Articles of interest from across the globe.

Ezekiel Emanuel: Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: focus on the data

In this Medical Journal of Australia article, noted American physician and author, Ezekiel Emanuel argues that: "We should end the focus on the media frenzy about euthanasia and PAS as if it were the panacea to improving end-of-life care. Instead, we need to focus on improving the care of most of the patients who are dying and need optimal symptom management at home"

You can read the full article HERE.

Palliative Care society statement against euthanasia

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Care Medicine (ANZSPM) has issued a policy statement opposing euthanasia & assisted suicide.

Click here to read full statement

Canadian Medical Association votes to retain opposition to euthanasia

CALGARY, August 22, 2013 ( – Canada’s “parliament of medicine” has decided that it will not change its formal position against euthanasia or assisted suicide, narrowly defeating a resolution that urged the federal government to conduct a large-scale public consultation regarding doctors killing patients as a medical act.

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Alzheimer’s disease, the soft target of the euthanasia debate

The way Alzheimer’s disease is portrayed by advocacy groups and the media is having undue influence on the euthanasia debate, according to a Deakin University nursing ethics professor.

Deakin’s Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone has examined the ‘Alzheimerisation’ of the euthanasia debate in a new book - ‘Alzheimer’s disease, media representations and the politics of euthanasia: constructing risk and selling death in an aging society’ - based on her extensive research into the media representations of Alzheimer’s and the shift in public attitudes towards euthanasia.

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'Dr Death' to fight nitrogen complaint

Euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke will fight attempts to stop him practising medicine after a Christian group's complaint sparked an investigation into his nitrogen gas suicide system.

Dr Nitschke believes using nitrogen to squeeze oxygen out of the body, causing a hypoxic death, is the best lawful way of ending one's own life.

And to make nitrogen cylinders more accessible, he's set up an Adelaide-based business called Max Dog Brewing, which recently sent its first shipments to the UK and New Zealand.

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Realdignitytas rejects Australia21 statements on euthanasia

Dr Paul Dunne from REALdignitytas today rejected the conclusion of the Australia21 Report on voluntary euthanasia, that voluntary euthanasia occurs "not infrequently" in Australia.

"That statement is simply incorrect" said Dr Dunne. "Many people promoting euthanasia, deliberately confuse euthanasia with current lawful medical practice, including the withdrawal of treatment or administration of pain relief. There is no reliable evidence that doctors currently intentionally kill their patients in Tasmania, they are simply providing lawful and compassionate end of life care".

"In relation to calls to enact legislation to "protect doctors" who work in end of life care, I contend that doctors have adequate protection under the law as it exists" stated Dr Dunne.

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Belgian twins killed by doctors in unique euthanasia case

IDENTICAL twins were killed by Belgian doctors last month in an unusual mercy killing that put a spotlight on the nation's euthanasia laws.

Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45, were both born deaf and sought to end their lives after learning they would also imminently go blind.

Having spent their entire lives together, sharing an apartment and working as cobblers, the brothers told doctors they could not bear the thought of not being able to see each other, according to London’s Daily Telegraph.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, requiring those who seek it to convince a doctor and judges that they are suffering unbearable pain. The twins’ case was unusual because they were not in physical pain or terminally ill.

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Euthanasia expert Philip Nitschke accused of gas import scam

EUTHANASIA advocate Philip Nitschke faces a second inquiry that could lead to his being barred from medical practice, after authorities were notified of the use of a sham beer-brewing company to import nitrogen cylinders capable of being used for suicide. 

Max Dog Brewing, which has a red cattle dog advertising logo, has been advertised on euthanasia websites as able to provide the tanks, which are compatible with plastic bags used for suffocation.

Dr Nitschke is at present under investigation for an application to import the sedative nembutal to use as a sleeping pill for a terminally ill patient.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency received a new notification of concern about Dr Nitschke's promotion of a suicide system using nitrogen and his links with Max Dog Brewing. The agency has launched a new inquiry.

Max Dog Brewing, which is described on euthanasia websites as a "very welcome development" because it can provide an imported nitrogen cylinder for $550, is a shelf company ultimately owned and solely controlled by Dr Nitschke.

The AHPRA has been told that Dr Nitschke has been advising his supporters he was developing a new regulator for use with nitrogen, instead of helium, and developing a system for delivering nitrogen bottles.

Nitrogen cylinders tend to be used for food processing and beer production. They face Customs and safety restrictions for import and delivery.

The Australian understands the AHPRA has sent a notification of the inquiry to Dr Nitschke as part of the investigation process.

Dr Nitschke last night told The Australian he could not comment and had not yet been notified of the latest inquiry.

An AHPRA spokeswoman said the authority did not comment on individual cases or inquiries.

The notification to the medical regulatory body came from anti-euthanasia campaigner Paul Russell, the chief executive of Hope, which works to stop assisted suicide.

Mr Russell said Dr Nitschke's comments to the Herald Sun newspaper two weeks ago left "a great deal unsaid and many questions in need of answers".

Dr Nitschke said two weeks ago that his voluntary euthanasia group, Exit International, had sold 50 gas kits and ordered another 100 -- most of which had already been pre-ordered.

He said there had been a surge in demand from people wanting the gas.

"If people really want an anonymous death, that is one that will never be detected, (this) is really your only option," Dr Nitschke told the Herald Sun.

"It's the only undetectable method of death. It won't even show up at autopsy that you have used that strategy."

AHPRA started an inquiry into Dr Nitschke last November after he made an application to import nembutal for a patient.

The barbiturate nembutal is only used in Australia by vets to euthanase animals and was the centre of another controversial death after it was illegally imported from Mexico.

Article located here. (Behind paywall)

Row over end-of-life legislation

ADELAIDE intensive care specialist Peter Sharley doesn't mince words: "This bill has enormous shortcomings. It needs to be dropped. It's not fixable."

The bill in question concerns physician-assisted dying or, more bluntly, voluntary euthanasia.

And as president of the Australian Medical Association's South Australian branch, Sharley has enormous influence over its fate.

Although this bill is state-specific, it raises issues that have ebbed and flowed -- mostly ebbed -- nationwide during recent years as legislators attempt to tackle two intertwined questions: Is voluntary euthanasia ever justified? And, if so, can laws safeguard the dying?

Read the full article here.


Doctors and lawyers condemn euthanasia Bill

DOCTORS and lawyers have joined forces in a bid to stop State Parliament legalising voluntary euthanasia.

In a joint statement, the Australian Medical Association's SA president, Dr Peter Sharley, and Law Society president Ralph Bonig oppose amendments that would make it easier for doctors to provide treatment that shortened a person's life.

Dr Sharley said there was a "serious lack of protection for patients" in MP Steph Key's Bill, which provides a defence for doctors to end a life.

Bill goes back to MPs as doctors say patients at risk

A GROUP of the SA's top doctors are opposing a Bill they say would allow "broad access" to assisted suicide.

The group, led by haematologist Dr Daniel Thomas, yesterday delivered a letter - signed by 29 doctors - to all Lower House MPs, calling on them to reject the proposed law. The changes would give doctors a legal defence if they administer drugs that lead to the death of a patient.

Doctors Tim Kleinig, Daniel Thomas and Ian Leitch who are opposing the proposed Bill. Picture: Brooke Whatnall

The move came as the Law Society yesterday refused to back the Bill, also claiming it was open to abuse because no second opinion was required, and Members of Parliament learnt they would be given a second chance to debate the law.

Dr Thomas, who works with terminal cancer patients, said licensing doctors "to kill" would place vulnerable patients at even more risk because it had no provision for a second opinion, psychiatric assessment or consultation with a palliative care specialist. "These people may not want to die, but feel so pressured that they request death," Dr Thomas said.

Retired surgeon Dr Ian Leitch said he signed the letter because there was "no safe place to draw the line" as to when euthanasia was appropriate and when it was not.

"I think it's important doctors take a stand because it's our profession which will be most seriously compromised by this legislation."

Another signatory, neurologist Dr Tim Kleinig, said he was against the Bill because early euthanasia could preclude patients from "sometimes many months of good quality life and palliative care with support and compassion".

The Bill, proposed by Labor MP Steph Key, passed through its second reading stage in Parliament late last month, ending debate before it moves to a committee for scrutiny.

The State Opposition yesterday requested the second reading be rescinded, allowing MPs to speak on the issue in Parliament.

Health Minister John Hill and Opposition health spokesman Duncan McFetridge both support the Bill.

Ms Key said she was happy to allow MPs to speak and did not expect it to jeopardise its approval to the committee stage.

The Bill is expected to be debated again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Law Society president Ralph Bonig said there were legal issues surrounding the wording of the Bill.

"Only one medical person is required to perform a view. This leaves the provision open to abuse in that a person may seek out pro-euthanasia practitioners," Mr Bonig wrote in a submission released yesterday.

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