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April 16, 2014

PET Scans Offer Clues on Vegetative States

(New York Times) – A new study has found that PET scans may help answer these wrenching questions. It found that a significant number of people labeled vegetative had received an incorrect diagnosis and actually had some degree of consciousness and the potential to improve. Previous studies using electroencephalogram machines and M.R.I. scanners have also found signs of consciousness in supposedly vegetative patients.

The Changing Legal Climate for Physician Aid in Dying

(JAMA) – While once widely rejected as a health care option, physician aid in dying is receiving increased recognition as a response to the suffering of patients at the end of life. With aid in dying, a physician writes a prescription for life-ending medication for an eligible patient. Following the recommendation of the American Public Health Association, the term aid in dying rather than “assisted suicide” is used to describe the practice. In this Viewpoint, we describe the changing legal climate for physician aid in dying occurring in several states.

April 11, 2014

Deconstructing Dignity: A Critique of the Right-to-Die Debate, by Scott Cutler Shershow

(The Times Higher Education) – This is a highly topical book, in view of the intense debates taking place in many countries about the possible legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia (for example in Canada and France) or the modification of existing laws (for example in Belgium, where the euthanasia law was recently extended to minors). However, its title is slightly misleading: although Scott Cutler Shershow devotes a lot of attention to suicide, this analysis is insufficiently used as a starting point for discussing assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. The discussion on euthanasia is limited to involuntary euthanasia as practised, for example, by the Nazis.

April 8, 2014

New Documentary Opens Conversation about Death

(The Globe and Mail) – “My name is Cindy Cowan. I have late-stage ovarian cancer and I would like to have the choice in how I end my life.” Those words are spoken early in The Trouble with Dying (Vision TV, 10 p.m.), a terrific, thought-provoking new documentary about assisted suicide. Vision calls it “hard-hitting.” It is also fair and moving and guaranteed to make you think and rethink your impressions about the issue.

April 7, 2014

Teacher Died at Dignitas Because She Couldn’t Bear Modern Life: Healthy Spinster’s Despair at Fast Food, Email and Lack of Humanity

(Daily Mail) – A retired art teacher committed suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland after she grew weary of the pace of modern life and how technology was changing society. The 89-year-old felt that her failing health, as well as her belief that people were becoming ‘robots’ attached to their gadgets, gave her little reason to live. The woman, who wanted to be known only as Anne, had suffered from worsening health in recent years, but was neither terminally ill nor disabled.

Jack Kevorkian’s Art on Sale

(CNN) – The painting is called “Coma.” It depicts an unconscious patient being slowly pulled into the mouth of a macabre death mask. Helpless. The death’s head resembles the opening of a CAT scan machine, a symbol of modern medical technology. It is the work of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man who bore the notorious nickname “Dr. Death.” He was a passionate advocate for allowing certain people to choose the time and manner of their own death. He claimed to have assisted in the suicides for more than 130 patients over a period of nearly 20 years.

March 28, 2014

Fictional Plotlines and Real Assisted Suicide

(The Atlantic) – The introduction of complex issues into television plots is both a driver and a reflection of cultural shifts. Once a subject gets widespread treatment in scripts, the popular conversation can take on a new urgency, giving people a common vocabulary and a common set of feelings about the characters they’ve come to care about. Now when we talk about aid in dying for those with unbearable suffering—which is legal, with certain restrictions, in five states, with legislation pending in seven more—we can think of Beadie on Girls.

March 17, 2014

Elderly Woman Evicted from Care Home Over Assisted Suicide Fears

(The Telegraph) – An 87-year-old woman was evicted from her care home because she advocated assisted suicide and staff feared they could be prosecuted if they did not stop her. Dorothy Brown, a former magistrate and lifelong supporter of a change in the law, was given notice to leave after carers came across a bottle of pills and an undated note and feared she could be about to make an attempt.

March 10, 2014

Will Belgium’s legalized child euthanasia trigger death tourism?

(Forbes) – Speculation on whether Belgium will become a new destination for what is known as “death tourism” has also been raised by representatives of political parties opposed to lifting age restrictions for medically assisted deaths. They argue that as cultural differences and moral reasons prevent most other nations from legalizing euthanasia, people will travel to countries that allow the practice. They worry that Belgium has opened its doors to death-seeking visitors.

Recession has heightened euthanaisa ‘danger’ to disabled and elderly, claims peer

(The Telegraph) – The threat to frail elderly and disabled people from relatives tempted to get rid of them under the guise of euthanasia has grown “dramatically” in the wake of the economic downturn, one of Britain’s most prominent disability campaigners has claimed. Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who suffers from a degenerative illness, issued an impassioned plea in the House of Lords against moves to further relax Britain’s laws on assisted suicide.

Angel of mercy, angel of death

(New York Times) – Figures observed through frosted glass as they engage in semi-audible conversation: That mysterious tableau, which begins Valeria Golino’s film “Honey,” defines the detached sensibility of the title character. “Honey” (“miele” in Italian) is the code name for Irene, a fiercely free-spirited woman in the shadowy business of assisted suicide. Portrayed by Jasmine Trinca, an athletic gamin with adorably crooked teeth, Irene is connected to a loose network of contacts who direct her to terminally ill clients.

March 7, 2014

Connecticut voters back assisted-suicide bill almost 2-1

(NBC Connecticut) – Connecticut voters support allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives, a Quinnipiac University poll released today finds. “Public support for allowing assisted dying in Connecticut is a very personal issue, crossing partisan, gender and age lines,” Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement.

February 27, 2014

Event: Imposed Death 2014: A Conference on Stealth Euthanasia

The First National Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Pro-life Healthcare Alliance
May 2 and 3, 2014
Minneapolis, Minnesota

See here for more information.

February 25, 2014

Man walks free after attempting to kill mother

(Independent) – A 47-year-old Waterford man has been given a suspended three-year sentence for attempting to murder his elderly mother in an attempted mercy killing, after the judge ruled that his motivation was entirely compassionate. Veronica (Vera) Vollrath (83) was pronounced dead on January 9, 2012 at Killure Bridge Nursing Home, Killure, Co Waterford. Her death was expected but her son admitted holding a pillow over her face while keeping vigil by her death bed, and the Austrian resident was charged with her murder.

February 24, 2014

Italian woman, 85, ends her life at Swiss euthanasia clinic because she was upset about losing her looks

(Daily Mail) – A healthy Italian woman paid a Swiss right-to-die clinic to take her life because she was ‘unhappy about losing her looks’. Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide. The elderly woman, who was in good mental and physical health, disappeared from her home in Arzignano, near Vicenza in northern Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going.

February 20, 2014

More educated people from wealthier areas, women, more likely to die from assisted suicide

(Medical Xpress) – Researchers in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, have conducted a study – published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology today – that shows assisted suicide is more common in women, the divorced, those living alone, the more educated, those with no religious affiliation, and those from wealthier areas.

February 17, 2014

Euthanasia: The dilemma of choice

(The Japan Times) – Euthanasia is an emotionally charged issue for people on both sides of the debate. Proponents of euthanasia argue that a person suffering from terminal illness should be given the freedom to choose how and when they die. Such discourse is given weight by the Japanese term for the practice — anrakushi, which literally means “peaceful death.” On the other hand, opponents generally argue that euthanasia is nothing short of murder, and the use of palliative care can often give a terminally ill person a more comfortable, dignified death.

Belgium surprised at international euthanasia backlash

(Reuters) – Belgian media expressed rank incomprehension over foreign criticism of the country’s extension of euthanasia to children, portraying legislation as humane and dismissing any notion of sick children being pressed to their deaths. Thursday’s vote, the first to extend such provisions to children without any age limit, passed as easily as 2002 legislation allowing euthanasia for adults that had backing from 75 percent of Belgians. It created only minor ripples of dissent in the country, but a wave of interest and fury abroad.

February 14, 2014

Barbara Mancini: Innocent of assisted suicide: Nurse accused of aiding father’s death has case thrown out

(Huffington Post) – A Pennsylvania judge threw out an assisted suicide charge Tuesday against a nurse accused of handing her 93-year-old terminally ill father a bottle of morphine, a decision that brought elation and relief to the defendant and her family one year to the day after his death. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office failed to prove a crime occurred and based its case against Barbara Mancini on speculation and guesswork, Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline L. Russell said in a 47-page opinion.

February 12, 2014

Belgium set to extend right-to-die law to children

(Washington Post) – Belgium, one of the very few countries where euthanasia is legal, is expected to take the unprecedented step this week of abolishing age restrictions on who can ask to be put to death — extending the right to children for the first time. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes — including a list of pediatricians — and everyday people who have staged noisy street protests, fearing that vulnerable children will be talked into making a final, irreversible choice.

February 11, 2014

Canada establishes ‘Death Panel’ for specific end-of-life decisions

(Medical Daily) – A recent Canadian Supreme Court ruling establishes for specific end-of-life medical decisions what American conservatives refer to derisively as a “death panel.” The high court ruled in October that doctors cannot unilaterally choose to withdraw a comatose patient from life support against a family’s wishes. Rather, medical care providers must apply to a federal “Consent and Capacity Board” when family members oppose pulling the plug. The decision was the final appeal from family members of Hassan Rasouli, 61, who has been on life support since 2010.


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