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NZ Muslim Community: We ask the PM and MPs to oppose euthanasia

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25 June 2019
Family First Comment:“As a community we implore our elected democratic Ministers of Parliament to join us to also oppose euthanasia – and to instead focus our efforts on how to better support and care for every New Zealander. It is not for us or doctors to kill or aid others in destroying themselves. Our predominantly immigrated community will be made vulnerable under the proposed bill.”|
Protect.org.nz

FIANZ, the voice of New Zealand’s Muslim community since 1979, is opposed to euthanasia and the End of Life Choice Bill. We give voice to our concerns on behalf of our community.

As New Zealand Muslims, we are worried that the vulnerability of our community members could be exploited if euthanasia is legalised by Parliament.

Islam considers all human life sacred. Life is to be protected and promoted and not terminated prematurely. It is neither permissible in Islam to kill another human being, nor even to kill one’s own self.  God Says, “Do not take life, which God made sacred…” (Qur’an 17:33), and Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves…” (Qur’an 4:29-30).

As a community we implore our elected democratic Ministers of Parliament to join us to also oppose euthanasia – and to instead focus our efforts on how to better support and care for every New Zealander. It is not for us or doctors to kill or aid others in destroying themselves.

Our predominantly immigrated community will be made vulnerable under the proposed bill. We outline seven key areas of concern for your consideration:

  1. Most of our community immigrated from countries where authorities are hardly questioned. We are worried that they could be suggested, pressured or coerced by authoritative figures like doctors to end their lives if they had terminal illness or disabilities.
  2. We are concerned making euthanasia legal here will normalise it for future generations and erode our cultural identity.
  3. Many of our community are much poorer compared to others in society – some having come as refugees. In cases of severe illness where health care costs are high and carers are scarce, members of the community could request euthanasia out of guilt  – as many are already conditioned into thinking they are an economic burden to the society – as a way of relieving the society of their burden.
  4. Due to the high unemployment rate in our community, legalising euthanasia could make it easier for unscrupulous members of poor families to pressure terminally ill relatives to request euthanasia as a way of relieving the family of their physical and economic burden.
  1. If euthanasia were legalised, the taxes we pay to the government would be used to train and deliver the act of euthanasia – making us as taxpayers complicit in this.
  1. Persons in our community who are in extreme pain and clouded by depression, shock and grief could make irrational decisions due to their conditions and request their own death by euthanasia – not giving themselves time for possible recovery or coming to terms with their condition.
  1. And perhaps most importantly, legalising euthanasia may provide the societal acceptance needed by those with suicidal tendencies in our communities to rationalise committing suicide.

Passing this legislation will be tantamount to saying to our terminally ill and disabled that their lives are less valuable to the society compared to the youthful.

If patients or those in pain currently can refuse treatment and die naturally as a result, why should legislation be enacted to legalise euthanasia, when it in turn places so much risk on already vulnerable members of our communities.

The euthanasia debate: Death is not a black-and-white issue

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Stuff co.nz 24 June 2019
Family First Comment: An excellent piece by Amanda Landers (who spoke at our Forum last year) “The answer to bad deaths is not euthanasia. The answer is a better understanding of basic medical ethics, of palliative medicine, of what happens to the body when it is dying, and how to care for  someone at the end of life.”
Protect.org.nz

OPINION: I get the feeling the general public think death is a black-and-white issue. I cannot think of a subject that has more grey.

I trained for 13 years to be a palliative medicine specialist. I attended Otago Medical School, completed advanced training in Australia and New Zealand and have been a specialist for 10 years.

Palliative care is multi-disciplinary to match the many dimensions of a person and their family/whanau. I have been dismayed at the attacks on our area of medicine in the media and on the health professionals who dedicate their lives to looking after these vulnerable New Zealanders.

In reading social media pages, I have realised there are many misconceptions that have taken root in our community which need weeding out. One of these misconceptions is that euthanasia and withdrawing medical intervention is one and the same.

I was asked to see a lady in her 80s with heart failure who lived in a rest home. She was asking her doctor to stop all her heart medication. The woman had discussed it with her daughter who was present and I could see she understood the decision may shorten her life, allowing nature to take its course. I agreed to her request and she thanked me profusely.

She said something that changed my practice immensely: “I would not be alive in any other century,” she said. I realised this is true.

Withdrawing treatment is legally, ethically and morally her choice. But ultimately she will die of heart failure, not a lethal injection. This is the difference between a natural death and euthanasia.

Amanda Landers is a community palliative care physician and a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Otago, Christchurch
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/113725941/the-euthanasia-debate-death-is-not-a-blackandwhite-issue

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Euthanasia bill would be rife for exploitation by the selfish and the abusive, says QC

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Stuff co.nz 23 June 2019
Family First Comment: “Believing that doctors will always be able to tell whether or not someone is making a free choice is a mistake. Doctors are fallible, just like any other human being. And even the best doctors on their best days will struggle to determine, with 100 per cent accuracy, that the patient in front of them is making a free and voluntary decision.”

OPINION: David Seymour makes a good point in advocating for his End of Life Choice Bill – when you get to the end of your life, if the situation is intolerable, you should have a choice about what to do about that. But problems arise when you go from the idea to the application, when you actually have to make a law that allows assisted suicide.

The State has an obligation to protect its citizens – that is part of the social contract we as individuals have with the State. Our laws are based on the idea that human life has a certain sanctity about it which needs protection. Even in our Bill of Rights Act, we have provisions that mean that life has to be protected.

The End of Life Choice Bill is premised on the idea that there are some conditions or characteristics that exclude a person from the need to protect their life. If these are absent, the person’s life is protected in law.

If they are present, the person may gain assistance to end their life. By taking away the protection for each human life, the End of Life Choice Bill breaches the social contract.

Perhaps some people would be fine with the State breaching the social contract in this way if it meant that they could have control over how they die.

They may say it is justifiable for some people to make a self-destructive decision because life for them has become intolerable, but that is not really the issue. The issue is, how do you distinguish those cases from the ones that should not be treated in that way?

Modern societies are often judged by the way they treat their weakest and most vulnerable citizens. The End of Life Choice Bill inherently involves people who are in a state of weakness or vulnerability.

During my more than 40 years of experience as a barrister, I have seen the pressures and abuses that can come to bear upon people who are in a state of weakness or vulnerability.

* Grant Illingworth QC is a barrister-at-law based in Auckland and is taking part in the #DefendNZ movement to try to block the End of Life Bill from passing into law.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/113596930/euthanasia-bill-would-be-rife-for-exploitation-by-the-selfish-and-the-abusive-says-qc

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1000 Kiwi doctors sign letter against euthanasia

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NZ Herald 23 June 2019
Family First Comment: The doctors said they were “committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort”, including effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care. And they uphold the right of patients to decline treatment.

One thousand doctors have signed a letter saying they “want no part in assisted suicide”.

They have urged politicians and policy-makers to let them focus on saving lives and care for the dying, rather than taking lives, which they deemed unethical – whether legal or not.

The letter comes as Parliament is due to start the second reading debate on Act MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill on Wednesday.

The doctors said they were “committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort”, including effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care. And they uphold the right of patients to decline treatment.

But the 1000-strong group said it believed “physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal”.

“We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to die would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and respect,” the letter reads.

“We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and we are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden.”

Finishing, they said: “Doctors are not necessary in the regulation or practice of assisted suicide. They are included only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy.

“Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.”

The letter – along with 1000 names of the doctors who support it – has been published as a full-page advertisement in today’s Herald on Sunday.
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12242957&ref=twitter (behind paywall)

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Instead of offering assisted suicide, let’s help those who are suffering

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Stuff co.nz 19 June 2019
Family First Comment: “I find the End of Life Choice Bill very scary. At my lowest point I could have seen suicide as a way out, and I’d never be able to live the life I have now.”
#rejectassistedsuicide

OPINION: When I was 16, I was in a high-speed crash that caused me to lose the use of my legs and to suffer many other injuries.

Through many operations, and pain that has taken a toll on my body and mental well-being, I am very happy to say I’ve found peace with my injuries. I now have a somewhat normal life, filled with good people, support and hope for the future.

I also suffered what I believe to be post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which really took a toll on my mental well-being.

There were times where I would shut myself away for days, not wanting to face the condition I was in.

At these times my family still gave me glimpses of hope, encouragement and always saw the good in me when I couldn’t. These days sometimes got so bad I would wish I had died in the crash, but with the right support, people encouraging me, and good friends, my life has turned around from having no hope to actually enjoying life as it should be.

I find the End of Life Choice Bill very scary. At my lowest point I could have seen suicide as a way out, and I’d never be able to live the life I have now.

I think instead of assisting people with their death, we should encourage them, support them and explain to them with compassion that they are worth having around.

My life after my crash was incredibly tough but now that I’ve gotten through the pain and hurt, I can live a good life with the people who care for me.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/113428458/instead-of-offering-assisted-suicide-lets-help-those-who-are-suffering

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Kiwi man sentenced for assisted suicides of three disabled people in South Africa

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TVNZ One News 20 June 2019
Family First Comment: This is perfect evidence of how far proponents of euthanasia will go. Don’t even open the door to them….
The first charge against Davison was that he administered a lethal dose of medication in 2013 to a quadriplegic after a motor vehicle accident. The second charge related to causing death by asphyxiation in 2015 to Justin Varian, who wasn’t in physical pain but that loneliness and a sense of isolation contributed to his desire to die

Auckland-born euthanasia advocate Sean Davison has been ordered by a South African court to serve three years under house arrest after pleading guilty to assisted suicide.

The 58-year-old, who initially faced three charges of premedited murder at the Western Cape High Court, will serve another five years on probation following the house arrest. However, a conviction of a similar crime during that period could put him behind bars for the full eight years.

Davison was accused in court documents of engaging in euthanasia – not only assisted suicide – since he took the final actions that caused death.

Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ, a group which opposes euthanasia and assisted dying in New Zealand, applauded the decision today.

“These facts demonstrate that it’s not necessary for a doctor to perform euthanasia or assisted suicide, which is one of the points made in the Doctors Say No open letter,” she said.
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/kiwi-man-sentenced-assisted-suicides-three-disabled-people-in-south-africa
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The Slippery Slope of Euthanasia in Belgium

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Daily Mail 20 June 2019
Family First Comment: Three children are among thousands of people to have died under Belgium’s radical euthanasia regime. They were euthanised under the world’s only law that allows children of any age to choose to be put to death. An official report has revealed the annual number of euthanasia cases across all age groups has multiplied almost fivefold in ten years.
#rejectassistedsuicide
protect.org.nz

Last year, figures revealed that three children are among thousands of people to have died under Belgium’s radical euthanasia regime

They were euthanised under the world’s only law that allows children of any age to choose to be put to death – a move opponents warn trivialises the value of life.

An official report has revealed the annual number of euthanasia cases across all age groups has multiplied almost fivefold in ten years. The practice was legalised in Belgium in 2003 – a year after the Netherlands. In 2007, 495 Belgians chose to die this way.

But latest figures reveal there were 2,028 such deaths in the country in 2016 and 2,309 in 2017 – a 14 per cent year-on-year rise. Two of the children died in 2016 and one in 2017. Their names and ages were not given, but all were understood to have had cancer.

While the Netherlands does not allow children under 12 to choose death, Belgium’s decision in 2014 to extend its euthanasia laws to all minors provoked outrage in the country and internationally.
READ MORE: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7158031/Belgian-doctor-practices-euthanasia-says-doesnt-feel-like-hes-killing-patient.html?ito=email_share_article-factbox

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How Victoria’s assisted dying laws work

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The Age 18 June 2019
Victoria is on the verge of allowing terminally ill people to lawfully end their lives.

The historic law, which was passed in November 2017 after a state parliamentary inquiry into end-of-life choices, and a ministerial advisory panel on voluntary assisted dying, comes into effect on Wednesday, June 19.

While Victoria is not the first jurisdiction in the world to offer some form of assisted death, the bill – which contains 68 safeguards – has been described as the most conservative of its kind.

So how will it work?

Who can use the laws?

Voluntary assisted dying will be available only to Victorians who are over the age of 18. The patient must be capable of making sound decisions, give informed consent and communicate their decision.

They must be diagnosed with an incurable disease or a condition that causes intolerable, unrelieved suffering, and must be expected to live for fewer than six months – or no more than 12 months, for those with a neurodegenerative diagnosis.

They must have lived in Victoria for at least one year before making a first request for voluntary assisted dying, and be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

The person choosing to end their life must be the one to make the decision to access the laws and it cannot be made by anyone else on their behalf.

Having dementia is not a sufficient reason for a person to access voluntary assisted dying (the same as disability or mental illness).

A person diagnosed with dementia, however, may be eligible if they meet all of the criteria, including having decision-making ability throughout the entire process.

What are the steps to using the laws?

A terminally ill patient must make three, clear requests.

Firstly, they must make a verbal request about voluntary assisted dying to their doctor (generally, their GP). This conversation must be initiated by the patient and no one else. The doctor cannot raise the issue of assisted dying with a patient. Doctors who suggest the assisted dying scheme to patients face a professional misconduct investigation.

This doctor is called a”co-ordinating doctor” and it is their job to assess the patient to determine their eligibility for the scheme in the first instance.

Once they’ve been assessed, a patient must then make a second request to a different doctor, in the form of a written declaration, signed in the presence of two witnesses and their co-ordinating doctor.

The second doctor, generally a specialist in the person’s illness, called a “consulting medical practitioner,” will then conduct another assessment of the patient to confirm their eligibility.

Once this is complete, the patient must make a third and final verbal request to the co-ordinating doctor. This must be at least nine days after the first request (unless death is likely to occur before).

The co-ordinating doctor will then conduct a final review to certify the request and assessment process.

They will then apply for a voluntary assisted dying permit, either for self-administration or practitioner administration, depending on the patient’s circumstances.

The application is handed to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, which reviews and approves all requests for voluntary assisted dying.

The law outlines a period of 10 days between the first request to a doctor and being given the means to end life. This means that the first person to take their own lives legally in Victoria could do so on June 29.

At any stage of the process, a person who has requested access to assisted dying may change their mind and decide not to proceed.

How would the lethal drug be administered?

A small team of pharmacists at The Alfred hospital will have sole responsibility for preparing and supplying all the required drugs for the lethal substance.

The drugs needed to make the lethal dose are already legal in Australia; there will be no need to import the banned euthanasia drug pentobarbital.

Authorities made the decision to have a single point of access for the euthanasia drug rather than having it dispensed from multiple pharmacies to ensure that patients are provided with consistent information, and that unused medications are returned and destroyed.

The pharmacists will travel around the state to dispense the medication to patients. The lethal substance will be handed to patients in a locked box.

Most people will drink the dose – a liquid of about 100 millilitres (just over a third of a cup) – in their own homes at a time of their choosing.

Those ending their lives will also be given medication to relax and reduce any chance of regurgitation before they take the lethal substance, which will cause unconsciousness within minutes and a peaceful, pain-free death soon after.

Under certain circumstances, those physically incapable of swallowing will be allowed to take the substance as a lethal intravenous drip set up by a doctor.

Nobody else, including the pharmacist delivering the lethal substance, is permitted to administer the drugs.

If someone breaches the self-administration permit, they face potential life imprisonment. Anyone who induces a person to request assisted dying faces up to five years jail.

The patient must appoint a person who will return any unused medication to The Alfred if they die before taking the lethal substance, or decide not to take it.

A pharmacist can also retrieve the the unused medication and take it back to The Alfred. Unused lethal medication must be returned within 15 days of death.

What should we call it?

Language around the issue has long been a battlefield.

In framing the Victorian bill, serious consideration was given before the words “voluntary assisted dying” were chosen.

The Ministerial Advisory Panel on Voluntary Assisted Dying found there was a “significant social stigma” attached to the term “suicide'” and for this reason, determined that “assisted suicide” was not an appropriate term.

While, technically, a terminally ill person who takes a lethal drug has still died by suicide, the distinction is important, say supporters of the law, because the word carries enormous emotional weight.

Suicide, they argue, connotes a violent death, usually carried out by someone suffering from depression or a mental illness that might feasibly have been treated.

By contrast, “voluntary assisted dying” is about a decision made by a terminally ill person in full command of their mental faculties. It’s about someone who is already dying choosing to end their suffering, supporters say.

The advisory panel also ruled out “dying with dignity” on the basis that it implied only those who opted for assisted dying were taking a dignified path.

Many opponents of the Victorian bill still use the phrase “assisted suicide”, including the Catholic Church and the Australian Medical Association, which calls it “physician-assisted suicide”. (The Victorian chapter of the AMA, however, calls it “physician-assisted dying”.)

Euthanasia is a broad umbrella term for a range of different practices for ending a person’s life, some of which Victoria’s legislation doesn’t allow for.

At The Age we use the term euthanasia to refer to the issue, while we use the term assisted dying in relation to the laws.

The term euthanasia comes from the Greek word euthanatos, which can be translated as “easy death” and is defined as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease.

It is important to note, however, the word euthanasia is not written anywhere in the state’s legislation.

What checks and balances would be in place?

A Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board has been established to review each assessment that has been approved.

The board is chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme and County courts, Betty King, and has 12 other members ranging from palliative care specialists to neurologists, oncologists, pharmacists and doctors.

The board’s role is not to grant or refuse applications for voluntary assisted dying. Its purpose is to review each case retrospectively to ensure that laws haven’t been breached.

Doctors breaking the law would be likely to be quickly exposed as every assessment for euthanasia, positive or negative, will be reviewed by the board.

The board can refer breaches to the police, coroner or the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

The patient’s terminal illness will be listed as their underlying condition but the voluntary assisted dying act will be recorded as the cause of death on their death certificate and in the register.

Can doctors object to helping someone end their life?

Any health practitioner can “conscientiously object” to participating in any part of the euthanasia process. But they would not be allowed to impede someone’s access to the regime.

The Victorian Department of Health has established a training body capable of preparing medical specialists wanting to assist voluntary dying. All doctors who want to be part of the scheme must undertake this training.

To date, about 100 doctors including GPs, cancer specialists and palliative care clinicians have undertaken mandatory, specialist training ahead of the laws being enacted.

About a third of those doctors are from regional Victoria.

How many people are expected to apply for assisted dying?

It has been estimated that about 150 Victorians could make use of euthanasia laws each year but the state government predicts the number could be as low as 12 in the first year – experience in other places where euthanasia is legalised shows that the initial take-up can be slow.

In the US state of Oregon in 1998, after a Death with Dignity Act first came into force, 24 terminally ill people took the option to end their lives. Since then, the number has risen steadily, peaking at 218 deaths in 2015.

The Northern Territory parliament passed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, to allow assisted dying, in 1995 but it was overturned in 1997. Under the short-lived legislation, four people, including two terminally ill patients from NSW and South Australia, ended their lives.

Queensland and Western Australia are now considering enacting voluntary assisted dying legislation.
https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/how-victoria-s-assisted-dying-laws-work-20190523-p51qeb.html

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Elder abuse ‘rampant’ and ‘all-hidden’ in New Zealand

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Stuff co.nz 18 June 2019
Family First Comment: NZ Medical Association chair, Dr Kate Baddock, recently said “Apparently approximately 50% of those who choose euthanasia in The Netherlands do so because they feel obligated to die. They feel that their continued existence is a burden, either financial or emotional, to their family, to society at large. And so they choose euthanasia, even though they don’t want to die.” 
#rejectassistedsuicide

Elder abuse can be financial, psychological, physical or sexual, and can affect men and women regardless of their race, religion, class or sexual orientation. It could be verbal harassment or humiliation, preventing decision-making, isolation or over-medication.

However, Peterson-Ihaka said that abuse against elderly people is mostly financial.

Unlike in Bill’s case, more than 75 per cent of abuse against an elderly person is by a family member, often a child or grandchild.

A common threat is that the elderly person won’t have access to their grandchildren, unless they comply with the child’s demands.

Last year, Age Concern’s elder abuse services received over 2200 referrals across the country – two thirds of which were confirmed cases of abuse or neglect.

Anyone concerned can call the 24 hour helpline – 0800 326 6865 – to be directed to the nearest Elder Abuse Response Service.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/113353630/elder-abuse-rampant-and-allhidden-in-new-zealand

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The Netherlands Didn’t Actually Euthanize Noa Pothoven, But Letting Her Kill Herself Wasn’t Much Better

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City Journal 5 June 2019
Family First Comment: Remember the Dutch 17y/o euthanasia case that wasn’t euthanasia? That doesn’t make things any better.
“…But even allowing a 17-year-old girl to dehydrate herself to death, in front of others, makes one feel uncomfortable, to say the least. She was refused euthanasia earlier because those who would have been responsible for killing her felt that she was too young: her brain, and her character, were not fully formed. Were her brain and character nevertheless formed enough for her to kill herself in front of others? In France, those who watched her die would have been guilty of a criminal offense.”
Euthanasia changes attitudes. Don’t go there.

If I were Dutch, I would not be altogether reassured by the ease with which it was widely (though mistakenly) believed that a 17-year-old girl named Noa Pothoven was put to death by doctors because of her unbearable mental suffering, rather than the fact that she was actually allowed to refuse all food and drink until she died of dehydration. The first was believed because putting a depressed teenager to death is the kind of thing many people have come to expect of the Netherlands.

Their expectations are not the result of mere prejudice. In August 2017, a Dutch doctor published a letter about the evolution of euthanasia in the country. “In 2015,” he wrote, “92 percent of the patients who received physician assisted dying had a serious somatic disease,” from which it follows that 8 percent (or 450 persons in absolute numbers) did not. Even this number may be an underestimate, for it was based on a survey to which only 78 percent of doctors replied. Furthermore, “serious somatic disease” is not the same as “imminently fatal disease.”

Dutch law does not require that the illness from which a candidate for euthanasia is suffering be terminal or indeed physical. In 1994, a psychiatrist, Boudewijn Chabot, was tried because he had administered fatal poison to a woman who had no physical illness and, according to him, no psychiatric disorder, either, but who simply wanted to die to rejoin her two sons, who had died before her. The lower courts exonerated him; the supreme court found him guilty but did not punish him, and allowed him to continue in practice. The only reason that he was found guilty of anything was that he had failed to consult a second doctor over his decision—a second opinion not being much of a safeguard, considering how doctors tend to defer to one another’s clinical wisdom. Interestingly, Chabot has himself since become alarmed at the looseness with which the legal criteria are now being applied, the routinization of the decision-making, the rubber-stamping for death.

In other words, the initial story about Pothoven was credible, though it turned out to be false. But even allowing a 17-year-old girl to dehydrate herself to death, in front of others, makes one feel uncomfortable, to say the least. She was refused euthanasia earlier because those who would have been responsible for killing her felt that she was too young: her brain, and her character, were not fully formed. Were her brain and character nevertheless formed enough for her to kill herself in front of others? In France, those who watched her die would have been guilty of a criminal offense.

By all accounts, her end was peaceful. Here she performed a valuable service: she successfully demonstrated that euthanasia is not necessary. All that is necessary for a person wishing to die to achieve his aim is to stop drinking for a relatively short time, and for his wishes to be respected. Proper care will ensure that he or she is comfortable.

Pothoven’s unbearable personal suffering was caused, she said, by the sexual abuse that she had suffered when she was 11, and rape by two men when she was 14. Certainly, she suffered severely from anorexia nervosa, on one occasion requiring hospitalization to save her from organ failure. But until very late in the day, said her mother, “We didn’t get it. Noa is sweet, beautiful, smart, social and always cheerful. How is it possible that she wants to die?”
READ MORE: https://www.city-journal.org/euthanasia-noa-pothoven

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