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Terri Shiavo’s Fight for Life Continues

Royal College of Nursing Confirms Opposition to Assisted Dying Bill and Calls for Improved Palliative Care

New Pain Drug From Puffer Fish May Nix Reason to Resort to Assisted Suicide:  Neurotoxin Could Revolutionize Treatment of Intractable Pain

Child Euthanasia in Europe



FL COURT NIXES LAW KEEPING TERRI SCHIAVO ALIVE – The Florida Supreme Court struck down a law that was rushed through the Legislature last fall to keep a brain-damaged woman on a feeding tube against her husband’s wishes.

The unanimous court said the law that kept Terri Schiavo alive violated the separation of powers. The decision cites the “right to privacy” and states that Terri’s Law “is without question an invasion of the authority of the judicial branch for the Legislature to pass a law that allows the executive branch to interfere with the final judicial determination in a case.” [Ed. i.e., the Court is miffed that someone instituted our “system of checks and balances” against them…][23Sept04,;, AP; N Valko RN]

NEW HOPE IN TERRI SCHIAVO CASE – GOV. BUSH WILL NOT END TERRI’S FIGHT FOR LIFE– In a dramatic new development, attorneys representing the parents of Terri Schindler-Schiavo have filed a memorandum of law establishing that depriving Terri of food and water would not only be against her wishes, but is also prohibited by the United States and Florida constitutions, as well as Florida statutory and common law. 

The 28-page memorandum filed by Attorney Patricia F. Anderson along with new attorneys for the family, Deborah E. Berliner and Brett M. Wood of Washington, DC, cites a substantial change in circumstances that the court must consider in determining whether it should set aside an order it entered in February 2000 that Terri Schiavo’s life should be terminated by depriving her of food and water. 

Terri has been cognitively disabled since 1990 and since then has received food and water through a gastronomy tube.  Her estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, with the support of so-called “right to die” advocates, has for years sought to end Terri’s life, claiming that her right to privacy will be violated unless she is starved to death

In their memorandum, the attorneys representing Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, point to a substantial change in circumstances arising after the entry of the judgment commanding that Terri must die. 

The new circumstances cited by the Schindlers directly involve Terri’s life-long religious beliefs and her fundamental right to freedom of religious belief and expression.  They explain that given a significant new development in the moral teaching of her church regarding the obligation to provide food and water to patients in a so-called “persistent vegetative state,” the Court’s decision in 2000 that Terri would, if she was able, choose to end her life can no longer stand. 

In their memorandum, the Schindlers attorneys demonstrate that such a decision would defy Church teaching and be directly contrary to Terri’s life-long religious beliefs, which the Court is obligated, under federal and state law, to honor.  The Schindlers lawyers note that, given the overwhelming evidence of Terri’s life-long faith and devotion to the Church – which she proclaimed only hours before her collapse – she would never willingly defy her church by consenting to conduct that is morally forbidden by the Church.

In a related development that is very significant to Terri’s case, the Florida Supreme Court on September 9, 2004 ruled in Warner v. City of Boca Raton that a religious belief is substantially burdened if the government either compels the religious adherent to engage in conduct that his or her religion forbids, or forbids a religious adherent from engaging in conduct that his or her religion requires. 

Because the February 2000 ruling that Terri must die both compels Terri to engage in conduct forbidden by her religion and forbids her to act as required by her religion, it can no longer stand. [Related Documents: (1) – Memorandum of Law (2) – Supreme Court Opinion (Warner v. City of Boca Raton)]


ROYAL COLLEGE OF NURSING CONFIRMS OPPOSITION TO ASSISTED DYING BILL AND CALLS FOR IMPROVED PALLIATIVE CARE — The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) policy is based on 5 key points of nursing principle:
• high quality palliative care should be available to all who need it – this would overcome many of the reasons people call for clinically assisting death
• involving nurses in assisted dying would undermine the nurse-patient relationship and frighten vulnerable people
• if made legal, it would be difficult for nurses to opt out as there are dying patients across all specialties and many nurses have moral or religious objections to assisting death
• the Bill normalizes the concept that some lives are not worth living which is contrary to a core nursing belief in the intrinsic value of life
• the most vulnerable patients may choose death in order not to burden their families.

RCN Deputy President, Maura Buchanan: “The RCN has carefully considered this complex and difficult issue and consulted widely amongst its members. The overwhelming response from them has been to…reaffirm the core principles which lie at the heart of nursing – valuing life and ensuring patients are well cared for. Many of the most distressing incidents we were told about arose from a lack of proper palliative care. We firmly believe that with proper pain control and psychological care, patients are unlikely to ask for clinical help to die. We are also concerned about the position of the most vulnerable who may feel they should ask to die in order to avoid being a burden to their families.”

RCN General Secretary, Beverly Malone: “The RCN policy of opposing assisted dying is crucial to protect the nurse-patient relationship. We know that nurses deliver the vast majority of patient care and are trusted advocates for the people they look after. Anything jeopardizing that trust would undermine the foundations of our relationship with patients and could have potentially disastrous consequences for nursing, our patients and their families.” [RCN Media Office on 0207 647 3633, [email protected] [; 6Sept04, N Valko RN, 15Sept04]


NEW PAIN DRUG FROM PUFFER FISH MAY NIX REASON TO RESORT TO ASSISTED SUICIDE: Neurotoxin Could Revolutionize Treatment of Intractable Pain – Euthanasia advocates often cite extreme cases of intractable pain in cancer as a justification for ‘compassionate’ assisted suicide. Now the argument could be made moot by a little spiny fish popular with Japanese restaurant goers called Fugu, the daredevil dish. The lowly puffer fish emits one of nature’s strongest neural toxins. The poison, called tetrodotoxin, can cause numbness, respiratory failure and sometimes deat
h, but bec
omes completely harmless and beneficial for controlling pain when processed into the drug, Tectin.

Dr. May Ong-Lam, an oncologist at St. Paul’s Hospital is involved in the testing of the drug for cancer patients. She says, “Definitely one of our patients received a significant benefit after she had damage to nerves in her arm from radiation treatment which was very painful. This patient took Tectin for two days intramuscularly and the analgesic effect lasted about three weeks, a significant result.”

Vancouver-based International Wex Technologies Inc. is working to develop the drug, which is as much as 3000 times stronger than morphine. The current debate on euthanasia often centers around cancer patients who can suffer extreme pain from the disease and from radiation and other therapies. This development could be important in the trial of Evelyn Martens, a Victoria woman who was head of the Right to Die Network of Canada who is accused of assisting two BC women to commit suicide.

With Tectin, the Phase II trial results showed that pain could be relieved for up to two weeks in some patients. Based on these results, the company is pursuing a larger trial. The current trial is a double-blind and placebo-controlled study designed to compare the efficacy and safety of Tectin versus placebo in moderate to severe inadequately controlled cancer-related pain.  “We are definitely encouraged by the Phase IIa results,” said Dr. Neil Hagen. “We believe that the current study will be one of the largest and most important Canadian clinical trials conducted to date to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a drug for medically refractory cancer pain.”
 Puffer Fish Facts:  [, 29Sept04]

NOW THEY WANT TO EUTHANIZE CHILDREN — In the Netherlands, 31 percent of pediatricians have killed infants. A fifth of these killings were done without the “consent” of parents. Going Dutch has never been so horrible.

FIRST, Dutch euthanasia advocates said that patient killing will be limited to the competent, terminally ill who ask for it. Then, when doctors began euthanizing patients who clearly were not terminally ill, sweat not, they soothed: medicalized killing will be limited to competent people with incurable illnesses or disabilities.

Then, when doctors began killing patients who were depressed but not physically ill, not to worry, they told us: only competent depressed people whose desire to commit suicide is “rational” will have their deaths facilitated. Then, when doctors began killing incompetent people, such as those with Alzheimer’s, it’s all under control, they crooned: non-voluntary killing will be limited to patients who would have asked for it if they were competent.

And now they want to euthanize children.

In the Netherlands, Groningen University Hospital has decided its doctors will euthanize children under the age of 12, if doctors believe their suffering is intolerable or if they have an incurable illness. But what does that mean? In many cases, as occurs now with adults, it will become an excuse not to provide proper pain control for children who are dying of potentially agonizing maladies such as cancer, and doing away with them instead. As for those deemed “incurable”–this term is merely a euphemism for killing babies and children who are seriously disabled.

For anyone paying attention to the continuing collapse of medical ethics in the Netherlands, this isn’t at all shocking. Dutch doctors have been surreptitiously engaging in eugenic euthanasia of disabled babies for years,  although it technically is illegal, since infants can’t consent to be killed.

Indeed, a disturbing 1997 study published in the British medical journal, the Lancet, revealed how deeply pediatric euthanasia has already metastasized into Dutch neo natal medical practice: According to the report, doctors were killing approximately 8 percent of all infants who died each year in the Netherlands. That amounts to approximately 80-90 per year. Of these, one-third would have lived more than a month. At least 10-15 of these killings involved infants who did not require life-sustaining treatment to stay alive. The study found that a shocking 45 percent of neo-natologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to questionnaires had killed infants.

It took the Dutch almost 30 years for their medical practices to fall to the point that Dutch doctors are able to engage in the kind of euthanasia activities that got some German doctors hanged after Nuremberg. For those who object to this assertion by claiming that German doctors killed disabled babies during World War II without consent of parents, so too do many Dutch doctors: Approximately 21 percent of the infant euthanasia deaths occurred without request or consent of parents. Moreover, since when did parents attain the moral right to have their children killed?

Euthanasia consciousness is catching. The Netherlands’ neighbor Belgium decided to jump off the same cliff as the Dutch only 2 years ago. But already, they have caught up with the Dutch in their freefall into the moral abyss. The very first Belgian euthanasia of a person with multiple sclerosis violated the law; and just as occurs routinely in the Netherlands, the doctor involved faced no consequences.

Now Belgium is set to legalize neo-pediatric euthanasia. Two Belgian legislators justify their plan to permit children to ask for their own mercy killing on the basis that young people “have as much right to choose” euthanasia as anyone else. Yet, these same children who are supposedly mature enough to decide to die would be ineligible to obtain a driver’s license.

Why does accepting euthanasia as a remedy for suffering in very limited circumstances inevitably lead to never-ending expansion of the killing license? Blame the radically altered mindset that results when killing is redefined from a moral wrong into a beneficent and legal act.

If killing is right for, say the adult cancer patient, why shouldn’t it be just as right for the disabled quadriplegic, the suicidal mother whose children have been killed in an accident, or the infant born with profound mental retardation? At that point, laws and regulations erected to protect the vulnerable against abuse come to be seen as obstructions that must be surmounted.

From there, it is only a hop, skip, and a jump to deciding that killing is the preferable option.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His next book, Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World will be released in October.  [ Wesley J. Smith 09/13/2004]