Wrapping up the Massachusetts Death With Dignity Defeat

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

–Sir Walter Scott

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

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

THE DISABLED COMMUNITY

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

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

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

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

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

Second Thoughts contends that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

THE DYING ONES

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

EHTICISTS

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

*

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

*

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

FAMILIES

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

He died a few days later.

*

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

HOSPICE/PALLIATIVE CARE

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

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

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

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

LAWS, COURTS

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NURSES

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

*

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

PHYSICIANS

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

RELIGION

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

The cardinal also reminded the assembly that “people already have the right to refuse burdensome, life-extending treatments. They also have the option of leaving advance directives to determine their care when they are no longer able to express their wishes. The death that results from withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment has always been separated by a bright line from active measures to cause death.”

“Assisted suicide proponents seek to blur this line,” he said. In preventing this measure from being passed, however, the Massachusetts prelate emphasized the importance of providing pastoral and medical care for terminally patients.

*

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

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

RIGHT TO DIE

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

RIGHT TO LIFE

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

*

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

INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITY

AUSTRIA

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

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

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

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

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

AUSTRALIA

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

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

CANADA

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

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

SOUTH AFRICA

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

UNITED KINGDOM

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

 

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Care Not Killing (UK)

Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide (US)

Compassion & Choices (US)

Compassion in Dying (UK)

Death with Dignity (US)

Dignitas (Switzerland)

Dignity in Dying (UK)

Dying with Dignity (Canada)

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Canada)

Final Exit Network (US)

Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (UK)

Not Dead Yet (US)

Patient Rights Council (US)

Second Thoughts (US)

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

BOOKS

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

Death with Dignity – October 2012

Overview of National News – October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of International News – October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** ** **

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

###

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.

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Care Not Killing (UK)

Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide (US)

Compassion & Choices (US)

Compassion in Dying (UK)

Death with Dignity (US)

Dignitas (Switzerland)

Dignity in Dying (UK)

Dying with Dignity (Canada)

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Canada)

Final Exit Network (US)

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.

BLOGS

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, PsychCentral.com (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)

BOOKS

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

BROADCASTS

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

JOURNAL ARTICLES

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.

MAGAZINE ARTICLES

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)

SEMINARS

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)

*******

UNITED STATES

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

CALIFORNIA

Michael Winner researching assisted suicide by hollywood.com (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)

** ** **

D.C.

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

** ** **

HAWAII

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)

** ** **

ILLINOIS

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.”

** ** **

IOWA

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)

** ** **

KANSAS

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)

** ** **

MASSACHUSETTS

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, bostonglobe.com – 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, bostonherald.com (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– golocalworester.com (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– SeniorJournal.com (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 – modernhealthcare.com (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, boston.com (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, patch.com (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, Gather.com (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, Roslindale.Patch.com (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)

** ** **

MISSISSIPPI

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)

** ** **

NEW JERSEY

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)

** ** **

NEW YORK

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)

** ** **

NORTH CAROLINA

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)

** ** **

OREGON

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– Oregonlive.com (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.

** ** **

WISCONSIN

Catholic Bishop: Democrats support evil, will go to hell by Michael Stone, examiner.com (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)

*******

INTERNATIONAL

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

AUSTRALIA

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)

** ** **

BELGIUM

Doctor Admits Euthanasia Patients’ Organs Harvested by Lisa Correnti , LifeNews.com (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)

** ** **

CANADA

Assisted-suicide advocate’s resolve bolstered by terminally ill friend’s early death – MetroNews.ca (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– CTVNews.ca (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– CBC.ca (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 – cbc.ca (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, thestar.com (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?– thestar.com – 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, thestar.com (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)

** ** **

COLUMBIA

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)

** ** **

INDIA

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)

** ** **

IRELAND

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, Independent.ie  (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)

** ** **

ITALY

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

** ** **

NEW ZEALAND

Michael Winner researching assisted suicide – 3news.co.nz (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)

** ** **

RUSSIA

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)

** ** **

SCOTLAND

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)

** ** **

SOUTH AFRICA

Finding a path to dignity in death by Marika Sboros, BDlive.co.za (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)

** ** **

SWITZERLAND

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)

** ** **

UNITED KINGDOM

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,  IBTimes.co.uk (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 – LifeNews.com (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, pulsetoday.co.uk (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 , Express.co.uk (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, Telegraph.co.uk (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.

Meanwhile…

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.

###

Assisted Death Debate – News from July 2012

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

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

BLOGS

What is your opinion of assisted suicide for the terminally ill? Live Poll

Living with Dying: Major Myths about Death With Dignity by Melissa Barber (2/27/12)

the Front Door to Healthcare – Coming to a hospital near you: physician-assisted suicide  (7/2/12)

Salon – Where’s our right to die? by Santiago Wills (7/3/12)

HuffPost-Religion – A Scientific Honoring of Death by Rev. Michael Dowd (7/8/12)

Medical Talk – Ethics: Physician Assisted Suicide (7/9/12)

Secondhand Smoke – Swiss proves no brakes assisted suicide by Wesley J. Smith (7/9/12)

MedPageToday.com – Take Docs Out of Assisted Suicide Equation? by Emily P. Walker (7/11/12)

National Right to Life News Today – Pro-Euthanasia Forces at Work at Home and Abroad: The latest in the battle over assisting suicide by Jennifer Popik, J.D. (7/11/12)

The Economist – Time to Die (7/12/12)

White Coat Notes – Chelsea Conaboy: Assisted dying, without the doctor? Ethicist says physicians can help without prescribing lethal dose (7/12/12)

New Europe Post online – Dying in Court by Peter Singer (7/12/12)

The Economist – The quality of death: Grim reapings (7/15/12)

Compassion & Choices – The Evolving State of Physician-Assisted Suicide by Jamie Joyce, The Atlantic 7/16/12

David C. Stolinsky Blog – Coming Soon: A “Central Mechanism” for Assisted Dying (7/16/12)

Girl with a Cane – Changes to laws in Canada Regarding Physician-Assisted Suicide (7/19/12)

Playing the Devil’s Advocate – An Intriguing Objection to Euthanasia for Old White People (7/19/12)

BioEthics @ TIU – Physicians’ role in assisted dying by Steve Phillips (7/19/12)

Death with Dignity National Center – The Need for Carefully Crafted Death with Dignity Laws by Melissa Barber (7/19/12)

Secondhand Smoke – EU court won’t impose euthanasia by Wesley J. Smith (7/19/12)

LifeNews – 14% of all Dutch deaths involve euthanasia, assisted suicide by Wesley J. Smith (7/19/12)

Secondhand Smoke – Nitschke doubles down in Death-on-Demand by Wesley J. Smith 7/20/12

National Right to Life News Today – Right-to-Die movement has split into two warring camps, says Nitschke by Michael Cook (7/20/12)

LifeNews.com – Pro-Euthanasia movement splitting into two warring factions by Dr. Peter Saunders 7/20/12

emtcity.com – Physician Assisted Suicide (7/22/12)

National Right to Life News Today – EU court refuses to impose euthanasia by Paul Russell (7/23/12)

Policymic – Assisted suicide debate: Canada raises controversy after striking down ban by Lowell McDonald (7/25/12)

Not Dead Yet – Assisted suicide laws violate the ADA by Diane Coleman (7/25/12)

The Daily Caller – Death Panels on Steroids by Rita L. Marker & Wesley J. Smith of The Patients Rights Council (7/25/12)

The Tea Party Economist – Assisted Dying: The Death Panels Are Coming  by Gary North (7/26/12)

Secondhand Smoke – The Dutch Cook the Euthanasia Books by Wesley J. Smith (7/26/12)

LifeNews.com – Euthanasia backers now want assisted suicide without doctors by Wesley J.Smith (7/26/12)

Fr. Z’s Blog – Obamacare = Euthanasia (7/27/12)

White Coat Notes – Dr. Barbara Rockett: Physician-assisted suicide ‘in direct conflict’ with doctor’s role (7/31/12)

White Coat Notes – Dr. Marcia Angell: Ballot question to allow physician aid in dying respects patient wishes (7/31/12)

Sociology Lens – Physician-assisted suicide: A topic of growing importance by Candace Smith (7/31/12)

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – Assisted Suicide: U.S. Overview by Margaret Dore (7/31/12)

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Reasons Why physicians do not have discussion about poor prognosis, why it matters, and what can be improved by Jennifer W. Mack and Thomas J. Smith in Journal of Clinical Oncology (7/2/12)

Redefining Physician’s Role in Assisted Dying by Julian J.Z. Prokopetz, BA and Lisa Soleymani Lehmann, MD, PhD in The New England Journal of Medicine (7/18/12)

VIDEOS

Euthanasia Debate  (6/30/12)
‘Canadians must act NOW against assisted suicide,’ says anti-euthanasia leader by Jean McCarthy – LifeSiteNews.com 7/3/12
Debating Euthanasia – Jennifer Tyron with panel 7/5/12 – Follow up to: Taking Mercy (3/21/12)
Aja Riggs, cancer patient, joins aid in dying lawsuit (New Mexico) (7/9/12)
Euthanasia debate with Philip Nitschke and Bernadette Tobin (7/20/12)
Sir Terry Pratchett on assisted dying (7/26/12)

BROADCASTS

Interview with Dr. Lisa Lehmann on the physician’s role in assisted dying for terminally ill patients (Director of the Center for Bioethics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital) – (7/12/12)

AARP senior end of life decisions by John Wright (7/20/12)

The Jefferson Exchange – Compassion & Choices: Oregon’s assisted-suicide law presents a number of hurdles for terminal patients to overcome to end their own lives. The group Compassion & Choices of Oregon works with the patients to overcome the hurdles.  Compassion & Choices provides access to a network of volunteers and professionals with experience in implementing Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.  (7/30/12)

UNITED STATES

Central mechanism would remove physician from assisted-dying process by Sarah Guy( 7/24/12) – The development of a central state or federal mechanism in the USA that would confirm the authenticity and eligibility of terminally ill patients’ requests for death, dispense medication, and monitor demand and use, could remove physicians from the assisted dying process, say researchers.

Canadians and Britons would allow euthanasia under some conditions – Respondents in US are more likely to question whether doctor-assisted suicide should be permitted at all – Polls by country

Choice is an Illusion: A website opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia – many states

(News this month from California, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin)

CALIFORNIA

Assisted suicide: compassion or crime? by Kate McGinty, mydesert.com (7/29/12)

MASSACHUSETTS

By whatever name, dignity by Lewis Cohen, MD, gazettenet.com (7/6/12)
Distilled to its essence, the ballot asks: Should dying people have the right to physician-assisted suicide?

In Massachusetts, during the months leading up to Election Day, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, pro-life groups, conservative politicians and segments of the disability community will unite to wage a fierce campaign.

Be prepared to hear from other opposition spokespersons that the law will target society’s most vulnerable populations. Get ready for fear-mongering to rival the rhetoric many of these same individuals have previously offered in their opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion and the right to choose birth control. We are going to hear claims that death with dignity sanctions elder abuse.

Do not expect the opposition’s leaders to cite the annual statistical report which the Oregon Health Authority publishes online. The 2011 data challenge all of these theoretical worries and concerns.

There is no factual basis for most of the arguments that will be offered, but they will make for thrilling election year drama.

(more)

Death with Dignoty Act on November Ballot – abc40news, Springfield MA  (7/11/12) – w/video – Dr. Lewis Cohen, a local psychiatrist and professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, is one of the founding members of the petition.

The Death With Dignity Act is one of three initiatives that will be on the November ballot. If passed by voters the law would allow terminally ill patients to end their own life. “There are few people who we really can’t help with their suffering,” said Dr. Lewis Cohen.
“I can tell you as a psychiatrist a big piece of it is that people have to have the capacity to make this decision and they have to demonstrate it,” said Dr. Cohen.
(more)

Beware slippery slope of ‘doctor-prescribed suicide’ – Letter to The Herald News (7/15/12) – One of the questions on the ballot in November will be legalization of assisted suicide, a.k.a Death With Dignity, or more accurately known as doctor-prescribed suicide.
There is no dignity in suicide. It is a terrible tragedy. If this initiative passes, it will shift our approach toward the sick and dying in this state from one of compassion and care to one of encouraging self-destruction. Doctor-prescribed suicide is medical abandonment.  A doctor will not have to be present when the patient takes the lethal drugs.
The Massachusetts Medical Society voted last December to reaffirm its opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
Life is the most basic gift from God, a gift which is entrusted to our care, not that we have control over it.
(more)
The Evolving state of physician-assisted suicide by Jaime Joyce, theAtlantic, 7/16/12 – Should terminally ill patients have the right to kill themselves? Voters in Massachusetts will soon decide. Last Wednesday, the Secretary of the Commonwealth announced that on November 6, 2012, when Bay State voters go to the polls to pick the next President, they will also have their say on a ballot measure called the Death with Dignity Act. If passed, the law would make Massachusetts the third state to give adults diagnosed with six months or less to live the option to end their lives using a lethal dose of doctor-prescribed medication.

A study released by the Health Research and Education Trust shows that Americans are living longer lives than ever before. As a result, more individuals and families will face difficult questions about end-of-life care. In 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers turned 65. By 2030, the number of Boomers between 66 and 84 years old will climb to 61 million, and six out of 10 will be managing chronic health conditions. For the elderly and others facing terminal illness, doctors have numerous ways to prolong life. Palliative and hospice care are available to help patients find peace and comfort in their final days. But there are some people who want another option, which is the right to end suffering by taking their own life at a time and place of their choosing.
(more)

Push for “death with dignity” in Massachusetts picks up steam by Kevin B. O’Reilly, amednews.com (7/16/12) – Early polling results: Sixty percent of Massachusetts voters support “allowing people who are dying to legally obtain medication that they could use to end their lives,” according to a Western New England University Polling Institute survey of 504 voters conducted at the end of May. Twenty-nine percent said they opposed the idea, and 11% declined to answer the question.

“This statute has worked as intended in both Oregon and Washington,” Crawford said. “The scare tactics the opposition uses simply haven’t come to life.”
(more)

Assisted suicide backers confident they’ll win in Massachusettes – LifeNews.com( 7/27/12) – Massachusetts is the latest battleground over euthanasia with an initiative on the ballot in November to adopt a statute similar to those in Oregon and Washington, which allow physicians to prescribe suicide for their patients. As in Oregon and Washington, the Massachusetts proposal states assisted suicide would be legal for residents of the state in cases where a doctor has determined the patient has less than six months to live. However, the examples of the two Western states have shown that those safeguards do not work.
(more)

MONTANA

“Does the Board really want to put itself in the embarrassing position of overstepping its authority by condoning this procedure?” Montanans against assisted suicide and for living with dignity (7/18/12) – I am having trouble understanding why our Montana Board of Medical Examiners would step out on a limb and seemingly promote, or at least encourage physicians to go along with a procedure, Physician Assisted Suicide for the following reasons:
(more)

NEW JERSEY

Racial differences in end-of-life planning: Why don’t blacks and Latinos prepare for the inevitable?– Rutgers (7/20/12) – Both religious beliefs and cultural attitudes toward receiving support from family members accounted for the gap between white subjects and minorities, said Carr.
Older blacks are more likely to believe that God controls the time and circumstance of someone’s death and that it’s inappropriate to interfere.
“Their thinking is, ‘this is not our decision to mess around with,” Carr said.
For Latinos, the starkest contrast involved entrusting one particular family member with durable power of attorney. Only four percent of Latinos chose a relative to voice decisions for the incapacitated patient. The likely explanation is that if you grew up in a culture that’s close-knit, you make decisions as a family unit, you’re not going to choose one person,’’ she said.
In both black and Latino families, she said, there is evidence that people are more likely to view caring for ill or aging members as the norm, whereas white subjects had a greater fear of “burdening’’ family with their illness.
Because blacks especially have higher rates of illness, shorter life spans and less access to preventive care, it’s especially important for them to discuss what kind of treatment they would want in the event of a terminal illness and what family members’ roles would be, Carr said.
(more)

New Jersey Euthanasia Laws

NEW MEXICO

Doctors, patient challenge New Mexico assisted suicide ban by Diane Carman, healthpolicysolutions.org (7/11/120 – The question before the court in New Mexico is absurdly simple and yet impossibly complex. What is the meaning of “assisting suicide”?
If a terminally-ill patient refuses a ventilator or a feeding tube and the physician yields to that decision, is that assisting suicide? If the patient is in excruciating pain and requests total sedation and no nutrition or fluids, can the doctor be held accountable for his death? What if the patient seeks a prescription from her physician so that when the pain of dying is overwhelming she can seek the ultimate relief on her own?
(more)

Death with Dignity? More like war on New Mexico’s elderly! by Anna Maria Hoffman (7/16/12) – Currently, Doctors Aroop Mangalik and Katherine Morris, along with cancer patient Aja Riggs, are challenging New Mexico’s pro-life ban on assisted suicide in court. They ultimately want to prove that their loophole “aid in dying” argument—giving conscious terminally ill patients lethal medicine to die—is not assisted suicide. In their view, New Mexico’s assisted suicide ban does not take advanced terminal illness treatment into account and does not bar physicians from practicing “aid in dying” procedures. Looks like these plaintiffs are circumventing the state’s law to impose their pro-death will through court.
(more)

NDY quoted in article on New Mexico assisted suicide case by Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet (7/17/12) – Throughout the 1980’s and across the country, courts repeatedly and unequivocally answered “no” (i.e. no problem) to the first two questions, but Compassion and Choices (C&C) often raises the specter of being hooked to unwanted tubes and forced to endure unwanted medical treatments when advocating for something completely different than the well established right to refuse treatment.  Despite nearly 25 years of widespread public education about using advance directives to refuse unwanted treatment, C&C counts on people to forget these facts and conflate the issues.  C&C is pushing for the term “aid in dying” to include not only refusing treatment, palliative care, and hospice, but also assisted suicide, rolling it all into one focus group tested phrase.
(more)

OREGON

Assisted Dying: Experts Debate Doctor’s Roleby Katie Moisse, abcnews.com( 7/13/12) – Peggy Sutherland was ready to die. The morphine oozing from a pump in her spine was no match for the pain of lung cancer, which had evaded treatment and invaded her ribs.

“She needed so much morphine it would have rendered her basically unconscious,” said Sutherland’s daughter, Julie McMurchie, who lives in Portland, Ore. “She was just kind of done.”

Sutherland, 68, decided to use Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act,” which allows terminally-ill residents to end their lives after a 15-day requisite waiting period by self-administering a lethal prescription drug.

“Her doctor wrote the prescription and met my husband and me at the pharmacy on the 15th day,” said McMurchie, recalling how her mother “didn’t want to wait,” she said. “Then he came back to the house, and he stayed with us until her heart stopped beating.”

But not all doctors are on board with the law. In the 15 years since Oregon legalized physician-assisted dying, only Washington and Montana have followed suit, a resistance some experts blame on the medical community.
(more)

RHODE  ISLAND

Rhode Island Euthanasia Laws

TEXAS

Houston man charged in wife’s assisted suicide by Philip Caulfield – NY Daily News (7/3/12) – Her husband, Mark Kelly, 47, reported his wife’s death, and admitted to police that he helped her kill herself because the couple was having financial problems.

Kelly was charged with aiding suicide, a state jail felony. He was being held on $2,000 bail and could get up to two years in prison if convicted.

WISCONSIN

Bishops urge against use of Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (7/25/12) – The Roman Catholic bishops of Wisconsin recently expressed concern for “Upholding the Dignity of Human Life” in a statement warning against the use of Physician (or Provider) Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
(more)

Wisconsin Bishops warn against POLST end of care document by Jean McCarthy – LifeSiteNews.com (7/26/12) –
In a statement issued yesterday, the Roman Catholic bishops of Wisconsin are warning against the end of life care document called Physician (or Provider) Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).  The bishops are concerned that use of this document could lead to acts of euthanasia.
(more)

INTERNATIONAL

(News this month from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Trinidad, United Kingdom)

AUSTRALIA

Euthanasia debate heating up in Tasmania by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews 7/2/12 – The euthanasia issue is heating up in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Parliament has debated euthanasia on several occasions and over the years it has had two inquiries into the feasibility of legalizing euthanasia with both enquiries deciding against legalization.

While in Tasmania, the big issue that the people shared with me was the crisis in healthcare that was occurring on the Island.

The Tasmanian people were very concerned that the Greens and Labor leaders are pushing euthanasia again to achieve cost savings in healthcare. Whether this is true or not, it should be noted that when the pressure to cut the cost of healthcare is mixed with euthanasia, that the pressure to die will soon outweigh the will to live.
(more)

Opposition to relentless push for euthanasia legalization in Australia by Jason Rushton, LifeSiteNews.com (7/3/12) – More than 19 bills to legalise euthanasia have been introduced into Australian parliaments since 2002.

In the current South Australian parliament, a voluntary euthanasia bill has been introduced on five separate occasions, the latest one being defeated 22-20 as recently as June 15 of this year.
(more)

Q&A with Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and Labour MP Maryan Street (7/1/12)
Nitschke to establish euthanasia clinic in Tasmania, if euthanasia becomes legal by Alex Schadenberg, executive director Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, National Right to Life News Today (7/4/12) – Today I had the opportunity to speak to members of the Tasmanian parliament about why it is not safe to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide. In response to a question from a member of the Tasmanian parliament, I reminded them that Philip Nitschke had already promised to establish a euthanasia clinic in Tasmania, if they legalize euthanasia.
(more)

Is it possible to have safe, legal and rare euthanasia?  by Dr. Pravin Thevathasan, National Right to Life News Today (7/4/12) – A recent press release from the British Medical Journal states: “The BMJ supports a call from leading UK medical bodies to stop opposing assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) wants the British Medical Association and royal colleges to move their position from opposition to neutrality.”
It was an extraordinary failure of judgement on the part of what is probably the world’s most prestigious medical journal.
(more)

Spreading the anti-euthanasia message down under by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews.com 7/6/12 – There were more than 400 people who came to the Life Dinner to hear my talk in Melbourne.

Attending the Life Dinner were several political leaders including The Hon Kevin Andrews MP (Liberal) who in 1996, steered through the federal parliament the legislation that overturned the Northern Territories euthanasia legislation.

Hon. Kevin Andrews informed me that politics is not only the art of the possible, but a good plan creates possibilities and can be implemented. The Andrews bill accomplished what was first perceived to be impossible.
(more)

CANADA

Is euthanasia legalized murder? Dutch doctors have gone from fighting death to administering it by Anne McTavish, TroyMedia.com (7/3/12) – Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) is a hard case, and it’s bad law. It’s about people with serious, debilitating, terminal illnesses who want doctors to kill them. It’s not just that they want to die, it’s that they want to die later and to have someone else do it in a way that won’t hurt.

The plaintiffs and Madam Justice Smith focused on the seriously ill people and their situation. I want to focus on the doctors and the rest of us who will be harmed if this decision becomes law.
(more)

Let terminally ill choose: One writer’s eloquence changed my mind about assisted suicide by Naomi Lakritz in The Edmunton Journal (7/3/12) – … that’s not what this is about. We’re not talking about fomenting a Jack Kevorkianlike ghoulishness among physicians. This is not about doctors rushing in with blood lust in their eyes, ready to knock off any patient who gives them the nod – or even a patient who doesn’t. It’s not about doctors making decisions for patients; it’s about patients making decisions for themselves.
(more)

Choosing Death: We have to talk about it in thespec.com, editorial (7/3/12) – Canada is inching closer and closer to a national discussion about assisted suicide. And it’s about time.
In its most recent edition, the Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for a Canada-wide debate. Circumstances are pushing the nation in that direction: In Quebec, the Dying with Dignity Commission (an all-party group drawn from the National Assembly) recently issued a comprehensive report suggesting, in part, that doctors who help a terminally ill patient die by suicide not be charged criminally. And a judge in the British Columbia Supreme Court in June struck down laws banning doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional, ruling on the case of a B.C. woman who has Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
…the very central question is clear: When a person is dying, when their quality of life has deteriorated to the extent that they don’t wish to continue, ought there be some avenue that is not illegal? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, since other countries including Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium have euthanasia social policy.
(more)

Where’s our right to die? by Santiago Wills, Salon (7/3/12) – …according to Howard Ball, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont, the legalization of physician-assisted death is a gesture of human compassion. As he details in his new book, “At Liberty to Die: The Battle for Death With Dignity in America,” the issue goes to the heart of bigger questions about the American soul — from the meaning of personal liberty to the importance of constitutional law.
(more)

Another View: Let’s talk about assisted suicide in TheRecord.com (7/4/12) – In its most recent edition, the Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for a Canada-wide debate. Circumstances are pushing the nation in that direction: In Quebec, the Dying with Dignity Commission (an all-party group drawn from the National Assembly) recently issued a comprehensive report suggesting, in part, that doctors who help a terminally ill patient die by suicide not be charged criminally. And a judge in the British Columbia Supreme Court in June struck down laws banning doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional, ruling on the case of a B.C. woman who has Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The CMAJ editorial, provocatively headlined “Are we ready to perform therapeutic homicide?” makes the point that this is not a debate for courtrooms, lawyers and judges, but rather for average Canadians and their elected proxies in Parliament.

There’s the rub. The Harper government does not want this debate.
(more)

Now’s the time to stand against euthanasia urges Canadian bishops’ group by Patrick B. Craine, LifeSiteNews.com (7/9/12) – “It is time to stand up and speak!” insists the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).

In a new reflection, the organization, which was co-founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, is calling on Catholics and people of good will to engage the debate on end-of-life issues. The plea comes in the wake of a British Columbia judge’s ruling that legalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide and the recent Quebec government report calling for “medical assistance in dying.”
(more)

How about the right to cry for help? court ruling asserting a person’s right to assisted suicide reflects discriminatory attitudes toward the disabled – by Amy E. Hasbrouck, chair of Not Dead Yet, an international organization of people with disabilities who oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in The Gazette (7/9/12) – The long and the short of the reasons for judgment issued by Justice Lynn Smith is that legal provisions in Canada prohibiting assisted suicide law are unconstitutional because they impede disabled people’s rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

The judge believes that having a disability or degenerative illness is a rational reason to want to die, and that those of us with disabilities should be helped to die if we can’t do it neatly or efficiently ourselves.

The B.C. Supreme Court has chosen not to listen very closely to disability-rights advocates with more than 20 years of experience battling discrimination; instead, the court relied on the stories of people who have accepted the view that disability is undignified, and that people with disabilities should be given a streamlined path to death whenever they want it and however they want it.

Justice Smith assumes that, because it’s no longer illegal, suicide is somehow an affirmative right; and if you can’t do it the way you want to do it, then you should have the right to have someone do it for you.
(more)

Churchgoers more likely to support euthanasia: Survey sunnewsnetwork.ca (7/10/12) – A new survey has found Protestant churchgoers are more likely to support doctor-assisted suicide in controlled situations than Canadians at large.
(more)
Assisted-suicide ruling to be appealed by Ottawa – Civil-liberties lawyer calls move ‘perplexing’ in case of terminally ill B.C. woman- CBC News (7/13/12) – The federal government will appeal last month’s ruling by the British Columbia Supreme Court that partially struck down Canada’s ban on assisted suicide, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says.
The ruling declared that the Criminal Code section targeting anyone who “aids or abets a person to commit suicide” should not apply to physicians in cases where terminally ill patients request to die.

Judge Lynn Smith halted her decision for a year to give Parliament a chance to rewrite the law, which she deemed unconstitutional because it unfairly deprives people with degenerative illnesses of their liberty, and because it discriminates against those with a physical disability who might need assistance to exercise their right to take their own life.

But she also granted an immediate exemption for Gloria Taylor, one of the women who brought the suit, and her doctor.
(more)

Update: Government of Canada Condemns Gloria Taylor to a Slow Death by Cathryn Wellner (7/13/12) – On Friday the 13th, the Conservative government of Canada dealt Gloria Taylor a cruel blow. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced his government will appeal the ruling that would have allowed her to die with dignity.
A month earlier the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted the 64-year-old woman, who suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), the right to request the assistance of her doctor if she wished to end her life.
(more)

Conservative Government to appeal assisted suicide ruling after B.C.Supreme Court strikes down ban – National Post (7/13/12) – The landmark ruling last month said the ban is unconstitutional and gave Ottawa a year to rewrite it. Judge Lynn Smith also granted an immediate exemption to the law, allowing Gloria Taylor, one of the women who brought the lawsuit, to die with a doctor’s help.

In a statement, Nicholson said the government intends to seek a stay on all aspects of the ruling, including the exemption for Taylor, while it goes to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
(more)

It’s time for a national debate on assisted suicide– The Gazette (7/16/12) – Call it what you will – assisted suicide, euthanasia or therapeutic homicide – it is an issue that politicians are reluctant to engage, but one which is not going away.

Last month, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that Canada’s ban on assisted suicide is unconstitutional on grounds that it violates two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerning the right to equality, and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The ruling did not strike down the law, but rather ordered the federal government to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code that currently make it an offence to counsel or assist someone to commit suicide. It did, however, extend an exemption for a plaintiff in the case, a 64-year-old B.C. woman suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS) to die with a doctor’s assistance.
(m0re)

Who decides how we die? – Edmunton Journal (7/16/12) – Why has Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appealed the B.C. ruling that struck down the law that makes physician-assisted death illegal in Canada? By refusing to allow Gloria Taylor, who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the right to a doctor-assisted death, Nicholson is committing her to a painful death. That is not justice. It’s unnecessary cruelty.
Nicholson states the laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including the most vulnerable such as the sick, the elderly and people with disabilities. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith agreed, but after sifting through mountains of evidence concluded that in countries allowing medically assisted dying, there is no threat to these groups. Nicholson is ignoring this evidence.
(more)

Assisted-suicide slope not so slipperyby Arthur Schafer, WinnepegFreePress.com (7/19/12) – Gloria Taylor, a British Columbia ALS patient, insists it should be up to her to decide when the prospect of continued life is worse than the prospect of hastened death. Once she reaches that point, however, she may no longer be physically able to end her own life. So, she claims, it is her right to seek assistance in dying from a willing physician.

“What I want is to be able to die in a manner that is consistent with the way that I lived my life. I want to be able to exercise control and die with dignity and with my sense of self and personal integrity intact,” she has explained. “I want to be able to experience my death as part of my life and part of my expression of that life. I do not want the manner of my death to undermine the values that I lived my life in accordance with…”

A great majority of Canadians supports Taylor’s position. Similar support existed 19 years ago for Sue Rodriguez, another ALS patient who took her case all the way to the Supreme Court. Rodriguez lost, but only very narrowly, by a five-to-four vote.

Despite strong public support for decriminalization of physician-assisted suicide, it remains illegal in Canada. Attempting suicide ceased to be a crime in 1974; but aiding someone to commit suicide remains an offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The voluntary request of the patient — even when she is a competent adult, rational and fully informed — is no defence.

In a dramatic decision, however, the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled it is Taylor’s constitutional right to decide for herself whether she wants a physician to assist her to die. The federal government is appealing this decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Canada will have to rule.
(more)

It’s expensive to support the disabled– suicide kits are $39.95by Rhonda Wiebe (7/21/12) – Arthur Schafer’s portrayal of comments on the merits of physician-assisted suicide need challenging (Assisted-suicide slope not so slippery, July 19). Schafer, like many supporters of physician-assisted suicide (also known as “doctor-prescribed death”), does not seem to have considered the wider issues facing Canadians with disabilities, including the ongoing social prejudice and discouraging lack of living supports that we encounter on a daily basis.

The recent decision in the British Columbia Supreme Court regarding the constitutional right of Gloria Taylor, an ALS patient, to end her own life rather than live with disability only confirms what we with disabilities already know — that many Canadians believe it is better to be dead than disabled. What also became clear in the decision is that the judge believes it is better to be dead than disabled. The judgment was pronounced without considering the message it sends to all of us who believe that despite profound functional limitations, we want to live.
(more)

Our right to die – cottagecountrynow.ca (7/20/12) – Last week the Canadian government announced plans to appeal a British Columbia court decision allowing doctor assisted suicide.
Last month, the British Columbia Supreme Court struck down a ban on doctor assisted suicide, but granted a one-year stay to give Parliament time to rewrite the law. There was an exception to the stay, though, that allowed applicant Gloria Taylor, who has ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, to end her life when she sees fit with the help of a doctor.
The government’s decision to appeal the ruling is questionable.
Anyone at death’s door should have a right to die when and how they see fit. According to Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights : “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
Not everyone agrees with interpretations of the section that it includes allowing a terminally ill person to die with medical help, but it’s a worthwhile interpretation.
A person of sound mind, who is suffering from an ever-worsening debilitating condition should have the option of choosing a humane death, not constant pain with no quality of life. That’s not living.
(more)

Medical Nightmare: Doctors won’t let wife act on behalf of ailing husband by Peter Baklinski  – LifeSiteNews.com (7/20/12) – An Ontario woman is crying foul after a team of doctors effectively denied the woman her legal right to act on behalf of her husband who was hospitalized after a stroke. The woman is fighting to regain control of her husband’s medical treatment.

Marilyn met with her husband’s team of doctors who not only refused to change his drug regimen, but threatened that if she did not comply with the drug plan, she would loose her legal power of attorney over her husband.

“Not only did the meds not get changed, but I was threatened over and over,” she said.

One doctor allegedly told Marilyn: “One of us has to go, and it’s going to be you.”

“I was just telling them the truth as I knew it, hoping that they would change the meds, but it didn’t happen that way,” she said. “They have never honored my legal power of attorney.”

She alleges that doctors were responsible for bringing her before the Consent and Capacity Board so that she could be deemed “incapacitated” to represent her husband.

“They’ve put him on palliative care against the wishes of the family,” she said, adding that he is not receiving adequate hydration.

Not only this, but Marilyn says that she was barred from visiting her husband in December, but has since regained permission to visit under supervision.

“Putting this in perspective, if doctors are already imposing decision on patients as ‘medical treatment,’ how long does it take before they start imposing euthanasia and assisted suicide on patients as a form of ‘medical treatment’?” Alex Schadenberg, director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition asked.

Schadenberg pointed out that many doctors would not proscribe such treatment, but added that “there will always be some who will abuse the power that they have been given to take lives.”
(more)

Ask the religion experts: Does the renewed debate on doctor assisted suicide say anything about the sanctity of life in modern times? – The Ottawa Citizen (7/21/12) – Cases in which there may or may not be doctor-assisted suicide are anything but abstract. This means discussions about this matter need to be undertaken within the wider context of the Canadian health-care system. For that matter, it cannot be addressed through law or medicine alone. We need broad reflection on the experience of death and dying.
Requests for doctor-assisted suicide appear to be signs of the failure of human community. It is difficult, if not impossible, to regard life as sacred if we have no assurance that we will be supported in all circumstances. We need to be certain that we will not be forced to endure dehumanizing medical procedures. We need confidence that we will not be abandoned in our suffering. With all the financial strains that our health-care system is facing, terminally ill people need to know that assisted suicide is not being promoted because it is actually cheaper than good palliative care.
(more)

Dying in Court by Peter Singer – Aljazeera.com (7/21/12) – A Canadian’s fight for the right to die could provide an international precedent in the case for assisted suicide.
(more)

Appeal is cruel by John Warren – Calgary Herald (7/21/12) – By refusing to allow Gloria Taylor, who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the right to a doctor-assisted death, he is committing her to a painful death.
That is not justice. It’s unnecessary cruelty.
(more)

Medically assisted suicide: Compassionate or criminal?– The Vancouver Sun (7/23/12) – Striking down laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia puts lives at risk and is likely to lead to the untimely deaths of vulnerable people whether they choose it or not.

Those who insist it should be legal out of respect for personal autonomy, so individuals have the free choice, don’t realize that legalizing it may have the opposite effect.
(more)

Depression, not pain, main reason patients request euthanasia by Anne McTavish – Troy Media (7/24/12) – Yet again, our courts have been asked to change the law and allow doctors to actively end a person’s life (euthanasia) or to provide a patient with the drugs to kill themself (physician-assisted suicide, or PAS).
(more)

BMA doctors argue assisted suicide is ‘never justified’ as they vote against euthanasiaby Claire Bates, Anglican Mainstream (7/28/12) – Doctors have reiterated their opposition to assisted dying at the British Medical Association’s conference today.

Campaigners wanted delegates to agree to take a neutral stance on the issue, but members of the BMA voted against this proposal. One delegate argued that killing patients was ‘never justified’ likening it to murder.

The Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) had called for the BMA to move its position from opposition to ‘studied’ neutrality.
(more)

CHINA

10-year old American boy receives euthanasia – news.xinhuanet.com (7/23/12) – photo journey of the family with a 10-year old American boy diagnosed with neuroblastoma who goes through two years of treatments then chooses euthanasia to make his transition

FRANCE

President launches euthanasia debate – The Connexion (7/18/12) – PRESIDENT Hollande has reignited debate on euthanasia, saying he wants to “go further” than the existing “Leonetti Law” on the end of life, which rules it out. Visiting a hospice in the Hauts-de-Seine, the president said he wants to put in place a reform of care for the terminally ill in the “coming months,” possibly allowing for a form of assisted dying.
He has charged the president of a national medical ethics committee, Prof Didier Sicard, with running consultations around the country to feed into reforms.
However euthanasia pressure group the Association Pour le Droit de Mourir dans la Dignité, says the professor has a Catholic bias to his views.
(more)

GERMANY

Assisted Suicide: Germany loses Strasbourg case – BBC News Europe (7/19/12) – After suffering a bad fall in 2002 Mr Koch’s wife needed artificial ventilation and constant nursing care. She wanted to end her life, but Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices refused to let her do so with sodium pentobarbital.
Mr Koch’s challenges on her behalf got nowhere in Germany as the courts cited the existing ban on active assisted suicide.
The Dignitas facility in Switzerland later enabled Mrs Koch to die.

European court rules on euthanasia debate – Deutsche Welle (7/19/12) – The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision Thursday on whether states may refuse to assist in a suicide. Germany’s laws on assisted suicide draw a fine line between what’s permitted, and what’s not. Questions remain.
(more)

Strasbourg hits euthanasia ball back into German courts – Deutsche Welle (7/19/12) – The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it’s up to individual countries to decide on euthanasia. It also decided, however, that the German courts should not have thrown out a widower’s appeals.
(more)

INDIA

Government not in favor of euthanasia– The Times of India (7/28/12) – The minister said the law of the land prohibited active euthanasia and the Supreme Court had laid out guidelines for passive euthanasia. “In this situation, there’s no need for us to recommend anything. We feel our effort should be to help a person live, whatever be the situation. It’s about compassion and service.”

However, members were divided over the issue. Referring to the case of HD Karibasamma, a teacher in Davanagere who is seeking euthanasia due to health problems, Shivayogi Swamy said: “It’s torture for the patient and family members. It’s like death every minute. Moreover, such cases have financial implications. Several countries have legalized euthanasia. We should pass a resolution and send it to the Centre.”
(more)

THE NETHERLANDS

Thousands in Netherlands die without consent since euthanasia OK by Steven Ertelt, lifenews.com  (7/4/12) – Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has a message for Canadians: contact federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson now, and urge him to appeal the recent decision by Justice Lynn Smith in British Columbia striking down Canada’s laws on assisted suicide. (video)

Legalising assisted dying ‘doesn’t lead to more opting death’by Stephen Adams, The Telegraph (7/11/12) –

The study, published in The Lancet, found rates before and after legalisation in 2002 were comparable.

The figures have been leapt upon by advocates of a change in the law here, who say they show there would be no “slippery slope” towards more people choosing assisted dying.

But opponents warn it shows there has been a big rise in the use of methods that border on assisted dying, such as continuous deep sedation.

In 2002 The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise assisted dying, although it had been tolerated since the 1970s. The rules only cover patients with an incurable condition who face unbearable suffering.

The Dutch academics found that between 1990 and 2001 the rate of euthanasia and assisted suicide cases rose from 1.9 to 2.8 per cent of all deaths.
(more)

Dutch euthanasia figures present muddled picture by Michael Cook, BioEdge (7/14/12) – It is true that there is a “V” shaped curve in the number of cases of voluntary euthanasia. In 2001, before legalisation, about 2.6% of all deaths were due to voluntary euthanasia. In 2005, this dropped to 1.7%, and rose in 2010 back up to 2.8%.
But what accounts for the drop? It was not lack of interest. The proportion of patients requesting euthanasia rose from 4.8% of all patient deaths in 2005 to 6.7% in 2010. And doctors were also more willing to grant it. In 2005, 37% of these requests were granted and in 2010 45%.
(more)

Doubts emerge about Dutch guidelines for terminal sedation by Michael Cook (7/20/12) – Should deep, continuous sedation at the end of life really be treated as normal medical practice in the Netherlands, ask three Dutch authors in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Although they do not appear to oppose euthanasia, they argue that “morally problematic aspects inherent to palliative sedation do not get the attention they deserve” under current guidelines. Since palliative sedation accounted for more than 12% of deaths in the Netherlands in 2010, this is an important issue.

Although euthanasia – which ends a patient’s life immediately – is the most visible and controversial aspect of end-of-life care for international observers, the innocuous-sounding treatment called “palliative sedation” (also called “terminal sedation” by some authors) also has been the centre of controversy in the Netherlands. In 2003, the then-attorney-general argued that the death of a deeply sedated patient because water was withheld was culpable homicide. However, his view did not prevail.
(more)

The Lancet proves euthanasia deaths are rising in The Netherlands by Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (7/17/12) – The long awaited 2010 nationwide examination of the euthanasia law in the Netherlands was published in The Lancet on July 11, 2012. The study found that:

* the number of euthanasia deaths has grown significantly since 2005 (4050 in 2010, 2425 in 2005)

* the under-reporting of euthanasia in the Netherlands has grown since 2005 (23% in 2010, 20% in 2005)

* there is a growth in deaths by terminal sedation (12.3% in 2010, 8.2% in 2005)

* the percentage of requests for euthanasia being fulfilled has increased (45% in 2010, 37% in 2005)

* the number of deaths without request or consent has decreased (300 in 2010, 550 in 2005)

The media decided to ignore the significant growth in the number of euthanasia deaths since 2005, by reporting that the current percentage of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands is similar to the percentage of euthanasia deaths in 2001, before it was officially legalized.

NEW ZEALAND

Panel discusses the euthanasia debate in New Zealand – TVNZ (7/1/12) -interview with Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Massey University Vice-Chancellor, Political Scientist and a cancer patient

Will assisted death be made legal by Noel Cheer, BusinessScoop (7/9/12) – Will Assisted Death be made legal? With Maryan Street’s Private Member’s Bill waiting to be balloted, the “voluntary euthanasia” debate has effectively been re-opened. The insistence that “I own my body” has lead to the claim that …Will Assisted Death be made legal?

With Maryan Street’s Private Member’s Bill waiting to be balloted, the “voluntary euthanasia” debate has effectively been re-opened.
(more)

Euthanasia may again test our politiciansby Katie Bradford-Crozier – newstalkzb.co.nz (7/24/12) – The controversial topic of euthanasia could once again be about to test our politicians.

Labour’s Maryan Street is submitting a Bill to the Members’ ballot that would see euthanasia decriminalised.

There’d be strict conditions, such as two separate medical practitioners having to deem the person concerned is of sound mind, has a terminal illness and hasn’t been coerced in any way.

Ms Street is hoping recent high profile cases will make MPs realise the time is right to take another look at the issue.
(more)

Euthanasis law would ‘force doctors to lie’by Natasha Burling – newstalkzb.co.nz (7/27/12) –

A doctor who cares for dying people says the introduction of a law legalising euthanasia would force doctors to lie.

A Bill decriminalising the practice has been put in the member’s ballot by Labour MP Maryan Street.

Capital and Coast palliative medicine consultant Dr Sinead Donnelly says if it was passed, it would be a disaster for society.

She says under the Bill, doctors would have to say the person’s underlying illness was the cause of death, not the lethal injection.

“And in this legislation they want the doctor to lie, to tell a lie, in addition to killing the patient, or to giving the patient, the person, the injection that killed them.”

Dr Donnelly says the legislation is incredibly poor and is shocked by it.
(more)

Man pleads guilty to assisting suicide by Anna Cross newstalkzb.co.nz (5/4/12) – Lesley Martin helped her ill mother die and says people are determined to have a peaceful and dignified death, so they take matters into their own hands.
She says it happens far more than what’s reported.”There is a well established euthanasia underground accessed in any country where legislation isn’t in place for people to access medically assisted dying openly and honestly.”

Euthanasia backers cite fear of burdening others by Bronwyn Torrie (7/27/12) – Healthy pro-euthanasia pensioners would rather cut their lives short than be a financial drain on society, a study shows.
Auckland University researchers interviewed 11 healthy men and women aged between 69 and 89 on why they supported voluntary euthanasia.

Reasons included not wanting to be a burden on their families and healthcare resources and fears of losing their independence and dignity.

“If you couldn’t do your basic care, couldn’t wash yourself or go to the loo by yourself, I don’t want to go on after that,” an 86-year-old woman said.

“And I don’t expect [my husband] wants me to go on like that either, or my family.”

Being remembered in “a good way”, not as a shadow of their former selves, was also important. Many had watched a loved one die and did not want to be in a position where they could not make decisions for themselves.
(more)

SOUTH AFRICA

Death is inevitable, pain is optional by Thalia Randall – Mail&Guardian (7/6/12) – Some believe that proper palliative care goes a long way towards countering arguments for euthanasia.
(more)

South Africa Doctors ‘Secretly Help People Die’– News24.com (7/12/12) – South Africa should legalise euthanasia as many doctors are already secretly helping elderly patients to die, Western Cape University Prof Sean Davison said on Thursday.

“Many doctors have said to me privately that they’ve helped people to die… at their request. It’s the choice of the doctor [though]… and they have to do it behind the scenes illegally,” he said.

With no choice whether to die or not, critically ill patients had to rely on the graciousness of their doctor.

“If you don’t have a law change, you might be playing Lotto with your doctor.”
(more)

SWITZERLAND

Canton votes for assisted suicide– thetablet.com (6/29/12) – Churches in the Swiss canton of Vaud have condemned a move that will permit assisted suicide in nursing homes and hospitals in the canton.

On 17 June, almost two-thirds of voters (62 per cent) in the canton voted in a legally binding referendum in favour of a proposal that would oblige nursing homes and hospitals to allow assisted suicide, provided the person who wishes it is suffering from an incurable illness or injury and is of sound mind.

Local Bishop Charles Morerod of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, said the consequences of the decision were “terrible”.

Finding a place for assisted suicide in society by Clare O’Dea, swissinfo.ch (7/9/12) – The two main Swiss assisted suicide organisations – Exit and Dignitas – made it possible for 560 people to end their lives in 2011. This equates to one in three of all suicides in Switzerland.

While the right to die is consistently backed by a majority of the electorate, there are details within the practice of assisted suicide that split opinion, such as the vote in canton Vaud last month over exercising the right to die in a residential care home.

Voters in the French-speaking canton accepted the local government’s proposal to oblige nursing homes and hospitals to accept the practice only when the person in question is suffering from an incurable illness or injury.
(more)

Swiss voters OK assisted suicide in nursing home by Charlie Butts, onenewsnow.com (7/9/12) – The majority vote in the canton of Vaud was 62 percent in favor of bringing assisted suicide into the nursing homes. Rita Marker of the Patients Rights Council tells OneNewsNow the vote forces hospitals and nursing homes to accept assisted suicide.
(more)

Legalization of Euthanasia has not altered prevalence – PriMed Journal (7/11/12) – “In conclusion, eight years after the enactment of the Dutch euthanasia law, the incidence of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is comparable with that in the period before the law,” the authors write.

TRINIDAD

Death with Dignity by Leonard Bernstein, Trinidad Express Newspapers  (7/30/12) – The “playing God” argument is a non-starter. For those who do not believe in a personal, vengeful God, it is meaningless. For those who do (as noted by Peter Singer), “God” allows them to make choices about these matters as about all others in their lives. Religious authorities not only feel that they have the right to set what they consider the moral and ethical parameters, but that their view should prevail for all members of society no matter the individual circumstances of, say, someone’s possibly painful imminent death. However, many others take issue with their edicts and want the autonomy to decide for themselves.
(more)

UNITED KINGDOM

BMA continues to oppose legalizing assisted dying – bma.org (6/27/12) – Doctors and medical students decided to maintain their opposition to legalising assisted dying.
The meeting decided not to move to a position of neutrality and also rejected a call to say that assisted dying was a matter for society and not for the medical profession.
Retired Manchester consultant in geriatric medicine Raymond Tallis spoke in favour of changing the BMA stance.
He emphasised that ‘neutrality did not imply indifference’ and ‘the medical profession must retain a central role in ensuring and defining safeguards’.
Professor Tallis said guidelines made it clear that doctors and nurses who helped with assisted dying will currently be prosecuted.
‘Assistance is therefore delegated to amateurs, who have to take on a dreadful responsibility at a time when they are already greatly distressed and may well be incompetent to carry it out,’ he said.
(more)

Assisted death or assisted living by Jill Shaw Ruddock – huffingtonpost – (7/3/12) – This week in the UK there is a renewed push by MPs to review the current guidelines regarding assisted suicide on compassionate grounds. Lord Falconer, who heads up The Commission on Assisted Dying reported that the current legal status is inadequate and incoherent. Understandably there are concerns that the elderly could be vulnerable to those who don’t have their best interests at heart.
(more)

Promoting caring, not killing by Ruth Bessant, Christian Today (7/2/12) – We are currently seeing a great deal of pressure applied by those wanting to change the law on assisted suicide with increasing discussion about whether care of the dying should include the option for a person to choose to end their own life with medical assistance, so-called physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
(more)

Patients dying in hospital in pain and lacking dignity: survey by Rebecca Smitg, Medical Editor, The Telegraph (7/3/12) – The survey, by the Office of National Statistics, found that half of families said hospital nurses did not always treat their dying family member with respect.
Almost a third said the quality of care in hospital was fair or poor and only 35 per cent of families rated pain relief in hospital in the final two days as excellent.
Hospital care was rated worse than that received by patients dying at home, in a care home or in a hospice on almost all of the 59 questions.
It is the first time such a survey has been conducted and responses were received from more than 22,000 families.
(more)

Solutions for our care crisis – Letters to guardian.co.uk (7/2/12)
Report on rally and mass lobby of Parliament to resist euthanasia – Christian Concern 7/4/12 – On 3 June, campaign group Care Not Killing, of which Christian Concern is a member, held a rally and mass lobby of Parliament in order to promote better palliative care and oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Their speeches contained a range of arguments against weakening the current laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Delegates later went to Parliament to talk to their MPs about the issues and highlight their opposition to any relaxation of the current laws.
(more)

The legalization of assisted suicide– don’t be fooled, it is primarily about money by Dr. Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship – National Right to Life News Today (7/4/12) –

Today, according to the Sunday Times, Lord Falconer will publish his new bill on assisted suicide.

In line with the recommendations of his sham ‘Commission on Assisted Dying’ he will push for doctors being given the power to help mentally competent adults with less than one year to live to kill themselves.

There has been surprisingly little media coverage about this event, but Dignity in Dying (the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society) are planning a mass lobby on Parliament tomorrow to launch an ‘enquiry’ into this new bill which they hope will be debated in the New Year.

Over the last six years there have been three failed attempts to legalise assisted suicide in Britain since 2006 all of which have failed due to concerns about public safety.

Right-to-Die groups in England increase lobbying efforts – by Myles Collier, Christian Post (7/5/12) – There is considerable attention being brought to assisted suicide and euthanasia in England recently. Several groups in favor of changing laws concerned with such acts have increased their lobbying of members of the British Parliament.

Dr. Peters Saunders, regarded as the leading advocate of right-to-life supporters, has cautioned that there will be an increase in the level of activity by those individuals and organizations that are pushing for new laws for those who wish to end their lives.

“Their glossy propaganda inserts are spilling out of commercial publications; they are spending hundreds of thousands; and clearly believe this is their year,” Saunders told the Christian Institute.
(more)

Draft Assisted Dying Bill is an important step towards a compassionate law on assisted dying– British Humanist Assoc. (7/4/12) – The All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life has launched a consultation on a draft Bill that would enable mentally competent adults with a terminal condition to seek medical assistance to end their life. The consultation has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association (BHA) as an ‘important step towards an ethical and compassionate law on assisted dying that protects the vulnerable’.

The draft Bill largely draws upon the recommendations of the independent Commission on Assisted Dying, which examined the problematic approach to the issue of assisted dying in the UK. At present, assisting another individual to die remains illegal, however the Director of Public Prosecution’s revised prosecuting guidelines recommend that amateur assistance for compassionate reasons should not be prosecuted, and large numbers seek assistance abroad. As a result, assistance continues to occur, but outside of a legal framework of safeguards that protect the vulnerable.
(more)

Support of doctor-assisted suicide by Bonnie Gardiner – YouGov.co.uk – (7/5/12) – 69% Britons say law should allow doctors to assist terminally ill to die; 46% if illness not terminal

Over two thirds of the British public have expressed support for the laws on assisted suicide to be changed so that it would be legal for doctors to assist in ending the life of someone suffering a terminal illness, our poll shows.

Support is not as strong for the aided death of patients whose illness is painful and incurable but not terminal, with around half in favour and one third opposed.
(more)

Why legalizing assisted suicide for anyone at all will inevitably lead to incremental extension by Peter Saunders – LifeSiteNews.com (7/6/12) – Pro-euthanasia activists always make a great play of how their proposals to help people kill themselves are extremely modest and are bound by ‘robust safeguards’.

Dignity in Dying, the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society, is a world leader in this art and their new draft bill, championed by Lord Falconer, is a classic example.

It’s only for the mentally competent, only for the terminally ill, only for adults they say.

There will be no killing of children, disabled people or demented people. It’s all going to be strictly controlled.

In fact it is only the beginning for two main reasons.
(more)

Euthanasia could be better than costly social care – pensioner – thisisgloucertershire.co.uk (7/10/12) – “The big question is: Who is going to pay for it?

“I often think that pensioners want to live in dignity and die in it too, and to that end one has to think about euthanasia.

“A lot of the success of this will rest on how much the social care will cost everybody, because a lot of people think the Government has limitless amounts of money, but it does not.”

In an announcement tomorrow, the Government is due to announce a new policy of national eligibility for free social care by 2015.
(more)

Former nurse urges Golders Green MP to back assisted suicide bill by Syma Mohammed, Ham&High (7/13/12) – A former nurse who was awarded an OBE for services to palliative care, is supporting a bill to allow terminally ill patients to have an assisted death.

Harriet Copperman, 67, of Diploma Avenue, East Finchley, lobbied her MP Mike Freer on Wednesday of last week after a draft bill was launched the day before.

Until this year, she was on the steering group of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), an action group which supports the bill.

Ms Copperman said: “I spent all my time in care not being in favour of assisted dying.

“While palliative care can help a small population of people, I have come to appreciate assisted dying can be a part of palliative care.”
(more)

Legalising mercy killing could pressure the elderly into dying early, claims the writer PD James by Richard Alleyne – thetelegraph.co.uk (7/15/12) – James, who admits she herself fears a painful and undignified death, said that while a person should be allowed to choose to commit suicide if their life was “intolerable”, she was “less assured” by the idea of allowing others to do it for them.
She said that murder has to remain a “unique crime” and it would be dangerous to water it down by allowing euthanasia.
(more)

Breast Cancer Discussion Boards: A place to talk about death and dying issues

###

Assisted Death Debate – News from June 2012

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

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

Happening in June

Swiss canton to vote on assisted suicide on June 17

Judges in UK High Court will hear two cases of locked-in syndrome hoping to change the law June 19-22

UK doctors planning to strike June 21

Annual Representative Meeting of the British Medical Association June 24-28

June 28-30 National Right to Life Convention topics: Medical Ethics 

-“Assisting Suicide – Latest Developments and Best Arguments” to counter “Whose life is it anyway?” and “Why would you force anybody to live like that?”
-Replacing Obamacare: A Detailed Pro-Life Counterproposal
-“Is Doctor Prescribed Death Coming to Your State Next?” or how to stop assisted suicide in its tracks.
-“POLST, MOLST and Similar Forms: What Should Be the Pro-Life Response”
-“Involuntary Denial of Treatment by Doctors and Hospitals: A New Approach to Protect Patients”
-“Defending the Rights of the Disabled and Vulnerable: A Tribute to Brother Michael”  (Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network)
-“Terri’s Legacy: Building a Network that Will Save Lives” (Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network)
-“Dying of Thirst! Medicine’s Intentional Killing Through Dehydration, and How to Protect the Vulnerable”
-“Death Panels Already a Reality in Texas” “Futile care law” allows hospital ethics committees to deny lifesaving treatment including but not limited to ventilators, feeding tubes, and antibiotics to patients whose quality of life is deemed to be “insufficient.”
-“Deadly Compassion: A Nurse and Patient Discuss Euthanasia”

BLOGS

Call them ‘Compassion Panels,’ not ‘Death Panels’ by Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs (6/11/12)

The Demise of the Catholic Hospital Brand by Barbara Coombs Lee (6/19/2012)

The Major Myths about Death with Dignity Laws by Melissa Barber (2/27/12)

PD James, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope by Eric MacDonald, Choice in Dying: Arguing for the right to die and against religious obstruction of that right (6/6/12)

Finally! A Canadian Ruling in Favor of Assisted Dying! by Eric MacDonald (6/16/12)

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition: Lies and Misrepresentation by Eric MacDonald (6/19/12)

End-of-Life medical advice: Devaluing patients in name of greater good? by David Shaywitz, Forbes (6/1/12)

Dying With Dignity: It’s your life, your choice (Quebec)

What we weren’t told about Terry Pratchett’s ‘award winning’ euthanasia documentary by Dr. Peter Saunders, CEO Christian Medical Fellowship, National Right to Life News Today (6/12/12)

Living with Dying – This Week in the Movement – Death With Dignity National Center
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – Alex Schadenberg, Ex. Dir. & Int’l Chair (6/14/12)

PODCAST

Death With Dignity or Murder? – Francesca Bastarache interviews Dr. Marcia Angell

VIDEOS

Right to Die? Assisted suicide in old people’s homes (Switzerland)

Assisted suicide group on trial (6/22/12) – CNN’s Sanjay Gupta follows a case in which the right-to-die group Final Exit Network was involved in the death of a woman who claimed medical conditions she didn’t have.

Supreme Court Attorney Kathryn Tucker about Aid in Dying and its legalities by LivDelicious

How to Die in Hawaii by LivDelicious

“How to Die: What I Learned from the Last Days of My Mom and Dad” by Joe Klein in TIME Magazine. Discussion about fee for service reimbursement causing health care professionals to push for more procedures and tests instead of taking the time to have hard conversations about end-of-life care and following advance health care directives.

BOOKS

The Politics of Death by William M.Kirtley – interviews activists from both sides of the physician-assisted dying movement in Oregon. Over 15 years ago, the state legalized the practice under the 1997 Death with Dignity Act.

Kirtley’s book analyzes how this first-of-its-kind law passed as well as survived several legal challenges from both the local and federal governments as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. “Politics of Death” addresses the core issues surrounding the right to die movement, including patient autonomy, federal interference and medical ethics.

ARTICLES

From an Ethics of Rationing to an Ethics of Waste Avoidance by Howard Brody, MD, PHD – The New England Journal of Medicine (Perspective) – (5/19/12) – Bioethics has long approached cost containment under the heading of “allocation of scarce resources.” Having thus named the nail, bioethics has whacked away at it with the theoretical hammer of distributive justice. But in the United States, ethical debate is now shifting from rationing to the avoidance of waste. This little-noticed shift has important policy implications.
(more)

Daunting questions on our fate by Michael Brannigan, timesunion.com 5/31/12 – Does the case for terminal sedation actually weaken the case against physician-assisted suicide?
Terminal sedation, more clinically referred to as “palliative sedation,” is a legally sanctioned alternative to physician-assisted suicide, a last resort in palliative treatment. It involves inducing and maintaining unconsciousness in a terminally ill patient until the patient dies, and is often accompanied by withholding or withdrawing medical feeding and hydration.
(more)

Mapping Your End-of-Life Choices by Jane E. Brody – The New York Times (6/18/2012) – Robert H. Laws, a retired judge in San Francisco, and his wife, Beatrice, knew it was important to have health care directives in place to help their doctors and their two sons make wise medical decisions should they ever be unable to speak for themselves. With forms from their lawyer, they completed living wills and assigned each other as health care agents.
They dutifully checked off various boxes about not wanting artificial ventilation, tube feeding and the like. But what they did not know was how limiting and confusing those directions could be.
(more)

UNITED STATES

(News from Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington)

HAWAII

Death with Dignity – KITV.com (6/8/12) – Compassion & Choices conference

INDIANA

Slippery slopes at life’s end by David Orentlicher, indystar.com (6/14/12) – Ethicists have debated whether aid-in-dying can be morally justified, and a key objection is the risk of the “slippery slope.” There may be a small number of patients for whom aid-in-dying is acceptable, but it would not be possible to limit access only to those people. Once the law permits some people to end their lives with prescription drugs, physicians will wrongly write prescriptions for other patients too. There may be people who are depressed about their illness and should be helped with psychiatric treatment. Or some patients may feel they have a “duty to die” to spare their families the financial and emotional burdens.
(more)

IOWA

Study: Lack of health care linked with death by Mike Wiser, WCFCourier.com 6/21/12 – Three Iowans died each day in 2010 because they didn’t have health insurance to cover medical expenses, according to a report released Wednesday by Families USA.
(more)

MARYLAND

Euthanasia: Putting love over legality by Les Kinsolving, WND.com commentary (6/25/12) – Les Kinsolving cites famed historical figures who favored mercy killing.
In the Old Testament’s first book of Samuel, there is the following historical report on the king of Israel:
“Then said Saul unto his armor bearer: ‘Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me,’ but his armor bearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.”
(more)

MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts Voters Support “Death with Dignity” – Western New England University News (6/5/12) – Sixty percent of voters in Massachusetts said they support allowing terminally ill people to legally obtain medication to end their lives…
(more)

‘Death With Dignity’ in Massachusetts by Greg Pfundstein, National Review Online (6/4/12) – Elevating doctor-prescribed suicide to “treatment” puts patients at risk.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, died of prostate cancer on May 20. Nearly three years earlier, on August 20, 2009, Scottish authorities had released him on compassionate grounds so that he could return home to die. At the time, he was thought to have three months to live.

Group, voters challenge Massachusetts assisted suicide measure by Calvin Freiburger, LifeSiteNews.com (6/13/12) – A legal challenge is underway against a proposed initiative that would legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts.
More than 60 voters filed a challenge before the state Supreme Court on May 17, requesting that the initiative be amended to clarify its language. However, the Court has not held hearings on the request, and the wording is not expected to be changed.

Recognizing authentic compassion by Kathleen Grey, PilotCatholicNews.com (6/15/12) – Massachusetts has never intentionally promoted suicide; so why start now? For those who aren’t familiar with it, physician assisted suicide (PAS) is providing a lethal drug to an individual with a disease that may result in death within six months with the sole purpose of ending his or her life. On Election Day this November, the people of Massachusetts will be given the option to check “no” on the ballot against the so-called “Death with Dignity” Act. Proponents of this law seek to lure people into thinking that it represents an act of compassion and aid in dying, but those who know true love and compassion know that “Love is patient, love is kind… it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:4-7, 13)
(more)

Assisted suicide supporters say ballot question will move ahead by Colleen Quuinn, The MetroWest Daily News 6/22/12 – The Boston Archdiocese, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Family Institute, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and some advocates for the elderly and disabled, have all indicated plans to mount a vigorous campaign to defeat the proposal, contending it is fraught with the potential for error and could be used to compel older, ill adults to end their lives.
(more)

Assisted suicide advocates, church ballot battle set by John Zaremba, Boston Herald 6/23/12 – Assisted-suicide advocates said they have twice the signatures needed to put a right-to-die question before Bay State voters, but the Catholic Church and other groups are vowing a vigorous fight leading up to the November election.
(more)

NEW MEXICO

Their View: My right to a peaceful death by Aja Riggs – Las Cruces Sun-News (6/12/2012) – Less than a year ago I learned that I have uterine cancer. Since I got this diagnosis, I’ve been thinking, very seriously, about what the end of my life might look like and how I might have some choice in my dying process. It was a dilemma I’d been struggling with: I felt I couldn’t talk about my death with the people closest to me. I was afraid to talk about it with my doctor. I thought if it came to choosing a peaceful death, I would have to do it all by myself to keep from implicating anyone else.
To end that sense of fear and isolation that people have — about one of the most important events in our lives — is why I think aid in dying should be an option for terminally ill patients.

NEW YORK

Daunting questions on our fate, commentary by Michael Brannigan, timesunion.com 5/31/2012 – Does the case for terminal sedation actually weaken the case against physician-assisted suicide?
Terminal sedation, more clinically referred to as “palliative sedation,” is a legally sanctioned alternative to physician-assisted suicide, a last resort in palliative treatment. It involves inducing and maintaining unconsciousness in a terminally ill patient until the patient dies, and is often accompanied by withholding or withdrawing medical feeding and hydration.
(more)

OKLAHOMA

Study links early death, lack of health insurance by Wayne Greene, Tulsa World 6/21/12 – Thousands of American and hundreds of Oklahomans are dying every year because they don’t have health insurance, a study by an advocacy group shows.
(more)

OREGON

Why one woman changed her mind on physician-assisted suicide by Suny Dhillon 6/23/12 – She opposed the state’s famed Death With Dignity Act when it passed in 1994, and three years later voted with those trying to have it repealed.
But over the years, her perspective began to change, she says in a telephone interview. She came to believe that necessary safeguards had been put in place and even the terminally ill who chose not to end their lives benefited from knowing they had the option.
(more)

PENNSYLVANIA

Die the way you want to: Advance care directives should be as routine as driver’s licenses by Dr. Dan Morhaim 6/1/2012 – As an emergency room doctor, I’ve seen this all too often. An ambulance brings in a frail, elderly nursing home patient with shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and plunging blood pressure. The wasted and contracted limbs indicate years of incapacitation, and the medical record reveals a long history of dementia. As we intensely work to restore stability, probing paper-thin skin for a vein, the patient suddenly goes into cardiac arrest.
Does the patient have an advance directive or a do-not-resuscitate order? No. So the ER team goes into full CPR mode, cracking brittle ribs with each chest compression. If “successful,” the patient will endure pain and confusion that may last for the rest of his or her life, however short or long that may be.
Is this care, or torture? The only ethical and legal way to avoid this scenario is when patients have made their wishes known in advance and appointed someone they trust to make decisions when they are no longer able to.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Woman Killed at Assisted Living Home – wltx.com 6/25/12 – Beaufort County deputies say an 84-year-old woman found dead in a Hilton Head Island assisted living home was likely killed by her husband, who survived a suicide attempt.
(more)

VERMONT

Poll: 72 percent of Vermonters support Death with Dignity bill – Press release 6/6/12 – “This independent poll showing a more than 3:1 margin of support for the Death with Dignity bill is consistent with the polling on this issue over the years,” said Dick Walters, President of Patient Choices at End of Life – Vermont. “Perhaps the most significant finding in this new poll is the small percentage–just 6.9 percent–who said they were unsure about the issue. This result shows that the years of discussion of the issue have ensured that almost everyone is well informed and opinions are well established in favor of passing the bill.”

Legal Assisted Suicide: the Perfect Alibi – True Dignity Vermont: Vermont Citizens Against Assisted Suicide (6/14/12) – Lest we ever be tempted to believe that the Vermont Senate’s defeat of the bill that would have legalized assisted suicide has put the issue to rest, on June 10 the Rutland Herald published a pro-assisted-suicide commentary by a David Carkeet of Middlesex, “How to Debate How We Die”
(more)

Comment & Debate: Untold Harm by Edward Mahoney, Burlington Free Press 6/25/12 – During the recently adjourned legislative session, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare played a very active role in the defeat of S.103, “An Act Related to Patient Care at the End of Life.”
(more)

Comment & Debate: Momentum in Montpelier by Dick Walters, Burlington Free Press 6/25/12 – The majority of Vermonters support the death with dignity bill. They can be proud of the progress made in the 2011-12 legislative session toward enactment of this civil right. Grassroots action in support of the bill has helped it gain real momentum in the state capital.
(more)

WASHINGTON

Put real dignity in choice to die by Curtis Johnson, The Spokesman-Review (6/10/12) – I spent some of my final days among the monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove, Calif. Their life cycle dictates that they die there every February. They have no choice.
I too will die soon.  I have rapidly progressing ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  There is no cure, and it is 100 percent fatal. Yet, unlike the monarchs, I have a legal choice as to the timing of my death in Washington. That choice, however, is seriously compromised in my case.
(more)

INTERNATIONAL

(News from Australia, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Russia, Switzerland, United Kingdom)

AUSTRALIA

Who are the vulnerable in the euthanasia debate? by Paul Russel  (Director of Hope: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide, Vice Chair of the International Euthanasia Prevention Coalition) onlineopinion.com.au (6/1/2012) – This brings me to consider the whole question of vulnerability and the risk of coercion of patients. In terms of euthanasia and assisted suicide this vulnerability is often expressed in relation to those in our community whom we recognise as vulnerable in general terms. I’m thinking of people living with disabilities, the frail aged etc., in other words, those whom society accepts may need additional supports in their pursuit of acceptance, equality and protection from harm.
(more)

Doctors hesitate to prolong their own lives to avoid pain by Adele Horin, The Sydney Morning Herald (6.9.2012) – It is a common refrain from doctors doing the ward rounds in the intensive care unit of any major hospital: ”Please don’t ever let this happen to me.”
Professor Hillman believes many doctors would not put themselves through ”the same hell we often put other patients through”.
Professor Hillman is a speaker at a conference at NSW Parliament House next week on living well and dying well. The conference is organised by the non-profit organisation LifeCircle which helps people caring for loved ones at the end of their life. ”We support people having a good life right to the end with the conversations that will benefit the person dying and those they love,” said Brynnie Goodwill, the chief executive of LifeCircle.
Martin Tattersall, the professor of cancer medicine at the University of Sydney, said: ”I suspect very few doctors would opt for second or third line chemo therapy; my suspicion is that doctors are more likely to prescribe futile therapy than accept it. They’re aware of the statistics.
(more)

Euthanasia doctor fights to save job by Tom Bowden, adelaidenow.com (6/12/12) – EUTHANASIA campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke fears his medical licence is under threat over his involvement with the death of a Victor Harbor woman.
Exit International, a pro-euthanasia organisation founded by Dr Nitschke, right, believes an Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency investigation into the matter has been compromised by Right to Life doctors.
(more)

SA Parliament kills off euthanasia laws for the moment by Daniel Wills, adelaidenow.com.au (6/14/12) – PREMIER Jay Weatherill has backed a failed bid to introduce new euthanasia laws in South Australia.
They were struck down by conservative Liberals and key  members of Labor’s Right faction in State Parliament yesterday.
Independent MP Bob Such said his proposal – which would only apply to people suffering from a terminal illness and where pain could not be relieved – had all the possible safeguards.
It was thrown out 22-20 in a conscience vote.
(more)

Voluntary euthanasia back on Tassie agenda by David Beniuk, The Australian 6/25/12 – TASMANIA won’t find itself a centre of voluntary euthanasia tourism if it becomes the first state to decriminalise the practice, advocates say.
President of Dying With Dignity Tasmania Margaret Sing says a residency requirement in the bill will ensure that a fly-in mentality isn’t allowed to flourish.
(more)

Mercy clinic bid for Tassie by Helen Kempton, themercury.co.au  (7/29/12) – TASMANIA could have Australia’s first mobile medically assisted suicide clinic if the state’s euthanasia laws are changed, as Exit International director Philip Nitschke expects.
It would be modelled on a service which has operated in the Netherlands since March, which received nearly 60 calls in its first two days of operation.
(more)

CANADA

B.C. Supreme Court strikes down ban on physician-assisted suicide by Sunny Dhillon – The Globe and Mail 6/15/2012) – In a decision released Friday, Madam Justice Lynn Smith says the Criminal Code provisions “unjustifiably infringe the equality rights” of the plaintiffs in the case, including Gloria Taylor, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Joseph Arvay, who represented Ms. Taylor, said that his client cried with relief on hearing the decision. He said that he does not know what her plans are.
(more)

How the End of Life can Intensify Love and Living by Barbara Stuary, Calgary Herald – Last week’s ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith is unfortunate and I suggest that Justice Smith must not understand love.
(more)

BC judge strikes download banning doctor-assisted suicide by Keith Fraser, The Province (6/16/12) – In a landmark ruling, a B.C. judge decided a Westbank woman suffering from ALS should be able to die a doctor-assisted death, and struck down Canada’s law banning the practice.
Gloria Taylor, 64, and several other plaintiffs had argued in court that the criminal law was unconstitutional and that people with serious illnesses should be entitled to take their lives with the help of a physician.
(more)

Baseless concerns about euthanasia by Christopher A. Riddle, assistant professor of Philosophy, Concordia University, Montreal – The Province (3/28/12) – Alex Schadenberg’s argument against the legalizing of euthanasia revolves around a primary concern focused on the increased likelihood of the depressed to request euthanasia. He provides us no reason to believe that this increased likelihood is in and of itself problematic, but takes for granted that permitting depressed individuals to request euthanasia is an undesirable thing.
(more)

Two sides in assisted-suicide debate remain worlds apart by Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun (6/15/12) – Gloria Taylor doesn’t believe God wants her to suffer unnecessarily from what is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a condition that doctors expect will kill her within about three years.
That’s why the once-avid motorcyclist eagerly volunteered to be a plaintiff in the precedent-setting case, which was decided on Friday.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith ruled that the Criminal Code provisions making physician-assisted death illegal are invalid.
(more)

Should Medically Assisted Suicide Be Legal in Canada? (Providentia: A biased look at psychology in the world – 6/12/12) – As the court challenge continues in British Columbia, the fight for medically assisted suicide is progressing in Quebec.  On March 22 of this year,  a Quebec commission on Dying With Dignity released a report after two years of public hearings on the contentious issue.  The commission heard from thirty-two experts in diverse fields such as law, philosophy, ethics, medicine, and psychology.   They also conducted public hearings and heard evidence from hundreds of individuals and groups and held meetings in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France to examine palliative care systems in other countries.  Finally, the commission received more than 16,000 comments by mail, fax, and email and examined online questionnaire responses from more than 6558 respondents.
(more)

Legalized euthanasia only a breath away by Margaret Somerville, The Globe and Mail (6/16/12) – Striking down, as unconstitutional, the Criminal Code provision prohibiting assisted suicide, as the Gloria Taylor case does, in effect legalizing physician assisted suicide, is a very bad idea and a step backward for Canada and Canadian values, ethics and law. Not least because it will, inevitably, lead to legalizing euthanasia.
(more)

Catholic archbishop of Vancouver calls on government to appeal euthanasia ruling by Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun (6/16/12) – Friday’s decision to strike down the law against euthanasia “sadly reflects a distorted view of equality rights that emphasizes autonomy over human dignity and the value of life,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop J. Michael Miller, in a statement.
(more)

Physician-assisted suicide legal in three states by Christopher Reynolds, Vancouver Sun (6/16/12) – Three states in the U.S. are years ahead of Friday’s B.C. Supreme Court decision to strike down a law criminalizing physician-assisted suicide.
Legislation in Oregon, Washington and Montana allows terminally ill patients to end their lives by requesting prescriptions for lethal medication they administer themselves.
(more)
Judge rejects strongest arguments against physician-assisted suicide by Peter McKnight, Vancouver Sun (6/16/12) – One of the primary, and most persuasive, arguments against permitting physician-assisted suicide is that it could lead to the abuse of vulnerable people, that people who say they want to die may be suffering from depression or otherwise unfit to make such decisions.
So curiously, the most powerful argument against physician-assisted suicide seems, in our world anyway, utterly powerless when it comes to the removal of life-sustaining treatment. This is a point emphasized by proponents of physician-assisted suicide, and referenced by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith in her judgment declaring unconstitutional Canada’s absolute prohibition on the practice.
(more)

Baby boomers won’t stay silent on physician-assisted suicide by Charlie Smith, straight.com (6/16/12) – Given the aging of the population and baby boomers’ desire to retain control over their lives, it’s hard to believe that the legislated ban on physician-assisted suicide will continue well into the future. This is notwithstanding opposition from the Christian Right, some disability-rights’ groups, and many palliative-care physicians.
In 2010, Georgia Straight contributor Daniel Wood wrote a cover story suggesting that this could become the most contentious public issue in the coming decades.
He cited a February 2010 Angus Reid poll showing that 67 percent of Canadians and 75 percent of British Columbians support the creation of a medically regulated system of euthanasia.
(more)

The importance of picking a vocabulary for dying by Andre Picard – The Globe and Mail 6/18/2012 – In matters of life and death, words matter.
That is an important message that emerges from Friday’s B.C. Supreme Court decision that struck down the ban on …Well, on what exactly?
Gloria Taylor, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, won the right to end her life at the time of her choosing. Because of the physical limitations caused by ALS, the 64-year-old can get a physician to help by administering a death-hastening drug – the nuance that landed the case in court and on the front pages.
What do you call the right she won?
Physician-assisted suicide? Physician-enabled death? Physician-hastened death? Euthanasia? Voluntary euthanasia? Rational suicide? Suicide? Mercy killing? State-sanctioned murder? Death with dignity? And there are many more variations, each loaded with legal and moral baggage.
(more)

Assisted Dying: Who decides? by Juliet Guichn, The Vancouver Sun 6/21/12 – Who should decide life and death issues – the legislatures or the courts?
This question has returned to the forefront with the British Columbia Supreme Court ruling allowing assisted dying in limited circumstances. Critics of the judicial decision note that members of Parliament two years ago defeated a bill to legalize assisted dying, 228 to 59. Some believe that the courts should not trump the elected Commons.
Yet it would be a mistake to view this matter, and other bioethical matters like it, as a power struggle between two important governmental institutions.
To determine whether assisted dying should be lawful requires the detailed and nuanced contributions of medicine, law and ethics.
(more)

Right-to-Die ruling leaves big questions by Iain Hunter, Times Colonist 6/25/12 – I wish those campaigning for my right to end my life when it becomes unbearable would show a little more restraint than they’ve shown recently.
Dying with Dignity has called the June 15 decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith, that the law against physician-aided death is unconstitutional, a “stunning victory.”
I think the right-to-die movement isn’t served by this kind of talk. If this is a war, I don’t know who the enemy is.
I don’t believe that those in our society who think that life, even when sadly depleted, has great value, or our legislators, who have decreed that euthanasia is a crime, set out to tyrannize or brutalize anyone.
(more)

Medical journal urges Canadians to debate assisted suicide by Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News 6/25/12 – A recent report from an all-party committee of the Quebec national assembly recommending medical assistance to die is moving the debate over euthanasia “from theory toward practice,” says the just-published editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
“Which way will legislation go? Will the rest of Canada follow? Those who care about the answers to these questions must speak up now, and with conviction.”
(more)

Choosing when and how to die: Are we ready to perform therapeutic homicide? – MedicalExpress.com 6/25/12 – The Dying with Dignity commission of the Quebec National Assembly recently issued its report after two years of public and expert consultation and research.
Advocates of this approach argue that medically assisted death is a patient’s right. It should therefore be considered as an end-of-life care option rather than a criminal act.
(more)

CHINA

Reprieve for helping mom to die – China.org.cn 6/1/2012 – A chinese man who helped his bedridden mother end her life by providing a fatal dose of pesticide walked free from court after he was sentenced to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve for murder.
Panyu District People’s Court in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, said it was giving Deng Mingjian a lenient sentence because of the way he had cared for his mother before her death.

CZECHOSLAVAKIA

Poll: Czechs support abortion, euthanasia, death penalty – Two-thirds of the citizens believe that Czech legislation should make euthanasia possible…
(more)

DENMARK

Differences of opinion’ over assisted suicide emerging in ethical panel by Jyllands-Posten, the Copenhagen post (6/8/12) – Once unanimous in their opposition, advisory group now divided over making it legal to help people take their own lives.
After coming out decisively against active suicide twice previously in the past 25 years, parliament’s independent panel of ethics experts now appears to be divided on the issue.
(more)

Rare case of assisted suicide (Nyheder 6/8/12) – The court in Odense is about to try an extremely rare case in Denmark, in which a man from Funen is accused of helping his terminally ill father to attempt suicide.
This apparently involved a lethal mixture of 94 morphine pills and yoghurt. The father only died later from his illness, but the son is expected to confess to his failed attempt to help the father take his own life.
(more)

FRANCE

European Court of Human Rights to Rule on Two Euthanasia Cases by Gregor Puppinck (France) – lifenews.com 6/15/12 – Two cases, currently pending, will soon be decided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR – Koch v. Germany and Alda Gross v. Switzerland). Additionally, the Steering Committee on Bioethics of the Council of Europe (CBDI) is currently writing a guide for the decision making process regarding medical treatment in end of life situations, which will include instructions related to the cessation of acute care and the transition to palliative care and palliative sedation with cessation of hydration and nutrition.
(more)

GERMANY

German Medical association opposes euthanasia by Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, National Right to Life – 6/12/12 – The German Medical Association recently decided to oppose euthanasia, to forbid euthanasia organizations and to urge the government to make the commercialization of suicide a crime.
This German Medical Association clearly decided at its 115th annual convention to reject euthanasia while opposing the suicide program in Switzerland.
This statement was overshadowed by another important statement–the apology for the crimes that German physicians carried out during World War II, upon the Jewish people, people with disabilities, and others, including the crime of euthanasia.
(more)

INDIA

Govt cautious on euthanasia issue, unlikely to make law – hindustantimes.com (6/12/12) – Treading cautiously on the sensitive issue, the government is unlikely to make a law on euthanasia even a year after the Supreme Court allowed the high courts to take a call on withdrawal of life support for patients living in a permanent vegetative state.   The law ministry had recently made a reference to law commission on the issue seeking its response on certain questions. But sources said the law panel is not too keen to carry out any fresh study on the subject.
(more)

IRELAND

Bill on living wills ‘not about assisted suicide’ by Marie O’Halloran, irishtimes.com (6/9/12) – MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has insisted that a Private Members’ Bill on living wills is not about assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Dr Reilly said the Advance Healthcare Decisions Bill “is about allowing patients make decisions, when they have the mental capacity to do so, about what they want at the end of their day” in their treatment, “such as whether or not they want to be resuscitated [or] . . . to be administered particular types of medication like chemotherapy”.
He said Ireland needed “a legislative framework in this area” because we were “way behind many other jurisdictions”.
(more)

RUSSIA

Third of Russians Approve of Euthanasia – RIA Novosto, June 6, 2012 – The Russian populace is evenly split on euthanasia, with one-third approving of the practice, one-third thinking it unacceptable and most of the rest are unaware of the concept, according to a new poll published by state-run Public Opinion Foundation.
(more)

SWITZERLAND

Swiss canton to vote on assisted suicide on June 17 by Michael Cook, BioEdge – 6/7/12 – The Swiss canton of Vaud will hold a referendum on June 17 to decide whether nursing homes and hospitals must accept assisted suicide on their premises. (Vaud is a French-speaking canton in the west, whose capital is Lausanne.)
Swiss law on assisted suicide is complex. Euthanasia is illegal, but assisted suicide is legal provided that assistance is not rendered for selfish ends. Nursing homes are not always in favour of allowing Swiss suicide associations to recruit in their premises. So Exit, a group which services only Swiss citizens, launched the current referendum.
(more)

Right-to-Die campaigners converge on Zurich by Clare O’Dea, swissinfo.ch (6/12/12) – More than 100 delegates from right-to-die organisations are expected in Zurich for the Congress of the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies, which runs from June 13 to 16. A counter conference is due to take place simultaneously.
(more)

Right-to-die movement sees gains as world ages by Emma Thomasson (6/12/12) – Right-to-die activists hope more countries will allow assisted suicide or euthanasia in coming years as the world population ages, but opponents are determined to stop them, a dispute that flared ahead of competing conferences in Switzerland.
(more)

Pro-Lifers to Protest Worldwide Euthanasia Conference in Switzerland by Adam Cassandra, LifeNews.com (6/14/12) – Members of Human Life International (HLI) Switzerland are helping to organize a pro-life conference in Zurich, Switzerland on June 15 in opposition to a meeting of euthanasia activists from around the world.
“Our aim is not to disrupt their conference,” said HLI Switzerland Secretary Christoph Keel. “Our aim is to put other arguments to the visitors of the congress. We are going to organize discussions and we will be there at the entrance (of the conference) to distribute leaflets.”

Swiss canton sanctions assisted suicide – The Local, Switzerland’s news in English (6/18/12) – The canton of Vaud has voted in favour of allowing assisted suicide to take place in nursing homes, making it the first formal Swiss law on the subject.
More than 61 percent of voters in Vaud opted on Sunday in favour of allowing assisted suicide to take place in nursing homes, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.
The initiative came about as a local governmental counter-proposal to an earlier initiative launched by Exit, the Swiss organization that assists in suicides.
Exit had wanted to make assisted suicide available in all hospitals as well as to empower patients in all cases to be able to make the final decision on how they wished to die.
That proposal was rejected in favour of the counter-initiative which opens the door for patients who meet certain criteria to be able to take advantage of Exit’s services in nursing homes across the canton.
(more)

UNITED KINGDOM

‘Neutrality’ call on assisted dying (June 15, 2012) – Professional medical bodies should stop opposing assisted dying and take a neutral stance, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has said.
In an editorial, the journal warns that legislation on helping the terminally ill die is a decision for society, not for doctors.
It mentions a new poll, commissioned by campaign group Dignity In Dying, which found that 62% of doctors want medical bodies to take a neutral stance on the delicate subject.
(more)

What’s wrong with assisted dying? by Peter M. Lapsley (6/4/12) – In her article ‘What’s wrong with assisted dying’, Iona Heath seems over-protective of people’s personal and individual rights to decide the courses of their lives. In particular, I would take issue with her assertion that ‘it is all too easy for sick and disabled people to believe that they are becoming an intolerable burden to those closest to them…’ The implication is that that is not a valid reason to wish to die. I believe that, for some people, it is.
(more)

Retired doctors working together to bring euthanasia to a town near you by Dr. Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship (National Right to Life News Today – 6/13/12) – I see that the Secular Medical Forum (SMF) is holding a fringe debate at the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference featuring Raymond Tallis of ‘Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying’ (HPAD).
HPAD’s members were almost certainly responsible for nine almost identical euthanasia motions put forward to the annual representative meeting of the British Medical Association later this month.
These motions all call for the BMA to adopt ‘a neutral position’ on ‘assisted dying’ and all bear the fingerprints of the pressure group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) which campaigns for the legalisation of assisted suicide for ‘mentally competent terminally ill adult patients’.
(more)

Doctors should stop opposing assisted suicide – Healthcare Today (UK) 6/14/12 – The British Medical Journal has reignited the debate on assisted dying for terminally ill adults who are mentally competent.
In an editorial, it has called on organisations representing doctors to stop opposing assisted dying, and while it stops short of asking them to back it suggests that the British Medical Association and royal colleges adopt a position of neutrality.
BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee said: “A change in the law, with all the necessary safeguards, is an almost inevitable consequence of the societal move towards greater individual autonomy and patient choice.
(more)

Assisted dying debate: Tony Nicklinson in his own words – BBC News 6/19/12 – Tony Nicklinson was left paralysed and with locked-in syndrome by a stroke seven years ago.
The 58-year-old wants a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life. A four-day hearing into his case is being heard at the High Court.
Here Mr Nicklinson, from Wiltshire, explains why he wants to change the current law on murder and euthanasia.
(more)

End of suffering of those who are terminally ill by Raymond Tallis, guardian.co.uk 6/24/12 – There is now an unanswerable case for the legalisation of assisted dying for those who are terminally ill…
(more)

BMA rejects assisted suicide move as on delegate likens it to murder by Ella Pickover, The Independent 6/27/12 – Doctors today rejected calls to take a neutral stance on assisted suicide.
Medics at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual conference in Bournemouth reiterated their opposition to assisted dying, with one delegate likening it to murder.
Members of the BMA voted down proposals for the organisation to take a neutral stance.
Doctors speaking at the conference cautioned that a change in position would send the wrong message.
(more)

Prolonging suffering of dying patients through medical care is ‘evil,’ BMA conference hears by Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor in Bournemouth 6/27/12 – Prof Raymond Tallis called for the BMA to drop its opposition to a change in the law that would allow doctors to assist terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients to die.
Prof Tallis, of the organisation Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, said: “Unbearable suffering, prolonged by medical care and inflicted on a dying patient who wishes to die is an unequivocal evil.
“What’s more, the right to have your choices supported by others, to determine your own best interest when you are of sound mind, is sovereign.
(more)

YAHOO! VOICES

Euthanasia – a Debate by Smita Sriwastav 5/31/12
An Overview of the Debate Over Euthanasia and the Right to Die: Please kill me… sign here by Jason Cangialosi 11/9/05
Euthanasia is it Murder? by Gage Sandlin 2/19/07
Euthanasia-Should Animals and Humans Be Treated Differently? by Lindsey Russell 10/27/06
Euthanasia: Issues of Society and the Acceptance of Suicide and voluntary Death by Anne Dietz 2/21/07
Euthanasia and the Right to Die by Sam Vaknin 6/27/07 –
An Ethics Case Study on the Right to Die and the Withdrawal of Medical Treatment by Heather Bloor
The (Jewish and Catholic) Bioethics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide by RebecaEJ 10/26/07
Study: Doctor-Assisted Suicide Isn’t a Slippery Slope to Abuse: Study found that only AIDS patients used doctor-assisted suicide at elevated rates by Sussy 9/28/07
Assisted Suicide and the Evolution of Law and Technology: A look at lega/medical history through Urofsky’s Lethal judgments by Max Power 11/8/06
The Debate Over Mental Health Professionals as Gatekeepers to Physician Assisted Suicide by Jeremy A. Springer, MSW 9/28/09
Legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide by Christy Edwards 7/10/07
Ethics in Perspective: Politics, Humanism, and Christian Morality by Nicholas Katers 4/10/06

###

Assisted Death Debate – News from March 2012

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

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

Definitions

Direct active euthanasia is taking specific steps to cause the patient’s death, such as injecting the patient with drugs. This is usually an overdose of painkillers or sleeping pills.

Indirect active euthanasia is giving the patient a palliative drug that could lead to death.

Passive euthanasia is usually defined as withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patient’s death.

Assisted suicide is when a doctor provides a patient with the means to end his own life; however, a doctor does not administer it.

The Netherlands permits both physician-performed active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide; the Dutch law requires that the patient be facing intolerable suffering but not that the patient be terminally ill, nor even that the suffering be physical. In contrast, the Oregon and Washington statues permit only the writing of a prescription for a lethal drug but not active euthanasia, they require that the patient be terminally ill, and they make no mention of suffering. “Euthanasia and Law in Europe” Griffiths, j., et. al. Hart Publishing, 2008. From a book review in the New England Journal of Medicine by Margaret P. Battin, PhD

Death With Dignity isn’t Suicide – The DWDA patient is terminally ill and wants to live; the suicidal patient has no terminal illness but wants to die.

World laws on Assisted Suicide

UNITED STATES

U.S. Supreme Court and Assisted Suicide Resources

In 1996, two Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal struck down laws prohibiting assisted suicide. The appeals on these rulings were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court January 8, 1997. The court unanimously overturned both Circuit Court rulings on June 26, 1997.

Justice John Paul Stevens: “He showed great empathy for suffering patients and their physicians in the physician-assisted suicide cases, writing in a concurring opinion that although he agreed that patients have no constitutional right to physician-prescribed lethal drugs, he might change his mind if such a prescription was shown to be “the only possible means of preserving a dying patient’s dignity and alleviating her intolerable suffering” (Vacco v. Quill) NEJM 362;24

At least 30 states have laws explicitly criminalizing assisted suicide. Another nine states criminalize the practice through common law.

American Medical Assn. News
The number of Washington state residents who died of physician-assisted suicide rose to 70 in 2011, up from 51 in 2010 and 36 in 2009, when the state’s Death With Dignity Act took effect. The Washington State Dept. of Health reported in May that 103 patients requested and received lethal doses of medications from 80 different physicians in 2011.
In addition to the 70 who died after ingesting medication, 19 died of natural causes. An additional five died, but it is unclear whether they took the medications. No reports were received for the remaining nine patients, indicating that they were still alive at year’s end.
The vast majority of the terminally ill patients who received life-ending medications feared loss of autonomy, dignity and ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable. More than 90% were white, and 75% had at least some college education. Nearly 80% of the patients had cancer, said the report (doh.wa.gov/dwda/forms/DWDA2011.pdf).
Seventy-one patients in Oregon died of physician-assisted suicide in 2011. Since 1998, when Oregon’s first-of-its-kind law took effect, 753 patients in Oregon and Washington have died with physicians’ aid.

California

Woman charged with assisted suicide of vet

Victim of Alleged Assisted Suicide Remembered as Quiet, Good-Natured (Laguna Nigel Patch)

O.C. Woman Accused of Helping WWII Veteran Commit Suicide (LA Times blog)

Woman Arrested in Assisted Suicide of WWII Veteran Via Oxycontin-laced Yogurt (KPCC Radio)

Woman Accused in WWII Vet’s Suicide by Lethal Yogurt (US News)

Assisted Suicide Arrest Illustrates Death-on-Demand Logic of Euthanasia (National Right to Life News Today)

Defense in Assisted Suicide: Woman Unaware Vet Wanted to Die (OC Register)

Elizabeth Barrett, Woman Accused of Assisted Suicide, Claims She Didn’t Know Pills Would Kill (Huff Post Los Angeles)

Charges Filed in Yogurt-Assisted Suicide (KSN.com)

Woman Arrested After Grinding Oxycontin into Yogurt and Giving it to Healthy 86-year old veteran ‘in Apparent Assisted Suicide’ (UK Mail Online)

Calif. Woman Charged With Assisted Suicide (UPI.com)

Attorney: OC Woman Accused in Assisted Suicide Was Unaware Vet Wanted to Die (CBS News)

Woman Charged with Assisting Suicide of WWII Vet (RTT News)

Florida

Florida plans to bar some patients during flu epidemic by Sheri Fink, Sun-Sentinel (10.19.09) – “Florida health officials are drawing up guidelines that recommend barring patients with incurable cancer, end-stage multiple sclerosis and other conditions from being admitted to hospitals if the state is overwhelmed by flu cases.

The plan, which would guide Florida hospitals on how to ration scarce medical care during a severe flu outbreak, also calls for doctors to remove patients with poor prognoses from ventilators to treat those who have better chances of surviving. That decision would be made by the hospital.

The flu causes severe respiratory illnesses in a small percentage of cases, and patients who need ventilators and are deprived of them could die without the breathing assistance the machines provide.”

BUT FLORIDA DOES NOT ALLOW ASSISTED SUICIDE!

Georgia

Georgia high court strikes down assisted suicide law – The Supreme Court of Georgia has struck down — on First Amendment grounds — a state law intended to prevent assisted suicide. Reversal of the law means that a physician and three others who were charged with helping a man take his own life in 2009 are free from prosecution.

The wording of the law was too broad, encompassing not just the act of assisting a suicide but also related and constitutionally protected speech acts, the state Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 6… the high court said the state failed to provide an adequate explanation for or evidence about why a public advertisement or an offer to assist in an otherwise legal activity was sufficiently problematic to justify an intrusion on protected speech rights.

Case at a glance

Is a state law banning advertising of assisted suicide services constitutional?

The Supreme Court of Georgia said no. The court overturned the law, ruling that the state had failed to provide adequate explanation or evidence as to why an advertisement or an offer to assist in an otherwise legal activity was sufficiently problematic to justify an intrusion on protected speech rights.

Impact: Assisted suicide is now technically legal in Georgia, with no rules or regulations forbidding the practice.

Georgia Senate approves measure criminalizing assisted-suicide

Final Exit Network Inc. v. the State of Georgia, Supreme Court of Georgia, Feb. 6 (www.gasupreme.us/sc-op/pdf/s11a1960.pdf)

Hawaii

A Conversation about aid in dying in Hawaii – Every few years the Hawaii Legislature considers — and invariably rejects — legislation establishing physician-assisted suicide, also know as “death with dignity.”

The measures have primarily been opposed by religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church.

But Hawaii’s population is aging, and growing in size. The tremendous challenge of dealing with an ailing loved one was tragically illustrated just last week in the murder-suicide of an elderly Hawaii couple.

5 Hawaiian doctors offer assisted suicide to terminally ill patients – A group of Hawaii physicians is offering to write lethal prescriptions for terminally ill patients in a bid to test whether doctor-assisted suicide is allowed under state law.

In January, Dr. Nathanson co-founded the Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying, which now has five doctor members. The council has started a hotline to field queries from patients and doctors about end-of-life care issues and physician-assisted suicide. The idea is that Hawaii physicians who fear the legal consequences of writing life-ending prescriptions could refer their patients to the council for help, said Dr. Nathanson, 78.

“That’s the thing — I’m retired,” he said. “I think the worst that would happen is that they’d take my license away. I don’t think I’m going to put in any jail time. … My livelihood doesn’t depend on it, so I can be very brave.”

Dr. Nathanson said he is ready to be involved in the case that tests where Hawaii law stands on physician-assisted suicide.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts’s Death With Dignity Act ballot initiative  – H3884

Legal challenge to assisted suicide initiative – On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Massachusetts voters including members of the disability rights group Second Thoughts filed a challenge before the Supreme Judicial Court regarding the proposed ballot language for the measure that, if approved, would legalize assisted suicide in the state.

“The ballot language is clearly misleading,” said Second Thoughts director John Kelly of Boston. “We want the voters of Massachusetts to know exactly what they are voting on this November,” he said.

“The ballot language repeats the problems of the bill itself,” said Second Thoughts member Paul Spooner of Taunton. “The title is euphemistic, with the word ‘medication’ twisted beyond recognition. People will be led to believe that the measure is about palliative care, when it is about taking a lethal overdose — in other words, poison. Why not just call the act by its common and legal name, ‘physician-assisted suicide?'”

Massachusetts Dignity 2012– We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response from people across Massachusetts who believe terminally ill patients deserve greater control over their end-of-life care. Hundreds of volunteers and donors have signed up to help with the effort. These decisions are deeply intimate and personal, and belong in the hands of individuals, not the government.

The proposed initiative gathered more than 84,000 signatures from voters for the initial qualification phase for which we only needed about 69,000 to move forward. After achieving that first step, the initiative was then put before the State Legislature for consideration and received a hearing. The next step in this process started yesterday when we filed the documents to request the petitions to put Dignity on the ballot.

The state constitution requires the petition to travel through the legislature where it is today. They had until May 1st to act on the petition but that didn’t happen. Now the petition has entered its next phase when we’ll need to collect about 20,000 more signatures by the end of June to put the question on the ballot in November.

Poll: Most support doctor-assisted suicide. Do you? (43% to 37%)

New Mexico

Patient joins doctor’s court case, asks for aid-in-dying option (Albuquerque, NM) – A 48 year old women with advanced ovarian cancer has joined a case asking a court to clarify the ability of mentally competent, terminally ill patients to obtain aid in dying from their physician if they find their dying process unbearable. Doctors have treated her with radiation and chemotherapy. For much of the time she has suffered debilitating exhaustion. In December she suffered neutropenia — an immune system “crash” — requiring hospitalization.
“That experience,” said Aja Riggs, “and the amount of pain and intensive medical treatment, has made me think: If this disease is going to take my life, I don’t need to go to the very end with it. I understand people can’t know how they’ll feel until they get there. So I don’t know. But I know I want to have the choice.”
The plaintiffs request a ruling that physicians who provide a prescription for medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient, which the patient could consume to bring about a peaceful death, would not be subject to criminal prosecution under existing New Mexico law, which makes a crime of assisting another to ‘commit suicide.’ The choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death is no kind of ‘suicide,’ the case asserts, and the physician does not assist such a patient in ‘committing suicide.’
“I’ve been thinking so much about having some control over the end of my life, and I felt I couldn’t talk about it with the people closest to me. I thought if it came to choosing a peaceful death, I would have to do it on my own to keep from implicating anyone else. To end that sense of fear and isolation that people have — about one of the most important incidents in our lives — it makes so much sense.” ACLU video

Oregon

The Death With Dignity Act in Oregon and Lane County – 13 years from Compassion & Choices Oregon.The Oregon DWDA was passed as a complex, double-safety-redundant process to address objections and predictions of doom by it’s opponents. The mechanical demands of the law represent an unfamiliar hurdle for the sympathetic physician and an enormous hurdle for a dying, emotionally distressed patient. The emotional hurdle for the first time sympathetic physician is not to be underestimated. As a result, only those patients who are educated enough and driven enough to push through the barriers, and have enough “time”, actually get to the final prescription. That currently amounts to .2% of the yearly deaths in Oregon. 83% of those who take the medication have cancer and 11% Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Oregon Report shows more assisted suicides, more secrecy (National Right to Life News Today by Jonathan Imbody, Vice President for Government Relations for the Christian Medical Association. The Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation  issued a critique of the Public Health Department of the Oregon Health Authority’s report for physician-assisted suicides for the 2011 year.

The shroud of secrecy surrounding assisted suicide is heavier than ever. With each passing year, Oregonians know less and less about what is really happening with assisted suicides in the state.

Oregon docs not evaluating for depression before assisted suicide by Gene Tarne, a senior adviser at the Lozier Institute. In 2009, officials with the Oregon Health Department called the ongoing decline in requests for psychiatric evaluation for those seeking assisted suicide a “worrisome trend,” noting that “[t]he decline in formal evaluation raises concerns that depression remains undiagnosed in some patients who request and receive a prescription under the DWDA.”

Vermont

Life Everlasting: The religious right and the right to die by Garret Keizer, Harper’s Magazine 2/05) – This is the ballad of Doctor Lloyd Thompson (a founder of one of Vermont’s first hospice programs), who may or may not have hastened a patient’s death. This is a song about American secular democracy, which may be under a sentence of death, and about those forces gathering at the gallows. Most of all, this is a song about who owns your life.

Vermont’s death with dignity effort (4/16/12)- In a press release posted on Patient Choices Vermont’s website, Dick Walters, president of the organization stated, “Despite this decision, we appreciate the attempt by our Senate supporters to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote. We celebrate their courage and willingness to discuss an issue that is so important to so many Vermonters. We look forward to the day when all Vermont legislators get a chance to vote on the Death with Dignity bill.”

Vermont Citizens Against Assisted Suicide – True Dignity Vermont is a grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont. Vermonters deserve true dignity and compassion at the end of life, not death and abandonment. Killing is not compassion, and True Dignity Vermont will work to ensure our end-of-life choices respect the dignity of all Vermont citizens.

Death With Dignity Bill may not go to full Senate (VPR News) Senator Sears: “A lot of times bills are votes based upon what I think my constituents want, or what’s best for the state of Vermont, what’s best for my region, etc, etc. This is one, clearly a vote of conscience.”

We shouldn’t encourage suicide (Letter to Editor Times Argus)

INTERNATIONAL

Australia

A doctor in Australia, ““Developing palliative care services in Noosa is as important as being able to choose to die with a terminal illness.

“There needs to be better support for people dying at home. With personal experience, I can’t speak highly enough of those doctors who make themselves available when a person is dying at home and the community nurses do a wonderful and professional job in caring for the dying. But more thought needs to be given to back-up systems, especially concerning the availability of restricted drugs after hours.”

Godless Gross blog – A moral storm in a mortal teacup? Yet published research on assisted suicide laws are far from a slippery slope. A study of US state Oregon and the Netherlands, both of which have legislated for assisted suicide, shows that vulnerable groups are not ‘‘groomed’’ for suicide. Indeed in some studies the number of deaths by assisted suicide is utterly tiny (0.13 per cent in Oregon and 0.02 per cent in Switzerland).

These figures could be used to impugn both sides of the argument. There is no slippery slope, as feared by the churches, and there is no real need for reform, as argued by the advocates for change. There is no evidence that life will be so cheapened that we will then call for the killing of those with diminished capacity.

When you speak to doctors and look at these small numbers, is it all a moral storm in a mortal teacup?  The doctors I have spoken to don’t cry out for the power to kill but for the courage to be not too enthusiastic with invasive treatment. Saving the dying from futile care is far more important numerically than the politicised area of euthanasia.

Consumers call for euthanasia to be examined (CanberraTimes.com.au) – The legal status of voluntary euthanasia should be considered by a Senate committee inquiring into palliative care in Australia, according to the Health Care Consumers Association of the ACT.

The group has also used a submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee to renew calls for a second, ”secular” hospice to be built in Canberra to complement the Clare Holland House hospice.

We need to talk about euthanasia(CanberraTimes.com.au) – As the general population has aged, diseases which were rare only decades ago, are manifesting themselves. Cancers, wasting diseases and also dementia-related conditions, are now reaching epidemic proportions.

Medical technology has progressed over recent years to the point where a body can be kept “alive” by artificial means. Where once a condition might claim a life, today many patients are faced with enduring long periods attached to wires and tubes. ? Rather than enduring these indignities and dying in agony, many patients ask to be helped to die.

Belgium

Ten years after euthanasia law opposition simmers by Taylor Poole (UPI) – “Philippe Mahoux, the head of the Socialist Party in the Senate and one of the fathers of the euthanasia law in Belgium, said Parliament began debates about euthanasia in 2000 and eventually passed the law because there was a demand for it.

The three most common reasons for euthanasia requests are when a patient is suffering without prospect of improvement, when he or she is feeling a loss of dignity or experiencing pain, reported a study by Yanna Van Wesemael, a psychologist and researcher.

Wesemael’s 2011 study on the outcomes of euthanasia requests states that, since 2002, 48 percent of requests have been carried out. Some are withdrawn, some patients die before they receive approval and some requests are refused.

Lionel Roosemont (father of a 16-year-old child born with half a brain) says he sees signs that the attitude toward euthanasia in Belgium is increasingly found in other parts of the world, including the United States. He’s concerned that a similar law could be introduced in the United States if Americans, like Belgians, view being able to choose when to die as an issue of personal freedom.”

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/03/16/Ten-years-after-Belgian-euthanasia-law-opposition-simmers/UPIU-7421331581626/#ixzz1vuWwUZAG

Canada

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Canada)- Legalizing euthanasia would leave the vulnerable unprotected (3/28/12) – On March 22, the Quebec government’s Dying with Dignity Commission released its recommendations concerning euthanasia and palliative care. The media reported that the commission recommended the legalization of assisted suicide in exceptional cases.

In fact, the commission recommends that euthanasia be legalized — but not assisted suicide — in Quebec. The commission’s recommendations are similar to Belgian-style euthanasia, which is not limited to exceptional cases.

The first half of the report contains recommendations for improving palliative care, including the need for greater public awareness of the full range of palliative care options available today. We at the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) support these recommendations. EPC believes that improvements to pain and symptom management must be systematically implemented before the issue of euthanasia can be fairly addressed.

However, EPC vigorously opposes the second half of the report which recommends legalizing Belgium-style euthanasia.

Barbara Kay – Euthanasia report is reassuring but misleading(11/16/11) – The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has recommended that the Criminal Code of Canada be amended so that people in poor health would have the right to physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia. The six-person panel, headed by Queen’s University bio-ethicist Udo Schuklenk, claims that fears of the elderly and the infirm of being hastened to death without their full consent are unwarranted:

“The evidence from years of experience and research where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are permitted does not support claims that decriminalization will result in vulnerable persons being subjected to abuse or a slippery slope from voluntary to non-voluntary euthanasia,” reads a summary of the report’s findings.

B.C. woman asks for right to assisted suicide (8/5/11) – If Gloria Taylor has her way, Canadians may soon be able to choose doctor-assisted suicide rather than a prolonged and agonizing death. The Kelowna, British Columbia woman is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She is gradually losing her ability to walk, use her hands, swallow and even breathe.

In a CBC interview on June 29, 2011, Ms. Taylor talked about her decision to join the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s suit challenging laws that criminalize assisted suicide. She has discussed her wishes with her family. Having watched Ms. Taylor’s slow, inexorable decline, they support her decision to request the option to legally commit suicide. She said, “No one in my family wants to see me suffer….I have the blessings of my family and all my closest friends.”

Death needs no assistance – The B.C. Catholic Paper (3/2/12)  – One of the primary purposes of good health care for the dying is the relief of pain and the suffering caused by it. Effective management of pain and palliative care in all its forms are critical in the appropriate care of the dying. We are grateful Catholic institutions are in the forefront of such treatment.

The truth that life is a precious gift from God has profound implications for our personal and social stewardship over human life. Because as social beings we live in community, we are not the owners of our lives, and therefore do not have absolute power over life and death.

We have a duty to preserve life. Yet this duty is not absolute, for life-prolonging procedures that are insufficiently beneficial or excessively burdensome may be forgone. Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, however, is never a morally acceptable option.

Montreal

Dying with dignity – Finally, some compassion, declares RPCU (Canada Newswire) – The Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU) supports the recommendations in the report released by the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity, which include improved palliative care and medical assistance when dying.

“Palliative care must be available everywhere – including in patients’ homes, as recommended by the Committee,” asserted Pierre Blain, director general of the RPCU.

“Compassion and respect for human beings should override all other aspects when considering end-of-life issues.”

Assisted suicide to be allowed? (The Barrie Examiner by Giuseppe Valliante, QMI Agency – Canada may have just moved one step closer to legalizing assisted suicide, according to prominent author and emeritus professor at the University of Toronto, Wayne Sumner.

Sumner, author of Assisted Death: A study in Ethics and Law, told QMI Agency Friday that he thinks the Supreme Court of Canada will likely agree to rehear the case for assisted suicide and will reverse its position on the issue.

“The winds are tending to blow in that direction,” he said.

On Thursday, a nine-member multi-party committee of Quebec MNAs presented a report to the province’s legislature recommending what it called “medical aid to die.”

The committee recommended that Quebec’s legislature enshrine rules governing assisted suicide in the province’s Civil Code within a year. Moreover, it also wants the government to prevent its attorney general from prosecuting Quebec doctors who help their patients die — regardless of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Sumner said the Quebec report is “a logical progression from the existing state of affairs.”

Patients already have the right in Canada to refuse food and other end-of-life treatments, he said. Keeping assisted suicide illegal in Canada is based on an “irrational prejudice,” he said.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that assisted suicide should remain illegal.

Quebec

Quebec report calls for euthanasia legislation (Globe and Mail) – Quebec is being asked to take the bold step of legislating a form of medically supervised euthanasia.
A report entitled Dying With Dignity that an all-party select committee tabled on Tuesday, includes a proposal called “medical aid to die” that is based on the opinion that dying is a part of life, and since medical assistance is used to prolong life, it should also be used in extreme cases to end it.

“Medical aid to die is more of an evolution than a revolution,” said Parti Québécois MNA Véronique Hivon, the committee co-chair. “The patient must be the one who asks the assistance. It cannot be in any case someone else who asks for it.”

After more than two years of sometimes difficult deliberations and public hearings, the committee proposed that the government legislate an end to the enforcement of long and painful deaths.

The committee insisted the proposal is in no way a form of assisted suicide but rather the ultimate health care solution for the terminally ill.

“This approach abandons the debate over the legalization of euthanasia to situate it in terms of appropriate end-of-life care,” Ms. Hivon said.

Allow doctor-assisted suicide in exceptional cases, Quebec panel says (The Record.com by Sidhartha Banerjee) – A landmark report in Quebec recommends that doctors be allowed to help terminally ill patients die, in exceptional circumstances, if they want to.

The report was released Thursday in the Quebec legislature after two years of work from the so-called Dying With Dignity Committee, a multi-partisan group of nine MNAs (legislature members).

The argument for allowing euthanasia — even in some exceptional cases — could trigger a national debate again in Canada on the controversial issue.

In 1992 assisted suicide hit the national radar when Sue Rodriguez, a B.C. woman, fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada for the right to kill herself. Rodriguez, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS), lost by a 5-4 decision. She killed herself anyway with the help of an unidentified physician in 1994.

Since then, the issue has surfaced a number of times in court where people have been charged with helping loved ones die, including three such cases in Quebec in the past few years.

The committee examined questions about the end of life and produced a 180-page report with 24 recommendations.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition rejects Quebec euthanasia proposal and supports end-of-life care – The Select Committee on Dying with Dignity Committee in Quebec released its report today recommending that Quebec ignore the federal law that protects all Canadians, by legalizing euthanasia according to a Belgium model.

 The report defies parliament’s overwhelming defeat of a similar bill to legalize euthanasia by a margin of 228 to 59 after full-debate and across party lines.
The report does not adequately address concerns related to elder abuse, suicide prevention and vulnerability at the end of life, as addressed by the recent report by the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care (November 2011)
The report splits its recommendations between improving palliative care and informing the public about their rights and options related to end-of-life decision making; and legalizing euthanasia.
Matt Gurney: Euthanasia a right long denied – Quebec’s Dying with Dignity Commission has done Canadians a service with its study on how best to cope with a dying citizen’s final days. The report, two years in the making, was tabled in the Quebec National Assembly on Thursday. It recommends that Quebec take steps to improve palliative care and allow patients receiving such care to do so in their home — worthy suggestions — but also recommends that Quebec offer a final option for those who seek it.
“Some sufferings can’t be relieved satisfactorily and the seriously ill who want to put an end to their sufferings, they deem senseless, come up against a refusal that isn’t in line with Quebec’s values of compassion and solidarity,” the report says. In these cases, the authors urge, Quebec should permit euthanasia (but not, interestingly, assisted suicide).
It will be a controversial conclusion, but probably more owing to the volume of opponents, rather than their numbers. Quebecers have generally been out in front of other Canadians in supporting legalized options for euthanasia: An Angus Reid poll in late 2010 found that 63% of Canadians generally support euthanasia, but that number rises to 78% in Quebec. Other polls show that a majority of Quebec’s doctors are also in support.

Not Dead Yet Responds to Report of the Quebec Commission on the Issue of Dying With Dignity (Seattlepi.com) – Disability rights advocates from Not Dead Yet react to the Report of the Commission on the Issue of Dying With Dignity in Quebec, Canada, noting that it contains some positive measures as well as fatal flaws.

The report of the Quebec parliament’s commission on dying with dignity contains some positive measures as well as fatal flaws, according to Amy Hasbrouck, a resident of Valleyfield, Quebec and board chair of Not Dead Yet, an international disability rights organization opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“They have addressed some important issues related to palliative care and advance directives,” said Hasbrouck. “The Commission has made an effort to respond to the needs of people near the end of life. Unfortunately the commission’s work is marred by a lack of precision and does not take disability discrimination and elder abuse into account. These factors, along with reliance on good faith and inadequate ‘safeguards,’ mean the Commission has failed elders and people with disabilities.”

Quebec report in support of euthanasia condemned as dangerous betrayalby DeborahGyapong, Canadian Catholic News – Living with Dignity (LWD), a network of anti-euthanasia groups in Quebec, has condemned the province’s Select Committee on Dying with Dignity report’s support for euthanasia as “dangerous” and a “profound act of political betrayal.”After holding consultations across the province last year, on Mar. 22 the committee recommended the legalization of euthanasia for people experiencing constant, unbearable physical or psychological suffering.”From the outset of the committee’s consultation, Quebecers were guaranteed that their voices would be heard and that the direction they gave would be followed,” said Dr. Andre Bourque, president of LWD. “On the basis of that promise, Quebecers spoke forcefully against opening the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

“The committee has arrogantly and dangerously broken its word to the very people it promised to heed,” he said.

France

Protestors call on candidates to change euthanasia laws by Collette Davidson – A French organisation led up to 2,000 members in protest in Paris on Saturday, to fight for the right to die in dignity. The group is calling for changes to French laws to legalise euthanasia. An opposing organisation held their own protest across town, against the practice.

The two French presidential front-running candidates remain opposed on the issue, with socialist François Hollande in favour of assisted suicide and President Nicolas Sarkozy against it.

Ireland

Public can decide over euthanasia – The Ulster Unionist leadership contest has moved into ethical questions after front-runner Mike Nesbitt suggested there should be a referendum on whether to legalise euthanasia.

Asked during an interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show for his views on a patient with an incurable disease who wants to be killed – something currently illegal in the UK – Mr Nesbitt said that it was an issue for the public rather than politicians to decide.

He said: “I’m conflicted on that because if it was me I would probably want to get out of the way.”

The Strangford MLA said if euthanasia was legalised there would have to be protections to “ensure that the people surrounding you are properly motivated [in ending your life]”.

And Mr Nesbitt, who had earlier in the interview proposed a referendum on whether to allow for an opposition at Stormont, said: “That’s one, again, where I think you should go to the people, it’s not necessarily a matter for a politician.”

However, when pressed on whether that meant he was prepared to support euthanasia with those protections, Mr Nesbitt said: “No, I didn’t say that. If the protections are there it’s still a matter of principle that I’m afraid I would struggle to support but I hope that I would never be in the way of my children and hopefully my children’s children when it’s my turn.”

Asked then if he was opposed to euthanasia, Mr Nesbitt said: “Yeah.”

Netherlands

Dutch pensioner’s decision: when to die with dignity by Nicolas Delaunay – With a deadly dose of barbiturates stashed in his home in a small eastern Dutch town, pensioner Hans Hillebrand is a “self-determinist”: he alone wants to decide when it’s time to die with dignity. “I shall be the director of my own final scene,” he said.

Hillebrand is one of a growing number of aging Dutch people who prefer to make their own decisions about when and where to die — and in a dignified way.

“Senior citizens today like to decide things for themselves, more than previous generations,” said Ton Vink of De Einder (The Ender in Dutch), an organisation dedicated to “informing” people who want to end their own lives.

More and more Dutch voices are being raised in support of a right to claim assistance to die with dignity after “an accomplished life” and not just when the requirements by law for euthanasia are fulfilled.

A citizens’ initiative called “An Accomplished Life” which supports the idea, has already gathered more than 117,000 signatures, more than the 40,000 required for a debate in the Dutch parliament, which was held in early March.

Even with the country’s liberal laws on euthanasia, a doctor still has the final say whether the criteria have been fulfilled for assisted suicide, namely unbearable and prolonged suffering caused by incurable disease.

Mercy killings: Dutch, Belgians mark a decade to legalizing euthanasia by Nicolas Delaunay, Agence France-Presse. Euthanasia provided to an Alzheimer’s patient for the first time last year.

“The (euthanasia) law has been positive, as it has made huge changes in patient-doctor relationships,” said Jacqueline Herremans, president of Belgium’s Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADME).

“Many taboos on the end-of-life have been lifted,” she said.

“It allows families to better prepare for it and accept the deaths of their loved ones. They can put in place the rituals, like good-byes and a last meal..,” she said.

While most countries forbid mercy killing, the issue is often not clear cut as some allow “passive” euthanasia, when the medical profession is not required to fight to save a patient, or others where patients can refuse medical care.

New Zealand

Will you support one courageous voice? by Ann David, Voluntary Euthanasia Society – It is a relief to know that one courageous politician is willing to swim against the tide of political disregard for the will of constituents.

Labour list MP Maryan Street has announced her intention to sponsor a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

This is exactly what more than 70 per cent of New Zealand voters have been calling for with increasing stridency over a number of decades.

It will be a private member’s bill. This means it must be drawn out of the ballot box for consideration and it could languish in waiting for months or years before seeing light.

In the meantime, more cases will undoubtedly be brought before the courts seeking to criminalise the innocent.

Grief-stricken family members no longer able to resist the pleadings of their loved ones to assist them to die, or doctors who believe in respecting a patient’s rights to call a halt to suffering, will be on trial for succumbing to humanity.

Salvation Army cautions against end-of-life choice – The Salvation Army notes the intention of Maryan Street (MP) to introduce a Private Members “end of life choice” Bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide.

The Salvation Army believes euthanasia and assisted suicide are morally wrong regardless of illness, age or disability, and does not accept the view that euthanasia is “death with dignity”. It says there are two important misconceptions around euthanasia: that death is usually preceded by serious pain, and that modern medicine seeks to prolong the dying process for as long as possible.

“Society’s task is not to eliminate those who suffer, but to find better ways of dealing with their suffering,” says Major Stevenson, chair of The Salvation Army’s Moral and Social Issues Council.

The Salvation Army believes it is important to communicate by word and deed to the sick, the elderly and the dying that they are worthy of respect, they are loved, and that they will not be abandoned. Full palliative care should be available to anyone with a terminal illness.

Religious groups fight early exit bill – Euthanasia is ethically wrong, and individuals could be placed under more pressure from family members to choose an “early exit” if a new bill goes ahead, say the Salvation Army and the InterChurch Bioethics Council.

Both groups have come out against a proposed “end of life choice” member’s bill being drafted by Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street.

The bill would make it legal for those diagnosed as terminally ill, and fully in control of their mental faculties, to choose to die, and for assisting clinicians or family members to be protected from liability.

Chairman of the Salvation Army’s Moral and Social Issues Council Major Garth Stevenson said euthanasia and and assisted suicide were “morally wrong”, and removing legal liability from health professionals and family could place individuals under undue pressure.

“By offering some the choice to end their life, even with the best of intentions, we may also be removing a choice from others who may consequently feel pressured to choose an `early exit’.”

Spain

Spain’s main conservative and socialist parties join in rejecting euthanasia billby Matthew Cullinan Hoffman – Under the slogan “life is a right, not an obligation,” the Plural Left, a coalition of three small socialist parties, offered a bill yesterday to eliminate criminal penalties to one who by “necessary actions or active cooperation, permits, brings about, or facilitates death with dignity and without pain of another person, with express, free, and unequivocal permission of the same, when they suffer from a serious illness that would have definitely caused his death.”

The legislation also would have given individuals the right to “understand at least the purpose and nature of each intervention and treatment, as well as the risks and consequences,” and to “refuse to consent to a treatment” if they so wished.

The proposal was roundly rejected by Spain’s two biggest parties, which are normally at loggerheads over human life and family issues.

Switzerland

Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death. Assisted suicide has been allowed in the country since the 1940s.
 
Death is usually induced through a lethal dose of barbiturates that has been prescribed by a doctor. Ingestion of the poison, whether by drinking it or through the use of intravenous drips or stomach tubes, must be carried out by the person wanting to die.
 
A 2006 decision by the Swiss Federal Court ruled that all people of sound judgment, irrespective of whether they suffer from a mental illness, have the right to decide the manner of their death.
 
The government examined various options to regulate assisted suicide practises and decided not to seek legal changes but to boost suicide prevention and palliative care.
 
Switzerland has two main groups which cater to people who seek an assisted suicide, Exit and Dignitas.

Dr. Jerome Sobel, president of Exit (Switzerland) I think it’s their right, their choice, and their individual freedom. Currently if a patient in a home asks for assisted suicide, homes can refuse to give permission. New law would force old people’s’ homes to open their doors to assisted suicide providers.
He believes physicians should accompany their patients in their chosen death, respect their last wish.

Swiss voters overwhelmingly support assisted suicide  (5/16/11) – Voters in Zurich, Switzerland supported the legality of assisted suicide in two measures which sought to ban the practice.  The first would have banned assisted suicide, which has been legal in Switzerland since 1941, completely, while the other proposed limiting assisted suicide to Zurich residents only, in an attempt to curb the tide of foreigners who take advantage of Switzerland’s liberal policy and travel to Switzerland to die.  85% of voters rejected the overall ban, and 78% voted against the second proposal.

The results were a sweeping affirmation of Swiss support for assisted suicide, despite the fact that before the election, 66% of Swiss people were said to oppose “suicide tourism.”  Active suicide is illegal in Switzerland, so while patients can be prescribed deadly drugs, they must ingest them without any assistance from others.

Headlines:

Switzerland: Sharp Rise in Assisted Suicide Numbers
More People Die in Switzerland Via Assisted Suicide in 2011
Murder in the Netherlands
Assisted suicide booms in Switzerland
Swiss assisted suicide deaths continue to increase
Europe’s culture of death on upswing

Swiss assisted suicide up seven-fold in a decade

Some actual numbers – 68 more than last year, 164 over 13 years
Digitas (near Zurich) 144 people in 2011, up 35% – 2/3 women
Exit – 300 people, up from 257
Most suffering from cancer
Average age 76
Men more likely to commit suicide – 1050 annually

No Doc Will Help? Sue Government to Kill You by Michael Carl – Assisted suicide on trial after physicians refuse woman lethal drugs.

If Alda Gross gets her way, the Swiss government will give her the drugs needed to commit suicide.

Gross filed a lawsuit against the Swiss government when she couldn’t find a doctor to prescribe for her the suicide drug sodium pentobarbitol.

United Kingdom

Should we legalize assisted suicide? (Walesonline.com) – The case of Tony Nicklinson who has locked-in syndrome, has once again raised the issue of about whether we should legalize assisted suicide. The High Court last week decided it will hear Mr. Nicklinson’s case– he wants a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life, which he sums up as “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable.”
Baroness Ilora Finlay, a professor of palliative care at Cardiff University, speaks against legalizing assisted suicide. Dr. Jeremy Honeybun, a GP and member of Dignity in Dying and Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, explains why he believes the UK should legalize assisted dying.

MP and doctor Dan Poulter’s expresses fears over right to die (The Telegraph by Laura Donnelly) – An MP who still works as a doctor is to use a Parliamentary debate to oppose any moves towards so-called “right to die” legislation, saying his experience has turned him against assisted suicide.

Dr Dan Poulter will warn that current prosecution guidelines on assisted dying must not be passed into law as he believes they have the potential to lead to patients being killed simply to benefit their relatives – a risk he has seen on the wards.

But he will also speak of the need for dignity and compassion for the dying and describe how his own resuscitation of a very ill woman left her spending her last three weeks alive in pain because the procedure broke her ribs.

Richard Ottoway MP hints at support for euthanasia law (The Telegraph by John Bingham) – Richard Ottoway, the MP behind the first full Commons debate on assisted suicide for almost 40 years, has hinted he would support further moves towards legalising euthanasia.

Mr Ottaway, a Tory backbencher, has secured parliamentary time for a full debate on new legal guidelines on whether those who help terminally ill love-ones travel to Switzerland to end their lives should be prosecuted.

He said that the debate, on Tuesday, would be the first time since 1974 that the Commons has discussed a substantive motion dealing directly with the issue of whether people should have a right to die.

In the intervening decades, a string of cases have tested the law on assisted suicide to the limit and a series of polls have pointed to growing public support for a change although it remains a criminal offence.

MP’s plea for law change after his father’s suicide (Sheffield Telegraph) – Central MP Paul Blomfield told this week how his father committed suicide after being diagnosed with lung cancer .

The Labour MP said his father took his own life last July at the age of 87, by filling his garage with exhaust fumes. His dad had watched many friends suffer for months before dying and did not want to suffer the indignity of being unable to look after himself.

Mr Blomfield said he was sure his father would not have killed himself if the law was changed so his relatives could have assisted his suicide, free from the fear of prosecution.

The assisted suicide debate will be interpreted in multiple ways by Steve Baker, MP) – This policy does not in any way “decriminalise” the offence of encouraging or assisting suicide. Nothing in this policy can be taken to amount to an assurance that a person will be immune from prosecution if he or she does an act that encourages or assists the suicide or the attempted suicide of another person.

Parliament does not want to normalise assisted suicide and, for most of us, our welcome of the DPP’s guidance reaffirms the view that life is precious and that assisting suicide  is a criminal offence, albeit one which it may not always be in the public interest to prosecute.

Attempt to relax laws on assisted suicide fails (The Christian Institute) – An attempt to undermine the law against assisted suicide has been unanimously rejected by the House of Commons.

In stark contrast the Commons gave unanimous backing to an amendment encouraging the development of specialist palliative care services.

Therese Coffey, a Conservative MP, said: “It was a mature debate but certainly clear that there was no appetite of the majority of the House to change the law as it stands today.”

Victory for compassion as MPs unanimously support non prosecution of compassionate amateur assistance to die. – Dignity in Dying has today welcomed MPs’ historic decision to back Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) guidelines on assisted suicide, as well as MPs endorsement of further development of end-of-life care via an amendment to the motion.  The DPPs guidelines make clear that those who compassionately assist a loved one to die at their request are unlikely to be prosecuted, and that those who maliciously encourage the death of another will feel the full force of the law.