Gray Lady gives two cheers for euthanasia

The New York Times is edging to a cautious endorsement of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In an editorial this week, it highlighted the case of Diana Rehm, a well-known personality from National Public Radio, whose husband, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, chose to starve himself to death after reaching the end of his tether.

Maryland, where he died, is a state which does not allow assisted suicide.  “For him to go out that way, not being able to do anything for himself, was an insufferable indignity,” Ms Rehm said in an  interview.

Oddly, the editorial did not point readers towards action. It echoes the arguments of Compassion & Choices, the leading American assisted suicide lobby group, and averts to both the Catholic Church’s opposition and the problematic example of the late Jack Kevorkian, who killed at least 130 of his patients.

But it failed… click here to read whole article and make comments


Fake Australian doctor runs IVF clinic for more than 10 years

A dispatch from the Let’s-Hope-This-Doesn’t-Happen-Too-Often Department. Australian health authorities are investigating an Italian man who practiced as a gynaecologist and IVF expert in Melbourne for more than a decade. He had offices in posh suburbs and advertised his better-than-average pregnancy rates.

Unfortunately Raffaele Di Paolo was only a Mr and not a Dr who appears to have attracted patients by adding a dash of homeopathic medicine to his treatment. He claimed to be a member of the “European Society Human Reproduction Endocrinology” which sounds like, but is not, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

One of his duped clients told the Sydney Morning Herald that Di Paolo told her that he had turned to homeopathy because conventional fertility clinics were "money hungry IVF factories that herd women like cattle". Over two years she spent A$30,000 on his services, some of which were extremely bizarre.… click here to read whole article and make comments


Organ trafficking in UK on the rise

Organ trafficking is often though to be a phenomenon of the developing world. A number of recent UK cases have indicated otherwise. A recent report by the UK’s National Crime Agency stated that there were two cases of organ trafficking in the country in 2014 – one involving a woman in her 30s, and another involving a boy as young as 12. Very little is known about the cases, other than that the organ traffickers were stopped before they could operate on the individuals. A spokesman for the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) stated that authorities had alerted them to the incidents. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as many as 7,000 kidneys are illegally obtained by gangs each year around the world.

The first reported case of human organ trafficking in the UK was in 2012. In 2013 a girl was brought from Somalia with the intention… click here to read whole article and make comments


France divided over deep sleep bill

France’s parliament is set to debate a ‘deep sleep’ bill which, if passed, will allow terminally ill patients to be put into an irreversible comatose state and have life sustaining treatment withdrawn.

The bill, proposed by centre-right politician Jean Leonetti, aims to give patients with ‘hours or days to live’ the right to be placed under general anesthetic until the moment they die. “The patient has to be at the end of their life and suffering despite the treatment given,” Leonetti said. “When these elements are present, I [the doctor] am obliged to start sedation that is deep and continues until death.”

The sedation provided would be titrated such that there would be no chance of the patient regaining consciousness. Life sustaining treatment – such as artificial nutrition and hydration – may also be withdrawn.

Pro-life groups have criticised the proposed legislation, claiming it would authorize a passive form… click here to read whole article and make comments


UK woman wins right to refuse life-saving amputation


A dramatic example of the prominence of informed consent in medico-legal comes from Britain. A 62-year-old woman who has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for most of her life has refused to allow doctors to amputate a gangrenous leg. Her instructions were upheld by a judge who said that choice is “a part of what it means to be human” and that an unwanted operation would be “criminal assault”.

The story of the unnamed woman began with a superficial foot infection in December. The wound swiftly became gangrenous and eventually the foot “fell off”. Doctors wanted to amputate her leg, but the woman refused. They appealed to the Court of Protection to order an operation which would save the woman’s life.

Despite her psychological disability, the woman was living a reasonably independent life and held down a responsible job. Mr Justice Peter Jackson said that she was intellectually… click here to read whole article and make comments


Swiss assisted suicide group notches up 27% rise in deaths

NOTE: an earlier version of this story exaggerated the increase in deaths, citing a 34% rise, because of a calculation error. Sorry. 

Exit, the assisted suicide group for German-speakers in Switzerland, recorded a 27% increase in deaths last year, rising from 459 in 2013 to 583. Membership grew by 20% to 86,000.

Bernhard Sutter, the CEO of Exit told Newsweek: “We are very happy that we are an organisation that is gaining members and that is now bigger than some political parties in Switzerland. It is quite a movement now, which gives us more political weight.” He hopes that Exit will reach 250,000 members within 10 years.

The rise in membership seems to be due to increased attention by the media says Mr Sutter. Applications surged last year after the highly publicized death of 62-year-old This Jenny, a popular politician with the Swiss People’s… click here to read whole article and make comments


Terry Pratchett, novelist, Alzheimer’s campaigner and star euthanasia promoter, dies

British fantasy writer and star campaigner for assisted suicide Sir Terry Pratchett died this week a natural death surrounded by his family. He had been suffering from early-onset dementia for several years.

In the 1990s Sir Terry was the UK’s top-selling and highest-earning author. Over the course of his career he wrote 70 books which sold over 70 million copies. His fans loved his wry comic sense and imagined worlds. He was a flamboyant character, a media darling who always wore a large black fedora.

In 2007 he revealed that he had a form of Alzheimer’s disease and in 2009 he began to campaign for assisted suicide. In 2011 he narrated a highly controversial BBC documentary, “Choosing to Die”, which chronicled a trip to a Swiss suicide clinic with a man with motor neurone disease, Peter Smedley. He was present when Smedley died.

In 2010 he… click here to read whole article and make comments


Ebola’s wake-up call

Is there a silver lining to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa which has claimed nearly 10,000 lives over the past year?

Yes, says A. Townsend Peterson, of the University of Kansas, in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Finally, he argues, Ebola will get the funding needed to develop effective vaccines and treatments.

Ebola is only one of a number of diseases which cripple developing countries, but which are ignored in the developed world because no one there is in danger. But as soon as governments realised that Ebola could easily spread from West Africa to anywhere in the world, the funding tap was opened.

One example of this dynamic is the West Nile virus, which has become endemic in the US. Between 1942 and 1998, 278 articles dealt with it in scholarly journals. After it arrived in 1999, the number of publications has… click here to read whole article and make comments


Nitschke’s campaign for re-registration falters

Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke is sailing against the wind in his campaign to regain registration as a medical doctor. The Northern Territory branch of the Australian Medical Association expelled him this week for not living up to its code of ethics and his barrister has passed away suddenly.

Nitschke ridiculed the AMA’s decision.

"They had to act, they had to make their little decision to throw me out and now they're claiming I don't meet their 'high standards'. It's something of a joke. I don't like the way the medical boards behaved either, if they cannot come to terms with something like rational suicide. The world is changing and it is about time the medical profession caught up."

But the death of Peter Nugent, a personal friend and assisted suicide supporter who had taken on his case on a pro bono basis, was a… click here to read whole article and make comments


Interview: Francoise Baylis on the ethics of social egg freezing

Professor Françoise Baylis is Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy at Dalhousie University. She recently urged women not to freeze their eggs in order to focus on a career. BioEdge asked her to expand upon her advice. 

* * * * * 

Xavier Symons: Egg freezing is supposed to allow women to ‘have it all’: they can freeze their eggs at a fertile age, and ‘come back’ to childbearing after a successful career. What’s misleading about this picture?

Françoise Baylis: Media commentary on social egg freezing describes egg freezing in anticipation of age-related fertility decline as a “reproductive backstop,” a “fertility insurance policy,” an “egg savings account,” a way to “rewind the biological clock,” an “anti-aging technology”, and so on.  It would be polite to call these types of descriptions… click here to read whole article and make comments


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