Assisted-Death Debate – October 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 October 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.


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)

Health Talk Online (UK)

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.


Death with Dignity National Center – Living with Dying – This Week in the Movement
October 5
October 12
October 19
October 26

Poll: What do you think of assisted suicide?

Conservative Christians are implacable opponents of assisted dying– Choice in Dying: Arguing for the right to die and against the religious obstruction of that right

Significant stress after witnessing assisted suicide – BioEdge (10/5/12)

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Why Medical Ethics Must Sometimes Trump the Patient’s Choice by Ronald Pies, MD, (October 2012)

Three MDs weigh in on assisted suicide – Not Dead Yet (10/6/12)

Margaret Morganroth Gullette on the vote for physician-assisted dying – The Chicago Blog by Kristie McQuire (10/22/12)

Hard decisions in the ICU – New Old Age by Paula Span (10/24/12)

Death with Dignity in Massachusetts by Lauren Mackler, Huffington Post Blog (10/23/12)

How we die– the most important issue we never talk about – Conservative Home (10/24/12)


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… someday)

Death and Dignity: Making Choices and Taking Charge by Tim Quill – Just having this option is valuable for the sense of peace it provides to suffering patients

No One Has to Die Alone: Preparing for a Meaningful Death by Lani Leary – Practical skills, vocabulary, and insights needed to truly address the needs of a dying loved one while caring for yourself through the process

Voicing My Choices by Lori Wiener, PhD – New guide helps seriously ill teens and young adults talk about their needs

After We Said Goodbye by Sean Davison – his arrest, trial and sentencing and the dramatic events that followed after taking the most fateful decision of his life


Death on Demand – OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook discussing Massachusetts’ Death with Dignity law with Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, Edward Lowenstein, professor of anesthesia and professor of medical ethics, and Michael Grodin, director of the Medical Ethics and Human Rights Programs

When prolonging death seems worse that death – NPR Fresh Aire – Compassion & Choices is an organization that helps terminally ill patients and their families make informed and thoughtful end-of-life decisions to hasten a patient’s death. These decisions are not made impulsively, Schwarz tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “Nobody makes this choice unless the burdens of living have so consistently, day after day, outweighed all benefit.”

On Doctor-Assisted Suicide, Stances Rooted in Experiences – WBUR, Boston’s NPR – All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer speaks with Dr. Marcia Angell and John Kelly about their very personal reasons for their stances.

About 57 per cent of people either strongly or somewhat agree that it should be a right, according to the University of Saskatchewan’s Taking the Pulse survey. (more)

Doctor-assisted suicide should be allowed, pollsters told – – A majority of Saskatchewan people believe people with terminal illnesses should be able to legally access doctor-assisted suicide, a new poll says.


Euthanasia: from ethical debate to clinical reality by Thierry Berghmans and Dominique Lossignol, European Respiratory Journal (Octobr 2012) – While it may only be the third-leading neoplasm worldwide, lung cancer is the first cause of death by cancer in males and one of the first in females in industrialised countries. Overall, cure rate is only 10–15% and the majority of patients, most of whom are diagnosed at an advanced stage and will ultimately die from lung cancer progression or related complications. During the last few decades, palliative care has become a central element of the therapeutic approach to terminally ill cancer patients. Palliative care aims to improve quality of life and control symptoms but has no role in hastening death, although palliative care specialists can be involved in the end-of-life decision process when euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide are considered.

Attitudes Toward Assisted Suicide and Life-Prolonging Measures in Swiss ALS Patients and their Caregivers – Frontiers in Psychology for Clinical Settings (October) – Conclusion: A liberal legal setting does not necessarily promote the wish for AS. However, the desire to discuss AS is prevalent in ALS patients. There is a higher level of suffering and loneliness on the caregivers’ side.

Physician-assisted dying by Sandy Buchman, MD, Canadian Family Physician (October) – The trend to PAD (which encompasses physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia) is occurring worldwide. In 2007, 76% of Canadians agreed that people with incurable disease have the right to die, and in 2010, 67% supported the legalization of euthanasia.The Collège des médecins du Québec, the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel, and the Quebec National Assembly have all proposed legislative reforms that would permit PAD. Other health care organizations have published papers examining the issue. It is now time for the CFPC to bring the specific perspective of Canada’s FPs to the table.

Redefining Physician’s Role in Assisted Dying by Julian Prokopetz, BA and Lia Lehmann, MD, PhD in New England Journal of Medicine (July) – We believe there is a compelling case for legalizing assisted dying, but assisted dying need not be physician-assisted.

Under the DWDA, the patient’s physician prescribes lethal medication after confirming the prognosis and elucidating the alternatives for treatment and palliative care. In theory, however, the prescription need not come from the physician. Prognosis and treatment options are part of standard clinical discussions, so if a physician certifies that information in writing, patients could conceivably go to an independent authority to obtain the prescription.


Assisted suicide: Over my dead body – The Economist (10/20/12) – Helping the terminally ill to die, once taboo, is gaining acceptance

Physician-Assisted Suicide is not Progressive by Ira Byock, director of palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in The Atlantic (10/25/12)


Compassion in Dying Seminar: Shared decision making at end of life (UK-September 20) – from both the patient and healthcare professional perspective. Findings from research which examined choice and control with a terminal illness, how patients make decisions and the role of healthcare professionals in this process were presented. Alongside this an example of how end-of-life care preferences are recorded electronically to ensure that healthcare professionals can access them was discussed. (audio recordings are available) (more)



(News this month from California, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin)


Michael Winner researching assisted suicide by (10/4/12) – 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… (more)

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Radical hate group joins opponents of Death with Dignity by Peg Sandeen, Death with Dignity National Center (10/18/12) – Opponents of Death with Dignity in Massachusetts used this hate money to launch and seed their campaign, providing them with critical resources to build the infrastructure of a political campaign. After they were caught publicly with the money, they sent back a portion of it, but not all of it. And, the unanswered question is “why are these groups involved in the Death with Dignity issue at all?” (more)


What’s airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today? “Combating Euthanasia,” Part 2 by Carol Tobias, NRLC President & Pro-Life Perspective Host, National Right to Life News Today (10/19/12) – The trends in medical practice, in the courts, and in the legislatures, have been all too clear.  The assumptions of 30 years ago, that the presumption in all medical cases is for life, has been virtually reversed. Advocates of euthanasia began in the 1970s by building on an almost universally accepted premised that, in the absence of truly exceptional circumstances, a competent adult may accept or reject any medical treatment.  Rooted in the doctrine of informed consent and long accepted by common law, this principle became the starting point for their efforts. (more)


Euthanasia was the right decision for my wife by Mars Kramer, Washington Post (10/22/12) – But we live in the Netherlands, and here is where our story becomes a little different. When people become as ill as my wife, with no prospect of cure and only pain and exhaustion in the offing, it is quite legal to end one’s life by voluntary euthanasia.

We set the date for Tuesday at 3 p.m. Our children assembled in the sitting room and I was in the bedroom, with the doctor and a nurse. Mathilde had had a bad night, distraught and unable to sleep, and the doctor had come to give her morphine.

But now she was awake and fully conscious of her condition. To the nurse she said, “I am ready” and to me, “I am not afraid.” I sat on one side of the bed and took her hand, and the doctor, at the other side, gave her the first injection.

She immediately fell asleep, snoring loudly. The doctor gave her a second injection, and the snoring stopped. She had died. It was all over in a couple of minutes. (more)

Responses to article

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New Aid-in-Dying Service Getting Inquiries by Chad Blair, Honolulu Civil Beat (10/5/12) – The group said the new Hawaii data is consistent with data from Oregon, where “one in six terminally ill Oregonians talks with their family about aid in dying. One in 50 talks with their doctor. In the end, one in 500 ingests life-ending medication.” (more)

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Allowing ‘medical aid in dying’ means euthanasia for Quebec by Deborah Gyapong, U.S. Catholic (10/16/12) – Parti Quebecois junior social services minister Veronique Hivon said she hoped to introduce legislation soon to help people who face unbearable end-of-life suffering.

Though euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under the jurisdiction of Canada’s Criminal Code, Hivon said health is a provincial matter. The province could also direct crown prosecutors not to prosecute cases of assisted death that fall under the guidelines for “medical aid in dying,” she said.

But Linda Couture, director of the Quebec grassroots group Living with Dignity, said using health care and directing prosecutors in this manner bring “euthanasia through the back door.”

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Legalize Euthanasia by Ian Timberlake, Iowa State Daily (10/18/12) – It seems like another needless form of government control on its citizens, arguably unconstitutional as early as the Preamble. This is a freedom I wish to have, and should the conditions arise (knock on wood), I will be one of the many seniors who illegally commits suicide because their state won’t entitle them to a dignified death. Euthanasia will never become obligatory, and it is absolutely not a method to “snuff out” the country’s disabled and elderly as Iowa’s Right to Life organization claims. (more)

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Physician-assisted suicide up for vote in Mass.– WIBW (10/28/12) – A September Suffolk University/7 NEWS poll found 64 percent of likely Massachusetts voters support the initiative.

The initiative stems from a ballot petition filed by Boston-based Dignity 2012 and a terminally ill Stoughton, Mass. man’s 2009 attempt to get a similar bill passed in the state legislature. Lawmakers didn’t take action, and Al Lipkind died of stomach cancer that year, according to CBS Boston.

Supporters, primarily patients’ rights groups, say the bill has effective safeguards, including prohibiting doctors from prescribing the drugs to depressed patients.

Religious, medical and disability rights groups are fighting the measure, saying it’s open to manipulation and relies on diagnoses that may be wrong. They’ve raised more than $1.6 million so far, compared with nearly $500,000 for supporters, mostly patients’ rights and AIDS groups, according to CBS Boston. (more)

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A Method for Dying with Dignity by Dr. Marcia Angell,  former editor-in-chief of New England Journal of Medicine, senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School, – Opinion (9/29/12) – Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Medical Society officially opposes the Act because it believes it is “inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer,” in the words of its past president. But this isn’t about physicians or their self-image; it’s about patients — specifically patients for whom healing is no longer possible. They, not physicians, are the ones to say when their suffering is no longer bearable, and individual physicians (many of whom disagree with the position of the medical society) should be able to honor their wishes. Why should anyone — the state, the medical profession or anyone else — presume to tell someone how much suffering they must endure as their life is ending? We respect people’s right to self-determination when they’re healthy. That shouldn’t be denied to them when they’re dying. (more)


Physician-Assisted Suicide Town Forum – (10/3/12) – Hosted by Cardinal Sean O’Malley


Residents divided over ‘Death with Dignity’ ballot question– Wicked Local Marblehead (10/4/12) – Former Marblehead resident Dr. Tim Quill said just having this option is valuable for the sense of peace it provides to suffering patients.

“There are two groups of patients for whom this is really important,” said Quill. “The bigger group of people who are quite sick may worry about what might happen if their pain gets really bad and want to have a choice if their suffering gets out of hand. For most of those people, palliative care is pretty affective at relieving suffering, and it works most of the time. So those people don’t need this option. But there will be a small amount of cases where this doesn’t work sufficiently, and suffering is more extreme.”

Having this option is also important, according to Quill, in that it brings these conversations out into the open between loved ones and doctors. Otherwise, the patient may take matters into his own hands. (more)

Massachusetts weighs ballot measure allowing doctor-assisted suicides– Fox News (10/5/12) – In 2010, a Boston doctor diagnosed Heather Clish’s father with brain cancer, giving him only six months to live. Lee Johnson didn’t want to suffer and decided to end his life.”It was very important to him to die with grace amid all the indignities that he was enduring,” Heather said, as she walked along the Boston Common. “It was important to him to control that process of dying.”However, the state of Massachusetts does not give the dying that much control — barring all forms of doctor-assisted suicide.

Clish explained that her father was forced to travel back to his home in Oregon where euthanasia is legal.

“It was a decision I respected,” she said. (more)

Say no to doc-aided suicide by Henry C. Luthin, Boston Herald (10/6/12) – The Catholic Lawyers’ Guild, which annually sponsors the Red Mass to invoke God’s blessing on the legal profession and the courts at the start of the judicial year, this year also joins with many in the medical and disabilities communities in the fight against ballot Question 2, which would add physician-assisted suicide to the statutes of the commonwealth.The act purports to give terminally ill adults, who have been determined to have less than six months to live and who are residents of the commonwealth, the right to request a lethal prescription for medication to end their life in what proponents call “a humane and dignified manner.” What on the surface appears to be a good and compassionate law to help end suffering in fact is poorly written, confusing, and a flawed ballot initiative.No one disputes the need to alleviate the suffering of those who are terminally ill, and hospice and palliative care programs have alleviated pain and suffering. (more)

Vote for Death with Dignity by Harvey Silvergate and Juliana Devries, (10/6/12) – In his 1869 masterpiece “On Liberty,” John Stuart Mill called this “self-regarding” conduct and wrote that citizens should have “perfect freedom, legal and social” to do as they wish with themselves “and stand the consequences.” Only when individual choices significantly and negatively affect others, such as producing second-hand smoke in enclosed areas or driving drunk, do we normally turn to prohibition. (more)


Ballot question sparks debate about assisted suicide by Laura Krantz, MetroWest Daily News (10/7/12) – Should dying people be allowed to kill themselves?

Question 2 on next month’s ballot is simple, but perhaps not easy to answer.

Voters next month will decide whether Massachusetts physicians should be allowed to prescribe medication that will end the life of a terminally ill patient. (more)

Ballot question sparks debate about assisted suicide by Laura Krantz, MetroWest Daily News (10/7/12) – Reading resident Heather Clish has a unique connection to the Oregon law. Her father, an Oregon resident, was visiting her in Massachusetts when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She watched his health plummet as the cancer ravaged both sides of his brain, becoming inoperable. He began receiving palliative care, Clish said, but couldn’t bear to lose the fierce independence he had cultivated since childhood. “It was this line, a personal line that he had crossed in how he wanted to live the last, be able to live, the last days of his life,” Clish said. She picked up the prescription for her father at the pharmacy and he took it a month later, surrounded by his three daughters and holding his wife in his arms.” It was peaceful, it was loving, it was warm,” she said.

But not everyone agrees physicians should be able to prescribe a drug intended only for suicide. (more)


Catholics donate to anti-assisted suicide group by Laura Krantz, MetroWest Daily News (10/8/12) – The anti-Question 2 group so far has raised $1.3 million and spent $878,000, according to the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

The $250,000 contribution from St. John’s Seminary Corporation makes up more than half of the $432,000 the committee reported raising in the last two weeks of September. It also received $150,000 from the Knights of Columbus, which also donated $200,000 this summer.

Despite their strong finances, recent polls have suggested Massachusetts voters support the ballot question.

Dignity 2012, the main group supporting the question, reported raising $28,000 in the same two-week period. (more)


Opponents gather support to fight assisted suicide ballot question by Chris Burrell, The Patriot Ledger (10/11/12) – With three statewide polls showing strong support for a ballot question that would make Massachusetts only the third state in the nation that specifically allows some terminally ill people to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs, a well-funded opposition is striking back. Arguing that the measure is poorly written, lacks safeguards and ignores advances in palliative care for the dying, the main opposition group is gathering support from associations of physicians, nurses, hospice workers and people with disabilities. (more)
The right to choose: Physician-assisted suicide by Sephora Marie Borges, The Torch (10/12/12) – The point of Question 2 is to alleviate that suffering – to give patients and their families the option to not have to endure that suffering to the bitter, imminent end.The fact is this happens whether people like it or not. There have been plenty of stories and cases about terminally ill patients requesting their physicians to administer lethal drugs, and their physicians being so moved by the immense pain and suffering their patients have endured, they’ve gone ahead and done so.Of course, it’s mostly had to be done in secret – so why not bring it out into the open now? Why not attach some legal parameters to it so it can’t be abused, and allow patients to die on their own terms without physicians risking their livelihoods just because they wanted to fulfill a sick person’s dying wish.Moreover, it’s hard to discern why Question 2 is that much different from people who sign “Do Not Resuscitate” – or DNR – orders. (more)*
Controlling the quality of dying by Marjorie Arons-Barron, Wicked Local Newton (10/15/12) – For me, if I am at the end and suffering unendurably, with that suffering only going to get worse, I want that pill on my night table.  I may, in the end, choose not to use it, but I want the option to die a more humane and dignified death. (more)


Physician-Assisted Suicide on the Massachusetts Ballot by Rich Barlow. BU Today (10/15/12) – Marcia Angell (MED’67), a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, was the first person to sign the petition putting the issue on the ballot. She will explain her support for the law today at noon, when she gives the ninth annual Pike Lecture on Health Law at the School of Law. The lecture commemorates N. Neal Pike (LAW’37), a lawyer and activist for people with disabilities. (more)


Question 2 sponsors say measure isn’t ‘assisted suicide’ by Lane Lambert (10/16/12) – “This is not about life versus death,” Dr. Marcia Angell of Dignity 2012 said Tuesday in a Patriot Ledger editorial board interview. “This is about the manner of death.” (more)

Voting on Question 2– The Journal Staff, Lynn Journal (10/16/12) – Question 2 is not a battle for medical ethicists and philosophers. It is a battle for voters to determine whether or not assisted suicide should be allowed in the state of Massachusetts. Make sure you vote.This is an important question that goes to the very depths of our beliefs. (more)


Dying with Dignity: Massachusetts to vote on medically assisted dying on 6th November (10/16/12) – Angell said the safeguards are there, including a state drug tracking law that will go in effect in January 2013. But she said the key issue is, “Who gets to decide, the patient or someone else? ”She said the ballot measure is aimed at providing a voluntary choice for a limited number of terminally ill persons who are in pain that palliative or hospice care can’t relieve, and who doctors say have mental competence to choose to end their life.“The loss of dignity is often harder to relieve than the pain,” Angell said. “They know they’re dying.” (more)
Millions spent in fight over MA Assisted-suicide law– (10/18/12) – A survey of 1,051 likely Massachusetts voters conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this month found that 56 percent of Bay Staters said they would vote yes on Question 2 if the election were today, while 30 percent said they would vote no and 14 percent said they were undecided. With less than three weeks until Election Day, groups on both sides of the issue are working to get their message out and move those numbers decisively in one direction or the other. The five main organizations have combined to spend nearly $1.5 million advocating for or against the measure, according to reports filed with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance, with plenty more still in the bank. (more)
Daughter: Parents’ suicide highlights a need for assisted suicide by Lexi Salazar (10/19/12) – Van Dorn is the daughter of Adm. Chester Nimitz Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran who served in two wars and was the son of the commander of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II. She said her parents feared reaching a stage of helplessness and not being able to take action to end their lives when they wanted to.“It would have given them huge peace of mind to know that when things got worse they could choose to end things,” she said.Van Dorn supports Question 2, the so-called Death with Dignity initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. (more)*Death on Demand – the Law in Oregon, on Ballot in Massachusetts, a Hot Radio Show– (10/19/12) – “It is to be hoped that the current wave of liberalization will continue, for those who suffer at the end of their lives have been too long denied the right to an easeful death,” says the Economist.“Death comes in many ways. Some beautiful. Some terrible. For some, unbearable,” says radio commentator Ashbrook, whose show is heard mostly on National Public Radio (NPR).

“Some states have voted to let doctors help ease the way. The language itself is a battlefield: right to die, ‘death with dignity,’ assisted suicide,” he says about the show. (more)


‘Ethically, is this right for doctors to do?’ Help a terminal patient die? by Carey Goldberg, Boston’s NPR News (10/19/12) – (audio) Ravi Parikh, a fourth-year student at Harvard Medical School, faced conflicting messages.

The American Medical Association, which he belongs to, and the Massachusetts Medical Society oppose Question 2, the measure on next month’s state ballot that would allow terminally ill patients to ask a doctor to prescribe them life-ending drugs.

In contrast, The American Medical Student Association, which he also belongs to, supports it.

Ravi faced conflict within as well. He’d applied to medical school for the usual reason — to heal patients, as spelled out in the Hippocratic oath — not to help them die.

But his medical education introduced him to the complexities of modern American dying. (more)


What about do no harm?: Globe columnist on assisted suicide– Boston Catholic Insider (10/20/12) – If Hippocrates, the “father of Western medicine,” were alive today, would he favor Question 2, the Massachusetts ballot initiative to authorize doctor-prescribed suicide?

Presumably not: The celebrated code of medical ethics that bears his name, which physicians for centuries took an oath to uphold, flatly forbids assisted suicide. “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked,” the Hippocratic oath avows, “nor will I advise such a plan.” (more)


Letter: On physician-assisted suicide by Mary Louise C. Ashur MD, Associate Professor & Clinical Instructor – The Daily Free Press – The Independent Student Newspaper at Boston University (10/20/12) – What is the true motivation for the Question 2 ballot initiative? Question 2 is thinly veiled to look like an act to alleviate suffering and promote self-determination. But to promote “suicide” – the taking of one’s own life, a lonely act for a vulnerable soul, is a sad commentary for a civilized society. Really, Question 2 simply devalues human suffering. It abhors the natural human life by promoting premature death. Question 2 undermines the work of a physician – to care for patients from birth to natural death. The Massachusetts Medical Society wants Question 2 defeated. As a doctor and 27 years witness to the courage and dignity of people as they live and die, I too urge the defeat of Question 2. (more)


Mass. voters consider physician-assisted suicide – (10/20/12) – Leaders on opposite sides of Massachusetts’ right to die debate are fighting for the same reason: Both have watched loved ones receive fatal diagnoses.

Dr. Marcia Angell supports the initiative. Her father shot himself to death rather than die from metastatic prostate cancer in 1988. She believes he would’ve lived longer and not turned to a pistol had assisted suicide been available.

Rosanne Bacon Meade’s sister-in-law is still fighting cancer, 18 months after doctors gave her three months to live. She opposes the measure, saying diagnoses are often wrong. (more)

Question 2: Bay state voters soon to decide matter of life and death by Kait Taylor and Sean Leonard, The Daily Item (10/23/12) – Representatives of both sides of Question 2 visited The Daily Item last week in separate editorial board meetings to express their views. (more)
Waltham mayor, councilors say they will all vote ‘no’ to physician-assisted suicide ballot question by Jaclyn Reiss, (10/24/12) – LeBlanc said in the statement that she felt the law has limitations, and that she was troubled that the ballot question has not been debated.

However, a group called the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Coalition supports the bill, citing a patient’s right to die on his or her own terms and at home.

The coalition writes on their website that the change would have 16 different safeguards, including approvals from two doctors and a 15-day waiting period in between seeing the physicians.

The coalition also says that the same law has been in place for 15 years in Oregon, and four years in the state of Washington. In each state, 60 terminally ill patients decided to utilize the law each year, and careful tracking of the law has found “not a single instance of abuse over the past 15 years.” (more)


Donato: Vote No on Assisted Suicide by Jarret Bencks, (10/25/12) – “Regardless of where a person stands on the issue of physician-assisted suicide, Question 2 – as designed – contains serious flaws, such the lack of a psychiatric evaluation and no family notification,” Donato said in a written statement. “For these reasons and others, I encourage the voters of Medford and Malden to reject Question 2 on November 6.” (more)


Share the Story Behind Your Opinion– Here’s Mine by Carey Goldberg, WBUR, Boston’s NPR Radio (10/25/12) – And here’s what I thought: I bet just about every one of the people on either side of the issue has a story. They’ve witnessed a death, and that experience influenced their opinion. So here’s an open invitation: Won’t you share your story in the Comments section below?

Here’s mine: (more)


Pharmacists group opposes ballot question 2 – MetroWest Daily News (10/25/12) – The Western Massachusetts Pharmacists Association Thursday announced their opposition to ballot question two, which would legalize physician assisted suicide.
“As pharmacists, our goal is to help people – Question 2 would undermine that,” (more)


Death with Dignity a compassionate outlet for suffering by Bryan Goodchild, U Of Mass Medical School (10/26/12) – David Clive, MD,  professor of medicine, answers questions about Death with Dignity (video)


HMS Panel Considers “Death with Dignity” Ballot Question by Victoria Zhuang, The Harvard Crimson (10/26/12) – Lachlan Forrow, the director of ethics and palliative care programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, posed a philosophical question to his audience on prescribing medication to end life: “Who has the right to tell anybody how to die?”At Thursday afternoon’s public forum at the Harvard Medical School, this question was more than abstract. A panel composed of two medical and two legal experts explained the issues surrounding Question 2 on this November’s general election ballot for Massachusetts, known as the “Death With Dignity” Initiative. (more)

Reader endorses ‘Death with Dignity’ ballot question – Canton Citizen Newspaper (10/27/12)  Dear Editor:

Believing that only an informed electorate can govern themselves properly, the Canton Council on Aging sponsored a forum on the all-important last event of our lives: the act of dying.

As is true for most laws, this one would require some fine tuning, but the evolved citizens of Oregon and Washington have had remarkable success (i.e., no abuse) with their Death with Dignity laws. Only 596 patients have availed themselves of this right since 1997, showing that its use is only one more choice of many ways to end life. The scarcity of the law’s use is not the reason it should not be provided. If only one man speaks the truth, it is still the truth even if a world of people believe otherwise. (more)


Kennedy fights assisted suicide effort by Cynthia Mccormick, Cape Cod Times (10/27/12) – Kennedy takes issue with the ballot question’s specification that it apply to those with a life expectancy of six months or less.”When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told he had only two to four months to live, that he’d never get back to the United States Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die,” she writes. “But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months.””When the end finally did come — natural death with dignity — my husband was home, attended by his doctor, surrounded by family and our priest.”Heather Clish of Reading said her father died of the same brain cancer in the spring of 2011 — and his experience is leading her to support Question 2.”His doctors explained all of his treatment and end-of-life care options, but he knew about the death with dignity law in his home state of Oregon,” Clish wrote in an email Friday.”He treated his illness for as long as he could, but as his decline progressed, he decided to choose death with dignity,” Clish said. “The decision he made wasn’t easy, but it was his.”Clish said Massachusetts voters need to allow the terminally ill to make the choice for themselves. It’s a private decision and government shouldn’t be involved, she said. (more)*2012 Initiatives: Euthanasia & Recreational Marijuana on the Ballot by Gabriel Legend, (10/27/12) – 2012 is a year for unusual ballot measures it seems, with one state voting to pass a measure for physician assisted suicides. The euthanasia initiative will be voted on November 6th in the state of Massachusetts, and is officially called the Death with Dignity Initiative. While this may seem reprehensible to some, the ballot measure does not mean that a patient or family member is required to choose this option if they are suffering from an illness or disease. It simply means that they will have that option to choose from. (more)


Assisted suicide on the ballot: Beyond Fear Tactics – Mortal Matters/Dr. Lachlan Forrow on end-of-life wishes (10/28/12) – I have serious misgivings about whether a ballot initiative is the best way for the people of Massachusetts to make decisions about profound, complex moral issues. My misgivings are especially great when, as I believe is true of Question 2 next Tuesday, many people are going to have to cast their vote without having had the time, opportunity, or help they needed to develop a clear and accurate understanding of what those issues are.

I am further distressed that too many of the ads, op-eds, and advocacy emails that I have seen — from both sides — seem to me to present seriously distorted, irresponsibly exaggerated claims that are designed to frighten you into voting one way or the other. If I didn’t know better, I would be more frightened than ever about myself or a loved one ever having a so-called “terminal illness”. (more)


There’s no ‘dignity’ in suicide by Tom Driscoll, MetroWest Daily News (10/28/12) – It is argued that Question 2 advances “dignity” and “personal choice” and yet I read the law in detail and what I come away with is the procedural aspect of it all. Requisite clinical prognoses, signatures witnessed by disinterested parties, waiting periods and asking to be asked all over again. What’s being described isn’t so much enabled free choice for individuals and their families as exhaustive protocol for the medical profession to follow, not so much about the dying and their dignity as the practice of dispensing deadly medicine and the concomitant exposures and liabilities. (more)


Life and death issue emotional by Bronislas B. Kush, Worcester Telegram (10/28/12) – Much of the discussion about physician assisted suicide revolves around moral, religious, ethical and legal questions.

Individuals on both sides of the question acknowledge the Massachusetts vote is an important one, given that approval of the measure may spawn more aggressive efforts elsewhere.

Interestingly, the Bay State’s religious community is divided on the issue.

For example, the Catholic Church, which is the most powerful and the most influential religious organization in Massachusetts, has been working hard to defeat the measure.

However, other groups, such as the Massachusetts Council of Churches, a partnership of about 17 Orthodox and Protestant denominations, is not taking a position on the referendum because there is no clear consensus of its membership.

Spokesmen for some of the religious organizations privately note that life should be cherished but that it is difficult to outright dismiss the arguments made by the terminally ill and their families. (more)


Bishop attacks Question 2  by Richard Duckett, Worcester Telegram (10/28/12) – A pastoral letter written by Bishop Robert J. McManus expressing his objections to Question 2 on the Nov. 6 Massachusetts ballot will be read by priests in churches at all Masses in the Worcester Roman Catholic Diocese next weekend.

Speaking yesterday at a conference at Assumption College titled “To Live Each Day With Dignity,” Bishop McManus called Question 2 “poorly written, deliberately confusing, and morally flawed.” (more)


State Rep. Scaccia Opposed to Question 2 -by Daivd Ertischek, (10/29/12) – “As vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, I am deeply concerned with Question 2 and, specifically, its lacking of a psychiatric evaluation for terminally ill patients,” said Scaccia, D-Readville. “Quality mental health must be ensured for all citizens throughout the Commonwealth and, as it stands, Question 2 undermines that effort through its lack of necessary safeguards.” (more)


Local legislators say ‘No on 2’ by Monique Scott, The Milford Daily News (10/29/12) – State Sen. Richard Moore, D–Uxbridge, chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, said the bill is “deeply flawed” because it allows patients to choose to end their lives without notifying family members.

Moore’s other concerns include that a physician is not required to be present when a patient is taking life-ending medication. Also, a patient, he said, could miscalculate the dosage and not end his life, possibly causing more pain to himself.

State Rep. Kevin Kuros, R-Uxbridge, said he opposes Question 2 because without a physician present, life-ending drugs could fall into the wrong hands.

“The number one place where teens get prescription drugs to experiment with is from their home medicine chest,” Kuros said. “I fear the very real possibility of a patient being prescribed the drugs, picking up the prescription, and then changing their mind, leaving the drugs in their home and not under a physician’s supervision. It is a tragic accident waiting to happen.” (more)


Why a leading end-of-life specialist opposes assisted-suicide by Dr. Ira Byock in Common Health (10/29/12) – We’ll still be teaching more obstetrics than hospice and palliative care to every medical student. We’ll still be graduating more doctors who have never been trained to have these conversations or in ways to help people sort through their unfinished business. But, those doctors will now have the authority to write lethal prescriptions.

This does not seem like progress to me. (more)


Massachusetts Vote May Change How the Nation Dies by Lewis M. Cohen, Slate Magazine (10/29/12) – This Election Day, Massachusetts is poised to approve the Death With Dignity Act. “Death with dignity” is a modernized, sanitized, politically palatable term that replaces the now-antiquated expression “physician-assisted suicide.” Four polls conducted in the past couple of months have shown strong support for the ballot question, although a well-funded media blitz by the opposition is kicking in during the final several weeks and may influence voter opinions. (more)


Advocates for ballot question on assisted suicide pledge more ads by Laura Krantz, Milford Daily News (10/30/12) – Responding to news Tuesday about a new swell of opposition to the ballot question on assisted suicide, advocates pledged more advertising in the final week of the campaign.

The Suffolk/7News poll of 600 likely voters released today shows support for the question has shrunk from 64 percent six weeks ago to 47 percent.

“Regrettably, voters are facing a barrage of negative advertising financed by radical, out-of-state fringe groups, who are willing to say anything to defeat Question 2,” Crawford said.

The Archdiocese of Boston lately has become one of the most outspoken opponents to the measure, issuing a special sermon this week against the question. (more)

What Physician-Assisted Suicide Means to You by Grace Ross, GoLocal Wocester (10/30/12) – There’s a misnomer on the ballot for November 6th called “Physician-assisted suicide.” My image that I just played out of physician assistance doesn’t even begin to apply to the law that has been proposed.  There’s so much wriggle-room in this law that you could drive a truck through it. (more)

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Is it morally wrong to take a life? Not so, say ethicists – OneNewsNow. – Read the latest from Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum examining news from the biblical viewpoint. (more)

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New Jersey legislator introduces assisted suicide bill by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews (9/28/12) – On September 27, New Jersey Assemblyman, John J. Burzichelli, introduced what he refers to as the “New Jersey Death with Dignity Act,” a bill that is a “Oregon Style” assisted suicide bill.

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.” (more)


Begin debate on end of life – Asbury Park Press (10/1/12) – Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, recently introduced New Jersey Death with Dignity Act (A-3328) would grant doctors in the Garden State the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to willing patients who have less than six months to live and don’t want to spend their last days suffering and in pain.
What right should government have to dictate to people of sound mind who are slowly and painfully dying the terms of their death and bar them from seeking a doctor’s aid in making a personal medical decision?It is perfectly reasonable to look at this issue and see righteousness on both sides. (more)


New bill could make assisted suicide legal in New Jersey by Myles Collier, Christian Post (10/1/12) – Conservative and religious leaders are raising concern over a newly introduced bill in the New Jersey state legislature that would make assisted suicide legal.

Bill A3328, also known as the New Jersey “Death with Dignity Act” was introduced in the New Jersey state legislature last week by Assemblyman John Burzichelli and is seeking voter approval to legalize physician-assisted suicide. (more)


Sane discussion on right to die, freedom needed now by Bob Ingle, Vineland Daily Journal (10/7/12) – Mention “assisted suicide” and images of Dr. Jack Kevorkian come to mind; he’s the pathologist said to have helped at least 130 people commit suicide in the 1990s, saying “death is not a crime,” although he served eight years in prison for second-degree murder. Credit him with starting a national conversation about end-of-life issues and patient rights that continues.It has to come to New Jersey in a direct way. Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3, has introduced the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act (A-3328) that would grant physicians the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to willing patients with less than six months to live. (more)

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Cancer patient fights for right to die – WABC News (10/4/12)

How to Die by Bill Keller, The Opinion Pages, NY Times (10/8/12) – good comment section

Why Doctors Die Differently by Dr. Ken Murray, The Wall Street Journal – In a survey of 765 doctors, they found that 64% had created an advanced directive—specifying what steps should and should not be taken to save their lives should they become incapacitated. That compares to only about 20% for the general public. (As one might expect, older doctors are more likely than younger doctors to have made “arrangements,” as shown in a study by Paula Lester and others.) (more)


What does the Catholic Church teach about end of life care? The Deacon’s Bench, Greg Kandra (10/8/12) – Keller makes it sound, predictably, like the Catholic Church is cruel and inhumane—opposed to the kind of palliative end-of-life treatment his father-in-law received.  But Church teaching is far more nuanced. Below is a clear description from the National Catholic Bioethics Center.  The center has been endorsed by the last two popes, and the esteemed Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk serves as its Director of Education and Ethicist. Part of its guidelines state: (more)


Letters: Deciding when to end life support – NY Times (10/14/12) – Response to How to Die by Bill Keller (10/8/12)


Four Myths About Doctor-Assisted Suicide by Ezekeil J. Emanuel, New York Times: Opinionator (10/27/12) – Unfortunately, like so many health care questions, the debate about physician-assisted suicide is confused, characterized by four major falsehoods:

Pain, Advanced Technology, Mass Appeal, A Good Death (more)


Suicide the ‘New Norm’ for Dying?– Human Exceptionalism: Life and Dignity with Wesley J. Smith, National Review Online (10/30/12) – Yet, here in the USA, we are supposed to believe the death agenda is just a teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, miniscule adjustment in medical norms.

Baloney. Assisted suicide advocates are just following the well-worn path of cultural transforming campaigns; insist that there should be little fuss about a minor change about which we need to “have a conversation”–until the radicals control the castle walls. Then the hammer comes down, the minor change grows exponentially, and the conversation is stifled. (more)

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Swiss Parliment votes against regulating assisted suicide groups by Cassie Fiano – LiveActionNews/Human Rights (10/1/12) – Currently, there is zero legislation for Swiss assisted suicide clinics. Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, pointed out that there have been allegations of abuse and fraud, as well as a lack of concern for vulnerable people, raised about the assisted suicide clinic Dignitas. (Dignitas is the only clinic which allows foreign tourists to kill themselves.) And for Dignitas, assisted suicide is a multi-million-dollar business. (more)

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Hospital officials explain Dignity choice– Ashland Daily Tidings (10/5/10) – Dignity Health was formerly known as Catholic Health Care West until Jan. 23, when it changed its name and its affiliation with the Catholic Church. Since the change, the hospital system is no longer a sponsored ministry of the church, but a self-governing, nonprofit health care system.

However, because 25 of Dignity’s 40 hospitals remain Catholic-affiliated, its non-Catholic hospitals are still barred from performing direct abortions, in vitro fertilization or prescribing aid-in-dying medication. They are not, however, required to force lifesaving treatment on a patient who refuses it.

Many Ashland residents have expressed concern over Dignity Health’s stance against the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, its banning of direct abortions, and the loss of local control if a partnership is formed. (more)


Worries over abortion, assisted suicide scuttle takeover of Ashland hospital– (10/30/12/) – Early this month, Mark Marchetti, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said the hospital could be closed in a year if it remains independent, and the former board chairman, Dr. Doug Diehl, testified in October that it had four to six months of operating cash left unless it trimmed services.

The Ashland hospital has said its size puts it at a disadvantage against larger hospitals in Medford, and it’s squeezed by unreimbursed costs of treating Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Some community members raised concerns that Dignity Health would restrict women’s reproductive services and the rights of dying patients to get lethal prescriptions to end their lives under Oregon law.

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Catholic Bishop: Democrats support evil, will go to hell by Michael Stone, (10/27/12) – In the letter, dated Wednesday, October 24, Bishop Ricken claims 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.” (more)



(News updates from Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom)


Nitschke urges open mind on euthanasia bill – ABC News (AU) – (10/2/12) – Euthanasia advocate doctor Philip Nitschke is urging Tasmania’s Upper House MPs to open their minds to what he calls progressive legislation. (more)


Anti-euthanasia battle stepping up– ABC News (10/8/12) – 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.

A discussion paper on legalising voluntary euthanasia is due out in the next few months.

The euthanasia bill is due before parliament next year but will have to pass the Upper House.

MLC Paul Harriss has dismissed the debate as a Green-led agenda. (more)


Bell backs campaign to legalise euthanasia by Josephine Tovey, Sydney Morning Herald (10/22/12) – Supporting the rights of patients to choose to end their life is not a morose or negative cause, the actor and Bell Shakespeare theatre director John Bell says.

”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. (more)

Time for politicians to recognise the right to die with dignity by Sarah Edelman, clinical psychologist and vice-president of Dying with Dignity, NSW – Brisbane Times (10/22/12) – 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. (more)
Death is so personal it can’t be politicised by Julie Fewster, Sydney Morning Herald (10/23/12) – 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? (more)
Dying with Dignity by Amy Taylor-Kabbaz, ABC Online (10/22/12) – While the NSW Greens are planning to introduce a bill to the NSW Parliament early next year, a newspoll for Dying with Dignity NSW found that eighty-three percent of people in NSW supported legalising voluntary euthanasia. Including John Bell.”I don’t want to reach that stage of being incontinent, helpless, totally dependent,” John told Adam.”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.” (more)*Doctor slams ‘arrogance’ on euthanasia by Melissa Davey, The Sydney Morning Herald (10/24/12) – The views on euthanasia held by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, are ”supremely arrogant”, says a leading Sydney primary care physician.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)

GPs reluctant to euthanise patients by Melissa Davey, Brisbane Time (10/25/12) – 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, the organisation’s spokesman says.
‘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.” (more)
There’s no greater transition that death, and you want it with dignity by Amy Corderoy, Sydney Morning Herald (10/27/12) – 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. (more)

Let’s put legalised euthanasia issue down by Piers Akerman, The Sunday Telegraph (10/28/12) – Reasonable adults would like to learn more about euthanasia and about any potential legislation before debate begins in state parliament. Blind compassion encapsulated in slick sloganeering should not dictate the discussion but such strategies are the norm with The Greens _ and the left in general.There are many complex questions to be answered before any legislation can be drafted, not least being who should decide when someone who has expressed a desire to be euthanised is actually to be killed.What protections will there be for the sufferer who may well decide that, despite increasing debilitation and decreased quality of life, living is still a better option than death? (more)

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Doctor Admits Euthanasia Patients’ Organs Harvested by Lisa Correnti , (10/12/12) – Deaths from “voluntary euthanasia” in Belgium 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. (more)

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Assisted-suicide advocate’s resolve bolstered by terminally ill friend’s early death – (10/1/12) – 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.

Watching life slip away from this cheerful and passionate man who talked repeatedly of the great moments he would miss reaffirmed for Westley the unfairness of Canada’s law against doctor-assisted suicide. (more)


Quebec to legalize doctor-assisted suicide– CJAD News (10/4/12) – “We really feel that it is necessary to put forward such a possibility for people who, at the end of their life, are suffering in an unbearable manner,” says social services junior minister Véronique Hivon.

She says the idea was part of the Parti Quebecois’ election platform, and was also recommended by an all-party National Assembly committee last spring.

She says her bill will be based on that committee’s report. It’s guidelines said patients should only have access to the service if they are adult Quebec residents with a serious and incurable illness, and have given their express written consent. (more)


Quebec to Pass MD-Assisted Suicide Law – Jobs & Hire (10/5/12) – The Quebec legislature passed the report Thursday, 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. 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.(more)


Woman who fought to change Canada’s law on assisted suicide has died – CKNW News Talk 980 (10/5/12) – The BC Civil Liberties Association says Gloria Taylor, the 64 year-old Okanagan woman who fought to change Canada’s law on assisted dying, died yesterday.
She was the Association’s lead plaintiff in its “death with dignity” lawsuit.
BC Supreme Court had granted Taylor a personal exemption allowing her the right to seek a physician-assisted death.
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, the Association says she did not need to seek the assistance of a physician to end her life. (more)


Assisted-suicide activist Gloria Taylor dies from infection by Wendy Stueck and Rob Mickleburgh, The Globe and Mail (10/5/12) – In the end, she didn’t exercise the right for which she fought, and won, in court – the right to have a doctor’s help when she decided it was time to end her life.

But when Gloria Taylor died on Thursday, she did so on her own terms.

“It was very unexpected and it was sudden, but in the end, Gloria had the good death she so dearly wanted,” Grace Pastine, litigation director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Friday in an interview. (more)


Safeguard precedents prove Canada is ready for euthanasia by Wanda Morris Executive Director, Dying With Dignity Canada – Vancouver Sun (10/6/12) – In Canada, we have a clean slate, we can introduce any criteria for eligibility we choose, and we can adopt whatever safeguards we feel are necessary.

If they have any further doubts, Canadians can look to the decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith. She 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 her own words:

“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.” (more)


Focus on palliative care, not suicide: doctor– (10/10/12) – A landmark case on doctor-assisted suicide is heading to the B.C. Appeals Court in March, but 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. (more)

Canadian assisted suicide activist dies of natural causes by Michael Cook, BioEthics (10/11/12) – The woman at the centre of Canada’s move towards assisted suicide died of natural causes last week before taking advantage of an exemption from the law granted by a judge in British Columbia.Gloria Taylor, 64, suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. 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. (more)
Inside Gloria Taylor’s battle for the right to die– (10/12/12) – Four days after B.C. grandmother Gloria Taylor was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, she crafted Plan B — an arrangement for someone to help her die.The crusader for physician-assisted death, who later became the only Canadian to win the legal right to get a doctor’s help to die and put the issue back in the national spotlight, didn’t need the plan in the end. Taylor, 64, died last Thursday of an infection caused by a perforated colon. (more)
A matter of time by Pam Frampton, The Telegram (10/13/12) – 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. (more)
Assisted Dying Timeline  – 1990-2012 – (10/17/12) – June 4, 1990 – Dr. Jack Kevorkian assists Janet Adkins in her death, using his “suicide machine.” Adkins was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. (more)
PQ’s ‘medical aid in dying’ sugarcoats euthanasia, foes say by Deborah Gyapong, The Catholic Register (10/18/12) – 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.In early October, radio station CJAD reported Parti Quebecois junior social services minister Veronique Hivon hoped to introduce legislation soon to help people who face unbearable end-of-life suffering. Though euthanasia and assisted suicide are both illegal in Canada’s Criminal Code, and under federal jurisdiction, Hivon said health is a provincial matter. The province could also direct Crown prosecutors not to prosecute cases that fall under the guidelines for medical aid in dying, she said.Couture said using health care and directing prosecutors in this manner is bringing in “euthanasia through the back door” while hiding behind a vague, nice-sounding phrase. (more)
Death’s midwife helps terminally-ill Canadians end their lives– by Robert Cribb, (10/21/12) – 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.”Von Fuchs is death’s midwife. (more)
2012 Atkinson Series: Life or Death: Who Chooses?– – various articles
*Assisted suicide too risky, allowing it demeans value of life, federal gov’t says– Vancouver Sun (10/25/12) – 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. (more)

Sask. support for assisted suicide by Janet French, Regina Leader-Post (10/25/12) – 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. (more)
Physician-Assisted Suicide Remains Illegal in Canada by Robert Cribb, (10/26/12) – But even emotional support for a patient taking his life is a rare public admission for a doctor in Canada, where a code of silence around such conversations is firmly entrenched in the medical profession.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.“You have to worry as a physician how the public, your patients, and your colleagues are going to view you,” Cohen says. “Are you really going to have the opportunity to defend yourself and are your views going to be respected? Whenever you depart from the traditional viewpoint in medicine, it’s somewhat uncomfortable.” (more)
Ontario man with ALS ends his life with his loved ones by Robert Cribb, Toronto Star (10/26/12) – 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,” it says. “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, he wrote.“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.” (more)
Canadian Government submits brief why law against assisted suicide should stand by Alex Schadenberg, executive director Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – National Right to Life News (10/26/12) – Ottawa is defending the law that prohibits assisted suicide as it appeals a decision from a British Columbia court, which concluded it is unconstitutional to prevent the sick and dying from asking a doctor to help them end their lives.The government argues in court documents that allowing any form of assisted suicide creates the possibility that people with disabilities, the elderly and the terminally ill could be coerced to end their lives or do so in moments of depression and despair, even if better days may be ahead.“It [the current law’s purpose] is to protect the vulnerable, who might be induced in moments of weakness to commit suicide,” the government says in a 54-page legal argument filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal.“And it is a reflection of the state’s policy that the inherent value of all human life should not be depreciated by allowing one person to take another’s life … It also discourages everyone, even the terminally ill, from choosing death over life.” (more)

When Living Does More Harm Than Dying by Steffanie Petroni, Local2 (10/29/12)  – “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. (more)

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Columbian bishops say nothing justifies legalizing euthanasia– DFW Catholic (10/11/12) – A representative of the Colombian bishops, Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, has rejected recent efforts by a group of lawmakers to legalize euthanasia in the country.

“No circumstance can make it legally acceptable to intentionally cause the death of a human being.  The right to life is constitutionally inviolable,” he wrote in column published by local newspaper El Espectador.

On Oct. 8, 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. (more)

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Passive euthanasia gets law panel push– Hindustan Times (10/4/12) – The Law Commission 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. (more)


Aiming for dignity in death by Dr. Pallavi A. Roshi, Deccan Herald (10/6/12) – 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. (more)


Euthanasia: Mercy killing or murder? – NDTV debate (10/7/12)

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There are no easy answers in matter of life and death – Belfast Telegraph (10/4/12) – The moving story of Jenny Grainger who helped her mum take her life has reignited the assisted suicide debate. Here campaigners for and against have their say– (more)


The Gloria Taylor Case– Irish Medical Times (10/4/12) – Taylor was concerned that her condition would reach a stage where she would not be in a position to end her own life without assistance and that she would be left to die in circumstances which would be “painful, frightening and repugnant to her”.

She brought proceedings in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in which she sought the right to be allowed to die by way of physician-assisted suicide. (more)


Nolan Show tackles assisted dying again – Humani: The Humanist (10/4/12/) – Jenny Grainger, who helped her mother Barbara to take her own life, told her story on The Nolan Show on BBC1 Northern Ireland on Wednesday 3rd October. In the Belfast Telegraphshe has called on Northern Ireland’s politicians to relax the laws on assisted suicide.The Lisburn life coach bravely highlighted the story of how her mother suffered an agonisingly slow death by refusing food and water as the only legal way to end her own life following a motor neurone disease diagnosis.Barbara (75), who was a lifelong supporter of euthanasia, told her daughter that she wanted to die and asked for her help. 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.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. (more)

Now MLAs must act on helping loved ones to die with dignity by Stephanie Bell, Belfast Telegraph (10/4/12) – “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.”

Jenny 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. (more)


Jenny’s story demands we open debate on euthanasia– Belfast Telegraph (10/6/12) – It was a sunny Saturday in late September of the Millennium year when my mother moved on. I do not know the time of my going but, if I am lucky enough to live into my 80s or indeed 90s and the prospect of losing my dignity to pain and pumps stares me in the face, I know what I want.

Hopefully, by then, we will have grown up enough to stop skirting around the most life-changing moment in our lives after our birth.

Our death – and the manner of our going. (more)

When a loved one wants to die by Allen Gilsenan, Irish Times (10/13/12) – 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. (more)
Right-to-die campaigner won’t face charges over suicide by Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor,  (10/16/12) – 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.  (more)
Time for live debate on assisted suicide by Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner (10/20/12) – 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 exiting 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 pressurised to consent to their own death. (more)
On whose terms should we die? by Daniel O’Reilly, The University Times (10/28/12) – 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? (more)

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The advance of euthanasia in The Netherlands by Valentina Ascione, (10/3/12) – Not the case of Italy, though. “Euthanasia” still remains an unrepeatable word here. (more)

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Michael Winner researching assisted suicide – (10/5/12) – Retired 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, 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 in a new interview with Britain’s The Times newspaper, insisting he was put off by the amount of paperwork required to go through with assisted suicide. (more)


The right to die – yes or no by Aaron von Delden, Wanganui Chronicle (10/6/12) – “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. (more)


Euthanasia law nothing to fear by Yvonne Shaw, Southland Times (10/17/12) – 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.

When aid-in-dying laws support the rights of patients, the whole of society is protected, according to the Death with Dignity National Centre in Oregon, United States. For instance, patients and their families have a clear understanding of all of their options through carefully guided conversations with their medical practitioners. 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. (more)


Euthanasia opens floodgates of nastiness by Rosemary McCloud, The Dominion Post (10/31/12) – 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.

A thinly-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. (more)

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Trendwatcher: Is Dignity in Death Too Much to Ask? by Natalia Antonova, RIA Novosti (10/8/12) – 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 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. (more)

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Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas helped 217 Britons to die in 10 years by David Maddox Scotsman (10/25/12) – 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. (more)

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Finding a path to dignity in death by Marika Sboros, (10/3/12) – Voluntary euthanasia is legal in Holland and Belgium (only for citizens). 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.

I 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, I 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. (more)

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Study: Assisted suicide helpers distressed– World Radio Switzerland (10/4/12) – One in four people who accompany someone to commit assisted suicide suffer massive psychological distress, according to a new study by the University of Zurich.

Researchers at the university spoke to 85 people who went with a family member or close friend to an EXIT euthanasia clinic.

A quarter suffered from post traumatic stress disorder while 16 percent had depression. Five percent were found to have long-term grief.

The interviews were carried out one to two years after the assisted death of loved ones.

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. (more)

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Husband died in wife’s arms in Assisted Suicide at Switzerland’s Digitas– this is Hull and East Riding (10/2/12) – “All Patrick wanted was to die in his garden that he cherished so much,” she said.

“Instead, he was forced to travel to a foreign place with no meaning to him. He had always said to me he wanted to die in ‘Blighty’.”

After suffering such heartache, Anne is now backing calls for Britain to introduce powers allowing people with terminal illnesses to be able to take their own lives. (more)


Editor’s Viewpoint: Assisted Suicide Laws Need Debate– Belfast Telegraph (10/2/12) – The 24 days that she took to die were a terrible ordeal for both her and family. It was not a clean, clinical alternative to her illness and near the end the family had to beg medical professionals to administer painkilling injections to ease her suffering from the effects of profound dehydration. Some people might wonder if her choice of the way to die was not just as bad as letting the disease take its course.

While the family stood by their mother’s decision, their dilemma was compounded by the legal issues which surround assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK. (more)


Trickle of British suicide cases to Dignitas continues as Swiss vote for status quo by Dr. Peter Saunders, National Right to Life News Today (10/2/12) – The 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. (more)
Majority of MPs oppose assisted suicide– Christian Telegraph (10/3/12) – The poll, which surveyed more than 150 MPs across all parties, 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 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. (more)
Judges reject bid to appeal verdict of euthanasia case – The Christian Institute (10/5/12) – 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.(more)
Jane Nicklinson: ‘I can’t deny it. It’s nice to be able to go out when I want to’ by Nina Lakhani, The Independent (10/8/12) – 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. (more)
No one has the moral right to take a life– This is Plymouth (10/8/12) – 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.” (more)

NHS: 150 patients die from starvation and dehydration on wards by Hannah Osbourne, (10/8/12) – More than 150 patients in England and Wales either starved to death or died from dehydration in 2011, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.The figures show that 111 patients died from dehydration, and another 43 from malnutrition. Hundreds more were either starving or dehydrated when they died.The number of people who had dehydration and malnutrition mentioned recorded on their death certificate was 669 and 291 respectively.The ONS figures also showed that eight people starved to death in care homes. Twenty-one died from dehydration. (more)
Dignity, Death and Deprivation of Liberty: Human Rights in the Court of Protectionby Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog (10/12/12) – 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. (more)
A pathway to euthanasia? Family revive father doctors ruled wasn’t worth saving by John Stevens, Daily Mail (10/12/12) – It involves withdrawing treatment and the heavy sedation of a patient and removal of tubes providing food and fluid in the last 24 hours of their life.Devised in the 1990s as a means of easing pain for the dying, it has been in widespread use in the NHS in recent years.However, critics claim it is increasingly being applied to patients without their families’ knowledge and when they still have a chance of recovery. (more)
Over My Dead Body – The Economist (10/20/12) – 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)

Assisted suicide: 10 years of dying at Dignitas by Phillipa Roxbury, BBCNews (10/20/12) – 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. (more)


Switzerland: 750% increase in Assisted Suicides since 1998 by Dr. Peter Saunders, a doctor and the CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a British organization with 4,500 doctors and 1,000 medical students as members; member of Care Not Killing Alliance – (10/25/12) – 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. (more)


GPs asked to provide patients with medical reports for Dignitas by Madlen Davies, (10/25/12) – 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 told Pulse 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. (more)


I’m not sorry… it’s what he wanted– BBC Radio News (10/25/12) – It is ten years since the first British person chose to travel to Switzerland and end their life with the help of the Swiss Dignitas organisation since then 217 British people have used its assisted-dying services.

Today programme presenter Evan Davis spoke to Win Crew, whose husband Reg was the second British person to commit assisted suicide at Dignitas.


The Liverpool Care Pathway and its discontents by Sebastian Tarwater, Christian Today (10/27/12) – 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. (more)


THIS IS THE PATH TO DEATH, PEOPLE by Camilla Tominey , (10/28/12) – 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? (more)


Tony Nicklinson’s widow to call for Scotland to legalise assisted suicide by Auslan Cramb, (10/30/12) – The widow of the right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson is expected to call this week for Scotland to become the first part of the UK to change the law on assisted suicide.

Jane Nicklinson, 56, 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 on Friday 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. (more)


Death With Dignity – September 2012

Overview of National News – September 2012

(NOTE: List of articles are under the category “Assisted Dying & Euthanasia”)

Media coverage in the U.S. during August and September was primarily about the Massachusetts ballot Question 2 which would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dosage of medication under certain conditions to terminally ill people who request it. Pro and con articles in the state were almost evenly split, 13 pro and 16 con, although I noticed a tendency for con writers to have the same article published in several publications so there may be duplicates.

There is strong opposition to it coming from the Catholic Church and Right-to-Life groups. They are well-funded and are providing speakers around the state to educate people about their perspective. A bully attitude comes through in their media releases. In the headlines they use words like “battle,” “war,” “murder,” and terms like “Nazi death camps,” and “eugenics.” Many bloggers are quite opinionated and come up with the darnedest conclusions. They discuss “aid-in-dying” as if it foreshadowed the apocalypse. They insist on using the dysphemism “assisted-suicide” and calling “aid-in-dying a euphemism. I don’t feel any compassion from that side about the plight of individuals trapped in a body that no longer works for them, but I do detect a lot of do what we say or God will smite thee! attitude.

I just don’t think all that drama is necessary when what we’re all really trying to get to is a set of laws regarding end of life parameters that protect and empower people to die on their own terms and in their own time however they choose to do that. The important thing is that it be the person’s choice, not anyone else’s, and to do that everyone needs to discuss and fill out an Advance Healthcare Directive or POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments).

We all get that we don’t want wanton killing of elderly and disabled people, but unless you walk in someone else’s shoes… you can’t say what they can/should/ought to do. We all get the difference between ending the life of a relatively healthy person who can’t bear to live in whatever situation they are in and hastening the death of someone who is dying or almost completely incapacitated or in a coma. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out who is eligible for Death With Dignity if they’ve expressed a desire to use that option.

Of course people are sad when they realize their life as they knew it is over, but clinically depressed to the point someone else needs to decide what’s best for them? No… they are dying and want to get on with it. Just shoot me now! And they will if the law isn’t on their side. And that’s so sad because people will use violent means if they aren’t able to obtain a gentle means without having to jump through all kinds of legal hoops. If someone is determined and they have the ability, they will do it one way or another regardless of the law.

Speaking of funding, the biggest contributor to the anti-assisted-suicide group in Massachusetts turned out to be a conservative Mississippi-based organization with anti-gay views, but which describes itself as pro-family. From Mississippi? The Massachusetts group supposedly gave the money back. Bet that put a dent in their advertising budget, but they have their cadre prolific bloggers putting out negative, and sometimes stretching the limits of truth, stories about the horrors of Nazi death camps alongside the Christian value of suffering to scare people away from allowing dying people to hasten their deaths a bit if that is their choice. Let’s put the fear of God in them!

Published polls indicate the majority of people in Massachusetts are in favor of legalizing physician-assisted suicide (64%), including a lot of Catholics. It doesn’t sound like Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren or Scott Brown are in touch with the issue at this point though Ms. Warren said she was leaning toward supporting assisted suicide legalization. Brown says he needs more  information. I don’t know what rock he’s been hiding under. Plymouth, maybe?

Things will be heating up in Massachusetts during October in anticipation of the election. I expect some groups will be out on street corners shouting to drivers-bye to Honk for not murdering granny or people with disabilities and the Church will be threatening the wrath of their God upon human civilization if folks don’t vote ‘no.’ But I think others will see the rational perspective that we each have the right to request assistance from a medical person if we want it… and those are the people who will quietly vote ‘yes!’

I’ve noticed that more and more states are testing the waters as articles appear here and there in local press about what’s being talked about in other states and other countries. The number of articles is small (1 to 3) compared to 45 articles from Massachusetts.

Montanians are still insisting assisted dying isn’t legal there, it’s only that doctors won’t be prosecuted, but apparently nobody is paying any attention to them and I keep seeing articles that say it is legal there. Hawaii has been quiet lately, not talking much about a panel of doctors who have agreed to offer assisted-dying even though the law hasn’t caught up to them yet. New Jersey popped up toward the end of the month saying it could become the 3rd state to legalize aid-in-dying per Oregon/Washington laws with an Assemblyman proposing the New Jersey Death With Dignity Act. Another citizen proposed looking into the effects of grief on families who witness various dying circumstances to see whether assisted dying is less traumatic that witnessing death in a prolonged, perhaps agonizing, dying process at home.

There are studies that show a big difference in grieving between people who witnessed death in an ICU compared to a peaceful process at home surrounded by family… which is what assisted dying would allow, including the day and time so everyone could be there to see them off on their journey. Not to say that palliative care isn’t extremely important, that hospice care isn’t the best way to go… it’s just that sometimes it isn’t enough.

Baby boomers in Washington DC are more open to discussing this subject and want to be in control of their end-of-life care. They have a more patient-centered approach to health care issues than their parents’ generation. Compassion & Choices had its annual conference there in June. Its president Barbara Coombs Lee discussed the strategies for success in affirming and protecting end-of-life liberty, including aid in dying in the states. Compassion & Choices (after which the right to lifers always add, formerly the Hemlock Society, which if you look at the history is only partially true as it continues on as the Final Exit Network) provides Advance Healthcare Directives for all states and counseling about end-of-life choices within the law.

Illinois has a heated congressional race going on with one candidate a doctor who was fired from his hospital job because of his views on assisted-suicide. He claims a lot of doctors are upset and disgruntled that they aren’t allowed to assist their patients. Really? You can get fired for having an opinion? The Wisconsin Death With Dignity Bill is also getting some attention with the Wisconsin Medical Society onboard and we’ll likely hear more next month.

I’d say the worst thing I came across this month came from Ohio where 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 essay should be 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.

Really? 12 to 18 year olds defending the sanctity of life from conception to natural death against affronts to life? It’s that kind of early programming that scares me about the younger generation. They won’t be able to think for themselves. Apparently PLO’s advertising budget is only $100 because they are then going to use the children’s entries for their promotional purposes.

Oregon is currently grappling with the issue of hospitals that need funding merging with organizations like Dignity Health, which is an arm of Catholic Hospitals. Ashland is currently debating about allowing the take-over of its community hospital because doctors won’t be allowed to perform abortions except to save a mother’s life and won’t even be allowed to talk to patients about Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.

The good news is that Oregon’s POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) 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. This allows patients to make decisions about their end-of-life care, and is kept in their doctor’s file, posted on one’s refrigerator, and registered with the State. If 9-1-1 is called, EMT’s and ERs can check the database to find out whether the patient wants life-saving measures to be taken (resuscitation, intubation, artificial feeding. etc.) or just comfort care.

Overview of International News – September 2012

The majority of the articles for the past 4 months have appeared in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, with the UK reaching 40 and 45 the last 2 months and other countries an article or two. Activity in Scotland has picked up since independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who has Parkinson’s Disease, said she was in favor of changes to the law.

This isn’t an exact count by any means as some articles are duplicated in various countries and some articles are just not worth repeating, but it does give a picture of what parts of the world are having the conversation. The National Right to Life group from Canada has been the most vocal opponent in a number of countries around the world, along with the Catholic Church.

In Canada, the ball has been tossed back to the Supreme Court but Gloria Taylor, who has MS and requested euthanasia, was exempted as long as she does it before Court is back in session in 2013. Right to Life groups protested but it’s become a moot point as Ms. Taylor died from an infection on October 4th.

In New Zealand, Paula Westoby, an 83-year old woman who had “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on chest has died and Rosie Mott made a video explaining that she was doing herself in so her husband wouldn’t be prosecuted. Family Life International claimed that set a dangerous precedent for future cases of assisted suicide in New Zealand. However so-called “right to die” advocates are very excited about the outcome of this case hoping this decision will  influence politician’s thoughts on MP Maryann Street’s “End of Life Choices” Bill which is awaiting its first reading. A recent poll found 62.9% were in support, 15.8% neutral, 12.3% opposed and 9% were not sure.

Dr. Phillip Nitschke from Australia who helped his mother die, after serving his sentence in New Zealand, returned home to crusade for assisted-dying. He tried to get Fiji to change its laws to allow clinics (similar to Dignitas clinic in Switzerland) where dying people could come from around the world to die on a beautiful tropical island. Welcome to Paradise! The Fijians didn’t go for it.

Dying With Dignity in Australia is lobbying to change the law to allow euthanasia claiming it contradicts the Territory’s Human Rights Act to prevent people from assisting others to die. The Labor Party doesn’t support “elective death” for people who are not terminal.

The Green Party plans to introduce the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill to legalize voluntary assisted suicide for sound-minded people with an intolerable terminal illness who request a prescription for a lethal sedative.

Joanne Duune, whose son Mark Liegep was unresponsive and in a persistent vegetative state since suffering head injuries in a car crash 6 years ago, had to watch him waste away for nearly 4 weeks before he died last month. She said “if it happened in one day, with an injection, the whole family could have been there.” Ms. Dunn wants new laws which would allow families in similar circumstances to choose swift euthanasia by drugs.

Hospice and Palliative Care are making inroads in Africa and opening up the conversation in some areas. Even in Nigeria, the views of the Catholic Church on Euthanasia are discussed, i.e. euthanasia means “good death” but the Church prohibits it. In Russia, it’s completely unacceptable and India just rejected the pleas of an 72-year old who has been bed-ridden for 10-11 years for mercy killing. A German assisted suicide group moved their office to Switzerland because many in Germany object to the practice because of its association with Nazi euthanasia programs. A French film about a man’s difficult relationship with his dying mother has put the euthanasia debate back in the public eye. Hong Kong is seeking legal clarity on assisting another person to die. In Ireland, the case of a woman with MS is testing the law by claiming people with disabilities are discriminated against when it comes to assisted suicide. 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. Belgium seems to be the place to be for creative applications of legalised euthanasia by allowing gravely ill prisoners to die. Even the Arab Emirates are discussing cases of requested euthanasia in European countries.

There is ongoing conversation in Switzerland because of what’s being called “suicide tourism.” People who want to be assisted or euthanized are traveling there because it’s illegal in their home countries. Dying and disabled people have to schlep themselves through airport security and fly far from home (usually hooked up to life support)  just so they can die in peace with their dignity in tact.  I agree with UK Health Minister Anna Soubry that that’s simply ridiculous and appalling! People should be able to die in their own country in their own home without fear of the law pursuing those who would assist them. Switzerland’s parliament voted against a bid to toughen controls on assisted suicide, rejecting concerns about foreigners traveling to the country to die.

In Ireland, a 59-year old woman in the terminal stages of MS is challenging the courts to allow her husband to help her die without prosecuting him. She was going to go to Dignitas in Switzerland but wants to be able to die at home and her husband has vowed to help her even if he has to go to prison.

In The Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal, they now have  specially equipped vans that will come to your door with a doctor and a nurse who will assist you, which is certainly controversial, but people are lining up for the service. Of course, some people are going to find this abhorrent but that is an emotional response. I can see this as the wave of the future, not just because hospitals and physicians don’t want anything to do with the dying, but with the growing population of elderly, sick and dying patients in the coming decades, they won’t be able to keep up with the demand for aid-in-dying.

They also have an interesting case with Queen Beatrix’ son Friso who was smothered in an avalanche while skiing in Austria and has been in a coma in a London hospital for 6 months. He lived and worked in London. Doctors say there is little chance he will recover. Now a well-known Dutch ethicist has claimed that if he had been hospitalised in the Netherlands, doctors would have stopped treating him. Another controversy has arisen since it came out that psychiatrists have euthanized dementia patients plus an upward trend in euthanasia deaths.

In Scotland, It was revealed that 27 people died from bed sores… DIED FROM BED SORES, and it’s going to take them until 2015 to ensure there are no more avoidable hospital-acquired pressure ulcers… but they won’t allow aid in dying! Labor MP Margo MacDonald accused Care Not Killing of ignoring her End of Life Assistance Bill’s purpose and linking it with the programme of state-sponsored murder of disabled Germans. She says interest in the Bill has increased since the death of Tony Nicklinson in England.

Tony Nicklinson’s case has dominated the news in England for months. A former Rugby player suffered with locked-in syndrome, the result of a stroke, for 7 years has been begging the courts to allow him assisted dying. He died this month 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. His widow Jane has vowed to carry on his fight and now welcomes the willingness of newly appointed health minister Anna Soubry to “stick her neck out” on the issue of an assisted suicide law, but said reforms that restricted the measure to the terminally ill would not be enough.

Tory MP Anne Soubry says the current laws on assisted suicide are ridiculous and appalling and that legislation needs 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. Another MP Richard Ottaway called for reform of the law on assisted suicide to allow Britons to die at home. MP Lorely Burt backed a call at the Liberal Democrat conference allowing doctors to help patients end their lives. A policy motion was passed 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

Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham (LD), said he was “strongly in favour” of legally assisted suicide, but stressed the need for “strong safeguards.” He stated his position is strongly influenced by his father’s experience when he was terminally ill and thinks the decision should be left in the hands of the patient and not the doctor.

Ms Soubry immediately came under attack from fellow Tories, with one warning that any attempt to change the law would be ‘fiercely’ opposed and another saying she should resign. Even David Cameron is distancing himself from his outspoken new health minister and says there is no need for a change in the law or in legal guidance on this issue.

Campaigners for a change in the law are courting the Green Party to back a draft Parliamentary Bill, as the Green Party in Australia is doing. Chief executive of Dignity in Dying Sarah Wootton told the party members at a public debate there was a “strong case” for allowing assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill in England and Wales. They are considering in Oregon-like law.

A survey of MPs found that just 29% back moves to introduce assisted suicide, while 59% were opposed and 12% were undecided. Opposition was especially fierce in Scotland, where 86% of MPs opposed new legalisation. Most MPs seem to 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.”

British Humanist Association Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented that previous attempts to legalize assisted dying have revolved around terminally ill people but that is changing to include mentally competent adults who are permanently incapacitated or in unbearable pain.  The large majority of Britons, including Christians, according to polls, appear ready to accept medical assistance to end one’s life with dignity.

The Church of England’s adviser on medical ethics, Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, says that changing the existing laws would place elderly people at greater risk and cautions against taking an unrealistically optimistic view of human nature. He apparently thinks a lot of people want to knock off granny. The president of the British Medical Association expressed about the same view. The BMA is opposed to assisted suicide, supports the current legal framework, and supports the establishment of a comprehensive, high quality palliative care service available to all, to enable patients to die with dignity.

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.”

From the Independent Catholic News– 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.


a man named Martin with locked-in syndrome, who says his life is intolerable and wants help to die, is taking his case to the appeal court and is prepared to go to the highest court in the land, the supreme court, if necessary.

Jackie Meacock, who suffered from the neurological disorder dystonia, recorded a video diary calling for assisted suicide to be legalised. She didn’t want to have to leave the country but she did. She went to Switzerland to Dignitas clinic to take her own life with her family at her side.

Thomas Hobkinson, 71, suffered from motor neurone disease and had bought drugs over the internet so that he could kill himself at home. As his disease worsened, he informed family, friends, doctors and caregivers of his intention to end his life. He did, alone in his home after watching the DVD of his son’s wedding.

Patrick Norfolk, 65, had one last wish as the debilitating physical condition (motor neurone disease) 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. He did indeed try to take his own life at his home but failed. 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.

Then there is the crisis in end of life care– More hospices, care homes and other end-of-life facilities are going to be 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.

The good coming out of this debate is increased awareness about Advance Healthcare Directives and improved end-of-life care in the form of palliative care and hospice.