Netherlands Man Suffering from Alcoholism Approved for Euthanasia

In an article dated November 30, 2016, The Washington Times reported that a forty-one-year-old man, Mark Langedijk, was recently approved to be euthanized in the Netherlands —pursuant to a law enacted to allow mercy killing for those undergoing unbearable suffering —due to his his struggle with alcoholism. The man had reportedly tried going to rehabilitative facilities twenty-one times, without success, and simply did not want to live anymore. Requests such as this must be reviewed and approved by a board of physicians.

From The Washington Times, “Mark Langedijk, Dutch Man, Euthanized Over Alcoholism”

Excerpt from article:

“Langedijk’s death demonstrates that Holland is a ‘dangerous place to have any physical or mental illness, to be struggling with any life challenges, or just to differ from what they might call normal.’”

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Colorado Voters Speak on the Legalization of “Medical Aid in Dying”

Through a ballot initiative in last week’s election, Colorado became the fifth state to pass a “medical aid in dying” proposition.  Two-thirds of Colorado voters supported Proposition 106, which permits adults suffering from terminal illness, who have less than six months to live and are mentally competent, to self-administer a lethal dose of doctor-prescribed sleeping medication.  Opponents were concerned that the proposition lacks adequate safeguards, such as requiring a doctor to be present when the medication is administered. Yet, an overwhelming majority of voters supported the proposition, explaining that they have watched loved ones suffer through a terminal illness and believe they should have at least had the option to end their life with dignity.

From The Denver Post, “Colorado Passes Medical Aid in Dying, Joining Five Other States

Excerpt from article:

“Now we know that Coloradans believe that offering the option of medical aid in dying is the kind, compassionate, safe and just thing to do.”

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Quebec’s Assisted Dying Law to Go Into Effect December 10 While Pending Further Debate in the Court of Appeals

After being passed unanimously by Quebec’s National Assembly in June 2014, Quebec’s medically assisted dying law, also known as Bill 52, has been thrown back into the forefront of recent debates. Quebec’s government lawyers appealed the decision by Superior Court Justice Michel Pinsonnault, who had ruled that the law contradicts certain provisions of the Canada Criminal Code regarding physician assisted suicide. For the time being, Health Minister Gaetan Barrette has confirmed that Bill 52 will go into effect starting December 10, 2015, at least until December 18, 2015, when arguments will heard before the Court of Appeals.

Bill 52 outlines conditions that terminally ill individuals must satisfy in order to receive medical aid in dying. This aid would specifically pertain to patients with an “incurable disease, an incurable illness, which is causing unbearable suffering.” Such assisted suicide, as advocates explain, will allow patients to end their lives with dignity and as painlessly as possible.

Back in February 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court justices had ruled in favor of Bill 52, but they opted to stay their decision for one year until February 2016 to give Parliament more time to align existing law with their ruling. That year will expire on February 6, 2016.

The legality of Bill 52 has been most recently questioned by Paul Saba, the head of the Quebec Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, and Lisa D’Amico, a woman living with disabilities, who sought an injunction to prevent the bill from taking effect. Although Justice Pinsonnault concluded that certain provisions of the new law contradicted provisions of the Canada Criminal Code on medically assisted suicide, he did not grant the injunction and instead ruled that the law must align with federal laws. The federal Criminal Code provisions, however, were struck down by Supreme Court in February 2015.

While the assisted dying law will go into effect until at least December 18, 2015, its future remains unclear as the debate over end of life care and assisted suicide continues in Quebec’s Court of Appeals.


Physician-Assisted Suicide: Is it Good?

State laws legalizing physician-assisted suicide are growing in number.  Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill legalizing the provision of end of life drugs to terminally ill patients.  Governor Brown, who experienced difficulty in deciding whether or not to sign the bill, ultimately decided to sign the bill when he put himself in the shoes of others who were experiencing pain and suffering.  According to Governor Brown, he did not want to deny to terminally ill patients comfort from pain and suffering.

There are two critical benefits associated with physician-assisted suicide.  One of the benefits is that it allows for patient autonomy.  Essentially, individual patients are in control of their death.  In addition, it allows for a patient to choose to end pain and suffering, which is often beneficial for terminally ill patients whose lives could be extended through medical advances, but who would suffer a decline in their quality of life as a result.

Despite these positives, according to detractors of the law, the downfalls to physician-assisted suicide can be seen when you look at the bill from the viewpoint of low-income individuals instead of wealthier people. Critics argue that physician assisted suicide may potentially put pressure on “the poor, the lonely, and the excluded” to end their own lives.  For instance, a study conducted by Oregon’s Public Health Department revealed that only 23% of people cited concerns about pain and suffering as their reason for choosing physician assisted suicide.  However, an overwhelming majority chose physician–assisted suicide because they did not want to lose autonomy, dignity, or be a burden to others.  In addition, in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, many low-income individuals qualify for physician-assisted suicide but not basic treatments or hospice care.  Thus, although the intent of this bill was to end pain and suffering, in reality there are some downsides to the law that may impact the poor, lonely, or excluded.


California Adopts Assisted Suicide Bill

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on October 5, 2015 that makes California the fifth state to allow physician assisted suicide (“PAS”).  Governor Brown indicated that he is unsure if he would utilize PAS himself.  However, he did not want to deprive others of this option.

Passage of the bill must be credited to Brittany Maynard, who captured national attention and brought support to the end of life movement in 2014.  Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and she decided to relocate from California to Oregon to die with dignity on her own terms.  Although Maynard died in November 2014, her captivating story and leadership has urged states to consider allowing PAS.  Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have considered bills that would authorize some version of PAS.  It is predicted that the passage of California’s bill may encourage these states to finalize and pass their bills as well.

To read the published article, click here.

Paralyzed Man Fights for Assisted Suicide

Paul Lamb, a 58-year-old British man, would like his life to end. He is “extensively paralyzed,” requires care around the clock and has been in pain for over two decades.  However, Mr. Lamb’s disability prevents him from ending his own life, and British law prevents anyone from assisting him.   In order to achieve his goal, which he claims is to die with dignity surrounded by family and friends, Mr. Lamb has petitioned for a judicial ruling to allow a doctor to assist in his suicide.  Essentially, Mr. Lamb has requested that any doctor who assists him be able to claim an affirmative defense of, “acting to stop intolerable suffering.”

Read the original article here.

Baby Boomers Favor Physician-Assisted Dying

The baby boomer generation is leading the push for physician-assisted suicide laws, according to a recent article from Bloomberg News.  The push has taken place across the country, in states including New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.  Although the push toward physician-assisted suicide is opposed by many, individuals of the baby boomer generation may wish to ensure they will die on their own terms.  Furthermore, the push may reflect a different attitude toward dying in an age of increased medical technology. Read the original article here.