Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide - Archive

Euthanasia Archive

  • FORMER N.J. NURSE IS CHARGED WITH MURDER after claiming to kill 30 to 40 patients over a 16-year period. During a court appearance, Charles Cullen stood and told the judge, "I am going to plead guilty. I don’t plan to fight this." He said he did not want a lawyer. [15Dec03 Pro-Life E-News;http://apnews.myway.com/article/20031215/D7VF0OS01.html
  • NAMED: THE BABY BOY WHO WAS NAZIS’ FIRST EUTHANASIA VICTIM — German historians have identified the family whose request to Adolf Hitler that their disabled son be "put to sleep" was the catalyst for the Nazi euthanasia program. The 5-month-old boy, who was given a lethal drug after Hitler sent his own doctor to examine him, has been named as Gerhard Kretschmar, the son of a farm hand. The case was to provide the rationale for a secret Nazi decree that led to "mercy killings" of at least 275,000 mentally and physically handicapped people. The Kretschmars wanted their son dead but most of the other children were forcibly taken from their parents to be killed. A few days after Gerhard died in 1939, 15 psychiatrists were summoned to Hitler’s Chancellery and told that a secret euthanasia program – dreamed of by Hitler for more than a decade – was to be put into effect. Until this month, the boy was referred to as "Case K", the term used by Nazi doctors when the program was launched and at the subsequent Nuremberg war-crimes trials. Now, Gerhard’s name heads the first comprehensive list of euthanasia victims, unveiled in Berlin as a permanent and chilling reminder of one of Hitler’s lesser-known extermination programs. It was compiled after painstaking research by German government archivists into 740 previously unknown files relating to the euthanasia program. The files, originally taken from Hitler’s Chancellery, were uncovered in archives of the Stasi, the East German secret police. It was during his trial at Nuremberg that Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal doctor, revealed that an unnamed infant had provided the Nazis with the excuse to embark on creating a master race. The baby’s father had written to Hitler’s office in early 1939 asking for permission to kill his blind and deformed son. In his testimony, Dr Brandt said: "The father of a deformed child wrote to the Fuhrer with a request to be allowed to take the life of this child or this creature. Hitler ordered me to take care of this case. The child had been born blind, seemed to be idiotic, and a leg and parts of the arm were missing." The boy is believed to have been given luminal in the form of a dissolving tablet, causing unconsciousness and death after 3 to 5 days. The drug was later used on other victims of the euthanasia program. Only a month after the baby’s killing, in August 1939, Hitler’s Interior Ministry issued the decree ordering the systematic annihilation of mentally and physically disabled children.
    The new report contains the most comprehensive analysis yet of Nazi records, including the hundreds of hospitals and clinics that took part in the Third Reich’s program to eliminate handicapped, mentally ill and other institutional patients who were deemed physically inferior and "unworthy of living". It contains names/case details of 200,000 of the program’s estimated 275,000 victims. Germany’s Culture Minister, Christina Weiss, said that the report had been drawn up to confront the truth and "restore some dignity to the victims". "We know that these crimes were meant to be kept secret," Weiss said. "The relatives of the victims received fake letters of condolence. The doctors in charge worked under false names." As was the case with many other victims, Gerhard Kretschmar’s cause of death was recorded not as euthanasia but as "heart failure", according to documents at the church where he was buried. The euthanasia program was code-named T4, after its street address in Berlin, and was responsible for the deaths of up to 8,000 children. It all began in the summer of 1939, predating their full-scale organization of the Holocaust in which they killed 6 million European Jews. In the first phase, from 1939 to 1941, the Nazis killed about 70,000 people. By the beginning of 1940, six hospitals had been devoted to "processing" cases. However, the newly discovered records show that it eventually extended to 296 medical facilities in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland, in which children and adults were drugged, gassed or starved. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the program was a kind of training ground for the Nazi regime to "fine tune" its "technology of death" before the Holocaust. The program was "a warning to society and to the scientific community that it’s a very slippery slope when you start putting different values on human life," he added. "Of course, with the Nazi regime it was a combination of racism but also with the enthusiastic backing of the scientific community who saw mentally ill and physically disabled people as cannon fodder for their pseudoscientific research in the name of the great Aryan race." [German federal archive site: http://www.bundesarchiv.de; AP, http://apnews.excite.com/article/20031001/D7TT2J100.html; 30Sep03, T. Czuczka; Nancy Valko, R.N., 1Oct03; Irene Zoech in Berlin ,12/10/2003; 14Oct03, Pro-Life E-News <[email protected]; www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/10/12/2; PLE-News, #268, 15Oct03]
  • CHILDREN KILLED BY NAZI MDs LAID TO REST — The remains of 3 children were laid to rest more than 60 years after their deaths at the hands of Nazi euthanasia doctors. The youngsters, identified only as brothers Herbert and Gunther K, one and three years old, and their seven-year-old cousin Alfred K, were murdered on the orders of Nazi doctors. But the only remains of the boys, classified as "high-class idiots" by doctors, were their brains, which for years passed through the hands of neurologists in Germany and Austria before their discovery in preparations of formaline and paraffin in the basement of a Viennese psychiatric clinic 2 years ago. Slim wooden urns were lowered into a tiny grave plot layered with pine branches in Gordon, near Brandenburg, eastern Germany, at a burial ceremony in the grounds of the clinic where the children died. The funeral, attended by school children and local dignitaries took place 63 years to the day that 59 children from the same clinic were gassed to death in the local prison. Most were sent to the clinic to be used in experiments. It is believed that some 1,700 children were murdered at Gordon as part of the Nazi euthanasia program. The boys’ family name was concealed to protect the identity of the mother of Herbert and Gunther, who still lives in northern Germany. The brothers’ sister told historians who contacted her that she wished to spare her mother "the pain of knowing the truth of what happened to her sons". Kristina Hubener, a historian who researched the fate, of the "K boys" said: "We’d like to think that we can now draw a line under this chapter, but there’s no knowing what specimens might still be out there."
    "Dr. Leo Alexander, Chief U.S. Medical Consultant at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials confirmed that, ‘Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of physicians. The infinitely small wedge-in lever from which this entire trend of mind rece
    iv
    ed its impetus, was the attitude toward the non-rehabilitable sick.’ Once the physician or professor murdered his first innocent patient, Alexander declared, he entered the ranks of the criminal class and was bonded by blood cement to the ruling party." [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/10/29/wnaz29.x, 29/10/2003 The Telegraph, by Kate Connolly in Gordon; 30Oct03 Pro-Life E-News <[email protected]]
  • TERRI SCHIAVO — "It is an outrage that Michael Schiavo and his attorney feel they can spit in the face of the governor as well as the Florida House and Senate, and trample Terri’s rights with absolutely no regard for her health, happiness or wishes. Complaints have been filed through the Department of Health and Human Services, yet nothing is being done to protect Terri from physical harm or to assure her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To file your complaint with the Office of Civil Rights: <http://hhs.gov/ocr/discrimhowtofile.html>. To review the facts already presented to Washington in this matter, go to <http://www.cogforlife.org/schiavo.htm> to view the letters sent.
    To file your complaint by email: [email protected] or call the district office in Atlanta: Roosevelt Freeman, 404 562-7886. Tell them to immediately act to remove her care/custody from Michael, and to appoint a guardian. The court has agreed to assign a guardian ad litem but this will only cover litigation, not her medical care. To view information needed on the OCR complaint, go to <http://www.cogforlife.org/hhscomplaint.pdf>. U.S. congressmen and senators should be asked to investigate why the Dept of Justice is not protecting Terri’s civil rights as a disabled American. They should also request that the Department of HHS Civil Rights Office act at once to protect her. For the latest updates on the Schiavo case: <http://www.cogforlife.org/schiavo.htm> & the family’s web site: <http://www.terrisfight.org> To Contact Rep. Bilirakis <http://www.house.gov/bilirakis/contact.htm> and Rep. Bill Young <http://www.house.gov/young#contact> [ALL, Judie Brown, 3Nov03, Vol. 13, No. 47 special issue; PLE-news, #284, 4Nov03]
  • 30% OF THOSE INVESTIGATED FOR EUTHANASIA OFTEN KILL THEMSELVES [Voluntary Euthanasia Society, London published the figures; LifeNews.com, 14Sept03]
  • JASON CHILDRESS STILL BREATHING AFTER REMOVAL OF VENTILATOR — Jason Childress, at the center of another euthanasia debate, is still breathing on his own. Doctors [Univ of VA Med Ctr] removed Jason Childress from the ventilator despite videotaped evidence obtained by his parents showing him expressing his desire to stay alive. Jason has been in a coma since July 16 after an automobile accident. [LifeNews.com, 15Sept03, 25Sept03]
  • GREER DENIES MOTION ALLOWING TERRI SCHIAVO TO EAT ON HER OWN — Circuit Court Judge Greer denied a motion (on a legal point) to allow Terri to learn to eat on her own prior to the removal of her feeding tube set for 15 Oct. U.S. Dist Judge Lazzara decided against declaring jurisdiction over the case & dismissed it. This decision keeps Greer as the primary legal authority over Terri’s outcome. Doctors believe she could be rehabilitated with new/aggressive therapy. Gov Jeb Bush (R) filed a brief in the suit saying Terri should receive proper rehabilitative therapy. Felos, the euthanasia crusader who is her husband’s attorney, told Greer that doctors he has consulted with have testified that Terri is capable of swallowing her saliva. However, if given water/pureed food, Felos says Terri will choke on it and the blockage could lead to pneumonia. [ED:Why does it matter, if they plan to starve/dehydrate her anyway?] [LifeNews.com, 16Sept03, 9Oct03 www.lifenews.com/bio71.html] Gov. Bush and the FL legislature intervened and Terri again has a feeding tube. However, the ACLU has joined with her husband and the euthanasia forces to try to prove the action of the governor and legislature unconstitutional [24Oct03].
  • THE HEMLOCK SOCIETY seeks to "revamp" the "living will" and other advance directives to allow assisted suicide. Deceptively titled "Empowering People to Preserve the Dignity of Life: A New Roadmap," the newly "reshaped and expanded" advocacy program will be carried out, not by Hemlock, but by its political arm, the Patients Rights Organization of the United States of America (PRO-USA). There are 3 components: (1) promotion of a new advance directive, (2) consensus building endorsements of Hemlock’s new "Statement of Principles," & (3) the advancement of state laws to expand patients’ rights. The language in virtually all of these documents about "comfort measures" is used as cover for terminal sedation/ dehydration. Hemlock’s new statement is basically a subtle reworking of such language to cover the faster lethal overdose and…once such language is passed there will be the usual expansion from "terminal illness" to other vulnerable groups like the disabled. Hemlock "has targeted senior citizen organizations (esp AARP) to promote its advance directive; the campaign thrust…includes ‘religious, legal, and medical groups’" & will include bioethics groups, "end of life" education groups & hospice. Such strategies must be exposed and targeted groups must be aware. Int’l Anti-Euthanasia Task Force (IAETF): www.iaetf.org; legal counsel: Wesley Smith. www.internationaltaskforce.org/iua28.htm [excerpt from the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force , Year 2003, V.17, #2 (6/4/03); N. Valko, R.N.]
  • NEW TEXTBOOK TEACHES PAIN MANAGEMENT — An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from persistent pain; yet most medical students have no courses focused on treating pain [Amer Acad of Pain Medicine (APPM)]. Treating pain should be an alternative to assisted suicide. The AAPM has developed a Web-based textbook that will be available to medical students without charge September 2004. [LifeNews.com, 14Sept03]
  • NRLC SUPPORTS "WILL TO LIVE" – This is a pro-life document, carefully prepared for each state. Free download from www.nrlc.org.
  • JAPANESE CONCERNED ABOUT INCREASING SUICIDE WEB SITE DEATHS –A 28-year old Tokyo man, via the Internet and web sites that tout do-it-yourself suicide solutions, found 2 other people, & drove to a remote mountain area. They took sleeping pills and, following the web site instructions, set charcoal alight inside their car, dying from CO poisoning. These kinds of suicides, following web site instructions, are on the rise. The suicide rate in Japan is now double that of the U.S. [LifeNews.com,25Aug03, #3050]
  • NEW ZEALAND EUTHANASIA SUPPORTER FACES CHARGE FOR MURDER – Her book confirms that she gave morphine to her terminally ill mother, who died the next day. Now she faces prosecution for assisted suicide (attempted murder). The 40-year-old was the subject of a 10-month police investigation after the 1999 death of her mother. The investigation was reopened when her book "To Die Like a Dog," was published. [LifeNews.com, 27Aug03]
  • PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DEAN EN
    DO
    RSES ASSISTED SUICIDE
    — Dean has been noted "for perhaps being the most pro-abortion candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination< for President". Now, Dean has expressed his support for assisted suicide: "I think states have to make up their own mind" regarding the legality of assisted suicide.[www.LifeNews.com/nat85.html
    http://www.LifeNews.com/state95.html, 22Aug03]
  • ASSISTED SUICIDE WEB SITES BLAMED FOR DEATHS – instructions downloaded from the Internet were explicit, and followed precisely by a 52-year-old St. Louis woman who took her own life. To authorities, the Web site is a killer. What was once taboo or hard-to-find can be tracked down in an instant with a search engine. But it is a troubling development for mental health experts, who see these Web sites as having a dangerous allure to someone who is thinking about taking his or her own life. Suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was the cause for 29,350 deaths in 2000 – nearly twice the number of homicides, and about a third less than fatal motor vehicle accidents. The disease control agency estimates there were 734,000 suicide attempts in 2000. Missouri is among 35 states who have criminalized assisted suicide, what is commonly thought of as a physician giving lethal drugs to a terminally ill patient. Prosecutors can’t charge the Web site. They need to find the person responsible for the content, who wrote the suicide instructions. The site, run by an outfit called Church of Euthanasia, provides scant information on its domain registration. The operators of a now-defunct site are being sued by a family in Arkansas, who charge them with negligently contributing to a 21-year-old woman’s suicide in February 2001. The young woman’s computer was still logged onto the Web site, which detailed how to perform the act. It is estimated that 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness, so they are not approaching their decision with a level head. These Web sites provide a dangerous service to people
    unable to fully comprehend their decision. A British report in 1999 backed up her concern, finding that sites advising on suicide methods may discourage people from seeking psychiatric help. [prolifeinfo.org; St. Louis Post Dispatch; 9Jun03]
  • B.C. WOMAN CONVICTED OF ASSISTING SUICIDE TO GET INHERITANCE A B.C. Supreme Court jury found Julianna Zsiros, 39, guilty; she appeared startled by the verdict, which was handed down after less than six hours of deliberation. Zsiros encouraged and helped Linda Whetung commit suicide two years ago so Zsiros could inherit $30,000. Whetung, 50, died by inhaling car exhaust fumes in the sealed garage of her home. [Canadian Press; Pro-Life e-News, no. 173, 6May03]
  • SWISS STUDY SHOWS 70% OF TERMINALLY ILL EUTHANIZED, one of the highest rates of euthanasia in Europe. [University of Zurich] Seven of 10 terminally ill people ended their lives through different types of euthanasia. The study examined 3,350 deaths in Switzerland and found that half of them involved some form of euthanasia. In almost 1 in 3 cases, passive euthanasia was applied, where doctors cut off life support. Active euthanasia, where specific steps are taken to end a patient’s life (still illegal in Switzerland), was more common in the Netherlands — 2.6 percent. Switzerland also has the highest number of cases of assisted suicide a fact that is partly due to the presence of various groups in the country offering to kill people, such as Dignitas or Exit. About 0.4 percent of the 60,000 deaths in Switzerland each year are related to assisted suicide, around 500 people. [University of Zurich; prolifeinfo.org; SwissInfo; June 19, 2003]
  • HUNGARY’S TOP COURT REJECTS LEGALIZING ASSISTED SUICIDE The movement to protect the elderly/disabled from euthanasia campaigners achieved another victory as Hungary’s highest court rejected a bid to legalize assisted suicide, saying terminally ill patients can already refuse medical care if they wish. "This is an important step in direction away from legal euthanasia and assisted suicide in Europe at a time when, in addition to The Netherlands, Belgium has recently legalized assisted suicide and Switzerland has begun to practice it openly," attorney Tom Marzen told the Pro-Life Infonet. Hungary has allowed since 1997 a passive form of euthanasia, in which patients can refuse treatments that would extend their lives. According to a recent poll, almost two thirds of the Hungarian people are in favor of euthanasia; however, the exact wording of the poll was not made known. In Hungary, passive euthanisia requires written authorization with 2 witnesses, is only allowed for certain illnesses and 3 doctors must examine the case and unanimously rule if the patient is acting according to his own will, and is in good mental condition. The debate over so-called mercy killings has been brewing in Hungary since 1993, when Gyorgyi Binder drowned her daughter, who was suffering from an incurable disease, in their bathtub at home to end the 11-year-old’s suffering. She was handed a 2-year suspended sentence, but the supreme court overturned the decision, ruling that Binder had to go to jail for 2 years for manslaughter. [prolifeinfo.org; French Press Agency (AFP); 29Apr03]
  • AUSSIE "DR. DEATH" – Nitschke – releases new death machine that pumps pure carbon monoxide into a mask. [Rt to Life Cincinnati bulletin, 3/03]
  • OR: ASSISTED SUICIDE NUMBERS — 38 Oregonians died by doctor-assisted suicide in 2002, the highest annual total in the 5-year history of the state’s Death With Dignity Act (81% increase). The number rose by 17, from 21 (2001). Assisted suicide accounts for a tiny fraction of deaths in Oregon — about one in 1,000. U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft ruled in 2001 that the Death With Dignity Act violated federal drug laws and authorized federal agents to crack down on OR doctors who prescribe lethal drug doses. A federal judge rejected Ashcroft’s legal challenge 4/02. A hearing on the appeal is scheduled 7May. In all, 58 prescriptions for lethal doses of medication were written last year by 33 Oregon doctors. Of the patients who received prescriptions, 38 died after taking the drug, 16 died from their disease and 6 were still alive at the end of the year. Two who took the lethal dose in 2002 received their prescriptions in 2001. Doctor-assisted suicides in OR: 16 in 1998, 27 in 1999 and 2000, 21 in 2001. Users of doctor-assisted suicide are primarily older, well-educated, with terminal cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease). They are more likely than others to be divorced. Half were 69 or older. Last year, 71% were men, higher than the five-year rate of 55 percent. In 2002, all patients died at home, and all but one had health insurance. Nine out of 10 were under hospice care. The rate of doctor-assisted suicides among patients with ALS is 43 times higher than the overall rate. For cancer patients, the rate is 7 times higher than average.
    About 1 percent of dying Oregonians request doctor-assisted suicide. Of those patients, about one in 10 actually dies by taking a prescribed lethal dose. By law, the patient must swallow the drug; it cannot be administered by a doctor. Leading the medical opposition to doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon is Dr. K. R. Stevens (chair, radiation oncology dept, OHSU), president of Physicians for Compassionate Care. Writing a prescription for lethal medication, he said, is a violation of the Hippocratic ethic because it gives doctors and pharmacies the power to kill. "You’re not pulling the t
    rigger
    ," Stevens said, "but you’re giving the patient the loaded gun." The 3 most commonly cited end-of-life patient concerns were loss of autonomy, a decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities and loss of control over bodily functions. About one in four cited inadequate pain control. Only one expressed worry about paying for treatment. The drug of choice is Nembutal, or pentobarbital, a quick-acting barbiturate [03/06/03 The Oregonian, Don Colburn; 6Mar03 Pro-Life E-News
    www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/front_page/1046]
  • HUNGARIAN "BLACK ANGEL" NURSE GETS 9 YEARS IN JAIL – after she pleaded guilty to killing patients by lethal injection in a Budapest hospital in 2000 and 2001. Budapest Municipal Court also banned Timea Faludi, 25, from ever working as a nurse again in a verdict that may be appealed. During a police investigation, Faludi admitted killing at least 40 terminally ill patients, but later withdrew that testimony. [Agence France Presse 02Dec02 International News; Pro-Life e-news, 2Dec02; BUDAPEST AFP]
  • OREGON DEFENDS ASSISTED SUICIDE LAW FROM ASHCROFT DECISION – OR’s attorney general is defending the nation’s only legal assisted suicide law allowing the killing of the elderly or disabled in a brief filed with a federal appeals court. The Justice Department asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a decision by pro-life AG John Ashcroft to prohibit doctors from using federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides. All of the OR assisted suicides since the law’s enactment have involved federally-regulated barbituates. When the assisted-suicide statute went into effect in 1997, it soon became clear that OR doctors intended to prescribe federally controlled substances to intentionally kill. The government argued that "assisted suicide is not a legitimate medical purpose.” Oregon’s brief argues that Congress has not given Ashcroft the authority to decide what constitutes a legitimate medical purpose, and that he would be exceeding his power under the Constitution. The brief also argues that the government is wrongly trying to apply the Controlled Substances Act, which is mainly meant to combat illegal drug use or trafficking. The government’s filing was an appeal of an April ruling by a federal judge who sided with Oregon. Ninety-two people have used the law to end their lives.
    [[email protected];AP;6Nov02]
  • MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO SUFFOCATING ILL MOTHER – Gary Pierson pleaded guilty to killing her, maintaining it was mercy killing. The 59-year-old Lakeland man was charged with murder after duct taping his mother’s mouth, nose, and eyes shut, and then suffocating the 81-year-old Alzheimer’s patient with a towel. According to police, Pierson told them he did it because she was driving him crazy. Faced with a second-degree murder conviction, Pierson avoided the death penalty, but could get life in prison. [ABC Action News report 11/14/02; NV]
  • HAWAII MAN EMERGES FROM 7- YEAR COMA –Peter Sana was 27 when he fell into a coma in 3/95, after contracting meningitis, the inflammation of a membrane that encloses the brain and the spinal cord. Sana has been in a Honolulu nursing home and began responding to commands from his nurse over the last month. The nursing home staff says regular visits from his family over the years played a large role in his recovery. Sana regained consciousness after being in a coma for 7 years; his father visited every day. [[email protected]; AP; 7Sept02]
  • NAPN FILES BRIEF SUPPORTING AG ASHCROFT – The National Assoc of Pro-life Nurses has filed an amici curiae brief with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in his appeal for reversal of the lower court’s decision. "As stated in the brief, NAPN ‘is particularly concerned with the negative impact that the use of federally controlled substances for lethal prescriptions has on Oregon nursing professionals and the nursing profession itself’", said Marianne Linane Director of NAPN. "The brief cites three ways in which Oregon law clashes with nursing ethics…We are in particular concerned about the nurses who, as first line providers, will be called upon to violate their conscience about their belief in the sanctity and inviolability of human life to include assisted suicide as an option in their so-called ‘care’". NAPN has become a source of referral for legal defense for nursing profes-sionals in dealing with the abortion issue. NAPN is chartered as an educational public corporation with headquarters in WI. [Press Release 3Oct02]  Marianne Linane, RN. 414-442-8303, [email protected]; Nancy Valko, RN. 314-434-5208, [email protected]
  • "SUICIDE TOURISTS" – Since 1998, "Dignitas," an organization based in Zurich, Switzerland, has offered to assist in suicide for a ‘membership fee.’ Alarmingly, half of these were not Swiss, but foreign nationals — "suicide tourists." The foreigners were drawn by Swiss confidentiality and lack of scrutiny. On 22Aug, the founder of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli [Canadian Broadcasting Program, "As It Happens"] admitted that the majority of his members are foreigners, and that many members are Dutch nationals who have joined because the act of euthanasia is now too "complicated and long." Minelli admitted he had helped kill people beset with mental disorders, and that it is appropriate to kill those with ‘incurable depression.’ "It’s quite normal," he said, "if you think it over." Dignitas, which has 1,625 members from many different countries, is now under investigation. Section 115 of the Swiss Penal Code provides for five years imprisonment for aiding and abetting suicide. But this is qualified by the question of intent. Minelli told Reuters Health that last year it "helped 50 people to kill themselves, 31 of whom were Swiss citizens. Since it was founded 4 years ago it has helped 120 people end their lives." [Brian Johnston is executive director of the California Pro-Life Council and an expert on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Today’s News & Views, NRLC 2Oct02 www.nrlc.org/News_and_Views/Index.html]
  • ASSISTED SUICIDE MEMO PERMANENTLY ENJOINED — On April 17, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones issued a permanent injunction enjoining Attorney General John Ashcroft from enforcing his November 6, 2001 memorandum in which he determined that assisting suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" for dispensing federally controlled substances. According to Judge Jones, the federal Controlled Substances Act does not explicitly reference the use of controlled substances for assisted suicide and thus physicians in the state of Oregon are free to assist people in committing suicide under the state law. For text of the order and permanent injunction in Oregon v. Ashcroft, see: www.findlaw.com.

    according to the Oregon Health Division, not one of the 27 people who died from assisted suicide in 2001 cited uncontrollable pain as their primary reason for wanting to die," said Cathy Cleaver nchla.org/download.htm. [NCHLA, 19Apr02; New York Times 4/18/02] The Department of Justice is expected to appeal the decision.

  • Public support for the administration’s position ran 67% to oppose the use of controlled drugs for euthanasia compared to 29% in favor of the euthanizing drugs. [Wirthlin Worldwide national poll, 6-9 July 01; 3.1% margin of error; NRL News 11/01]
  • "New research has found two-thirds of those whose lives are ended [by euthanasia] are women, and the researcher says that raises a t
    roub
    ling question: Are women’s lives worth less than men’s when it comes to long-term care?" [Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 9/01; HealthScoutNews, NRL News 11/01]
  • ELI LILY WILL STOP MAKING DRUG MISUSED IN ASSISTED SUICIDES – Secobarbital, the short-acting sedative and drug of choice for assisted suicide, is in short supply, and the future availability of the drug is unclear. Secobarbital (Seconal) was prescribed to 66 of the 70 patients reported by health officials to have been killed under Oregon’s law. Eli Lilly, manufacturer of Seconal, and Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, which has marketed and distributed the drug since 1998, emphasize that Seconal is only promoted for its federally approved uses as a sedative and a hypnotic to quell anxiety and promote sleep. Eli Lilly has been unable to get the raw materials to make Seconal from its supplier and so has not been manufacturing the drug for several months. When Eli Lilly’s contract with New Jersey-based Ranbaxy runs out in1/02, Eli Lilly is getting out of the Seconal-making business altogether. [Portland Oregonian; 13Nov01; Pro-Life Infonet]
  • MRI SUGGESTS AWARENESS IN ‘MINIMALLY CONSCIOUS’ – These patients’ “understanding or interaction may be greater” than it appears to family, caregivers & friends [Dr. Joy Hirsch, neurologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Ctr, NY, Society for Neuroscience, annual meeting in San Diego, CA]. Each year in the US alone, over 200,000 individuals sustain serious brain injuries causing significant neurological damage. Close to half of those patients will permanently lose the ability to live and function on their own, experts say. Existing a step up from vegetative patients are the ”minimally conscious”, who display occasional, inconsistent signs of consciousness. Attempting to delve deeper into this mystery, the New York researchers enlisted the aid of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), an imaging technology that charts blood flow within the brain over time. They analyzed fMRI tests on two minimally conscious male patients, aged 22 and 33, both of whom had been unable to communicate consistently since their respective accidents. During the experiment, the researchers played two audio tapes as the patients underwent fMRI scanning. In one tape, a friend or family member recited a short narrative of some kind. In the second audio test, the investigators simply ran the tape backwards–it was still recognizable as human speech, but became meaningless and garbled. In an interview with Reuters Health, Hirsch and her colleague Dr. Nicholas Schiff report that areas of the brain known to be connected with the processing of speech showed high activity during the forward-playing storytelling, much as they would in healthy individuals. However, this activity subsided when patients were exposed to the nonsense/backwards tape. The findings appear to show that the neurological tools necessary for the understanding of speech “appear to be operational” in these patients; but they stressed that the findings “do not indicate what level of understanding–or possible suffering–if any, is present.” Hirsch believes the findings give researchers a new “humanitarian imperative” to seek out therapies that could bring these patients some hope of recovery. [Reuters Health , 13Nov01]

  • FORMER VA HOSPITAL NURSE CHARGED IN EUTHANASIA MURDER
    West Palm Beach, FL — A former nurse, James Mullins, 56, was charged with second-degree murder in the euthanasia death of Gary Baker, 53, by injecting him with propofol.
    Baker had checked into the hospital on Feb. 5 with back pain. He went into a coma on Feb. 10 and died 12 days later. [AP; 25Nov01; Infonet]
  • MI COURT AFFIRMS KEVORKIAN CONVICTION of assisted suicide in the 1998 death of 52-year-old Thomas Youk (Lou Gehrig’s disease) that was shown on television. The decision said finding euthanasia legal would be a first step down a “slippery slope.” Kevorkian, 73, says he has assisted in more than 130 deaths, & is serving a 10- to 25-year sentence. [http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011121/us/kevorkian_appeal_3.html; AP 21 Nov01; NV]
  • A THIRD OF SURGEONS IN NEW SOUTH WALES ADMIT TO EUTHANASIA The anonymous poll of 683 surgeons in New South Wales, published in the Medical Journal of Australia (2001;175:511-5), found that 247 (36%) had administered high doses of painkillers with the intent of bringing death, with half of these respondents saying that there was no direct request from the patient. Furthermore, 54% of the surgeons said yes to the question of whether it was ever morally acceptable to give terminally ill patients drugs to hasten death. The research, which was conducted by the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, also found that surgeons with a religious faith were nearly 10 times less likely to give life shortening treatment. The author, Dr Charles Douglas, said that intention to shorten life was illegal in Australian law and was defined as euthanasia. He said that 5% of surgeons admitted giving a patient a single lethal injection on their clear request. [www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/323/7324/1268/a, 1 Dec, British Medical Journal 2001;323:1268]
  • Alaska Assisted Suicide Decision — In a unanimous (5-0) decision, the Alaska Supreme Court has held that there is no right to physician-assisted suicide under the privacy or equal protection provisions of AK’s state constitution. Both Florida & AK have explicit constitutional "right to privacy" provisions that could be read to favor assisted suicide. However, the FL Supreme Court rejected recognition of a right to physician-assisted suicide in 1997. With the decision of the AK Supreme Court, there is now a significant body of case law now rejecting both federal and state
    claims for recognition of a right to assisted suicide. No court of
    highest jurisdiction recognizes such a right. [National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent & Disabled; 25Sept01; Anchorage Daily News, 22Sept01]
  • Police Probe Australian "Dr. Death" Over Apparent Euthanasia Police were probing the death of a 72-year-old Norma Hall, mother of Mount Everest climber Lincoln Hall, and her links to Australia’s "Dr Death", Dr Philip Nitschke, euthanasia advocate who carried out several mercy killings when assisted suicide was briefly legal. She died after a long battle against bone, lung and liver cancer. "She elected to end her life… and voluntarily consumed all her prescribed analgesic drugs and died". [Reuters; January 23, 2000]
  • "Angel of Death" Pleads Innocent in CA Euthanasia Case – A former respiratory therapist pleaded innocent to killing six people by injecting them with a drug that stopped their breathing. Prosecutors allege that Efren Saldivar, 31, injected victims with a paralyzing drug called Pavulon while he worked at Glendale Adventist Medical Center between 1996 and 1997. [Associated Press, Reuters; February 2, 2001]
  • Over 2,200 Dutch Euthanasia Cases Reported in 1999 — Dutch doctors helped more than 2,200 patients die in 1999, so-called regional euthanasia review committees said in an annual report that they had received 2,216 notifications of euthanasia and assisted suicide from doctors for the last calendar year. By law, Dutch doctors must inform the review committees — which consist of legal and medical experts — when they are involved in "mercy killings." The committees then check that the doctors have acted in accordance with strict criteria. A bill currently before the Dutch parliament will, if passed, make the Netherlands the first country to legalize "mercy killings." The Dutch have tolerated "mercy killings" for years, but as doctors could theoretically be prosecuted for murder under the penal code, the bi
    ll aims to
    clear up a legal grey area. More than 90 percent of those dying through euthanasia and assisted suicide — where the physician supplies the drugs but does not administer them — suffered from cancer, the committees’ annual report said. Latest data from the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society showed 3,600 deaths in 1995 from euthanasia or assisted suicide. The society believes its figures are the most accurate available since they include deaths not reported to the coroner, which account for around 59 percent of cases. [Reuters, 10May00]
  • British Doctors Let Elderly Patients Die Unnecessarily — in order to make beds available for new patients. “I have witnessed doctors who want to keep beds clear by withdrawing treatment or actively assisting in death to the point where it becomes involuntary euthanasia,” a junior doctor told the London Times. Some elderly patients were allowed to die merely on the basis of their age, while others were given high doses of diamorphine, a heroin-based drug, to accelerate their death, Rita Pal, 28, told the newspaper. Pal said she was leaving the profession because of such practices, and said she intended to present the General Medical Council with a dossier listing several incidents of abuse and neglect of elderly patients. In his latest budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown promised spending on health would increase by 6.1 percent above inflation each year until 2004 to raise spending on the health service to around the European average. [Reuters, April 2, 2000]
  • British serial killer Dr. Harold Shipman may have killed over 200 of his patients. The former family doctor has already been convicted of murdering 15 elderly women with lethal heroin injections. Hundreds more, many of them elderly women, may have fallen victim to the man dubbed in England as "Dr. Death." According to his analysis of death certificates and cremation forms, it is likely that 236 of Shipman’s patients died in suspicious circumstances, including the 15 murders he was convicted of. Prosecutors said at his trial that Dr. Shipman hid his killing spree behind the mask of a much-loved suburban doctor. Despite a drug forgery conviction he was allowed to continue to practice medicine and run a one-man family clinic. [1/6/01Reuters News Agency; 11-Jan-2001 — EWTN News Brief; http://www.globeandmail.ca/servlet/RTGAMArticleHTMLTemplate/C/2001010]

  • The Netherlands On 10Apr01 Became The First Country In The World To Legalize Euthanasia after its Senate defied thousands of protesters to vote (46-28) in favor of mercy killing. The legislation will come into force once Queen Beatrix signs it and the details are published in official legal media. That process is expected to take about two weeks. The lower house overwhelmingly approved the bill last November. Health Minister Els Borst applauded the "very careful decision," saying it reflected the view of almost 90 percent of the Dutch population that doctors should not be prosecuted for following a patient’s wishes. "I feel good… Both patients and doctors can feel safe now," she told reporters. [THE HAGUE, April 10, Reuters]
  • Belgium Moves Closer to Legalizing Assisted Suicide – lawmakers agreed on a key section of a draft law setting out conditions under which terminally ill patients may ask a doctor to end their life. If approved, the law would give not only terminally ill patients the right to request assisted suicide, but also patients with incurable diseases who are in extreme pain but may have years left to live. This comes just months after the Netherlands became the first country to vote to legalize euthanasia. Under the legislation, any patient requesting assisted suicide must be conscious when he makes his active, voluntary demand & must persistently repeat his request. [Reuters; January 14, 2001;Infonet]
  • ZURICH WILL PERMIT "ASSISTED SUICIDE" IN HOMES FOR THE ELDERLY – Health Department Official Grants New "Right" – Officially sanctioned "assisted suicide" has arrived to residence homes for the elderly in Switzerland. The decision to grant this new "right" was the initiative of Robert Neukomm, head of the Zurich Health Department, which controls the homes. Active euthanasia — when a patient requests his own death – is prohibited in Switzerland, but there are loopholes in the law. So-called passive euthanasia — the interruption of care such as transfusions and respiratory equipment — is not regulated. And "assisted suicide" is penalized only if there is evidence of third-party interests. Previously, "assisted death" associations were barred from homes for the elderly, and suicide, assisted or not, was prohibited there. "In a changed society, which places high value on the right to self-determination, there is no longer room for such prohibitions," Neukomm said. The normative stipulates that those who request suicide must be in full possession of their faculties. In case of doubts about the mental capacity of the person, or possible pressures from third parties, the request for suicide will not be automatically blocked, but will be evaluated by a commission. Neukomm admitted that the decision to commit suicide is often made in a moment of acute depression. The Health Department has presented studies which reveal that 85% to 95% of all would-be suicide victims who were rescued at the last minute, were "very happy" to be alive afterward. Albert Wettstein, head of the municipal doctors, said: "Only 1.1% of the residents of homes for the elderly have expressed the wish to commit suicide." The fear now is that the new norm will be a dangerous incentive as well as a "first step" toward active euthanasia, he said.  [ZURICH, Switzerland, OCT. 29, 2000 (ZENIT.org)]  
  • OREGON SUICIDES HIT RECORD HIGH IN 1998 — In OR in 1998, 569 suicides pushed the suicide rate to 17.4 per 100,000 people, up from 538 deaths and a suicide rate of 16.7 per 100,000 in 1997, reports the OR DHS. The figures do not include physician-assisted suicide, which they count separately. The report also showed there were 761 suicide attempts in 1998 among children and teen-agers ages 6 to 17. "Suicide is …the ninth-leading cause of death among Oregonians and the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 through 24," noted a Health Division spokeswoman. The report also notes live births to OR residents increased to 45,228 in 1998 from 43,765 in 1997, for an average of 124 births a day. The infant death rate decreased to 5.4 per 100,000 live births in 1998 from 5.8 in 1997. [Oregonian; AP June 28, 2000; from the OR Vital Statistics County Data 1998 report]   Comment: The article, of course, does not speculate on the connection between a legal acceptance of assisted suicide and "regular" suicide. As we have long pointed out, assisted suicide as an acceptable option would most probably lead to an increase of suicides among other vulnerable groups like teens. – N. Valko RN
  • Wesley Smith’s book "Culture of Death: the Assault on Medical Ethics in America" was just named one of the ten outstanding books of the year by Independent Publishers Group.