Physicians, Nurses & Pharmacists and Assisted Dying

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Physicians, Nurses, Pharmacists & Assisted Dying

Trying to come up with a Death with Dignity law that will cover all the contingencies and please all the stakeholders is next to impossible, but it is a process and we have to start somewhere. My interest is in encouraging the discussion so the best laws will be written to protect all of us while giving us the freedom to make our own healthcare choices.

The laws in Oregon and Washington are showing that fears of wholesale murder haven’t materialized. Old people are not lining up along the highways at the state line to be killed. The slippery slope is holding. But there are still issues that need to be addressed to improve the law and stop the legal battles that only hurt the patients while filling the pockets of lawyers and the media.

Physicians have been polled in states where the law has been brought to the attention of the voters and a good many of them don’t want to participate. If a patient asked, they would say no.

Some claim allegiance to an oath written around 400 BC, 100 years after Hippocratesdeath, during a time when citizens were being fed to lions and butchered in the streets, that says Primum non nocere (Latin for “First, do no harm”). Actually it didn’t quite say that originally, but “I will keep them from harm and injustice.” I don’t think that has the same meaning today.

It’s hard to believe 2400 years later that an educated person would swear an oath to Apollo Physician, Asclepius, Hygieia, Panacea, and all the gods and goddess… of the Greco-Roman pantheon (at which time it was believed the earth was flat and all else was on a dome that revolved around it). No wonder they came to have a God-complex!

Hippocrates was considered the father of medicine during the time the Roman Empire was at war with just about everyone else as they conquered the lands around the Mediterranean. He was the first to recognize that illnesses come from natural causes and were not punishment from the gods, and he promoted natural healing and disapproved of the use of potent drugs. At the time, dissection was taboo in Greece so he didn’t know much about anatomy or how symptoms related to disease.  Their values and lives were quite different and more people died violent deaths than suffered debilitating and long-term chronic diseases like people today face. Then, 40 was old.

The truth is most medical school graduates today either don’t swear any kind of oath or use a more modern version, but let’s consider do no harm. Some synonyms for “harm”– (deliberately inflicted) hurt, pain, trauma; also wrong, wickedness, iniquity, sin. So it seems physicians don’t consider it harmful to allow a patient to suffer in agony for days or weeks as they are dying, but they do consider it harmful to end a dying person’s suffering by hastening his or her impending and inevitable death by a few days when that is what the person wishes.

Seems to me forcing patients to stay alive for more torture and medical insults is deliberately inflicted hurt, pain and trauma. A sin? Oh, please, save us from the beliefs of people who seek to impose the will of their imaginary gods and goddesses on the rest of us.

So apparently, according to some, helping to relieve someone, who is in the process of dying, from unbearable suffering or pain is doing harm. Really? Have you ever sat with a loved one who is dying that way, begging to die, begging for that little pill to set them free?  (See my article “The Right to Die” [1979])

The other part of the oath some physicians invoke states: I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.So when Socrates, considered the wisest man in Greece at this same time, was sentenced to death for speaking his mind, he gladly accepted the hemlock and his death rather than face exile. I wonder what Hippocrates thought about that. And here we are today debating about whether a person can choose to die or not when faced with death. Is one right and one wrong or are both right and the law should allow for individual choice?

The Hippocratic Oath also states To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art – if they desire to learn it – without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but to no one else. So it’s a paternalistic, sexist document– and when was the last time anyone saw a physician who didn’t charge fees?

I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water but can we get over this Hippocratic Oath defense and get practical? This is 2013, laws (and oaths) need to be relevant to the times and we need to get up to speed.

People who are conscious as they are slowly dying often see their loved ones waiting for them on the other side (read any books by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross). They’ve been traveling back and forth, out of their body, between one world and another, for days or weeks and are excited about going home.  One’s final struggle is between wanting to stay and wanting to go. Some refuse to give up and fight to the end, and that is their choice; however when one is ready to go, when one requests it, let them go. The end is the same. It’s what’s in between that needs to be addressed.

Seems to me cruel and unusual punishment to force dying people to stay alive when they are ready to go, and it’s not just about pain relief. Some religious people believe suffering is part of life and seem to imply the more one suffers, the better. They believe in the “sanctity” of human life because they believe there is only one life. What if they are wrong… like the Greeks and Romans were wrong concerning Zeus and Juno and their brood?

As long as we identify with our body, we want to stay in it but once we realize we are more than our body, that we are spiritual beings temporarily living as humans in a physical world, we get the whole picture and realize that we don’t die when our bodies die…that our conscious awareness continues after our bodies give out. We just wake up, step out and move on.

My feeling is that to be done compassionately, and to dispel many of the concerns brought up by other stakeholders, a physician should be committed to his or her patients until the end. That means if a patient declines further medical treatment and requests assistance with dying, a physician should rightly be at the bedside supporting, informing, preparing, administering and monitoring until that patient expires.

I’ve read about doctors who abandon their patients to hospice when they think there’s nothing more to be done. This could be expected of surgeons whose forte is surgery, who see patients as organs or diseases, but greater compassion is expected of primary care physicians who may know the family as well as his or her patients.

Palliative care and hospice care should be given as options from the beginning of the diagnostic process and offered as a choice along with invasive options,  drug therapies and clinical trials. Patients don’t seem to realize they can opt for no treatment or to stop treatment at any time. Doctors don’t bring these issues up unless patients ask when they are uncomfortable talking about death as if it meant giving up.

There’s concern about the accuracy of a “6 months to live” prognosis. Hospice patients often outlive their 6 months because they get so much comfort and attention from the highly compassionate hospice caregivers that they live longer. Instead of spending one’s last months having more surgeries, more treatments, more side effects from drugs, more pain and suffering only to die hooked up in the ICU, patients could have the opportunity to have well thought out end-of-life conversations with their families. They may get palliative care so they are pain-free and able to fill out Advance Healthcare Directives, complete their bucket list, write their memoirs, wrap up unfinished business, complete their life review and give away treasures to family before transitioning to hospice care where they get to say goodbye to loved ones and have a going away party before they pass peacefully (with or without assistance).

When doctors treat their patients holistically, there’s still a lot that can be done when it comes to healing body-mind and soul. Physicians generally just haven’t been taught how to deal with death with their patients. There were no courses in med school until recently due to all this controversy, but lately things are changing and new physicians are finding courses available to help them relate to their patients as people and understand death as merely a transformation of energy. In my opinion, those who have already graduated need some continuing education classes.

Do I think “physicians” are the ones who should ultimately fill this role? Not necessarily. As I just mentioned, they’re not trained for it and it doesn’t fit their mindset. The whole physician-training process needs to include dying in a holistic healthcare continuum for their attitude to change. MDs may be the only ones who are permitted to prescribe the medication, but a newly-designated medical specialist (e.g. MD or RN with PhD in Thanatology) could be at the bedside to protect the patient’s interests following certain guidelines and carry out his or her end-of-life wishes for a quick and peaceful release.

This way, someone capable would be at the bedside if anything goes wrong (e.g. patient falls asleep before ingesting all meds, patient throws up meds, something goes wrong with an IV line), as well as pronounce the patient and sign the necessary paperwork. Just as it takes great compassion to be with the dying as a hospice nurse but not all nurses have the passion to become hospice nurses, only certain physicians will have the sensitivity necessary to assist patients who request assistance with a quick and peaceful pre-planned death.

They may be those women and men who realize death of the body is just a transition, a transformation of energy from one state to another with continuation of consciousness, and that assisting the dying to have a peaceful and meaningful experience helps to heal the soul as it is leaving the body.

Polls show that a lot of nurses are opposed to participating as well. Back before the November election in Massachusetts last year, an organization of nurses put out a statement of opposition to passage of the Death with Dignity Act. Hospice nurses who are more attuned to the needs of the dying could develop a transition guide specialty, but they would have to shift their mindset beyond only stopping eating and drinking being acceptable. It’s OK for a person to starve to death over a week or two along with their other ailments, aches and pains as they are dying? It’s OK to pump them full of morphine so they are comatose for days? It’s OK to force people to live but not OK to allow them a peaceful passing? It’s not OK to be OK with dying and wanting to speed up the process if one is dying anyway? Hmmmmm….

There’s a wonderful book by two hospice nurses, Peggy Callanan and Nancy Kelly, Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, in which they talk about their experiences at the bedsides of hundreds of people as they were dying. They describe how wonderful and how terrible it can be for the dying and for the families in different circumstances. For some people, they say “I’m going now,” close their eyes and take their last breath.  For some, it’s like a fight to the finish to rip the soul out of the body. We don’t know how it will be when it’s our time, but those who have gotten their prescription say they take comfort in knowing that they have the option if they decide to exercise their desire for death with dignity. It doesn’t mean they will, in fact, most do not. Some have a peaceful death without it. Some wait too long and are not able to take it without assistance.

The other issue that comes up here is euthanasia, which means a physician or another person administers the lethal dose either by mouth or injection. This is where it gets tricky with the law because it’s considered murder to kill another person. It’s not illegal to commit suicide, but no one can legally help you do it. You don’t want your relatives to be put in prison for helping you out but you may be incapable of doing it yourself. That whole thing with Final Exit and the helium bag over the head– it’s just insane that a person should be forced to resort to such measures, but it’s got to be better than blowing one’s brains out.

For people facing Alzheimer’s, should they be eligible for a dignified, peaceful death before succumbing to the agony of losing their mind? For someone dealing with MS or ALS or locked-in syndrome, should they be eligible for assistance if they decide they want out of their progressively worsening condition? I don’t think people should be required to live that way if they don’t want to… whatever their reasons. If they’re OK with it, fine… live on.  I certainly don’t believe in wholesale killing of the elderly and disabled, and am fully aware of Hitler and others like him, which is why I believe we need good laws to protect the vulnerable but still allow freedom of choice. This is still America, not Nazi Germany.

As for people in a vegetative coma, if it were me… just shoot me now! But I stress the importance of filling out Advance Healthcare Directives at an early age because you never know what accident, medical procedure or infection might suddenly put you there and leave your loved ones with gut-wrenching decisions about the care of your body because they don’t know what you would have wanted or some well-meaning organization steps in and decides you must be kept alive because you might wake up 20 years from now… and some people do, and loved ones tend to hold out for that hope. You need to decide how long to wait before it’s OK with you to pull the plug.

Perhaps we need a new definition of murder? My dictionary says– “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.” Could we just add— without consent? So if a person consents to euthanasia, it wouldn’t be unlawful. Or if the definition exempted ending of life under the care of a physician at patient’s request. It just seems to me that a simple injection would be easier on a person than swallowing all those pills now required for the process and that a responsible person should be there to make sure all goes well, no mistakes, no question the person made his or her own decision willingly, and that the death was peaceful. And who else’s business is it besides a patient and his/her doctor any way? This paternalism is getting really boring.

Another voice is the pharmacist. Now some of them are citing religious or moral values that say assisted-suicide is murder and we’re not going to dispense these prescriptions so people can kill themselves. I don’t know that they have a right to question a physician’s judgment or not fill a prescription. They fill all those prescriptions for psychotropic drugs so many people are hooked on without question turning us into a nation of prescription drug addicts who often overdose, but someone who wants out early at the end of their life must be denied because some pharmacist doesn’t think it’s right or it goes against his beliefs. I don’t think so.

They dying patients are the ones who suffer when these people force their judgments and beliefs on vulnerable people who just want control over their own lives and a peaceful death. Religious organizations and moral absolutists pour money into negative propaganda to scare people into thinking someone wants to make it easy to kill off old, sick and disabled people thereby denying the rights of dying people who are capable of making their own end-of-life decisions. They squash support for personal freedom in healthcare instead of funding educational programs to help people make informed decisions about their end-of-life healthcare options. They have their priorities backwards. Help to strengthen the law to protect the vulnerable but don’t force your beliefs and opinions on people you don’t even know.

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COMING NEXT: Discussion about The New England Journal of Medicine open forum about whether physician-assisted suicide should be permitted or not in a particular case scenario.

Assisted-Death Debate – blogs and news from around the world – August 2012

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

Become informed, open your mind,  join in the discussions. Don’t be swayed by emotional euphenisms or dysphemisms, or religious dogma. Our leaders need to know what people are thinking and we need to know what our leaders are considering in terms of laws. These are conversations we all need to have! The end result should be reasonable laws that protect the vulnerable yet allow self-determination at the end of life for those who want the option of assistance.

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Care Not Killing
Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

Compassion & Choices
Death with Dignity
Dignitas
Dying with Dignity
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Final Exit Network
Not Dead Yet
Patient Rights Council

BLOGS

Death with Dignity National Center – Living with Dying – This Week in the Movement
August 3
August 10
August 17
August 24
August 31

Laws Should Reflect Diversity of Opinions by Melissa Barber, Death With Dignity National Center (6/28/12)

Allow doctors to support patient wishes by Melissa Barber, Death With Dignity National Center (8/10/12)

Terminal Cancer and Euthanasia – a conversation

Huge crackdown on fake drug production in China – Assisted-Dying Blog of Derek Humphry (8/6/12) -If you buy drugs from China, please check out this article and exercise caution.

Bad News for anti-euthanasia campaigners – Udo Schuklenk’s Ethx Blog (8/12/12)

New laws allowing physician-assisted suicide opposed by doctors and Catholic Church – Why Evolution Is True (8/12/12)

Unitarian Debate – Issue of the Moment: Assisted Dying – Does the law need to change?

A Theological Look at Suicide – Pastor Zach’s Blog

Death With Dignity: Positive data on why it works… – Jan’s Stinkin Blog

Assisted Suicide, The Courts and the ECHR by Tobias Thienel – Invisible College Blog – School of Human Right, The Netherlands

Euthanasia is a Cultural Addiction – Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith (8/16/12)

UK Paralyzed Man Loses Euthanasia Court Request – Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith, (8/16/12)

The case for assisted dying – New Humanist Blog

The Browser: The Case for Assisted Dying by Raymond Tallis (8/17/12)

Crisp: Dr. Kervorkian had it right about assisted suicide (8/20/12)

Crisp: Assisted suicide as an option (8/21/12)

LeisureGuy: Later On – The case for assisted dying (8/21/12)

LeisureGuy: Later On – Assisted Dying (Tony Prachett Video) (8/22/12)

Compassion & Choices – The Psychology of Aging and End-of-Life Planning by Jason E. Schillerstrom,MD – ABC News (8/22/12)

On assisted suicide Free Thought Blogs by Christina (8/22/12)

US, UK medical journals increasingly tout euthanasia – Catholic World News (8/23/12)

Man who fought for his own assisted suicide dies – SNS Post (8/23/12)

Worrying about “Our Neurotic Fear of Suffering” Secondhand Smoke by Wesley J. Smith (8/24/12)

Tony Nicklinson: Can law change on assisted dying and protect vulnerable – One News Page (8/24/12)

Truth and Charity Forum – Do No Harm?: Medical Journals Show increasing Support for Euthanasia by Denise J. Hunnell, MD (8/24/12)

Choice in Dying: Why can’t opponents (or very tentative supporters?) of assisted dying get it right? by Eric MacDonald (8/25/12)

Jack Kervorkian comes to town, Opinion of Tom Keane in boston.com (8/26/12)

Why assisted suicide is the right answer, for some by John M. Grohol, PSYD – PsychCentral.com: World of Psychology (8/27/12)

Shortage of helium worldwide – Assisted-Dying Blog (8/27/12)

Compassion & Choices – The Conversation Project: It’s time to start talking about end of life by Joseph Nowinski (8/29/12)

HuffPost 50 – The Conversation Project: It’s time to start talking about end of life by Joseph Nowinski, PhD (8/29/12)

Physicians’ emotional, institutional barriers propping medical futility at end of life by Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter (8/29/12)

Dreaming of Call Bells – Is there such a thing as a “good” death? (8/29/12)

BOOKS

The Amateur’s Guide to Death & Dying by Richard Wagner

In Search of Gentle Death: the Fight for Your Right to Die With Dignity by Richard N. Cote

How to Die Consciously: Secrets from Beyond the Veil by Diane Goble

BROADCASTS

ACLU Podcast: Death with Dignity (8/15/12)

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Reason why physicians do not have discussions about poor prognosis, why it matters, and what can be improved by Jennifer W. Mack and Thomas J. Smith in Journal of Clinical Oncology

MAGAZINES

Assisted Suicide: Court Rules That Locked-in Syndrome Sufferer Does Not Have Right to Die – RELEVANTMagazine.com (8/21/12)

VIDEOS

Physician-Assisted Suicide – behavenet.com

Los Angeles Times chat: Columnist Steve Lopez on death with dignity in California

Dying with Dignity: Respecting choices with end of life care – WKBT LaCrosse, Wisconsin

The Last Chapter – End of Life Decisions – West Virginia PBS

Fixing to Die – 60 Minutes

Mark Solock Blog – New laws allowing physician-assisted suicide opposed by doctors and Catholic Church

Edward Tarte, former Catholic priest, now an atheist talks about death with dignity

Choosing Death

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UNITED STATES

(News this month from California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Kansas,  Maine,  Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin)

CALIFORNIA

Steve Lopez: After a ‘barbaric death,’ a call for change – LA Times (8/6/12 ) – My Sunday column on the “barbaric death” of a terminally ill man near Sacramento, and his wife’s plea for an Oregon-like Death With Dignity law in California, brought responses from those wanting to know how to join such a cause.

As I’ve reported before, there is no current campaign for such a change. The best place to get involved in the greater movement, though, and to check on legal developments around the country that could one day have an impact in California, is to visit www.compassionandchoices.org. The no-profit advocates for more end-of-life options and alternatives to often-futile, budget-busting medical procedures that can end up doing little more than prolonging the dying process.

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Steve Lopez: End of life case in New Mexico may affect California – LA Times (8/14/12) – There’s no way to predict when or if California will offer what’s known in Oregon and Washington as Death with Dignity, or physician-assisted aid in dying, but I’ll keep you posted on a case in New Mexico that could have implications here.

In the New Mexico case, said Kathryn Tucker, legal affairs director for a nonprofit advocacy group called Compassion & Choices, “We hope to clarify … that a vague statute that makes a crime of ‘assisting suicide’ does not reach the conduct of a physician providing aid in dying, because of course the choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death is not, and ought not be conflated with, ‘suicide.'”

Tucker said the case in question involves a woman with advanced uterine cancer who has said she would like to have, as one option, the right to avoid prolonged suffering by obtaining doctor-prescribed medication she could ingest to bring about a peaceful death if she finds her dying process unbearable.

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Husband won’t be charged in wife’s suicide by Tony Perry– LA Times (8/23/12) – Criminal charges will not be filed against an 88-year-old San Marcos man who sat beside his ailing wife as she committed suicide, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday.

After a thorough review, the office decided that it could not meet “the ethical and legal burden” of proving a charge of “assisted suicide” against Alan Purdy, according to a spokesman for Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis.

Purdy, a semiretired engineer, did not try to stop his wife as she swallowed apple sauce mixed with sleeping pills and put a plastic bag over her head.

“Yes, I sat beside her as she died,” Purdy told The Times weeks after the death. “I didn’t want her to feel abandoned. I wanted her to know that I loved her.”

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Assisted suicide: The last frontier of civil rights? by Logan Jenkins UT San Diego (8/28/12) – There’s no courtroom in the country, for example, that would have found Alan Purdy, 88, guilty of a felony for tearfully witnessing the suicide of Jo, his 84-year-old wife who suffered crippling pain from a variety of ailments.

In a sense, it would have been a crime against nature not to stand by her as she ate the sedative-laced apple sauce and placed a plastic bag over her head.

She had informed her husband and children of her decision, a course they opposed. She received counseling from health professionals. After listening to the pro-life argument, “Jo simply told them, after a bit, to buzz off,” Alan told a U-T San Diego reporter.

“Yes, I sat beside her as she died,” Purdy told The Times weeks after the death. “I didn’t want her to feel abandoned. I wanted her to know that I loved her.”

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COLORADO

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) – Sisters of Charity Health System – Physician-Assisted Suicide refers to the unethical practice of physicians providing the means of death at a patient’s request. Usually, this will be by supplying or writing a lethal prescription for medications. The patient, however, and not the physician, ultimately administers these drugs. This differs from Euthanasia, because the physician does not act directly by, for example, actually administering a lethal injection in order to end the patient’s life. Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are unethical, and neither can be permitted in a Catholic health care facility. It is never ethical to take the life of an innocent person, even at his or her request, or to help a person take his or her own life.
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CONNECTICUT

UK man who failed to overturn euthanasia law diesby Maria Cheng – The Hour Online (8/23/12) – Tony Nicklinson, paralyzed and unable to speak, found life so unbearable he wanted to die. On Wednesday, the 58-year-old Briton got his wish.

His family said he died of pneumonia at home.

In January, Nicklinson asked the High Court to declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be charged with murder. Last week, the court rejected his request, a decision that Nicklinson said had left him “devastated and heartbroken.”

Experts weren’t sure what impact, if any, his death might have on the ongoing euthanasia debate in Britain.

Penney Lewis, a law professor at King’s College London, said previous deaths of euthanasia advocates didn’t have any effect on changing laws to allow the practice.

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D.C.

Medical journals show increasing support for euthanasia – by Denise Hunnell, MD – LifeNews.com (8/24/12) – The British Medical Journal (BMJ), a publication distributed to the members of the British Medical Association, devoted much of its June 14, 2012, issue to endorsing voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Raymond Tallis, emeritus professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester, argues in this issue that respect for patient desires and autonomy renders irrelevant any opinion on the matter by the Royal College of Physicians or the British Medical Association. Therefore, all opposition to euthanasia is merely inappropriate paternalism and should be dropped.

In this same issue, Tess McPherson relates the difficult last days of her mother, Ann McPherson, and uses this painful experience as a call for legalized physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. Rather than seeking better pain control, she argues that death is the best option for those suffering at the end of their lives.

Finally, Fiona Goodlee, editor in chief of the BMJ, rounds out the arguments by declaring that legalization of assisted dying is not a medical decision, but rather a societal question. She argues that the role of the physician is compatible with providing euthanasia or assisted suicide and if society wants it, they should get it.

Amid these scholarly endorsements of euthanasia come the claims of British physician Patrick Pullicino that the National Health Service (NHS) is effectively killing 130,000 patients every year when doctors place these patients on the Liverpool Care Protocol (LCP) and deny them nutrition and hydration.

The medical literature from the United States also shows an increasing acceptance of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. The July 12, 2012, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) included an article by Dr. Lisa Soleymani Lehmann and Julian Prokopetz that suggested physician opposition to assisted dying was an unreasonable barrier to patients seeking lethal medications. They recommended that all patients who met the legal criteria for assisted suicide as outlined in the state laws of Oregon, Washington, and Montana should be able to obtain the drugs necessary for suicide without a physician’s prescription or approval.

Perhaps the most chilling example is the enthusiastic endorsement in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for the book Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation: Reconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life, by Drs. Franklin Miller and Robert Truog. This book seeks to do away with two core principles of medical care. The first is that a physician cannot intentionally cause the death of his patient. The second is that donors of vital organs for transplantation must be dead before the organs are harvested.

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FLORIDA

Pro: When he is near death, this man wants the choice to kill himself by Tom O’Hara  – jacksonville.com (8/21/12) – I would much prefer to spend a few weeks getting things organized and saying my goodbyes. Then I want to take control.

It’s my life.

It’s my body.

If I want to spare myself and those I love months of useless pain and sadness, then I should be allowed to kill myself without a lot of legal debate and secrecy.

And I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve saved the taxpayers a nice piece of change.

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HAWAII

Join Juggie – My Life. My Death. My Choice. Compassion & Choices – Former State Representative Ernest “Juggie” Heen, cancer patient and aid-in-dying advocate. He believes every Hawai’i citizen with terminal illness should have the legal right to choose a dignified death

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Compassion & Choices – Spotlight: Hawaii -8/13/12) –  We have identified a core group of physicians willing to practice aid in dying and speak out for patient choice. Courageous, skilled and respected medical practitioners lead our growing Physician Advisory Council.

Our Hawaii Executive Council, composed of highly respected caregivers, community leaders and legal experts, will serve as educators and spokespeople for patient choice.

We will prepare a legislative contingency plan and organize constituent visits to educate lawmakers about current law and how patients suffer when their choices go unrecognized. We will also assess lawmakers’ views on end-of-life choice so we can move quickly to mobilize supporters.

In January, Compassion & Choices released a poll of Hawaii voters’ opinions. The results:

77% favor allowing those who are dying of a terminal disease the choice to request and receive medication from their physician to bring about a peaceful death.

90% agree the decision about aid in dying is a personal one between patient and doctor.

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LOUISIANA

Louisiana: Key Pro-Life Bulls on Abortion, Euthanasia Take Effect by Seven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (8/1/12) – Four key pro-life bills take effect today that protect vulnerable people at both the beginning and end of life. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Hear the Heartbeat Bill, the Criminal Abortion Dismemberment Act, and the Additional Protections Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act took effect at midnight.

“Louisiana is ranked as the top pro-life state in the nation, and I commend our Senators and Representatives, our Governor, and the great citizens of Louisiana for their support in enacting these new pro-life laws,” Clapper said.

Finally, the Additional Protections Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act better protects the disabled and ill from euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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KANSAS

Man dies after losing fight for assisted suicide – KMBZ.com (8/22/12) – “I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability, then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death,” the former corporate manager from Wiltshire said in a statement issued by his lawyer.

But on Aug. 16, the court upheld the law barring Nicklinson from dying with a doctor’s help.

“It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place,” Lord Justice Roger Toulson said in his ruling. “Under our system of government, these are matters for parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases.”

A spokesman for British anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing applauded the ruling, saying, “it confirms the simple truth that the current law exists to protect those without a voice: the disabled, terminally ill and elderly, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives.”

For Nicklinson, the decision was devastating.

“I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery,” he said in a statement.

Nicklinson planned to appeal the court ruling, but his health quickly deteriorated. He “died peacefully this morning of natural causes,” according to a tweet posted by his wife, Jane, and daughters Lauren and Beth.

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MAINE

Physician-assisted suicide– time to reconsider by Dr. Erik Steele, The Bangor Daily News/Health (8/16/12) – One night several years ago, my terminally ill patient David chose the time of his own death by shooting himself in the chest. I believe he picked that method because he knew I would be angry if he chose to end his life more peacefully by simply taking an overdose of the pills I prescribed him. I have been angry at myself ever since for having given him good reason to think so.

The upshot of that gunshot was that it’s echo has been banging around my head since it rang out, often when I am trying to fall asleep at night. It has led me to rethink what I had always thought about physician-assisted suicide: that the price to be paid for the liberty of some to choose it carefully and appropriately would be others who chose it prematurely and unnecessarily, a price too steep to be paid. Several years later, I think what I thought was wrong, and I figured I owed it to David to say so.

New data — evidence from actual experience delineated in careful medical studies — can be such an element leading to change. In the case of physician-assisted suicide it comes from the growing experience of states such as Oregon and Washington, where it is legal. Evidence from both states suggest that physician-assisted suicide is used less often than was feared, with fewer than 600 in Oregon over 15 years, and only 156 in Washington since it became legal there in 2009.

Both states have found that the liberty can be carefully overseen by the medical profession so patients are not using it for the wrong reasons (depression, lack of support, etc.), and that one in three patients who have their physician’s support for dying that way choose not to use it.

The data suggests much of what I and others feared would result from the legalizing of physician-assisted suicide does not happen when the medical profession works with the political profession to craft, implement and oversee a good law that makes a reasonable liberty available to an intelligent public. Go figure.

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MASSACHUSETTS

Why Assisted Suicide is the Right Choice, for Some by John M. Grohol, PsyD, Founder & Editor in Chief,  World of Psychology – Assisted suicide is a simple, reasonable and dignified choice that individuals at the end of their lives should be allowed greater access to. The only reason to withhold such access is the belief that government knows better than you what’s best for you at the end of your life.

I believe that few of us would agree that government knows what’s best for us in our personal health decisions. With all things being equal at the end of your life, would you rather gain a few weeks of life living in a hospital bed, heavily medicated, with tubes running from you, with machines helping you “live,” or would you rather die in a place and at a time of your own choosing?

Even if you choose, “hospital bed,” shouldn’t that choice be yours, and yours alone?

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“Death With Dignity Act” Ballot Initiative by Rabbi Liberman in Rabbi’s Thoughts (8/16/12)

Priest-physician brings unique perspective to suicide debate by Christopher S. Pineo, PilotCatholicNews.com (8/17/12) – “I think it is very clear, in that, indeed we have a profound responsibility to provide excellent care for those who are facing the end of life, and that to move on to assisted suicide represents a failure for individuals and for our larger society,” he said.

Father Sheehan said fear contributes strongly to attitudes that push people to choose to end their own lives.

“The major thing is that people are very frightened, and they are frightened about facing the end of life, their fear of being in pain or being a burden on others, or being alone when they die. So, as a consequence these fears and worries, maybe driven by the media or perhaps by the experience of someone in their family or a friend, lead them to think that assisted suicide would be a good option,” he said.

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Northampton woman, plagued with terminal illness, supports ‘Death with Dignity’ option on the Massachusetts ballot by Dan Ring, The Repubican (8/20/12) – Myra P. Berzoff said she doesn’t know if she would take life-ending medications, but said she would like the choice.

At 91, she needs oxygen virtually 100 percent of the time, or else she would suffocate. She said she was diagnosed with emphysema three years ago and lives with the fear she could die from breathlessness.

Berzoff said she is a strong supporter of a ballot question on Nov. 6 that if approved by voters would allow adults to self-administer lethal drugs after requesting a prescription.

“I think I should have the right if tomorrow I decide I want to do myself in,” she says bluntly. “I’m using up resources. I feel very strongly about that.”

James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the Roman Catholic bishops in Massachusetts, said the church values life from conception to death. He said the church is a big supporter of hospice and palliative care. McDonnell also emphasizes hospice and palliative care in his upcoming column.

Driscoll said the ballot question would set a dangerous precedent. “The church is against this initiative and thinks it is a dangerous path to take a human life before natural death,” Driscoll said.

Taught by nuns at Catholic school, Myra Berzoff scoffs at the argument that the ballot question is dangerous because it advocates taking a human life before natural death. She said she should have the option offered by the ballot question.

“That’s absurd,” she said. “If you’re suffering, it’s your life. It isn’t the life of the Catholic church. It’s mine.”

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Beware Death with Dignity Bill – LowellSun – Opinion (8/21/12)

Opposing Euthanasia in pro-life (A call to Massachusetts activists!) by Thomas Peters – Live Action News – Opinion (8/21/12)

Majority of Massachusetts Voters Support Death with Dignity by Melissa Barber – Living with Dying: Death with Dignity National Center (8/22/12) – The poll question had the same wording as what will appear on the November ballot:

Question 2 would allow a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life. If the election was today, would you vote yes or no on Question 2?

Yes…………………………… 58%
No ………………………………….. 24%
Undecided……………………….. 18%

See also:  The major myths about Death With Dignity laws

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UK man who failed to overturn euthanasia law dies by Maria Cheng, boston.com (8/22/12) – Tony Nicklinson, paralyzed and unable to speak, found life so unbearable he wanted to die. On Wednesday, the 58-year-old Briton got his wish.

His family said he died of pneumonia at home.

In January, Nicklinson asked the High Court to declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be charged with murder. Last week, the court rejected his request, a decision that Nicklinson said had left him ‘‘devastated and heartbroken.’’

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Briton who fought for assisted suicide is dead by John F. Burns, The New York Times-Europe (8/22/12) – A 58-year-old British man suffering from so-called locked-in syndrome died Wednesday, six days after a panel of High Court judges rejected his request for help in ending his life. His death is certain to galvanize the already contentious debate about assisted suicide in Britain
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Massachusetts Assisted Suicide Proposal Preys on Seniors by Steven Ertelt – LifeNews.com (8/22/12) – A diverse group of people is fighting the proposal on the November ballot in Massachusetts to legalize assisted suicide. Among them is Margaret Dore, an attorney who is a recognized expert on the subject.Dore points out in a brief column, that appears below, how assisted suicide preys on seniors and how assisted suicide, a practiced in other states, includes significant abuses.
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Tony Nicklinson, Man at Center of UK Euthanasia Case, Diesby Steven Ertelt – LifeNews.com (8/22/12) – Tony Nicklinson, 59 and paralyzed from the neck down after a stroke in 2005 and the man at the center of a controversial euthanasia case in England, has passed away. Nicklinson was arguing for permission that a doctor who performed voluntary euthanasia on him would have an effective defense when prosecuted for murder. However, lost his court quest to be legally euthanized and now he has died of pneumonia.“Everyone could understand and empathize with his anguish and pain.  But the request to be killed didn’t just involve him,” he said. “And as I mentioned in my last post on this very sad case, if death remained his goal, he was not “powerless” toward that end as he feared, having every right to refuse life-sustaining treatment if he became ill. That appears to be what happened.”
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Tony Nicklinson Dies After Losing Fight for Assisted Suicide by Katie Moisse – ABC Good Morning America (8/22/12) – A paralyzed man who fought to overturn Britain’s ban on assisted suicidedied today from pneumonia less than a week after losing his controversial court case.Tony Nicklinson had locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke in 2005. Trapped inside a paralyzed body and forced to communicate by blinking his eyes, the 58-year-old man asked three of Britain’s High Court judges to grant him the right to end his “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable” life with a doctor-administered lethal injection.”I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability, then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death,” the former corporate manager from Wiltshire said in a statement issued by his lawyer.
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Jack Kervorkian comes to town by Tom Keane – boston.com (8/26/12) – The late Jack Kevorkian, a saint to some and a demon to others, was the controversial proponent of physician-assisted suicide for the dying and ill. This November, Kevorkian comes to the Commonwealth, or the spirit of the man at least, in the form of Question 2. The ballot measure, neutrally titled “Prescribing Medication to End Life,” would allow doctors to help the terminally ill kill themselves.

Massachusetts is thus somewhat of a test case: Is legalized suicide a trend?

Should we have state-sanctioned suicide? Libertarians argue that your body is your own, to do with as you wish. Some major religions disagree, but nothing in the proposed law requires the faithful to commit suicide. It simply permits it.

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Parishes oppose proposal on doctor-aided death by Tom Dalton – The Salem News (8/27/12) – The Catholic parishes of Salem are campaigning to defeat a question on the November ballot that would allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
“The church is very much opposed to it,” said the Rev. Timothy Murphy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church.
The so-called “death with dignity” ballot question began with an initiative petition filed with the state attorney general’s office by a group of citizens that included Dr. Paul Spiers of Danvers.
State Rep. John Keenan, whose mother died of lung cancer, said he supports the measure as a way to lessen suffering. Keenan, of Salem, said he believes anyone who has watched a parent or child die from a terminal illness would also support it.
Members of the local pro-life committee, however, are taking a strong stand against a question they say is misunderstood and open to abuse.
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Campaign Aims to Spur End-of-Life Conversations Within Familiesby Kay Lazar – The Boston Globe (8/29/12 ) – Compassion & Choices – “I knew what he wanted,” said his wife, Nancy. “I had had this discussion many times with him, but the kids hadn’t and they weren’t ready to let go.”

With death and dying, most Americans engage in a conspiracy of silence, surveys show, failing to discuss their final wishes until it is too late. A new Massachusetts-based coalition aims to change that.

Called The Conversation Project, the national campaign encourages open and honest discussions among families and friends about how they want to live life at the end, so that their wishes will be followed.

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Death with Dignity: Doctor-prescribed suicide for terminally ill may soon be a way to die in Massachusetts – AllVoices.com (8/31/12) – Living — and dying — according to one’s own desires and personal beliefs is possibly the greatest freedom a human being can have. But what happens when the autonomy and, potentially, the peace of mind of choosing one’s time and place of death conflicts with qualms about a physician’s role as a healer and, ultimately, the value of human life?

Massachusetts residents will contemplate those questions in November, when the Bay State will become the third in the nation to consider a ballot initiative that would allow terminally ill people to end their lives through the self-administration of medications prescribed for that purpose.

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MONTANA

Assisted Suicide: “Whose Choice?” – Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and for Living With Dignity (8/12/12) – Have you been solicited to engage in “aid-in-dying?”  Were you told that “aid-in-dying” is legal?  Did something about what you were told seem not quite right?

“Aid-in-dying” is a euphemism for assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Aid-in-dying” is, regardless, not legal in Montana.  Baxter did not legalize the practice.  Moreover, a bill that would have legalized the practice was defeated in the last legislative session.

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Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana – Mass Against Assisted Suicide (8/31/12) – I am a Montana State Senator.  I disagree with your article, “Redefining Physicians’ Role in Assisted Dying,” claiming that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  At the very least, Montana law is unclear.

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NEW YORK

At the end of life, talk helps bridge a racial divide by Joseph Sacco, MD (8/6/12) – The New York Times – Our findings, published on July 9 in The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, upend the conventional view of preferences for care among blacks. Sixty-five percent of black patients who were given palliative care consultation elected DNR, and 32 percent chose hospice — rates significantly higher than those previously demonstrated.

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Richard Wesley: Ill doctor sheds light on who chooses physician-assisted suicide– The Inquisitor (8/12/12) – When Dr. Richard Wesley voted to approve Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act in 2009, he had no idea that just one month later he would be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or Lou Gehrig’s Disease — just one month later.

Despite the prospect of living, and dying, with an incurable disease that eats muscles, yet leaves the mind intact, Dr. Wesley is at peace knowing there is a prescription of barbiturates waiting at the pharmacy should he choose to end his life on his own terms. (video)

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Dr. Kervorkian had it right about assisted suicide by John M. Crisp – Newsday.com (8/20/12) – My uncle got a lucky break last week — literally. He got up in the middle of the night and, enfeebled at 81 years of age, he fell, hitting his head on a desk and breaking his skull. Later the next night he died, having never regained consciousness.

Why am I calling this gruesome mishap lucky? Because a few months earlier he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and a couple of days before he died he had gone into hospice care. He was facing several months of increasing discomfort, disability and undignified decline, and then real pain and finally a smothering death. With a misstep in the middle of the night, he managed to avoid all of that.

Barbara Wise wasn’t quite so “lucky.” She suffered a stroke recently and was bedridden in a Cleveland hospital, unable to move or speak. John Wise, her husband of 45 years, smuggled a pistol into her hospital room and fired a single round into her head. She died the next day. Even though Wise and his wife had agreed long ago that neither of them wished to live in a bedridden, disabled state, prosecutors have charged the 66-year-old Wise with aggravated murder.

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Tony Nicklinson, who lost “assisted-suicide” case, dies by Victoria Cavaliere – NY Daily News (8/22/12) – A paralyzed man who lost a landmark assisted suicide case in England died Wednesday from natural causes.

Tony Nicklinson died at his home in Melksham after suffering complications from pneumonia, his family said on Twitter. He was 58.

Nicklinson had described his life as “a living nightmare” since suffering a stroke in 2005 that left him with locked-in syndrome, a total paralysis of all the muscles.

The former corporate manager and rugby player was unable to speak or move, but his mind remained intact and he was not terminally ill.

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Overtreatment is taking a harmful toll by Tara Parker-Pope – NYTimes.com (8/27/12) – When it comes to medical care, many patients and doctors believe more is better.

But an epidemic of overtreatment — too many scans, too many blood tests, too many procedures — is costing the nation’s health care system at least $210 billion a year, according to the Institute of Medicine, and taking a human toll in pain, emotional suffering, severe complications and even death.

“Sometimes the test leads you down a path, a therapeutic cascade, where you start to tumble downstream to more and more testing, and more and more invasive testing, and possibly even treatment for things that should be left well enough alone.”

Some complained that when they switch doctors they are required to undergo duplicate blood work, scans or other tests that their previous doctor had only recently ordered. Others told of being caught in a unending maze of testing and specialists who seem to forget the patient’s original complaint. I heard from doctors and nurses, too — health professionals frustrated by a system that encourages these excesses.

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OHIO

Hospital shooting fuels euthanasia debate – news24.com (8/13/12) – The shooting leaves authorities in a dilemma some experts say will happen with greater frequency in coming years as the baby boom generation ages — what is the appropriate punishment when a relative kills a loved one to end their suffering?
More often than not, a husband who kills an ailing wife never goes to trial and lands a plea deal with a sentence that carries no more than a few years in prison, research has shown. In some instances, there are no charges.

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OREGON

Assisted suicide most often chosen by affluent white by Katie Hafner – bendbulletin.com (8/12/12) – Washington followed Oregon in allowing terminally ill patients to get a prescription for drugs that will hasten death. Critics of such laws feared that poor people would be pressured to kill themselves because they or their families could not afford end-of-life care. But the demographics of patients who have gotten the prescriptions are surprisingly different than expected, according to data collected by Oregon and Washington through 2011.

They are overwhelmingly white, well-educated and financially comfortable. And they are making the choice not because they are in pain but because they want to have the same control over their deaths that they have had over their lives.

While preparing advance medical directives and choosing hospice and palliative care over aggressive treatment have become mainstream options, physician-assisted dying remains taboo for many people. Voters in Massachusetts will consider a ballot initiative in November on a law nearly identical to those in the Pacific Northwest, but high-profile legalization efforts have failed in California, Hawaii and Maine.

Oregon put its Death With Dignity Act in place in 1997, and Washington’s law went into effect in 2009. Some officials worried that thousands of people would migrate to both states for the drugs.

“There was a lot of fear that the elderly would be lined up in their RVs at the Oregon border,” said Barbara Glidewell, an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University.

That has not happened, although the number of people who have taken advantage of the law has risen over time. In the first years, Oregon residents who died using drugs they received under the law accounted for one in 1,000 deaths. The number is now roughly one in 500 deaths. At least 596 Oregonians have died that way since 1997. In Washington, 157 such deaths have been reported, roughly one in 1,000.

In Oregon, the number of men and women who have died that way is roughly equal, and their median age is 71. Eighty-one percent have had cancer, and 7 percent ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The rest have had a variety of illnesses, including lung and heart disease. The statistics are similar in Washington.

There were fears of a “slippery slope” — that the law would gradually expand to include those with nonterminal illnesses or that it would permit physicians to take a more active role in the dying process itself. But those worries have not been borne out, experts say.

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BackyardChickens.com – What do you all think about Euthanasia? – opinions

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Oregon Death with Dignity – More Educated About Issues More You Understand About End of Life Care by Anthony Cirillo – about.com Assisted Living (8/20/12) –  The data show Death with Dignity is a rarely used option for a small number of terminally ill Oregonians. The report indicates the process was implemented, in every instance, under the strict guidelines written into Oregon law and the established medical standard of care that has evolved since implementation.

During the 13 months covered by the report, 114 qualified patients received a prescription under the provisions of the law. Approximately 62%, or 71 terminally ill individuals, died as a result of ingesting medication prescribed under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Sixty-two different physicians wrote prescriptions under the law. According to the Health Division’s report, in the 14 year history of implementation, 935 prescriptions have been written and 596 individuals have ingested medication and died using the standards spelled out in Oregon law.

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Assisted suicide in Oregon – Questions & Answers

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PENNSYLVANIA

British man’s death adds fuel to fire in assisted suicide debateby John F. Burns – post-gazette.com (8/23/12) – A 58-year-old British man suffering from so-called locked-in syndrome died Wednesday, six days after the nation’s High Court rejected his request for help in ending his life.

His death is certain to galvanize already-contentious debate about assisted suicide in Britain.

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SOUTH CAROLINA

Are our lives our own? The ethics of ‘elective death’ by Bill Thompson 8/5/12 – Given the choice, few would want to end their lives in nursing homes, hospices or in hospitals, however caring the professionals, but rather in their own home in the embrace of family and friends.

Yet many who are terminally ill and/or suffering excruciating pain that palliative care cannot balm spend their last days in clinical settings hooked to life support equipment they do not want. Others are compelled to go on living in ruined bodies or in advanced old age when they have no wish to do so, often beset with emotional or psychological pain that has become unbearable.

When all medical and counseling measures have been taken, and proven unsuccessful, should an individual have the right to end his or her own life? It is a debate with profound ethical, religious and human rights implications.

“Life should not be a sentence. The freedom to die in the manner of our own choosing is the ultimate civil liberty,” argues Mount Pleasant social historian Richard N. Cote, author of “In Search of Gentle Death.” “There is rising criticism that keeping dying people alive against their will is a violation of their civil rights.”

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TEXAS

We should reconsider assisted suicide laws by John Crisp San Angelo Standard Times (8/22/12) – My uncle got a lucky break last week — literally. He got up in the middle of the night and, enfeebled at 81 years of age, he fell, hitting his head on a desk and breaking his skull. Later the next night he died, having never regained consciousness.

Why am I calling this gruesome mishap lucky? Because a few months earlier he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and a couple of days before he died he had gone into hospice care. He was facing several months of increasing discomfort, disability and undignified decline, and then real pain and finally a smothering death.

With a misstep in the middle of the night, he managed to avoid all of that.

Barbara Wise wasn’t quite so “lucky.” She suffered a stroke recently and was bedridden in a Cleveland hospital, unable to move or speak. John Wise, her husband of 45 years, smuggled a pistol into her hospital room and fired a single round into her head. She died the next day.

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VIRGINIA

Hospice: Celebrating the end of lifeby William C. Boinest and SR. Victoria Segura – Richmond Times-Dispatch (8/30/12) – No one likes to talk about the end of life. It seems more natural to celebrate its beginning. But, death is a part of life, and when it comes, most of us want to be at home, at peace, surrounded by our loved ones.

For some, that’s not possible. For some, a higher level of medical care is needed. Many families think they can handle caregiving duties at home, but most find they are overwhelmed and unable to spend precious, focused time with their loved one.

Most communities the size of Richmond have an answer to this problem, a place where patients can receive a higher level of medical care in a home-like environment, and families can be present for their loved ones, unencumbered by caregiving duties.

Richmond does not. Surprisingly, freestanding palliative and hospice care is not available within a 55-mile radius of our city.

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WASHINGTON

Death with Dignity Act ensures control, not pain – The Seattle Times – Letters (8/18/12)

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Who chooses assisted suicide? Data reveal surprising answersby Katie Harner in The Seattle Times (8/12/12) – Dr. Richard Wesley has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable disease that lays waste to muscles while leaving the mind intact. He lives with the knowledge that an untimely death is chasing him down, but takes solace in knowing that he can decide exactly when, where and how he will die.

Under Washington state’s Death With Dignity Act, his physician has given him a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates. He would prefer to die naturally, but if dying becomes protracted and difficult, he plans to take the drugs and die peacefully within minutes.

“It’s like the definition of pornography,” Wesley, 67, said at his home here in Seattle, with Mount Rainier in the distance. “I’ll know it’s time to go when I see it.”

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Physician-assisted suicide: A chance for dignity in death by John Culver– The Gonzaga Online Bulletin (8/22/12) – In 1997, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act came into effect, hearkening in a new era of end of life care in the United States. The bill was created in response to the suffering of individuals experiencing end-stage terminal illnesses in which physical deterioration and pain coupled to bring about an unacceptably low quality of life. The law signaled a growing recognition that palliative care could not always prevent dying individuals from reaching a state of existence that they found degrading and unacceptable. Rather than suffer for days, weeks or months during an inevitable decline toward death, terminally ill patients could request that their physician prescribe them a lethal dose of barbiturates. They would bring about a merciful, dignified death.

Since its inception, the law has allowed more than 600 terminally ill Oregonians to die on their own terms, rather than suffer through the natural progression of their diseases. The law’s utility extends far beyond its potential to directly alleviate physical suffering; it provides tremendous mental comfort to terminally ill Oregonians.

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WISCONSIN

Seeing death in a new light by Bruce Wilson, The Journal Sentinel (8/13/12) – Death has become a taboo subject, but it hasn’t always been so. It seems to be feared mostly because as a society we have become so unfamiliar with death. Medical science has evolved very rapidly, and over the past 50 years we have become so good at treating illnesses that we somehow have come to view death as an option. Before heart surgery and angioplasty and antibiotics and chemotherapy, people often died when they got sick.

In earlier agrarian times, Grandpa dropped over of a heart attack while harvesting the corn or milking the cows. Doctors couldn’t get to the patients and had little to offer when they did. The family called the undertaker, who helped get Grandpa into his dark suit and they laid him out on the dining room table. Friends and family were summoned, everyone drank some whiskey and they buried him. Children and adults alike saw this cycle of life over and over. There was sadness, but it was familiar, and a fact of life.

In more modern times, Grandpa is in the ICU at the hospital. Children are frequently not allowed to visit.

Physicians have spent years learning how to fight off almost any condition, and have become unfamiliar with death themselves, so much so that internally they may have a sense of failure when death finally comes, often after a long siege of warfare against nature.

In addition, there has been almost no training for doctors in how to speak about death or prepare patients and families for this when the picture becomes clear.

This is almost a uniquely American phenomenon. The reason is simple: Most other countries do not have enough money to spend on “health care” at the end of life, when many of the measures that we view as routine are often futile.

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INTERNATIONAL

(News updates from Australia, Canada, Fiji, Germany, India, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, United Kingdom)

AUSTRALIA

Euthanasia: tackling the ‘wicked’ policy problem by Scott Prasser – onlineopinion.com.au (8/7/12) – There are three basic requirements for dealing with ‘wicked’ policy problems like euthanasia.

First, there needs to be time to engage the public in open, depoliticised, iterative discussion of the many dimensions of the problem. This is an absolute necessity for complex social issues with a strong moral dimension like euthanasia, in order to make different perspectives understood and create a shared understanding of the issue to address.

Second, there needs to be reliable evidence and data so as to inform the debate and avoid distortion of the facts, but this alone it is not sufficient when conflicting values and perspectives are at stake. Euthanasia is not an issue where ‘evidence’ based policy development alone can resolve the matter, but we certainly need to clarify the ‘evidence.’

Third, it is essential to have appropriate mechanisms (more than one) for public engagement in informed debate, to explore the range of arguments and to encourage the consideration of wider social implications if an agreed policy solution for the common good is to emerge.

Engaging the public in this kind of policy process would be a welcome new feature in the Australian political process.

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Mother wins six-year fight for right to let brain-dead son die by Jordanna Schriever, The Herald Sun (8/10/12) – Mrs Dunn will meet doctors on August 22 to seek a decision that he no longer be fed.

Mr Leigep, 37, has been unresponsive and in a vegetative state since March 2006 after a car crash in Adelaide’s north.

Ms Dunn would prefer her son die in a more humane way and be euthanased with drugs. She said the laws must be changed to allow families in her position to have access to euthanasia.

“I’m starving my son to death, and I’ve got no other choice but to leave him as he is,” she said.

“If I starved my dog, I would be locked up. But I’m allowed to starve my son.

“I can’t let him suffer any more. I wish there was another choice. I’m so devastated. It’s not just about euthanasia, we want him to die with respect … families have got to have that right.”

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Philip Nitschke says Exit International has seen a surge in demand for help to die peacefully by Steve Rice, heraldsun.com.au (8/16/12) – Dr Nitschke says the $690 kit allows for a peaceful death.

HIs voluntary euthanasia group, Exit International, has sold 50 of the kits and ordered another 100 – most of which have already been pre-ordered – at a cost of about $345.

He said there had been a surge in demand from people wanting the gas.

“If people really want an anonymous death, that is one that will never be detected, (this) is really your only option,” he said.

“It’s the only undetectable method of death.

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Euthanasia Campaigner Philip Nitschke Meets His Match in Debate by Paul Russell, a leading campaigner against euthanasia  (8/17/12) – Here’s the text of my talk:

Unless you’re posing a serious and present threat to my life, I can’t kill you. That’s a good thing. We all enjoy this protection in law equally, every one of us.
But, now we’re saying that it’s okay for someone else to kill you.
That is the fundamental issue: we will be making an exception to the Criminal Code that changes the laws on homicide. That is serious stuff.
We’d be creating a right for someone else to kill us or, to put it another way, a right to be killed.
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St Vincent offers peace to dying by Hamish Broome (8/20/12) – The team at St Vincent’s Hospital palliative care unit have been recognised as one of the best in the country, with a recent report ranking their services as second in NSW and fifth in Australia.

As part of a national program to benchmark patient outcomes, St Vincent’s unit was found to provide exceptional care in clinical outcomes and symptoms relief.

“Dying is one of the most critical things that happens to us,” said clinical nurse specialist Alan Hickey, who’s spent more than a decade in palliative care.

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Only person ever convicted in Qld for assisting suicide, Merin Nielsen, released from jail  – Herald Sun (8/20/12) – Merin Nielsen, 50, was freed last week after serving six months of a three-year jail sentence for assisting the suicide of an elderly man in 2009.

Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke on Monday said he’d spoken to Mr Nielsen, who was utterly relieved to be out of jail and hoped the laws around euthanasia would change.

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Euthanasia decision – 4BC.com.au (broadcast) (8/23/12) – South Australian mother, Joanne Dunn, yesterday made the heartbreaking decision to ask doctors to stop feeding her 37-year-old son, Mark, who has been in a vegetative state since 2006 after a car crash.

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Australian euthanasia advocate wants Fiji death clinic– Google News (8/23/12) – Prominent Australian right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke said Friday he wants to set up an assisted suicide clinic in Fiji, but the government in Suva downplayed the idea.

Nitschke, a doctor who has campaigned on euthanasia issues for more than a decade, wants it to operate like the Dignitas centre in Switzerland, where 144 people ended their lives in 2011, virtually all of them foreigners.

Nitschke, head of Exit International, told the Sydney Morning Herald it would make it easier for people from the Asia-Pacific who wanted to end their lives to do so, rather than having to travel to Europe.

“Given the logistical problems faced by those in the Asia-Pacific travelling to Europe when seriously ill, Exit would suggest that a mirror clinic is well warranted in this region of the world,” he said.

He said he had written to Fiji’s attorney-general who had asked for more details, and hopes his organisation can go to the Pacific nation to discuss the idea.

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Fiji eyes proposal for assisted suicide by Julia Medew – The Syndey Morning Herald (8/24/12) – A 58-year-old British man suffering from so-called locked-in syndrome died Wednesday, six days after the nation’s High Court rejected his request for help in ending his life.

His death is certain to galvanize already-contentious debate about assisted suicide in Britain.

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Nitschke’s death clinic on agenda for Fiji

by Julia Medew The Canberra Times (8/24/12) – THE Fijian government is considering a proposal to open an assisted-suicide clinic where seriously ill Australians and others could go to die.

The Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has proposed a ”hastened death service” in Nandi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

While a handful of European countries and two US states have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, the Dignitas clinic is the only one in the world that allows foreigners to use its service.

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Fiji says No to suicide clinic – BioEdge.org (8/24/12) – Australian euthanasia activist Dr Philip Nitschke seems to have jumped the gun by telling the media that the South Pacific island of Fiji was considering his plans for establishing a suicide clinic in the city of Nadi.

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Tony Nicklinson: Can law change on assisted dying and protect vulnerable? by Isra Black – International Business Times (8/24/12) – In this post, I attempt to clarify what the vulnerability objection is, that is, what concerns it raises against the legalisation of assisted dying, and who the ‘vulnerable’ are. This post also presents an overview of the safeguards designed to ensure that assisted dying is implemented without diluting the protections afforded to certain members of society. It ends by challenging the basis for assisted dying chosen by campaigners for a change in the law.

A detailed study of the safeguards present in the laws and practices of jurisdictions where assisted dying is lawful can be found in the briefing paper Professor Penney Lewis and I wrote for Demos and the Commission on Assisted Dying.

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Australians must have death with dignity – Herald Sun (8/28/12) – A Herald Sun investigation has found thousands of terminally ill people are unable to make their lives easier because of unduly restrictive regulations.

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CANADA

Suggestions for slipping a mortal coil: The important questions make dying livableby Gordon Sinclair Jr. – winnepegfreepress.com (8/4/12) – “But nobody had actually gone to dying patients and asked them what dignity was about,” Chochinov recalled. “What it meant to them.”

So he began asking palliative care patients in Winnipeg the dignity questions.

What Chochinov discovered was dignity for those who needed it most had more to do with emotional well-being, than physical requirements.

He found people lost their sense of dignity when they felt their life had lost meaning and purpose in its final stages.

Or, as Chochinov told me: “We looked at pain, we looked at physical symptoms, spiritual issues, psychological issues. The single most important predictor of people’s dignity was, in fact, how people perceived they were seen. How people saw themselves to be appreciated or seen by others.”

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DWD newsletter accuses the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of lying by Alex Schadenberg, LifeSiteNews.com (8/6/12) – In the June 2012 edition of the Dying with Dignity newsletter (p.10), Wanda Morris, the executive director of Dying with Dignity states that EPC bases its arguments on Lies, Damn Lies and fear mongering.

Morris ought to look in the mirror when she accuses EPC of lying or fear mongering.

I knew that I was doing well in the debate when Morris stated that I lacked compassion because I opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide in all circumstances. Low blow Wanda, too bad it proved to the audience that you were getting desperate.

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Ottawa appeals B.C. assisted suicide ruling by Paul Tuns, TheInterim.com (8/7/12) – Waiting until the second-last business day to file, Canada’s federal government appealed the June 15 decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith overturning Canada’s ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Smith claimed that Canada’s Criminal Code prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide violated the Charter rights of those seeking assistance killing themselves and those who help them carry out their lethal wishes. The justice also argued the Criminal Code provisions violated disabled persons Section 7 rights of life, liberty, and security of the person.

On July 13, the Friday before the July 16 deadline to appeal Smith’s decision, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the Conservative government sought to stay the ruling which urges Parliament to change the law to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide within the next 12 months and gives an immediate exemption to Gloria Taylor, an ALS sufferer who is challenging the assisted suicide law.

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‘One-sided and misleading’: Anti-euthanasia leader slams upcoming Canadian ‘expert panel’ event by Peter Baklinski – LifeSiteNews.com (8/7/12) – A pro-euthanasia group has teamed up with an atheist group to present what they call an “expert panel” to inform Canadians about recent legal developments in the country regarding medically assisted suicide.

Meanwhile, the country’s top advocate for the right-to-life of the elderly has slammed the expert panel event, calling it “one-sided and misleading”.

“Canada does not need anybody promoting laws that allow one person to kill another person, whether they are terminally ill or not,” said Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, to LifeSiteNews.

The UK Care Not Killing Alliance is honoured to host this first European symposium, which builds on several successful meetings in North America organised by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

First European Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

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Canadian attitudes skewed in favor of physician-assisted suicide by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register (8/9/12) – Canadians and Britons are more open to physician-assisted suicide than Americans, a recent poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion has found.

Eighty per cent of Canadians and 77 per cent of the English said that doctors should be allowed to assist terminally ill, fully informed and competent patients to kill themselves. But only 56 per cent of Americans agreed.

The poll found 10 per cent of Canadians and nine per cent of Britons firmly opposed to physician-assisted suicide no matter who asks for it. Nearly one third — 29 per cent — of Americans said it should never be allowed. On the flip side, three-quarters of Canadians and Britons said physician-assisted suicide should always be allowed under specific circumstances, whereas only half of Americans thought so.

“So far as the UK is concerned, in terms of opinion surveys this doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “What we’re seeing here to a degree is an instinctive, compassionate response from a society that prizes individual autonomy very highly.”

The Angus-Reid survey found 86 per cent of Canadians, 84 per cent of Britons and 69 per cent of Americans agree with the statement that “Legalizing doctor-assisted suicide would give people who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain.”

People who believe laws against assisted suicide protect the vulnerable from social, economic and medical pressure to commit suicide face a major education challenge, said Wookey.

“It means there’s a very, very clear job for the Church to do, particularly in secular society,” he said.

British bishops have teamed up with disability rights organizations and palliative care professionals to form an alliance called Care Not Killing — a purely secular platform to engage the public policy debate.

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Gloria Taylor regains right to die in peace  by Cathryn Wellner (8/13/12) – Unless the federal government intervenes yet again, Gloria Taylor can decide in peace when her life with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) has become unbearable. At that point she can ask a physician to ease her death. British Columbia’s highest court has granted Taylor a personal exemption.

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Canadian Judge upholds decision giving woman “right” to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide by Dave Andrusko, National Right to Life News Today (8/10/12) – The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) said today that it is troubled by the decision of  the British Columbia court not to stay the constitutional exemption granted to Gloria Taylor to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide. Alex Schadenberg, executive director, said EPC urges the Government to appeal the court order issued by Justice Jo-Ann Prowse.

“EPC is concerned that this court order may prompt other people with similar conditions to apply for a constitutional exemption to die by euthanasia before the Supreme Court and Parliament have ruled on the matter,” he said.

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New lease on life for assisted suicide debate– Sun News (8/11/12) – An appeals court ruling Friday that would let Gloria Taylor get help from a doctor to commit suicide doesn’t pass muster with the federal justice minister.

The B.C. woman is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, has lost the ability to walk and is confined to a power chair.

“We are disappointed with this decision and are currently reviewing it,” said Julie DiMambro, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

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Ill Doctor Puts Spotlight on Euthanasia by Marcel Simmer, Akgulian.com (8/13/12) – Dr. Richard Wesley suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis an incurable disease that ruins the body’s muscles while allowing the mind to remain intact. However, he know that he can make the decision when, where and by what form he can die.

He lives in Washington, which has the Death With Dignity Act and his physician has prescribed for him a dose of barbiturates that is lethal. Wesley would prefer if he could die naturally, but because of his condition, it could become both difficult and protracted. His plan is to take the drugs and within minutes, die peacefully.

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Assisted suicide ruling right move by Charlie Hodge, kelownacapnews.com (8/17/12) – Until one has truly faced death in the face, it is hard to judge, or even begin to comprehend, how complex such a decision is.

Until one has truly come to grips with a debilitating, cruel, lingering, fatal illness, it really is impossible to comprehend the emotions and desires of someone in such a situation.

With death, theory is easy. Grasping it by the throat and actually dealing with it is a whole other ball game.

When one truly comprehends that their life form (as we know it) is dwindling due to a cruel terminal illness, all the theory goes out the window.

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Right-to-Die debate rages on – The Oxbow Herald (8/24/12) – This debate is contentious on both sides. People in support of assisted suicide argue the laws must be changed to allow terminally ill patients to die with dignity. When illness makes it impossible to support any quality of life, and the inevitable end is a slow and painful death, people should have the right to choose when to end their lives.

Opponents argue assisted suicide is wrong.

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Fighting for the right to die by Pam Frampton – The Weekend Telegram (8/25/12) – In Canada, assisted suicide is still illegal, but gains are being made in the fight by those who argue we should have that right.

In British Columbia in June, that province’s Supreme Court declared invalid a section of the Criminal Code that prohibits physician-assisted suicide.

That doesn’t mean the service is immediately available in B.C., but as The Globe and Mail’s Sunny Dhillon reported on June 15, according to Queen’s University research fellow and lawyer Ricardo Smalling, “if the government does not do something about (the court ruling), or if the B.C. Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada does not grant an injunction to stay the implementation of the decision, then assisted suicide will automatically become legal.”

The article also noted that a panel of experts of the Royal Society of Canada that studied end-of-life decision-making said “in a report released last year, that informed Canadians should have the right to choose death within a regulated system, even if they have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness.”

On March 22 in Quebec, a Select Committee on Dying with Dignity released a report which found similarly, recommending, among other things, “that relevant legislation be amended to recognize medical aid in dying as appropriate end-of-life care if the request made by the person meets (certain criteria) as assessed by the physician. …”

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Physician-assisted suicide poisons the mission of medicine by J. Donald Boudreau – The Globe and Mail (8/28/12) – Nothing would prevent society from mandating responsibilities to a new profession; I have called it euthanatrics.

Its practitioners – euthanologists – could ensure that society-sanctioned suicides are carried out expertly, with transparency and accountability. It would provide a mechanism to meet new legislative demands while protecting the medical profession so that it can continue to fulfill its ancient mandate of healing.

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Euthanasia discussion event will be one-sided, opponent says by Jessica Smith– MetroNews.ca (8/29/12) – The head of a group opposed to euthanasia says an upcoming panel discussion on “medically assisted death” in Ottawa won’t reflect the views of people opposed to the idea.

Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Alex Schadenberg said he was invited to the panel discussion, but will be out of the county and the organizers did not find someone to fill his anti-decriminalization position.

Two Eastern Ontario professors and a Quebec politician will be speaking in Ottawa about legalizing euthanasia in a panel dubbed “Medically Assisted Death Coming to Canada: How, Why, When??”

“It’s a one-sided event,” Schadenberg said. “I would say this is not really a panel of information it’s a pro-euthanasia event promoting the legalization.”

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Dying with Dignity chapter formed on Salt Spring by Elizabeth Nolan -GulfIslandsDriftwood.com (8/29/12) – Salt Springers concerned about having the same ability to make personal choices while dying as they enjoy in everyday life have created the first local chapter of an organization dedicated to the right to die.

The group’s aim is to change Canadian law to allow people in palliative care to end their lives, with a doctor’s assistance, at the time of their own choosing. The issue has been likened to the debate on abortion: although the ethical question can be thorny,  advocates aren’t trying to make a universal case.

One of the participants at the meeting said his interest in dying with dignity began many years ago, when someone he knew of tried to end his own life before his debilitating disease did.

“But he did it with a shotgun and he didn’t do it right. It was terrible for the family,” he said.

Starvation has been suggested as an easy and mostly painless method: a person in care can simply refuse to take in any more food or water. But two other participants at the meeting recalled how their mother had done that very thing, and took 10 days to pass away.

Hoarding medication is also not advised, as overdoses often lead to brain damage and other lost functions, but may not be enough to end a life.

A Forum Research survey conducted in December 2011 found that 67 per cent of Canadian polled favoured legalizing doctor-assisted death for terminally ill patients. Hogan believes it’s now time for Canadians to make their beliefs known to ease the way toward legal changes. Joining groups such as Dying with Dignity and writing letters to political representatives will be key.

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Death without dignity by Barb Ritchie – Calgary Herald (8/29/12) – I thank God that she has reached the point of oblivion now, so she has some measure of peace in her life. Those who oppose the right-to-die legislation should be sitting on this bed next to me.

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FIJI

Legalise enthanasia– The Fiji Times Online (8/15/12) – CALLS have been made to legalise euthanasia in Fiji to be included in the next constitution.

Doctor Etika Vuniyabola highlighted this as part of his submissions to the Constitution Commission.

Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.

In his submission, Dr Vuniyabola proposed that this subject be earnestly considered and accepted for the sake of the people in need of its role as a solution to their silent sufferings and helplessness when mental and physical incapacitation had no available cure and solution.

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State rejects death clinic by Nasik Swami – The Fiji Times (8/25/12) – A PROPOSAL sent to the government to open an euthanasia clinic in the country by Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has been rejected.

Confirming this to The Fiji Times, Ministry for Information permanent secretary Sharon Smith-Johns said the Attorney-General’s Chambers received a submission from Dr Nitschke in August last year.

“As with all submissions received by the chambers, details of the proposals were requested but there is no plan to establish such a facility,” Ms Smith-Johns said.

However, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Dr Nitschke had proposed a “hastened death service” in Nadi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

Dr Nitschke is the owner of Exit International, a leading end-of-life choices (voluntary euthanasia/ assisted suicide) information and advocacy organisation.

(more)

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Fiji eyes proposal for assisted suicide by Richard Dawkins, Foundation for Reason and Science (8/26/12) – Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has proposed a “hastened death service” in Nadi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

While a handful of European countries and two US states have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, the Dignitas clinic is the only one in the world that allows foreigners to use its service.

In a proposal sent to Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum last year, Dr Nitschke said the developing country could generate “considerable income” from a similar clinic with demand expected to come from people in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and India who do not have access to physician-assisted suicide.

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Church welcomes rejection of euthanasia clinic in FIJI– Radio Australia (8/27/12) – One man that’s welcomed the news is Reverend Tevita Banivanua, the deputy general secretary of Fiji’s Methodist Church, who’s speaking to correspondent Bruce Hill

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GERMANY

Assisted suicide law split government – TheLocal.de (8/1/12) – A row has blown up within the government about possible changes to German assisted suicide laws, after the justice minister said she wanted to enable not just relatives but also doctors and friends to help people to die.

All sides say commercial assisted suicide should be banned, as set out in the government’s coalition agreement – but disagreement has arisen over where the line should be drawn.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wants to restrict the ban to organisations with commercial interests – leaving those who offer profit-free suicide advice to terminally ill people free to do so without fear of prosecution.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday that Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had drafted a law which would lift the threat of prosecution friends and long-term housemates, as well as doctors and carers – if during treatment “a close personal relationship”.

Health spokesman for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Jens Spahn told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday, it was not acceptable that commercial operations should be threatened with up to three years in jail, while relatives and friends would excepted.

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Central Council of Muslims criticizes draft law on euthanasia – Euro-Islan.info (8/3/12) – The Central Council of Muslims has issued a press release relatively to a new draft law on euthanasia. The draft law, proposed by Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), would legalize private euthanasia also when disposed by close relatives, allowing them to do so without legal consequences. The Council expressed the message that Muslims in Germany should not be abiding by this law. The medical doctor Dr. Houaida Taraji said that “Life is worth to be protected at any stage and no side doors should be opened for murder”.

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Half of Germans approve of euthanasia businesses – TheLocal.de (8/6/12) – Nearly half of Germans are in favour of legalising euthanasia businesses, a recent survey revealed. The German parliament is still divided over proposed changes to assisted suicide laws.

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Germany seeks to clarify euthanasia laws – DW-World.de  (8/8/12) – Many in Germany are unhappy with current euthanasia legislation, according to a study conducted by pollsters Emnid. The poll found that almost 50 percent of Germans say they want professionals to be able to help people who wish to die.

But that’s not what Berlin wants. The Justice Ministry has warned in a paper of a scenario where professional companies would be permitted to offer assistance in “a quick and efficient form of suicide.” Means in which companies could do this would be offering medication or a room for the suicide to take place. Under a planned bill though, this though would be punished by a fine or a prison sentence.

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INDIA

Court says woman’s life cannot be ended– UPI.com – India’s Supreme Court Monday declined a plea to end the life of a woman in a “vegetative state” for 37 years after a sexual assault.

The plea by activist Pinki Virani sought to stop the feeding of Aruna Shanbaug, a former nurse at Mumbai’s KEM Hospital and a victim of a sexual attack by a hospital janitor.

The petition said the victim can no longer see or speak properly and keeping her alive in this “persistent vegetative state” violates her right to life with dignity, The Times of India reported.

The case of Shanbaug, 60, has become a huge controversy with opinions widely divided.

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JAPAN

Death with Dignity bills heading toward Diet by Natsuko Fukue – The Japan Times Online (8/25/12) – “We’ve been holding discussions for seven years already. We shouldn’t rush, but I think it’s time to get our thoughts into shape,” the group’s chairman, Teruhiko Mashiko of the Democratic Party of Japan, told The Japan Times. “It’ll be great if the public starts discussing the issue as we submit the bills.”

The group drafted two versions and plans to let Diet members vote based on their own judgement. One version stipulates that doctors can’t start life-prolonging treatment on patients in a terminal stage, defined as “a condition in which patients have no possibility of recovery even with appropriate medical care,” and the other states that cancellation of such treatment would also be allowed.

Under both bills, more than two doctors would have to decide whether a patient is in a terminal stage and they would not be “held liable under the criminal, civil and administrative codes.”

(more)

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THE NETHERLANDS

Dutch would have stopped treating Prince Friso– Radio Netherlands Worldwide (8/3/12) – An influential Dutch ethicist has said that if Queen Beatrix’s son, Prince Johan Friso, had been hospitalised in the Netherlands after his ski accident, doctors would have already stopped his treatment.

Heleen Dupuis, who is a member of the Dutch Upper House for the ruling Liberal Party (VVD), said, “it’s questionable whether the prince will ever have a normal life again. I understand that the chances are extremely small.” According to the ethicist, “had the prince been sent to a Dutch hospital, doctors would have probably turned off the life support system because there is such a slim possibility that he will ever recover.”

Prince Friso suffered severe brain damage after he was trapped in an avalanche, while skiing in Austria in February. He is in a coma at Wellington Hospital in London. Doctors say the chances he will recover are minimal.

There’s a growing debate in the Netherlands about how far doctors should go in treating patients. Health care is becoming unaffordable for two reasons. On the one hand, people are ageing and need more medical care, and on the other extremely expensive drugs are being developed for very rare diseases that used to be fatal. The Dutch are asking whether society should pay 50,000 euros to extend a cancer patient’s life by six months. The discussion is likely to play a role in the political campaigns for the general elections on September 12.

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Controversy over assisted suicide in The Netherlands by Wim Jansen, Radio Netherlands Worldwide (8/15/12) – A special website has been launched in the Netherlands for people who assist family or friends to commit suicide and want to tell their stories anonymously, or simply ask questions. Assisted suicide carried out by lay people is currently punishable by law.

In the Netherlands, only doctors can carry out assisted suicides, and they can do so only if they follow strict protocols. According to Right-to-Die-Netherlands (NVVE), physicians frequently refuse requests for assisted suicide, leaving patients unable to carry out their wishes in a humane way. One case recently made headlines: a man who helped his 99-year-old mother to die by giving her the lethal medication she requested. The Ministry of Justice is considering bringing charges against the man.

The NVVE says people are often unwilling to help their friends and loved ones because they fear prosecution. So they’re left witnessing their loved ones dying or committing suicide and have to live with those memories. The organisation hopes that the anonymous testimonies will provoke discussion in the Netherlands and ultimately to the scrapping of the law against lay people helping in cases of assisted suicide.

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Doctors and chemists agree joint euthanasia guidelines  – DutchNews.nl (8/28/12) – Doctors and dispensing chemists have agreed a joint guideline on euthanasia, doctors’ federation KNMG and dispensing chemists’ organisation KNMP said on Tuesday.

The new guidelines will replace those drawn up five years ago by dispensing chemists and underline the cooperation between the two sets of medical professionals on the subject.

‘The guidelines not only contain technical information about, for instance, the amount of a drug to be administered, but also explain for the first time why a certain method has been chosen,’ a KNMG spokesman told website nu.nl.

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Euthanasia guides adopted in Netherlands– UPI.com (8/29/12) – An agreement on joint guidelines on euthanasia was reached between the associations representing doctors and pharmacists in the Netherlands, officials said.

The new guidelines, agreed to Tuesday, replace those developed five years ago by the pharmacists, DutchNews.nl reported.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under strict conditions, such as a patient “suffering unbearably” and the attending doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. A second opinion also is required.

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NEW ZEALAND

The peace of assisted dying by Sean Davidson – peoplemagazine.co.za (8/3/12) – If your loved one was dying a long, painful death, would you wish there was some other way out? Soon there might be.

Davison founded an organisation called DignitySA which seeks to legalise assisted dying of the terminally ill under precisely defined circumstances. DignitySA proposes a legal procedure in which those wanting to be euthanised will apply to an independent panel that would look at each case individually.

“It will be a kind, compassionate process with a panel that includes doctors, legal advisers and counsellors,” Davison explained.Opponents of assisted dying suggest that should a system be introduced in which death can be legalised, then that system would be open to abuse. The other common reason given for not legalising euthansia would be the appeal to the ‘sanctity of life’, in which opponents claim that life itself is too precious to be ended, under any circumstances.

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Hospice organising public meeting on euthanasia by Lindsay Shelton – Wellington.Scoop.co.nz (8/6/12) – Hospice New Zealand is pleased to announce a public meeting on euthanasia to be held in Wellington on Thursday, August 16, titled “Euthanasia, an ethical and legal crossroad”.

“Dying is a fact of life and should be discussed openly and often,” says Hospice New Zealand CEO, Mary Schumacher. “We have organized this public meeting to enable discussion on euthanasia outside of any individual case. It’s a subject that needs more understanding in many parts of the world and New Zealand is no different. We want to provoke discussion among New Zealanders and we hope the public meeting will generate questions that will allow people to form their own opinions.”

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Australian & NZ Society of Palliative Medicine on Euthanasia– Scoop.co.nz (8/6/12) – “We should focus on excellence of hospice and palliative care not euthanasia”

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc., (ANZSPM), believes that the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide are outside the discipline of Palliative Medicine. The Society endorses the New Zealand Medical Association’s Position Statement on Euthanasia, and similarly the World Medial Association’s which state that euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are unethical. This position is not dependent on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide remaining unlawful. Even if they were to become legal, or decriminalised, the NZMA would continue to regard them as unethical.

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Dangers of euthanasia spelt out by John Gibb, Otago Daily Times (8/15/12) – Many older people could be subjected to subtle pressures to end their lives prematurely if voluntary euthanasia was made lawful in this country, Baroness Prof Ilora Finlay warned in Dunedin yesterday.

Prof Finlay, a Welsh palliative care specialist, said legalising medically assisted euthanasia and assisted suicide was likely to have significant unintended consequences.

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Maggie Barry: Euthanasia not the answer by Issac Davison, nzherald.co.nz (8/16/12) – National Party MP Maggie Barry says the standard of healthcare for New Zealanders with terminal and chronic illnesses is so high euthanasia should not be considered as an alternative.

Ms Barry’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Palliative Care will meet for the first time today and aims to improve MPs’ understanding of the care available.

Palliative care focuses on relieving the suffering of patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

Ms Barry was partly inspired to form the group after witnessing the high-quality care her parents received before their deaths.

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Palliative care vs assisted dying: A false dichotomy – frogblog by Kevin Hague (8/16/12) – When I arrived at the meeting today it was to a room full of perhaps 70 people from outside Parliament and the full range of parliamentary media. We were given several different presentations, compered by Maggie. While there was some content on palliative care, the absolute focus of the meeting was on mounting arguments against voluntary euthanasia and assisted dying.

Now I believe there should be a very active public debate about Maryan Street’s Bill. I will both participate and listen with considerable interest, but I believe this needs to occur independent of debate over palliative care. It is just nonsensical to present palliative care and assisted dying as some sort of dichotomy between which society must choose. I personally believe in really great palliative care services. I also believe in assisted dying services. I resent the conflation of the two issues.

I also resent very considerably being lured to a harangue against assisted dying (not even a discussion) under false pretences. I believe it was deceitful of Maggie to invite MPs to a meeting about palliative care, but then to have different agenda, particularly in an environment where challenging or leaving would appear churlish and destructive.

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Euthanasia debate starts up again by Adrien Taylor, 3news.co.nz (8/16/12) – The debate on whether euthanasia should be legalised in New Zealand is once again heating up as local and international campaigners gather in Wellington for a conference on the issue.

It’s an argument that provokes strong reactions and is bound to create fault lines in Parliament if Labour MP Maryan Street has her Private Member’s Bill to legalise drawn from the ballot.

“I think there are more people who want to be as self-determining at their end point as they have been during their life and I for one, don’t think they can be told they can’t be,” she says.

She says her End-of-Life Choice Bill would make it legal for those who are terminally ill, or have an irreversible medical condition, but are still mentally fit, the right to choose to die, and for assisting clinicians or family members to be protected from liability.

And she’s confident she’ll have the support of other MPs, if the bill gets drawn.

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Barry denies undercover bid to derail suicide bill by Issac Davison, nzherald.co.nz (8/17/12) – National MP Maggie Barry has defended her new cross-party parliamentary group against accusations it was created solely to kill off a Labour MP’s bill to legalise assisted suicide.

Opposition MPs were furious that Ms Barry’s discussion group for palliative care focused only on arguments against euthanasia at its first meeting yesterday.

She was accused of using the all-parliamentary group on palliative care to derail Labour Party MP Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill.

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Palliative Care and Euthanasia – Kiwiblog (8/17/12) – So palliative care is not an alternative to euthanasia in all cases. And where it is an alternative – it should be a choice for the dying person. I do not think it is the role of the state to tell people they can not end their lives if they are in agony. The role of the state should be to put in place rigorous safeguards around those decisions.

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Comfort in the option of a dignified death by Kathryn Powley and Susan Edmunds – nzherald.co.nz (8/19/12) – As the country debates the rights and wrongs of assisted suicide, Kathryn Powley remembers the death of her mother – and asks how it might have been different – while Susan Edmunds looks at the proposed euthanasia bill.

I stroked him as he lay there calmly. I held his little paw as the needle went in, and I kept holding it as he closed his eyes for the last time. And that was that.
I felt relief and was surprised that Huckle seemed to feel nothing. He just went to sleep.
There was no dying gasp. No nothing. Just there one minute, gone the next. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and whenever I think of that moment I wonder why my lovely Mum couldn’t have had the luxury of such a calm, peaceful passing.

Mum died in North Haven Hospice, in Whangarei, 3 months after a sudden, out-of-the-blue diagnosis of terminal bowel cancer. It had spread to her liver and nothing could be done.
She had so much to do, so many plans, so many trips overseas she had yet to take. She’d worked and saved so hard. Now this? “Just knock me on the head,” she’d say. And she meant it. “I could drive the car off a cliff,” she’d say. And she meant that, too.
Although she hated what she’d been reduced to, she never made peace with the fact she was dying. She simply didn’t want to leave us. Her will to stay was battling with her desire to go.
Mum breathed her final, laboured breath on January 11, 2005, in the wee hours in North Haven Hospice with me, Sarah and Andrew beside her.
It was sad, but it was a relief. But I will always wish that her passing, with her blessing, could have been as peaceful and dignified as her beloved Huckle’s.

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Editorial: Euthanasia bill under fire – Waikato Times (8/20/12) – The group would have created no fuss (and might have attracted little attention) except that Ms Barry’s primary motivation was reported to be opposition to assisted suicide as an alternative for seriously ill patients. Euthanasia should not be considered as an alternative, she said, because the standard of healthcare for New Zealanders with terminal and chronic illnesses is so high.
Ms Barry, too, denounced Ms Street’s measure as a terrible bill that failed to protect vulnerable patients.

Perhaps it is. But euthanasia is not being promoted to replace palliative care. The purpose is to allow a dying person to make that choice under strict conditions. That’s consistent with National Party principles. Among them, National aims to build a society based on values that include individual freedom and choice and personal responsibility. Ms Barry should brush up on them.

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Bigmouth Maggie strikes again: An Auckland minute by Richard Boock – AucklandNow (8/21/12) – May I just say I’m pleased Maggie Barry’s parents received top-class palliative care before their deaths. That’s a good outcome. But for the National Party MP to use the experience as the basis for her stand against voluntary euthanasia inflates an already well-established sense of conceit to startling new levels. According to Barry, since her folks escaped a nightmarish end to their lives, there’s no reason why everyone else can’t as well.

Or, in other words, there’s no need for euthanasia.

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Euthanasia already happening in hospitals– PM by Michael Forbes – stuff.co.nz (8/21/12) – Prime Minister John Key says euthanasia already happens in our hospitals – and if he was terminally ill, he would consider it.

Doctors disagreed with him last night, saying his view of the situation was too simplistic.

Mr Key said yesterday that he could understand the argument that legalising euthanasia might put pressure on the elderly to end their lives early, in the face of “rapacious grandkids”, but “I don’t really buy that argument”.

“I think there’s a lot of euthanasia that effectively happens in our hospitals,” he told Newstalk ZB.

“. . . If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain – if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I’d want that.”

Labour MP Maryan Street is drafting a member’s bill to legalise euthanasia – and the emotive subject is already sparking debate even before it is in the ballot.

Mr Key signalled his broad support for euthanasia, but said he was not sure if he could support Ms Street’s bill, which looked likely to have some “quirks” that he did not agree with.

“So I may or may not vote for that bill, [but] the broader principle I support.”

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Patient’s wishes paramount– Opinion: Otago Daily Times (8/21/12) – As admirable as palliative care practitioners are, I find there is something disturbing in their zealous obsession that a patient whose life philosophy is different from their own, needs re-education on their deathbed.

Such a patient must, according to Prof Ilora Finlay, be a “control freak” or they must have been subtly coerced by family and society to consider themselves “burdensome”.

They now need to learn that they are valued – as proven by disregarding their wishes. If only palliative care practitioners could accept their patients as they are, they could do even more good than the considerable good they already do.

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John Key ‘broadly supports’ voluntary euthanasia by John Key (8/23/12) – …director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Ian Powell, did not think euthanasia was occurring the way Mr Key made out.

“The situation is much more complex than that,” he told local media.

“Sometimes continuing a treatment can prolong the agony for a patient, and not even keep the patient alive.

“By not prolonging the agony . . . even though the intent is not for the patient to die, it is sometimes a consequence.”

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PM’s ‘misguided’ euthanasia views anger palliative care specialists by Claire Trevett – nzherald.co.nz (8/24/12) -The comments have angered hospice and palliative care specialists. Sinead Donnelly, New Zealand chairwoman of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, said Mr Key had misrepresented the care of terminal patients.

“His personal opinion given as Prime Minister has serious negative consequences in the trust people have in hospital care of the seriously ill.”

She said it was not considered euthanasia to abide by a patient’s right to refuse treatment or if treatment to alleviate symptoms had the unintended consequence of hastening death.

She said the society agreed with the Medical Association’s position on euthanasia, which was that doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia was unethical – and even if it was legalised it would continue to be unethical.

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Euthanasia claim sparks anger by Bronwyn Torrie (8/24/12) – Angry doctors are appalled at Prime Minister John Key’s claims that euthanasia already happens in hospitals.

“We never practise euthanasia; euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life, and is illegal and unethical,” Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine chairwoman Sinead Donnelly said.

Mr Key’s comments could seriously damage the trust people had in hospital care of the seriously ill, the Wellington doctor said.

Mr Key signalled his broad support for euthanasia – medical assistance to die – during a stint on Newstalk ZB this week.

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Euthanasia clinic touted for Fiji by Michael Field – stuff.co.nz (8/24/12) – Fiji is considering opening a euthanasia clinic where seriously ill Australians and New Zealanders can fly to for assisted suicides, Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke says.

He has told the Age in Melbourne that the centre he proposes in the tourist city of Nadi would be like a similar clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.

In a proposal sent to military regime appointed attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Dr Nitschke said Fiji could generate “considerable income” with demand expected to come from people in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and India, who do not have access to physician-assisted suicide.

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Key euthanasia claim ‘wrong’  by Alexia Johnston – stuff.co.nz (8/24/12) – Ms Ligtenberg, who is also a Green Party spokesperson, said her comments were based on her own views, not those of her nursing colleagues.

She said she understood that, in some palliative care cases, it was possible that patients were given extra pain medication “to make them less aware” of how ill they were in their final days. However, she did not regard that practice to be euthanasia.

“Euthanasia … is not happening because it’s illegal, but what goes on when you look at palliative care is that possibly people are getting [an increase in pain] medication, so they don’t feel the pain.

“You increase the medication – it’s not the medication as such that causes death.”

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Key’s euthanasia view ill-informed: doctor by Eileen Goodwin – Otago Daily times (8/26/12) – Those wishing to shorten their lives with euthanasia are trying to control what should be a natural process, Otago Community Hospice palliative care registrar Dr Louise Bremer says.

She said Prime Minister John Key’s view aired this week was “simplistic” and “ill-informed”.

Dr Bremer, who also works at Dunedin Hospital as a physician in medical oncology, said euthanasia was not performed in either hospices or hospitals in New Zealand.

Doctors never caused or hastened death, she said.

Through working closely with the patient, clinicians did not extend life unduly, which did not constitute any form of hastened death, she said.

Communication with the patient was critical.

While some patients requested an end to their pain and suffering, this generally was a call for some form of relief, rather than death itself.

She believed people had become used to controlling every aspect of their lives, and this was behind calls for legalising euthanasia.

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Key admits euthanasia comments ‘sloppy’ by Danya Levy – TheDominion Post (8/27/12) – Prime Minister John Key has backed away from his comments about euthanasia, saying his language on the sensitive issue was “a bit sloppy”.

Key last week said euthanasia already happened in our hospitals – and if he was terminally ill, he would consider it.

The comment angered doctors who said euthanasia was never practised as it was the deliberate ending of life, and was illegal and unethical.

The suggestion could seriously damage the trust people had in hospital care of the terminally ill, doctors said.

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Rodney on Euthanasia – Kiwiblog (8/27/12) – Up until reading this account some years ago, I had been slightly anti-euthanasia. Coming from a medical family I did not like the idea of doctors ever having a role in ending life rather than preserving it. But I realised how selfish that preference was, when I read the awful choice the current law forced on people like Martin. No one should ever have been forced into having to make the choice he did.

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Skill levels better in palliative care by Teuila Fuatai – Bay of Plenty Times (8/29/12) – Legalising euthanasia could cut short people’s lives who may be unaware of advances in palliative care, a Tauranga doctor warns.

Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow told the Bay of Plenty Times patients sometimes wished they had the option of physician-assisted suicide. But that was before they realised the options available with palliative care.

“The level of palliative care in the last seven years alone has developed hugely.

“The skills of the medics and the understanding and the knowledge of all the associated disciplines … has meant the level of care has improved dramatically.”

Dr Thurlow’s comments follow remarks by prime minister John Key on Newstalk ZB last week.

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Debate clouding hospice role by Imran Ali – The Northern Advocate (8/31/12) – The importance of easing the suffering of dying Northlanders is being lost in the debate on euthanasia, Northland hospice staff say.

Their comments followed remarks by Prime Minister John Key that a lot of euthanasia happened in hospitals and that if he was terminally ill he would want euthanasia legalised so doctors could “turn off the switch”.

Palliative care, for those affected by a life-limiting condition, can be provided by specialists or non-specialist staff such as GPs and community health teams.

Peter Bassett, general manager of Whangarei’s North Haven Hospice, said euthanasia was not happening in New Zealand hospitals but good palliative care was.

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RUSSIA

Euthanasia – luxury for the wealthy– pravada.ru (8/18/12) – The topic of euthanasia does not leave anyone indifferent. Voluntary withdrawal from life due to serious illness for some people is a grievous sin, for others – the only escape from suffering.

It should be noted that many critics of the law referred to its social injustice. Euthanasia is not cheap, which means that patients from poor families will not be able to die quickly and painlessly. However, it became clear that less wealthy Americans are not particularly inclined to interrupt their tortures with drugs. Euthanasia, according to recent studies in the U.S., attracts financially sound white people with good education.

According to The New York Times, the supporters of euthanasia do not choose it because of the pain, but because they want to control their death as well as they can control their lives.

“Likely, the practice of euthanasia in some form will be implemented in the world.  In Russia euthanasia is illegal, and I now fully agree with that, and not on logistical grounds, but because the meaning of medical practice is to provide life and the patient’s health, and the killing as a way to treat the pain may not be acceptable. There is no pain that cannot be managed. This practice may cause psychological pressure on the elderly, for example, because of financial reasons.

But since there is an issue, and the question arises about its implementation, it should not be the issue of the medical community. This may be a special procedure performed by some social workers. Of course, I would caution to call euthanasia of a seriously ill person a murder, because there is no offense if all procedures are followed.”

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SCOTLAND

It is time for politicians to take a more enlightened view of assisted dying– heraldscotland.com (8/25/12) – In June 2012, a significant development took place in Vancouver, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian criminal code, which prohibits physician-assisted death, violated fundamental rights of equality, life and liberty. The wisdom lying behind that judgment is profound. Terminally ill individuals who experience intolerable suffering now have the opportunity to bring that legally and humanely to an end. The court was satisfied that commonly-advanced reasons for denying them relief, including the protection of the vulnerable and damage to the trust patients invest in doctors, could be properly answered, if that was allowed in highly constrained circumstances.

While it is widely recognised that Switzerland permits doctors to practise euthanasia and extends this to foreign nationals with the financial means (about £10,000) to avail themselves of that option, it is less well known that other jurisdictions, including Oregon and Washington in the US and the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in Europe, also take a more enlightened view of assisted dying than we do.

In 2011 MSPs in Holyrood rejected any change to the law concerning assistance at the end of life. However, in the near future Margo MacDonald will introduce a Bill again seeking to amend the legislation.

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SWITZERLAND

Assisted suicide firm Dignitas to sue Swiss police for reviving terminally ill woman who fell asleep during procedure by Martin Robinson in MailOnline (8/16/12) – The world’s foremost euthanasia clinic, Dignitas, is to sue the Swiss police after their officers tried to revive a terminally ill woman who fell asleep during an assisted suicide.

Police stopped the procedure near Zurich after the patient lost consciousness after only consuming half the drugs meant to kill her, and therefore officers assumed that her suicide attempt had failed.

The unnamed woman was meant to finish the lethal cocktail of barbiturates and police say their rules state that if a patient is still alive two hours after taking the drugs they will call an ambulance.

Following the intervention the woman in her 60s, who was suffering from a genetic disease and weighed only five stone, was rushed to hospital were she later died.

Under Swiss law, a state official – usually a police officer – must be present to monitor proceedings when an assisted suicide is being conducted.

And Dignitas now want the police to be prosecuted for ‘interfering in a legal assisted suicide’ and ‘abducting a patient’ during the incident on August 2.

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UNITED KINGDOM

Euthanasia and the Death Penalty: a dilemma by Andre Langlois – HuffPost Lifestyle UK (8/1/12) – I don’t believe the dilemma is inescapable. A similar argument can be made against other laws, such as motoring laws, and assisted dying is certainly about facilitating individual freedom. But when it comes to the state facilitating death, my opposition to the death penalty strikes an uneasy contrast with my support for assisted dying.

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Assisted dying debate: promoting patient choice – Kennedy-law.com article (8/8/12) – On 3 July 2012 the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life (the APPG) in partnership with the charity, Dignity in Dying, published a consultation on a draft Bill entitled “Safeguarding Choice: A draft Assisted Dying Bill”. Whilst this draft Bill is not written (or sponsored) by a government department and is, therefore, unlikely to be taken forward as draft legislation in the near future, its publication provides the opportunity to engage in the assisted dying debate.

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There’ll be no happy ending for us… please just let my father die in peace by Sophie Goodchild, London Evening Standard (8/15/12) – The daughter of a man with “locked in” syndrome today made an emotional final plea for him to end his life peacefully.

Lauren Nicklinson, 25, said her severely disabled father Tony will have to starve himself to death unless doctors are allowed to help him die.

The High Court will reveal tomorrow whether the stroke victim, 58, has won his bid to challenge Britain’s euthanasia laws. He wants doctors to be able to end his life without fear of being sent to jail.

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Assisted suicide comment: euthanasia puts vulnerable at risk, argues Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy in The Telegraph (8/16/12) – It is a tragedy that Mr Nicklinson has suffered a stroke, resulting in ‘locked in syndrome’, but it would also be a tragedy if, in a desire to address his needs, others were placed at unjustifiable risk. Sometimes, even with a heavy heart, it is necessary to make a tough decision in order to protect those who most need protection.

That is, in part, the role of the state and the role of the law.

Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy is the National Adviser on medical ethics and health and social care policy to the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council.

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Assisted suicide comment: the dying should have advice from professionals – The Telegraph (8/16/12) – Two cases of patients with locked-in syndrome, AM and Tony Nicklinson, were heard in the High Court in June, and the court will rule on both today. While these cases may appear similar on the surface; they are actually very different, and in fact challenge different laws.

Should AM succeed, doctors and patients will be clearer about what discussions they can and can’t have about end of life choices, and should Nicklinson win his case the current inflexibility of murder law will have to be addressed.

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UK denies right-to-die legal challenge by Maria Cheng, HuffPost Tech (8/16/12) – Britain’s High Court on Thursday rejected an attempt by a man who has locked-in syndrome to overturn the country’s euthanasia law by refusing to legally allow doctors to end his life.

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“Locked-in” sufferer’s challenge to ban on voluntary euthanasia fails in high court by Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog (8/16/12) – Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Mrs Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, has  handed down judgment in the case of Tony Nicklinson and that of another “locked-in” syndrome sufferer, “Martin”. On all the issues, they have deferred to parliament to take the necessary steps to address the problems created by the current law of murder and assisted suicide.

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U.K. court denies euthanasia requests from two men with locked-in syndrome,CBS News (8/16/12) – Tony Nicklinson, a man with “locked-in syndrome,” has been denied by a British court his wish to die from physician-assisted euthanasia.

Britain’s High Court on Thursday rejected Nicklinson’s and another man’s attempts to overturn the country’s euthanasia law by refusing to legally allow doctors to end his life.

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UK doctors ‘perform euthanasia’– top Dutch medic by Anna Holligan, BBC News Europe (8/16/12) – In the Netherlands euthanasia has been legal for a decade. Some Dutch medical experts say Tony Nicklinson’s case is a “textbook example” of why people should be given the right to decide when they die.

According to Dr Kruseman, “if the only possibility is death by euthanasia it’s the responsibility you have for your patient when they are experiencing unbearable suffering”.

Commenting on the doctor’s claim, a spokesperson for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: “We are opposed to the legalisation of assisted dying and we are not lobbying for any change in the law in the UK.

“Assisted dying is illegal in the UK, so doctors are not permitted to carry out euthanasia.”

The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) says that in the absence of an open debate the practice will go on, but in a covert and unregulated manner.

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RCP comment on assisted dying case (8/16/12) – Commenting on today’s judgment in the Tony Nicklinson assisted dying case, Professor John Saunders, Chair of the RCP’s Ethics Committee, said:

‘The Royal College of Physicians does not support a change in the law on assisted dying. It remains illegal for doctors to intentionally and deliberately terminate the life of someone who is not terminally ill. A survey of RCP fellows and members in 2006 showed that doctors were not in favour of a change in the law to allow them to do this.

‘A change in the law would also have severe implications for the way society views disabled people.’

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Assisted dying: the harm in helping by Sarah Wollaston, guardian.co.uk (8/17/12) – t isn’t just the religious lobby that is opposed to a change in the law to allow assisted suicide. I have no faith banner to raise, and as a former doctor I know there are conditions for which I might at some point wish to end my life. Despite this, I don’t believe I should have a right to make a doctor complicit in that decision.

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Allow medically assisted dying on the grounds of mercy, and soon it will be driven by convenience or greedby Steve Doughty, Mail Online (8/17/12) – One of the peculiar horrors of learning about the life of Mr Nicklinson is imagining what it would be like yourself to be entirely helpless for six hours every evening until a carer comes to wash you. Or to eat only soft mashed up food, and to drink only through a tube inserted into your stomach.And to know it could happen to any one of us, anytime.That gives Mr Nicklinson’s plea to die a universal relevance.
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Dying with dignity debate: Should doctors be allowed to help Tony Nicklinson end his life? Mirror News (8/17/12) – Below are the arguments for and against allowing doctors to end his life without fear of prosecution:
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I would help a relative on the final journey by Vickie Woods – The Telegraph (8/17/12) – We need to have a conversation about assisted suicide,” one of my oldest friends told me last year. Oh, crikey. It was dark and filthy weather and I was driving her to an appointment with her GP, so I was furious with myself for mounting the pavement in shock at what she’d said. After which she clung silently to the car door and I drove very, very concentratedly.

I wasn’t shocked that thoughts of assisted suicide had floated into her mind. Because it floats into my mind every time there’s another heartbreak landmark legal battle trumpeting through the newspaper. Nor was I shocked that she’d addressed her thoughts to me. We are both of an age where assisted suicide is something you have to take a view on, like early retirement or selling up and trading down.

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Analysis: Britain’s options for legalizing euthanasia by Louise Bazalgette, politics.co.uk (8/20/12) – In their ruling, the judges were clear that: “It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place. Under our system of government these are matters for parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases.”

This is not surprising as previous legal precedents, such as Diane Pretty’s case at the European court of human rights (ECHR) in 2002, have confirmed that the legal position of assisted dying is a matter for national law and cannot simply be overturned on the basis that it infringes an individual’s human rights.

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Locked-in man devastated at ruling– Cambridge-news.co.uk (8/20/12) – Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, while expressing deep sympathy for their plight, unanimously agreed that it would be wrong for the court to depart from the long-established legal position that “voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be”.

Refusing the stricken men judicial review, they agreed that the current law did not breach human rights and it was for Parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed. Any changes would need “the most carefully structured safeguards which only Parliament can deliver”.

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Assisted dying: simple, neat – and wrong – spked-online.com (8/20/12) – At first, Tony Nicklinson’s case seems obvious. Having suffered a massive stroke in 2005, Nicklinson – a former civil engineer who once enjoyed an active lifestyle – was left almost completely paralysed, in a state referred to as ‘locked-in syndrome’. He can only communicate by blinking or using limited head movement. He refers to his life now as ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’. Nicklinson would like the courts to offer immunity from prosecution if, in the future, he asked a doctor to kill him. Last week, the High Court in London ruled against his request.

As many observers agreed, it is his life and who are we – or the courts or parliament – to tell him what to do with it? We all have the right to commit suicide but those with locked-in syndrome need assistance. Nicklinson is quite visibly suffering and has been consistent in his wish to die, so why not allow him to do so?

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Sympathy for one man must not change Britain’s law on assisted dying by Sameer Mallick – opendemocracy.net (8/20/12) – Assisted dying is illegal in the UK – a stance supported by the majority of the medical profession. In the face of harrowing cases such as that of Tony Nicklinson, it is important to remember that unwillingness to deviate from this law is not the symptom of a narrow prejudice but the result of a long and informed debate.

Perhaps a good starting point is to clarify the jargon, as the terms assisted dying, euthanasia and assisted suicide seem to be used interchangeably by mainstream media. The term assisted suicide describes the participation of an individual (usually a healthcare professional) helping a patient end their life. However the onus is on the patient to perform the final act of killing, such as self administering a lethal injection. This differs from euthanasia in which the ‘assistant’ performs the final act which ends a patient’s life. Both actions come under the overarching term known as assisted dying. Whilst the focus of lobby groups has been to legalise assisted suicide in the UK,[6] the case of Tony Nicklinson is one in which, if successful, would have gone one step further and legalised euthanasia.

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Coffee House Chat (UK) – Assisted suicide – your thoughts –  thoughts from everyday people

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Practical Ethics – Euthanasia and Human Rights – University of Oxford (8/21/12)

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Locked in to euthanasia – mercatornet.com (8/21/12) – There can be no more difficult case for dispassionate discussion than the fate of Tony Nicklinson, a totally paralysed British man who wants to end his life. Last week the UK High Court denied his request for euthanasia. (video)

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In Britain, ongoing struggles over laws regarding euthanasia by Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service (8/22/12) – The Catholic Church, not wishing to see the debate presented as a struggle between faith and “progress,” is generally taking a back seat, but is listed as one among dozens of medical, disabled rights and religious charities that form the broad coalition of the Care Not Killing alliance.

Catholic doctors are more outspoken than church leaders, however, and in recent months some have taken huge risks with their careers to warn the public that a system designed to care for people in their final hours is operating effectively as a euthanasia pathway.

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Paralyzed UK man dies after losing assisted-suicide case(8/22/12) – (video) A British man suffering from “locked-in syndrome” who fought a long legal battle over assisted suicide died Wednesday, his family said.Tony Nicklinson, 58, had been refusing food since last week, contracted pneumonia over the weekend, and “went downhill rapidly,” said his lawyer, Saimo Chahal.”Before he died, he asked us to tweet: ‘Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun,'” his Twitter account said.
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Melksham locked in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson dies at home after contracting pneumonia by Will Frampton – Wiltshire Times (8/22/12) – Locked in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson has died, his family have said.They said the 58-year-old died at his home in Melksham of natural causes at 10am.His wife Jane said on Twitter: “I have lost the love of my life but he suffers no more.”Last week he learnt he had lost his appeal against a decision to forbid him from assisted suicide.He was left paralysed by a catastrophic stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.Mr Nicklinson’s lawyer Saimo Chahal Family said: “I am extremely sad to tell you that I received a call at 10.45am from Jane Nicklinson to inform me that her husband Tony died peacefully at home at about 10am this morning.
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Tony Nicklinson: fight to die with dignity “will not be forgotten” by Sarah Boseley – guardian.co.uk (8/22/12) – At 10am on Wednesday, Tony Nicklinsonfinally got what he wanted. In his Wiltshire home, surrounded by those he loved, he slipped into a peaceful death.Less than a week before, millions had seen him outside the high court in his wheelchair, racked with sobs. His wife, Jane, spoke to the TV cameras on his behalf, quietly explaining his distress at the refusal of the court to give him the assurance he had requested: that anyone who helped him to kill himself would not be charged with murder.Once she paused, to wipe away his tears. Even those who disagreed with him, including the judges, were deeply moved.
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BHA mourns Tony Nicklinson, campaigner for assisted dying – British Humanist Assn. (8/22/12) – Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented, ‘Tony Nicklinson’s campaign was inspirational and his fight for the right of mentally competent adults to choose to end their lives woth medical assistance was a fight that we at the BHA very much supported. We will continue to campaign for the legalisation of assisred suicide, as will many others – their determination renewed by his example.’
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We need the right to a dignified death. But we need to acknowledge the risks involved, as well. by Tom Chivers – The Telegraph (8/22/12) – The trouble with us as a species is that we’re not very good at complexity and nuance. If we think something’s bad, we think it’s all bad; if we think something’s good, we think it’s all good. It’s been demonstrated that if we think something has plenty of benefits, we tend to subconsciously downplay its risks; likewise, if we think it’s risky, we’ll tend to assume it’s got no benefits.
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Paralyzed UK man dies after losing assisted-suicide case – CNN (8/23/12) – A British man suffering from “locked-in syndrome” who fought a long legal battle over assisted suicide died Wednesday, his family said.Tony Nicklinson, 58, had been refusing food since last week, contracted pneumonia over the weekend, and “went downhill rapidly,” said his lawyer, Saimo Chahal.”Before he died, he asked us to tweet: ‘Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun,'” his Twitter account said.
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Widow backs assisted suicide campaign after husband’s death– Maidenhead Advertiser (8/23/12) – A widow whose husband died alone because he feared the consequences for her if she helped end his life has backed calls to legalise assisted suicide.Sheila King has added her voice to the campaign to change the law as she believes her husband Stephen would still be alive today if he had been granted the right to decide when to end his life.Instead she faced the heartbreak of finding his body hanging in the garage of their home in Bedford Close, Maidenhead, in April.”Had my husband been able to choose when to end his life he would have enjoyed a longer and happier one,” she said.”I just want to do something to help other people so they don’t have to be in that situation.”
(more)
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Pro-lifers to host European euthanasia meeting in Scotland– The Christian Institute (8/23/12) – Pro-life experts from around the world are gathering in Edinburgh next month for a symposium on euthanasia and assisted suicide.The Care Not Killing Alliance, which campaigns against attempts to weaken end-of-life laws across the UK, is hosting the meeting.The group says anyone who is “committed to opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide” is welcome.
(more)
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How an extraordinary day with Tony Nicklinson changed my views on right-to-die by Peter Stanford – The Telegraph (8/24/12) – There aren’t many meetings that change your instinctive notions of what is right and wrong, but the day I spent with Tony and Jane Nicklinson was one. It may be because I am a lifelong Catholic, for better or worse, and my Church is so unbending in insisting that God gives and takes away life. Or that I have spent 20 years as chairman of a disability charity and have seen too often the casual mistreatment of those whom society once labelled “in-valid”. Or simply that I had never previously had the debate about the right-to-die spelt out so uncompromisingly for me by someone in the midst of the issue.

But if I went into the Nicklinsons’ specially adapted bungalow in the Wiltshire town of Melksham fundamentally opposed to any concessions on euthanasia, I emerged with my arguments demolished. And this by a man who had lost the power of speech.

(more)

*

Tony Nicklinson’s legacy: his case will save lives by Joan Smith – The Independent (8/26/12) – When Tony Nicklinson died on Wednesday, there was widespread sympathy for a man who had been paralysed from the neck down. The previous week he had wept in front of TV cameras, devastated by the High Court’s refusal to give him an assurance that anyone who helped him to die would not face a charge of murder. Photographs of Mr Nicklinson before his illness, looking healthy and tanned, offered a painful contrast with the helplessness he endured after a massive stroke in 2005. The case has redoubled calls for a change in the law on assisted dying.
(more)
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The ban on euthanasia is to protect us from ourselves by Peter Mullen – The Telegraph (8/28/12) – The debate about euthanasia is being obscured by the use of pernicious euphemisms. Let’s come clean and speak plainly. “The doctor’s right to end a life” means the doctor has the right to kill someone. Whichever way you look at this, it means a licence to murder. Those who campaign for euthanasia want a change in the law so that this sort of killing – for that’s what it is – should no longer be against the law. This has far-reaching consequences, for it means that, in some cases, murder will no longer be murder.
(more)
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Tony Nicklinson’s widow in campaign pledge– guardian.co.uk (8/28/12) – Jane Nicklinson, who, along with daughters Lauren and Beth, had backed her husband’s legal bid, echoed other right-to-die campaigners’ calls for Mr Nicklinson’s memory to live on through a continued battle to change the law that prevented doctors ending his life.Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Nicklinson said: “This is certainly not the end of the campaign. I do hope that someone takes it up. Even though we didn’t win, all the hard work for the case has been done. I hope at some point someone will come forward and carry on with what Tony started.”I think we always knew the chances of winning at this stage were slim – possible but slim – and we’d never been told anything different so we were prepared for it.”
(more)
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Tony Nicklinson Right-to-Die: Locked-in Sufferer’s Widow Urges Change in Law– The Huffington Post-UK (8/28/12) – Tony Nicklinson’s widow has said she hopes people will continue to campaign for a change in the law on assisted dying following her husband’s death.58-year-old Mr Nicklinson suffered from locked-in syndrome and died last week after losing a landmark High Court right-to-die case. He had been refusing food in the days leading up to his death and had contracted pneumonia.Following the decision he was visibly distressed, sobbing in front of cameras while Jane Nicklinson told reporters the ruling had left him “heartbroken.”
(more)
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Bishop urges caution after Nicklinson assisted dying case– Christian Concern (8/29/12) – Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has warned that “moral chaos” will ensue if the Christian basis for the laws protecting life in the UK is rejected.He made the comments after a controversial article by former Catholic Herald editor, Peter Stanford, was published in the Telegraph last week (24 August).Stanford said that a visit to Tony Nicklinson’s home “changed his views” on the right-to-die issue.
(more)
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I hope Tony’s death will not end the fight– This is Bath (8/29/12) – The widow of ‘right-to-die’ campaigner Tony Nicklinson has said she hopes the battle to change the law on assisted dying will continue even without the brave Melksham man being around to fight it.Jane Nicklinson said she hoped ‘someone will come forward’ to continue the challenge to British law to allow those with ‘locked-in syndrome’, which left her husband reliant on others for everything, to be legally killed to end their suffering.
(more)
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Unitarians launch consultation on assisted dying– ekklesia.co.uk (8/30/12) – British Unitarians have begun a six-month consultation on the issue of assisted dying. By exploring a range of views on the issue, they say they are bucking the trend of faith groups, many of whom have taken a strong stand against assisted dying.The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches will conduct the consultation in the run-up to their next annual meeting in April. A discussion pack is being sent out to congregations to assist them in their deliberations.
(more)
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Bristol to host Green Party’s right-to-die debate– Bristol247.com (8/31/12) – A debate on changing the law to allow people such as right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson to seek help to end their lives will take place next weekend in Bristol at the Green Party’s autumn conference.The party said it aimed to “provide the right to an assisted death within a rigorous framework of regulation, and in the context of the availability of the highest level of palliative care”.After looking at how assisted dying laws are formulated in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA, the debate will focus on presenting a solution that could gain the support of the public.
(more)
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Melksham man: Tony has shown law must change by Will Frampton – Wiltshire Times(8/31/12) –

Tony Nicklinson with wife Jane and daughters Beth and Lauren after the court decision Tony Nicklinson with wife Jane and daughters Beth and Lauren after the court decision.

Labour peer Lord Joel Joffe has joined other assisted dying campaigners in praising Melksham locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson.

Lord Joffe said his ‘incredible courage’ would eventually lead to a change in the law, under which those who help people end their lives currently face prosecution for murder.

“I think Tony Nicklinson’s incredible courage and determination has persuaded society the law must be changed to prevent terrible suffering,” said the peer.

“Tony correctly felt there needed to be a change in the law to permit him to end his life, and it is clear we do need a change in the law – the law must seek to find such a solution.

“MPs are not listening to society, their job is to take account of the views of their constituents and 80 per cent of the public is in favour of a change in the law.”

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Assisted Death Debate – News from May 2012

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

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

BLOGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physician-assisted death commercial

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

UNITED STATES

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

Arizona

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

California

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

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

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

Colorado

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

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

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

Connecticut

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

Georgia

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

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

Hawaii

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

Kansas

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

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

Lousiana

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

Maine

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

Maryland

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

Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska

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

New Mexico

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

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

New York

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

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

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

Oregon

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

Texas

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

Vermont

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

Washington

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

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

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

INTERNATIONAL

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

Argentina

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

Australia

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

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

Belgium

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

Canada

Edmunton

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

Montreal

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

Saskatoon

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

France

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

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

Germany

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

India

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

Ireland

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

New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oman (Sultanate of)

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

Scotland

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

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

South Africa

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

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

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

Switzerland

Vaud Canton in Switzerland to vote on new step in Right to Die laws – The World Federation of Right to Die Societies (April 30, 2012) – Following the initiative of 3 October 2009 launched by EXIT ADMD Suisse romande,  a vote will be held in the Canton of Vaud on 17 June 2012, hoping to change existing Swiss law in such a way that assistance for suicide will also be allowed in Socio-medical Establishments (so called SME’s), as it is in private homes.
(more)

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

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

Video – The Suicide Tourist (5 parts)

United Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updates to Right to Die Laws 4/30-5/2/2012

Georgia (USA) now legally prohibits Assistance in a suicide

May 2, 2012

On May 1, 2012 Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 1114 into law. The Bill was enacted hurriedly after the Supreme Court of Georgia struck down Georgia’s former statute on assistance in suicide as an unconstitutional infringement of the free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The verdict was given in a case brought by Final Exit Network.

Under the former law, it was perfectly legal for anyone to assist in a suicide so long as the act was kept private. Only if one publicly advertised an offer to assist in a suicide would the assistance in the suicide be a crime.

Under the bill signed into law Tuesday, any assistance in a suicide is a crime.  The new law defines “assisting” in a suicide as “the act of physically helping or physically providing the means” for another to commit suicide.

Although the law was held up to the lawmakers as one that would prohibit Final Exit Network from operating in Georgia, the leadership of Final Exit Network said they were pleased with the new definition of “assisting” and would not stop operating in Georgia.

Under its protocols, Final Exit Network volunteer “Exit Guides” do not provide the means for anyone to commit suicide. They provide information, education and emotional support, including a compassionate presence at the bedside during a self-deliverance, but they carefully do not provide “physical help” to the member in his or her death.

Administrative Court in Berlin lifts ban on assisted suicide

Monday, April 30, 2012

UPI reported this month that “….an administrative court in Berlin has given German doctors the power to use their own judgment in cases involving terminally ill patients who want to die”.

This decision ends the ban on assisted suicide by the Bundes Ärzte Kammer, i.e. the ban on providing patients with enough drugs to end their lives.
If a doctor is certain a dying patient wishes to end his or her life, a physician in Germany was already legally allowed to provide that patient with the means to commit suicide, but the BAK (German Physicians Organisation) had declared such behaviour as “unethical” and  not professional (un-ärztlich) .

Vaud Canton in Switzerland to vote on new step in Right to Die laws

Monday April 30, 2012

Following the initiative of 3 October 2009 launched by EXIT ADMD Suisse romande,  a vote will be held in the Canton of Vaud on 17 June 2012, hoping to change existing Swiss law in such a way that assistance for suicide will also be allowed in Socio-medical Establishments (so called SME’s), as it is in private homes.

The vote will be on:

Do you accept the initiative “Assisted suicide in SOCIO-MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENTS (SMEs)”?

The initiative requests that the Swiss Law on Public Health of 29 May 1985 be amended as follows:
–    The introduction of an Article 71(b) entitled “Assisted suicide in SMEs” with the following text: “SMEs in receipt of public subsidies must allow assistance for suicide to be provided in their establishments for any resident who makes a request to this effect to an association supporting the right to die with dignity or to the doctor responsible for his or her treatment, in accordance with Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code and Article 34(2) of the Constitution of the Canton of Vaud”
–    The amendment of Article 184(1)(a): introduction of a new Article 71(b)

The Position of the Action Committee

In its judgment of 3 November 2006, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court confirmed that every human being who is capable of forming his own opinion has the right, guaranteed under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to decide when and how he wishes to die. This right to decide results from the right to self-determination within the meaning given under Article 8(1) ECHR for as long as the individual concerned is capable of choosing freely and acting in accordance with his wishes.

A room in an SME (Socio-Medical Establishment) provides the resident with a private place where he may freely exercise his right and make his choice.

Our initiative seeks to guarantee the right to self-determination without restriction for SME residents, who may request assisted suicide in an informed manner. A resident may be very frail physically, but he should not necessarily be presumed to have lost the ability to form his own opinion solely on the grounds that he requests suicide. His individual rights may not be limited simply because he is living in an SME and the nursing staff consider that a request which does not comply with the values they uphold is invalid. Problems of neutrality and objectivity arise where nursing staff assess a request.

The counter-proposal which we reject is a path favouring palliative care and medical paternalism. It puts the patient under institutional protection.

We hope that our senior citizens living in SMEs will be able to express their views, and chose and act as if they were still at home.

This document represents the personal opinions of its authors.

(articles from The World Federation of Right to Die Societies)