Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide - Archive

End of Life News Briefs, USA & Abroad, 2012-2014


The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) has finally taken formal action against euthanasia promoter Dr. Philip Nitschke, otherwise known as “Dr. Death.” At a late-night emergency session on July 23, the MBA suspended Nitschke’s license to practice medicine “in order to keep the public safe, while other investigations or processes continue.” [MBA, Media Statement, 7/24/14]

The MBA began its investigation of Nitschke after the Australian Broadcast Company (ABC) reported on the death of Nigel Brayley, 45, a physically healthy man who committed suicide after communicating—both by e-mail and in person—with Nitschke and his organization, Exit International. Brayley, from Perth, was deeply depressed over the recent loss of his job and the fact that he was being investigated by police for the murder of his wife in 2011. He had joined Nitschke’s organization and had illegally obtained the drug Nitschke recommends for a “peaceful death.” Knowing that Brayley was depressed and intended to end his life, Nitschke did nothing to discourage him or refer him for professional help. “If a 45-year-old comes to a rational decision to end his life, researches it in the way he does, meticulously, and decides that… now is the time I wish to end my life, they should be supported,” Nitschke told ABC. “And we did support him in that.” [ABC News, 7/5/14]

But it was news of two other suicides of healthy, young males, ages 25 and 26,that likely sealed Nitschke’s fate with the MBA. Both had been in contact with Exit International. The mother of the 26 year-old called what Exit did to her son “death coaching.” Commenting on Nitschke’s license suspension, Dr. Andrew Miller, of the Western Australia chapter of the Australian Medical Association, said, “Our profession is relieved to be rid of him and wish to assure the community we will always help those with treatable illnesses to recover and live.” [The Australian, 7/25/14]


Louisiana has enacted a law meant to prevent what has occurred in Oregon, where the state’s health insurance program rations medical care by denying payment for certain drugs, chemotherapy, and other needed treatments that doctors have prescribed for their terminally ill patients. The cases of cancer patients Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup are examples of what happens under Oregon’s rationing policy. The Oregon Medicaid program denied both patients coverage for prescribed cancer treatments but offered to pay for the drugs and services needed for their assisted-suicide deaths. “We think it particularly cruel,” said Pete Martinez, director of state governmental affairs for the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association. “The Oregon policy should not take root in Louisiana,” he added. Under the Louisiana law, medical insurers—including HMOs, governmental and private insurers—cannot deny prescribed medical care to patients because of their life expectancy or terminal condition. [Act No. 541, enacted 6/5/14; The Advocate, 4/3/14]


May 20, 2014 marked the first year anniversary of the enactment of Vermont’s permissive doctor-prescribed suicide law, referred to as the “Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act” or Act 39. During that year, no patient who qualified for an assisted suicide ingested lethal drugs. According to the state health department, only two patients requested and received prescriptions for those drugs, and neither one took them. They both died of natural causes. [Burlington Free Press, 5/19/14] Perhaps in response to the lack of patients opting for prescribed-suicide, Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, has hired a new Vermont director to travel around the state promoting the law, encouraging patient participation, and generally getting people to feel comfortable with assisted suicide. [Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, Press Release, 5/19/14]
[Summer 2014, Vol.28, No.4, Patients Rights Council Update, ]


Euthanasia Out of Control, Up 18%
The media in the Netherlands has reported today that the number of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands in 2011 increased by 18% to 3695 and there were 13 reported psychiatric patients who died by euthanasia, up from 2 reported psychiatric euthanasia deaths in 2010.

Dutch Euthanasia Preys on Mentally Ill, Psychiatric Patients
This follows increases of 13% in 2009 and 19% in 2010.


British Hospitals Paid to Put Patients on Euthanasia Pathway. The Liverpool Care Pathway, which was supposed to be restricted to sedating patients whose pain could not otherwise be controlled, has mutated into a form of euthanasia.

Swiss Parliament:

Assisted Suicide Groups Can Run Wild
A vote in the Swiss parliament rejected a proposal to regulate the assisted suicide organizations and their suicide clinics. The two main assisted suicide organizations are Exit and Dignitas. Members of the lower house of parliament voted against changing the code, arguing self-regulation by right-to-die organizations such as Exit and Dignitas worked and the liberal rules protected individual freedoms.