There is a plethora of films about euthanasia and assisted suicide, but possibly none which takes place in a courtroom. However, a courtroom in the sweltering far north of Australia might provide an excellent script for an updated version of Inherit the Wind, pitting enlightened progressives against backwoods conservatives.
The progressive would be Philip Nitschke, one of the world’s best-known euthanasia activists. He has been battling to retain his medical registration before Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal. His lawyer, Henry Nugent, is terminally ill with colon cancer and ardently supports supported Nitschke’s cause.
Representing the antediluvian Medical Board of Australia is barrister Lisa Chapman. The MBA regards Nitschke as a public danger.
The legislature of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel has voted overwhelmingly to force government-funded nursing homes to allow representatives of assisted suicide groups to advertise their services.
(Neuchâtel is in the west of Switzerland, bordering on France, and is predominantly French-speaking.)
There are no exemptions for conscientious objection by managers in the homes. The only critierion, according to Swiss.info, is the personal choice of the patients. Personal autonomy must take precedence over the rules of the nursing homes. About 60 institutions will be affected by the decision.
The new regulations specify that nursing home personnel will not be allowed to interfere if a patient chooses to die. In fact, they are required to set aside a room where the staff of the assisted suicide organisation Exit will help the person to die.
Here is a video which is essential viewing for anyone interested in how Swiss assisted suicide groups work. Exit - Le Droit De Mourir (Exit: the right to die) is a prize-winning 2006 documentary. Unavailable until now, it was recently posted on YouTube.
The director, Fernand Melgar, spent two years filming the work of the Francophone group Exit. He shows an annual general meeting, secretaries answering phone queries, a conference of Exit societies in Japan, a board meeting and discussions with clients. Most astonishing of all, he films the last moments of a woman who chose to die on January 22.
The photography and editing are breath-taking. One impressive detail: from across the street he films undertakers manhandling a gurney with the woman's body into their van. Cars pass in the drizzle. Suddenly there is a movement in a window of the block of flats, the reflection of a train behind…
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Brittany Maynard, the American woman who announced the date of her assisted suicide through YouTube, has been a media sensation in the US and around the world. In Belgium, the news would have barely made page 4 or 5 in local newspapers. Chronicles of deaths foretold are so common that they have shrunk to 3 or 4 paragraphs.
This week a 34-year-old fireman suffering from a rare brain tumour, Kevin Chalmet, was euthanased. He invited everyone to bid him farewell, but only his girlfriend, parents and sister were there at the end – and a well-known local comedian and cartoonist who sketched his death agony from a corner.
Has sperm donation made the status of fathers obsolete? Several items popped up in the media this week which give different answers.
NOPE: fatherhood is a primal urge. Hollywood identity Jason Patric has won a two-year legal battle to become the legal father of the child of former girlfriend and massage therapist Danielle Schreiber. The pair separated acrimoniously after Ms Screiber had conceived an IVF son with Mr Patric’s sperm. She then claimed that as a sperm donor he had no parental rights. He fought this in the courts, in the media, in the state legislature and on the internet. Now he has won.
The women, who attended a sterilization camp in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, were operated on in a poorly maintained operating theatre with unsterilized equipment, authorities said.
Dr R.K. Gupta, who once received a state honour for his sterilization work, has been arrested on charges of negligence. Gupta denies any misconduct and has blamed authorities for the tragedy. “It is the administration which is responsible for this incident”, he said. "If they kept in that place 83 women, it is my moral responsibility to operate (on) all the women.”
Gupta sterilized all the women in the clinic within three hours, taking between two to five minutes per operation.
Disability rights groups have condemned the inhumane treatment of disabled children in Greece, after it was revealed that at least one disability-care facility is keeping its residents in cages.
Current and former volunteers at KEPEP Childcare Centre, a facility in the southern town of Lechaina, recently spoke out about the mistreatment of residents.
Some 60 children in the home are kept in ceiling-high cages, routinely given sedating medication and sometimes strapped to their beds. In a damning report published in 2010, Greece’s ombudsman for the rights of the child labelled the practices “violations of human rights”.
It is unclear whether any other facilities in Greece use these methods.
The staff of KEPEP say they lack the funds to improve conditions. “We are doing everything we can but we do not have the resources to give anything else”, said Gina Tsoukala, the director of the centre.
A new American documentary examines the ethical issues surrounding human enhancement for people with disabilities. The documentary, FIXED, contains interviews with a range of physically impaired people, as well as specialists in bioehancement. It presents an exciting picture of technological advance, while at the same time giving voice to scepticism and concerns. Overall the documentary presents the bioehancement project in a favorable light. Some may disagree with its conclusions, but it is a resource for understanding the ethical issues surrounding emerging enhancement technologies.
Recent experiments with growing chimerical organs in animals have delivered favourable results. Japanese researchers recently managed to grow different nascent rat organs in mice using pluripotent stem cells. Researchers believe it could soon be used to grow human organs.
Amidst the enthusiasm of the scientific community, four bioethicsts from the Universities of Maastricht and Basel have explored the bioethical complexities of the matter. In a Journal of Medical Ethics article released this week, they consider whether the process is comparable to the creation of complete human/non-human chimeras. There has been significant moral debate over the latter, and similar arguments could be used against the former. As the authors state,
“Injecting human PSCs into animal embryos could theoretically risk the resulting animal itself developing human physical or mental features such as human limb development or neuronal development.”
The reader’s daughter is a busy professional who has battled depression for some time. The reader asks Barbieri about the potential impact of her daughter’s decision, considering the various psychological factors at play.
In a direct reference to woman’s depression, Barbieri wonders whether her mental state is a motivating factor for considering IVF. Trivially, Barbieri remarks: “depending on the cause of the depression, having a baby could have an impact on your daughter’s mental health.” In rather non-committal response, Barbieri comments: “Some decisions have no right or wrong answer and take a…
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