Rational Suicide: Intended for Seniors and the Seriously Ill (and their families)

Rational Suicide: Philip Nitschke condemns our ‘prehistoric’ euthanasia laws…

 

 

From Australia

With the topic of legalising euthanasia up for debate in parliament this week, I travelled to Holland to speak to the man who started the conversation.

You have been putting up with portraits of often long-dead Australian mavericks from me for weeks now, as part of my attempt to entertain and inspire. This time, though, our maverick is alive and well and willing to talk. And there is plenty of reason for a conversation, because the cause he spent most of his life advocating, euthanasia, will be debated in both the NSW and Victorian parliaments this week. In fact, it is on the agenda in Sydney today. But Philip Nitschke won’t be there. Two years ago he migrated to the more liberal climes of the Netherlands and that is where we are talking now, in a high-ceilinged restaurant dating back to the 18th century, with heavy wood paneling, landscapes painted on walls and waiters in long white aprons. But there are reminders of home too, like the cockatoo on the bar, a gift from an Australian sailor 22 years ago and still on his perch overlooking the customers, screeching his comments. Nitschke turned 70 this year and although he takes his cause very seriously, he knows how to have a good laugh at his own expense. “When I helped my first patient kill himself, Wikipedia started referring to me as ‘doctor death’. There are only nine of us. Six are dead. People like Mengele, the Nazi doctor in Auschwitz, and Jack Kevorkian. Then there is a chap in Siberia who is serving a life sentence, somebody in South Africa awaiting trial for murder, and me. Last man standing.”

Nitschke seems at home in Holland. A few days ago he was on the front page of one of the leading Dutch papers, talking about a new euthanasia drug. But he is not a controversial, polarising figure here; just another expert giving his measured opinion about the way forward in the debate. The euthanasia debate in the Netherlands has been raging since the early 1970s and resulted in a law in 2002 that allows for close to what the Australian states are discussing now. The discussion in Holland at the moment is about giving people the right to decide for themselves whether they want to die or not, without the interference of a doctor, and even without the necessity of a terminal illness. The majority of the country, 74%, is in favour of supplying people who feel their life is “completed” with a pill that they can use if and when they decide it is time to end it. It is a conversation that is a long way from the one in front of the Australian politicians this week, and Nitschke deplores the fact that the country is so far behind most of the rest of the Western world. Especially because Australia was the first to have a euthanasia law in the world, in the Northern Territory in 1996. Nitschke himself was instrumental in getting it passed and making it work until the Federal government shut it down.

Rational Suicide: Dr Philip Nitschke in Darwin, Australia to show people how to end their lives…

 

Nan Maitland.

From NTNews, Australia

FORMER Northern Territory voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke is back in Darwin to teach Territorians how to “practically, peacefully and reliably” end their lives.

Dr Nitschke, who now lives in the Netherlands, helped four patients end their lives in the NT before the law allowing him to do so was overturned in 1997.

The workshop in Lyons on Saturday is one of 10 to be held around Australia and will give the elderly and terminally ill advice on how to buy, store and use drugs or gases to kill themselves.

“It’s a very practical guide on peacefully and reliably ending your life,” Dr Nitschke said.

He acknowledged the workshops were controversial, but said there had been minimal opposition to them in the Territory.

“Territorians are by and large much more amenable to the idea (of voluntary euthanasia) than people down south,” he said.

“There’s always opposition in Sydney and Melbourne – usually from religious groups – and from people who say it upsets politicians and lowers the chances of having laws passed.”

Dr Nitschke said he didn’t buy the argument that teaching people how to end their lives led to higher suicide rates.

“We have thousands of 75-year-old members who want to have the drugs in the cupboard, and feel a whole lot happier when they do and when they’re happier, they live longer and better lives,” he said.

Dr Nitschke said he believed legislation in the works for Victoria would pass this year, which could lead to the repeal of the federal legislation which prevents the NT and ACT from allowing the practice.

But, any legislation would likely be “extremely conservative” and require those wishing to die to “jump through hoops” to prove their eligibility to end their lives, he said.

While in Darwin, Dr Nitschke will also attend the Casuarina screening of Fade to Black, a film documenting the final six months of Peter Short’s life as he lobbied politicians to give the terminally ill the right to die.
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Our Aged Have Earned The Right To Die…

 

 

From Philip Nitschke
The Australian

As the euthanasia issue heats up again, many are wondering aloud what the fuss is all for.

For some, Victoria’s proposed law will represent a historical breakthrough. Since the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Termin­ally Ill Act was quashed by federal parliament 20 years ago, Australia has led the world in going backwards on end-of-life choices. ­Others like it this way.

As Victoria’s assisted-dying law looks increasingly like a sure thing, deep splits along conscience, ­rather than party, lines are emerging at Spring Street.

Similar divisions happened in Darwin in 1996. The NT law got up by one vote, that of the sole Aboriginal member, Wes Lanhupuy.

However, 20 years later the world has moved on and we are talking about a new law, one that Victorians boast is the safest law ever, anywhere in the world.

What I would add is that the law is so ridiculously cautious that few people will be able to use it. With its 60-plus safeguards, the law is destined to fail even if it passes.

Here’s why:

Mum’s torture broke my heart…

 

Nitschke and mother Gwen.

From Philip Nitschke
Exit International
The Australian

Euthanasia activist Philip Nit­schke has used the case of his mother to illustrate why he ­believes Victoria’s voluntary ­euthanasia laws will not work for the vast majority of people who are calling for them.

Dr Nitschke’s mother Gwen died in December 2015, aged 95, after spending more than six years in a South Australian nursing home which, he says, she compared to torture.

“She had in fact wanted to ‘check out’ the same year she had to leave her granny flat and move into institutional care. At least, she said she wanted the choice,” Dr Nitschke writes in an opinion piece in The Australian today.

Because his mother was not able to plan for death, Dr Nitschke could not get home from The Netherlands in time to be with her for her final moments.

“(It) broke my heart and ­remains the profound regret of my life. Not that Gwen died but that the process of her dying was so drawn-out, torturous and unable to be planned,” he said.

Dr Nitschke has used the ­example to illustrate what he ­believes to be the flaws in Victoria’s new right-to-die laws: that the restrictions are too onerous and that people would have to be ­“almost dead” to use them.

“Old ladies like Gwen will never be able to use the Victorian law because they aren’t sick, let alone terminally ill, about to die. Gwen was old, frail and lived without dignity. But this is different from being sick,’’ he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel ­Andrews is pushing ahead with formulating legislation for a voluntary euthanasia program that would restrict access to the sound of mind and those suffering a terminal, incurable disease that is likely to kill them within a year.

Patients would have to go through a process requiring them to ask three times for access to the scheme. They would have to be assessed by two doctors who could verify they qualified for the program.

Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan yesterday said he would use the weekend to look over the plan.

“I haven’t made my mind up, but I’m erring on the side of supporting the bill,” he said. “I’ll take some time to reflect on the issue, read the final reports and then come to a decision.”

However, resistance is firming in other pockets, with some MPs ­arguing that compliance would be ­impossible even with the strictest safeguards in place.
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At His Own Wake, Celebrating Life and the Gift of Death…

 

From NYT

Tormented by an incurable disease, John Shields knew that dying openly and without fear could be his legacy, if his doctor, friends and family helped him.

VICTORIA, British Columbia — Two days before he was scheduled to die, John Shields roused in his hospice bed with an unusual idea. He wanted to organize an Irish wake for himself. It would be old-fashioned with music and booze, except for one notable detail — he would be present.

The party should take up a big section of Swiss Chalet, a family-style chain restaurant on the road out of town. Mr. Shields wanted his last supper to be one he so often enjoyed on Friday nights when he was a young Catholic priest — rotisserie chicken legs with gravy.

Then, his family would take him home and he would die there in the morning, preferably in the garden. It was his favorite spot, rocky and wild. Flowering native shrubs pressed in from all sides and a stone Buddha and birdbath peeked out from among the ferns and boulders. Before he got sick, Mr. Shields liked to sit in his old Adirondack chair and watch the bald eagles train their juveniles to soar overhead. He meditated there twice a day, among the towering Douglas firs.

“Someone once asked me how did I get to become unique,” he said that afternoon in his hospice bed. “I recommend meditation as a starting place — bringing your consciousness to bear.”

‘Today Is the Last Day of My Life’ 

Mr. Shields intended to die swiftly and peacefully by lethal injection, administered by his doctor. Last June, the Canadian government legalized what it termed “medical assistance in dying” for competent adult patients who are near death and suffering intolerably from irremediable illnesses. When his doctor, Stefanie Green, informed him that he qualified, Mr. Shields felt the first hope since a doctor told him more than a year before that he had a rare and incurable disease called amyloidosis, which caused proteins to build up in his heart and painfully damage the nerves in his arms and legs.

Having control over the terms of his death made him feel empowered over the disease rather than crippled by it, a common response among Dr. Green’s patients. Mr. Shields believed that dying openly and without fear could be his most meaningful legacy — which was saying something. The man had packed five lifetimes of service into one: He had been a civil rights activist, a social worker for children, the head of British Columbia’s biggest union and, most recently, the savior of a floundering land trust that included 7,191 acres of protected wilderness and historic properties.

Gorsuch Staunchly Opposes ‘Aid in Dying.’ Does It Matter?

 

From NYT

Ever since President Trump nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court, interested parties have been combing through his writings and appellate court rulings looking for signs and portents.

If he’s confirmed, how might Judge Gorsuch vote on affirmative action questions? Or challenges to Roe v. Wade?

But nobody has to do much head-scratching over his position on medical aid in dying. In 2006, the year he was appointed to the federal Court of Appeals in Denver, Princeton University Press published Judge Gorsuch’s book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.”

It leaves little room for doubt. Over 226 pages (in paperback), Judge Gorsuch pursues a legal and philosophical argument that “assisted suicide and euthanasia” should be outlawed because “all human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable” and “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

In Oregon, the first state to legalize aid in dying, the handful of patients using the law had been white and well educated, the author noted in an epilogue, leading him to wonder “whether assisted suicide is a matter of necessity or more of a lifestyle choice by people who have always tended to control their lives and now wish to control their death.” (Even the terminology is perilous. The phrase “assisted suicide,” now used mostly by opponents, tends to signal disapproval. For a while, supporters preferred “death with dignity.” At least “aid in dying” doesn’t imply that those who die without lethal prescriptions lack dignity.)

Judge Gorsuch’s position is creating anxiety in a movement that recently celebrated victories in several states and expressed optimism about winning more. “He has revealed tremendous personal hostility,” said Kathryn Tucker, executive director of the End of Life Liberty Project.

New Zealand: A trial is to be held for Susan Austen, charged with aiding a suicide

 

Susan Austen in the dock at the Wellington District Court.

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ Susan Austen in the dock at the Wellington District Court.

From New Zealand

A Lower Hutt woman and pro-euthanasia campaigner has pleaded not guilty to aiding a suicide and importing a drug that can be used for euthanasia.

Susan Dale Austen, 65, has been charged with aiding Annemarie Niesje Treadwell to commit suicide between December 2015 and June 2016.

She also faces two charges of importing the narcotic sedative pentobarbitone.

Treadwell​ was a Wellington woman who supported Voluntary Euthanasia Society president Maryan Street’s petition in support of assisted dying.

The Catholic Church’s Cruel Response to Assisted Suicide in Canada…

 


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Rational Suicide: Why Suicide Drugs Should Be Issued To The Elderly…

Suicide is a fundamental human right, not just a medical privilege conferred on the terminally ill. Euthanasia drugs should be issued to all those over 70 to use if they wish. Longevity and quality of life will increase.

For more than two decades Dr Philip Nitschke has been active in the Australian right to die movement, and has influenced the worldwide debate on voluntary euthanasia. In 1996, Dr Nitschke became the first physician in the world to administer a legal lethal voluntary injection to four terminally ill patients in 1996 under the Australia’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

As Founder and Director of Exit International – a leading end of life rights advocacy and information non-profit – Dr Nitschke has written extensively in the area of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide including two books, Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthanasia and the Road to the Peaceful Pill published by Penguin and The Peaceful Pill eHandbook published by Exit International USA. His autobiography Damned if I Do with Peter Corris was published by Melbourne University Press in 2013.

Dr Nitschke holds a PhD in applied physics from Flinders University and is a graduate of Sydney Medical School.
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