. He wants to be taken to court for his actions as a test case, but the public prosecutor’s office is so far reluctant to take any action (video)

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US and Dutch views differ on sedation at end of life by Sarah Guy, medwireNews (9/18/12) – Physicians from the USA and the Netherlands differ in their views on sedation at the end of life, with the Dutch justifying it by stating that it does not hasten death, and the Americans indicating that although it might hasten death, this is justifiable if it is not the primary intention, show study findings.

The researchers observed that physicians also differ in their communication about sedation at the end of life, with Dutch respondents reporting they initiate open discussions with their patients to allow for planning, while American respondents are less likely to do so.

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13 psychiatric patients were helped to die last year– DutchNews.nl (9/24/12) – A total of 13 psychiatric patients were helped to end their life last year, compared with just two in 2010, according to new figures from the regional euthanasia monitoring groups.

Euthanasia among people in the early stages of dementia also rose last year to 49 cases, double that of 2010.

The figures are in line with a general upward trend. The total number of euthanasia cases rose 18% last year to 3,695 and the number of cases has doubled since 2006, the report said.

The reasons for the increase are not yet known but are being investigated by researchers from the monitoring groups.

(more)

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Dutch Euthanasia preys on mentally ill, psychiatric patients by Dr. Peter Saunders, doctor and the CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a British organization with 4,500 doctors and 1,000 medical students as members. LifeNews.com (9/28/12) – Euthanasia now accounts for 2.8% of all Dutch deaths.

In addition euthanasia for people with early dementia doubled to 49 last year and 13 psychiatric patients were euthanized, an increase of over 500% on the two reported in 2010.

But as alarming as these statistics may seem they tell only part of the full story.

(more)

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NEW ZEALAND

Doctor: Euthanasia not the answer by Corrie Taylor, SunLive News (9/1/12) – A Tauranga doctor says palliative care, not euthanasia, is the better option for patients, family, friends and doctors of cancer sufferers.

Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow says palliative care has improved greatly in the past seven years, and legalising euthanasia could cut short people’s lives who are not aware they have another option.

(more)

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Euthanasia too complex to be left to politicians: academic– CathNews (9/3/12) – Euthanasia is far too important to be decided by a bill requiring just two days of parliamentary debate followed by a conscience vote, says Professor Scott Prasser, Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University, reports the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

Instead, Professor Prasser says that before any laws are modified, emotion must be removed from the debate and a Royal Commission or a neutral wide-ranging public inquiry established to get rid of the myths and look at the facts.

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‘Do Not Resuscitate’ gran dies aged 83 by Hamish McNeilly, New Zealand Herald (9/12/12) – Euthanasia campaigner Paula Westoby has died at her home.

The 83-year-old Dunedin grandmother made headlines in December 2008 when she had “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattooed on her chest.

The outspoken convener of the voluntary euthanasia support group Exit International was a supporter of Sean Davison, who helped his cancer-ridden mother die.

(more)

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‘Rosie should not have died alone’ by Jared Savage, New Zealand Herald (9/13/12) – Rosie Mott looks into the camera and says: “I’m making this movie so that nobody is under the illusion that I’ve been coerced into what I’ve done.

“Or I’ve been murdered, or for that matter, committed suicide. I am euthanising myself because I … I’m going to tell you a story, this sad tragic story of my upcoming demise.”

Tears stream down Evans Mott’s face as he watches this posthumous message.

(more)

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Decision sets dangerous precedent for assisted suicide law– Family Life International (9/13/12) – Justice Patricia Courtney’s decision today, to discharge without conviction Evans Mott, for assisting his wife to commit suicide, sets a dangerous precedent for future cases of assisted suicide in New Zealand.

While Mr Mott was not actually present when his wife Rosie Mott died, he pleaded guilty in May to assisting in her suicide by acquiring information about euthanasia and providing the equipment necessary for her to carry out the act. In pleading guilty he accepted responsibility for the role he played in his wife’s death. Now, he is able to walk away with no consequences to his actions.

The so-called “right to die” advocates are very excited about the outcome of this case. Today’s decision will also influence politician’s thoughts on Maryann Street’s “End of Life Choices” Bill which is awaiting its first reading.

Family Life International NZ believes that Justice Courtney has made a grave error of judgment in making this decision. She has opened the door for other’s to assist in suicide and not suffer any consequences. This decision also flies the face of New Zealander’s concern over the high suicide rate in our country.

(more)

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Assisted suicide ruling ‘common sense’ by Ian Steward, stuff.co.nz (9/13/12) – “Mentally, Rosie did not want to die – she wanted to live and live a long and full life. Physically she had run out of options.”

He said his wife did not want publicity. “Rosie died in her own time, by her own hand and sadly alone.

“She insisted on dying in those circumstances, to prevent those who she loved from being legally implicated or liable. She . . . would be sad to see that she failed despite her sacrifices.

“What kind of system expects you to turn your back on your loved one in such a time of need? Sadly, ours does.”

(more)

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Should we change the law to allow voluntary euthanasia? – New Zealand Herald (9/14/12) – Labour MP Maryan Street is proposing a law change to permit voluntary euthanasia under some circumstances. Two doctors argue the pros and cons.

(more)

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Euthanasia debate: Wife’s death video by Jared Savage, The New Zealand Herald (9/14/12)
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Euthanasia organisation pleased with Mott ruling by Sam Thompson,  NewstalkZB.com (9/14/12) – Euthanasia organisation Exit says Evans Mott’s discharge without conviction is a sensible decision by the New Zealand High Court.

Mott admitted helping his ill wife to commit suicide.

The Judge says his assistance was limited, his wife was determined to die and she would have gone ahead with or without his help.

Exit director Dr Philip Nitschke is pleased with the decision.

“It begs the question of course why are we wasting the court’s time with situations like this when clearly this was an act of compassion and love. It all begs the question of when will the law change in New Zealand?”

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Majority of Kiwis support assisted suicide– poll – tvnz.co.nz (9/14/12) – The poll conducted by Horizon research asked 2969 respondents – reported to be a representative sample of adult New Zealanders – if they supported or opposed the assisted suicide in the case of mentally competent adults who are terminally ill.

The poll found 62.9% were in support, 15.8% neutral, 12.3% opposed and 9% were not sure.

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Euthanasia advocate did on own terms by Krissy Moreau, 3News.co.nz (9/14/12) – A euthanasia advocate who campaigned for years to get New Zealand’s law changed has taken her own life before she could see any result.

Eighty-three-year-old Paula Westoby made national headlines in 2008 by tattooing “do not resuscitate” on her chest.

She died this week in Dunedin, where a funeral was held for her today.  Her son, Jonathan Westoby, says that while the family are grieving, they respect her decision to end her life.

“We’re just going through that grieving process now, and we are struggling,” he says.  “But it was her choice, and we’ve got to remember that.”

(more)

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Courts mirror mood on euthanasia: MP by Issac Davison, The New Zealand Herald (9/15/12) – Public support for euthanasia is growing in New Zealand in the wake of key court decisions, says a Labour Party MP who advocates assisted suicide.

The discharge without conviction of Auckland man Evans Mott after he assisted his wife’s suicide reflected an increasing compassion for euthanasia, said MP Maryan Street.

She is the author of a private member’s bill to legalise assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness and irreversible disease.

Mr Mott’s wife Rosie died late last year after suffering an aggressive, incurable form of multiple sclerosis.

(more)

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Courts mirror mood on euthanasia: MP by Issac Davidson, New Zealand Herald (9/15/12) – Public support for euthanasia is growing in New Zealand in the wake of key court decisions, says a Labour Party MP who advocates assisted suicide.

The discharge without conviction of Auckland man Evans Mott after he assisted his wife’s suicide reflected an increasing compassion for euthanasia, said MP Maryan Street.

She is the author of a private member’s bill to legalise assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness and irreversible disease.

Mr Mott’s wife Rosie died late last year after suffering an aggressive, incurable form of multiple sclerosis.

(more)

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Editorial: The euthanasia argument– Otago Daily times (9/15/12) – The death this week of Exit International Dunedin convener Paula Westoby, and the discharge without conviction of an Auckland man who helped his chronically ill wife die, has again sparked discussions about end-of-life choices.

Euthanasia advocate Ms Westoby would no doubt have been pleased her death has prompted such exchanges, because she encouraged debate about the issue for many years.

(more)

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Legal euthanasia not a ‘slippery slope’ by Kate Chapman, stuff.co.nz (9/15/12) – Allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives does not lead to a slippery slope of legalised dying, an American expert says.

Debate was rekindled this week after Auckland man Evans Mott was discharged without conviction for pleading guilty to assisting his wife to commit suicide.

Labour MP Maryan Street has drafted a member’s bill that would make it legal for people who are terminally ill or suffering from an irreversible disease to take their own life or have someone help them to die.

(more)

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How I ended my patient’s life – The New Zealand Herald (9/15/12) – A Dutch GP who now lives and works in New Zealand describes the morning he carried out a dying cancer sufferer’s wish.

It is a quiet Saturday morning when I leave the house. When I reach my patient’s house the sun is starting to become quite fierce and even the birds seem to be a bit lazy in the heat. Mark’s wife, Marja, opens the door and when I enter the living room I meet the rest of the family.

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Court decision fuels euthanasia debate – Radio New Zealand News (9/15/12) – A pro-euthanasia campaigner says the discharge without conviction of an Auckland man accused of assisting in his wife’s suicide raises hopes of a law change.

Evans Mott, 61, admitted in May this year to helping Rosie Mott take her own life, following her four-year struggle with a severe form of multiple sclerosis.

Mrs Mott killed herself on 28 December last year using apparatus that her husband of 24 years had helped assemble.

Justice Courtney told the High Court in Auckland Mrs Mott was in pain and would have taken her own life by some means if Mr Mott had not agreed to help her.

(more)

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Palliative doctors response to TV1 show – New Zealand Doctor Online (9/17/12) – Unlike last night’s distressing story of Rosie’s decision, the patients we care for with multiple sclerosis do not have their lives ended prematurely and do not request this.  In our experience patients with advanced illnesses such as multiple sclerosis can be supported, as well as their family and friends, by multidisciplinary team of Palliative Care with community general practice and hospital support.

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc., (ANZSPM), believes that the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide are outside the discipline of Palliative Medicine.

(more)

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Ruling on advocate’s 2010 suicide lifts debate by Shane Cowlishaw, Stuff.co.nz (9/18/12) – The suicide of an elderly Nelson member of a pro-euthanasia group has again highlighted the fierce debate over a person’s right to die.

Gretha Appleby, 80, was found dead in 2010. Coroner Carla na Nagara released her findings into the death yesterday, stating Mrs Appleby died at her home from self-inflicted injuries.

Mrs Appleby was a noted member of the pro-euthanasia group Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand.

She had expressed her pro-euthanasia views publicly, writing to the Nelson Mail in 2008 to declare her frustration at the “irrational” view that considered someone a murderer for helping a suffering loved one to die.

“My compassion goes towards the ‘murderer’, feeling he or she needs our understanding,” she wrote. “No son, daughter nor anyone should be put to such a test.

“If only we would have a law in which the dying have a choice how to die with dignity, this would save a lot of misunderstanding.”

In New Zealand it is a criminal offence to help someone die, or even provide a means for them to do so.

(more)

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Woman’s death adds fuel to debate– NelsonMail.co.nz (9/18/12) – Mrs Appleby was a noted member of the pro-euthanasia group Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand. She had expressed her pro-euthanasia views publicly, writing to the Nelson Mail in 2008 to declare her frustration at the “irrational” view that considered someone a murderer for helping a suffering loved one to die.

“My compassion goes towards the ‘murderer’, feeling he or she needs our understanding,” she wrote. “No son, daughter, nor anyone should be put to such a test.

“If only we would have a law in which the dying have a choice how to die with dignity, this would save a lot of misunderstanding.”

(more)

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Assisted dying – the social conversation <<Red Alert – posted by Maryan Street… tell her what you think! (9/25/12)

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NIGERIA

Euthanasia and the Catholic Church – by Maurice Ekpe, Vanguard (9/30/12) – EUTHANASIA is from a Greek word, (Euthanatos) meaning good death. It is a fusion of two words, Eu (well or good) and thanatos (death), translating to “good death”. It refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.

The definition of Euthanasia incorporates three basic elements which are essential to understanding the position of the Catholic Church on its application. These are: suffering, killing and intention.

The Catholic Church view on Euthanasia:
Life is a sacred gift from God to be cherished and respected because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God for a purpose (Genesis 1:26) thereby prohibiting a claim as the “right to die”. A right is a moral claim and we do not have a claim on death rather death has a claim on us. God chooses the time of our birth and the time for our death (Ecclesiastes 3:2).

(more)

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RUSSIA

Euthanasia in Russia unacceptable forever and always? – Pravda (9/13/12) – Should Russia allow euthanasia on the legislative level, even in a passive form? Probably not – for a variety of reasons.

If euthanasia is approved in Russia, where corruption is still quite strong, it will most likely lead to the appearance of a great deal of violations at this point. It is quite possible that people will be put to death through forged documents and bribed doctors in order to obtain material benefits.

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SCOTLAND

27 deaths ’caused by bed sores’ – The party’s health spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “The public will be shocked that people are still dying from bed sores in the 21st century. They cause huge amounts of pain and discomfort but are easily preventable.

“Bed sores can arise because a patient has been left alone by staff for hours at a time. It is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is working with nurse directors across Scotland to ensure there are no avoidable hospital-acquired pressure ulcers by December 2015.

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Linking my bill with vile regime is wicked by Margo MacDonald, news.scotsman.com (9/5/12) – The people leading the “Care not Killing” campaign are wicked. They aim to defeat the assisted suicide Bill I plan to introduce to the Scottish Parliament this autumn. Care not Killing ignores my Bill’s purpose and links it with the programme of state-sponsored murder of disabled Germans.

My Bill will give defined categories of people the legal right to seek help to end their own life, and only their own lives, when they have become intolerable. In Hitler’s Germany, lives were ended by the officials and doctors who experimented in “cleansing” Hitler’s Reich.

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New Tory health chief Anna Soubry slams law that forces terminally ill Brits to die abroad by Mark Aitken, Scottish Daily Record (9/9/12) – DAVID CAMERON’S new health minister yesterday slated current laws on assisted ­suicide as “ridiculous”.

Newly promoted UK health minister Anna Soubry said terminally ill people should be able to receive assistance in ending their lives in the UK.

Last night, her comments were ­welcomed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who has fought to have assisted suicide legalised in Scotland.

MacDonald said: “These comments are very welcome. They are more realistic and in tune with public opinion than what we have heard from politicians in all parties, with one or two laudable exceptions.

“I am absolutely delighted that the wind is blowing that way.”

The Lothian MSP, who has Parkinson’s disease, has attempted to change the
law in Scotland with her End of Life ­Assistance Bill.

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Assisted suicide bill prepared – UK Press Association (9/19/12) – A fresh attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland is under way after MSPs backed the preparation of a new Bill.

Veteran politician Margo MacDonald has lodged a second proposal after receiving the required 18 signatures of support following a consultation earlier this year. A previous attempt to give people the right to choose when to die was defeated at Holyrood.

Ms MacDonald, Scotland’s only independent MSP, said interest in the issue had grown since the death of Tony Nicklinson in England.

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New bid for legal assisted suicide in Scotland by Lucy Christi, Scottish Daily Record (9/20/12) – A fresh attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland is set to be made at Holyrood.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has got the 18 signatures from colleagues she needs to bring forward a new Bill.

It’s expected to be produced early next year.

MacDonald, who has Parkinson’s disease, has been campaigning for years for patients whose lives have become intolerable to be given the right to get help to end their lives.

At the moment, anyone assisting in a suicide could be prosecuted for culpable homicide.

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Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill by Frank Karmer, Law& Religion (UK) (9/21/12) – Margo MacDonald has secured sufficient cross-party support to introduce her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill (lodged 18 September 2012)

“to enable a competent adult with a terminal illness or condition to request assistance to end their own life, and to decriminalise certain actions taken by others to provide such assistance”.

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Parliment should have a free vote on assisted suicide – Glasgow Liberal Democrats (9/23/12) – Commenting, Chris Davies MEP, who moved the motion, said:

“It is time for Parliament to act and our European neighbours, Belgium and the Netherlands, have proven that laws can be framed to include safeguards that prevent the risk of abuse. Liberal Democrats believe MPs should be given the chance to have a free vote on legislation to allow people, in specific circumstances, to end their life with medical help.”

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Assisted dying – a core demand by Simon Beard, Campaign for Dignity in Dying (9/23/12) – A party that stands for liberalism must support a change in the law to protect the freedom, dignity and well being of individuals. A party that stands for Democracy must support a change in the law that the majority have wanted for decades, and that has been persistently blocked by a determined coalition of elites and special interests.

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Death is part of our human experience by Mary Foster-Fulton, New Statesman (9/24/12) – However, the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment differs fundamentally from the deliberate ending of life. The Church of Scotland is active in many projects offering care, comfort and support to the vulnerable in many practical ways. We therefore find the prospect of legislation allowing assisted dying to be deeply concerning, as it has the potential to undermine focus on the care and comfort of all as they move through the last stages of life- especially those who are placed in a vulnerable position as a result of age, incapacity or other circumstance.

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New bid for assisted suicide in Scotland moves forward– The Christian Institute (9/27/12) – A Scottish politician has gathered enough signatures from a handful of MSPs to have a second attempt at legalising assisted suicide.

Margo MacDonald MSP, who has Parkinson’s disease, was overwhelmingly defeated on her previous attempt.

But she hopes recent court cases in England, like that of Tony Nicklinson who recently died after failing to change the law on euthanasia, have shifted the public mood.

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SOUTH KOREA

New survey will gauge public pinion on euthanasia by Stephen Hong, UCANews (9/19/12) – When doctors removed a respirator from a 76-year-old woman known only as Kim , it sparked a national debate in South Korea about choosing to die, or not, and who can make that choice.

The doctors’ decision led to a landmark Supreme Court case in 2009, the first time it had been called to rule on whether to maintain life support for a patient in a vegetative state, as Kim was at the time, although doctors at the Protestant Severance Hospital in Seoul continued to feed their patient. The court order only referred to life support for the respirator, which doctors had originally refused to turn off.

Miraculously, Kim lasted 202 more days and died in January 2010.

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SWITZERLAND

Swiss parliment rejects tighter controls on assisted suicide – Reuters (9/26/12) – Switzerland’s parliament voted against a bid to toughen controls on assisted suicide on Wednesday, rejecting concerns about foreigners traveling to the country to die.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said reform was not necessary as the number of foreigners travelling to Switzerland to die had declined in recent years, from 199 in 2006 to 97 in 2010. Most come from Germany, France or Britain.

“It’s about the question of dignity at the end of one’s life. In the end each person can only decide on this dignity for him or herself. It’s about questions of self-determination,” she said.

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Swiss parliament rejects assisted suicide regulation – Hurriyet Daily News (9/28/12) – Switzerland’s Parliament voted against a bid to toughen controls on assisted suicide on Sept. 26, rejecting concerns about foreigners traveling to the country to die.

Members of the lower house of parliament voted against changing the code, arguing self-regulation by right-to-die organizations such as Exit and Dignitas worked and the liberal rules protected individual freedoms.

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UNITED KINGDOM

Tony Nicklinson and the Ethics of Assisted Dying by Andrew Copson, HuffPost Politics (8/28/12) – It is right for us to act compassionately to alleviate suffering, just as we would hope that our suffering would be alleviated; and it is right that we respect the choices of the person who we wish to help, just as we would wish our own choice (whether to live or die) to be respected. The only really difficult ethical question surrounding assisted suicide is how we can ensure that an individual’s desire to end their life is the genuine, settled, free choice of a mentally competent individual. Of course, therefore, there must be safeguards in any future regulation of assisted dying. But as long as stringent safeguards are put in place, it is difficult to see the ethical case against it being provided at all.

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British Humanist Assn: New poll shows strong public support for assisted dying– politics.co.uk (9/7/12) – BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented ‘Previous and forthcoming political attempts to legalise assisted dying have confined themselves to the terminally ill but today’s research confirms that this approach is well out of step with public opinion. The large majority of Britons, including Christians, believe that mentally competent adults who are permanently incapacitated and suffering unbearably, as well as those who are terminally ill, should be able to seek medical assistance to end their life with dignity.

‘Few principles of any sort have such a strong popular mandate and it can’t be right for the Government of a democratic society to remain silent and unresponsive in this matter. We urge them to introduce new legislation to legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, with safeguards to protect the vulnerable, but clearly respecting he choices of each individual.’

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Change to assisted dying law would place elderly at risk, Church says– Christian Today (9/7/12) – The Church of England’s adviser on medical ethics has warned against the legalisation of assisted dying.

Writing in The Church of England Newspaper this week, the Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy says that changing the existing laws would place elderly people at greater risk.

“Any change in the law will place vulnerable people at greater risk than at present. Society cannot afford to take an unrealistically optimistic view of human nature,” she said.

“The fact that each year, in England, more than 300,000 elderly people are abused, often at the hands of their close relatives, ought to alert everyone to the dangers of creating new areas of potential abuse.”

Assisted suicide has made the headlines in recent years with supporters saying that people in extreme physical suffering should be able to choose when and how they die.

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Newly-appointed minister attacks assisted suicide law – The Independent (9/8/12) – The laws on assisted suicide have been criticised as “ridiculous” by a newly-promoted Health Minister.

Anna Soubry, who was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Health in this week’s reshuffle, called for greater “honesty” about when prosecutions would be brought for helping relatives to die and that the legislation needed to “evolve”.

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Law on assisted dying is ridiculous, says health minister– The Guardian (9/8/12/) – The laws on assisted dying are “ridiculous” and “appalling”, according to a newly promoted health minister.

Anna Soubry, who was appointed parliamentary under secretary at the Department of Health in this week’s reshuffle, called for greater “honesty” about when prosecutions would be brought for helping relatives to die and said the legislation needed to evolve.

Her Liberal Democrat colleague Norman Lamb, who was moved to the health department at the same time, said he believed there was “a strong case” for the present law to be reconsidered.

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Tony Nicklinson’s wife welcomes minister’s assisted suicide comments – ITV News (9/8/12) – Tony Nicklinson’s wife has welcomed the willingness of newly-appointed health minister Anna Soubry to “stick her neck out” on the issue of assisted suicide law, but said reforms that restricted the measure to the terminally ill would not be enough.

Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from locked-in syndrome, died a week after losing his legal bid to end his life when he chose with the help of a doctor. He was 58 at the time of his death.

“Everyone goes on about assisted suicide for the terminally ill but that is just not far enough for us,” Jane Nicklinson told Sky News. “Tony’s rights should be taken into account, and others like Tony, as much as those who are dying”.

“We’re pleased that she has come forward and said this. It does open the debate even more, having an MP who’s willing to stick her neck out and actually support assisted suicide. But we would like it to be a step further,” Mrs. Nicklinson added.

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Assisted suicide laws criticised– SolihullNews.net (9/8/12) – Health ministers have joined calls for a fresh look at relaxing the law against assisted suicide, with one calling it “ridiculous and appalling” that terminally-ill people were forced abroad to take their own lives.

Tory MP Anna Soubry reopened the fraught right-to-die debate in an outspoken interview with The Times just days after being appointed a junior minister in the Department of Health (DoH) in David Cameron’s reshuffle.

And her Liberal Democrat colleague Norman Lamb, who was shifted to the health brief at the same time, said he believed there was “a strong case” for the present law to be reconsidered.

Their interventions sparked strong responses on both sides of the argument, with opponents including the president of the British Medical Association, warning any change in the law could put vulnerable people at risk.

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Assisted suicide row Minister ‘must resign’ after she backs changing the law by Brendan Carlin, Daily Mail (9/8/12) – Outspoken new Health Minister Anna Soubry faced a Tory call to resign after saying she backed changing the law on assisted suicide.

The former television presenter, who joined the Government in last week’s reshuffle, said it was ‘ridiculous and appalling’ that Britons had to ‘go abroad to end their life’.

Ms Soubry immediately came under attack from fellow Tories, with one warning that any attempt to change the law would be ‘fiercely’ opposed.

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Anna Soubry is right: we must top fudging issue of assisted dying by James Harris, New Statesman (9/9/12) – The new health Minister Anna Soubry has articulated the view of many people, a clear majority according to opinion polls, who feel that the current law on assisted dying is out of date.

As is well documented, over the last decade Britons have been travelling abroad to die. But, this is just one part of the problem. Dying Britons have also been ending their lives at home, sometimes with the assistance of loved ones, and evidence suggests that some doctors are illegally helping their patients to die. None of this occurs within a legal framework, agreed by Parliament, which allows healthcare professionals to openly discuss and support, if upfront safeguards are met, a dying patient’s request to die.

Instead, we muddle along with a fudge. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), understandably reluctant to prosecute those who have helped a loved one to die, has set out factors for and against prosecution that effectively decriminalises compassionate amateur assistance. However, the assistance of a doctor or a nurse in a professional capacity is a specific factor in favour of prosecution. In fairness to the DPP his hands are largely tied by statute. Only Parliament can create a safeguarded process of assisted dying. Their failure to do so to date means that we have effectively outsourced assisted dying to family members and the Swiss. No wonder Anna Soubry described the law as “ridiculous and appalling”.

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What is the current BMA policy on assisted dying?

– opposes all forms of assisted dying

– supports the current legal framework, which allows compassionate and ethical care for the dying and

– supports the establishment of a comprehensive, high quality palliative care service available to all, to enable patients to die with dignity

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Tories play down Anna Soubry comments on assisted suicide by Nicholas Watt, The Guardian (9/10/12) – David Cameron is distancing himself from his outspoken new health minister Anna Soubry, who last week called for help to be given to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.

Senior Tory sources said the prime minister saw no need for a change in the law or in legal guidance on the issue.

Soubry, a former barrister on the Tory left who joined the health ministry in last week’s reshuffle, told the Times on Saturday that it was “ridiculous and appalling” that terminally ill people had to travel abroad to end their lives.

“The rules that we have about who we don’t prosecute allow things to happen but there’s a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it,” the minister said.

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Norman Lamb second new health minister to call for assisted dying laws reform by Rosa Prince,  The Telegraph (9/10/12) – The Liberal Democrat minister, who is responsible for suicide strategy within the Department of Health, followed his Conservative colleague Anna Soubry, who said that the current laws on voluntary ethenasia were dishonest and needed to evolve to allow people to die at home.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “First of all it is important to say that this is not something that the Government has policy on.

“We take the view I think quite correctly that this is a matter for individual conscience and it is for Parliament to decide. I think there is a case for a debate.

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Greens urged to back draft right-to-die legislation– Bristol 24-7 (9/10/12) – Campaigners calling for a change in the law to help the terminally ill end their own lives urged Green Party members and supporters in Bristol this weekend to back a draft Parliamentary Bill.

Speaking at a debate at the party’s autumn conference in the council chamber at Bristol City Council on Saturday, chief executive of Dignity in Dying Sarah Wootton said it was currently consulting – along with the all-party parliamentary group on choice at the end of life – on a proposed draft bill.

She told the party members at the public debate there was a “strong case” for allowing assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill in England and Wales.

Control over the quality of our death is “one of the most important ethical issues of our time”, the campaign says, and Ms Wootton said the draft bill would mirror closely the Death with Dignity Act in the US state of Oregon.

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Assisted dying is a matter for us all– The Bolton (9/10/12) – In so far as assisted dying is concerned, the coterie comprising the Vatican and the United Kingdom’s 26 unelected clerics in the House of Lords, helping to decide who should have the right to live, or the right to die, hardly provides for a balanced discussion.

I agree with Professor Raymond Tallis, chairman of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying who is of the opinion that “assisted dying should be a matter for society as a whole and not just for the medical profession.”

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Norfolk health minister on assisted suicide by Joseph Watts, Norfolk Eastern Daily Press (9/11/12) – The comments of North Norfolk MP Mr Lamb come shortly after the case of Tony Nicklinson, who died last month shortly after losing a court battle for the right to end his own life.

Speaking in a radio interview Mr Lamb said: “First of all it is important to say that this is not something that the Government has policy on.

“We take the view I think quite correctly that this is a matter for individual conscience and it is for Parliament to decide. I think there is a case for a debate.

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British Medical Association Council elects strong advocate of euthanasia and assisted suicide as new deputy chair by Dr. Peter Saunders,  CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members – National Right to Life News Today (9/11/12) – He boldly declares, ‘We must enact legislation to decriminalise acts of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, for the following compelling reasons’, and then gives a list of ‘reasons’ that could have been cut and pasted from the DID website.

I wonder if Dr. Chand has declared these ‘interests’ to BMA Council or BMA members whom I’m sure would be very interested to know about them.

Meanwhile the BMA itself remains firmly opposed to any change in the law and has never supported the legalisation of either euthanasia or assisted suicide throughout its 180 year history.

With the government last week appointing two health ministers who have since declared their support for legalising assisted suicide (Anna Soubry and Norman Lamb) and Lord Falconer and Margo Macdonald about to introduce new bills in the House of Lords and Scottish Parliament respectively it appears that we are in for a very interesting few months.

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Minister calls for change on assisted suicide law– The Christian Institute (9/12/12) – Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, has criticised Mr Lamb’s remarks.

He said the role of a health minister should be to prevent people from taking the “desperate step” of suicide.

He added that Mr Lamb should not be making it “easier for a loaded gun to be passed to those who consider, for whatever reason, their lives to be no longer worth living.”

Mr Saunders wants the minister to prioritise “better care for those with terminal and chronic illness.”

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Supporting Your Choices at the End of Life: Statement (9/13/12) – Compassion in Dying seeks to put patients at the heart of the decision making process by providing free Advance Decisions, which are legally binding forms that can be used to make decisions about your medical treatment should you lose capacity.

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Motor neurone disease sufferer, 71, took his own life after drug overdose by Luke Saulkeld, Daily Mail (9/13/12) – Thomas Hobkinson, 71, suffered from motor neurone disease and had bought drugs over the internet so that he could kill himself at home.

It is believed the programme he watched was the controversial BBC documentary Choosing To Die which looked at the procedure of assisted death when it was broadcast in June of last year.

Last September the retired auditor’s wife Anne discovered his body at their home in Falmouth, Cornwall, after he had spent his last night watching their son Ben’s wedding DVD.

He had told his wife of his intentions and they had ‘said their goodbyes’. He also reminded her where the instructions were for their home’s heating system.

The inquest heard that after Mr Hobkinson was diagnosed in 2009 and the disease worsened, he informed family, friends, doctors and carers of his intention to end his life.

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Euthanasia Redux– For Mott’s sake, support Maryan Street’s bill by Mark Hubbard (9/13/12) – My advocacy in this blog that a civilised society must go about its rule-making by thinking on man’s condition from within a morality of man qua man, heightens the rage I rightly feel when reading such a state-coerced tragic, because separated, ending for Mr and Mrs Mott. Mr Mott most certainly was his wife’s hero.

For me, the issues surrounding euthanasia have always been about two things:

 Mrs Mott’s right to die with dignity, but also, equally:
 Mr Mott’s right, which was denied him, to be in the same room, embraced with his loved one, Rosie, so she would not have to pass away, completely alone in the world.
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MP backs calls to allow patients the right to die– This is Croydon (9/14/12) – Calls to reform the law on assisted suicide and allow Britons to die at home have been backed by Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway.
New junior health minister Anna Soubry, who was promoted in the cabinet reshuffle, has demanded greater “honesty” about when people would be prosecuted for helping relatives to die.
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MPs oppose assisted suicide move– This is Jersey (9/15/12) – The poll found that just 29% of MPs back moves to introduce assisted suicide, while 59% were opposed and 12% were undecided.The survey of more than 150 MPs, conducted by ComRes, asked MPs from all parties about their views on assisted suicide.Opposition was especially fierce in Scotland, where 86% of MPs opposed new legalisation.
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Recession strengthens case against assisted suicide, MPs say by John Bingham, The Telegraph (9/15/12) – The findings emerged from the first poll of MPs on questions surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide since before the last election, providing a revealing snapshot of attitudes on the issue in the current House of Commons.

It shows that opposition to assisted suicide among MPs has strengthened markedly in the current Parliament, boosted by the presence of more Conservative members.

Overall 62 per cent of MPs oppose or strongly oppose legalising assisted suicide for mentally competent terminally ill people.

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Tony Nicklinson: My dad, my hero by Lauren Nicklinson, The Guardian (9/15/12) – As the public face of the right-to-die movement, he was admired by many for the strength and resolve he showed throughout his illness. Here, his daughter recalls growing up with a father whose whole life was an inspiration to her

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MPs ‘oppose assisted suicide move’ – Ashbourne News Telegraph (9/16/12 ) – More than seven out of ten MPs refuse to back calls to legalise assisted suicide, according to a new poll.

The poll found that just 29% of MPs back moves to introduce assisted suicide, while 59% were opposed and 12% were undecided.

The survey of more than 150 MPs, conducted by ComRes, asked MPs from all parties about their views on assisted suicide.

Opposition was especially fierce in Scotland, where 86% of MPs opposed new legalisation.

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MPs in suicide fear– Daily Star (9/16/12) – Seven out of ten MPs refuse to back new calls to legalise assisted suicide, according to a new poll. The ComRes poll of 150 MPs found just 29% back moves to allow assisted suicide.

Most MPs fear law changes could push vulnerable people into ending their lives if they faced health problems.

Care Not Killing’s Dr Peter Saunders said: “Allowing assisted suicide would put pressure on vulnerable people at a time when many sick, elderly and disabled people are struggling to make ends meet. A majority of MPs recognise this and agree assisted suicide should not be legalised.”

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Assisted dying: who’s to decide when a life is not worth living? The Free Republic (9/16/12) – An extraordinary poll published by the British Humanist Association (BHA) highlights the public ambivalence about assisted suicide and euthanasia. In conjunction with other recent surveys, it shows that more people are in favour of the law allowing the killing of relatively healthy patients like Tony Nicklinson than of those who are terminally ill.

The “respectable” wing of the assisted dying movement, Dignity in Dying, wants a very limited right to medically assisted suicide: only people who are terminally ill and in full possession of their faculties would qualify. Even this limited position is hugely controversial.

But the BHA believes that doctors should be allowed to help kill anyone who really wants to die and who cannot manage for themselves. This applies explicitly to perfectly healthy people as well as the terminally ill. And it is more popular than the limited position. No more than 15% of the population are opposed, or strongly opposed to it.

In fact, these attitudes are perfectly coherent and show that people understand there are clear limits to individualism. What the public wants is for everyone to have the right to determine as much as possible about their own lives. This includes the manner and moment of death. Suicide then becomes the grandest and clearest declaration that our lives are our own to do what we want with.

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When is it appropriate to use sedation in palliative care? posted by Eileen Shepard in Nursing Times (9/17/12) – The author of this article poses this question: “When terminally ill patients are given continuous deep sedation without hydration, should we call it a form of palliative care, or is it in fact slow euthanasia? What do you think?

When it is appropriate to use sedation in palliative care?

The author of this article explains why relatives may express concern when a patient does not drink during the terminal phase, or if fluids are withheld while deep sedation is required for symptom control. How would you explain the rationale for withholding artificial hydration to a relative?

Why do some relatives see failure to give artificial hydration as abandonment?

Artificial hydration in the terminal phase of life may cause complications. Outline what these are and how they can affect patients’ condition.

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Wales Health Minister demands NHS services take the lead on end-of-life care by Richard Howard, HomeCare.co.uk (9/17/12) – The Welsh Government has made a firm commitment to improving end-of-life care services, setting 2016 as the target for eradicating service inequalities, regardless of whether individuals choose to die in hospital, in a care facility or at home.

The ‘Together for Health – Delivering End of Life Care’ plan was published last week and pledges to continue the work of the Palliative Care Implementation Board, which introduced educational initiatives into nursing homes. The new plan will focus on further strengthening services to support individuals entering a terminal phase of their illness.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths comments: “Everybody is affected by the death of a family member or friend who has gone through a final phase of illness. I want, as far as possible, to reduce the amount of distress in the terminal phase of illness for the patient and their family.

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End of life rethink ‘is needed’ – BBC News Health (9/18/12) – European countries need to rethink strategies for end of life care due to the ageing population, according to researchers in the Netherlands.

They said deaths from cancer and long-term diseases were a “considerable burden” on society and accounted for 42% of all deaths.

They warned that many would face pain, depression and anxiety before dying.

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Ageing population ‘is leading to crisis in end-of-life care’ by Stephen Adams, The Telegraph (9/18/12) – More hospices, care homes and other end-of-life facilities are needed to help cope with increasing numbers dying ‘gradual’ deaths, say specialists worried that supply is not keeping pace with demand.

Better health care, and to some extent a fitter older population, means less are experiencing ‘sudden’ deaths, for example from heart attacks.

But while increased longevity is to be welcomed, doctors say not enough resources are being devoted to making the last days of the elderly as comfortable as possible.

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Most UK MPs oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide says new poll by Dr. Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members – Lifesitenews.com (9/18/12) – It found that just 29% of MPs back moves to introduce assisted suicide, while 59% were opposed and 12% were undecided.

The survey of more than 150 MPs, conducted by ComRes, asked MPs from all parties about their views on assisted suicide.

Opposition was especially fierce in Scotland, where 86% of MPs opposed legalisation.

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Guardian writer: ‘safeguards’ worthless on assisted suicide– The Christian Institute (9/18/12) – “If a mother has the right to dispose of an unwanted foetus, why doesn’t a daughter have the right to dispose of an unwanted, incoherent and incontinent old person whose miserable life will only ever get worse?

“What could be easier than to propose to such a creature that its life is not in fact worth living?

“The Tony Nicklinsons are the easy cases to legislate for, not just because they are rare”, he concluded.

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Husband who assisted suicide says attitudes are changing– BBC video (9/18/12) – Thirty years ago Barrie Sheldon, who lives in Suffolk, helped his wife Elizabeth prepare drugs for an overdose. Now he believes public attitudes in favour of the right to die are slowly changing.

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Dignity, Death and Deprivation of Liberty: Human Rights in the Court of Protection – UK Human Rights Blog (9/19/12) – Topics for discussion on October 10, 2012, include:

(i)             Assisted dying and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment; the concepts of ‘necessity’ and ‘futility’, and the role Articles 2, 3, 8, and 14 ECHR;

(ii)           The meaning of deprivation of liberty, and ensuring effective protection under Article 5 ECHR;

(iii)          Protecting ‘dignity’ in serious medical treatment decisions through positive human rights obligations;

(iv)          Balancing forced treatment (e.g. feeding/sterilisation) with countervailing  positive human rights obligations;

(v)            Understanding Capacity, Advance Directives and their enforceability under the MCA 2005.

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Man with locked-in syndrome prepares to appeal for right to assisted suicide by Sarah Boseley,  The Guardian (9/19/12) – Lawyers for a man with locked-in syndrome, who says his life is intolerable and wants help to die, are to take his case to the appeal court within weeks and are then prepared to go to the highest court in the land, the supreme court, if necessary.

Martin, as he wishes to be called to protect his privacy, had his original case rejected in August by the high court alongside that of Tony Nicklinson, who was also paralysed by a stroke and unable to speak.

Nicklinson, 58, died just six days later, after refusing food and water and contracting pneumonia. But Martin, his wife told the Guardian, will battle on for the right to die.

“He is adamant – he has been since he had his stroke,” said his wife, who asked to be called Felicity. “What he wants has never changed.”

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Dystonia sufferer Jackie Meacock ends life in Dignitas clinic – BBC News Sussex (9/20/12) – Jackie Meacock, who suffered from the neurological disorder dystonia, took her own life at the Dignitas clinic with her family at her side.

In December she recorded a video diary calling for assisted suicide to be legalised. She died on 13 September.

Her daughters backed her plea and praised their mother’s “strength”.

Speaking to BBC South East Today her daughter Donella Preisler said: “She didn’t want to go away [to die] – she wanted to be here in her home with all her family.”

Although Ms Meacock’s condition was not life threatening it caused her constant pain.

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Midland MP to back ‘medically assisted dying’ call by James Cartledge, Birmingham Mail (9/21/12) – MIDLAND MP Lorely Burt will back a call at the Liberal Democrat conference allowing doctors to help patients end their lives.

The debate on “medically assisted dying” will be held during the party’s gathering in Brighton, starting tomorrow.

The motion supports “legislation providing for medical assistance to die to be available to patients in particular circumstances, subject to rigorous safeguards to prevent abuse”.

It would apply to patients with conditions “with no hope of recovery” who are unable to end their own lives without help.

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Parliament should have a free vote on assisted dying – Liberal Democrats (9/23/12) – Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference today passed Medically Assisted Dying, a policy motion reaffirming the Party’s support for a debate and free vote in Parliament on legislation allowing medically assisted dying in limited circumstances and with extensive safeguards.

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Emotive debate over legally-assisted suicide splits county MPs– This is Gloucestershire (9/24/12) – MPs across Gloucestershire are split over whether or not to legalise assisted suicide.

According to a new poll, the majority of Parliamentarians are against making assisted dying legal with more than seven out of 10 refusing to back calls for such legislation.

The poll of 150 MPs from all parties also found just 29 per cent backed moves to change the law.

Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham (LD), said he was “strongly in favour” of legally assisted suicide, but stressed the need for “strong safeguards”.

He said: “I am sensitive to the views of constituents on the ethics of this issue, but my position is strongly influenced by my father’s experience when he was terminally ill.

“I think that when we get to the end of life, the decision should be left in the hands of the patient and not the doctor.”

(more)

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Newcastle cancer doctor against assisted dying by William Green, Chronicle Live (9/24/12) – A NEWCASTLE doctor last night warned against changing the rules on allowing medics to help patients to die.

Cancer specialist Wendy Taylor said she had never come across any patients who had wanted to die sooner.

All of them wanted to live as long as they could, the Newcastle Liberal Democrat councillor told her party’s conference in Brighton during a debate on medically assisted dying.

“I don’t see patients desperate to die, I see patients desperate to live.

(more)
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National billboard campaign against euthanasia– Independent Catholic News (9/26/12) – Anti-euthanasia campaigners are preparing to mount the first nationwide billboard campaign against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Members of ALERT, Distant Voices and Not Dead Yet UK are behind a venture to post billboards in nine cities in England and Scotland showing a silhouette of a person with the caption:  WHAT’S THE COST OF EUTHANASIA? YOU ARE! Distant Voices is also seeking ‘envoys’ to place themselves in town and city centres on Saturday October 27 – a day of action – and to give out accurate information and speak to members of the public about the evils of euthanasia.The purpose of the campaign is to oppose the legalisation of euthanasia in the UK and to inform the public of the dangers involved in its use anywhere.
(more)
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Major implications of euthanasia are ignored– This is Plymouth (9/27/12) – The call by B J Connell, (The Herald, September 20) for the Government and medical profession to change the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide, fills me with foreboding and confirms the power of a concerted media effort to sway public opinion through emotive BBC TV programmes and celebrities such as Sir Terry Pratchett, a patron of Dignity in Dying – formally the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.I am sure that people who want euthanasia have not thought through the implications of what they are asking especially as people who are nearing the end of their life value life far more, despite illness and age related problems, than those under 50 years of age.
(m0re)
*‘His last wish was to die at home’: Fury of mother who watched her husband die months after their daughter’s suicide– Dailymail.co.uk (9/30/12) – Landscape gardener Patrick Norfolk had one last wish as the debilitating physical condition that had plagued him for years entered its final, terrible stages. He wanted to die in his garden among the flowers and plants he  had tended for decades, surrounded by his family.Patrick, 65, had been left a shell of his former independent, physically active self by motor neurone disease – an incurable illness that wreaks havoc on the nervous system and causes muscles to waste away.Overwhelmed by the disease’s relentless onslaught, Patrick did indeed try to take his own life at his home. But the attempt was unsuccessful and – unable to seek help from his wife Anne or anyone else because of Britain’s laws on assisted suicide – he took the agonising decision to end his life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.(more)

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Assisted-Death Debate – blogs and news from around the world – August 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 August 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. Don’t be swayed by emotional euphenisms or dysphemisms, or religious dogma. 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! The end result should be reasonable laws that protect the vulnerable yet allow self-determination at the end of life for those who want the option of assistance.

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Care Not Killing
Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

Compassion & Choices
Death with Dignity
Dignitas
Dying with Dignity
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Final Exit Network
Not Dead Yet
Patient Rights Council

BLOGS

Death with Dignity National Center – Living with Dying – This Week in the Movement
August 3
August 10
August 17
August 24
August 31

Laws Should Reflect Diversity of Opinions by Melissa Barber, Death With Dignity National Center (6/28/12)

Allow doctors to support patient wishes by Melissa Barber, Death With Dignity National Center (8/10/12)

Terminal Cancer and Euthanasia – a conversation

Huge crackdown on fake drug production in China – Assisted-Dying Blog of Derek Humphry (8/6/12) -If you buy drugs from China, please check out this article and exercise caution.

Bad News for anti-euthanasia campaigners – Udo Schuklenk’s Ethx Blog (8/12/12)

New laws allowing physician-assisted suicide opposed by doctors and Catholic Church – Why Evolution Is True (8/12/12)

Unitarian Debate – Issue of the Moment: Assisted Dying – Does the law need to change?

A Theological Look at Suicide – Pastor Zach’s Blog

Death With Dignity: Positive data on why it works… – Jan’s Stinkin Blog

Assisted Suicide, The Courts and the ECHR by Tobias Thienel – Invisible College Blog – School of Human Right, The Netherlands

Euthanasia is a Cultural Addiction – Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith (8/16/12)

UK Paralyzed Man Loses Euthanasia Court Request – Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith, (8/16/12)

The case for assisted dying – New Humanist Blog

The Browser: The Case for Assisted Dying by Raymond Tallis (8/17/12)

Crisp: Dr. Kervorkian had it right about assisted suicide (8/20/12)

Crisp: Assisted suicide as an option (8/21/12)

LeisureGuy: Later On – The case for assisted dying (8/21/12)

LeisureGuy: Later On – Assisted Dying (Tony Prachett Video) (8/22/12)

Compassion & Choices – The Psychology of Aging and End-of-Life Planning by Jason E. Schillerstrom,MD – ABC News (8/22/12)

On assisted suicide Free Thought Blogs by Christina (8/22/12)

US, UK medical journals increasingly tout euthanasia – Catholic World News (8/23/12)

Man who fought for his own assisted suicide dies – SNS Post (8/23/12)

Worrying about “Our Neurotic Fear of Suffering” Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith (8/24/12)

Tony Nicklinson: Can law change on assisted dying and protect vulnerable – One News Page (8/24/12)

Truth and Charity Forum – Do No Harm?: Medical Journals Show increasing Support for Euthanasia by Denise J. Hunnell, MD (8/24/12)

Choice in Dying: Why can’t opponents (or very tentative supporters?) of assisted dying get it right? by Eric MacDonald (8/25/12)

Jack Kervorkian comes to town, Opinion of Tom Keane in boston.com (8/26/12)

Why assisted suicide is the right answer, for some by John M. Grohol, PSYD – PsychCentral.com: World of Psychology (8/27/12)

Shortage of helium worldwide – Assisted-Dying Blog (8/27/12)

Compassion & Choices – The Conversation Project: It’s time to start talking about end of life by Joseph Nowinski (8/29/12)

HuffPost 50 – The Conversation Project: It’s time to start talking about end of life by Joseph Nowinski, PhD (8/29/12)

Physicians’ emotional, institutional barriers propping medical futility at end of life by Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter (8/29/12)

Dreaming of Call Bells – Is there such a thing as a “good” death? (8/29/12)

BOOKS

The Amateur’s Guide to Death & Dying by Richard Wagner

In Search of Gentle Death: the Fight for Your Right to Die With Dignity by Richard N. Cote

How to Die Consciously: Secrets from Beyond the Veil by Diane Goble

BROADCASTS

ACLU Podcast: Death with Dignity (8/15/12)

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Reason why physicians do not have discussions about poor prognosis, why it matters, and what can be improved by Jennifer W. Mack and Thomas J. Smith in Journal of Clinical Oncology

MAGAZINES

Assisted Suicide: Court Rules That Locked-in Syndrome Sufferer Does Not Have Right to Die – RELEVANTMagazine.com (8/21/12)

VIDEOS

Physician-Assisted Suicide – behavenet.com

Los Angeles Times chat: Columnist Steve Lopez on death with dignity in California

Dying with Dignity: Respecting choices with end of life care – WKBT LaCrosse, Wisconsin

The Last Chapter – End of Life Decisions – West Virginia PBS

Fixing to Die – 60 Minutes

Mark Solock Blog – New laws allowing physician-assisted suicide opposed by doctors and Catholic Church

Edward Tarte, former Catholic priest, now an atheist talks about death with dignity

Choosing Death

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UNITED STATES

(News this month from California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Kansas,  Maine,  Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin)

CALIFORNIA

Steve Lopez: After a ‘barbaric death,’ a call for change – LA Times (8/6/12 ) – My Sunday column on the “barbaric death” of a terminally ill man near Sacramento, and his wife’s plea for an Oregon-like Death With Dignity law in California, brought responses from those wanting to know how to join such a cause.

As I’ve reported before, there is no current campaign for such a change. The best place to get involved in the greater movement, though, and to check on legal developments around the country that could one day have an impact in California, is to visit www.compassionandchoices.org. The no-profit advocates for more end-of-life options and alternatives to often-futile, budget-busting medical procedures that can end up doing little more than prolonging the dying process.

(more)

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Steve Lopez: End of life case in New Mexico may affect California – LA Times (8/14/12) – There’s no way to predict when or if California will offer what’s known in Oregon and Washington as Death with Dignity, or physician-assisted aid in dying, but I’ll keep you posted on a case in New Mexico that could have implications here.

In the New Mexico case, said Kathryn Tucker, legal affairs director for a nonprofit advocacy group called Compassion & Choices, “We hope to clarify … that a vague statute that makes a crime of ‘assisting suicide’ does not reach the conduct of a physician providing aid in dying, because of course the choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death is not, and ought not be conflated with, ‘suicide.'”

Tucker said the case in question involves a woman with advanced uterine cancer who has said she would like to have, as one option, the right to avoid prolonged suffering by obtaining doctor-prescribed medication she could ingest to bring about a peaceful death if she finds her dying process unbearable.

(more)

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Husband won’t be charged in wife’s suicide by Tony Perry– LA Times (8/23/12) – Criminal charges will not be filed against an 88-year-old San Marcos man who sat beside his ailing wife as she committed suicide, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday.

After a thorough review, the office decided that it could not meet “the ethical and legal burden” of proving a charge of “assisted suicide” against Alan Purdy, according to a spokesman for Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis.

Purdy, a semiretired engineer, did not try to stop his wife as she swallowed apple sauce mixed with sleeping pills and put a plastic bag over her head.

“Yes, I sat beside her as she died,” Purdy told The Times weeks after the death. “I didn’t want her to feel abandoned. I wanted her to know that I loved her.”

(more)

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Assisted suicide: The last frontier of civil rights? by Logan Jenkins UT San Diego (8/28/12) – There’s no courtroom in the country, for example, that would have found Alan Purdy, 88, guilty of a felony for tearfully witnessing the suicide of Jo, his 84-year-old wife who suffered crippling pain from a variety of ailments.

In a sense, it would have been a crime against nature not to stand by her as she ate the sedative-laced apple sauce and placed a plastic bag over her head.

She had informed her husband and children of her decision, a course they opposed. She received counseling from health professionals. After listening to the pro-life argument, “Jo simply told them, after a bit, to buzz off,” Alan told a U-T San Diego reporter.

“Yes, I sat beside her as she died,” Purdy told The Times weeks after the death. “I didn’t want her to feel abandoned. I wanted her to know that I loved her.”

(more)

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COLORADO

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) – Sisters of Charity Health System – Physician-Assisted Suicide refers to the unethical practice of physicians providing the means of death at a patient’s request. Usually, this will be by supplying or writing a lethal prescription for medications. The patient, however, and not the physician, ultimately administers these drugs. This differs from Euthanasia, because the physician does not act directly by, for example, actually administering a lethal injection in order to end the patient’s life. Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are unethical, and neither can be permitted in a Catholic health care facility. It is never ethical to take the life of an innocent person, even at his or her request, or to help a person take his or her own life.
(more)

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CONNECTICUT

UK man who failed to overturn euthanasia law diesby Maria Cheng – The Hour Online (8/23/12) – Tony Nicklinson, paralyzed and unable to speak, found life so unbearable he wanted to die. On Wednesday, the 58-year-old Briton got his wish.

His family said he died of pneumonia at home.

In January, Nicklinson asked the High Court to declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be charged with murder. Last week, the court rejected his request, a decision that Nicklinson said had left him “devastated and heartbroken.”

Experts weren’t sure what impact, if any, his death might have on the ongoing euthanasia debate in Britain.

Penney Lewis, a law professor at King’s College London, said previous deaths of euthanasia advocates didn’t have any effect on changing laws to allow the practice.

(more)

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D.C.

Medical journals show increasing support for euthanasia – by Denise Hunnell, MD – LifeNews.com (8/24/12) – The British Medical Journal (BMJ), a publication distributed to the members of the British Medical Association, devoted much of its June 14, 2012, issue to endorsing voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Raymond Tallis, emeritus professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester, argues in this issue that respect for patient desires and autonomy renders irrelevant any opinion on the matter by the Royal College of Physicians or the British Medical Association. Therefore, all opposition to euthanasia is merely inappropriate paternalism and should be dropped.

In this same issue, Tess McPherson relates the difficult last days of her mother, Ann McPherson, and uses this painful experience as a call for legalized physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. Rather than seeking better pain control, she argues that death is the best option for those suffering at the end of their lives.

Finally, Fiona Goodlee, editor in chief of the BMJ, rounds out the arguments by declaring that legalization of assisted dying is not a medical decision, but rather a societal question. She argues that the role of the physician is compatible with providing euthanasia or assisted suicide and if society wants it, they should get it.

Amid these scholarly endorsements of euthanasia come the claims of British physician Patrick Pullicino that the National Health Service (NHS) is effectively killing 130,000 patients every year when doctors place these patients on the Liverpool Care Protocol (LCP) and deny them nutrition and hydration.

The medical literature from the United States also shows an increasing acceptance of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. The July 12, 2012, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) included an article by Dr. Lisa Soleymani Lehmann and Julian Prokopetz that suggested physician opposition to assisted dying was an unreasonable barrier to patients seeking lethal medications. They recommended that all patients who met the legal criteria for assisted suicide as outlined in the state laws of Oregon, Washington, and Montana should be able to obtain the drugs necessary for suicide without a physician’s prescription or approval.

Perhaps the most chilling example is the enthusiastic endorsement in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for the book Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation: Reconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life, by Drs. Franklin Miller and Robert Truog. This book seeks to do away with two core principles of medical care. The first is that a physician cannot intentionally cause the death of his patient. The second is that donors of vital organs for transplantation must be dead before the organs are harvested.

(more)

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FLORIDA

Pro: When he is near death, this man wants the choice to kill himself by Tom O’Hara  – jacksonville.com (8/21/12) – I would much prefer to spend a few weeks getting things organized and saying my goodbyes. Then I want to take control.

It’s my life.

It’s my body.

If I want to spare myself and those I love months of useless pain and sadness, then I should be allowed to kill myself without a lot of legal debate and secrecy.

And I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve saved the taxpayers a nice piece of change.

(more)

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HAWAII

Join Juggie – My Life. My Death. My Choice. Compassion & Choices – Former State Representative Ernest “Juggie” Heen, cancer patient and aid-in-dying advocate. He believes every Hawai’i citizen with terminal illness should have the legal right to choose a dignified death

(more)

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Compassion & Choices – Spotlight: Hawaii -8/13/12) –  We have identified a core group of physicians willing to practice aid in dying and speak out for patient choice. Courageous, skilled and respected medical practitioners lead our growing Physician Advisory Council.

Our Hawaii Executive Council, composed of highly respected caregivers, community leaders and legal experts, will serve as educators and spokespeople for patient choice.

We will prepare a legislative contingency plan and organize constituent visits to educate lawmakers about current law and how patients suffer when their choices go unrecognized. We will also assess lawmakers’ views on end-of-life choice so we can move quickly to mobilize supporters.

In January, Compassion & Choices released a poll of Hawaii voters’ opinions. The results:

77% favor allowing those who are dying of a terminal disease the choice to request and receive medication from their physician to bring about a peaceful death.

90% agree the decision about aid in dying is a personal one between patient and doctor.

(more)

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LOUISIANA

Louisiana: Key Pro-Life Bulls on Abortion, Euthanasia Take Effect by Seven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (8/1/12) – Four key pro-life bills take effect today that protect vulnerable people at both the beginning and end of life. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Hear the Heartbeat Bill, the Criminal Abortion Dismemberment Act, and the Additional Protections Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act took effect at midnight.

“Louisiana is ranked as the top pro-life state in the nation, and I commend our Senators and Representatives, our Governor, and the great citizens of Louisiana for their support in enacting these new pro-life laws,” Clapper said.

Finally, the Additional Protections Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act better protects the disabled and ill from euthanasia and assisted suicide.

(more)

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KANSAS

Man dies after losing fight for assisted suicide – KMBZ.com (8/22/12) – “I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability, then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death,” the former corporate manager from Wiltshire said in a statement issued by his lawyer.

But on Aug. 16, the court upheld the law barring Nicklinson from dying with a doctor’s help.

“It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place,” Lord Justice Roger Toulson said in his ruling. “Under our system of government, these are matters for parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases.”

A spokesman for British anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing applauded the ruling, saying, “it confirms the simple truth that the current law exists to protect those without a voice: the disabled, terminally ill and elderly, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives.”

For Nicklinson, the decision was devastating.

“I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery,” he said in a statement.

Nicklinson planned to appeal the court ruling, but his health quickly deteriorated. He “died peacefully this morning of natural causes,” according to a tweet posted by his wife, Jane, and daughters Lauren and Beth.

(more)

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MAINE

Physician-assisted suicide– time to reconsider by Dr. Erik Steele, The Bangor Daily News/Health (8/16/12) – One night several years ago, my terminally ill patient David chose the time of his own death by shooting himself in the chest. I believe he picked that method because he knew I would be angry if he chose to end his life more peacefully by simply taking an overdose of the pills I prescribed him. I have been angry at myself ever since for having given him good reason to think so.

The upshot of that gunshot was that it’s echo has been banging around my head since it rang out, often when I am trying to fall asleep at night. It has led me to rethink what I had always thought about physician-assisted suicide: that the price to be paid for the liberty of some to choose it carefully and appropriately would be others who chose it prematurely and unnecessarily, a price too steep to be paid. Several years later, I think what I thought was wrong, and I figured I owed it to David to say so.

New data — evidence from actual experience delineated in careful medical studies — can be such an element leading to change. In the case of physician-assisted suicide it comes from the growing experience of states such as Oregon and Washington, where it is legal. Evidence from both states suggest that physician-assisted suicide is used less often than was feared, with fewer than 600 in Oregon over 15 years, and only 156 in Washington since it became legal there in 2009.

Both states have found that the liberty can be carefully overseen by the medical profession so patients are not using it for the wrong reasons (depression, lack of support, etc.), and that one in three patients who have their physician’s support for dying that way choose not to use it.

The data suggests much of what I and others feared would result from the legalizing of physician-assisted suicide does not happen when the medical profession works with the political profession to craft, implement and oversee a good law that makes a reasonable liberty available to an intelligent public. Go figure.

(more)

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MASSACHUSETTS

Why Assisted Suicide is the Right Choice, for Some by John M. Grohol, PsyD, Founder & Editor in Chief,  World of Psychology – Assisted suicide is a simple, reasonable and dignified choice that individuals at the end of their lives should be allowed greater access to. The only reason to withhold such access is the belief that government knows better than you what’s best for you at the end of your life.

I believe that few of us would agree that government knows what’s best for us in our personal health decisions. With all things being equal at the end of your life, would you rather gain a few weeks of life living in a hospital bed, heavily medicated, with tubes running from you, with machines helping you “live,” or would you rather die in a place and at a time of your own choosing?

Even if you choose, “hospital bed,” shouldn’t that choice be yours, and yours alone?

(more)

“Death With Dignity Act” Ballot Initiative by Rabbi Liberman in Rabbi’s Thoughts (8/16/12)

Priest-physician brings unique perspective to suicide debate by Christopher S. Pineo, PilotCatholicNews.com (8/17/12) – “I think it is very clear, in that, indeed we have a profound responsibility to provide excellent care for those who are facing the end of life, and that to move on to assisted suicide represents a failure for individuals and for our larger society,” he said.

Father Sheehan said fear contributes strongly to attitudes that push people to choose to end their own lives.

“The major thing is that people are very frightened, and they are frightened about facing the end of life, their fear of being in pain or being a burden on others, or being alone when they die. So, as a consequence these fears and worries, maybe driven by the media or perhaps by the experience of someone in their family or a friend, lead them to think that assisted suicide would be a good option,” he said.

(more)

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Northampton woman, plagued with terminal illness, supports ‘Death with Dignity’ option on the Massachusetts ballot by Dan Ring, The Repubican (8/20/12) – Myra P. Berzoff said she doesn’t know if she would take life-ending medications, but said she would like the choice.

At 91, she needs oxygen virtually 100 percent of the time, or else she would suffocate. She said she was diagnosed with emphysema three years ago and lives with the fear she could die from breathlessness.

Berzoff said she is a strong supporter of a ballot question on Nov. 6 that if approved by voters would allow adults to self-administer lethal drugs after requesting a prescription.

“I think I should have the right if tomorrow I decide I want to do myself in,” she says bluntly. “I’m using up resources. I feel very strongly about that.”

James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the Roman Catholic bishops in Massachusetts, said the church values life from conception to death. He said the church is a big supporter of hospice and palliative care. McDonnell also emphasizes hospice and palliative care in his upcoming column.

Driscoll said the ballot question would set a dangerous precedent. “The church is against this initiative and thinks it is a dangerous path to take a human life before natural death,” Driscoll said.

Taught by nuns at Catholic school, Myra Berzoff scoffs at the argument that the ballot question is dangerous because it advocates taking a human life before natural death. She said she should have the option offered by the ballot question.

“That’s absurd,” she said. “If you’re suffering, it’s your life. It isn’t the life of the Catholic church. It’s mine.”

(more)

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Beware Death with Dignity Bill – LowellSun – Opinion (8/21/12)

Opposing Euthanasia in pro-life (A call to Massachusetts activists!) by Thomas Peters – Live Action News – Opinion (8/21/12)

Majority of Massachusetts Voters Support Death with Dignity by Melissa Barber – Living with Dying: Death with Dignity National Center (8/22/12) – The poll question had the same wording as what will appear on the November ballot:

Question 2 would allow a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life. If the election was today, would you vote yes or no on Question 2?

Yes…………………………… 58%
No ………………………………….. 24%
Undecided……………………….. 18%

See also:  The major myths about Death With Dignity laws

(more)

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UK man who failed to overturn euthanasia law dies by Maria Cheng, boston.com (8/22/12) – Tony Nicklinson, paralyzed and unable to speak, found life so unbearable he wanted to die. On Wednesday, the 58-year-old Briton got his wish.

His family said he died of pneumonia at home.

In January, Nicklinson asked the High Court to declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be charged with murder. Last week, the court rejected his request, a decision that Nicklinson said had left him ‘‘devastated and heartbroken.’’

(more)

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Briton who fought for assisted suicide is dead by John F. Burns, The New York Times-Europe (8/22/12) – A 58-year-old British man suffering from so-called locked-in syndrome died Wednesday, six days after a panel of High Court judges rejected his request for help in ending his life. His death is certain to galvanize the already contentious debate about assisted suicide in Britain
(more)
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Massachusetts Assisted Suicide Proposal Preys on Seniors by Steven Ertelt – LifeNews.com (8/22/12) – A diverse group of people is fighting the proposal on the November ballot in Massachusetts to legalize assisted suicide. Among them is Margaret Dore, an attorney who is a recognized expert on the subject.Dore points out in a brief column, that appears below, how assisted suicide preys on seniors and how assisted suicide, a practiced in other states, includes significant abuses.
*
Tony Nicklinson, Man at Center of UK Euthanasia Case, Diesby Steven Ertelt – LifeNews.com (8/22/12) – Tony Nicklinson, 59 and paralyzed from the neck down after a stroke in 2005 and the man at the center of a controversial euthanasia case in England, has passed away. Nicklinson was arguing for permission that a doctor who performed voluntary euthanasia on him would have an effective defense when prosecuted for murder. However, lost his court quest to be legally euthanized and now he has died of pneumonia.“Everyone could understand and empathize with his anguish and pain.  But the request to be killed didn’t just involve him,” he said. “And as I mentioned in my last post on this very sad case, if death remained his goal, he was not “powerless” toward that end as he feared, having every right to refuse life-sustaining treatment if he became ill. That appears to be what happened.”
(more)
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Tony Nicklinson Dies After Losing Fight for Assisted Suicide by Katie Moisse – ABC Good Morning America (8/22/12) – A paralyzed man who fought to overturn Britain’s ban on assisted suicidedied today from pneumonia less than a week after losing his controversial court case.Tony Nicklinson had locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke in 2005. Trapped inside a paralyzed body and forced to communicate by blinking his eyes, the 58-year-old man asked three of Britain’s High Court judges to grant him the right to end his “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable” life with a doctor-administered lethal injection.”I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability, then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death,” the former corporate manager from Wiltshire said in a statement issued by his lawyer.
(more)
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Jack Kervorkian comes to town by Tom Keane – boston.com (8/26/12) – The late Jack Kevorkian, a saint to some and a demon to others, was the controversial proponent of physician-assisted suicide for the dying and ill. This November, Kevorkian comes to the Commonwealth, or the spirit of the man at least, in the form of Question 2. The ballot measure, neutrally titled “Prescribing Medication to End Life,” would allow doctors to help the terminally ill kill themselves.

Massachusetts is thus somewhat of a test case: Is legalized suicide a trend?

Should we have state-sanctioned suicide? Libertarians argue that your body is your own, to do with as you wish. Some major religions disagree, but nothing in the proposed law requires the faithful to commit suicide. It simply permits it.

(more)

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Parishes oppose proposal on doctor-aided death by Tom Dalton – The Salem News (8/27/12) – The Catholic parishes of Salem are campaigning to defeat a question on the November ballot that would allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
“The church is very much opposed to it,” said the Rev. Timothy Murphy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church.
The so-called “death with dignity” ballot question began with an initiative petition filed with the state attorney general’s office by a group of citizens that included Dr. Paul Spiers of Danvers.
State Rep. John Keenan, whose mother died of lung cancer, said he supports the measure as a way to lessen suffering. Keenan, of Salem, said he believes anyone who has watched a parent or child die from a terminal illness would also support it.
Members of the local pro-life committee, however, are taking a strong stand against a question they say is misunderstood and open to abuse.
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Campaign Aims to Spur End-of-Life Conversations Within Familiesby Kay Lazar – The Boston Globe (8/29/12 ) – Compassion & Choices – “I knew what he wanted,” said his wife, Nancy. “I had had this discussion many times with him, but the kids hadn’t and they weren’t ready to let go.”

With death and dying, most Americans engage in a conspiracy of silence, surveys show, failing to discuss their final wishes until it is too late. A new Massachusetts-based coalition aims to change that.

Called The Conversation Project, the national campaign encourages open and honest discussions among families and friends about how they want to live life at the end, so that their wishes will be followed.

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Death with Dignity: Doctor-prescribed suicide for terminally ill may soon be a way to die in Massachusetts – AllVoices.com (8/31/12) – Living — and dying — according to one’s own desires and personal beliefs is possibly the greatest freedom a human being can have. But what happens when the autonomy and, potentially, the peace of mind of choosing one’s time and place of death conflicts with qualms about a physician’s role as a healer and, ultimately, the value of human life?

Massachusetts residents will contemplate those questions in November, when the Bay State will become the third in the nation to consider a ballot initiative that would allow terminally ill people to end their lives through the self-administration of medications prescribed for that purpose.

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MONTANA

Assisted Suicide: “Whose Choice?” – Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and for Living With Dignity (8/12/12) – Have you been solicited to engage in “aid-in-dying?”  Were you told that “aid-in-dying” is legal?  Did something about what you were told seem not quite right?

“Aid-in-dying” is a euphemism for assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Aid-in-dying” is, regardless, not legal in Montana.  Baxter did not legalize the practice.  Moreover, a bill that would have legalized the practice was defeated in the last legislative session.

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Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana – Mass Against Assisted Suicide (8/31/12) – I am a Montana State Senator.  I disagree with your article, “Redefining Physicians’ Role in Assisted Dying,” claiming that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  At the very least, Montana law is unclear.

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NEW YORK

At the end of life, talk helps bridge a racial divide by Joseph Sacco, MD (8/6/12) – The New York Times – Our findings, published on July 9 in The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, upend the conventional view of preferences for care among blacks. Sixty-five percent of black patients who were given palliative care consultation elected DNR, and 32 percent chose hospice — rates significantly higher than those previously demonstrated.

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Richard Wesley: Ill doctor sheds light on who chooses physician-assisted suicide– The Inquisitor (8/12/12) – When Dr. Richard Wesley voted to approve Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act in 2009, he had no idea that just one month later he would be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or Lou Gehrig’s Disease — just one month later.

Despite the prospect of living, and dying, with an incurable disease that eats muscles, yet leaves the mind intact, Dr. Wesley is at peace knowing there is a prescription of barbiturates waiting at the pharmacy should he choose to end his life on his own terms. (video)

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Dr. Kervorkian had it right about assisted suicide by John M. Crisp – Newsday.com (8/20/12) – My uncle got a lucky break last week — literally. He got up in the middle of the night and, enfeebled at 81 years of age, he fell, hitting his head on a desk and breaking his skull. Later the next night he died, having never regained consciousness.

Why am I calling this gruesome mishap lucky? Because a few months earlier he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and a couple of days before he died he had gone into hospice care. He was facing several months of increasing discomfort, disability and undignified decline, and then real pain and finally a smothering death. With a misstep in the middle of the night, he managed to avoid all of that.

Barbara Wise wasn’t quite so “lucky.” She suffered a stroke recently and was bedridden in a Cleveland hospital, unable to move or speak. John Wise, her husband of 45 years, smuggled a pistol into her hospital room and fired a single round into her head. She died the next day. Even though Wise and his wife had agreed long ago that neither of them wished to live in a bedridden, disabled state, prosecutors have charged the 66-year-old Wise with aggravated murder.

(m0re)

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Tony Nicklinson, who lost “assisted-suicide” case, dies by Victoria Cavaliere – NY Daily News (8/22/12) – A paralyzed man who lost a landmark assisted suicide case in England died Wednesday from natural causes.

Tony Nicklinson died at his home in Melksham after suffering complications from pneumonia, his family said on Twitter. He was 58.

Nicklinson had described his life as “a living nightmare” since suffering a stroke in 2005 that left him with locked-in syndrome, a total paralysis of all the muscles.

The former corporate manager and rugby player was unable to speak or move, but his mind remained intact and he was not terminally ill.

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Overtreatment is taking a harmful toll by Tara Parker-Pope – NYTimes.com (8/27/12) – When it comes to medical care, many patients and doctors believe more is better.

But an epidemic of overtreatment — too many scans, too many blood tests, too many procedures — is costing the nation’s health care system at least $210 billion a year, according to the Institute of Medicine, and taking a human toll in pain, emotional suffering, severe complications and even death.

“Sometimes the test leads you down a path, a therapeutic cascade, where you start to tumble downstream to more and more testing, and more and more invasive testing, and possibly even treatment for things that should be left well enough alone.”

Some complained that when they switch doctors they are required to undergo duplicate blood work, scans or other tests that their previous doctor had only recently ordered. Others told of being caught in a unending maze of testing and specialists who seem to forget the patient’s original complaint. I heard from doctors and nurses, too — health professionals frustrated by a system that encourages these excesses.

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OHIO

Hospital shooting fuels euthanasia debate – news24.com (8/13/12) – The shooting leaves authorities in a dilemma some experts say will happen with greater frequency in coming years as the baby boom generation ages — what is the appropriate punishment when a relative kills a loved one to end their suffering?
More often than not, a husband who kills an ailing wife never goes to trial and lands a plea deal with a sentence that carries no more than a few years in prison, research has shown. In some instances, there are no charges.

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OREGON

Assisted suicide most often chosen by affluent white by Katie Hafner – bendbulletin.com (8/12/12) – Washington followed Oregon in allowing terminally ill patients to get a prescription for drugs that will hasten death. Critics of such laws feared that poor people would be pressured to kill themselves because they or their families could not afford end-of-life care. But the demographics of patients who have gotten the prescriptions are surprisingly different than expected, according to data collected by Oregon and Washington through 2011.

They are overwhelmingly white, well-educated and financially comfortable. And they are making the choice not because they are in pain but because they want to have the same control over their deaths that they have had over their lives.

While preparing advance medical directives and choosing hospice and palliative care over aggressive treatment have become mainstream options, physician-assisted dying remains taboo for many people. Voters in Massachusetts will consider a ballot initiative in November on a law nearly identical to those in the Pacific Northwest, but high-profile legalization efforts have failed in California, Hawaii and Maine.

Oregon put its Death With Dignity Act in place in 1997, and Washington’s law went into effect in 2009. Some officials worried that thousands of people would migrate to both states for the drugs.

“There was a lot of fear that the elderly would be lined up in their RVs at the Oregon border,” said Barbara Glidewell, an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University.

That has not happened, although the number of people who have taken advantage of the law has risen over time. In the first years, Oregon residents who died using drugs they received under the law accounted for one in 1,000 deaths. The number is now roughly one in 500 deaths. At least 596 Oregonians have died that way since 1997. In Washington, 157 such deaths have been reported, roughly one in 1,000.

In Oregon, the number of men and women who have died that way is roughly equal, and their median age is 71. Eighty-one percent have had cancer, and 7 percent ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The rest have had a variety of illnesses, including lung and heart disease. The statistics are similar in Washington.

There were fears of a “slippery slope” — that the law would gradually expand to include those with nonterminal illnesses or that it would permit physicians to take a more active role in the dying process itself. But those worries have not been borne out, experts say.

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BackyardChickens.com – What do you all think about Euthanasia? – opinions

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Oregon Death with Dignity – More Educated About Issues More You Understand About End of Life Care by Anthony Cirillo – about.com Assisted Living (8/20/12) –  The data show Death with Dignity is a rarely used option for a small number of terminally ill Oregonians. The report indicates the process was implemented, in every instance, under the strict guidelines written into Oregon law and the established medical standard of care that has evolved since implementation.

During the 13 months covered by the report, 114 qualified patients received a prescription under the provisions of the law. Approximately 62%, or 71 terminally ill individuals, died as a result of ingesting medication prescribed under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Sixty-two different physicians wrote prescriptions under the law. According to the Health Division’s report, in the 14 year history of implementation, 935 prescriptions have been written and 596 individuals have ingested medication and died using the standards spelled out in Oregon law.

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Assisted suicide in Oregon – Questions & Answers

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PENNSYLVANIA

British man’s death adds fuel to fire in assisted suicide debateby John F. Burns – post-gazette.com (8/23/12) – A 58-year-old British man suffering from so-called locked-in syndrome died Wednesday, six days after the nation’s High Court rejected his request for help in ending his life.

His death is certain to galvanize already-contentious debate about assisted suicide in Britain.

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SOUTH CAROLINA

Are our lives our own? The ethics of ‘elective death’ by Bill Thompson 8/5/12 – Given the choice, few would want to end their lives in nursing homes, hospices or in hospitals, however caring the professionals, but rather in their own home in the embrace of family and friends.

Yet many who are terminally ill and/or suffering excruciating pain that palliative care cannot balm spend their last days in clinical settings hooked to life support equipment they do not want. Others are compelled to go on living in ruined bodies or in advanced old age when they have no wish to do so, often beset with emotional or psychological pain that has become unbearable.

When all medical and counseling measures have been taken, and proven unsuccessful, should an individual have the right to end his or her own life? It is a debate with profound ethical, religious and human rights implications.

“Life should not be a sentence. The freedom to die in the manner of our own choosing is the ultimate civil liberty,” argues Mount Pleasant social historian Richard N. Cote, author of “In Search of Gentle Death.” “There is rising criticism that keeping dying people alive against their will is a violation of their civil rights.”

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TEXAS

We should reconsider assisted suicide laws by John Crisp San Angelo Standard Times (8/22/12) – My uncle got a lucky break last week — literally. He got up in the middle of the night and, enfeebled at 81 years of age, he fell, hitting his head on a desk and breaking his skull. Later the next night he died, having never regained consciousness.

Why am I calling this gruesome mishap lucky? Because a few months earlier he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and a couple of days before he died he had gone into hospice care. He was facing several months of increasing discomfort, disability and undignified decline, and then real pain and finally a smothering death.

With a misstep in the middle of the night, he managed to avoid all of that.

Barbara Wise wasn’t quite so “lucky.” She suffered a stroke recently and was bedridden in a Cleveland hospital, unable to move or speak. John Wise, her husband of 45 years, smuggled a pistol into her hospital room and fired a single round into her head. She died the next day.

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VIRGINIA

Hospice: Celebrating the end of lifeby William C. Boinest and SR. Victoria Segura – Richmond Times-Dispatch (8/30/12) – No one likes to talk about the end of life. It seems more natural to celebrate its beginning. But, death is a part of life, and when it comes, most of us want to be at home, at peace, surrounded by our loved ones.

For some, that’s not possible. For some, a higher level of medical care is needed. Many families think they can handle caregiving duties at home, but most find they are overwhelmed and unable to spend precious, focused time with their loved one.

Most communities the size of Richmond have an answer to this problem, a place where patients can receive a higher level of medical care in a home-like environment, and families can be present for their loved ones, unencumbered by caregiving duties.

Richmond does not. Surprisingly, freestanding palliative and hospice care is not available within a 55-mile radius of our city.

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WASHINGTON

Death with Dignity Act ensures control, not pain – The Seattle Times – Letters (8/18/12)

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Who chooses assisted suicide? Data reveal surprising answersby Katie Harner in The Seattle Times (8/12/12) – Dr. Richard Wesley has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable disease that lays waste to muscles while leaving the mind intact. He lives with the knowledge that an untimely death is chasing him down, but takes solace in knowing that he can decide exactly when, where and how he will die.

Under Washington state’s Death With Dignity Act, his physician has given him a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates. He would prefer to die naturally, but if dying becomes protracted and difficult, he plans to take the drugs and die peacefully within minutes.

“It’s like the definition of pornography,” Wesley, 67, said at his home here in Seattle, with Mount Rainier in the distance. “I’ll know it’s time to go when I see it.”

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Physician-assisted suicide: A chance for dignity in death by John Culver– The Gonzaga Online Bulletin (8/22/12) – In 1997, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act came into effect, hearkening in a new era of end of life care in the United States. The bill was created in response to the suffering of individuals experiencing end-stage terminal illnesses in which physical deterioration and pain coupled to bring about an unacceptably low quality of life. The law signaled a growing recognition that palliative care could not always prevent dying individuals from reaching a state of existence that they found degrading and unacceptable. Rather than suffer for days, weeks or months during an inevitable decline toward death, terminally ill patients could request that their physician prescribe them a lethal dose of barbiturates. They would bring about a merciful, dignified death.

Since its inception, the law has allowed more than 600 terminally ill Oregonians to die on their own terms, rather than suffer through the natural progression of their diseases. The law’s utility extends far beyond its potential to directly alleviate physical suffering; it provides tremendous mental comfort to terminally ill Oregonians.

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WISCONSIN

Seeing death in a new light by Bruce Wilson, The Journal Sentinel (8/13/12) – Death has become a taboo subject, but it hasn’t always been so. It seems to be feared mostly because as a society we have become so unfamiliar with death. Medical science has evolved very rapidly, and over the past 50 years we have become so good at treating illnesses that we somehow have come to view death as an option. Before heart surgery and angioplasty and antibiotics and chemotherapy, people often died when they got sick.

In earlier agrarian times, Grandpa dropped over of a heart attack while harvesting the corn or milking the cows. Doctors couldn’t get to the patients and had little to offer when they did. The family called the undertaker, who helped get Grandpa into his dark suit and they laid him out on the dining room table. Friends and family were summoned, everyone drank some whiskey and they buried him. Children and adults alike saw this cycle of life over and over. There was sadness, but it was familiar, and a fact of life.

In more modern times, Grandpa is in the ICU at the hospital. Children are frequently not allowed to visit.

Physicians have spent years learning how to fight off almost any condition, and have become unfamiliar with death themselves, so much so that internally they may have a sense of failure when death finally comes, often after a long siege of warfare against nature.

In addition, there has been almost no training for doctors in how to speak about death or prepare patients and families for this when the picture becomes clear.

This is almost a uniquely American phenomenon. The reason is simple: Most other countries do not have enough money to spend on “health care” at the end of life, when many of the measures that we view as routine are often futile.

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INTERNATIONAL

(News updates from Australia, Canada, Fiji, Germany, India, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, United Kingdom)

AUSTRALIA

Euthanasia: tackling the ‘wicked’ policy problem by Scott Prasser – onlineopinion.com.au (8/7/12) – There are three basic requirements for dealing with ‘wicked’ policy problems like euthanasia.

First, there needs to be time to engage the public in open, depoliticised, iterative discussion of the many dimensions of the problem. This is an absolute necessity for complex social issues with a strong moral dimension like euthanasia, in order to make different perspectives understood and create a shared understanding of the issue to address.

Second, there needs to be reliable evidence and data so as to inform the debate and avoid distortion of the facts, but this alone it is not sufficient when conflicting values and perspectives are at stake. Euthanasia is not an issue where ‘evidence’ based policy development alone can resolve the matter, but we certainly need to clarify the ‘evidence.’

Third, it is essential to have appropriate mechanisms (more than one) for public engagement in informed debate, to explore the range of arguments and to encourage the consideration of wider social implications if an agreed policy solution for the common good is to emerge.

Engaging the public in this kind of policy process would be a welcome new feature in the Australian political process.

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Mother wins six-year fight for right to let brain-dead son die by Jordanna Schriever, The Herald Sun (8/10/12) – Mrs Dunn will meet doctors on August 22 to seek a decision that he no longer be fed.

Mr Leigep, 37, has been unresponsive and in a vegetative state since March 2006 after a car crash in Adelaide’s north.

Ms Dunn would prefer her son die in a more humane way and be euthanased with drugs. She said the laws must be changed to allow families in her position to have access to euthanasia.

“I’m starving my son to death, and I’ve got no other choice but to leave him as he is,” she said.

“If I starved my dog, I would be locked up. But I’m allowed to starve my son.

“I can’t let him suffer any more. I wish there was another choice. I’m so devastated. It’s not just about euthanasia, we want him to die with respect … families have got to have that right.”

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Philip Nitschke says Exit International has seen a surge in demand for help to die peacefully by Steve Rice, heraldsun.com.au (8/16/12) – Dr Nitschke says the $690 kit allows for a peaceful death.

HIs voluntary euthanasia group, Exit International, has sold 50 of the kits and ordered another 100 – most of which have already been pre-ordered – at a cost of about $345.

He said there had been a surge in demand from people wanting the gas.

“If people really want an anonymous death, that is one that will never be detected, (this) is really your only option,” he said.

“It’s the only undetectable method of death.

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Euthanasia Campaigner Philip Nitschke Meets His Match in Debate by Paul Russell, a leading campaigner against euthanasia  (8/17/12) – Here’s the text of my talk:

Unless you’re posing a serious and present threat to my life, I can’t kill you. That’s a good thing. We all enjoy this protection in law equally, every one of us.
But, now we’re saying that it’s okay for someone else to kill you.
That is the fundamental issue: we will be making an exception to the Criminal Code that changes the laws on homicide. That is serious stuff.
We’d be creating a right for someone else to kill us or, to put it another way, a right to be killed.
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St Vincent offers peace to dying by Hamish Broome (8/20/12) – The team at St Vincent’s Hospital palliative care unit have been recognised as one of the best in the country, with a recent report ranking their services as second in NSW and fifth in Australia.

As part of a national program to benchmark patient outcomes, St Vincent’s unit was found to provide exceptional care in clinical outcomes and symptoms relief.

“Dying is one of the most critical things that happens to us,” said clinical nurse specialist Alan Hickey, who’s spent more than a decade in palliative care.

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Only person ever convicted in Qld for assisting suicide, Merin Nielsen, released from jail  – Herald Sun (8/20/12) – Merin Nielsen, 50, was freed last week after serving six months of a three-year jail sentence for assisting the suicide of an elderly man in 2009.

Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke on Monday said he’d spoken to Mr Nielsen, who was utterly relieved to be out of jail and hoped the laws around euthanasia would change.

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Euthanasia decision – 4BC.com.au (broadcast) (8/23/12) – South Australian mother, Joanne Dunn, yesterday made the heartbreaking decision to ask doctors to stop feeding her 37-year-old son, Mark, who has been in a vegetative state since 2006 after a car crash.

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Australian euthanasia advocate wants Fiji death clinic– Google News (8/23/12) – Prominent Australian right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke said Friday he wants to set up an assisted suicide clinic in Fiji, but the government in Suva downplayed the idea.

Nitschke, a doctor who has campaigned on euthanasia issues for more than a decade, wants it to operate like the Dignitas centre in Switzerland, where 144 people ended their lives in 2011, virtually all of them foreigners.

Nitschke, head of Exit International, told the Sydney Morning Herald it would make it easier for people from the Asia-Pacific who wanted to end their lives to do so, rather than having to travel to Europe.

“Given the logistical problems faced by those in the Asia-Pacific travelling to Europe when seriously ill, Exit would suggest that a mirror clinic is well warranted in this region of the world,” he said.

He said he had written to Fiji’s attorney-general who had asked for more details, and hopes his organisation can go to the Pacific nation to discuss the idea.

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Fiji eyes proposal for assisted suicide by Julia Medew – The Syndey Morning Herald (8/24/12) – A 58-year-old British man suffering from so-called locked-in syndrome died Wednesday, six days after the nation’s High Court rejected his request for help in ending his life.

His death is certain to galvanize already-contentious debate about assisted suicide in Britain.

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Nitschke’s death clinic on agenda for Fiji

by Julia Medew The Canberra Times (8/24/12) – THE Fijian government is considering a proposal to open an assisted-suicide clinic where seriously ill Australians and others could go to die.

The Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has proposed a ”hastened death service” in Nandi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

While a handful of European countries and two US states have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, the Dignitas clinic is the only one in the world that allows foreigners to use its service.

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Fiji says No to suicide clinic – BioEdge.org (8/24/12) – Australian euthanasia activist Dr Philip Nitschke seems to have jumped the gun by telling the media that the South Pacific island of Fiji was considering his plans for establishing a suicide clinic in the city of Nadi.

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Tony Nicklinson: Can law change on assisted dying and protect vulnerable? by Isra Black – International Business Times (8/24/12) – In this post, I attempt to clarify what the vulnerability objection is, that is, what concerns it raises against the legalisation of assisted dying, and who the ‘vulnerable’ are. This post also presents an overview of the safeguards designed to ensure that assisted dying is implemented without diluting the protections afforded to certain members of society. It ends by challenging the basis for assisted dying chosen by campaigners for a change in the law.

A detailed study of the safeguards present in the laws and practices of jurisdictions where assisted dying is lawful can be found in the briefing paper Professor Penney Lewis and I wrote for Demos and the Commission on Assisted Dying.

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Australians must have death with dignity – Herald Sun (8/28/12) – A Herald Sun investigation has found thousands of terminally ill people are unable to make their lives easier because of unduly restrictive regulations.

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CANADA

Suggestions for slipping a mortal coil: The important questions make dying livableby Gordon Sinclair Jr. – winnepegfreepress.com (8/4/12) – “But nobody had actually gone to dying patients and asked them what dignity was about,” Chochinov recalled. “What it meant to them.”

So he began asking palliative care patients in Winnipeg the dignity questions.

What Chochinov discovered was dignity for those who needed it most had more to do with emotional well-being, than physical requirements.

He found people lost their sense of dignity when they felt their life had lost meaning and purpose in its final stages.

Or, as Chochinov told me: “We looked at pain, we looked at physical symptoms, spiritual issues, psychological issues. The single most important predictor of people’s dignity was, in fact, how people perceived they were seen. How people saw themselves to be appreciated or seen by others.”

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DWD newsletter accuses the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of lying by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews.com (8/6/12) – In the June 2012 edition of the Dying with Dignity newsletter (p.10), Wanda Morris, the executive director of Dying with Dignity states that EPC bases its arguments on Lies, Damn Lies and fear mongering.

Morris ought to look in the mirror when she accuses EPC of lying or fear mongering.

I knew that I was doing well in the debate when Morris stated that I lacked compassion because I opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide in all circumstances. Low blow Wanda, too bad it proved to the audience that you were getting desperate.

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Ottawa appeals B.C. assisted suicide ruling by Paul Tuns, TheInterim.com (8/7/12) – Waiting until the second-last business day to file, Canada’s federal government appealed the June 15 decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith overturning Canada’s ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Smith claimed that Canada’s Criminal Code prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide violated the Charter rights of those seeking assistance killing themselves and those who help them carry out their lethal wishes. The justice also argued the Criminal Code provisions violated disabled persons Section 7 rights of life, liberty, and security of the person.

On July 13, the Friday before the July 16 deadline to appeal Smith’s decision, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the Conservative government sought to stay the ruling which urges Parliament to change the law to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide within the next 12 months and gives an immediate exemption to Gloria Taylor, an ALS sufferer who is challenging the assisted suicide law.

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‘One-sided and misleading’: Anti-euthanasia leader slams upcoming Canadian ‘expert panel’ event by Peter Baklinski – LifeSiteNews.com (8/7/12) – A pro-euthanasia group has teamed up with an atheist group to present what they call an “expert panel” to inform Canadians about recent legal developments in the country regarding medically assisted suicide.

Meanwhile, the country’s top advocate for the right-to-life of the elderly has slammed the expert panel event, calling it “one-sided and misleading”.

“Canada does not need anybody promoting laws that allow one person to kill another person, whether they are terminally ill or not,” said Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, to LifeSiteNews.

The UK Care Not Killing Alliance is honoured to host this first European symposium, which builds on several successful meetings in North America organised by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

First European Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

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Canadian attitudes skewed in favor of physician-assisted suicide by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register (8/9/12) – Canadians and Britons are more open to physician-assisted suicide than Americans, a recent poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion has found.

Eighty per cent of Canadians and 77 per cent of the English said that doctors should be allowed to assist terminally ill, fully informed and competent patients to kill themselves. But only 56 per cent of Americans agreed.

The poll found 10 per cent of Canadians and nine per cent of Britons firmly opposed to physician-assisted suicide no matter who asks for it. Nearly one third — 29 per cent — of Americans said it should never be allowed. On the flip side, three-quarters of Canadians and Britons said physician-assisted suicide should always be allowed under specific circumstances, whereas only half of Americans thought so.

“So far as the UK is concerned, in terms of opinion surveys this doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “What we’re seeing here to a degree is an instinctive, compassionate response from a society that prizes individual autonomy very highly.”

The Angus-Reid survey found 86 per cent of Canadians, 84 per cent of Britons and 69 per cent of Americans agree with the statement that “Legalizing doctor-assisted suicide would give people who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain.”

People who believe laws against assisted suicide protect the vulnerable from social, economic and medical pressure to commit suicide face a major education challenge, said Wookey.

“It means there’s a very, very clear job for the Church to do, particularly in secular society,” he said.

British bishops have teamed up with disability rights organizations and palliative care professionals to form an alliance called Care Not Killing — a purely secular platform to engage the public policy debate.

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Gloria Taylor regains right to die in peace  by Cathryn Wellner (8/13/12) – Unless the federal government intervenes yet again, Gloria Taylor can decide in peace when her life with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) has become unbearable. At that point she can ask a physician to ease her death. British Columbia’s highest court has granted Taylor a personal exemption.

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Canadian Judge upholds decision giving woman “right” to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide by Dave Andrusko, National Right to Life News Today (8/10/12) – The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) said today that it is troubled by the decision of  the British Columbia court not to stay the constitutional exemption granted to Gloria Taylor to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide. Alex Schadenberg, executive director, said EPC urges the Government to appeal the court order issued by Justice Jo-Ann Prowse.

“EPC is concerned that this court order may prompt other people with similar conditions to apply for a constitutional exemption to die by euthanasia before the Supreme Court and Parliament have ruled on the matter,” he said.

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New lease on life for assisted suicide debate– Sun News (8/11/12) – An appeals court ruling Friday that would let Gloria Taylor get help from a doctor to commit suicide doesn’t pass muster with the federal justice minister.

The B.C. woman is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, has lost the ability to walk and is confined to a power chair.

“We are disappointed with this decision and are currently reviewing it,” said Julie DiMambro, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

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Ill Doctor Puts Spotlight on Euthanasia by Marcel Simmer, Akgulian.com (8/13/12) – Dr. Richard Wesley suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis an incurable disease that ruins the body’s muscles while allowing the mind to remain intact. However, he know that he can make the decision when, where and by what form he can die.

He lives in Washington, which has the Death With Dignity Act and his physician has prescribed for him a dose of barbiturates that is lethal. Wesley would prefer if he could die naturally, but because of his condition, it could become both difficult and protracted. His plan is to take the drugs and within minutes, die peacefully.

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Assisted suicide ruling right move by Charlie Hodge, kelownacapnews.com (8/17/12) – Until one has truly faced death in the face, it is hard to judge, or even begin to comprehend, how complex such a decision is.

Until one has truly come to grips with a debilitating, cruel, lingering, fatal illness, it really is impossible to comprehend the emotions and desires of someone in such a situation.

With death, theory is easy. Grasping it by the throat and actually dealing with it is a whole other ball game.

When one truly comprehends that their life form (as we know it) is dwindling due to a cruel terminal illness, all the theory goes out the window.

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Right-to-Die debate rages on – The Oxbow Herald (8/24/12) – This debate is contentious on both sides. People in support of assisted suicide argue the laws must be changed to allow terminally ill patients to die with dignity. When illness makes it impossible to support any quality of life, and the inevitable end is a slow and painful death, people should have the right to choose when to end their lives.

Opponents argue assisted suicide is wrong.

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Fighting for the right to die by Pam Frampton – The Weekend Telegram (8/25/12) – In Canada, assisted suicide is still illegal, but gains are being made in the fight by those who argue we should have that right.

In British Columbia in June, that province’s Supreme Court declared invalid a section of the Criminal Code that prohibits physician-assisted suicide.

That doesn’t mean the service is immediately available in B.C., but as The Globe and Mail’s Sunny Dhillon reported on June 15, according to Queen’s University research fellow and lawyer Ricardo Smalling, “if the government does not do something about (the court ruling), or if the B.C. Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada does not grant an injunction to stay the implementation of the decision, then assisted suicide will automatically become legal.”

The article also noted that a panel of experts of the Royal Society of Canada that studied end-of-life decision-making said “in a report released last year, that informed Canadians should have the right to choose death within a regulated system, even if they have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness.”

On March 22 in Quebec, a Select Committee on Dying with Dignity released a report which found similarly, recommending, among other things, “that relevant legislation be amended to recognize medical aid in dying as appropriate end-of-life care if the request made by the person meets (certain criteria) as assessed by the physician. …”

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Physician-assisted suicide poisons the mission of medicine by J. Donald Boudreau – The Globe and Mail (8/28/12) – Nothing would prevent society from mandating responsibilities to a new profession; I have called it euthanatrics.

Its practitioners – euthanologists – could ensure that society-sanctioned suicides are carried out expertly, with transparency and accountability. It would provide a mechanism to meet new legislative demands while protecting the medical profession so that it can continue to fulfill its ancient mandate of healing.

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Euthanasia discussion event will be one-sided, opponent says by Jessica Smith– MetroNews.ca (8/29/12) – The head of a group opposed to euthanasia says an upcoming panel discussion on “medically assisted death” in Ottawa won’t reflect the views of people opposed to the idea.

Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Alex Schadenberg said he was invited to the panel discussion, but will be out of the county and the organizers did not find someone to fill his anti-decriminalization position.

Two Eastern Ontario professors and a Quebec politician will be speaking in Ottawa about legalizing euthanasia in a panel dubbed “Medically Assisted Death Coming to Canada: How, Why, When??”

“It’s a one-sided event,” Schadenberg said. “I would say this is not really a panel of information it’s a pro-euthanasia event promoting the legalization.”

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Dying with Dignity chapter formed on Salt Spring by Elizabeth Nolan -GulfIslandsDriftwood.com (8/29/12) – Salt Springers concerned about having the same ability to make personal choices while dying as they enjoy in everyday life have created the first local chapter of an organization dedicated to the right to die.

The group’s aim is to change Canadian law to allow people in palliative care to end their lives, with a doctor’s assistance, at the time of their own choosing. The issue has been likened to the debate on abortion: although the ethical question can be thorny,  advocates aren’t trying to make a universal case.

One of the participants at the meeting said his interest in dying with dignity began many years ago, when someone he knew of tried to end his own life before his debilitating disease did.

“But he did it with a shotgun and he didn’t do it right. It was terrible for the family,” he said.

Starvation has been suggested as an easy and mostly painless method: a person in care can simply refuse to take in any more food or water. But two other participants at the meeting recalled how their mother had done that very thing, and took 10 days to pass away.

Hoarding medication is also not advised, as overdoses often lead to brain damage and other lost functions, but may not be enough to end a life.

A Forum Research survey conducted in December 2011 found that 67 per cent of Canadian polled favoured legalizing doctor-assisted death for terminally ill patients. Hogan believes it’s now time for Canadians to make their beliefs known to ease the way toward legal changes. Joining groups such as Dying with Dignity and writing letters to political representatives will be key.

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Death without dignity by Barb Ritchie – Calgary Herald (8/29/12) – I thank God that she has reached the point of oblivion now, so she has some measure of peace in her life. Those who oppose the right-to-die legislation should be sitting on this bed next to me.

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FIJI

Legalise enthanasia– The Fiji Times Online (8/15/12) – CALLS have been made to legalise euthanasia in Fiji to be included in the next constitution.

Doctor Etika Vuniyabola highlighted this as part of his submissions to the Constitution Commission.

Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.

In his submission, Dr Vuniyabola proposed that this subject be earnestly considered and accepted for the sake of the people in need of its role as a solution to their silent sufferings and helplessness when mental and physical incapacitation had no available cure and solution.

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State rejects death clinic by Nasik Swami – The Fiji Times (8/25/12) – A PROPOSAL sent to the government to open an euthanasia clinic in the country by Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has been rejected.

Confirming this to The Fiji Times, Ministry for Information permanent secretary Sharon Smith-Johns said the Attorney-General’s Chambers received a submission from Dr Nitschke in August last year.

“As with all submissions received by the chambers, details of the proposals were requested but there is no plan to establish such a facility,” Ms Smith-Johns said.

However, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Dr Nitschke had proposed a “hastened death service” in Nadi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

Dr Nitschke is the owner of Exit International, a leading end-of-life choices (voluntary euthanasia/ assisted suicide) information and advocacy organisation.

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Fiji eyes proposal for assisted suicide by Richard Dawkins, Foundation for Reason and Science (8/26/12) – Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has proposed a “hastened death service” in Nadi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

While a handful of European countries and two US states have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, the Dignitas clinic is the only one in the world that allows foreigners to use its service.

In a proposal sent to Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum last year, Dr Nitschke said the developing country could generate “considerable income” from a similar clinic with demand expected to come from people in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and India who do not have access to physician-assisted suicide.

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Church welcomes rejection of euthanasia clinic in FIJI– Radio Australia (8/27/12) – One man that’s welcomed the news is Reverend Tevita Banivanua, the deputy general secretary of Fiji’s Methodist Church, who’s speaking to correspondent Bruce Hill

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GERMANY

Assisted suicide law split government – TheLocal.de (8/1/12) – A row has blown up within the government about possible changes to German assisted suicide laws, after the justice minister said she wanted to enable not just relatives but also doctors and friends to help people to die.

All sides say commercial assisted suicide should be banned, as set out in the government’s coalition agreement – but disagreement has arisen over where the line should be drawn.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wants to restrict the ban to organisations with commercial interests – leaving those who offer profit-free suicide advice to terminally ill people free to do so without fear of prosecution.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday that Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had drafted a law which would lift the threat of prosecution friends and long-term housemates, as well as doctors and carers – if during treatment “a close personal relationship”.

Health spokesman for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Jens Spahn told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday, it was not acceptable that commercial operations should be threatened with up to three years in jail, while relatives and friends would excepted.

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Central Council of Muslims criticizes draft law on euthanasia – Euro-Islan.info (8/3/12) – The Central Council of Muslims has issued a press release relatively to a new draft law on euthanasia. The draft law, proposed by Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), would legalize private euthanasia also when disposed by close relatives, allowing them to do so without legal consequences. The Council expressed the message that Muslims in Germany should not be abiding by this law. The medical doctor Dr. Houaida Taraji said that “Life is worth to be protected at any stage and no side doors should be opened for murder”.

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Half of Germans approve of euthanasia businesses – TheLocal.de (8/6/12) – Nearly half of Germans are in favour of legalising euthanasia businesses, a recent survey revealed. The German parliament is still divided over proposed changes to assisted suicide laws.

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Germany seeks to clarify euthanasia laws – DW-World.de  (8/8/12) – Many in Germany are unhappy with current euthanasia legislation, according to a study conducted by pollsters Emnid. The poll found that almost 50 percent of Germans say they want professionals to be able to help people who wish to die.

But that’s not what Berlin wants. The Justice Ministry has warned in a paper of a scenario where professional companies would be permitted to offer assistance in “a quick and efficient form of suicide.” Means in which companies could do this would be offering medication or a room for the suicide to take place. Under a planned bill though, this though would be punished by a fine or a prison sentence.

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INDIA

Court says woman’s life cannot be ended– UPI.com – India’s Supreme Court Monday declined a plea to end the life of a woman in a “vegetative state” for 37 years after a sexual assault.

The plea by activist Pinki Virani sought to stop the feeding of Aruna Shanbaug, a former nurse at Mumbai’s KEM Hospital and a victim of a sexual attack by a hospital janitor.

The petition said the victim can no longer see or speak properly and keeping her alive in this “persistent vegetative state” violates her right to life with dignity, The Times of India reported.

The case of Shanbaug, 60, has become a huge controversy with opinions widely divided.

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JAPAN

Death with Dignity bills heading toward Diet by Natsuko Fukue – The Japan Times Online (8/25/12) – “We’ve been holding discussions for seven years already. We shouldn’t rush, but I think it’s time to get our thoughts into shape,” the group’s chairman, Teruhiko Mashiko of the Democratic Party of Japan, told The Japan Times. “It’ll be great if the public starts discussing the issue as we submit the bills.”

The group drafted two versions and plans to let Diet members vote based on their own judgement. One version stipulates that doctors can’t start life-prolonging treatment on patients in a terminal stage, defined as “a condition in which patients have no possibility of recovery even with appropriate medical care,” and the other states that cancellation of such treatment would also be allowed.

Under both bills, more than two doctors would have to decide whether a patient is in a terminal stage and they would not be “held liable under the criminal, civil and administrative codes.”

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THE NETHERLANDS

Dutch would have stopped treating Prince Friso– Radio Netherlands Worldwide (8/3/12) – An influential Dutch ethicist has said that if Queen Beatrix’s son, Prince Johan Friso, had been hospitalised in the Netherlands after his ski accident, doctors would have already stopped his treatment.

Heleen Dupuis, who is a member of the Dutch Upper House for the ruling Liberal Party (VVD), said, “it’s questionable whether the prince will ever have a normal life again. I understand that the chances are extremely small.” According to the ethicist, “had the prince been sent to a Dutch hospital, doctors would have probably turned off the life support system because there is such a slim possibility that he will ever recover.”

Prince Friso suffered severe brain damage after he was trapped in an avalanche, while skiing in Austria in February. He is in a coma at Wellington Hospital in London. Doctors say the chances he will recover are minimal.

There’s a growing debate in the Netherlands about how far doctors should go in treating patients. Health care is becoming unaffordable for two reasons. On the one hand, people are ageing and need more medical care, and on the other extremely expensive drugs are being developed for very rare diseases that used to be fatal. The Dutch are asking whether society should pay 50,000 euros to extend a cancer patient’s life by six months. The discussion is likely to play a role in the political campaigns for the general elections on September 12.

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Controversy over assisted suicide in The Netherlands by Wim Jansen, Radio Netherlands Worldwide (8/15/12) – A special website has been launched in the Netherlands for people who assist family or friends to commit suicide and want to tell their stories anonymously, or simply ask questions. Assisted suicide carried out by lay people is currently punishable by law.

In the Netherlands, only doctors can carry out assisted suicides, and they can do so only if they follow strict protocols. According to Right-to-Die-Netherlands (NVVE), physicians frequently refuse requests for assisted suicide, leaving patients unable to carry out their wishes in a humane way. One case recently made headlines: a man who helped his 99-year-old mother to die by giving her the lethal medication she requested. The Ministry of Justice is considering bringing charges against the man.

The NVVE says people are often unwilling to help their friends and loved ones because they fear prosecution. So they’re left witnessing their loved ones dying or committing suicide and have to live with those memories. The organisation hopes that the anonymous testimonies will provoke discussion in the Netherlands and ultimately to the scrapping of the law against lay people helping in cases of assisted suicide.

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Doctors and chemists agree joint euthanasia guidelines  – DutchNews.nl (8/28/12) – Doctors and dispensing chemists have agreed a joint guideline on euthanasia, doctors’ federation KNMG and dispensing chemists’ organisation KNMP said on Tuesday.

The new guidelines will replace those drawn up five years ago by dispensing chemists and underline the cooperation between the two sets of medical professionals on the subject.

‘The guidelines not only contain technical information about, for instance, the amount of a drug to be administered, but also explain for the first time why a certain method has been chosen,’ a KNMG spokesman told website nu.nl.

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Euthanasia guides adopted in Netherlands– UPI.com (8/29/12) – An agreement on joint guidelines on euthanasia was reached between the associations representing doctors and pharmacists in the Netherlands, officials said.

The new guidelines, agreed to Tuesday, replace those developed five years ago by the pharmacists, DutchNews.nl reported.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under strict conditions, such as a patient “suffering unbearably” and the attending doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. A second opinion also is required.

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NEW ZEALAND

The peace of assisted dying by Sean Davidson – peoplemagazine.co.za (8/3/12) – If your loved one was dying a long, painful death, would you wish there was some other way out? Soon there might be.

Davison founded an organisation called DignitySA which seeks to legalise assisted dying of the terminally ill under precisely defined circumstances. DignitySA proposes a legal procedure in which those wanting to be euthanised will apply to an independent panel that would look at each case individually.

“It will be a kind, compassionate process with a panel that includes doctors, legal advisers and counsellors,” Davison explained.Opponents of assisted dying suggest that should a system be introduced in which death can be legalised, then that system would be open to abuse. The other common reason given for not legalising euthansia would be the appeal to the ‘sanctity of life’, in which opponents claim that life itself is too precious to be ended, under any circumstances.

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Hospice organising public meeting on euthanasia by Lindsay Shelton – Wellington.Scoop.co.nz (8/6/12) – Hospice New Zealand is pleased to announce a public meeting on euthanasia to be held in Wellington on Thursday, August 16, titled “Euthanasia, an ethical and legal crossroad”.

“Dying is a fact of life and should be discussed openly and often,” says Hospice New Zealand CEO, Mary Schumacher. “We have organized this public meeting to enable discussion on euthanasia outside of any individual case. It’s a subject that needs more understanding in many parts of the world and New Zealand is no different. We want to provoke discussion among New Zealanders and we hope the public meeting will generate questions that will allow people to form their own opinions.”

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Australian & NZ Society of Palliative Medicine on Euthanasia– Scoop.co.nz (8/6/12) – “We should focus on excellence of hospice and palliative care not euthanasia”

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc., (ANZSPM), believes that the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide are outside the discipline of Palliative Medicine. The Society endorses the New Zealand Medical Association’s Position Statement on Euthanasia, and similarly the World Medial Association’s which state that euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are unethical. This position is not dependent on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide remaining unlawful. Even if they were to become legal, or decriminalised, the NZMA would continue to regard them as unethical.

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Dangers of euthanasia spelt out by John Gibb, Otago Daily Times (8/15/12) – Many older people could be subjected to subtle pressures to end their lives prematurely if voluntary euthanasia was made lawful in this country, Baroness Prof Ilora Finlay warned in Dunedin yesterday.

Prof Finlay, a Welsh palliative care specialist, said legalising medically assisted euthanasia and assisted suicide was likely to have significant unintended consequences.

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Maggie Barry: Euthanasia not the answer by Issac Davison, nzherald.co.nz (8/16/12) – National Party MP Maggie Barry says the standard of healthcare for New Zealanders with terminal and chronic illnesses is so high euthanasia should not be considered as an alternative.

Ms Barry’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Palliative Care will meet for the first time today and aims to improve MPs’ understanding of the care available.

Palliative care focuses on relieving the suffering of patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

Ms Barry was partly inspired to form the group after witnessing the high-quality care her parents received before their deaths.

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Palliative care vs assisted dying: A false dichotomy – frogblog by Kevin Hague (8/16/12) – When I arrived at the meeting today it was to a room full of perhaps 70 people from outside Parliament and the full range of parliamentary media. We were given several different presentations, compered by Maggie. While there was some content on palliative care, the absolute focus of the meeting was on mounting arguments against voluntary euthanasia and assisted dying.

Now I believe there should be a very active public debate about Maryan Street’s Bill. I will both participate and listen with considerable interest, but I believe this needs to occur independent of debate over palliative care. It is just nonsensical to present palliative care and assisted dying as some sort of dichotomy between which society must choose. I personally believe in really great palliative care services. I also believe in assisted dying services. I resent the conflation of the two issues.

I also resent very considerably being lured to a harangue against assisted dying (not even a discussion) under false pretences. I believe it was deceitful of Maggie to invite MPs to a meeting about palliative care, but then to have different agenda, particularly in an environment where challenging or leaving would appear churlish and destructive.

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Euthanasia debate starts up again by Adrien Taylor, 3news.co.nz (8/16/12) – The debate on whether euthanasia should be legalised in New Zealand is once again heating up as local and international campaigners gather in Wellington for a conference on the issue.

It’s an argument that provokes strong reactions and is bound to create fault lines in Parliament if Labour MP Maryan Street has her Private Member’s Bill to legalise drawn from the ballot.

“I think there are more people who want to be as self-determining at their end point as they have been during their life and I for one, don’t think they can be told they can’t be,” she says.

She says her End-of-Life Choice Bill would make it legal for those who are terminally ill, or have an irreversible medical condition, but are still mentally fit, the right to choose to die, and for assisting clinicians or family members to be protected from liability.

And she’s confident she’ll have the support of other MPs, if the bill gets drawn.

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Barry denies undercover bid to derail suicide bill by Issac Davison, nzherald.co.nz (8/17/12) – National MP Maggie Barry has defended her new cross-party parliamentary group against accusations it was created solely to kill off a Labour MP’s bill to legalise assisted suicide.

Opposition MPs were furious that Ms Barry’s discussion group for palliative care focused only on arguments against euthanasia at its first meeting yesterday.

She was accused of using the all-parliamentary group on palliative care to derail Labour Party MP Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill.

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Palliative Care and Euthanasia – Kiwiblog (8/17/12) – So palliative care is not an alternative to euthanasia in all cases. And where it is an alternative – it should be a choice for the dying person. I do not think it is the role of the state to tell people they can not end their lives if they are in agony. The role of the state should be to put in place rigorous safeguards around those decisions.

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Comfort in the option of a dignified death by Kathryn Powley and Susan Edmunds – nzherald.co.nz (8/19/12) – As the country debates the rights and wrongs of assisted suicide, Kathryn Powley remembers the death of her mother – and asks how it might have been different – while Susan Edmunds looks at the proposed euthanasia bill.

I stroked him as he lay there calmly. I held his little paw as the needle went in, and I kept holding it as he closed his eyes for the last time. And that was that.
I felt relief and was surprised that Huckle seemed to feel nothing. He just went to sleep.
There was no dying gasp. No nothing. Just there one minute, gone the next. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and whenever I think of that moment I wonder why my lovely Mum couldn’t have had the luxury of such a calm, peaceful passing.

Mum died in North Haven Hospice, in Whangarei, 3 months after a sudden, out-of-the-blue diagnosis of terminal bowel cancer. It had spread to her liver and nothing could be done.
She had so much to do, so many plans, so many trips overseas she had yet to take. She’d worked and saved so hard. Now this? “Just knock me on the head,” she’d say. And she meant it. “I could drive the car off a cliff,” she’d say. And she meant that, too.
Although she hated what she’d been reduced to, she never made peace with the fact she was dying. She simply didn’t want to leave us. Her will to stay was battling with her desire to go.
Mum breathed her final, laboured breath on January 11, 2005, in the wee hours in North Haven Hospice with me, Sarah and Andrew beside her.
It was sad, but it was a relief. But I will always wish that her passing, with her blessing, could have been as peaceful and dignified as her beloved Huckle’s.

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Editorial: Euthanasia bill under fire – Waikato Times (8/20/12) – The group would have created no fuss (and might have attracted little attention) except that Ms Barry’s primary motivation was reported to be opposition to assisted suicide as an alternative for seriously ill patients. Euthanasia should not be considered as an alternative, she said, because the standard of healthcare for New Zealanders with terminal and chronic illnesses is so high.
Ms Barry, too, denounced Ms Street’s measure as a terrible bill that failed to protect vulnerable patients.

Perhaps it is. But euthanasia is not being promoted to replace palliative care. The purpose is to allow a dying person to make that choice under strict conditions. That’s consistent with National Party principles. Among them, National aims to build a society based on values that include individual freedom and choice and personal responsibility. Ms Barry should brush up on them.

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Bigmouth Maggie strikes again: An Auckland minute by Richard Boock – AucklandNow (8/21/12) – May I just say I’m pleased Maggie Barry’s parents received top-class palliative care before their deaths. That’s a good outcome. But for the National Party MP to use the experience as the basis for her stand against voluntary euthanasia inflates an already well-established sense of conceit to startling new levels. According to Barry, since her folks escaped a nightmarish end to their lives, there’s no reason why everyone else can’t as well.

Or, in other words, there’s no need for euthanasia.

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Euthanasia already happening in hospitals– PM by Michael Forbes – stuff.co.nz (8/21/12) – Prime Minister John Key says euthanasia already happens in our hospitals – and if he was terminally ill, he would consider it.

Doctors disagreed with him last night, saying his view of the situation was too simplistic.

Mr Key said yesterday that he could understand the argument that legalising euthanasia might put pressure on the elderly to end their lives early, in the face of “rapacious grandkids”, but “I don’t really buy that argument”.

“I think there’s a lot of euthanasia that effectively happens in our hospitals,” he told Newstalk ZB.

“. . . If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain – if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I’d want that.”

Labour MP Maryan Street is drafting a member’s bill to legalise euthanasia – and the emotive subject is already sparking debate even before it is in the ballot.

Mr Key signalled his broad support for euthanasia, but said he was not sure if he could support Ms Street’s bill, which looked likely to have some “quirks” that he did not agree with.

“So I may or may not vote for that bill, [but] the broader principle I support.”

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Patient’s wishes paramount– Opinion: Otago Daily Times (8/21/12) – As admirable as palliative care practitioners are, I find there is something disturbing in their zealous obsession that a patient whose life philosophy is different from their own, needs re-education on their deathbed.

Such a patient must, according to Prof Ilora Finlay, be a “control freak” or they must have been subtly coerced by family and society to consider themselves “burdensome”.

They now need to learn that they are valued – as proven by disregarding their wishes. If only palliative care practitioners could accept their patients as they are, they could do even more good than the considerable good they already do.

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John Key ‘broadly supports’ voluntary euthanasia by John Key (8/23/12) – …director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Ian Powell, did not think euthanasia was occurring the way Mr Key made out.

“The situation is much more complex than that,” he told local media.

“Sometimes continuing a treatment can prolong the agony for a patient, and not even keep the patient alive.

“By not prolonging the agony . . . even though the intent is not for the patient to die, it is sometimes a consequence.”

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PM’s ‘misguided’ euthanasia views anger palliative care specialists by Claire Trevett – nzherald.co.nz (8/24/12) -The comments have angered hospice and palliative care specialists. Sinead Donnelly, New Zealand chairwoman of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, said Mr Key had misrepresented the care of terminal patients.

“His personal opinion given as Prime Minister has serious negative consequences in the trust people have in hospital care of the seriously ill.”

She said it was not considered euthanasia to abide by a patient’s right to refuse treatment or if treatment to alleviate symptoms had the unintended consequence of hastening death.

She said the society agreed with the Medical Association’s position on euthanasia, which was that doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia was unethical – and even if it was legalised it would continue to be unethical.

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Euthanasia claim sparks anger by Bronwyn Torrie (8/24/12) – Angry doctors are appalled at Prime Minister John Key’s claims that euthanasia already happens in hospitals.

“We never practise euthanasia; euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life, and is illegal and unethical,” Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine chairwoman Sinead Donnelly said.

Mr Key’s comments could seriously damage the trust people had in hospital care of the seriously ill, the Wellington doctor said.

Mr Key signalled his broad support for euthanasia – medical assistance to die – during a stint on Newstalk ZB this week.

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Euthanasia clinic touted for Fiji by Michael Field – stuff.co.nz (8/24/12) – Fiji is considering opening a euthanasia clinic where seriously ill Australians and New Zealanders can fly to for assisted suicides, Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke says.

He has told the Age in Melbourne that the centre he proposes in the tourist city of Nadi would be like a similar clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

In a proposal sent to military regime appointed attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Dr Nitschke said Fiji could generate “considerable income” with demand expected to come from people in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and India, who do not have access to physician-assisted suicide.

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Key euthanasia claim ‘wrong’  by Alexia Johnston – stuff.co.nz (8/24/12) – Ms Ligtenberg, who is also a Green Party spokesperson, said her comments were based on her own views, not those of her nursing colleagues.

She said she understood that, in some palliative care cases, it was possible that patients were given extra pain medication “to make them less aware” of how ill they were in their final days. However, she did not regard that practice to be euthanasia.

“Euthanasia … is not happening because it’s illegal, but what goes on when you look at palliative care is that possibly people are getting [an increase in pain] medication, so they don’t feel the pain.

“You increase the medication – it’s not the medication as such that causes death.”

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Key’s euthanasia view ill-informed: doctor by Eileen Goodwin – Otago Daily times (8/26/12) – Those wishing to shorten their lives with euthanasia are trying to control what should be a natural process, Otago Community Hospice palliative care registrar Dr Louise Bremer says.

She said Prime Minister John Key’s view aired this week was “simplistic” and “ill-informed”.

Dr Bremer, who also works at Dunedin Hospital as a physician in medical oncology, said euthanasia was not performed in either hospices or hospitals in New Zealand.

Doctors never caused or hastened death, she said.

Through working closely with the patient, clinicians did not extend life unduly, which did not constitute any form of hastened death, she said.

Communication with the patient was critical.

While some patients requested an end to their pain and suffering, this generally was a call for some form of relief, rather than death itself.

She believed people had become used to controlling every aspect of their lives, and this was behind calls for legalising euthanasia.

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Key admits euthanasia comments ‘sloppy’ by Danya Levy – TheDominion Post (8/27/12) – Prime Minister John Key has backed away from his comments about euthanasia, saying his language on the sensitive issue was “a bit sloppy”.

Key last week said euthanasia already happened in our hospitals – and if he was terminally ill, he would consider it.

The comment angered doctors who said euthanasia was never practised as it was the deliberate ending of life, and was illegal and unethical.

The suggestion could seriously damage the trust people had in hospital care of the terminally ill, doctors said.

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Rodney on Euthanasia – Kiwiblog (8/27/12) – Up until reading this account some years ago, I had been slightly anti-euthanasia. Coming from a medical family I did not like the idea of doctors ever having a role in ending life rather than preserving it. But I realised how selfish that preference was, when I read the awful choice the current law forced on people like Martin. No one should ever have been forced into having to make the choice he did.

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Skill levels better in palliative care by Teuila Fuatai – Bay of Plenty Times (8/29/12) – Legalising euthanasia could cut short people’s lives who may be unaware of advances in palliative care, a Tauranga doctor warns.

Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow told the Bay of Plenty Times patients sometimes wished they had the option of physician-assisted suicide. But that was before they realised the options available with palliative care.

“The level of palliative care in the last seven years alone has developed hugely.

“The skills of the medics and the understanding and the knowledge of all the associated disciplines … has meant the level of care has improved dramatically.”

Dr Thurlow’s comments follow remarks by prime minister John Key on Newstalk ZB last week.

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Debate clouding hospice role by Imran Ali – The Northern Advocate (8/31/12) – The importance of easing the suffering of dying Northlanders is being lost in the debate on euthanasia, Northland hospice staff say.

Their comments followed remarks by Prime Minister John Key that a lot of euthanasia happened in hospitals and that if he was terminally ill he would want euthanasia legalised so doctors could “turn off the switch”.

Palliative care, for those affected by a life-limiting condition, can be provided by specialists or non-specialist staff such as GPs and community health teams.

Peter Bassett, general manager of Whangarei’s North Haven Hospice, said euthanasia was not happening in New Zealand hospitals but good palliative care was.

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RUSSIA

Euthanasia – luxury for the wealthy– pravada.ru (8/18/12) – The topic of euthanasia does not leave anyone indifferent. Voluntary withdrawal from life due to serious illness for some people is a grievous sin, for others – the only escape from suffering.

It should be noted that many critics of the law referred to its social injustice. Euthanasia is not cheap, which means that patients from poor families will not be able to die quickly and painlessly. However, it became clear that less wealthy Americans are not particularly inclined to interrupt their tortures with drugs. Euthanasia, according to recent studies in the U.S., attracts financially sound white people with good education.

According to The New York Times, the supporters of euthanasia do not choose it because of the pain, but because they want to control their death as well as they can control their lives.

“Likely, the practice of euthanasia in some form will be implemented in the world.  In Russia euthanasia is illegal, and I now fully agree with that, and not on logistical grounds, but because the meaning of medical practice is to provide life and the patient’s health, and the killing as a way to treat the pain may not be acceptable. There is no pain that cannot be managed. This practice may cause psychological pressure on the elderly, for example, because of financial reasons.

But since there is an issue, and the question arises about its implementation, it should not be the issue of the medical community. This may be a special procedure performed by some social workers. Of course, I would caution to call euthanasia of a seriously ill person a murder, because there is no offense if all procedures are followed.”

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SCOTLAND

It is time for politicians to take a more enlightened view of assisted dying– heraldscotland.com (8/25/12) – In June 2012, a significant development took place in Vancouver, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian criminal code, which prohibits physician-assisted death, violated fundamental rights of equality, life and liberty. The wisdom lying behind that judgment is profound. Terminally ill individuals who experience intolerable suffering now have the opportunity to bring that legally and humanely to an end. The court was satisfied that commonly-advanced reasons for denying them relief, including the protection of the vulnerable and damage to the trust patients invest in doctors, could be properly answered, if that was allowed in highly constrained circumstances.

While it is widely recognised that Switzerland permits doctors to practise euthanasia and extends this to foreign nationals with the financial means (about £10,000) to avail themselves of that option, it is less well known that other jurisdictions, including Oregon and Washington in the US and the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in Europe, also take a more enlightened view of assisted dying than we do.

In 2011 MSPs in Holyrood rejected any change to the law concerning assistance at the end of life. However, in the near future Margo MacDonald will introduce a Bill again seeking to amend the legislation.

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SWITZERLAND

Assisted suicide firm Dignitas to sue Swiss police for reviving terminally ill woman who fell asleep during procedure by Martin Robinson in MailOnline (8/16/12) – The world’s foremost euthanasia clinic, Dignitas, is to sue the Swiss police after their officers tried to revive a terminally ill woman who fell asleep during an assisted suicide.

Police stopped the procedure near Zurich after the patient lost consciousness after only consuming half the drugs meant to kill her, and therefore officers assumed that her suicide attempt had failed.

The unnamed woman was meant to finish the lethal cocktail of barbiturates and police say their rules state that if a patient is still alive two hours after taking the drugs they will call an ambulance.

Following the intervention the woman in her 60s, who was suffering from a genetic disease and weighed only five stone, was rushed to hospital were she later died.

Under Swiss law, a state official – usually a police officer – must be present to monitor proceedings when an assisted suicide is being conducted.

And Dignitas now want the police to be prosecuted for ‘interfering in a legal assisted suicide’ and ‘abducting a patient’ during the incident on August 2.

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UNITED KINGDOM

Euthanasia and the Death Penalty: a dilemma by Andre Langlois – HuffPost Lifestyle UK (8/1/12) – I don’t believe the dilemma is inescapable. A similar argument can be made against other laws, such as motoring laws, and assisted dying is certainly about facilitating individual freedom. But when it comes to the state facilitating death, my opposition to the death penalty strikes an uneasy contrast with my support for assisted dying.

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Assisted dying debate: promoting patient choice – Kennedy-law.com article (8/8/12) – On 3 July 2012 the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life (the APPG) in partnership with the charity, Dignity in Dying, published a consultation on a draft Bill entitled “Safeguarding Choice: A draft Assisted Dying Bill”. Whilst this draft Bill is not written (or sponsored) by a government department and is, therefore, unlikely to be taken forward as draft legislation in the near future, its publication provides the opportunity to engage in the assisted dying debate.

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There’ll be no happy ending for us… please just let my father die in peace by Sophie Goodchild, London Evening Standard (8/15/12) – The daughter of a man with “locked in” syndrome today made an emotional final plea for him to end his life peacefully.

Lauren Nicklinson, 25, said her severely disabled father Tony will have to starve himself to death unless doctors are allowed to help him die.

The High Court will reveal tomorrow whether the stroke victim, 58, has won his bid to challenge Britain’s euthanasia laws. He wants doctors to be able to end his life without fear of being sent to jail.

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Assisted suicide comment: euthanasia puts vulnerable at risk, argues Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy in The Telegraph (8/16/12) – It is a tragedy that Mr Nicklinson has suffered a stroke, resulting in ‘locked in syndrome’, but it would also be a tragedy if, in a desire to address his needs, others were placed at unjustifiable risk. Sometimes, even with a heavy heart, it is necessary to make a tough decision in order to protect those who most need protection.

That is, in part, the role of the state and the role of the law.

Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy is the National Adviser on medical ethics and health and social care policy to the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council.

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Assisted suicide comment: the dying should have advice from professionals – The Telegraph (8/16/12) – Two cases of patients with locked-in syndrome, AM and Tony Nicklinson, were heard in the High Court in June, and the court will rule on both today. While these cases may appear similar on the surface; they are actually very different, and in fact challenge different laws.

Should AM succeed, doctors and patients will be clearer about what discussions they can and can’t have about end of life choices, and should Nicklinson win his case the current inflexibility of murder law will have to be addressed.

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UK denies right-to-die legal challenge by Maria Cheng, HuffPost Tech (8/16/12) – Britain’s High Court on Thursday rejected an attempt by a man who has locked-in syndrome to overturn the country’s euthanasia law by refusing to legally allow doctors to end his life.

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“Locked-in” sufferer’s challenge to ban on voluntary euthanasia fails in high court by Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog (8/16/12) – Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Mrs Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, has  handed down judgment in the case of Tony Nicklinson and that of another “locked-in” syndrome sufferer, “Martin”. On all the issues, they have deferred to parliament to take the necessary steps to address the problems created by the current law of murder and assisted suicide.

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U.K. court denies euthanasia requests from two men with locked-in syndrome,CBS News (8/16/12) – Tony Nicklinson, a man with “locked-in syndrome,” has been denied by a British court his wish to die from physician-assisted euthanasia.

Britain’s High Court on Thursday rejected Nicklinson’s and another man’s attempts to overturn the country’s euthanasia law by refusing to legally allow doctors to end his life.

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UK doctors ‘perform euthanasia’– top Dutch medic by Anna Holligan, BBC News Europe (8/16/12) – In the Netherlands euthanasia has been legal for a decade. Some Dutch medical experts say Tony Nicklinson’s case is a “textbook example” of why people should be given the right to decide when they die.

According to Dr Kruseman, “if the only possibility is death by euthanasia it’s the responsibility you have for your patient when they are experiencing unbearable suffering”.

Commenting on the doctor’s claim, a spokesperson for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: “We are opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying and we are not lobbying for any change in the law in the UK.

“Assisted dying is illegal in the UK, so doctors are not permitted to carry out euthanasia.”

The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) says that in the absence of an open debate the practice will go on, but in a covert and unregulated manner.

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RCP comment on assisted dying case (8/16/12) – Commenting on today’s judgment in the Tony Nicklinson assisted dying case, Professor John Saunders, Chair of the RCP’s Ethics Committee, said:

‘The Royal College of Physicians does not support a change in the law on assisted dying. It remains illegal for doctors to intentionally and deliberately terminate the life of someone who is not terminally ill. A survey of RCP fellows and members in 2006 showed that doctors were not in favour of a change in the law to allow them to do this.

‘A change in the law would also have severe implications for the way society views disabled people.’

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Assisted dying: the harm in helping by Sarah Wollaston, guardian.co.uk (8/17/12) – t isn’t just the religious lobby that is opposed to a change in the law to allow assisted suicide. I have no faith banner to raise, and as a former doctor I know there are conditions for which I might at some point wish to end my life. Despite this, I don’t believe I should have a right to make a doctor complicit in that decision.

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Allow medically assisted dying on the grounds of mercy, and soon it will be driven by convenience or greedby Steve Doughty, Mail Online (8/17/12) – One of the peculiar horrors of learning about the life of Mr Nicklinson is imagining what it would be like yourself to be entirely helpless for six hours every evening until a carer comes to wash you. Or to eat only soft mashed up food, and to drink only through a tube inserted into your stomach.And to know it could happen to any one of us, anytime.That gives Mr Nicklinson’s plea to die a universal relevance.
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Dying with dignity debate: Should doctors be allowed to help Tony Nicklinson end his life? Mirror News (8/17/12) – Below are the arguments for and against allowing doctors to end his life without fear of prosecution:
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I would help a relative on the final journey by Vickie Woods – The Telegraph (8/17/12) – We need to have a conversation about assisted suicide,” one of my oldest friends told me last year. Oh, crikey. It was dark and filthy weather and I was driving her to an appointment with her GP, so I was furious with myself for mounting the pavement in shock at what she’d said. After which she clung silently to the car door and I drove very, very concentratedly.

I wasn’t shocked that thoughts of assisted suicide had floated into her mind. Because it floats into my mind every time there’s another heartbreak landmark legal battle trumpeting through the newspaper. Nor was I shocked that she’d addressed her thoughts to me. We are both of an age where assisted suicide is something you have to take a view on, like early retirement or selling up and trading down.

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Analysis: Britain’s options for legalizing euthanasia by Louise Bazalgette, politics.co.uk (8/20/12) – In their ruling, the judges were clear that: “It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place. Under our system of government these are matters for parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases.”

This is not surprising as previous legal precedents, such as Diane Pretty’s case at the European court of human rights (ECHR) in 2002, have confirmed that the legal position of assisted dying is a matter for national law and cannot simply be overturned on the basis that it infringes an individual’s human rights.

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Locked-in man devastated at ruling– Cambridge-news.co.uk (8/20/12) – Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, while expressing deep sympathy for their plight, unanimously agreed that it would be wrong for the court to depart from the long-established legal position that “voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be”.

Refusing the stricken men judicial review, they agreed that the current law did not breach human rights and it was for Parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed. Any changes would need “the most carefully structured safeguards which only Parliament can deliver”.

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Assisted dying: simple, neat – and wrong – spked-online.com (8/20/12) – At first, Tony Nicklinson’s case seems obvious. Having suffered a massive stroke in 2005, Nicklinson – a former civil engineer who once enjoyed an active lifestyle – was left almost completely paralysed, in a state referred to as ‘locked-in syndrome’. He can only communicate by blinking or using limited head movement. He refers to his life now as ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’. Nicklinson would like the courts to offer immunity from prosecution if, in the future, he asked a doctor to kill him. Last week, the High Court in London ruled against his request.

As many observers agreed, it is his life and who are we – or the courts or parliament – to tell him what to do with it? We all have the right to commit suicide but those with locked-in syndrome need assistance. Nicklinson is quite visibly suffering and has been consistent in his wish to die, so why not allow him to do so?

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Sympathy for one man must not change Britain’s law on assisted dying by Sameer Mallick – opendemocracy.net (8/20/12) – Assisted dying is illegal in the UK – a stance supported by the majority of the medical profession. In the face of harrowing cases such as that of Tony Nicklinson, it is important to remember that unwillingness to deviate from this law is not the symptom of a narrow prejudice but the result of a long and informed debate.

Perhaps a good starting point is to clarify the jargon, as the terms assisted dying, euthanasia and assisted suicide seem to be used interchangeably by mainstream media. The term assisted suicide describes the participation of an individual (usually a healthcare professional) helping a patient end their life. However the onus is on the patient to perform the final act of killing, such as self administering a lethal injection. This differs from euthanasia in which the ‘assistant’ performs the final act which ends a patient’s life. Both actions come under the overarching term known as assisted dying. Whilst the focus of lobby groups has been to legalise assisted suicide in the UK,[6] the case of Tony Nicklinson is one in which, if successful, would have gone one step further and legalised euthanasia.

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Coffee House Chat (UK) – Assisted suicide – your thoughts –  thoughts from everyday people

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Practical Ethics – Euthanasia and Human Rights – University of Oxford (8/21/12)

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Locked in to euthanasia – mercatornet.com (8/21/12) – There can be no more difficult case for dispassionate discussion than the fate of Tony Nicklinson, a totally paralysed British man who wants to end his life. Last week the UK High Court denied his request for euthanasia. (video)

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In Britain, ongoing struggles over laws regarding euthanasia by Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service (8/22/12) – The Catholic Church, not wishing to see the debate presented as a struggle between faith and “progress,” is generally taking a back seat, but is listed as one among dozens of medical, disabled rights and religious charities that form the broad coalition of the Care Not Killing alliance.

Catholic doctors are more outspoken than church leaders, however, and in recent months some have taken huge risks with their careers to warn the public that a system designed to care for people in their final hours is operating effectively as a euthanasia pathway.

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Paralyzed UK man dies after losing assisted-suicide case(8/22/12) – (video) A British man suffering from “locked-in syndrome” who fought a long legal battle over assisted suicide died Wednesday, his family said.Tony Nicklinson, 58, had been refusing food since last week, contracted pneumonia over the weekend, and “went downhill rapidly,” said his lawyer, Saimo Chahal.”Before he died, he asked us to tweet: ‘Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun,'” his Twitter account said.
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Melksham locked in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson dies at home after contracting pneumonia by Will Frampton – Wiltshire Times (8/22/12) – Locked in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson has died, his family have said.They said the 58-year-old died at his home in Melksham of natural causes at 10am.His wife Jane said on Twitter: “I have lost the love of my life but he suffers no more.”Last week he learnt he had lost his appeal against a decision to forbid him from assisted suicide.He was left paralysed by a catastrophic stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.Mr Nicklinson’s lawyer Saimo Chahal Family said: “I am extremely sad to tell you that I received a call at 10.45am from Jane Nicklinson to inform me that her husband Tony died peacefully at home at about 10am this morning.
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Tony Nicklinson: fight to die with dignity “will not be forgotten” by Sarah Boseley – guardian.co.uk (8/22/12) – At 10am on Wednesday, Tony Nicklinsonfinally got what he wanted. In his Wiltshire home, surrounded by those he loved, he slipped into a peaceful death.Less than a week before, millions had seen him outside the high court in his wheelchair, racked with sobs. His wife, Jane, spoke to the TV cameras on his behalf, quietly explaining his distress at the refusal of the court to give him the assurance he had requested: that anyone who helped him to kill himself would not be charged with murder.Once she paused, to wipe away his tears. Even those who disagreed with him, including the judges, were deeply moved.
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BHA mourns Tony Nicklinson, campaigner for assisted dying – British Humanist Assn. (8/22/12) – Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented, ‘Tony Nicklinson’s campaign was inspirational and his fight for the right of mentally competent adults to choose to end their lives woth medical assistance was a fight that we at the BHA very much supported. We will continue to campaign for the legalisation of assisred suicide, as will many others – their determination renewed by his example.’
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We need the right to a dignified death. But we need to acknowledge the risks involved, as well. by Tom Chivers – The Telegraph (8/22/12) – The trouble with us as a species is that we’re not very good at complexity and nuance. If we think something’s bad, we think it’s all bad; if we think something’s good, we think it’s all good. It’s been demonstrated that if we think something has plenty of benefits, we tend to subconsciously downplay its risks; likewise, if we think it’s risky, we’ll tend to assume it’s got no benefits.
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Paralyzed UK man dies after losing assisted-suicide case – CNN (8/23/12) – A British man suffering from “locked-in syndrome” who fought a long legal battle over assisted suicide died Wednesday, his family said.Tony Nicklinson, 58, had been refusing food since last week, contracted pneumonia over the weekend, and “went downhill rapidly,” said his lawyer, Saimo Chahal.”Before he died, he asked us to tweet: ‘Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun,'” his Twitter account said.
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Widow backs assisted suicide campaign after husband’s death– Maidenhead Advertiser (8/23/12) – A widow whose husband died alone because he feared the consequences for her if she helped end his life has backed calls to legalise assisted suicide.Sheila King has added her voice to the campaign to change the law as she believes her husband Stephen would still be alive today if he had been granted the right to decide when to end his life.Instead she faced the heartbreak of finding his body hanging in the garage of their home in Bedford Close, Maidenhead, in April.”Had my husband been able to choose when to end his life he would have enjoyed a longer and happier one,” she said.”I just want to do something to help other people so they don’t have to be in that situation.”
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Pro-lifers to host European euthanasia meeting in Scotland– The Christian Institute (8/23/12) – Pro-life experts from around the world are gathering in Edinburgh next month for a symposium on euthanasia and assisted suicide.The Care Not Killing Alliance, which campaigns against attempts to weaken end-of-life laws across the UK, is hosting the meeting.The group says anyone who is “committed to opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide” is welcome.
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How an extraordinary day with Tony Nicklinson changed my views on right-to-die by Peter Stanford – The Telegraph (8/24/12) – There aren’t many meetings that change your instinctive notions of what is right and wrong, but the day I spent with Tony and Jane Nicklinson was one. It may be because I am a lifelong Catholic, for better or worse, and my Church is so unbending in insisting that God gives and takes away life. Or that I have spent 20 years as chairman of a disability charity and have seen too often the casual mistreatment of those whom society once labelled “in-valid”. Or simply that I had never previously had the debate about the right-to-die spelt out so uncompromisingly for me by someone in the midst of the issue.

But if I went into the Nicklinsons’ specially adapted bungalow in the Wiltshire town of Melksham fundamentally opposed to any concessions on euthanasia, I emerged with my arguments demolished. And this by a man who had lost the power of speech.

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Tony Nicklinson’s legacy: his case will save lives by Joan Smith – The Independent (8/26/12) – When Tony Nicklinson died on Wednesday, there was widespread sympathy for a man who had been paralysed from the neck down. The previous week he had wept in front of TV cameras, devastated by the High Court’s refusal to give him an assurance that anyone who helped him to die would not face a charge of murder. Photographs of Mr Nicklinson before his illness, looking healthy and tanned, offered a painful contrast with the helplessness he endured after a massive stroke in 2005. The case has redoubled calls for a change in the law on assisted dying.
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The ban on euthanasia is to protect us from ourselves by Peter Mullen – The Telegraph (8/28/12) – The debate about euthanasia is being obscured by the use of pernicious euphemisms. Let’s come clean and speak plainly. “The doctor’s right to end a life” means the doctor has the right to kill someone. Whichever way you look at this, it means a licence to murder. Those who campaign for euthanasia want a change in the law so that this sort of killing – for that’s what it is – should no longer be against the law. This has far-reaching consequences, for it means that, in some cases, murder will no longer be murder.
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Tony Nicklinson’s widow in campaign pledge– guardian.co.uk (8/28/12) – Jane Nicklinson, who, along with daughters Lauren and Beth, had backed her husband’s legal bid, echoed other right-to-die campaigners’ calls for Mr Nicklinson’s memory to live on through a continued battle to change the law that prevented doctors ending his life.Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Nicklinson said: “This is certainly not the end of the campaign. I do hope that someone takes it up. Even though we didn’t win, all the hard work for the case has been done. I hope at some point someone will come forward and carry on with what Tony started.”I think we always knew the chances of winning at this stage were slim – possible but slim – and we’d never been told anything different so we were prepared for it.”
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Tony Nicklinson Right-to-Die: Locked-in Sufferer’s Widow Urges Change in Law– The Huffington Post-UK (8/28/12) – Tony Nicklinson’s widow has said she hopes people will continue to campaign for a change in the law on assisted dying following her husband’s death.58-year-old Mr Nicklinson suffered from locked-in syndrome and died last week after losing a landmark High Court right-to-die case. He had been refusing food in the days leading up to his death and had contracted pneumonia.Following the decision he was visibly distressed, sobbing in front of cameras while Jane Nicklinson told reporters the ruling had left him “heartbroken.”
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Bishop urges caution after Nicklinson assisted dying case– Christian Concern (8/29/12) – Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has warned that “moral chaos” will ensue if the Christian basis for the laws protecting life in the UK is rejected.He made the comments after a controversial article by former Catholic Herald editor, Peter Stanford, was published in the Telegraph last week (24 August).Stanford said that a visit to Tony Nicklinson’s home “changed his views” on the right-to-die issue.
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I hope Tony’s death will not end the fight– This is Bath (8/29/12) – The widow of ‘right-to-die’ campaigner Tony Nicklinson has said she hopes the battle to change the law on assisted dying will continue even without the brave Melksham man being around to fight it.Jane Nicklinson said she hoped ‘someone will come forward’ to continue the challenge to British law to allow those with ‘locked-in syndrome’, which left her husband reliant on others for everything, to be legally killed to end their suffering.
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Unitarians launch consultation on assisted dying– ekklesia.co.uk (8/30/12) – British Unitarians have begun a six-month consultation on the issue of assisted dying. By exploring a range of views on the issue, they say they are bucking the trend of faith groups, many of whom have taken a strong stand against assisted dying.The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches will conduct the consultation in the run-up to their next annual meeting in April. A discussion pack is being sent out to congregations to assist them in their deliberations.
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Bristol to host Green Party’s right-to-die debate– Bristol247.com (8/31/12) – A debate on changing the law to allow people such as right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson to seek help to end their lives will take place next weekend in Bristol at the Green Party’s autumn conference.The party said it aimed to “provide the right to an assisted death within a rigorous framework of regulation, and in the context of the availability of the highest level of palliative care”.After looking at how assisted dying laws are formulated in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA, the debate will focus on presenting a solution that could gain the support of the public.
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Melksham man: Tony has shown law must change by Will Frampton – Wiltshire Times(8/31/12) –

Tony Nicklinson with wife Jane and daughters Beth and Lauren after the court decision Tony Nicklinson with wife Jane and daughters Beth and Lauren after the court decision.

Labour peer Lord Joel Joffe has joined other assisted dying campaigners in praising Melksham locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson.

Lord Joffe said his ‘incredible courage’ would eventually lead to a change in the law, under which those who help people end their lives currently face prosecution for murder.

“I think Tony Nicklinson’s incredible courage and determination has persuaded society the law must be changed to prevent terrible suffering,” said the peer.

“Tony correctly felt there needed to be a change in the law to permit him to end his life, and it is clear we do need a change in the law – the law must seek to find such a solution.

“MPs are not listening to society, their job is to take account of the views of their constituents and 80 per cent of the public is in favour of a change in the law.”

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Assisted Death Debate – News from July 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 July 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

What is your opinion of assisted suicide for the terminally ill? Live Poll

Living with Dying: Major Myths about Death With Dignity by Melissa Barber (2/27/12)

the Front Door to Healthcare – Coming to a hospital near you: physician-assisted suicide  (7/2/12)

Salon – Where’s our right to die? by Santiago Wills (7/3/12)

HuffPost-Religion – A Scientific Honoring of Death by Rev. Michael Dowd (7/8/12)

Medical Talk – Ethics: Physician Assisted Suicide (7/9/12)

Secondhand Smoke – Swiss proves no brakes assisted suicide by Wesley J. Smith (7/9/12)

MedPageToday.com – Take Docs Out of Assisted Suicide Equation? by Emily P. Walker (7/11/12)

National Right to Life News Today – Pro-Euthanasia Forces at Work at Home and Abroad: The latest in the battle over assisting suicide by Jennifer Popik, J.D. (7/11/12)

The Economist – Time to Die (7/12/12)

White Coat Notes – Chelsea Conaboy: Assisted dying, without the doctor? Ethicist says physicians can help without prescribing lethal dose (7/12/12)

New Europe Post online – Dying in Court by Peter Singer (7/12/12)

The Economist – The quality of death: Grim reapings (7/15/12)

Compassion & Choices – The Evolving State of Physician-Assisted Suicide by Jamie Joyce, The Atlantic 7/16/12

David C. Stolinsky Blog – Coming Soon: A “Central Mechanism” for Assisted Dying (7/16/12)

Girl with a Cane – Changes to laws in Canada Regarding Physician-Assisted Suicide (7/19/12)

Playing the Devil’s Advocate – An Intriguing Objection to Euthanasia for Old White People (7/19/12)

BioEthics @ TIU – Physicians’ role in assisted dying by Steve Phillips (7/19/12)

Death with Dignity National Center – The Need for Carefully Crafted Death with Dignity Laws by Melissa Barber (7/19/12)

Secondhand Smoke – EU court won’t impose euthanasia by Wesley J. Smith (7/19/12)

LifeNews – 14% of all Dutch deaths involve euthanasia, assisted suicide by Wesley J. Smith (7/19/12)

Secondhand Smoke – Nitschke doubles down in Death-on-Demand by Wesley J. Smith 7/20/12

National Right to Life News Today – Right-to-Die movement has split into two warring camps, says Nitschke by Michael Cook (7/20/12)

LifeNews.com – Pro-Euthanasia movement splitting into two warring factions by Dr. Peter Saunders 7/20/12

emtcity.com – Physician Assisted Suicide (7/22/12)

National Right to Life News Today – EU court refuses to impose euthanasia by Paul Russell (7/23/12)

Policymic – Assisted suicide debate: Canada raises controversy after striking down ban by Lowell McDonald (7/25/12)

Not Dead Yet – Assisted suicide laws violate the ADA by Diane Coleman (7/25/12)

The Daily Caller – Death Panels on Steroids by Rita L. Marker & Wesley J. Smith of The Patients Rights Council (7/25/12)

The Tea Party Economist – Assisted Dying: The Death Panels Are Coming  by Gary North (7/26/12)

Secondhand Smoke – The Dutch Cook the Euthanasia Books by Wesley J. Smith (7/26/12)

LifeNews.com – Euthanasia backers now want assisted suicide without doctors by Wesley J.Smith (7/26/12)

Fr. Z’s Blog – Obamacare = Euthanasia (7/27/12)

White Coat Notes – Dr. Barbara Rockett: Physician-assisted suicide ‘in direct conflict’ with doctor’s role (7/31/12)

White Coat Notes – Dr. Marcia Angell: Ballot question to allow physician aid in dying respects patient wishes (7/31/12)

Sociology Lens – Physician-assisted suicide: A topic of growing importance by Candace Smith (7/31/12)

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – Assisted Suicide: U.S. Overview by Margaret Dore (7/31/12)

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Reasons Why physicians do not have discussion about poor prognosis, why it matters, and what can be improved by Jennifer W. Mack and Thomas J. Smith in Journal of Clinical Oncology (7/2/12)

Redefining Physician’s Role in Assisted Dying by Julian J.Z. Prokopetz, BA and Lisa Soleymani Lehmann, MD, PhD in The New England Journal of Medicine (7/18/12)

VIDEOS

Euthanasia Debate  (6/30/12)
‘Canadians must act NOW against assisted suicide,’ says anti-euthanasia leader by Jean McCarthy – LifeSiteNews.com 7/3/12
Debating Euthanasia – Jennifer Tyron with panel 7/5/12 – Follow up to: Taking Mercy (3/21/12)
Aja Riggs, cancer patient, joins aid in dying lawsuit (New Mexico) (7/9/12)
Euthanasia debate with Philip Nitschke and Bernadette Tobin (7/20/12)
Sir Terry Pratchett on assisted dying (7/26/12)

BROADCASTS

Interview with Dr. Lisa Lehmann on the physician’s role in assisted dying for terminally ill patients (Director of the Center for Bioethics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital) – (7/12/12)

AARP senior end of life decisions by John Wright (7/20/12)

The Jefferson Exchange – Compassion & Choices: Oregon’s assisted-suicide law presents a number of hurdles for terminal patients to overcome to end their own lives. The group Compassion & Choices of Oregon works with the patients to overcome the hurdles.  Compassion & Choices provides access to a network of volunteers and professionals with experience in implementing Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.  (7/30/12)

UNITED STATES

Central mechanism would remove physician from assisted-dying process by Sarah Guy( 7/24/12) – The development of a central state or federal mechanism in the USA that would confirm the authenticity and eligibility of terminally ill patients’ requests for death, dispense medication, and monitor demand and use, could remove physicians from the assisted dying process, say researchers.

Canadians and Britons would allow euthanasia under some conditions – Respondents in US are more likely to question whether doctor-assisted suicide should be permitted at all – Polls by country

Choice is an Illusion: A website opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia – many states

(News this month from California, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin)

CALIFORNIA

Assisted suicide: compassion or crime? by Kate McGinty, mydesert.com (7/29/12)

MASSACHUSETTS

By whatever name, dignity by Lewis Cohen, MD, gazettenet.com (7/6/12)
Distilled to its essence, the ballot asks: Should dying people have the right to physician-assisted suicide?

In Massachusetts, during the months leading up to Election Day, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, pro-life groups, conservative politicians and segments of the disability community will unite to wage a fierce campaign.

Be prepared to hear from other opposition spokespersons that the law will target society’s most vulnerable populations. Get ready for fear-mongering to rival the rhetoric many of these same individuals have previously offered in their opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion and the right to choose birth control. We are going to hear claims that death with dignity sanctions elder abuse.

Do not expect the opposition’s leaders to cite the annual statistical report which the Oregon Health Authority publishes online. The 2011 data challenge all of these theoretical worries and concerns.

There is no factual basis for most of the arguments that will be offered, but they will make for thrilling election year drama.

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Death with Dignoty Act on November Ballot – abc40news, Springfield MA  (7/11/12) – w/video – Dr. Lewis Cohen, a local psychiatrist and professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, is one of the founding members of the petition.

The Death With Dignity Act is one of three initiatives that will be on the November ballot. If passed by voters the law would allow terminally ill patients to end their own life. “There are few people who we really can’t help with their suffering,” said Dr. Lewis Cohen.
“I can tell you as a psychiatrist a big piece of it is that people have to have the capacity to make this decision and they have to demonstrate it,” said Dr. Cohen.
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Beware slippery slope of ‘doctor-prescribed suicide’ – Letter to The Herald News (7/15/12) – One of the questions on the ballot in November will be legalization of assisted suicide, a.k.a Death With Dignity, or more accurately known as doctor-prescribed suicide.
There is no dignity in suicide. It is a terrible tragedy. If this initiative passes, it will shift our approach toward the sick and dying in this state from one of compassion and care to one of encouraging self-destruction. Doctor-prescribed suicide is medical abandonment.  A doctor will not have to be present when the patient takes the lethal drugs.
The Massachusetts Medical Society voted last December to reaffirm its opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
Life is the most basic gift from God, a gift which is entrusted to our care, not that we have control over it.
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The Evolving state of physician-assisted suicide by Jaime Joyce, theAtlantic, 7/16/12 – Should terminally ill patients have the right to kill themselves? Voters in Massachusetts will soon decide. Last Wednesday, the Secretary of the Commonwealth announced that on November 6, 2012, when Bay State voters go to the polls to pick the next President, they will also have their say on a ballot measure called the Death with Dignity Act. If passed, the law would make Massachusetts the third state to give adults diagnosed with six months or less to live the option to end their lives using a lethal dose of doctor-prescribed medication.

A study released by the Health Research and Education Trust shows that Americans are living longer lives than ever before. As a result, more individuals and families will face difficult questions about end-of-life care. In 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers turned 65. By 2030, the number of Boomers between 66 and 84 years old will climb to 61 million, and six out of 10 will be managing chronic health conditions. For the elderly and others facing terminal illness, doctors have numerous ways to prolong life. Palliative and hospice care are available to help patients find peace and comfort in their final days. But there are some people who want another option, which is the right to end suffering by taking their own life at a time and place of their choosing.
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Push for “death with dignity” in Massachusetts picks up steam by Kevin B. O’Reilly, amednews.com (7/16/12) – Early polling results: Sixty percent of Massachusetts voters support “allowing people who are dying to legally obtain medication that they could use to end their lives,” according to a Western New England University Polling Institute survey of 504 voters conducted at the end of May. Twenty-nine percent said they opposed the idea, and 11% declined to answer the question.

“This statute has worked as intended in both Oregon and Washington,” Crawford said. “The scare tactics the opposition uses simply haven’t come to life.”
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Assisted suicide backers confident they’ll win in Massachusettes – LifeNews.com( 7/27/12) – Massachusetts is the latest battleground over euthanasia with an initiative on the ballot in November to adopt a statute similar to those in Oregon and Washington, which allow physicians to prescribe suicide for their patients. As in Oregon and Washington, the Massachusetts proposal states assisted suicide would be legal for residents of the state in cases where a doctor has determined the patient has less than six months to live. However, the examples of the two Western states have shown that those safeguards do not work.
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MONTANA

“Does the Board really want to put itself in the embarrassing position of overstepping its authority by condoning this procedure?” Montanans against assisted suicide and for living with dignity (7/18/12) – I am having trouble understanding why our Montana Board of Medical Examiners would step out on a limb and seemingly promote, or at least encourage physicians to go along with a procedure, Physician Assisted Suicide for the following reasons:
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NEW JERSEY

Racial differences in end-of-life planning: Why don’t blacks and Latinos prepare for the inevitable?– Rutgers (7/20/12) – Both religious beliefs and cultural attitudes toward receiving support from family members accounted for the gap between white subjects and minorities, said Carr.
Older blacks are more likely to believe that God controls the time and circumstance of someone’s death and that it’s inappropriate to interfere.
“Their thinking is, ‘this is not our decision to mess around with,” Carr said.
For Latinos, the starkest contrast involved entrusting one particular family member with durable power of attorney. Only four percent of Latinos chose a relative to voice decisions for the incapacitated patient. The likely explanation is that if you grew up in a culture that’s close-knit, you make decisions as a family unit, you’re not going to choose one person,’’ she said.
In both black and Latino families, she said, there is evidence that people are more likely to view caring for ill or aging members as the norm, whereas white subjects had a greater fear of “burdening’’ family with their illness.
Because blacks especially have higher rates of illness, shorter life spans and less access to preventive care, it’s especially important for them to discuss what kind of treatment they would want in the event of a terminal illness and what family members’ roles would be, Carr said.
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New Jersey Euthanasia Laws

NEW MEXICO

Doctors, patient challenge New Mexico assisted suicide ban by Diane Carman, healthpolicysolutions.org (7/11/120 – The question before the court in New Mexico is absurdly simple and yet impossibly complex. What is the meaning of “assisting suicide”?
If a terminally-ill patient refuses a ventilator or a feeding tube and the physician yields to that decision, is that assisting suicide? If the patient is in excruciating pain and requests total sedation and no nutrition or fluids, can the doctor be held accountable for his death? What if the patient seeks a prescription from her physician so that when the pain of dying is overwhelming she can seek the ultimate relief on her own?
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Death with Dignity? More like war on New Mexico’s elderly! by Anna Maria Hoffman (7/16/12) – Currently, Doctors Aroop Mangalik and Katherine Morris, along with cancer patient Aja Riggs, are challenging New Mexico’s pro-life ban on assisted suicide in court. They ultimately want to prove that their loophole “aid in dying” argument—giving conscious terminally ill patients lethal medicine to die—is not assisted suicide. In their view, New Mexico’s assisted suicide ban does not take advanced terminal illness treatment into account and does not bar physicians from practicing “aid in dying” procedures. Looks like these plaintiffs are circumventing the state’s law to impose their pro-death will through court.
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NDY quoted in article on New Mexico assisted suicide case by Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet (7/17/12) – Throughout the 1980’s and across the country, courts repeatedly and unequivocally answered “no” (i.e. no problem) to the first two questions, but Compassion and Choices (C&C) often raises the specter of being hooked to unwanted tubes and forced to endure unwanted medical treatments when advocating for something completely different than the well established right to refuse treatment.  Despite nearly 25 years of widespread public education about using advance directives to refuse unwanted treatment, C&C counts on people to forget these facts and conflate the issues.  C&C is pushing for the term “aid in dying” to include not only refusing treatment, palliative care, and hospice, but also assisted suicide, rolling it all into one focus group tested phrase.
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OREGON

Assisted Dying: Experts Debate Doctor’s Roleby Katie Moisse, abcnews.com( 7/13/12) – Peggy Sutherland was ready to die. The morphine oozing from a pump in her spine was no match for the pain of lung cancer, which had evaded treatment and invaded her ribs.

“She needed so much morphine it would have rendered her basically unconscious,” said Sutherland’s daughter, Julie McMurchie, who lives in Portland, Ore. “She was just kind of done.”

Sutherland, 68, decided to use Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act,” which allows terminally-ill residents to end their lives after a 15-day requisite waiting period by self-administering a lethal prescription drug.

“Her doctor wrote the prescription and met my husband and me at the pharmacy on the 15th day,” said McMurchie, recalling how her mother “didn’t want to wait,” she said. “Then he came back to the house, and he stayed with us until her heart stopped beating.”

But not all doctors are on board with the law. In the 15 years since Oregon legalized physician-assisted dying, only Washington and Montana have followed suit, a resistance some experts blame on the medical community.
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RHODE  ISLAND

Rhode Island Euthanasia Laws

TEXAS

Houston man charged in wife’s assisted suicide by Philip Caulfield – NY Daily News (7/3/12) – Her husband, Mark Kelly, 47, reported his wife’s death, and admitted to police that he helped her kill herself because the couple was having financial problems.

Kelly was charged with aiding suicide, a state jail felony. He was being held on $2,000 bail and could get up to two years in prison if convicted.

WISCONSIN

Bishops urge against use of Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (7/25/12) – The Roman Catholic bishops of Wisconsin recently expressed concern for “Upholding the Dignity of Human Life” in a statement warning against the use of Physician (or Provider) Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
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Wisconsin Bishops warn against POLST end of care document by Jean McCarthy – LifeSiteNews.com (7/26/12) –
In a statement issued yesterday, the Roman Catholic bishops of Wisconsin are warning against the end of life care document called Physician (or Provider) Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).  The bishops are concerned that use of this document could lead to acts of euthanasia.
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INTERNATIONAL

(News this month from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Trinidad, United Kingdom)

AUSTRALIA

Euthanasia debate heating up in Tasmania by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews 7/2/12 – The euthanasia issue is heating up in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Parliament has debated euthanasia on several occasions and over the years it has had two inquiries into the feasibility of legalizing euthanasia with both enquiries deciding against legalization.

While in Tasmania, the big issue that the people shared with me was the crisis in healthcare that was occurring on the Island.

The Tasmanian people were very concerned that the Greens and Labor leaders are pushing euthanasia again to achieve cost savings in healthcare. Whether this is true or not, it should be noted that when the pressure to cut the cost of healthcare is mixed with euthanasia, that the pressure to die will soon outweigh the will to live.
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Opposition to relentless push for euthanasia legalization in Australia by Jason Rushton, LifeSiteNews.com (7/3/12) – More than 19 bills to legalise euthanasia have been introduced into Australian parliaments since 2002.

In the current South Australian parliament, a voluntary euthanasia bill has been introduced on five separate occasions, the latest one being defeated 22-20 as recently as June 15 of this year.
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Q&A with Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and Labour MP Maryan Street (7/1/12)
Nitschke to establish euthanasia clinic in Tasmania, if euthanasia becomes legal by Alex Schadenberg, executive director Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, National Right to Life News Today (7/4/12) – Today I had the opportunity to speak to members of the Tasmanian parliament about why it is not safe to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide. In response to a question from a member of the Tasmanian parliament, I reminded them that Philip Nitschke had already promised to establish a euthanasia clinic in Tasmania, if they legalize euthanasia.
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Is it possible to have safe, legal and rare euthanasia?  by Dr. Pravin Thevathasan, National Right to Life News Today (7/4/12) – A recent press release from the British Medical Journal states: “The BMJ supports a call from leading UK medical bodies to stop opposing assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) wants the British Medical Association and royal colleges to move their position from opposition to neutrality.”
It was an extraordinary failure of judgement on the part of what is probably the world’s most prestigious medical journal.
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Spreading the anti-euthanasia message down under by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews.com 7/6/12 – There were more than 400 people who came to the Life Dinner to hear my talk in Melbourne.

Attending the Life Dinner were several political leaders including The Hon Kevin Andrews MP (Liberal) who in 1996, steered through the federal parliament the legislation that overturned the Northern Territories euthanasia legislation.

Hon. Kevin Andrews informed me that politics is not only the art of the possible, but a good plan creates possibilities and can be implemented. The Andrews bill accomplished what was first perceived to be impossible.
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CANADA

Is euthanasia legalized murder? Dutch doctors have gone from fighting death to administering it by Anne McTavish, TroyMedia.com (7/3/12) – Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) is a hard case, and it’s bad law. It’s about people with serious, debilitating, terminal illnesses who want doctors to kill them. It’s not just that they want to die, it’s that they want to die later and to have someone else do it in a way that won’t hurt.

The plaintiffs and Madam Justice Smith focused on the seriously ill people and their situation. I want to focus on the doctors and the rest of us who will be harmed if this decision becomes law.
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Let terminally ill choose: One writer’s eloquence changed my mind about assisted suicide by Naomi Lakritz in The Edmunton Journal (7/3/12) – … that’s not what this is about. We’re not talking about fomenting a Jack Kevorkianlike ghoulishness among physicians. This is not about doctors rushing in with blood lust in their eyes, ready to knock off any patient who gives them the nod – or even a patient who doesn’t. It’s not about doctors making decisions for patients; it’s about patients making decisions for themselves.
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Choosing Death: We have to talk about it in thespec.com, editorial (7/3/12) – Canada is inching closer and closer to a national discussion about assisted suicide. And it’s about time.
In its most recent edition, the Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for a Canada-wide debate. Circumstances are pushing the nation in that direction: In Quebec, the Dying with Dignity Commission (an all-party group drawn from the National Assembly) recently issued a comprehensive report suggesting, in part, that doctors who help a terminally ill patient die by suicide not be charged criminally. And a judge in the British Columbia Supreme Court in June struck down laws banning doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional, ruling on the case of a B.C. woman who has Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
…the very central question is clear: When a person is dying, when their quality of life has deteriorated to the extent that they don’t wish to continue, ought there be some avenue that is not illegal? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, since other countries including Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium have euthanasia social policy.
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Where’s our right to die? by Santiago Wills, Salon (7/3/12) – …according to Howard Ball, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont, the legalization of physician-assisted death is a gesture of human compassion. As he details in his new book, “At Liberty to Die: The Battle for Death With Dignity in America,” the issue goes to the heart of bigger questions about the American soul — from the meaning of personal liberty to the importance of constitutional law.
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Another View: Let’s talk about assisted suicide in TheRecord.com (7/4/12) – In its most recent edition, the Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for a Canada-wide debate. Circumstances are pushing the nation in that direction: In Quebec, the Dying with Dignity Commission (an all-party group drawn from the National Assembly) recently issued a comprehensive report suggesting, in part, that doctors who help a terminally ill patient die by suicide not be charged criminally. And a judge in the British Columbia Supreme Court in June struck down laws banning doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional, ruling on the case of a B.C. woman who has Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The CMAJ editorial, provocatively headlined “Are we ready to perform therapeutic homicide?” makes the point that this is not a debate for courtrooms, lawyers and judges, but rather for average Canadians and their elected proxies in Parliament.

There’s the rub. The Harper government does not want this debate.
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Now’s the time to stand against euthanasia urges Canadian bishops’ group by Patrick B. Craine, LifeSiteNews.com (7/9/12) – “It is time to stand up and speak!” insists the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).

In a new reflection, the organization, which was co-founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, is calling on Catholics and people of good will to engage the debate on end-of-life issues. The plea comes in the wake of a British Columbia judge’s ruling that legalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide and the recent Quebec government report calling for “medical assistance in dying.”
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How about the right to cry for help? court ruling asserting a person’s right to assisted suicide reflects discriminatory attitudes toward the disabled – by Amy E. Hasbrouck, chair of Not Dead Yet, an international organization of people with disabilities who oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in The Gazette (7/9/12) – The long and the short of the reasons for judgment issued by Justice Lynn Smith is that legal provisions in Canada prohibiting assisted suicide law are unconstitutional because they impede disabled people’s rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

The judge believes that having a disability or degenerative illness is a rational reason to want to die, and that those of us with disabilities should be helped to die if we can’t do it neatly or efficiently ourselves.

The B.C. Supreme Court has chosen not to listen very closely to disability-rights advocates with more than 20 years of experience battling discrimination; instead, the court relied on the stories of people who have accepted the view that disability is undignified, and that people with disabilities should be given a streamlined path to death whenever they want it and however they want it.

Justice Smith assumes that, because it’s no longer illegal, suicide is somehow an affirmative right; and if you can’t do it the way you want to do it, then you should have the right to have someone do it for you.
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Churchgoers more likely to support euthanasia: Survey sunnewsnetwork.ca (7/10/12) – A new survey has found Protestant churchgoers are more likely to support doctor-assisted suicide in controlled situations than Canadians at large.
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Assisted-suicide ruling to be appealed by Ottawa – Civil-liberties lawyer calls move ‘perplexing’ in case of terminally ill B.C. woman- CBC News (7/13/12) – The federal government will appeal last month’s ruling by the British Columbia Supreme Court that partially struck down Canada’s ban on assisted suicide, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says.
The ruling declared that the Criminal Code section targeting anyone who “aids or abets a person to commit suicide” should not apply to physicians in cases where terminally ill patients request to die.

Judge Lynn Smith halted her decision for a year to give Parliament a chance to rewrite the law, which she deemed unconstitutional because it unfairly deprives people with degenerative illnesses of their liberty, and because it discriminates against those with a physical disability who might need assistance to exercise their right to take their own life.

But she also granted an immediate exemption for Gloria Taylor, one of the women who brought the suit, and her doctor.
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Update: Government of Canada Condemns Gloria Taylor to a Slow Death by Cathryn Wellner (7/13/12) – On Friday the 13th, the Conservative government of Canada dealt Gloria Taylor a cruel blow. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced his government will appeal the ruling that would have allowed her to die with dignity.
A month earlier the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted the 64-year-old woman, who suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), the right to request the assistance of her doctor if she wished to end her life.
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Conservative Government to appeal assisted suicide ruling after B.C.Supreme Court strikes down ban – National Post (7/13/12) – The landmark ruling last month said the ban is unconstitutional and gave Ottawa a year to rewrite it. Judge Lynn Smith also granted an immediate exemption to the law, allowing Gloria Taylor, one of the women who brought the lawsuit, to die with a doctor’s help.

In a statement, Nicholson said the government intends to seek a stay on all aspects of the ruling, including the exemption for Taylor, while it goes to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
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It’s time for a national debate on assisted suicide– The Gazette (7/16/12) – Call it what you will – assisted suicide, euthanasia or therapeutic homicide – it is an issue that politicians are reluctant to engage, but one which is not going away.

Last month, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that Canada’s ban on assisted suicide is unconstitutional on grounds that it violates two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerning the right to equality, and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The ruling did not strike down the law, but rather ordered the federal government to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code that currently make it an offence to counsel or assist someone to commit suicide. It did, however, extend an exemption for a plaintiff in the case, a 64-year-old B.C. woman suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS) to die with a doctor’s assistance.
(m0re)

Who decides how we die? – Edmunton Journal (7/16/12) – Why has Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appealed the B.C. ruling that struck down the law that makes physician-assisted death illegal in Canada? By refusing to allow Gloria Taylor, who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the right to a doctor-assisted death, Nicholson is committing her to a painful death. That is not justice. It’s unnecessary cruelty.
Nicholson states the laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including the most vulnerable such as the sick, the elderly and people with disabilities. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith agreed, but after sifting through mountains of evidence concluded that in countries allowing medically assisted dying, there is no threat to these groups. Nicholson is ignoring this evidence.
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Assisted-suicide slope not so slipperyby Arthur Schafer, WinnepegFreePress.com (7/19/12) – Gloria Taylor, a British Columbia ALS patient, insists it should be up to her to decide when the prospect of continued life is worse than the prospect of hastened death. Once she reaches that point, however, she may no longer be physically able to end her own life. So, she claims, it is her right to seek assistance in dying from a willing physician.

“What I want is to be able to die in a manner that is consistent with the way that I lived my life. I want to be able to exercise control and die with dignity and with my sense of self and personal integrity intact,” she has explained. “I want to be able to experience my death as part of my life and part of my expression of that life. I do not want the manner of my death to undermine the values that I lived my life in accordance with…”

A great majority of Canadians supports Taylor’s position. Similar support existed 19 years ago for Sue Rodriguez, another ALS patient who took her case all the way to the Supreme Court. Rodriguez lost, but only very narrowly, by a five-to-four vote.

Despite strong public support for decriminalization of physician-assisted suicide, it remains illegal in Canada. Attempting suicide ceased to be a crime in 1974; but aiding someone to commit suicide remains an offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The voluntary request of the patient — even when she is a competent adult, rational and fully informed — is no defence.

In a dramatic decision, however, the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled it is Taylor’s constitutional right to decide for herself whether she wants a physician to assist her to die. The federal government is appealing this decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Canada will have to rule.
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It’s expensive to support the disabled– suicide kits are $39.95by Rhonda Wiebe (7/21/12) – Arthur Schafer’s portrayal of comments on the merits of physician-assisted suicide need challenging (Assisted-suicide slope not so slippery, July 19). Schafer, like many supporters of physician-assisted suicide (also known as “doctor-prescribed death”), does not seem to have considered the wider issues facing Canadians with disabilities, including the ongoing social prejudice and discouraging lack of living supports that we encounter on a daily basis.

The recent decision in the British Columbia Supreme Court regarding the constitutional right of Gloria Taylor, an ALS patient, to end her own life rather than live with disability only confirms what we with disabilities already know — that many Canadians believe it is better to be dead than disabled. What also became clear in the decision is that the judge believes it is better to be dead than disabled. The judgment was pronounced without considering the message it sends to all of us who believe that despite profound functional limitations, we want to live.
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Our right to die – cottagecountrynow.ca (7/20/12) – Last week the Canadian government announced plans to appeal a British Columbia court decision allowing doctor assisted suicide.
Last month, the British Columbia Supreme Court struck down a ban on doctor assisted suicide, but granted a one-year stay to give Parliament time to rewrite the law. There was an exception to the stay, though, that allowed applicant Gloria Taylor, who has ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, to end her life when she sees fit with the help of a doctor.
The government’s decision to appeal the ruling is questionable.
Anyone at death’s door should have a right to die when and how they see fit. According to Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights : “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
Not everyone agrees with interpretations of the section that it includes allowing a terminally ill person to die with medical help, but it’s a worthwhile interpretation.
A person of sound mind, who is suffering from an ever-worsening debilitating condition should have the option of choosing a humane death, not constant pain with no quality of life. That’s not living.
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Medical Nightmare: Doctors won’t let wife act on behalf of ailing husband by Peter Baklinski  – LifeSiteNews.com (7/20/12) – An Ontario woman is crying foul after a team of doctors effectively denied the woman her legal right to act on behalf of her husband who was hospitalized after a stroke. The woman is fighting to regain control of her husband’s medical treatment.

Marilyn met with her husband’s team of doctors who not only refused to change his drug regimen, but threatened that if she did not comply with the drug plan, she would loose her legal power of attorney over her husband.

“Not only did the meds not get changed, but I was threatened over and over,” she said.

One doctor allegedly told Marilyn: “One of us has to go, and it’s going to be you.”

“I was just telling them the truth as I knew it, hoping that they would change the meds, but it didn’t happen that way,” she said. “They have never honored my legal power of attorney.”

She alleges that doctors were responsible for bringing her before the Consent and Capacity Board so that she could be deemed “incapacitated” to represent her husband.

“They’ve put him on palliative care against the wishes of the family,” she said, adding that he is not receiving adequate hydration.

Not only this, but Marilyn says that she was barred from visiting her husband in December, but has since regained permission to visit under supervision.

“Putting this in perspective, if doctors are already imposing decision on patients as ‘medical treatment,’ how long does it take before they start imposing euthanasia and assisted suicide on patients as a form of ‘medical treatment’?” Alex Schadenberg, director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition asked.

Schadenberg pointed out that many doctors would not proscribe such treatment, but added that “there will always be some who will abuse the power that they have been given to take lives.”
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Ask the religion experts: Does the renewed debate on doctor assisted suicide say anything about the sanctity of life in modern times? – The Ottawa Citizen (7/21/12) – Cases in which there may or may not be doctor-assisted suicide are anything but abstract. This means discussions about this matter need to be undertaken within the wider context of the Canadian health-care system. For that matter, it cannot be addressed through law or medicine alone. We need broad reflection on the experience of death and dying.
Requests for doctor-assisted suicide appear to be signs of the failure of human community. It is difficult, if not impossible, to regard life as sacred if we have no assurance that we will be supported in all circumstances. We need to be certain that we will not be forced to endure dehumanizing medical procedures. We need confidence that we will not be abandoned in our suffering. With all the financial strains that our health-care system is facing, terminally ill people need to know that assisted suicide is not being promoted because it is actually cheaper than good palliative care.
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Dying in Court by Peter Singer – Aljazeera.com (7/21/12) – A Canadian’s fight for the right to die could provide an international precedent in the case for assisted suicide.
(more)

Appeal is cruel by John Warren – Calgary Herald (7/21/12) – By refusing to allow Gloria Taylor, who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the right to a doctor-assisted death, he is committing her to a painful death.
That is not justice. It’s unnecessary cruelty.
(more)

Medically assisted suicide: Compassionate or criminal?– The Vancouver Sun (7/23/12) – Striking down laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia puts lives at risk and is likely to lead to the untimely deaths of vulnerable people whether they choose it or not.

Those who insist it should be legal out of respect for personal autonomy, so individuals have the free choice, don’t realize that legalizing it may have the opposite effect.
(more)

Depression, not pain, main reason patients request euthanasia by Anne McTavish – Troy Media (7/24/12) – Yet again, our courts have been asked to change the law and allow doctors to actively end a person’s life (euthanasia) or to provide a patient with the drugs to kill themself (physician-assisted suicide, or PAS).
(more)

BMA doctors argue assisted suicide is ‘never justified’ as they vote against euthanasiaby Claire Bates, Anglican Mainstream (7/28/12) – Doctors have reiterated their opposition to assisted dying at the British Medical Association’s conference today.

Campaigners wanted delegates to agree to take a neutral stance on the issue, but members of the BMA voted against this proposal. One delegate argued that killing patients was ‘never justified’ likening it to murder.

The Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) had called for the BMA to move its position from opposition to ‘studied’ neutrality.
(more)

CHINA

10-year old American boy receives euthanasia – news.xinhuanet.com (7/23/12) – photo journey of the family with a 10-year old American boy diagnosed with neuroblastoma who goes through two years of treatments then chooses euthanasia to make his transition

FRANCE

President launches euthanasia debate – The Connexion (7/18/12) – PRESIDENT Hollande has reignited debate on euthanasia, saying he wants to “go further” than the existing “Leonetti Law” on the end of life, which rules it out. Visiting a hospice in the Hauts-de-Seine, the president said he wants to put in place a reform of care for the terminally ill in the “coming months,” possibly allowing for a form of assisted dying.
He has charged the president of a national medical ethics committee, Prof Didier Sicard, with running consultations around the country to feed into reforms.
However euthanasia pressure group the Association Pour le Droit de Mourir dans la Dignité, says the professor has a Catholic bias to his views.
(more)

GERMANY

Assisted Suicide: Germany loses Strasbourg case – BBC News Europe (7/19/12) – After suffering a bad fall in 2002 Mr Koch’s wife needed artificial ventilation and constant nursing care. She wanted to end her life, but Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices refused to let her do so with sodium pentobarbital.
Mr Koch’s challenges on her behalf got nowhere in Germany as the courts cited the existing ban on active assisted suicide.
The Dignitas facility in Switzerland later enabled Mrs Koch to die.

European court rules on euthanasia debate – Deutsche Welle (7/19/12) – The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision Thursday on whether states may refuse to assist in a suicide. Germany’s laws on assisted suicide draw a fine line between what’s permitted, and what’s not. Questions remain.
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Strasbourg hits euthanasia ball back into German courts – Deutsche Welle (7/19/12) – The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it’s up to individual countries to decide on euthanasia. It also decided, however, that the German courts should not have thrown out a widower’s appeals.
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INDIA

Government not in favor of euthanasia– The Times of India (7/28/12) – The minister said the law of the land prohibited active euthanasia and the Supreme Court had laid out guidelines for passive euthanasia. “In this situation, there’s no need for us to recommend anything. We feel our effort should be to help a person live, whatever be the situation. It’s about compassion and service.”

However, members were divided over the issue. Referring to the case of HD Karibasamma, a teacher in Davanagere who is seeking euthanasia due to health problems, Shivayogi Swamy said: “It’s torture for the patient and family members. It’s like death every minute. Moreover, such cases have financial implications. Several countries have legalized euthanasia. We should pass a resolution and send it to the Centre.”
(more)

THE NETHERLANDS

Thousands in Netherlands die without consent since euthanasia OK by Steven Ertelt, lifenews.com  (7/4/12) – Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has a message for Canadians: contact federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson now, and urge him to appeal the recent decision by Justice Lynn Smith in British Columbia striking down Canada’s laws on assisted suicide. (video)

Legalising assisted dying ‘doesn’t lead to more opting death’by Stephen Adams, The Telegraph (7/11/12) –

The study, published in The Lancet, found rates before and after legalisation in 2002 were comparable.

The figures have been leapt upon by advocates of a change in the law here, who say they show there would be no “slippery slope” towards more people choosing assisted dying.

But opponents warn it shows there has been a big rise in the use of methods that border on assisted dying, such as continuous deep sedation.

In 2002 The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise assisted dying, although it had been tolerated since the 1970s. The rules only cover patients with an incurable condition who face unbearable suffering.

The Dutch academics found that between 1990 and 2001 the rate of euthanasia and assisted suicide cases rose from 1.9 to 2.8 per cent of all deaths.
(more)

Dutch euthanasia figures present muddled picture by Michael Cook, BioEdge (7/14/12) – It is true that there is a “V” shaped curve in the number of cases of voluntary euthanasia. In 2001, before legalisation, about 2.6% of all deaths were due to voluntary euthanasia. In 2005, this dropped to 1.7%, and rose in 2010 back up to 2.8%.
But what accounts for the drop? It was not lack of interest. The proportion of patients requesting euthanasia rose from 4.8% of all patient deaths in 2005 to 6.7% in 2010. And doctors were also more willing to grant it. In 2005, 37% of these requests were granted and in 2010 45%.
(more)

Doubts emerge about Dutch guidelines for terminal sedation by Michael Cook (7/20/12) – Should deep, continuous sedation at the end of life really be treated as normal medical practice in the Netherlands, ask three Dutch authors in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Although they do not appear to oppose euthanasia, they argue that “morally problematic aspects inherent to palliative sedation do not get the attention they deserve” under current guidelines. Since palliative sedation accounted for more than 12% of deaths in the Netherlands in 2010, this is an important issue.

Although euthanasia – which ends a patient’s life immediately – is the most visible and controversial aspect of end-of-life care for international observers, the innocuous-sounding treatment called “palliative sedation” (also called “terminal sedation” by some authors) also has been the centre of controversy in the Netherlands. In 2003, the then-attorney-general argued that the death of a deeply sedated patient because water was withheld was culpable homicide. However, his view did not prevail.
(more)

The Lancet proves euthanasia deaths are rising in The Netherlands by Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (7/17/12) – The long awaited 2010 nationwide examination of the euthanasia law in the Netherlands was published in The Lancet on July 11, 2012. The study found that:

* the number of euthanasia deaths has grown significantly since 2005 (4050 in 2010, 2425 in 2005)

* the under-reporting of euthanasia in the Netherlands has grown since 2005 (23% in 2010, 20% in 2005)

* there is a growth in deaths by terminal sedation (12.3% in 2010, 8.2% in 2005)

* the percentage of requests for euthanasia being fulfilled has increased (45% in 2010, 37% in 2005)

* the number of deaths without request or consent has decreased (300 in 2010, 550 in 2005)

The media decided to ignore the significant growth in the number of euthanasia deaths since 2005, by reporting that the current percentage of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands is similar to the percentage of euthanasia deaths in 2001, before it was officially legalized.

NEW ZEALAND

Panel discusses the euthanasia debate in New Zealand – TVNZ (7/1/12) -interview with Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Massey University Vice-Chancellor, Political Scientist and a cancer patient

Will assisted death be made legal by Noel Cheer, BusinessScoop (7/9/12) – Will Assisted Death be made legal? With Maryan Street’s Private Member’s Bill waiting to be balloted, the “voluntary euthanasia” debate has effectively been re-opened. The insistence that “I own my body” has lead to the claim that …Will Assisted Death be made legal?

With Maryan Street’s Private Member’s Bill waiting to be balloted, the “voluntary euthanasia” debate has effectively been re-opened.
(more)

Euthanasia may again test our politiciansby Katie Bradford-Crozier – newstalkzb.co.nz (7/24/12) – The controversial topic of euthanasia could once again be about to test our politicians.

Labour’s Maryan Street is submitting a Bill to the Members’ ballot that would see euthanasia decriminalised.

There’d be strict conditions, such as two separate medical practitioners having to deem the person concerned is of sound mind, has a terminal illness and hasn’t been coerced in any way.

Ms Street is hoping recent high profile cases will make MPs realise the time is right to take another look at the issue.
(more)

Euthanasis law would ‘force doctors to lie’by Natasha Burling – newstalkzb.co.nz (7/27/12) –

A doctor who cares for dying people says the introduction of a law legalising euthanasia would force doctors to lie.

A Bill decriminalising the practice has been put in the member’s ballot by Labour MP Maryan Street.

Capital and Coast palliative medicine consultant Dr Sinead Donnelly says if it was passed, it would be a disaster for society.

She says under the Bill, doctors would have to say the person’s underlying illness was the cause of death, not the lethal injection.

“And in this legislation they want the doctor to lie, to tell a lie, in addition to killing the patient, or to giving the patient, the person, the injection that killed them.”

Dr Donnelly says the legislation is incredibly poor and is shocked by it.
(more)

Man pleads guilty to assisting suicide by Anna Cross newstalkzb.co.nz (5/4/12) – Lesley Martin helped her ill mother die and says people are determined to have a peaceful and dignified death, so they take matters into their own hands.
She says it happens far more than what’s reported.”There is a well established euthanasia underground accessed in any country where legislation isn’t in place for people to access medically assisted dying openly and honestly.”

Euthanasia backers cite fear of burdening others by Bronwyn Torrie (7/27/12) – Healthy pro-euthanasia pensioners would rather cut their lives short than be a financial drain on society, a study shows.
Auckland University researchers interviewed 11 healthy men and women aged between 69 and 89 on why they supported voluntary euthanasia.

Reasons included not wanting to be a burden on their families and healthcare resources and fears of losing their independence and dignity.

“If you couldn’t do your basic care, couldn’t wash yourself or go to the loo by yourself, I don’t want to go on after that,” an 86-year-old woman said.

“And I don’t expect [my husband] wants me to go on like that either, or my family.”

Being remembered in “a good way”, not as a shadow of their former selves, was also important. Many had watched a loved one die and did not want to be in a position where they could not make decisions for themselves.
(more)

SOUTH AFRICA

Death is inevitable, pain is optional by Thalia Randall – Mail&Guardian (7/6/12) – Some believe that proper palliative care goes a long way towards countering arguments for euthanasia.
(more)

South Africa Doctors ‘Secretly Help People Die’– News24.com (7/12/12) – South Africa should legalise euthanasia as many doctors are already secretly helping elderly patients to die, Western Cape University Prof Sean Davison said on Thursday.

“Many doctors have said to me privately that they’ve helped people to die… at their request. It’s the choice of the doctor [though]… and they have to do it behind the scenes illegally,” he said.

With no choice whether to die or not, critically ill patients had to rely on the graciousness of their doctor.

“If you don’t have a law change, you might be playing Lotto with your doctor.”
(more)

SWITZERLAND

Canton votes for assisted suicide– thetablet.com (6/29/12) – Churches in the Swiss canton of Vaud have condemned a move that will permit assisted suicide in nursing homes and hospitals in the canton.

On 17 June, almost two-thirds of voters (62 per cent) in the canton voted in a legally binding referendum in favour of a proposal that would oblige nursing homes and hospitals to allow assisted suicide, provided the person who wishes it is suffering from an incurable illness or injury and is of sound mind.

Local Bishop Charles Morerod of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, said the consequences of the decision were “terrible”.

Finding a place for assisted suicide in society by Clare O’Dea, swissinfo.ch (7/9/12) – The two main Swiss assisted suicide organisations – Exit and Dignitas – made it possible for 560 people to end their lives in 2011. This equates to one in three of all suicides in Switzerland.

While the right to die is consistently backed by a majority of the electorate, there are details within the practice of assisted suicide that split opinion, such as the vote in canton Vaud last month over exercising the right to die in a residential care home.

Voters in the French-speaking canton accepted the local government’s proposal to oblige nursing homes and hospitals to accept the practice only when the person in question is suffering from an incurable illness or injury.
(more)

Swiss voters OK assisted suicide in nursing home by Charlie Butts, onenewsnow.com (7/9/12) – The majority vote in the canton of Vaud was 62 percent in favor of bringing assisted suicide into the nursing homes. Rita Marker of the Patients Rights Council tells OneNewsNow the vote forces hospitals and nursing homes to accept assisted suicide.
(more)

Legalization of Euthanasia has not altered prevalence – PriMed Journal (7/11/12) – “In conclusion, eight years after the enactment of the Dutch euthanasia law, the incidence of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is comparable with that in the period before the law,” the authors write.

TRINIDAD

Death with Dignity by Leonard Bernstein, Trinidad Express Newspapers  (7/30/12) – The “playing God” argument is a non-starter. For those who do not believe in a personal, vengeful God, it is meaningless. For those who do (as noted by Peter Singer), “God” allows them to make choices about these matters as about all others in their lives. Religious authorities not only feel that they have the right to set what they consider the moral and ethical parameters, but that their view should prevail for all members of society no matter the individual circumstances of, say, someone’s possibly painful imminent death. However, many others take issue with their edicts and want the autonomy to decide for themselves.
(more)

UNITED KINGDOM

BMA continues to oppose legalizing assisted dying – bma.org (6/27/12) – Doctors and medical students decided to maintain their opposition to legalising assisted dying.
The meeting decided not to move to a position of neutrality and also rejected a call to say that assisted dying was a matter for society and not for the medical profession.
Retired Manchester consultant in geriatric medicine Raymond Tallis spoke in favour of changing the BMA stance.
He emphasised that ‘neutrality did not imply indifference’ and ‘the medical profession must retain a central role in ensuring and defining safeguards’.
Professor Tallis said guidelines made it clear that doctors and nurses who helped with assisted dying will currently be prosecuted.
‘Assistance is therefore delegated to amateurs, who have to take on a dreadful responsibility at a time when they are already greatly distressed and may well be incompetent to carry it out,’ he said.
(more)

Assisted death or assisted living by Jill Shaw Ruddock – huffingtonpost – (7/3/12) – This week in the UK there is a renewed push by MPs to review the current guidelines regarding assisted suicide on compassionate grounds. Lord Falconer, who heads up The Commission on Assisted Dying reported that the current legal status is inadequate and incoherent. Understandably there are concerns that the elderly could be vulnerable to those who don’t have their best interests at heart.
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Promoting caring, not killing by Ruth Bessant, Christian Today (7/2/12) – We are currently seeing a great deal of pressure applied by those wanting to change the law on assisted suicide with increasing discussion about whether care of the dying should include the option for a person to choose to end their own life with medical assistance, so-called physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
(more)

Patients dying in hospital in pain and lacking dignity: survey by Rebecca Smitg, Medical Editor, The Telegraph (7/3/12) – The survey, by the Office of National Statistics, found that half of families said hospital nurses did not always treat their dying family member with respect.
Almost a third said the quality of care in hospital was fair or poor and only 35 per cent of families rated pain relief in hospital in the final two days as excellent.
Hospital care was rated worse than that received by patients dying at home, in a care home or in a hospice on almost all of the 59 questions.
It is the first time such a survey has been conducted and responses were received from more than 22,000 families.
(more)

Solutions for our care crisis – Letters to guardian.co.uk (7/2/12)
Report on rally and mass lobby of Parliament to resist euthanasia – Christian Concern 7/4/12 – On 3 June, campaign group Care Not Killing, of which Christian Concern is a member, held a rally and mass lobby of Parliament in order to promote better palliative care and oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Their speeches contained a range of arguments against weakening the current laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Delegates later went to Parliament to talk to their MPs about the issues and highlight their opposition to any relaxation of the current laws.
(more)

The legalization of assisted suicide– don’t be fooled, it is primarily about money by Dr. Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship – National Right to Life News Today (7/4/12) –

Today, according to the Sunday Times, Lord Falconer will publish his new bill on assisted suicide.

In line with the recommendations of his sham ‘Commission on Assisted Dying’ he will push for doctors being given the power to help mentally competent adults with less than one year to live to kill themselves.

There has been surprisingly little media coverage about this event, but Dignity in Dying (the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society) are planning a mass lobby on Parliament tomorrow to launch an ‘enquiry’ into this new bill which they hope will be debated in the New Year.

Over the last six years there have been three failed attempts to legalise assisted suicide in Britain since 2006 all of which have failed due to concerns about public safety.

Right-to-Die groups in England increase lobbying efforts – by Myles Collier, Christian Post (7/5/12) – There is considerable attention being brought to assisted suicide and euthanasia in England recently. Several groups in favor of changing laws concerned with such acts have increased their lobbying of members of the British Parliament.

Dr. Peters Saunders, regarded as the leading advocate of right-to-life supporters, has cautioned that there will be an increase in the level of activity by those individuals and organizations that are pushing for new laws for those who wish to end their lives.

“Their glossy propaganda inserts are spilling out of commercial publications; they are spending hundreds of thousands; and clearly believe this is their year,” Saunders told the Christian Institute.
(more)

Draft Assisted Dying Bill is an important step towards a compassionate law on assisted dying– British Humanist Assoc. (7/4/12) – The All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life has launched a consultation on a draft Bill that would enable mentally competent adults with a terminal condition to seek medical assistance to end their life. The consultation has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association (BHA) as an ‘important step towards an ethical and compassionate law on assisted dying that protects the vulnerable’.

The draft Bill largely draws upon the recommendations of the independent Commission on Assisted Dying, which examined the problematic approach to the issue of assisted dying in the UK. At present, assisting another individual to die remains illegal, however the Director of Public Prosecution’s revised prosecuting guidelines recommend that amateur assistance for compassionate reasons should not be prosecuted, and large numbers seek assistance abroad. As a result, assistance continues to occur, but outside of a legal framework of safeguards that protect the vulnerable.
(more)

Support of doctor-assisted suicide by Bonnie Gardiner – YouGov.co.uk – (7/5/12) – 69% Britons say law should allow doctors to assist terminally ill to die; 46% if illness not terminal

Over two thirds of the British public have expressed support for the laws on assisted suicide to be changed so that it would be legal for doctors to assist in ending the life of someone suffering a terminal illness, our poll shows.

Support is not as strong for the aided death of patients whose illness is painful and incurable but not terminal, with around half in favour and one third opposed.
(more)

Why legalizing assisted suicide for anyone at all will inevitably lead to incremental extension by Peter Saunders – LifeSiteNews.com (7/6/12) – Pro-euthanasia activists always make a great play of how their proposals to help people kill themselves are extremely modest and are bound by ‘robust safeguards’.

Dignity in Dying, the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society, is a world leader in this art and their new draft bill, championed by Lord Falconer, is a classic example.

It’s only for the mentally competent, only for the terminally ill, only for adults they say.

There will be no killing of children, disabled people or demented people. It’s all going to be strictly controlled.

In fact it is only the beginning for two main reasons.
(more)

Euthanasia could be better than costly social care – pensioner – thisisgloucertershire.co.uk (7/10/12) – “The big question is: Who is going to pay for it?

“I often think that pensioners want to live in dignity and die in it too, and to that end one has to think about euthanasia.

“A lot of the success of this will rest on how much the social care will cost everybody, because a lot of people think the Government has limitless amounts of money, but it does not.”

In an announcement tomorrow, the Government is due to announce a new policy of national eligibility for free social care by 2015.
(more)

Former nurse urges Golders Green MP to back assisted suicide bill by Syma Mohammed, Ham&High (7/13/12) – A former nurse who was awarded an OBE for services to palliative care, is supporting a bill to allow terminally ill patients to have an assisted death.

Harriet Copperman, 67, of Diploma Avenue, East Finchley, lobbied her MP Mike Freer on Wednesday of last week after a draft bill was launched the day before.

Until this year, she was on the steering group of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), an action group which supports the bill.

Ms Copperman said: “I spent all my time in care not being in favour of assisted dying.

“While palliative care can help a small population of people, I have come to appreciate assisted dying can be a part of palliative care.”
(more)

Legalising mercy killing could pressure the elderly into dying early, claims the writer PD James by Richard Alleyne – thetelegraph.co.uk (7/15/12) – James, who admits she herself fears a painful and undignified death, said that while a person should be allowed to choose to commit suicide if their life was “intolerable”, she was “less assured” by the idea of allowing others to do it for them.
She said that murder has to remain a “unique crime” and it would be dangerous to water it down by allowing euthanasia.
(more)

Breast Cancer Discussion Boards: A place to talk about death and dying issues

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