Aruna Shanbaug can live (part 1)

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Aruna's nurses celebrating the decision 

Aruna Shanbaug, the brain-damaged woman who has lived in a Mumbai hospital for 38 years, should continue to live, the Supreme Court of India has ruled. Since the hospital staff are effectively her “next of kin”, a request for euthanasia made on Aruna’s behalf by activist Pinki Virani was turned down.

The nurses at King Edward Memorial Hospital had fiercely resisted an attempt by an activist to remove Aruna’s feeding tube so that she can starve to death. The justices praised their dedication in their judgement.

“The whole country must learn the meaning of dedication and sacrifice from the KEM hospital staff. In 38 years Aruna has not developed one bed sore,” the judges said. They praised “their noble spirit and outstanding, exemplary and unprecedented dedication in taking care of Aruna for so many long years. Every Indian… click here to read whole article and make comments



Plans for Australian euthanasia clinics

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Although the passage of euthanasia laws in the Australian states of South Australia and Tasmanis is far from certain, activist Dr Philip Nitschke is already making plans. He wants to set up a euthanasia clinic in Adelaide or Hobart as soon as it is legalised.

"There is a need for a service to provide end of life expertise for those considering using the new legislation. This is a specialist area where few doctors have expertise," Dr Nitschke said on Sunday.

Dr Nitschke is the only doctor in Australia who has actually euthanased people legally – under the Northern Territory’s short-lived right-to-die legislation in the late 90s. He is the founder and director of Exit International, a voluntary euthanasia group based in Darwin. 

He believes that the clinic would operate on an out-patient basis. "It is unlikely that those seeking an assisted suicide following the Australian legislation will… click here to read whole article and make comments



Feeding tubes removed from Rwandan grandmother in US nursing home

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Rachel Nyirahabiyambere with two of her grandchildrenA court-appointed guardian has removed feeding tubes from a 58-year-old comatose grandmother in a Maryland nursing home who has no health insurance and whose children cannot afford to pay for hospice care.

In the wake of the controversy over “death panels”, the case of Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, a Rwandan immigrant, could be even more politically explosive than the death of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo.

Ms Nyirahabiyambere, her husband and her six children fled from Rwanda in 1994 to the Congo. The family was scattered and her husband died, but two sons, Jerome and Gratien Ndagijimana, were allowed to enter the United States as refugees. They worked hard and sponsored their mother as a legal permanent resident in 2008. She found a job with health insurance in Buffalo. But when her eldest son moved to Virginia, she quit… click here to read whole article and make comments



India’s Terri Schiavo awaits her fate

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The fate of an Indian Terri Schiavo will be decided on Monday by the Supreme Court in Delhi. Aruna Shanbaug, a Mumbai nurse, has been in a coma since 1973, after she was strangled and sexually assaulted in a hospital ward. Her own family abandoned her a few days later. Her fiancé, a doctor, also moved on after a couple of years. The hospital nursing staff have since been taking care of her ever since.

Writer and activist Pinki Virani, the author of a book about Ms Shanbaug’s plight, has asked authorities to order the hospital to remove her feeding tube so that she can starve to death.

The Indian government opposes the application. “Withdrawal or withholding of food to Aruna Shanbaug would be cruel, reprehensible and lead to pain and suffering. It cannot be allowed,” attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati told the court. “This is unknown to Indian law and is contrary to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Philip Nitschke is a joke. Seriously.

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Jim Carrey. Ricky Gervais. Adam Sandler. Steve Martin. All well-known comedians. How about Philip Nitschke?

Apparently he is contemplating a career as a stand-up comedian. During his recent tour of Wales, he told the newspaper Wales on Sunday, “There is a proposal to do some sort of stage stand-up comedy. It will be comedy associated with the issues of death and dying directed more at entertainment, that’s what we are looking at.”

Hmmm. “You heard the one about the Australian doctor who says to his patient: how are you going today?” Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Pretty hot.


Nitschke says that he may even do his act in drag, like another Aussie comedian whom he admires, Barry Humphries. Humphries made his over-the-top portrayal of Dame Edna Everage a huge success in Australia and the UK. But Nitschke also admires the… click here to read whole article and make comments



Most locked-in patients are happy, study finds

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What medical condition would definitely make life not worth living? At the top of most people’s lists would be locked-in syndrome: complete paralysis and inability to communicate other than by blinking. It was made famous in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a book and a film about French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Surprisingly, though, the largest-ever survey of chronic LIS patients has found that only 28% were unhappy. Very few of them were interested in euthanasia – only 7% -- or had suicidal thoughts.

The author of the study in the new journal BMJ Open, Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege in Belgium, admits that his sample size was small – only 65 patients in France. But his work has confirmed other research into how people adapt to catastrophic misfortune. It also suggested ways to care for these patients. For… click here to read whole article and make comments



Nitschke shunned in Britain and Ireland

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The Australian assisted suicide enthusiast Philip Nitschke (aka Dr Death), of Exit International, is again visiting the British Isles but his tour is not going at all well. As of February 20 two of his five meetings have been cancelled whilst protesters outnumbered attendees at a third.

His workshop on how to commit suicide, scheduled for the Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club in Eastbourne, East Sussex on 21 February was canceled by the club. A spokesman said that management had not realized the ‘significance’ of the event and wanted to avoid the publicity of ‘something this controversial.’

A second event, due to be held at the Community Arts Forum in Belfast on 19 February was also cancelled after it was learnt that Nitschke planned to demonstrate his new ‘deliverance voluntary euthanasia machine’. Centre representative Heather Floyd said the centre was ‘not suitable… click here to read whole article and make comments



A year of living dangerously in Oregon

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In January, Oregon released its data from 2010 regarding the so-called “Death with Dignity Act.”   The number of people opting for “physician-assisted suicide” (PAS) has steadily increased since its inception in 1998.  That year, 23 persons asked for and received prescriptions for life-ending medications.  Fifteen of those died from the lethal dose of medication; 6 died from their illnesses, and 2 survived at least into 1999.  Last year, a total of 65 people died through PAS in Oregon.  At least, that was the report as of 7 January 2011.  The data set is often amended in the following year due to a variety of reasons, including the fact that not everyone who obtains a prescription for such medication uses it quickly, or even in the year it is prescribed.  So the full number of persons opting for PAS in Oregon during 2010 may not be known until 2012.

It is important to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Report on shameful care of UK elderly could inflame euthanasia debate

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A harrowing report on care for the elderly has accused the UK hospital system of lacking care and compassion and failing to meet even the most basic standards of care. Ann Abraham, the Health Service Ombudsman for England, detailed the treatment of 10 people.

“The investigations [she writes] reveal an attitude – both personal and institutional – which fails to recognise the humanity and individuality of the people concerned and to respond to them with sensitivity, compassion and professionalism. The reasonable expectation that an older person or their family may have of dignified, pain-free end of life care, in clean surroundings in hospital is not being fulfilled.”

The stories do not make easy reading. Nine of the ten patients died before the report was published. Basic needs – cleanliness, sufficient food, nutritious food, water, wound dressing – were often neglected, especially if the patient was confused.… click here to read whole article and make comments



Assisted suicide battle moves to Idaho

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With physician-assisted suicide legal in neighbouring Washington and Oregon, Idaho legislators have introduced a bill to ban it in their state. It would make assisting another person in a suicide (or an attempted suicide) a crime. The state attorney-general says that Idaho does not have a statute banning assisted suicide.

However, the legislation also offers protections to health care workers who follow a patient’s end-of-life directive. It also protects workers who offer medication to relieve  pain or discomfort, as long as the medication isn’t intentionally given to cause death.

The Idaho Medical Association supports the bill. Susie Pouliot, the group’s CEO, says that that Idaho physicians don’t support assisted suicide.

The head of legal affairs for Compassion & Choices, the leading euthanasia lobby in the US, Kathryn Tucker, is an Idaho resident. She claims that the bill would be “an infringement on an essential human… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Careful! is MercatorNet's blog about end-of-life issues. We respect the dignity of each person from the beginning of life to its natural end. Leave your comments at the foot of our articles. The more the better! Write to us at

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