Last week’s headline in the South Australian Advertiser: “Bill to allow euthenasia (sic) in limited circumstances” looks likely to fail in Parliamentwas a welcome, if not entirely true, statement. The bill in question, Steph Key’s Criminal Law Consolidation (Medical Defences—End Of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill, has indeed taken some heavy blows of late. I’ve reported before of the doctor’s group publicly opposing the bill and the Law Society expressing their reservations. Into the mix Dr. Nitschke’s interventions seem to have played against the bill and the rushed second reading vote (later rescinded) must surely have added to MPs’ reservations.
Last Thursday, when the debate resumed and the earlier vote was rescinded five MPs spoke in succession against the bill which provided the impetus for the Advertiser’s headline.
An incredible story reported in this week's press underscores yet again why we never should legalise euthanasia. It is in fact a bittersweet story, because it could have ended up with such a horrible outcome. Instead it was a delightful and joyous outcome. The story concerns an Australian woman who was reported to be brain dead, and was about to go six feet under, were it not for the intervention of her concerned husband. Here is how the story goes:
Recent news in respect to court proceedings against Mr. David Scott Mathers for the assisted suicide of his partner, Eva Griffith in July 2009, deserve scrutiny; as do comments from Dr. Nitschke and from Michael Duffy in the Sydney Morning Herald.
First it needs to be noted that Mr. Mathers was convicted of manslaughter. The criminal code of NSW was upheld; there was no ‘judicial activism’ in that decision. The judge sought fit, in the circumstances, to suspend the custodial sentence and Mr. Mathers was released. Sentences are always open to public debate and discussion. Justice Hall’s decision to suspend the sentence was made on compassionate grounds in what were incredibly difficult circumstances including Mathers’ own depressive illness. Some…
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The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have both reported on the tragic story of a British couple in their 80s who died in a suicide pact at their home in Victoria Australia last Thursday. Don Flounders, 81, suffered from mesothelioma, which is an incurable form of lung cancer and his 88-year-old wife Iris, who was not suffering from a terminal illness, decided she did not want to live without him. The couple made no secret of their intention to die together and travelled to Mexico in 2008 to buy the drug they need for a controlled death.
A video from the couple has been posted on YouTube explaining their intentions. They killed themselves after receiving advice from Philip Nitschke, a dangerous self-publicist and extremist who is well known for promoting suicide amongst elderly people.
I see that staff of Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, are planning to set up the UK's first helpline aimed at speeding the terminally ill towards 'a good death'. The free phone line, is to be set up under the auspices of DID's sister organisation Compassion in Dying, a registered charity. The two groups are intimately entwined. Compassion in Dying’s chief executive is Sarah Wootton, a former abortion rights campaigner, who is also heads up Dignity in Dying. The organisation is run from Dignity in Dying’s Office and is manned by DID staff. DID patrons serve on its board.
Revelations this week that a UK company that produces educational videos for school children has included in its production vision of Dr. Nitschke’s ‘death machine’, explanations on how it works and footage from his workshops explaining his other suicide methods has shocked even pro-euthanasia advocates in the UK.
The Daily Mail report suggests that children as young as 14 years of age have seen the video sparking angry responses from pro-life groups and church leaders who described the video as an ‘invitation to commit suicide’.
At the same time the BBC is scheduling a program by euthanasia advocate Sir Terry Pratchett that features the death of a UK man in the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.
Dr Diane E. Meier is one of America’s leading palliative care physicians. She is Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and is the recipient of numerous awards. She was once an advocate of assisted suicide, but has changed her mind. Here are some remarks she made last month at a community seminar in Vermont.
Questioner:If we had a fully implemented palliative care model in this country, working as we think it should be working. . .Is there a need for policies . . . such as “Death with Dignity”? Is there a correlation or relationship between those two, – some people would say, you don’t need Death with Dignity if you have a good palliative care model. I was curious as to your thoughts on that.
Nurses are the front line of health care so their views on euthanasia matter a lot. That’s why it was so surprising to read an editorial in the Australian Nursing Journal by the president of the Australian Nursing Federation, Coral Levett, which endorses it wholeheartedly. It is a personal endorsement, but since her union has 200,000 members, her personal views are likely to influence policy-making within the Australian Labor Party, and even in the Gillard government.
And it was even more surprising when I discovered that the editorial was based upon a Powerpoint presentation by the vice-president of NSW Dying With Dignity, Sara Edelman.
A genuine public debate on "legalising euthanasia" can only happen after a clear distinction is made between assisted suicide and euthanasia and the withholding, refusal, or withdrawal of life-sustaining measures, says a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) law academic.
Dr Andrew McGee, whose article on the subject has been published in the international journal, Legal Studies: Journal for the Society of Legal Scholars, said the preparation of a new private members bill for voluntary euthanasia recently announced by the Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings, may not reflect public support for such a bill, because the surveys on which the assessment of public opinion was based were flawed.
"It has been claimed that a survey showed 80 percent of people in Tasmania are in favour of euthanasia, but the Parliamentary report on the bill in which these findings are presented itself concedes that the wording of the survey was confused," Dr McGee said.
Fifty-one people have died in the first full year under Washington state’s Death with Dignity Act. Figures released by the state health department show that 68 physicians wrote life-ending prescriptions for 87 patients in 2010. Of these 72 died: 51 from the medication and 15 died of their illnesses. Another 15 patients were still alive. In 6 deaths, it was unclear whether the patients had taken the drug.
"There are no surprises here," said Robb Miller, executive director of Compassion & Choices of Washington, a leading euthanasia group. "We are seeing a steady increase in the number of participating physicians and a continuation of a very small percentage of dying patients who use the law. About one-tenth of 1% of all people who die in Washington elect to self-administer life-ending medication. It's a very, very small number."
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