Lord Falconer’s (image above) Assisted Dying Bill, which aims to legalise assisted suicide for mentally competent adults with less than six months to live and a 'clear and settled intention to end their lives', had its first reading in the House of Lords last May. It is due to return for a second reading (debate stage) in Spring 2014.
In an interview for Pulse magazine recently, Lord Falconer was asked if GPs were likely to get into trouble with the police for authorising assisted suicide under his proposed bill should it ever become law. His answer was quite revealing.
He said that the bill would make it ‘very difficult’ for GPs to face any proceedings in court as long as it was ‘their genuine view’ that this was the patient’s position. He said: ‘Of course they have to give their genuine view, and of course they…
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Belgium is mooting an unprecedented law that would allow the voluntary euthanasia of children.
Voluntary euthanasia is intentionally ending a life, with a patient’s consent. Different forms of this are legal for adults in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, although there are differences in the grounds on which it is allowed, for example if someone is terminally ill.
In Belgium, doctors can actively take part in someone’s death. But misconceptions about voluntary euthanasia make extending this to children a bad proposal. Here are four of them:
Euthanasia’s the only way to end suffering
This is untrue. Given modern palliative care (which is likely to be available in any European jurisdiction in which active euthanasia is proposed), there is simply no need for euthanasia. Pain and much-feared symptoms such as choking can all be controlled effectively.
As reported earlier, following 10 hours of grueling and emotionally-charged debate, the latest euthanasia & assisted suicide bill in Tasmania was defeated 13 votes to 11 in the State's Lower House on the evening of Thursday the 17th of October.
This bill had been foreshadowed for some time, (going back more than two years) had been the subject of a consultation (of sorts) in March this year and then suddenly introduced on the last day of the winter sitting, providing only two weeks effective notice of the debate.
This was strategically brilliant on the part of the proposers, Premier Lara Giddings and Nick McKim MP. Their support wing, the Tasmanian Dying with Dignity group, most likely had the bill, their talking points and media strategy planned well in advance of when the bill first introduced.
This op-ed appeared in today's issue of The Mercury, the main newspaper in Hobart, Tasmania, where members of Parliament are gearing up for a debate on euthanasia. It was a companion piece to an article in favour of legalisation by Emeritus Professor Colin Wendell-Smith, convenor of Doctors for Dying with Dignity and co-convenor of Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia.
As Tasmanian MPs ponder legalising voluntary euthanasia as a remedy for unbearable suffering, they should take a close look at the situation in Belgium, where it has been legal since 2002.
For starters, at this very moment their colleagues in Brussels are pondering whether to legalise euthanasia for children. Are Belgian five-year-olds really capable of voluntarily choosing to die?
In February Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings and the leader of the Greens, Nick McKim, released a discussion paper on euthanasia seeking submissions and input from the community on a draft proposal for legislation they referred to as voluntary assisted dying (VAD). Their intention to work towards this legislative change had been originally announced in mid-2010.
“Any debate on voluntary assisted dying is going to be difficult, but as elected representatives we believe it is our responsibility to take on the challenging questions of reform to ensure that our laws in this area are contemporary, transparent and in-line with community expectations.”
We understand that there were in excess of 900 responses to the discussion paper. The closing date for submissions was March 15. Giddings and McKim gave no undertaking in the paper that they would produce a summary of the responses findings and with the bill to be…
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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.