Wed 14 May, 2003 09:34 am
While US Attorney General John Ashcroft is trying to subvert the voters of the US State of Oregon by blocking the State's (twice voted approval) Assisted Suicide Law, the same issue is fermenting in the UK.
Have you ever had the experience of witnessing a terminally ill or injured loved-one beg for an end to an unbearable life?
Would you vote to approve such an Assisted Suicide law in your state or country? If you are opposed, why?
Half of all doctors have been asked by patients to aid euthanasia, survey reveals
By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent
14 May 2003 - UK The Guardian
Half of the doctors in Britain have had to deal with patients requesting the right to die, researchers revealed yesterday. A quarter of the medical profession was in favour of a change in the law that would allow them to help terminally ill people to end their lives. But the independent survey of more than 900 doctors, mainly GPs, commissioned by the anti-euthanasia group Right to Life, found that 60 per cent were opposed to the concept of assisted suicide.
One in 10 said they had dealt with between five and 10 patients requesting euthanasia and nine doctors had been asked for help up to 100 times.
Next month will see the second reading of a private member's Bill in the House of Lords, tabled by the former human rights lawyer Lord Joffe, which calls for the legalisation of assisted suicide for dying people. Under the proposed law, patients would have to prove to two doctors that they were terminally ill, in unbearable pain and mentally competent to make the decision. All other options, such as palliative care, would have to be discussed before doctors and the patient signed a consent form in the presence of a solicitor. There would then be a cooling-off period of between seven and 30 days, depending on the patient's condition, before another consultation with a doctor. Only then would the doctor be allowed to help their patient to die, usually by prescribing medication.
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which is supporting Lord Joffe's Bill, said: "We don't want to see hundreds of people getting help to die, but we do want the choice for the small group of people who are terminally ill, in intolerable pain and who want to end their lives. This law would promote discussion between doctors and patients - something that does not happen at the moment."
But many doctors believe that a lack of hospice places and poor NHS resources are driving people to join assisted suicide groups. Two thirds of doctors questioned believed that demand for euthanasia in Britain would decline if hospice and geriatric services improved.
Last month, a British couple travelled to the headquarters of Dignitas, an assisted suicide group in Geneva, and were helped to commit suicide, despite the fact that they were not terminally ill. Bob and Jenny Stokes were in wheelchairs and had decided that the constant pain of chronic conditions such as arthritis meant their lives were no longer worth living.
Dr Anthony Cole, of the Medical Ethics Alliance, which supports Right to Life, said: "It is an appalling situation that we do not have good-quality palliative care services in the UK. We should not be driving people to consider suicide simply because they are not getting proper pain relief, or adequate care on hospital wards."
The Doctor's Quandary
Dr Sam Everington has had to deal with people requesting the right to die - and says the issue is a moral quagmire for doctors and patients.
He works in Bow, east London, and while he supports the current ban on euthanasia, he can see a time when assisted suicide could be legalised in Britain. But first, he says, NHS services for the dying need to be improved.
"I have had patients requesting euthanasia and it can be very difficult," Dr Everington said. "I had a patient who demanded euthanasia, when what they wanted was the chance of a dignified and painless as possible death. By talking ... [we were] able to resolve the matter. "I wouldn't judge someone saying they wanted to end their lives. If there was a proper public debate and high-quality hospice care, I could see a time when I would be able to support a patient in making the decision to die."
This issue, to my belief, has been discussed in the past on A2K. As I've stated previously on A2K, physician-assisted suicide should not be made legal nor should it be encouraged.
I vote yes. But only with pre-written consent from the person who's life is in question which was written when that person was healthy and and/or coherent.
comatose and on life support, would unplugging by physician be assisted suicide?
I'm voting yes. If the physician cannot actually assist, he should at least be permitted to write the appropriate prescription without problems from either John Ashcroft or DEA.
I'm also voting yes. If I am terminally ill, I want to have that choice. If I didn't have the choice, I would take care of it myself before I was bad enough to be put in hospice care.
Make it legal, but keep the law very strict to prevent abuse.
I agree with Edgar. There should be safe guards in place. But I'll be damned if I want John Ashcroft telling me what I can and cannot do with my life. If I were terminally ill, I expect I'd hold out for the last breath, as long as I could stand the pain. But at some point, I would want to be able to say whether or not I should be expected to tolerate pain just so John Ashcroft's defenses are not threatened. Poor dear.
I'm with edgar--
I believe a person has the unalienable right to do with their life as they choose. But, I do have the concern that this would be another easy m.o. for murder, especially of elderly people. Mentally challenged people.
Yes, with heavy regulations, checks and balances.
I say No. That's an enormous responsibility to put on the doctor. If a patient wishes to die and commits suicide, that is one thing. It is quite another to expect a medical professionals assistance.
Also, consider if the doctor was totally against this and if law was passed that he MUST do it if the patient expressly requested it, what then? Violate his own beliefs? Get another doctor who has no knowledge of the patient?
I say yes. I do believe though, that there needs to be safeguards in place, so that people would not commit a murder of convenience. I certainly think, that at the least a physician should be able to prescribe a lethal dose of medication AT THE REQUEST OF THE PATIENT.
As far as I am concerned, I am the "captain of my ship", and I certainly don't want the government to tell me what I can and cannot do with my life. When I had a "terminal" illness, I read "Final Exit", and determined what was needed to do the job. I put together a "stash" of medications to be used if and when I saw fit.
Yesterday, I ran into an elderly neighbor. His wife had died of cancer, just a couple of weeks ago, He described her last few weeks. Even though she had hospice, he still had to take care of her. He spoke of the way she declined steadily, and how he did not sleep for two weeks, because he was afraid that she would fall out of bed. Without going into the gory details, it was a horror scene for both of them.
What a kindness it would have been to the two of them if she had just been quietly and mercifully put to death. This poor man, who was married to his wife for 63 great years, will have the memory of those two weeks to haunt him for the rest of his life!
This kind of "Euthanasia" started in The Netherlands two years ago (and is done similar since some time in Switzerland, too).
There has been a thirty year-long public discussion about it, which finally led to the fact that the Dutch Senate enacted a law that made the Netherlands the first country to allow euthanasia and assisted suicides for patients suffering unbearably with no hope of relief.
We have this discussion here in Germany even longer. (However, it isn't called 'Euthanasia' here, since this word has a very "nasty taste" [the Nazi's used it for murdering th diabled co-citizens].)
Thus, we have developped here a very high standard in pain therapy, established pain clinics and hospices.
Physicians are reffering to this and against changing the law - as is policy.
I'm not shure about it:
- I've seen patients in hospices, who desperately wanted to make suicide and who now are living in rahter good health (five years after that).
- I've known (and seen) people, who comitted suicide, because they didn't want to suffer longer.
I do believe that any kind of help is better than a suicide. And if it's a "doctor's pill" to die in and with dignity, well, it seems to be okay for me.
To me, there is a larger issue involved. To whom does my body belong? Am I a chattel of the State, or an autonomous individual, free to do what I wish with my body?
Your body is your own, Phoenix. As mine is mine.
I vote yes. That yes does not, however, allow me to force a physician to do something s/he doesn't want to. At the same time, it will not allow a physician to decide what is right for me.
How do you handle the physician's advice re. an illness, what do you tell a surgeon at an operation?
Walter - i am the queen of second and third opinions - and doing my own research. i AM the mistress of my own opinion/dominion/decision.
i have been known to ask if a dr would recommend the same thing for a family member.
That's completely okay, never did something else. (Which doesn't mean a lot, since my father has been the family doctor in childhood and youth.)