Is euthanasia an essential service?

Is euthanasia an essential service? That is the question that Canadian health officials are grappling with in the coronavirus epidemic.

At least two clinics in Ontario have stopped providing euthanasia (or medical assistance in dying, as it is called in Canada) to prevention transmission and to free up health-care resources. Others regard it as essential and are relaxing the rules to allow “virtual assessments of eligibility”.

“It’s not a decision that we have taken lightly,” said Andrea Frolic, of Hamilton Health Sciences, which has shuttered its program. “It’s heartbreaking for us, as it is for patients and families seeking this… MORE

Submerged by covid-19?

STAT, an on-line magazine about life sciences sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, is doing a great job of sifting through the news and selecting the main trends and issues in the pandemic.

Here’s a link to STAT’s article, “What we’ve learned about the coronavirus — and what we still need to know”. Some of the topics covered are:

  • It’s not just older populations.
  • This virus has great transmission tricks.
  • A respiratory virus can be stopped or at least slowed.
  • Death rates will differ by location.
  • Pandemics destroy supply chains.
  • Why do some people have such severe disease and… MORE

Britons have discriminatory attitudes towards the elderly

Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show

People over 60 are more affected by the coronavirus and most deaths have been of people over 70. With this background, a new study on perceptions of the elderly in the UK makes interesting reading.

Attitudes to ageing are overwhelmingly negative, according to a new study by the Centre for Ageing Better, with older people subject to a litany of damaging stereotypes. 

The report, “Doddery but Dear”, which reviewed all existing research on attitudes to ageing, found that older workers are seen… MORE

A ghastly incident in Spain shows what could happen

A home where 17 residents have died from coronavirus / FERNANDO VILLAR / EL PAÍS

Not all of the human drama in the Covid-19 pandemic is cheeriness under pressure, heroic doctors and nurses, and the generosity of neighbours. Some very bad stuff can – and probably will – happen. 

Nothing illustrates this more vividly than what happened in Spain this week. On Monday, military units seconded to help in the crisis entered various residential centres for seniors in Madrid. What they found was appalling. Some of the residents were dead in their beds. Others were wandering around… MORE

Coronavirus news briefs

Surrogacy arrangements. Travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic have left many surrogate parents separated from the baby that they commissioned, or cooling their heels in a foreign hotel with their baby. The Guardian highlights the case of James Washington and his husband Rob, both British, who are stuck in Portland, Oregon with their newborn baby. They cannot get US citizenship for their son or organise an adoption. “There are hundreds of families currently stuck, or about to be stuck, in the US right now because of coronavirus,” said Robin Pope, an Oregon family lawyer and assisted reproduction specialist.


Best Coronavirus quotes

“If I get Corona, I get Corona. At the end of the day I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.” – US college student at Miami

“We can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I’m absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country. But only if we all take the steps that we’ve outlined – that is vital.” – Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, press conference, March 20

“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. I am now self-isolating, but I… MORE

US ethicists issue utilitarian manifesto for coronavirus rationing

As the US braces itself for an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, several US doctors and ethicists have published an article arguing forcefully for utilitarian healthcare rationing. 

The new article -- published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday -- deals with the complexities of the current COVID-19 crisis in the United States, and considers how scarce resources such as ventilators and vaccines should be allocated in light of our current understanding of the disease and pandemic modelling. 

The lead author of the article, academic and influential healthcare policy commentator Ezekiel… MORE

Should we sacrifice older people to save the economy?

A senior Republican politician from Texas sparked a media firestorm this week after suggesting that older people should consider sacrificing their lives for the economy in the face of the coronavirus crisis. 

Dan Patrick, a former radio talk show host who is now Lieutenant Governor of Texas, made the comments on Monday night while talking to Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson. 

In response to a question about lifting social distancing measures, Patrick said, 

“Let’s get back to living...Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of… MORE

Prison advocates call for decarceration during pandemic

Lawyers and prison advocates around the world are calling for the release of low-risk prisoners as the coronavirus crisis escalates and rates of infection increase. 

Prisons have been described by public health experts as places of high risk for the spread of the virus, and there have already been several cases of major outbreaks in prisons in South Korea, Italy and Iran. 

In an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday, prison education scholar Amanda Klonsky wrote that the risk of outbreaks in prisons posed a threat both to inmates as well… MORE

New Zealand legalises abortion

On Wednesday night, while 90% percent of the world was coming to grips with the impact of coronavirus, the New Zealand Parliament voted into law one of the most liberal abortion regimes on the planet. Sixty-eight of 120 legislators – led by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden  and Justice Minister Andrew Little – voted to remove the last speed bumps on the path to legal abortion.

The Abortion Legislation Act comes into effect just as soon as the Governor General signs it.

Abortion is no longer covered by the Crimes Act but has been qualified as “healthcare”. There… MORE

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