Select Page

Nitschke Faces Conviction Over Euthanasia Workshops

Dutch Study Shows Patients Requesting Euthanasia are Likely Depressed

UK Doctors Apparently ‘Involved in 8 Euthanasia Deaths A Day’

NITSCHKE FACES CONVICTION OVER EUTHANASIA WORKSHOPS. The Medical Council of New Zealand has referred euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke to the country’s Ministry of Health for practising medicine in New Zealand without a license. The Council says Dr Nitschke needs to be registered as a doctor to carry out his euthanasia workshops, which inform participants of their legal rights about ending their lives. Nitschke denies that he needs a licence. He faces a criminal conviction if he’s found guilty of the charge. Nitschke ran three of his exit workshops in New Zealand in January with about 100 members attending. The Council has now referred the matter onto the Ministry for Health. [The World Today, 20Feb06;  Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN);]

DUTCH STUDY SHOWS PATIENTS REQUESTING EUTHANASIA ARE LIKELY DEPRESSED.  A study published by Dutch researchers in the September 20, 2005 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) has shown that at least 50% of patients killed under the Dutch euthanasia programme were suffering from depression.

In addition, 44% of those suffering from cancer showed clinical signs of depression when they asked for euthanasia.

Titled, Euthanasia and Depression: A Prospective Cohort Study Among Terminally Ill Cancer Patients, the study reports that the risk to request euthanasia for patients with depressed mood was 4 times higher than that of patients without a depressed mood.

The significance of the study is sharpened since the researchers themselves admitted to a strong bias against their own findings. The researchers at the Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands, wrote that they were “uncomfortable” with the idea that a request for euthanasia is a symptom of depression and that the patient’s request for suicide should be deferred until his depression was treated.

The authors’ bias in favour of the Dutch euthanasia doctrine is clear: “The patient’s wish to hasten death cannot be put on par with a well-considered and persistent request for euthanasia in an environment where euthanasia is customary…Our clinical impression was that such requests were well considered decisions, thoroughly discussed with healthcare workers and family. We thought the patients requesting euthanasia were more accepting their impending death and we therefore expected them to be less depressed. To our surprise, we found that a depressed mood was associated with more requests.”

Recent research has shown that depression and emotional distress are common psychological complications of cancer. 15% to 25% of cancer patients are depressed and approximately 80% of requests for euthanasia or PAS come from cancer patients. When statistics on depression in cancer patients are combined with epidemiologic data demonstrating that, in general, suicide is approximately 30% to 50% more likely among cancer patients and that depression is a primary motivation for suicide, euthanasia and PAS look more like a method of acting on suicidal ideation than a type of termination of medical treatment. [Hilary White, 16Jan06,, Leiden]

UK DOCTORS ‘INVOLVED IN 8 EUTHANASIA DEATHS A DAY’ from voluntary or “non-voluntary” euthanasia in Britain in 2004, according to academic research.

A report by Clive Seale [prof, sociology, Brunel Univ] said 1,930 deaths were the result of a doctor ending a patient’s life without the patient’s consent, a practice known as “non-voluntary euthanasia” or “mercy killing”. This involves the ending of the life of a person who does not have the faculty to make such a decision, for instance when they are in a coma.

Some 936 deaths were by voluntary euthanasia. Put together, these figures amount to 2,866 deaths, or 8 per day. A third of the 584,791 people who died in 2004 – 192,000 patients – had their deaths “accelerated” by doctors using pain relief. These deaths were put down to “alleviating symptoms” which may have had the effect of shortening life. Just under a third were from “withholding treatment” – passively allowing someone to die – because it was deemed in the best interest of the patients. The two latter practices are allowed in the UK.

The research, published in the Palliative Medicine journal, was based on an anonymous survey of 857 doctors who were asked about the last death they had attended.

Pro-euthanasia campaigners have long argued that terminally ill patients are being helped to die, but they say this has to be done in secret because euthanasia and “doctor assisted suicide” is unlawful. However, none of the GPs or hospital doctors said they had taken part in “doctor-assisted suicide”, and just 2.6 per cent of doctors said changing the law would benefit patients. Prof Seale said: “This work shows that UK doctors are less willing to take such actions than in several other countries.

“We have a very strong ethos of providing excellent palliative care in the UK, reflected in the finding that doctors in the UK are willing to make other kinds of decisions that prioritise the comfort of patients, without striving to preserve life at the cost of suffering.”
 [By S. Womack, 18Jan06]