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Kiwi scientist Sean Davison struck off over role in assisted deaths in South Africa

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Stuff co.nz 11 August 2020
Family First Comment: Good decision. This is why assisted suicide is never safe
“Davison admitted administering Burger a lethal concoction of drugs, “placing a bag over [Varian’s] head and administering helium with the intent of helium deoxygenation and/or asphyxiation”, and giving Holland a lethal dose of pentobarbital. He argued it was “compassionate”” 🙁
A lawyer for the Professional Conduct Committee said Davison’s role in the deaths was a “deliberate breach of the obligation of all medical practitioners” to protect the “sanctity” of life, and would be seen by the public as “unacceptable” of a person registered in New Zealand.

An Auckland-born doctor convicted of helping three people to die overseas has been struck off the register.

Euthanasia advocate Professor Sean Davison appeared before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal on Tuesday via video link from South Africa, where he lives.

In 2019 – while holding a provisional registration with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand – the medical laboratory scientist pleaded guilty to three murders in South Africa and was sentenced to three years’ house arrest.

Davison previously admitted counselling and procuring the attempted suicide of his cancer-stricken elderly mother Patricia Davison, 85, who died in 2006. He was sentenced in the High Court at Dunedin to five months’ home detention in 2011.

The charges involved the 2013 death of his friend, Anrich Burger, a doctor who became a quadriplegic after a car crash; the death of Justin Varian, who had motor neurone disease, in July 2015; and the death of sportsman Richard Holland, who had suffered brain injuries and had no motor function following a bicycle accident.

Davison admitted administering Burger a lethal concoction of drugs, “placing a bag over [Varian’s] head and administering helium with the intent of helium deoxygenation and/or asphyxiation”, and giving Holland a lethal dose of pentobarbital.

The tribunal heard Davison wished to move back to New Zealand to practise pathology after completing house arrest, and was granted a provisional registration.

He disclosed his conviction linked to the death of his mother, but failed to disclose that he had been involved in the murders of Varian and Holland when he knew his involvement was “unlawful conduct”, the tribunal heard.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in South Africa.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/300079176/kiwi-scientist-sean-davison-struck-off-over-role-in-assisted-deaths-in-south-africa

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Euthanasia referendum: Terminal cancer patient reveals why she’s against legalising assisted dying

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NewsHub 10 August 2020
Family First Comment: Thank you Vicki for your powerful and brave voice!
“Vicki Walsh was told in June 2011 her brain cancer diagnosis was terminal and she only had 12 to 14 months to live. However, now aged 53, Walsh has had NINE more years of life since. She says that might not have happened if the choice of assisted dying had been available because she would’ve taken it.”
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#rejectassistedsuicide

A woman with terminal cancer she wouldn’t consider assisted dying and will vote against legalising euthanasia in the referendum.

Vicki Walsh was told in June 2011 her brain cancer diagnosis was terminal and she only had 12 to 14 months to live.

However, now aged 53, Walsh has had nine more years of life since. She says that might not have happened if the choice of assisted dying had been available because she would’ve taken it.

“Obviously euthanasia wasn’t an option, but I had a go at killing myself. So had euthanasia been an option then, it is probably one I would have taken, not realising I was actually depressed,” she told Newshub.

Up until then, she had always believed people should have the choice of assisted dying, saying it was, “My body, my choice”. But after her suicide attempt, her views changed.

“Do you know what, I woke up the next day and I had the best day. I kept thinking, ‘What if you’d done it?'”

Walsh now believes in what she calls a journey to completion, no matter how painful the end.

“Why would I take away the fun parts? And people say to me, ‘What happens if there aren’t any fun parts?’ I say I don’t know. But I am prepared to see that journey through because I don’t believe in anybody deliberately ending someone else’s life.”

She’s now against giving people the choice for assisted dying because there is so much room to get it wrong.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/euthanasia-referendum-terminal-cancer-patient-reveals-why-she-s-against-legalising-assisted-dying.html

Euthanasia referendum: An oncologist’s perspective

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Stuff co.nz 6 August 2020
Family First Comment: An excellent commentary – from someone who is intimately involved in this issue….
“The other day I phoned a patient to discuss the options for treatment of her cancer and she pleaded with me not to deny her treatment. “I know I may have terminal cancer and I am older but I have so much to live for; please allow me to have treatment,” she said. I reassured her that she would be given any treatment that was suitable for her. It got me thinking that it is easy for patients to feel that somehow, they are not as worthy as others to receive treatment.“

OPINION: I am a doctor and I have worked with cancer patients for over 20 years. I love to just “roll my sleeves up” and do my job.

I do not often speak in public forums or give my opinions on issues, but I am so concerned with the implications of the End of Life Choice Act that I feel the need to speak out and share my story.

The other day I phoned a patient to discuss the options for treatment of her cancer and she pleaded with me not to deny her treatment. “I know I may have terminal cancer and I am older but I have so much to live for; please allow me to have treatment,” she said. I reassured her that she would be given any treatment that was suitable for her.

It got me thinking that it is easy for patients to feel that somehow, they are not as worthy as others to receive treatment.

One of the great privileges of my job is that I can care for those who in society’s eyes may be considered vulnerable. In my practice I care for patients with brain damage, elderly folk (96 is my record so far), prisoners, people with extreme learning difficulties, with severe mental illness and with hearing or visual impairment.

Each of these patients is in addition receiving care for terminal conditions. Should the End of Life Choice Act become law, each of these patients may become open to subtle coercion to feel that requesting medically assisted dying would be ‘the right thing to do’ to avoid being a financial or physical burden to those who care for them.

The Oregon Health Authority reports that 59 per cent of patients who requested assisted suicide in 2019 gave being a burden to their family as one of their reasons.

Dr Melissa James is a radiation oncologist affiliated with the organisation Doctors say no.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/122351691/euthanasia-referendum-an-oncologists-perspective

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Auckland 4-year-old ‘thriving’ a year after being given just weeks to live

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Stuff co.nz 5 August 2020
A year ago, Olivia Clark didn’t think she would get to celebrate another Christmas or birthday with her young daughter.

Four-year-old Luna was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning the left side of her heart is missing.

After four open-heart surgeries, the first of which Luna had at just two days old, fluid in her body refused to drain and doctors said they weren’t confident she would survive another surgery.

In August 2019, the Clark family took Luna home after about five months in Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital.

They had decided her quality of life was more important, and they wanted to give her all the experiences she wanted.

Luna’s team of doctors said her family may have just four weeks with her if the fluid continued at the rate it was filling up.

But a year later, her mum says Luna is “absolutely thriving”.

“They can’t really explain it, we can’t explain it, it’s just … she’s just not ready to go.”
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/122341930/auckland-4yearold-thriving-a-year-after-being-given-just-weeks-to-live

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Hundreds of Sick Canadians Euthanized for Loneliness

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Euthanasia Prevention Coalition 28 July 2020
Family First Comment: We are told that euthanasia is “compassion.” But how compassionate is it when last year in Canada, hundreds of sick people were euthanized because of loneliness? The country’s 2019 MAID [medical assistance in dying] Annual Report found that 13.7% of the 5,631 Canadians killed by doctors asked to be lethally injected because of “isolation or loneliness.” If my math is right, that’s about 771 people, or 64 a month, or two per day.

The country’s 2019 MAID [medical assistance in dying] Annual Report found that 13.7 percent of the 5,631 Canadians killed by doctors asked to be lethally injected because of “isolation or loneliness.” If my math is right, that’s about 771 people, or 64 a month, or two per day. Good grief!

Some of the other reasons people gave for asking to be killed:

  • Loss of ability to engage in enjoyable activities, 82.1 percent. That’s a serious concern, but with proper interventions, it can be overcome.
  • Loss of ability to perform activities of daily living, 78.1 percent. Ditto.
  • “Inadequate control of pain (or concern about it),” 53.9 percent. That’s a scandalously high percentage. Palliative and hospice pain-control experts will tell you that most serious pain in terminal illnesses can be successfully alleviated.
  • Loss of dignity, 53.3 percent. Again, this is a serious concern but can be overcome with appropriate care.
  • Perceived burden on family, friends, and caregivers, 34 percent. In other words, people put themselves out of their loved one’s misery.
  • Emotional distress/anxiety/fear/existential suffering, 4.7 percent.

These statistics are scandalous and should make Canada deeply ashamed.

Alas, most Canadians are proud that their doctors can legally kill sick people whose deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.” Not only that, but the country is now engaged in the process that will expand the conditions qualifying for lethal injection, including incompetent people with dementia if they asked to be put down in an advance directive.
READ MORE: https://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2020/07/hundreds-of-sick-canadians-euthanized.html

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New framework to address inequity for Māori in hospice care

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TVNZ One News 29 July 2020
A new framework to improve the services for Māori whānau in hospice care has been launched.

Mauri Mate is a new palliative care structure, which focuses on the quality, equity and compassion of hospices in Aotearoa.

It’s the first of its kind, with extensive collaboration between the Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (The Māori Medical Practitioners Association), Totara Hospice in South Auckland and Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington.

It involves improving the access for Māori whānau, as well as increasing the cultural competence and awareness of staff in palliative care.

Māori clinicians, leaders and academics were brought together to ensure the framework was “by Māori, for Māori”.

The collective told Te Karere the experience for Māori receiving this care needed to be “positively different”.

“We really need to address this inequity, accessibility and quality to this service,” said Dean Ogilvie, trustee of Totara Hospice.

Research and literature, as well as kōrero between health providers and the community, highlighted the need to improve the cultural safety and cultural value of Māori .
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/new-framework-address-inequity-m-ori-in-hospice-care

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Talanoa – End of Life Choice Bill discussion (2019)

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This week’s talanoa we are joined by Dr Ate Moala, who is against it and social work student, Togi To’o who strongly supports the bill. The End of Life Choice Bill gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option to request assistance to die.
Dr Ate Moala is also a board member of Family First NZ.

Euthanasia referendum: Could terminal patients really be ‘dead by the weekend’?

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NZ Herald 25 July 2020
Family First Comment: The NZ Herald is working hard to allay the concerns around the flawed euthanasia bill.
• Apparently it’s not a ‘slippery slope’ – it’s ‘deliberate and considered reform’
• It concedes that pinpointing whether someone has 6 months to live is very difficult – yet it’s the key component of the bill!
• The Ministry of Justice agrees that somebody could be killed within 3-4 days – but apparently it’s likely to take months to do the paperwork. (We know it’s a government department – but pull the other one!)
• They question concerns around ‘duty to die’ & ‘abuse of the vulnerable’ (apparently there’s also other reasons – wow, that feels better then), and ‘increased suicide rates’ (we’re assured that “experts stress New Zealand has unique social, cultural, political and other factors”.
Sheesh. They don’t do a very good job at allaying the legitimate concerns around a flawed law.
Protect.org.nz

Euthanasia could soon be legal in New Zealand, but what exactly would that mean?

Could a patient tell their GP they want to die on a Wednesday and be dead by the weekend?

Is it inevitable that the proposed euthanasia law would be expanded from the terminally ill to those with depression? Or to children? And how secure are the safeguards?

These are some of the debates taking place in public meetings, on social media and over family dinner tables.

As part of the Herald’s ongoing coverage of the euthanasia and cannabis referendums, we take a look at some of the most headline-grabbing arguments around voluntary euthanasia and whether they stack up.

The ‘slippery slope’
It is one the most common arguments against voluntary euthanasia – that making it available for a small group of people, such as terminally ill adult patients who are in decline, will inevitably lead to it being broadened to more people, such as those with mental illness or young people.

Opponents usually point to the examples of the Netherlands and Belgium, where people can get access to euthanasia on the grounds of psychiatric illness, and where there is no minimum age for eligibility.

But there is no evidence that broadening the law is inevitable wherever euthanasia is legalised.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12350755

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Controversial philosopher Peter Singer defends his infanticide views

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NewsHub 23 July 2020
Family First Comment: How gross. But with free speech, he’s entitled to be objectionable, flawed, idiotic, ignored, and just plain wrong. We need to be reminded of these gross views. 
“ Huhana Hickey, who has used a wheelchair since 1996 and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010, said in February Singer is “not an expert in the area of disability. His views against disabled people have been picked up by the abled community over the years and a lot of his views have been used against us,” she said. “He has every right to freedom of speech, they have every right to host him. I have every right to protest and to counter his speech around disability.”

An Australian philosopher has defended his controversial views that parents of babies who have disabilities should have the right to euthanise them.

Peter Singer, a professor of ethics, has argued it’s ethical to give parents the option to euthanise their babies if they have “severe disabilities”.

He told Magic Talk his views aren’t “all that different from things that are happening right now” that are already generally approved.

He says parents of severely disabled children are consulted by their physicians if the child is on a ventilator and in an Intensive Care Unit as to whether they want to continue to ventilate the child, he gives as an example.

“I’m talking about really severe cases where the prospects for the child are very poor, and if parents say ‘look under these circumstances it would be better to withdraw the ventilator’, the doctors will agree and they know that means the child will die,” he says.

“I think they’re doing what I’m suggesting, it’s just they’re doing it by withdrawing a treatment rather than by taking some active measures.”

Singer was due to arrive in New Zealand in June to discuss his views that promised to teach “how to apply ethics to your everyday life”.

However, his event was cancelled by the venue after complaints were made.

“I was very surprised the venue cancelled the booking without even checking with me about the nature of the complaints that were being made. It seems like a knee-jerk response. Somebody complains, you cancel the speaker. It seems like a pretty strange way to run a venue,” he says.

Before the cancellation, New Zealand’s disabled community was outraged he was scheduled to visit.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/07/controversial-philosopher-peter-singer-defends-his-infanticide-views.html

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Underfunding no argument for assisted dying

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NewsRoom 23 July 2020
Family First Comment: Superb article from palliative care specialist Dr Sinead Donnelly…
“Every week as doctors we see cases where disabled, sick or mentally ill patients will, at their most vulnerable point, contemplate suicide. With the right care and medicine the vast majority are brought out of this vulnerable state to a place of health. Under the proposed Act, those same people could be dead within 72 hours.
As doctors caring for people who are dying every day we know the difference that this legislation will make to vulnerable people. It will expose the vulnerable to the extraordinary burden of a duty to die. We are voting no and we invite you to join us in opposing this Act.”

Arguing for assisted dying legislation on the basis NZ’s palliative care is underfunded is like saying that the car needs a clean so should be pushed off a cliff, writes Dr Sinéad Donnelly

In recent weeks there have been unsubstantiated claims in New Zealand media by pro-euthanasia, retired doctors or ‘veteran medical specialists’ around the End of Life Choice Act, which will be voted on during the upcoming referendum.

As specialist doctors trained in palliative medicine and currently practising in New Zealand, we’re extremely concerned at their argument in favour of euthanasia. It’s wrong and it’s dangerous.

First, they argue in favour of euthanasia because, in their words, palliative care has been “underfunded from the start and access and quality are patchy”. They say that aged residential staff “are overworked and often poorly trained in palliative care for the dying”. In other words, they want us to vote at the referendum in favour of euthanasia due to inadequacy and inequity of palliative care and inadequate aged residential care staffing.

This is a little like arguing that the car needs a clean so should be pushed off a cliff.

When have we, as a society, agreed to prematurely end the lives of patients due to poor funding? In any other situation that would be called callous and unacceptable. It certainly doesn’t pass the kindness test.

The second irresponsible statement is that “the End of Life Choice Act is one of the safest in the world”. It is not. The Act’s claimed protection against pressure from “another person” is poorly drafted and provides inadequate levels of protection to vulnerable New Zealanders. For example, the Act requires only one doctor (the first doctor to whom a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide is made) to only “do his or her best” to ensure that person requesting euthanasia has expressed their wish “free from pressure” by “any other person”.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, the very doctors who are also going to be on the front line of the process, told Parliament they won’t be able to detect coercion or pressure in all cases with this test, and that there will be wrongful deaths under this law. To wit:

“The College … considers clause (h) where the medical practitioner is required to ‘do his or her best to ensure that the person expresses his or her wish free from pressure’ is problematic. As one member wrote: ‘It will prove impossible to determine if a patient is ‘free from coercion’. What criteria will doctors use to determine whether or not coercion exists? If patients request assisted death, there is no provision in the Bill as to what a doctor should do if she or he thinks that coercion is actually present. Coercion of patients will be impossible to discern in every request for assisted death. Doctors will not be 100 percent correct in their assessments of coercion. Wrongful deaths will be the result of this proposed new law.’”
READ MORE: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/underfunding-no-argument-for-assisted-dying
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