October 16th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: How Abbott could have won the Coalition the election

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Labor opportunism over Aborigines, environment

EDITORIAL: Japan's foot-and-mouth disease threat to Australia

EUTHANASIA I: Physician-assisted suicide defeated in WA

EUTHANASIA II: What the public deserves to be told about euthanasia

EUTHANASIA III: Palliative care the answer to euthanasia

CHINA I: Espionage a key tool in Chinese statecraft

CHINA II: Falling into the trap of an Asian Munich

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Questions about Venezuela's links with radical Muslims

SCHOOLS: Old-school discipline best for children's sake

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Post-abortion grief caused by brain's 'hard-wiring'

AS THE WORLD TURNS: American universities in decline / On getting boys to read again / West stuck in near depression / Euro may collapse

BOOK REVIEW: CLIMATE: The Counter-Consensus, by Robert M. Carter


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What the public deserves to be told about euthanasia

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, October 16, 2010
With a de facto relationship established between the Greens and the Gillard Labor Government, a death culture item is first cab off the rank.

Greens Senator Bob Brown's top priority is not protecting trees or whales but restoring to the Northern Territory euthanasia rights which were overruled by Kevin Andrews' Euthanasia Laws Act in 1996.

The Greens' Euthanasia Bill in WA was defeated recently (see John Barich's article in this issue), but parliamentary bills are still pending in SA and Tasmania and a new voluntary euthanasia bill has been tabled in the NSW parliament.

Dr William Reichel, MD, affiliated scholar at Georgetown University School of Medicine's Center for Clinical Bioethics, Washington, DC, recently warned about dangerous developments in the Netherlands, which pioneered the legalising of euthanasia.

He wrote: "I am a physician who has studied assisted suicide and euthanasia since 1988, especially in the Netherlands. ... Dutch law calls for providing assisted-suicide and euthanasia with the patient's consent. This is not always done. Indeed, over time, assisted suicide on a strictly voluntary basis evolved into allowing euthanasia on an involuntary basis. Euthanasia is also performed on infants and children, who are not capable of giving consent.

"The most recent year report from the Dutch government is 2005. The report is 'spun' to defend Dutch law, but concedes 550 patients (average of 1.5 per day) were actively killed by doctors 'without an explicit request'.

"The report concedes an additional 20 per cent of deaths were not reported to the authorities as required by law. Proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia hold out the carrot of 'choice' to induce the public to believe these practices are somehow benign. Those who believe legal assisted suicide and euthanasia will assure their 'choice' are naïve." (Toronto Sun, September 10, 2010).

Once euthanasia and assisted suicide are legalised, as in the US states of Oregon and Washington, it appears impossible to protect patients from undergoing euthanasia without their consent.

Seattle lawyer Margaret Dore commented on how assisted suicide operates in her state.

She wrote: "Washington State's Death with Dignity Act was passed via an initiative in which voters were promised 'choice' regarding the timing of their deaths. Our act, however, has significant gaps so that patient choice is not assured. For example, no witnesses are required at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know? ...

"Required official forms and reports do not ask about or report on whether the patient consented at the time of death. Consent at the time of death is also not required by the language of the act itself. Once again and contrary to marketing rhetoric, patient 'choice' is not assured." (Letter, Montreal
, September 16, 2010).

In January 2010, an assisted suicide bill was defeated in New Hampshire's House of Representatives, by 242 to 113. The major reason was elder abuse. New Hampshire representative Nancy Elliott stated: "These acts empower heirs and others to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. This is especially an issue when the older person has money. There is no assisted-suicide bill that you can write to correct this huge problem."

Oregon and Washington's euthanasia acts apply to "terminal" patients, defined as having no more than six months to live. Such patients are not necessarily dying. Doctors' prognoses can be wrong, and treatment can lead to recovery.

Oregon resident Jeanette Hall, diagnosed with cancer and told that she had only six months to a year to live, declared: "I wanted my doctor to help me [die]. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and I decided to fight. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. ... It is now nearly 10 years later. If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead."

In Oregon, patients labelled "terminal" have been denied coverage for treatment, and have been offered coverage for assisted suicide instead.

The best known case involved Barbara Wagner who had lung cancer. The Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for a drug to possibly prolong her life and offered to pay for her assisted suicide instead.

After Wagner's death, Barbara Coombs Lee, national president of the pro-euthanasia Compassion & Choices, published an editorial in The Oregonian arguing against Wagner's choice to try and beat her cancer. Other euthanasia proponents also defended the Oregon Health Plan and argued for a public policy change to discourage people from seeking cures.

Australia's Dr Philip Nitschke, relentless promoter of euthanasia, having had his "Exit Choices" advertisements rejected in Australia, is aiming to air them in Canada, although the Canadian Parliament rejected euthanasia by a vote of 228 to 59 in March this year.

Campaigning to stop Dr Nitschke's advertisements being aired in Canada is Alex Schadenberg, director of Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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