Political language -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ~ George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language", 1946
For over a year now, the Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings MP, and her lead-coalition partner Nick McKim MP have been talking about introducing a discussion paper on euthanasia and assisted suicide as a preface to tabling legislation.
Anyone who follows Australian politics and politics in general knows the old saying: never run an inquiry if you don’t know the outcome. Sure, it’s a cynical view – but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that politicians – at least sometimes – take this as holy writ.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying paper (hereafter VAD) is a prime example.
Just-released statistics for Dutch euthanasia in 2011 show that the number of psychiatric patients who died has skyrocketed from 2 in 2010 to 13 last year. Euthanasia for people with dementia also rose substantially, to 49.
But euthanasia of all kinds rose. In 2011 there were 3,695 cases of euthanasia, an increase of 18% over the previous year. The figure is double the number in 2006. There were 4 cases of medical negligence, according to the report. One is being investigated by the public prosecutor.
Nicole Visee, the secretary general of the national euthanasia commission, told the media that she did not understand why numbers had risen. it could be due to better reporting by doctors, more deaths from terminal illness with the ageing population, or changes in ethical views.
Congratulations to the Tasmanian Government for their announcements this week of an initiative to fight Elder Abuse in the island state. The 12 month project funded by the State Government to the tune of $120,000 will attempt to gauge the extent of the problem.
This mirrors similar concerns being raised in New Zealand where Age Concern, Marlborough (northern part of the South Island) is adding a specialized staff member to its ranks fighting elder abuse after receiving more than 100 calls relating to the issue last year. Marlborough community support worker, Helen North said that elder abuse was “like the elephant in the room, nobody wants to talk about it.”
Ms North gave a comprehensive definition of the problem: Elder abuse wasn't just physical, but could involve taking financial advantage of an older person, not listening and over-riding their choices, threats of abandonment and taking over their property, she said.
The lower house of the Swiss parliament has declined to tighten controls on assisted suicide. MPs felt that self-regulation by groups like Exit and Dignitas was enough.
Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said that reform was not needed because the number of foreigners dying in Switzerland had actually declined in recent years, from 199 in 2006 to 97 in 2010. Most come from Germany, France or Britain.
"It's about the question of dignity at the end of one's life. In the end each person can only decide on this dignity for him or herself. It's about questions of self-determination," she told the media.
The vote in parliament supports last year’s referendum in Zurich when voters rejected proposed bans on assisted suicide and "suicide tourism". Assisted suicide has been allowed in Switzerland since 1941 if aided by a non-physician who has no vested interest in the death.
No doubt about it: Belgium is the place to be for creative applications of legalised euthanasia.
Last year Belgian transplant surgeons revealed that they had harvested organs from four people who were voluntarily euthanased. Now it appears that one prisoner, a rapist-murderer, has already died after voluntary euthanasia and another has requested it.
A man identified as Frank V.D.B, who had spent 20 years in prison for two murders and rapes, died recently. The date of the euthanasia is not clear from media reports, but it took place outside the prison. It only became known because it was revealed by a politician, Senator Louis Ide, who was complaining about the lack of social services in Belgian jails. He seems to have been tipped off by a prison official.
The roll out of Exit International and Dr Philip Nitschke’s latest project, the provision of kits that include a nitrogen cylinder to bring about death by suffocation, should ring alarm bells with the Australian public and regulatory authorities. His comments in the Herald Sun and Dennis Shanahan’s article in The Australian last Friday, leave a great deal unsaid. There are many questions in need of answers.
In the public interest, he needs to come clean on some pressing questions to do with public safety and the rule of law.
How does the provision of such kits by mail order deal with the physical, emotional and mental state of the individual user? Does Dr Nitschke conduct a consultation with every applicant? Does he know them personally, or is this simply the logical extension of his belief that all adults should have the right to kill themselves at any age and for any…
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P.D. James may have been a famous writer in the Anglo world but her Observer interview about becoming a nonagenarian seemed incredibly shallow for someone who should have acquired the wisdom of age. Or so it seemed to this lesser “generian” (to coin a new word).
I was quickly reminded of something I had read only the day before. It was one of those articles probably deemed unworthy of finding its way into the English language press, but the message was germane.
A Sardinian family found entry into the Guinness Book of Records as the “longest living family in the world,” consisting of nine siblings whose collective ages totaled 818 years.
News from Tasmanian Premier Lara Gidding's website talks about the launch of the Tasmanian Elder Abuse helpline. An undoubtedly worthwhile initiative, the helpline is set against a background where, as the media release observes: “It is estimated up to 4200 older Tasmanians suffer physical, emotional verbal or financial abuse at the hands of someone close to them.” This is set to increase statistically as Tasmania moves towards a peak population cohort of over-65s in 2021, totalling one in four Tasmanians.
The Department of Health and Human Services document, Protecting Older Tasmanians from Abuse describes Elder Abuse, defines its topic: “Abuse of older people is a single or repeated act occurring within a relationship where there is an implication of trust, which causes harm to an older person.” This can include physical, psychological/emotional, financial, sexual and social abuse as well as intentional or unintentional neglect. The department further wisely advises:
Fifty-eight-year-old Tony Nicklinson became paralysed after a massive stroke in 2005 and can only communicate by blinking. He describes his life as a “living nightmare". Another man, a 47-year-old known only as Martin, also lost his case to end his life with medical help.
Lord Justice Toulson said: "A decision to allow their claims would have consequences far beyond the present cases. To do as Tony wants, the court would be making a major change in the law. It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place. Under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide."
NOTE: Some details in this story have been corrected after clarification by Ludwig Minelli, the head of Dignitas
The Swiss group Dignitas has filed a complaint against the Zurich prosecutor’s office for interrupting an assisted suicide. On August 2, two people were scheduled to kill themselves at a Dignitas clinic. The first, at 9am, went according to the book. However, at noon a 67-year-old woman suffering from a genetic disease who weighed only 35 kilos encountered difficulties.
Normal procedures were followed. The woman drank a drug dissolved in a glass of water to prevent vomiting and 30 minutes later she began drinking a lethal dose of barbiturates. According to Dignitas, most patients fall asleep after 10 minutes and then become comatose and finally die of respiratory arrest within two hours. However this woman fell asleep before she had consumed a standard dose of the barbiturates. Two hours…
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