Monthly Archives

July 2014

“Death coaching”: The slippery slope of decriminalising euthanasia

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The Australian News 25 July 2014
THE term “death coaching” is how Judi Taylor describes the tragic suicide of her 26-year-old son Lucas in a deserted park in Germany.  “It was death-coaching, not life coaching, that killed him,” says the Melbourne mother of three sons. Lucas, a talented linguist, ended his life after taking a ¬euthanasia drug he had bought in Peru. Judi Taylor says her son’s every step and every instruction — and strong encouragement — came from a Peaceful Pill online forum run by Exit International, the pro-euthanasia lobby group run by now-suspended medical practitioner Philip Nitschke.
Dr Nitschke has declared he will mount an appeal after being suspended by the Medical Board of Australia following his admission he supported 45-year-old Perth man Nigel Brayley in his ¬decision to commit suicide, despite knowing he was not terminally ill. He will be suspended until the end of September pending further investigation by the board.
BeyondBlue chairman Jeff Kennett yesterday welcomed the decision, saying “We cannot allow the debate to start that it’s all right for a 16 year old — or a 45 year old — simply because they’re having an off day to attempt to take their own life.”
It was a secretive world that Judi Taylor discovered only after his death, when she and her ¬remaining sons hacked into his computer, found his Peaceful Pill forum password and began reading a bizarre and grim litany of ¬online conversations. “There seemed to be hundreds of people busy talking to each other about the best methods to commit suicide,” she says. “Lucas mentioned in his posts that he’d learned about importing illegal drugs and what airports to use. One person would say: ‘Oh, Nembutal’s the way to go.’ They’d discuss whether the best place to go was China or Peru. “It seemed to be peer-to-peer communication, and in all the hundreds of messages nobody was saying they had a terminal illness … What Lucas definitely said was ‘I’m not sick yet’ and ‘I’m quite able-bodied’.” There were even messages to Lucas from a “moderator” Mrs Taylor describes as calling himself Doctor Ted. “He seemed to come in when a medical query needed answering.” He told Lucas ‘because of your weight, you’ll be needing this much Nembutal’.” The mother, who had spoken regularly to her son overseas via Skype — and had seen no outwards signs of depression — could barely believe what she was reading, for hours online, tracking his methodical “coaching” descent towards suicide. …
The suspension of Dr Nitschke’s licence was welcomed by South Australian Health Minister Jack Snelling and AMA branches in Western and South Australia, where Dr Nitschke first registered. WA AMA vice-president Andrew Miller said: “Our profession is relieved to be rid of him and wish to assure the community we will always help those with treatable illnesses to recover and live.”
Mr Snelling said he wanted to ensure “Dr Nitschke and his abhorrent views aren’t being practised in a medical context here in South Australia’’.

It’s about time the exit death industry was investigated

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OnLineOpinion 23rd July 2014
Bouquets to Jeff Kennett and the Beyond Blue organisation for their clear and appropriate condemnation of the actions, or rather inactions, of Dr Philip Nitschke in relation to the suicide death of a Perth man in the story that ran on the ABC’s 7:30 report a little over a week ago.
According to the media reports and to Dr Nitschke’s twitter feed, he is basing his defence, in part at least, on his claim that there is such a thing as rational suicide.
The idea that suicide can be somehow a rational choice is not new. In fact, an organisation exists in the UK called the ‘Society for Rational Old Age Suicide’ and there has been one study that I am aware of that canvasses the issue.
When we think of suicide we commonly understand that people who contemplate ending their lives will be viewing their problems through a very dark lens that does not, at that time, offer them any hope or possibility that what troubles them could be dealt with in a less dramatic fashion.
But there is always hope; there is always some other solution. Time, good counselling, talking to family and friends, taking exercise and a good night’s rest can all help us see past those solitary, dark moments. We can all help.
About the Author 
Paul Russell is the Director of HOPE: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide
Paul is also Vice Chair of the International Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Medical board suspends 'Dr Death'

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3News 24 July 2014
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke had his medical registration suspended by the Australian Medical Board (AMB) last night.
The board believes he “presents a serious risk to public health and safety”, reports ABC News.
Dr Nitschke, often dubbed Dr Death, took to Twitter last night saying he would appeal the “politically motivated de-registration”.
An investigation into Dr Nitschke began earlier this month by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which offers support to the AMB.
ABC News reports the investigation follows Dr Nitschke admitting that he supported a Perth man’s decision to commit suicide, despite him not being terminally ill.
It is believed 45-year-old Nigel Brayley died in May after taking Nembutal, a euthanasia drug he had illegally imported.

Assisted dying law risks becoming 'state-approved self-extinction', Boris Johnson warns

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MailOnline 23rd July 2014
A law to allow assisted suicide for the terminally ill could become ‘state-approved self-extinction’, Boris Johnson has warned.
The London Mayor said plans to allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to anyone who could ‘reasonably be expected to die within six months’ could mean some people come under pressure to end their lives too soon.
Mr Johnson warned ‘life is precious and our psychology fragile’ and any change to the law must be made with caution.
On Friday peers will debate a law allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients judged to have less than six months to live.
The legislation has been drawn up by Lord Falconer, a former Labour Lord Chancellor who served in Tony Blair’s Cabinet.
The Church of England has urged Lord Falconer to drop his Bill in favour of a Royal Commission into the issue.

Assisted suicide would lure me to the grave, says UK MP

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MailOnline 20 July 2014
Baroness Campbell, who has battled a degenerative disease for half a century, made a moving intervention against assisted dying yesterday, saying: ‘This offers no comfort to me – it frightens me.’
The Baroness of Surbiton was addressing a marathon 10-hour debate in the House of Lords on whether terminally ill patients should be helped to die if they wish.
Breathing through a ventilator, she said Lord Falconer’s Bill was aimed at her whether she wanted it or not, saying: ‘I did not ask it and I do not want it, but it is about me nevertheless.’
Baroness Campbell, who was born with severe spinal muscular atrophy, said that in moments of despair, she might be tempted to ask for assisted dying – and if the law changed, doctors would not stop her.
She told peers: ‘It frightens me because in periods of greatest difficulty I know I might be tempted to use it. It only adds to the burdens and challenges life holds for me.’

'Assisted dying' & public opinion

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CareNotKilling 18 July 2014
There is ample poll data showing that the majority of the British public support legalising assisted suicide (AS) in principle.
The former Voluntary Euthanasia Society (now rebranded Dignity in Dying) claims a figure of 80% although it has previously been argued that such levels of support are uncommitted, uninformed and unconvincing.
However, there has been very little poll data gauging public attitudes in light of the various empirical and rational arguments against AS. That is, until now.
An extraordinary new poll has demonstrated that public attitudes change dramatically once some of the key practical implications of AS are considered.
In a new Comres/CARE poll published today and reported by the Daily Telegraph respondents were presented with the following scenario:
‘A new Bill is due to be debated in the House of Lords which is designed to enable mentally competent adults in the UK who are terminally ill, and who have declared a clear and settled intention to end their own life, to be provided with assistance to commit suicide by self-administering lethal drugs. Two doctors would need to countersign their declaration and be satisfied that the person has a condition which cannot be reversed by treatment and is reasonably expected to die within 6 months. In principle would you agree or disagree with this proposal?’
73% agreed (38% strongly), 12% disagreed and 14% were in the ‘don’t know’ category.

Dutch watchdog who backed euthanasia warns UK of 'slippery slope'

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MailOnline 10 July 2014
Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope toward widespread killing of the sick, MPs and peers were told yesterday.
A former euthanasia supporter warned of a surge in deaths if Parliament allowed doctors to give deadly drugs to their patients.
‘Don’t do it Britain,’ said Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases. ‘Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again.’
His native Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, has  seen deaths double in just six years and this year’s total may reach a  record 6,000.
Professor  Boer’s intervention comes as peers prepare to debate the Assisted Dying  Bill, promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor.
The bill, which has its second reading next week, would allow doctors to  prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.

Euthanasia for 'depressed' alleged murderer (Aust)

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Mobile News 4 July 2014
EUTHANASIA campaigner Philip Nitschke denies he went too far in helping a fit and healthy but depressed man end his life.
Perth man Nigel Brayley, 45, died in May after taking euthanasia drug Nembutal, because he feared he would be charged with his wife’s murder.
His former wife Lina, 37, died in February 2011 after she fell from the top of Statham’s Quarry in the Perth Hills while taking photographs.
Her death was initially believed to be an accident, but, after Mr Brayley died, it was revealed he was being investigated for his alleged involvement in her death.
Dr Nitschke said in a statement on Thursday that Mr Brayley had attended an Exit International workshop in Perth in February and purchased the banned Peaceful Pill eHandbook.

Euthanasia legitimate up to a point, says Key

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NZ Herald 5 July 2014
Prime Minister John Key has signalled possible loosening of euthanasia laws, saying he would sympathise with “speeding up of the process” of death for a terminally ill patient.
He told Family First director Bob McCoskrie in a public interview at a forum in Auckland yesterday that euthanasia would be “a legitimate thing” to speed up death for a terminally ill patient who was in pain.
But he said he would not vote for a bill proposed by Labour MP Maryan Street that would allow any adult suffering from a condition likely to cause their death within 12 months to request medical assistance to die.
“If it’s the same bill, I’ll oppose it because I think the way that bill was structured is not good law,” he said. “In the world that I live in, in my head, it’s a conscience issue. So when someone says to me ‘euthanasia’ I think of the person that is terminally ill, that is going to die, and in a tremendous amount of times and in my world, euthanasia is a legitimate thing in that situation.”
He said modern medical practice was to give terminally ill patients pain relief and allow the natural process of death to occur.
“The palliative care would not do anything to prolong their life or to shorten their life. What I would say is in that scenario I … could understand the speeding up of the process,” he said. “The bill goes a lot further than that. In the situation where grandma is 92 [and people just want her to go], that’s not acceptable.”