Monthly Archives

July 2013

Almost half of Belgium’s euthanasia nurses admit to killing without consent

By | Recent News

Daily Mail (UK) 10th June 2010
A high proportion of deaths classed as euthanasia in Belgium involved patients who did not ask for their lives to be ended, a study found.
More than 100 nurses admitted to researchers that they had taken part in ‘terminations without request or consent’.
Although euthanasia is legal in Belgium, it is governed by strict rules which state it should be carried out only by a doctor and with the patient’s permission.

Majority of doctors opposed to assisted suicide (UK)

By | Recent News 24 March 2009
Doctors very rarely help anyone who is terminally ill to die and two-thirds are opposed to changing the law to allow them to do so, new research reveals today. In only around one in 200 deaths have doctors given a patient a drug with the explicit intention of speeding their end, according to a survey on British social attitudes by Prof Clive Seale from the Centre for Health Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, which updates similar work he did in 2004.
Where doctors have helped a patient to a faster escape from their pain or distress, most say they have not shortened life by more than 24 hours and nine out of 10 say their actions hastened death by less than a week. Doctors who admit to it say they had the full collaboration of the patient and family. The revelations of the limited scale of assisted dying in the UK are published in the journal Palliative Medicine alongside a separate study of doctors’ attitudes towards euthanasia, which shows they are substantially out of line with public opinion.
Only a third of doctors (34%) are in favour of the legalisation of euthanasia and 35% in favour of assisted suicide, Seale’s work shows. That contrasts with 82% and 62% respectively of the general public who were asked exactly the same questions in the survey. The fundamental difference of opinion is important, says Seale, because governments who have passed laws to enable assisted dying have only done so with the support of the medical profession, as happened in the Netherlands.

Euthanasia petitioner beats death, hugs life

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Time of India 11 Jul 2008
Two years back Seema Sood longed for death and had even petitioned the President of India for euthanasia. But hope triumphed over despair and today, walking with difficulty, but walking nonetheless, after a total knee replacement surgery, the Bits Pilani gold medallist is ready to take on life once again.
The turnaround has been both spectacular and miraculous for the 37-year-old who lost all movement of her limbs for 15 harrowing years after a crippling attack of rheumatoid arthritis. The disillusionment was so intense that she wanted permission for mercy killing. But that was then.
“I regret the letter to the President,” she said, still frail and moving in tiny steps with the help of a walker. “Everything was so dark for me earlier, but I am excited about my mobility now and I am confident I will improve.”

Outrage as Dr Death helps healthy NZ woman die

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Sunday Star Times 03 February 2008
A New Zealand woman who was not terminally ill killed herself with lethal drugs she smuggled home from Mexico after seeking advice from Australian euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke, known as Dr Death. Details of the Wellington woman’s death believed to be the first such death of a physically fit person in New Zealand have surfaced as Nitschke, head of pressure group Exit International, arrived in New Zealand to hold suicide seminars in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch. The revelations have prompted harsh criticism of Nitschke, who encourages euthanasia supporters to travel to Mexico to buy the drug phenobarbitone, commonly called Nembutal and used by vets to destroy animals.
“We are appalled at this woman’s death it’s a great tragedy. It’s outrageous [Nitschke] is teaching people about this and getting away with it,” said Right to Life New Zealand spokesman Ken Orr. The case was worse because the woman was not suffering a fatal illness, he said. “It’s sad to see vulnerable people being enticed by his programme to commit suicide.”
Nitschke was yesterday unrepentant over his role in the death, saying it was “arrogant and paternalistic” to review someone else’s decision about when to die. “You’re not in her shoes. She obviously made an assessment and decided her life was not worth living any more. You can’t simply look at the medical records.” However, he admitted most people found euthanasia more palatable for severely ill patients. “I don’t doubt if we had prevented her to have access to do what she did, she would have gone and done it in a far more common way.”

Anglicans hit for backing baby euthanasia

By | Recent News

The Australian 14 Nov 06
LONDON: The Church of England’s support for euthanasia of severely disabled babies has drawn sharp criticism from the Catholic Church and evangelical Anglicans, who warned yesterday that the position was morally dangerous.
The Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, said this week in a submission to an independent inquiry that there may be circumstances when it is morally acceptable to perform a “possibly lethal act”.
Going further than any mainstream church leader has before, the bishop said the economic cost of long-term healthcare and education must be considered when deciding whether a child’s life should be saved. But the evangelical wing of the Anglican church warned yesterday that the bishop’s views were a move towards euthanasia.,20867,20753299-2703,00.html

Swiss Euthanasia Group Demands Assisted Suicide for the Depressed

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Proves euthanasia/assisted suicide movement is essentially a “death in demand culture” 23 Sep 06
The Swiss suicide organization that has helped to kill at least 54 British clients and uncounted others from around Europe, is in a test case in the country’s Supreme Court arguing that people suffering from depression or who are “tired of life” should be able to legally use the facility to end their lives.

Report on Dutch euthanasia for 2011 released

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Mercatornet – Michael Cook | Dec 07, 2012 |
In recent years the Netherlands has been one of the most efficient countries in the European Union and one which has been most successful in reducing government red tape. However, this does not extend to government monitoring of euthanasia. Once again, overworked committees dealing with a surge in euthanasia cases were weeks overdue with their reports, according to the 2011 report of the Region Euthanasia Review Committees, which was released recently.
There were 3,695 reported cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide in 2011 – up by 18% on the previous year.
The committees were so short-staffed that they “seriously exceeded the statutory deadline for issuing their findings to the physicians concerned” – a situation which is “unacceptable” and “unlawful”.
There are five regional euthanasia committees. When a doctor reports that he has administered euthanasia he is supposed to submit a report. This is studied by the committee to see if he complied with the conditions for legal euthanasia. A decision is supposed to be issued within 42 days.
However, in the best-performing region, Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe, the time was 50 days. In North Holland, it was 175 days. The national average was 111 days. The government has decided to boost committee membership by 50% from 6 to 9.
Of the 3,695 cases which doctors reported, there were only 4 which the committees found had not acted in accordance with legislation. These were referred to the Board of Procurators General and the Healthcare Inspectorate. The report does not say what happened.
The report fails to deal with the problem of doctors who do not report euthanasia. In an article in The Lancet, an American physician, Dr Bernard Lo pointed out earlier this year that about 20% of the doctors who administered euthanasia did not report it. Were these deaths voluntary or non-voluntary? No one knows, because they were not reported.
In any case, for anyone interested in Dutch euthanasia, this is a vital report. A number of detailed patient cases are given, including those treated by 3 of the 4 erring doctors.

Euthanasia "trivialized" in Belgium: report by bioethics institute

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Mercatornet – Michael Cook | Dec 09, 2012 |
Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, with a law containing strict controls to protect the vulnerable. (This is the text of the law in English.) The Belgium-based European Institute of Bioethics has just released a study (link to English translation) of the experience of ten years of euthanasia. It claims that the results are far from encouraging.
The central theme of the report is the ineffectiveness and bias of the body established by the legislation to allay the misgivings of the public by monitoring and controlling euthanasia. After 10 years and about 5,500 cases, not one case has ever been referred to the police. It is illusory, says the IEB, to expect doctors to denounce their own failings.
Furthermore, nearly half of the statutory 16-member Commission for Control and Assessment are members or associates of the leading Belgian right-to-die society. This is sufficient to explain, according to the IEB, “the absence of any effective control and the ever‐widening interpretation which the Commission intends to give the law”. A law which permits euthanasia is bad enough, the IEB suggests, but the government is not even enforcing its application.
“As is the case in all penal laws, this law has to be strictly interpreted lest it be of seeing it stripped of any substance. It is not for the Commission, appointed to control and assess the law, to provide an ever‐widening interpretation of its terms, with this going so far as to negate the initial spirit of the text and of doing away with the control of decisive legal criteria.”
As a result, there are on-going abuses in several areas. Here are a few of those which the EIB singles out for criticism:
A written declaration of a desire for euthanasia is required, either by the patient or a surrogate. However, the Commission often waives this obligation.
Initially patients had to have a life‐threatening and incurable illness. Nowadays, the illness need only be serious and debilitating.
The pain is supposed to be unbearable, unremitting and unrelievable. However, a patient can refuse medication to relieve the pain. The Commission, says the IEB, has “decided not to carry out its mission ‐ so central to the law ‐ of verifying the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering”.
The ambit of “psychological suffering” is ever-expanding.
Doctor-assisted suicide is not authorised by 2002 legislation. However, the Commission has ignored this and regularly signs off on such cases.
If a patient is to be euthanased at home, the doctor himself is supposed to fetch the lethal medications at a pharmacy from a registered pharmacist and to return left-over drugs. In practice, family members often get the drugs; unqualified personnel hand them over; and no checks have ever been made about surplus drugs.
According to a recent article published in Current Oncology by Dr. José Pereira, Medical Chief of Palliative Care at Bruyère Continuing Care in Ottawa, so-called safeguards to limit the practice of legalized euthanasia don’t work
1. In the Netherlands, where assisted suicide and euthanasia were made legal in 2001, the law states that individuals must give written consent that they want to die. In spite of this, a 2005 study of deaths by euthanasia in the Netherlands found that almost 500 people are killed annually without their consent. Belgium has the same safeguard, nonetheless, a 2010 study found that in the Flemish part of the country, 32 per cent of euthanasia cases were carried out without request or consent.
2. Another suggested safeguard is mandatory reporting: all cases of euthanasia must be reported to the proper authorities so that they can ensure the other safeguards are being followed. But Dr. Pereira notes that in Belgium, nearly half of all cases aren’t reported. In the Netherlands, at least 20 per cent of all cases aren’t reported.
3. The third safeguard is that assisted suicide or euthanasia be carried out only by doctors. Yet a 2010 study of 120 Belgian nurses found that nurses administered life-ending drugs in 45 per cent of assisted suicide cases. The study also found that this was more likely when the hospital nurse was male and the patient was over 80.
4. The fourth safeguard is a second opinion. But in Oregon, public reports show that a physician tied to a pro-assisted suicide lobby group provided consultations in 58 of 61 cases of assisted suicide in Oregon. Dr. Pereira notes, “in 1998 in the Netherlands, 25 per cent of patients requesting euthanasia received psychiatric consultation; in 2010 none did.”
READ the full summary of the article from the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

Startling analysis of Belgian euthanasia

By | Recent News

May 09, 2009
A review of legal euthanasia in Belgium suggests that it is widespread, often involuntary and often illegal. In an article in Issues in Law & Medicine, Israeli academic Raphael Cohen-Almagor, of the University of Hull, in the UK, says tactfully that “Belgium still has a lot to do in order to enforce its policy and effectively circumscribe the practice of euthanasia”.
“Robust empirical research” is needed to find out exactly what is happening, says Cohen-Almagor, but what he has found will no doubt shock non-Belgians.
Even before euthanasia became legal in 2001, a 1998 study showed that 1.3% of all deaths were attributable to voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. But in 3.3% of all deaths, lethal drugs were administered without consent. In other words, involuntary euthanasia was far more common 10 years ago than voluntary euthanasia.
What is happening at the moment is not altogether clear. Belgian experts believe that little changed after the passage of the law, except that doctors can accede to patients’ requests to die without fear of prosecution. However, significantly, the law was ignored in the very first case of voluntary euthanasia, one week after it became legal. The law clearly stipulated that one month had to pass after a doctor received a request.
The situation is complicated by the common practice of “terminal sedation” – keeping the patient unconscious until they die. This does not require the patient’s consent and one doctor interviewed by Cohen-Almagor estimated that “terminal sedation was the most common death in the ICU, accounting for one-half of all hospital deaths”. Another doctor estimated that 8% of all deaths in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) were due to terminal sedation.
The law also stipulates that patients must request euthanasia in writing. However, Flemish doctors frequently disregard this.
Cohen-Almagor also expressed some concern about patients in a state of prolonged unawareness. “My fear is that in Belgium, where euthanasia and quality-of-life considerations are prominent, patients may express a general wish to die upon entering such a condition, and this request will be honored prematurely.”
Currently Belgium is debating the extension of euthanasia to brain-damaged children and adults. “It is incumbent upon democratic governments to protect the best interests of vulnerable third parties,” says Cohen-Almagor. “I hope the Belgian parliament will invest time and thoughtful consideration before drawing any conclusions.” This is essential reading for anyone interested in the euthanasia debate. ~ Issues in Law & Medicine

Treatment of Depression Decreases Suicide Study Indicates: Findings Linked to Euthanasia Prevention

By | Recent News July 6, 2007
Published in the July American Journal of Psychiatry, the extensive study followed the development of more than 109,000 adolescents and adults from 1996 to 2005.
The results indicated that people who suffer from depression have a decreased level of suicide risk after the first month of being treated.
The fact that they received treatment, however, was more important than the type of treatment. The suicide-rate increased and decreased, for example, among adolescents and older people alike during the same time periods.
Although suicides are more frequent among adolescents, the suicide rates decreased in both groups by 50 % in the following month after treatment.
Dr. Greg Simon, the Group Health psychiatrist who led the study, stated in Science Daily, “We think that, on average, starting any type of treatment-medication, psychotherapy, or both-helps most people of any age have fewer symptoms of depression, including thinking about suicide and attempting it.”
Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told that the results of this study are very “important to the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
He stated, “There is a direct link between the question of depression and the concern about euthanasia. The number one indicator for someone who might be considering assisted suicide is based on whether they are experiencing depression or emotional/psychological/spiritual pain. By treating that emotional pain, we in turn are reducing the incidents of people who are interested in suicide or assisted suicide.”
He noted that “according to a study done in the Netherlands that was published in 2005 by Van der Lee et al (J Clin Oncol 23: 6607-6612, 2005), people who are experiencing depression or emotional, psychological or spiritual distress are 4 times more likely to seek euthanasia or assisted suicide than people with similar symptoms.”
The Dutch study was especially significant because the findings of the researchers contradicted their own bias. The authors of the study wrote, “Our clinical impression was that such requests [for euthanasia] were well considered decisions, thoroughly discussed with healthcare workers and family. We thought the patients requesting euthanasia were more accepting their impending death and we therefore expected them to be less depressed. To our surprise, we found that a depressed mood was associated with more requests.”