German doctors set to support assisted suicide

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The professional association for German doctors may soon relax its disapproval of physician assisted suicide. President of the Bundesärztekammer (BAK, or National Medical Association), Jörg-Diettrich Hoppe, says that new guidelines are being finalised and will be published in the first half of the year.

Some doctors oppose change, but the tendency is clear, says Dr Hoppe. Current guidelines state that if a doctor helps someone commit suicide, he is acting unethically, and therefore unprofessionally. This will be replaced by the notion that such assistance does not belong in the medical repertoire.

Since assisted suicide is legal in Germany, this means that it will be up to each doctor to decide whether he or she will participate.

Support for physician assisted suicide seems to be growing. In June last year Germany’s highest court ruled that it was not a criminal offense to cut off life-sustaining treatment of… click here to read whole article and make comments



French Senate rejects euthanasia

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Francois Fillon 

After a passionate debate the French Senate has scuppered a bill allowing physician-assisted suicide. The margin was convincing – 170 to 142.

The opposition of the prime minister, François Fillon, seems to have been an important element in the result. In an article in Le Monde in late January, Mr Fillon warned against haste in a thoughtful speech (poorly translated in great haste by the editor):

“This scheme does not offer the necessary guarantees. The proliferation of definitions of the end of life and procedures introduces ambiguities and sources of legal uncertainty. The implementation of the act of euthanasia is itself surrounded by conditions that are imprecise. The proposed legislation provides no explicit obligation to consult with or even to inform the patient's family.

“Most importantly, such a scheme seems to be very dangerous. In the proposed legislation, control of actions… click here to read whole article and make comments



Euthanasia doco wins prestigious award

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“How to Die in Oregon,” an film about the impact of Oregon’s 1994 Death With Dignity Act, has won the prestigious Grand Jury Prize in the US Documentary Competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

It opens with cancer patient Roger Sagner drinking a lethal drug surrounded by friends and family and it includes an interview with Randy Stroup, an uninsured cancer patient who was offered death with dignity by the Oregon Health Department as a low-cost end-of-life option.

The documentary focuses on 54-year-old wife and mother Cody Curtis, who is suffering from liver cancer. After an unsuccessful 9-hour operation, she decides that she does not want to linger on as a burden on her family. Although she sets the date of her death for Memorial Day (in May), she feels reasonably well and defers it until December 7.

“The film becomes a story of this extraordinary period when she’s… click here to read whole article and make comments



Tasmania’s new premier backs euthanasia

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Lara Giddings

The new Premier of the Australian state of Tasmania has promised to back a voluntary euthanasia bill. Lara Giddings, a 38-year-old career Labor politician, has stepped into the leadership after David Bartlett resigned to spend more time with his young family.

Ms Giddings has a difficult task ahead of her as the leader of a minority Labor government in partnership with the Greens. She can only stay in office by courting them, but she also needs to ensure that her coalition partners do not continue to steal the votes of social progressives who have voted for Labor in the past. 

On her first day in office, Ms Giddings appealed to the Greens by confirming that she would support voluntary euthanasia. A private bill which proposed by one of the two Green members of her cabinet, Nick McKim, is currently before the state parliament.

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No right to assisted suicide, says European Rights Court

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There is no human right to assisted suicide, the European Court of Human Rights has declared, in a unanimous verdict.  

The background to this important judgement is in Switzerland. A 57-year-old Swiss national, Ernst G. Haas, felt that he could no longer live a dignified life after battling a serious bipolar affective disorder for 20 years. He twice attempted suicide, but then hit upon the idea of using sodium pentobarbital, a prescription-only drug. But no psychiatrist would prescribe it for him. He then asked the Swiss government for permission to obtain sodium pentobarbital without a prescription. He argued that Article 8 imposed on the State a “positive obligation” to create the conditions for suicide to be committed without the risk of failure and without pain.

Various Swiss courts refused. Mr Haas then asked 170 different psychiatrists whether they could examine him with a view to getting his hands… click here to read whole article and make comments



Dutch activists planning euthanasia clinic

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The Dutch voluntary euthanasia society (NVVE) is planning to open an eight-person clinic in 2012 where people can go to end their lives. It estimates that about 1,000 people a year would take advantage of its facilities.  It would cater for people whose doctors have refused to euthanase them. Not only people with an incurable illness, but also people with chronic psychiatric conditions and dementia would be welcome.

Reported deaths by euthanasia in the Netherlands rose 13% to 2,636 in 2009, although it is strongly suspected that there are many unreported euthanasia deaths. Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under certain conditions. The patient is supposed to be suffering unbearable pain and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required. It is not altogether clear how the proposed clinic would meet these guidelines.

The Dutch medical… click here to read whole article and make comments



Belgian doctors harvest high quality organs from euthanased patients

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A group of Belgian doctors are harvesting “high quality” organs from patients who have been euthanased. This is not a secret project, but one which they described openly at a conference organised by the Belgian Royal Medical Academy in December.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Dirk Ysebaert, Dirk Van Raemdonck, Michel Meurisse, of the University Hospitals Of Antwerp, Leuven And Liège, showed that about 20% of the 705 people who died through euthanasia (officially) in 2008 were suffering from neuromuscular disorders whose organs are relatively high quality for transplanting to other patients. This represents a useful pool of organs which could help to remedy a shortage of organs in Belgium (as everywhere else).

It is not clear from the presentation how many patients participated in their scheme. However, in a 2008 report, Belgian doctors explained that three patients had been euthanased between 2005 and 2007 and had agreed to donate… click here to read whole article and make comments



“Why do they keep children with these disabilities alive?”

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Pablo Comas, Samantha Razniak and daughter Maia before the girl's death

Is the tragic drowning of a disabled toddler in Sydney an indirect consequence of publicity given to the merits of legalised euthanasia? 

Three years ago, two-year-old Maia Comas drowned in an inflatable pool. Despite a lengthy investigation which ended this week, a coroner was still unable to decide whether her death in the beachside suburb of Curl Curl had been an accident. But he did say that the circumstances suggested “great irresponsibility" on the part of her parents.

Two months before her death, Maia was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a disorder that often leaves sufferers with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. Her parents, 36-year-old Pablo Comas and 31-year-old Samantha Razniak were shaken by the news.

Their ramshackle home was in the beachside suburb of… click here to read whole article and make comments



A son who decided dad’s time was up

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The number of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients will probably double in the United States over the next 20 years. Here’s a real life example from Connecticut of what may happen to some of them.

In September, an elderly lawyer with Alzheimer’s, George Brodigan, died at home.  Beside his bed was a half-empty bottle of rum and a copy of Derek Humphry's "Final Exit," a suicide manual. Yellow pills were found beneath his body.

Someone had obviously helped Mr Brodigan to kill himself. Police arrested his 46-year-old son Bruce, a teacher, who lives in the neighbouring state of Massachusetts. During the investigation the son lied repeatedly, police said. He denied that he was present when his father died; he denied helping in preparing the suicide; he was misleading about the use of medications. He helped his father write a suicide note and did not discourage him from acting. He intentionally waited until he was sure that… click here to read whole article and make comments



Too heavy a burden?

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We’ll have to wait to see what happens in this case from France, but it shows what can happen when parents are pushed to the limit in caring for handicapped children.

The father of a six-year-old girl was arrested early in January in a small town near Nemours after suffocating her.  The girl had multiple disabilities, was confined to a wheelchair and had difficulty speaking. The mother was suffering from depression. Apparently the man told police that the girl had become too heavy a burden to bear.

Although we cannot sit in judgement in such cases, the story suggests that the couple had inadequate social support from extended family or the government. It is curious, too, that in this, and similar cases, parents would rather kill their own child than place them in a government institution. It’s an odd way of showing mercy. ~ AFP, Jan 5

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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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