Imagine choosing to die when you don’t have a terminal illness. Is it a choice we should have? A powerful Dateline special gets rare access to film the journeys of two people in Belgium – going behind the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world.
MercatorNet – Michael Cook 21 September 2015
This documentary from the Australian SBS network is one of the best on Belgian euthanasia that I have seen. Although short on statistics and background, it gives an insight into its disturbing ethical dilemmas. Journalist Brett Mason interviews two patients about their request for euthanasia and asks a number of doctors and public figures whether the increasing number of cases for unbearable suffering can be justified.
Peter Ketelslegers is a 33-year-old father of two who suffers from cluster headaches. This condition – according to Belgian doctors – is untreatable. The pain is so intense that he can no longer work. He feels that he should die so that he won’t be a burden to his boys and his wife.
Simona de Moor is 85, physically fit and mentally sharp. But five minutes after her beloved daughter died, she decided on euthanasia. Mason films her “mundane and unremarkable” last moments as she drinks a lethal potion brought by her doctor, Marc Van Hoey. A dark family problem overshadows her life; she has another daughter from whom she has been estranged for decades and whom she will not inform about her death.
Stuff co.nz 20 September 2015
It was not the first time Huhana Hickey had tried to kill herself. She had woken from multiple comas , disappointed she was still breathing.
But this time, the thought was only a fleeting one.
Hickey stared groggily around to see her 9-year-old son standing at the end of the bed. He was scared.
“It was the last time I woke up and saw my son and finally it dawned on me. I wasn’t just hurting myself.
“I made him a promise and I kept that promise.”
Despite a chronic illness and a lifetime of reasons she could give for the opposing argument, Hickey is now a staunch anti-euthanasia campaigner.
For her, a deteriorating quality of life has only led to a desire to see more of it.
But it was not always this way.
Media Release 17 Sep 2015
Family First NZ has launched a website dedicated to helping families oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, and to help them make a submission to the inquiry being carried out by Parliament’s Health Committee.
“Yet another push to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide is currently underway in New Zealand. This resource will help families speak up to protect vulnerable lives, preserve human dignity, and show care and compassion,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director.
“The committee needs to hear the voice of families in this investigation. It needs to know why families oppose the promotion of euthanasia, or any other form of suicide.”
A new website www.protect.org.nz has been launched today, and an accompanying 8-page pamphlet resource “PROTECT: Caring. Not Killing.” is also being made available to families across the country.
The Briefing Paper “A Call for Care, Not Killing” contains the key reasons why the current laws on suicide / assisted suicide / euthanasia should be maintained. The website and pamphlet also contains information on how to make a submission.
“This website and pamphlet resource will help strengthen the resolve of those wanting to oppose euthanasia, and equip them to speak up and make a submission to the inquiry,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“To allow assisted suicide would place large numbers of vulnerable people at risk – in particular those who are depressed, elderly, sick, disabled, those experiencing chronic illness, limited access to good medical care, and those who feel themselves to be under emotional or financial pressure to request an early death because they don’t want to be a burden. This is not ‘autonomy’ or ‘choice’ or ‘dignified’.”
“Voluntary euthanasia has the allure of being an enlightened and compassionate response to the plight of the suffering, but its practical operation is fraught with risks and there are slippery slopes that are indeed very slippery. Perhaps the most ominous change is one that cannot be proved. There will be an irreversible alteration to the way society and medical professionals view the demise of the elderly, the disabled, the incurably afflicted and the terminally ill. Death will be planned, coordinated and state-sanctioned in a manner hitherto unknown,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“We should increase care, support, and funding for the best palliative care regime in the world – but we should not allow euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
The Guardian 9 September 2015
When I first started out as a junior doctor on the wards, it was all about defying death. As doctors, we are taught to save lives or alleviate suffering through our medical expertise, but not to end lives. Those of us who were on the “crash” team would run like the wind as soon as our bleeps signalled a cardiac arrest. The most senior member of the attending team would usually coordinate the arrest and end resuscitation attempts after a period of time.
The assisted dying bill receives its second reading in the Commons on 11 September. If adopted, it would mean that a terminally ill patient – who has less than six months to live – could be prescribed and aided in taking a lethal medication that would end their life. The application would first need approval by two doctors, one of whom would be the attending medical practitioner while the other would be independent. They would assess the patient’s capacity to make an informed decision without coercion or duress. This would be followed by an application to the high court to grant approval to assist death. It would be the attending doctor who would be asked to prescribe and aid the patient until they died, but not administer the medication for them.Previously, the bill did not include involvement of a judge in the proposal.
It is no surprise that the majority of British doctors believe assisted dying should not be within routine medical practice but in specialised court settings. A recent survey of palliative care doctors showed that 82% opposed a change in the law.
As a GP I see many patients who are in their last days or weeks of life. Most, if not all, ask to be kept comfortable and symptom free. They ask for a natural death (without unnecessary interventions) and not to be resuscitated. I have never been asked by a patient to help them die.
Many terminally ill patients are under the care of palliative teams as well as their GP. This means that they are offered help to manage problematic symptoms such as pain, nausea, breathlessness or agitation. Patients and families can access support through their local hospice, and district or Marie Curie nurses. But end-of-life care is patchy across the country, with a need for greater investment to reduce health inequalities, particularly as more and more people with often complex sets of symptoms are dying at home.
The bill talks about patients who are expected to die within six months, but not others who are severely ill with prolonged debilitating conditions, and wish to die. However, not everyone who we would deem to have a poor quality of life wishes to die. I have seen patients who are paralysed, tube fed, catheterised and with no hope of recovery. Yet they still find their lives worth living.
BBC News 11 September 2015
In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.
In a passionate debate, some argued the plans allowed a “dignified and peaceful death” while others said they were “totally unacceptable”.
Pro-assisted dying campaigners said the result showed MPs were out of touch.
Under the proposals, people with fewer than six months to live could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would have needed to approve each case.
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, welcomed the rejection of the legislation, saying the current law existed to protect those who were sick, elderly, depressed or disabled.
He said: “It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion, it acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.”
But Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said it was an “outrage” that MPs had gone against the views of the majority of the public who supported the bill.
She added that “dying people deserve better”.
Reuters 11 September 2015
The California legislature on Friday approved a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients despite opposition from religious and disability rights groups, sending it to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown for his approval or veto.
The bill would allow mentally competent patients to request a prescription that would end their lives if two doctors agree the patients have only six months to live.
The measure, based on a similar law in Oregon, passed the state Senate on Friday on a vote of 23-14, after passing the Assembly on Wednesday.
“We are here today on the precipice of granting a wish that I was not able to give my mother,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who said her mother died in agony from a form of leukemia.
It was the subject of weeks of debate, as supporters argued that the measure would allow people in the last stages of terminal illness to die peacefully, while advocates for seniors and the disabled argued it could make people vulnerable to greedy relatives or others who wished to avoid taking care of them or inherit their money.
3News 14 September 2015
MPs considering a petition on euthanasia say they will look at a vote in the United Kingdom, which struck down a law allowing assisted suicide.
The House of Commons overwhelmingly voted against the Bill, and here in New Zealand the Right to Life group is urging a select committee to take notice. It says there’s an international consensus against euthanasia.
“I believe it gives a strong message to our Parliament that when politicians have an opportunity of looking at all the research on this very contentious issue, they find that it’s just too dangerous,” says spokesperson Ken Orr.
“Public opinion of course is very important, but politicians also have an obligation to legislate for the common good. I think it’s about 80-odd percent support among the public for euthanasia, so they comments have been quite brave.”
The health select committee is looking at a petition presented after the death of campaigner Lecretia Seales.
ACT Party leader David Seymour is drafting a similar bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand.
“The majority of countries do not accept assisted dying,” says health committee chair and National MP Simon O’Connor. “There’s only a very limited number, but there are a lot of calls for this and each country has to look at it in its own right.
“I think the committee will be interested to see why the likes of Oregon and Belgium allow assisted suicide and why countries like England and Scotland and other places have rejected it.”
OneNewsNow 12 September 2015
California lawmakers today gave final approval to a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.
The measure to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication succeeded on its second attempt after the heavily publicised case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, the woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally take her life.
Her relatives tearfully watched the debate from the Senate floor.
Senators approved the bill on a 23-14 vote after an emotional debate on the final day of the legislative session.
“Eliminate the needless pain and the long suffering of those who are dying,” urged Senator Lois Wolk, one of the bill’s co-authors.
Opponents said the measure could prompt premature suicides.
“I’m not going to push the old or the weak out of this world, and I think that could be the unintended consequence of this legislation,” said Senator Ted Gaines.
The revised measure includes requirements that the patient be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patient submit several written requests, and that there be two witnesses.
Doctors in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana already can prescribe life-ending drugs.
Media Release Euthanasia-Free NZ 12 September 2015
Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates the UK House of Commons on rejecting the Marris Assisted Dying bill by an overwhelming 212 majority after an extensive yet respectful debate.
Many MPs commended the medical profession on the excellent work they do, but remarked that doctors are unable to accurately predict how long a patient is expected to live. Such estimates are based on educated guesswork and probability, not certainty. It is therefore arbitrary to limit eligibility to people who have a certain number of months to live. One Member recalled a case in which a relative was expected to die by the weekend, but lived for another eight months.
“The UK decision sends a clear message to New Zealand”, says Renee Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ. “It is a waste of time to debate an assisted suicide bill at committee stage because no safeguards can ever be safe enough. As several MPs remarked, it is simply impossible to prevent vulnerable people being coerced or feeling internal pressure to request death.”
“Such emotional pressure can be subtle and occur behind closed doors. There is no way any third party can be sure that a person has made a truly free and voluntary request for assisted suicide. Assisted suicide and euthanasia legislation lends itself to rubber stamping.”
Euthanasia-Free NZ echoes the sentiment expressed by Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing: “We hope Parliament will now turn its attention to the real issues facing our country of ensuring that everybody can access the very best care, regardless of whether they are disabled or terminally ill and that we fund this adequately.”
The current Health Select Committee inquiry is an important step in determining the real needs of suicidal New Zealanders and how they can be cared for more effectively. The Committee is investigating why people desire to end their lives and give feedback on the effectiveness of existing support services. More information is available at http://tiny.cc/termsofreference.