Monthly Archives

November 2013

Alison Davis on BBC World Service

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Care Not Killing 12 April 2012
BBC World Service has a good story about Alison Davis. Alison rejected religious faith and wanted to die. Alison has a split spine and has had breathing difficulties. She has intractable pain. When she wanted to die, she thought that she would be doing her friends and family a favour. It was a life changing encounter with a student that helped to change Alison’s life. It is important that Alison’s message is heard by others who feel that they may be better off dead.
Alison says during the interview:
“When I wanted to die I thought I’d be doing my friends and family a favour. I thought, well they’ll go back to their normal lives and don’t have to be burdened with me. It’s only looking back that I realise what a horrible trick of the mind that is…. What one person does impacts on what everyone else does. And if we say to one eighty year old lady who thinks her life is not worth having anymore…then we start to say that being tired of living is a good enough reason to have your life ended. And then what happens to other eighty year old ladies who are starting to think maybe I’m a burden to my family – shouldn’t I do the same thing? And just looking on it from a purely basic point of view, if we start to allow it there will be no end because we [will] have said that this is an appropriate answer to this problem, and I say it isn’t.”

Life with locked-in syndrome

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Care Not Killing 9 September 2012
The media has a tendency to focus on the negatives of profound disability by giving a hugely disproportionate level of coverage to disabled people who wish to end their lives and very little to the majority who actually value their lives.
These good news stories have previously drawn attention to the fact that most people with ‘locked-in syndrome’ do not wish to die.
Locked-in syndrome hit the headlines after the experience of Tony Nicklinson. He went to court unsuccessfully to argue that his life had become so intolerable he should have the right to euthanasia and has since died from complications of his condition.
Here are two more positive stories about locked-in syndrome published over the last month.
Richard Marsh recounts his ordeal in the Guardian, explaining that doctors wanted to switch off his life-support after a stroke. He could hear every word but could not tell them he was alive. He is now 95% recovered.
The BBC has also posted a video featuring the story of Mike and Wendy Cubiss.

Euthanasia deaths continue their relentless rise in the Netherlands

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Care Not Killing 25 September 2013
According to Dutch media reports yesterday, euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2012 increased by 13% to 4,188. This follows increases of 13% in 2009, 19% in 2010 and 18% in 2011 and comes in the first year after the introduction of ‘mobile clinics’ which euthanize people in their own homes.

In fact from 2006 to 2012 there has been a steady increase in numbers each year with successive annual deaths at 1923, 2120, 2331, 2636, 3136, 3695 and 4,188 – an overall increase of 118% in just six years.

Euthanasia now accounts for over 3% of all Dutch deaths.

In addition 42 people with early dementia and 14 psychiatric patients were euthanized.

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

World Medical Association reaffirms its strong opposition to euthanasia

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Care Not Killing 21 August 2013
The World Medical Association has reiterated its strong opposition to euthanasia. From the WMA Resolution on Euthanasia:
Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s own request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. This does not prevent the physician from respecting the desire of a patient to allow the natural process of death to follow its course in the terminal phase of sickness.
The WMA similarly opposes assisted suicide:
Physicians-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life, the physician acts unethically. However the right to decline medical treatment is a basic right of the patient and the physician does not act unethically even if respecting such a wish results in the death of the patient.
From ancient times doctors have sought moral guidelines both to guide members of the profession and to safeguard patients. The earliest of these was the Hippocratic Oath which was written about 600BC and has become the basis for all subsequent ethical codes.
Its moral requirements are broadly consistent with the Judeo-Christian ethic and at one time graduating doctors had to swear it before they could commence practising.

US medics oppose assisted suicide

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Care Not Killing 18 September 2013
An on-line poll of readers of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the majority of American doctors are against physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
Based on 5,205 respondents from 72 countries, the poll showed that 67% of US readers opposed legalising PAS and a majority supported the practice in only 18 US states. Interestingly, this did not include Washington or Oregon, where PAS is already legal. Overall, 1,712 readers cast votes in the US.
The main reasons provided for opposing the practice were that it violates a doctor’s oath to do no harm and that it would be likely to lead to the legalisation of euthanasia, a far less palatable practice.
The survey follows the World Medical Association (WMA) reiterating its strong opposition to euthanasia. The WMA similarly opposes assisted suicide.
2011 study showed that doctors in the UK have opposed both euthanasia and assisted suicide consistently over the past two decades. Researchers from Limerick, Ireland, used 16 key studies into doctors’ attitudes between 1990 and 2010. The findings appeared in the journal Palliative Medicine and further confirmed the fact that those doctors who favour a change in the law constitute a small vocal minority.

BMA opposes move to legalise assisted suicide

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Pulse Today 14 November 2013
The BMA has said it will oppose a parliamentary bill, introduced today, to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill patients in Scotland.
Under the new bill, patients would register a potential wish to die with their GP, and would have to submit two further requests before the GP would prescribe drugs to be used in the suicide attempt – the GP would then withdraw from the process.
Trained and licensed facilitators would be instead be used to provide ‘practical assistance’ in arranging the suicide and be present when the patient administered the lethal dose.
But the BMA said that doctors would be taking on a role that was ‘alien’ to their role as a care giver and that it could not support it.
The bill was brought by MSP Margo MacDonald – an independent member for the Lothian region – in Edinburgh today and would extend to patients who had been diagnosed with chronic, degenerative diseases.
The bill is a revision of one defeated in 2010, it drops the contentious element of physician-assisted dying and stipulates the ‘cause of death must be the person’s own deliberate act’.

Euthanasia a 'cop out'

By | Recent News 23 November 2013
If euthanasia is legalised the right to die will all too easily become a duty to die.
The crux of this debate is whether what a suicidal person proposes – to kill themselves – is a goal which should be shared and facilitated by the state, the medical profession and family members.
There are alternate care goals, like the treatment of depression and other symptoms, to which the state should apply itself.
When someone has lost hope for the future, finds no meaning in their life, and sees only one solution – death – we need to respond with real care. The biggest problem is that too many people, especially the elderly, have come to see that they are a burden to others. Why?
We need to recognise the extent to which we, as a society, may have contributed to that feeling. We cannot ignore the growing numbers of elderly people who are being abused and who feel socially isolated. A plea by someone to die should evoke suicide prevention measures that address the underlying causes behind the plea, not euthanasia.

NZ palliative care specialists reject euthanasia

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BioEdge 16 November 2013
Palliative care is undermined by euthanasia and assisted suicide, according to many palliative care organisations. In Australia, where end-of-life issues are hotly debated, the peak palliative care body has joined the chorus of opposition.
The Australia and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) has released a new position statement on the practices, arguing that they are not a solution to patient suffering, and that legalising the procedures would take attention away from the real issue – a lack of access to palliative care.
In the document the ANZSPM emphasises, “There is a clear distinction between good care for the dying and active interventions instituted in order to deliberately end the life of a patient.” Instead of providing VE or PAS, doctors should try to alleviate symptoms: “When requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide arise, particular attention should be given to gaining good symptom control, especially of those symptoms that research has highlighted may commonly be associated with a serious and sustained ‘desire for death’ (e.g. depressive disorders and poorly controlled pain).”
Out of a the ten point policy statement, three points stressed “the significant deficits in the provision of palliative care in Australia and New Zealand”. ANZSPM called for new government “health reform programs”, as well as increased carer support for respite care, so as “decrease the sense of burden for many patients at the end of life.”

Belgium considering world's first child euthanasia law

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CBS News 31 October 2013
Should children have the right to ask for their own deaths?
In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.
Advocates argue that euthanasia for children, with the consent of their parents, is necessary to give families an option in a desperately painful situation. But opponents have questioned whether children can reasonably decide to end their own lives.
Belgium is already a euthanasia pioneer; it legalized the practice for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart.
Only a few countries have legalized euthanasia or anything approaching it. In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal under specific circumstances and for children over the age of 12 with parental consent (there is an understanding that infants, too, can be euthanized, and that doctors will not be prosecuted if they act appropriately). Elsewhere in Europe, euthanasia is only legal in Luxembourg. Assisted suicide, where doctors help a patient to die but do not actively kill them, is allowed in Switzerland.

Euthanizing the Unhappy: The Urgent Need for Love

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Public Discourse 7 November 2013
The recent physician-assisted suicide of a deeply depressed Belgian woman made worldwide headlines. But the headlines didn’t say a thing about depression. The headlines read, “Belgian killed by euthanasia after a botched sex change operation.”
This is not a story of medicine gone wrong. It is a story of a world where the light has gone out.
Everything about this headline is a euphemism or half-truth. The author couldn’t figure out whether to describe the individual as a man or a woman. So, in keeping with GLAAD guidelines, the author used the gender-neutral term “Belgian,” to describe a generic person, and later describes the individual as “Nathan, born Nancy, Verhelst.” The story never tells us exactly what was “botched” about the operation, except that Nancy was unhappy with the result. And the term “euthanasia” obscures the fact that a physician killed a perfectly healthy woman who happened to have been extremely unhappy for a long time.
Let’s read past the headline and consider the story more deeply.
Nancy was the daughter of a mother who wanted sons.