New resource about euthanasia

As debate over end-of-life issues intensifies in the UK, the Anscombe Centre has released a comprehensive ‘evidence guide’ on the issue of euthanasia. The aim is “to help people assess – and judge for themselves whether they are reassured or whether they are alarmed by – the experience of countries where euthanasia or assisted suicide are legal.”

The guide gives direct links to official data from the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the states of Oregon and Washington. It also includes links to relevant UK parliamentary reports and to empirical research published in journals. 

A 2014 Comres/CARE poll found that almost three-quarters of Britons (70%) support a change in current UK assisted-dying legislation.  Interestingly, this number dropped to 43% after certain arguments against euthanasia were heard.

David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Centre, says that “the evidence from all these countries [where assisted dying has been legalised]… click here to read whole article and make comments


Israeli doctors refuse to feed hunger-striker

Bioethics intersects with national security in Israel. An imprisoned Palestinian lawyer, Mohammad Allan, has been on a hunger strike since June 18.

Yesterday he was placed on  artificial respirator and given intravenous fluids after his lungs stopped working and he had seizures. Allan’s death would be a setback for Israel. Prisoners have promised “a day of rage” and the Al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza, has threatened to break the ceasefire.

At this stage, only forced feeding can save Allan’s life – but he has declared that he does not want any medical intervention at all. And Israeli doctors are respecting his wishes. The government has not been able to find doctors who will cooperate. A hospital in Beersheva refused to carry out blood tests without his consent. The government then transferred him to Barzilai Medical Centre, but its doctors… click here to read whole article and make comments


Progressive US bioethicist warns of euthanasia slippery slope

“Of all the arguments against voluntary euthanasia, the most influential is the ‘slippery slope’: once we allow doctors to kill patients, we will not be able to limit the killing to those who want to die. There is no evidence for this claim.” So wrote Professor Peter Singer in an article in 2009.

Some more recent reports agree. A group in the UK which called itself the Commission on Assisted Dying declared in 2010 that there was no evidence of a slippery slope. Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada explicitly rejected the idea of a slippery slope when it legalised assisted suicide.

So it is surprising to find America’s most quoted bioethicist, Art Caplan, warning that euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands is a slippery slope to abuse of vulnerable groups. In a comment in JAMA Internal Medicine on reports from… click here to read whole article and make comments


Mixed signals from Netherlands and Belgium about euthanasia

There is good news and bad news about euthanasia from the Netherlands and Belgium in JAMA Internal Medicine this week. But which is which depends on which side of the fence you sit.

From the Netherlands comes a report about how a euthanasia clinic which handled people whose regular doctor had rejected their request for euthanasia. The staff of the Levenseindekliniek are clearly more committed to euthanasia than the general run of Dutch doctors. However, they still turned away nearly half of the requests for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, mostly because these patients only had psychological suffering or were tired of living.

The clinic has a reputation for aggressively pushing euthanasia. Of the 162 patients it euthanized in 2012, the year of study, 8.2% were suffering from a psychological or psychiatric ailment and 7% were tired of life. It has a growing fleet of mobile vans… click here to read whole article and make comments


Peter Singer debates Sydney Archbishop

If you can bear the bizarre squealing sounds at some moments in this video, it makes interesting viewing. It is a public debate between world-renowned bioethicist Peter Singer, a utilitarian and a staunch advocate of legalised euthanasia, and the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, a PhD in bioethics from Oxford who has published several books.

It was a very civil occasion. Both contestants wore their uniforms: the Archbishop in the flowing white robes of a Dominican friar and the ethicist in the slightly dishevelled look of an Ivy League professor (with an Order of Australia pin in his lapel).

Singer’s argument centred on the experience of Oregon, where, he said, years of experience have shown that there is no slippery slope. He criticised Fisher: “I have to say I am disappointed by what I can only regard as Anthony Fisher’s wilful refusal to look at the evidence about the countries… click here to read whole article and make comments


Why Dutch doctors are reporting fewer euthanised infants

Doctors in the Netherlands are permitted to give infants under 1 year a lethal injection if it has a low life expectancy and is suffering. The precise conditions for this controversial act are contained in the Groningen Protocol. This was drafted in 2004 and approved by the Dutch government. In some circles, this has become notorious, a symbol of the Dutch “culture of death”.

But according to a report in the Journal of Medical Ethics, it turns out that lethal injections are very uncommon and that the protocol is rarely invoked. Between 1997 and 2004, there were 22 such cases, all of them involving spinal bifida. Between 2007 and 2010, however, there was only one case -- for a rare skin condition.

With all the hullabaloo over the Groningen Protocol, why is it so rarely invoked? The study suggests two reasons. First, doctors may be falsifying… click here to read whole article and make comments


Former Anglican head backs assisted suicide

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has appeared in a video made by the English assisted suicide lobby group Dignity in Dying. In it, he argues that it is possible to draft a law which will protect the vulnerable elderly from cruel and greedy relatives and that some patients will inevitably experience “excruciating pain”.

And he tells his fellow Christians that assisted suicide is a “profoundly Christian and moral thing” – even though he realises that some will be shocked by his break with the official Church of England policy.

From a theological point of view, Lord Carey seems to have crafted his own interpretation of the proper meaning of suffering for a Christian. “Some people have said on the issue of compassion that actually pain is a noble thing, to bear pain and to say that we are suffering with you is, in my view, a very poor… click here to read whole article and make comments


A look at the risks of egg donation

“Maggie’s Story” is the fourth in a series of videos about “eggsploitation”, the dark side of egg donation. Maggie was a 19-year-old altruistic donor who donated eggs 10 times, even though the recommended limit is six.

The producers, the Center for Bioethics and Culture, say that she was used repeatedly for others’ gain, but when things turned bad, she was left on her own to navigate tests, treatments, surgeries, and an unknown prognosis. It is a controversial claim but the documentary makes a persuasive case for it.

Now Maggie feels that her idealism was exploited by the clinic. She was told how special she was, but she was never informed of the risks to her own health. These include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, infection, damage to ovaries, infertility, and breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancers. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 32 and suspects that donation… click here to read whole article and make comments


Parents sue over intersex surgery

Pam and Mark Crawford   

In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, a South Carolina couple is suing doctors for having performed genital reconstruction surgery on their adopted child without her consent.

Mark and Pam Crawford and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are acting on behalf of MC. The Crawfords adopted him at about 2 years old. When MC was in foster care, at the age of 16 months, doctors decided to operate on ambiguous genitalia to create a distinctively female anatomy. However, as MC developed, he identified as a boy. He is now 10 years old.

“No one advocated for MC’s right to be free from unnecessary medical intervention at a time when the state was entrusted with his safety and well-being. It is high time all involved answer for the needless injury they inflicted on MC,” says the SPLC.

The lawsuit alleges that… click here to read whole article and make comments


Has “conservative bioethics” failed?

The hullabaloo over sting videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the price of foetal tissue may give the impression that bioethical conservatism is on the ascendant in America. Not so, says Jonathan Moreno, a leading bioethicist who is liberal both politically and bioethically.

“It's hard to find a conservative intellectual who emphasizes bioethics anymore, a sea change from the era of Bush 43, who devoted a chapter of his memoir, Decision Points, to the debate about human embryonic stem cells,” he writes in the Huffington Post. Instead, after a decade of debate, the liberals have won.

What seems clinched the deal for “liberals” was success. After human embryonic stem cells seemed to be useful (even if not as useful as scientists imagined), they became acceptable. Assisted suicide is spreading because baby boomers have to deal with the suffering of helpless parents. When the dust has settled… click here to read whole article and make comments


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