Dutch psychiatric patients may get euthanasia too easily, says US study

A new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has presented an alarming picture of physician evaluation of euthanasia requests in the Netherlands. The article, lead authored by National Institutes of Health (NIH) psychiatrist Dr. Scott Y. H. Kim, examined 66 psychiatric euthansia and assisted suicide (EAS) case summaries made available online by the Dutch regional euthanasia review committees.

The authors found that 56% of patients reported having refused at least one kind of treatment, and of those, almost half refused because of ‘lack of motivation’.

The study also confirmed the findings of previous surveys that loneliness is a key driver behind requests by those suffering from mental illness. Of the 66 patients surveyed, 37 identified  loneliness or social isolation as a motivation behind their request. One elderly patient – both mentally and physically healthy –gave no other reason for euthanasia other than loneliness after her husband… click here to read whole article and make comments

A Dutch report applies the brakes on ‘completed life’ euthanasia

Although euthanasia in the Netherlands is often regarded as an unstoppable juggernaut, a government commission has suggested that the brakes be applied.

Activists have been pressing for euthanasia on the basis of “completed life”, that is, for people who have simply lost interest in living, regardless of age or state of health. They also wanted the government to approve a “peaceful pill” which would allow people to kill themselves without the help of a doctor.

However, after a lengthy study, the Schnabel Commission has declared that expanding the boundary of euthanasia is not advisable. It believes that current legislation already provides for cases of “completed life”, which are equivalent to the symptoms of old age, in any case. It is also important for doctors to be involved in the euthanasia process. It is not a job for people without medical qualifications. “In the light of the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Celebrating 15 years of Dutch euthanasia

Beginning today, the Dutch right-to-die association NVVE is celebrating Euthanasia Week with a  selection of documentary films and youth outreach. The festivities mark the 15th year of legal euthanasia in the Netherlands -- although the NVVE seems to be jumping the gun, as the law came into effect on April 1, 2002. 

Currently, more than 5,300 people die annually in the Netherlands after euthanasia.

Activities for young people organised by NVVE Jongeren, the youth wing of NVVE,  are a significant part of the program. There is a film about a 27-year-old woman who chooses to die. Another feature is Café Doodnormaal  (Dead Normal Café), a monthly discussion group about end-of-life issues and autonomy for young people.

NVVE provides information, consultation and education about euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands. Its motto is: “A dignified life deserves a dignified death”. It claims to have… click here to read whole article and make comments

Canada’s ‘euthanasia courts’

Because Canada’s federal government still has not passed euthanasia legislation, the Supreme Court has authorised provincial courts to arbitrate on requests for euthanasia.

In a ruling which also ratified Quebec’s new euthanasia laws, the court said that people outside Quebec “who wish to exercise their rights" to doctor-assisted death may apply to their provincial superior court for judicial authorization.

 “Those who wish to seek assistance from a physician in accordance with the criteria set out in … our reasons in Carter may apply to the superior court of their jurisdiction for relief during the extended period of suspension,” the court said Friday. “Requiring judicial authorization during that interim period ensures compliance with the rule of law and provides an effective safeguard against potential risks to vulnerable people.”

It is unclear how exactly the courts will judge the applications.

Some were pleased with the decision, saying… click here to read whole article and make comments

IVF audit in Australia

An Australian consumer watchdog is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the country’s 34 IVF clinics. Several complaints have been made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about the lack of transparency of IVF success rates, and the practice of making vague statements about a clinic’s own success rates.

The ACCC has started a major compliance exercise looking at how Australia's 34 IVF clinics present their success rates.

"We certainly have found instances of information being put on the websites and being given to consumers that we think is misleading," ACCC chairman Rod Sims told the ABC’s  7.30 Report.

One clinic– ‘Genea’ – has flouted the Fertility Society of Australia guidelines not to compare their success rates with the national average, advertising on its website "an almost 40 per cent greater chance of taking home a baby”. Experts argue the claim doesn’t reflect the complexity of the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Should we get rid of race in genetics?

Racial categories have long been used in genetics to aid research on health and development. Yet recently academics have been discouraging the use of such taxonomies, arguing that they are pragmatically unhelpful and, at times, morally objectionable.

One of the strongest statements yet came in an article published in Science last week, entitled ‘Taking race out of human genetics’. Michael Yudell of Drexel University and three of his colleagues sounded alarm bells about the continuing (and, on some measures, increasing) use of racial categories in genetic research: 

“We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way.”


According to the authors, “there have been no systematic attempts to address [race-related issues in research] and the situation has worsened with the rise… click here to read whole article and make comments

Cruelty at home and abroad

Here’s a potato so hot that even naming it sparks controversy. For the purposes of discussion, let’s call it female genital mutilation (FGM), the name the World Health Organization favours. But it is also called female genital cutting or female circumcision. It means that a girl’s or (less commonly) a woman’s, genitals are cut in varying degrees of severity in accordance with traditional practices in Africa and the Middle East.

As Oxford bioethicist Brian Earp points out in a paper in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal (in press) there may be a double standard in the discussion of this practice, which is almost universally decried in the West. Why isn’t FGM also applied to the increasingly common cosmetic surgery for young women in Western countries? And if we condemn FGM, shouldn’t male circumcision be subject to the same standard? As bioethicists continue debating the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Clinton fumbles on end-of-life choices

Clinton's response is at 2.00 minutes 

After California, the biggest state in the US, legalized assisted suicide, and after a video by Brittany Maynard went viral on YouTube, you might think that candidates for the White House would have clear and crisp opinions on its ethics and feasibility.

But when Hillary Clinton was asked for her opinion in a New Hampshire town hall debate, she was stumped. “This is the first time I've been asked that question,” she told an 81-year-old man with colon cancer. Fumbling for words, she produced a few woolly platitudes. At least it is clear that she is opposed to involuntary euthanasia.

“We need to have a conversation in our country. There are states, as you know that are moving to open up the opportunity without criminal liability for people to make this decision, in consultation by their families, even, in… click here to read whole article and make comments

Zika: still wrapped in mystery

This was a week of confusing information about the Zika virus epidemic, which the World Health Organization has described as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.

In a smoking-gun case report in the New England Journal of Medicine, Slovenian clinicians said that they had found the virus in the aborted remains of a baby with microcephaly whose mother had contracted the disease in Brazil. There have been a few other cases which also point to the virus as a direct cause of serious foetal abnormalities.

The situation is serious enough to cancel the Olympics scheduled for July in Rio de Janeiro, contend bioethicist Art Caplan, of New York University Langone Medical Center, and Lee H. Igel, of New York University. Given the risk to pregnant women, hold them is “irresponsible”. They write in Forbes:

By the time the Games roll around, many fans aren’t likely to attend.… click here to read whole article and make comments

Edinburgh to host world bioethics conference

Edinburgh is the venue for 2016 world congress of the International Association of Bioethics, whose theme is “Individuals, Public Interests and Public Goods: What is the Contribution of Bioethics?”

It will take place from June 14 to 17. The organisers say that the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment is a very appropriate place for an interdisciplinary conference.

According to the conference’s website, the event will be “… less of a traditional academic conference and more of a festival of knowledge that seeks to build a bridge between the questions and answers of how bioethics can contribute to some of the most pressing issues of our time – from genetic research to global pandemics, and from scarce resources to climate changes that affect us all.”

The Feminist Approaches to Bioethics world congress, will immediately precede the IAB conference at the same venue. 

click here to read whole article and make comments

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