Unclear end-of-life concepts cloud euthanasia debate

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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.

"The… click here to read whole article and make comments



51 die in first full year of Washington’s right-to-die law

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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."

Critics of the law, however, complained that exact figures are papering over… click here to read whole article and make comments



Senior doctors slam South Australia’s euthanasia bill

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A number of senior doctors from around Australia severely criticised South Australia’s proposed euthanasia legislation today, describing it as a dangerous bill which will place vulnerable patients at risk. In a letter to SA’s parliamentarians, Doctors Opposed to Euthanasia argue that elderly people would be pressured into dying and that the bill would inevitably lead to involuntary euthanasia.

“It is particularly worrisome that the current bill would permit a medical professional to defend themselves from prosecution by arguing that their patient had merely implied they wanted assisted suicide…”

The Criminal Law Consolidation (Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2011 has fewer safeguards than previous bills, they argue.

“The Key’s Bill provides no protection for patients who feel that life has become intolerable, even though that belief may be fuelled by depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. Requests for euthanasia or assisted… click here to read whole article and make comments



A UK suicide shows that the slippery slope is alive and well

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According to the Sunday Times, an 84-year-old British woman committed suicide at a Swiss facility last month because she did not want to die of old age. Nan Maitland (pictured), who suffered from arthritis but was active and not terminally ill, left a note saying she wished to escape the 'long period of decline, sometimes called "prolonged dwindling", that so many people unfortunately experience before they die'.

Maitland, who was separated with three children, was a joint founder of SOARS (Society for Old Age Rational Suicide), an organisation that campaigns to allow elderly people who are not terminally ill to receive assistance to end their lives.  She was accompanied on her trip by Liz Nichols of FATE (Friends at the End) and Michael Irwin, the leading… click here to read whole article and make comments



Reasons to thank Philip Nitschke

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Now that’s a headline direct from the ‘now that I’ve got your attention’ files!

I never thought I’d be giving a bouquet to ‘doctor death’. After all, there’s nothing that he has said or done in the public eye that I find the least bit agreeable (except, perhaps, the recent picture of his visit with his mother).

But Dr. Nitschke has in fact, done us a favour by his grandstanding about setting up  a ‘killing centre’ in Adelaide to take advantage of what he no doubt hopes will be the successful passage of the Key bill through the SA parliament.

I find it difficult to take Nitschke seriously. While I was in Hobart he was pulling the same stunt down there and he’s also tried it in the UK. You may recall that he once suggested that a ‘death ship’ could sail outside Australian territorial waters… click here to read whole article and make comments



Video wrap-up of Australia’s debate

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This short feature from Australia's ABC is a good broad-brush sketch of the issues and personalities in the local euthanasia debate.

click here to read whole article and make comments



Euthanasia makes it easier to have a customised funeral

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If you are up for some spine-chilling excitement, take a look at this video clip from Flanders News, in Belgium. A few days ago, a Belgian couple were euthanased together because they could not imagine life without one another. He was 83 and had cancer. She was 78 and suffered from old age. A euthanasia expert explains that euthanasia is becoming normal in Belgium – no normal that it featured on the couple’s memorial card. Many people mistakenly believe that euthanasia is only for the terminally. Wrong! he says cheerfully. It’s a beautiful choice for everyone who feels that life has nothing more to offer.~ Flanders News, March 26

click here to read whole article and make comments



South Australia: “legislative fatigue” sets in

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The South Australian parliament is once again preparing to vote on euthanasia. But this time – the third in two years – there have been allegations of sly manoeuvring to push the bill through.

Jim Wallace, of the Australian Christian Lobby, says that the bill’s supporters are describing it as advanced palliative care. But the presence of Australia’s best-known euthanasia activist complicates this view:

“If, as Premier Mike Rann says, the bill is really about palliative care, why is Australia’s best known euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke stalking Adelaide looking for a site to set up Australia’s first death clinic?”

“I don’t think anyone in their right mind would send granny to a ‘palliative care’ clinic run by Dr Nitschke. Euthanasia involves the deliberate killing of a patient using a lethal substance and this bill decriminalises this practice. This is very different from… click here to read whole article and make comments



California company selling helium hoods for suicides

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Some Oregon legislators want a law to ban the sale of helium hoods, a new device produced by a two-person company in California… click here to read whole article and make comments



Nitschke plans suicide clinic for Adelaide

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The prospect of opening a suicide clinic in his home town of Adelaide has brought out the hidden human side of euthanasia activist Dr Philip Nitschke. Today’s Australian featured a tender picture of Dr Nitschke holding the hands of his 90-year-old mother Gweneth Nitschke. She is a fan of his project to open up a clinic where people can access information and equipment about how to kill themselves.

"I wholeheartedly agree with the need for a specialist clinic if the laws change. I have seen friends suffer. If I found myself in a terminal situation like that, I would like to be able to choose what I wanted to do. I expect to live to see a clinic open that helps people with the right to choose to die. I hope to see that day, and I hope it comes quickly."

Dr Nitschke is searching for… 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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