FROM CHN'S ARCHIVES

IN THIS ISSUE:

 

MATRICIDE
bullet A DAUGHTER CALLS HER MOTHER'S MURDER "A LOVING EXPERIENCE";   
bulletINSTRUCTIONS TAKEN FROM THE BOOK "FINAL EXIT"-- USED IN DEATH OF MOTHER WITH "LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE" ;  

CHILD DENIED CPR:
bullet FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD COREY BROWN, DISABLED WITH CEREBRAL PALSY, DIES HAVING BEEN DENIED CPR; 
bullet PROPER AND DIGNIFIED CARE SOUGHT FOR DISABLED;  

MEDICINE: NEW DRUG TREATMENTS  
bulletMULTIPLE SCLEROSIS;  
bulletDRUG FOR LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE BUYS TIME, WHICH PATIENTS SAY IS "VITAL" TIME; 

 EUTHANASIA NEWS FROM AUSTRALIA
bulletEUTHANASIA NEWS FROM AUSTRALIA; A SPECIAL REPORT FROM CHN:

 

COMPASSIONATE HEALTHCARE NETWORK (CHN):

CHN DIGEST ONLINE Dec. 12, 1995, VOLUME I No2.

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E-MAIL: chn@intergate.ca


This CHN DIGEST ONLINE for December 12, 1995 includes a special background report on Australia's "RIGHTS OF THE TERMINALLY ILL" bill.

MATRICIDE

bullet 1. A DAUGHTER CALLS HER MOTHER'S MURDER "A LOVING EXPERIENCE"

Frances Brooke of Severna Park, Md., is charged with the murder of her 81-year-old mother, Lillis McRee, who died Nov. 23 at her Fripp Island home. Brooke acknowledged injecting her mother with a fatal overdose of insulin. At inquest, Brooke's sister called the action "a loving experience." Beaufort County Coroner Curt Copeland, who issued the arrest warrant said, "South Carolina law does not allow a person to help another commit suicide or to cause death, even if the person is gravely ill." Lillis McRee was reported to be chronic pain sufferer who also had diabetes. Coroner Copeland's responded to the so-called mercy killing saying, "The law is the law. That's all I'm doing is to simply uphold the law as it is written and as I understand it. Nothing more, nothing less.'" [BEAUFORT, S.C. AP 10 Dec 95 1:35 EST V0205]

On Monday, 52-year-old Frances Brooke, was released without having to post bond. She will appear before a grand jury on Jan. 8. "The panel can indict Mrs. Brooke for trial, or they can refuse to indict, thus ending the charges." [BEAUFORT, S.C., The Associated Press December 12, 1995] 

 
bullet 2. INSTRUCTIONS TAKEN FROM THE BOOK "FINAL EXIT"-- USED IN DEATH OF MOTHER WITH "LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE"

On Friday Dec. 8, "Velma Howard and her husband had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Joplin . . . with their sons." The next day, her husband and two sons had a desk clerk at Days Inn Motel call police to notify them that she had died. The family said "she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative illness known as Lou Gehrig's disease" and admitted they watched her die. Officers found the body of seventy-six-year-old Velma Howard with a plastic bag over her head, and " a copy of the book "Final Exit," which details how to commit suicide, in the motel room where she died." Joplin Police Chief David Niebur said police are "investigating the death as a homicide" and "the book might help determine if whether charges will be filed." Niebur added, "We had serious reservations about whether someone in her feeble condition, especially in her hands, could have tied a noose around the bag, but it explains in the book how feeble people can make such a device, and we found such a device in the room." Assisted suicide is a felony in Missouri. [December 11, 1995 The Associated Press.]

An autopsy performed Sunday, "showed that suffocation was the cause of death." Chief Niebur said" Mrs. Howard's death was being investigated as an assisted self murder, a form of voluntary manslaughter. The Newton County prosecutor will decide whether to file charges." [AP 11 Dec 95 8:58 EST V0685]

 

bullet3. CHILD DENIED CPR: FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD COREY BROWN, DISABLED WITH CEREBRAL PALSY, DIES HAVING BEEN DENIED CPR

Fourteen-year-old Corey Brown died Thursday December 7, 1995, at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, having being denied cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Corey Brown's school officials honoured a "do-not-resuscitate" order, given by Brown's physician and family "if her heart stopped in class." Corey "suffered from cerebral palsy and was mentally retarded." She also "suffered breathing difficulties related to severe scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that restricts the lungs and heart."

Corey was vulnerable to such decision-making as she not able to speak for herself. Accordingly, "handicapped rights activists complained that the decision was discriminatory." [ LEWISTON, Maine (Reuter) December 8, 1995]

 
bullet 4. PROPER AND DIGNIFIED CARE SOUGHT FOR DISABLED

"[A]fter two years, the department that enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act barring discrimination against the disabled reached its first settlement under the law Tuesday" with the northern Wisconsin "Sunshine Child Center." Brenda Brock, mother of the then four-year-old Belinda, complained that care givers refused to 1.) remove her daughter's leg braces for her daily nap, and 2.)violated Belinda's rights by keeping her "with younger children because she wore diapers." However, officials at the child care facility argued they did not know how to handle the braces, and were afraid of hurting Belinda, who is disabled with cerebral palsy. The center's refusal forced Mrs. Brock to leave work just to handle the leg braces each day.

Assistant Attorney General Deval Patrick, head of the department's civil rights division, said, "Often, simple measures are all that are needed to integrate a child with a disability into society." Though Belinda's mother is pleased with the settlement and that a facility that is fully accessible for the disabled is hoped to be completed by June 1997, she will not be re-enrolling her 6-year-old daughter. "Others will have the opportunity for the center to care for disabled kids," she said. "My daughter is a normal person and there's no reason she should have been treated any different from anybody else." [MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer, December 5, 1995]


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MEDICINE: NEW DRUG TREATMENTS

I. MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tested Avonex, a drug that claims to be "safe and effective" for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. During a two-year period Avonex was taken by 301 patients, that resulted in a "31 percent reduction in the relapse rate, and a nearly 40 percent reduction of disease prgression [sic], as measured on an established disability scale."

An FDA advisory panel claims " the drug slows down the pace of disability in two categories of patients, relapsing-remitting and relapsing-progressive patients. Both of those groups have severe attacks of MS followed by periods with less deterioration and account for about 65 percent of the MS cases." That percentage, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, accounts " for about 65 percent of the roughly 300,000 U.S. MS cases."

The Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee has " recommended more study on the long-term use of Avonex to determine what the best dosages and length of time would be for patients with the chronic ailment." The FDA panel explained that "more study is necessary to know whether the drug will help the 15 percent of MS patients who are known as chronic-progressive, who steadily get sicker and more disabled month by month. But the panel did say that the drug is safe and effective."

Biogen (the makers Avonex) spokesperson, chief executive officer Jim Vincent said "We are very pleased," adding, "It is the first and only drug to show in a blinded clinical trial that it slows the progression of disability as well as reduces the frequency of exacerbations." Mr. Vincent says Avonex is expected to be marketed "in the second quarter of 1996 if the FDA gives it final approval." [Joanne Kenen, WASHINGTON, Dec 4, 1995, (Reuter)]


II. DRUG FOR LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE BUYS TIME, WHICH PATIENTS SAY IS "VITAL" TIME

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved Riluzole, to be sold under the brand name Rilutek by Rhone-Poulenc Rorer. Riluzole claims to help patients with Lou Gehrig's disease live "about three months longer. " While Riluzole is not a cure, over a dozen patients " tearfully told the agency" the time it buys "was vital -- and the FDA Tuesday agreed." More than 2,000 Americans have taken Rilutek, said the FDA.

The disease is so named after the Yankees' first baseman Lou Gehrig, who died in 1941. It is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Motor Neuron Disease, and it afflicts over 30,000 North Americans. "ALS is a nerve disease that debilitates patients' muscles. Starting with such symptoms as weakness or difficulty in speech or swallowing, it eventually paralyzes victims, including their muscles responsible for breathing. Riluzole does not slow the muscle deterioration or ease patients' symptoms. But two studies of more than 1,100 patients showed that it could slightly prolong their lives. After 18 months of treatment, 57 percent of patients who took 100 milligrams of riluzole every day were still alive, compared with 50 percent of patients who took a dummy pill, or placebo."

In June, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, "began giving it free to advanced patients while the FDA decided whether to approve it for everyone." [WASHINGTON (AP) December 12, 1995]


bullet EUTHANASIA NEWS FROM AUSTRALIA; A SPECIAL REPORT FROM CHN:

DARWIN: Dec. 10, 1995 Former Northern Territory chief minister Marshall Perron, who introduced the Northern Territory's current voluntary euthanasia legislation is accusing Australian Medical Association's president Chris Wake, "of using the AMA as a platform for his personal views on voluntary euthanasia." Mr. Wake says he " simply espoused his own views in a letter to Prime Minister Carey Keating. Dr Wake wrote to Mr Keating last week and published the open letter in the Sunday Territorian." It has also been reported that "Dr Wake called on Mr Keating to use federal residual powers to overturn the Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill. He said Mr Keating should ask Governor-General Bill Hayden not to allow passage of the Act. The federal government has the power to veto laws made by the NT Parliament as part of the self-government agreement, but has never used it."

Mr. Perron, a "patron of the NT Voluntary Euthanasia Society" says he suspects Wake " is trying to ensure that his and the AMA's opposition to voluntary euthanasia are kept to the public fore." Mr. Perron says the presiding Chief Minister Shane Stone, was "correct in pointing out that if Dr Wake's requests were granted, a constitutional crisis would result", and that a federal government would "have a fight on their hands like never before if they seek to overturn any of our legislation." Mr. Perron said he is confident "that some states would eventually adopt similar laws to the Territory's voluntary euthanasia provisions." [AAP cas/shb/de December 10, 1995]

DARWIN: December 12, 1995

Dr. Philip Nitschke, a supportor of Mr Perron and the right-to-die laws, "said he was on a recruiting drive for the Doctor's Reform Society (DRS) to head off opposition to the legislation by the Australian Medical Assocation (AMA)." Dr. Nitschke claims he has been approached "from several people in the past six months who asked him to help them die", and that two of those "people committed suicide while they were in Darwin."

Dr. Nitschke says Dr. Wake's letter to the PM has dispensed 'further evidence that the AMA is an elitist organisation, out of touch with the community it purports to serve'." Nitschke wants " to help set up a branch of the DRS in the NT and to build up its membership in order to balance public debate on the issue." The AAP also reports that the "DRS has urged the New South Wales government to assent to voluntay euthanasia proposals when they eventually come before that parliament." Unless the NT voluntary euthanasia legisaltion is defeated, it is "due to be implemented by June next year." [AAP cas/bd/jv/de, December 12, 1995]


BACKGROUND ON AUSTRALIA'S "RIGHTS OF THE TERMINALLY ILL" BILL

On May 24, 1995, the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia passed the "Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill", making it the only place in the world where voluntary euthanasia is legalised. The private member's bill which was introduduced by Chief Minister Marshall Perron, passed by a vote of 15-10. The session of the twenty-five seat assembly began at 10am but the actual vote took place at 3:55am(AEST) with 15 Amendments added to the bill.

As with a similar bill passed in Oregon, the majority of the public was not aware of the true meaning of this legislation. The situation in Australia was almost virtually ignored by the media in North America, and when the bill passed it completely escaped the attentional of the Canadian press. But even worse, the committee studying the bill, made at best, a faint attempt to meet with NT Aborigines a meeting which never transpired.

NEW SOUTH WALES Bruce Meagher, president of the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON), called the Northern Territory bill a "brave step", adding "At last we have a legislature in this country willing to support the majority public opinion on this issue." ACON's campaign slogan for legislating active voluntary euthanasia is called Choosing to Die. Meagher stated "We want to see similar leadership on the issue in New South Wales" and he anticipates a draft of their proposed bill will be put forward by the end of June. [Australian Associated Press, AAP 5/24/95.]

However, the day after the vote, Australia's 'first highest circulated newspaper,' The Herald-Sun, (Melbourne's daily paper), asked the public to respond to the question "Should Victoria introduce euthanasia laws?" A total of 1,831 callers responded to the phone in poll. Of those, an astounding 1,672 persons (91 per cent) said "NO" , while 159 (9 per cent) said "YES". [Should Victoria introduce euthanasia laws, The Herald Sun, 29.5.95]

In April, Brian Tennyson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in Tennant Creek, expressed "the strongest possible disgust" for "lack of consultation with Aborigines over the planned legalization of voluntary euthanasia" in the.NT. The committee visiting Tennant Creek was accused of doing no more than "blow in and out of town" said Brian Tennyson, of ATSIC. Tennyson and his council were "highly critical" of the bill, and the committee. Tennyson said, " he understood that the only people consulted during the Tennant Creek visit were non- Aboriginal medical practitioners." A letter from ATSIC to the committee stated, "Regional council wishes to express its strongest possible disgust at the extremely poor level of onsultation on what is a life and death matter." The council also called for a postponement on the "final decision" until "euthanasia has been explained to Aboriginal people and their opinions obtained"."

DARWIN. "Doctors who assisted Aboriginal patients to die if a Northern Territory euthanasia Bill were passed could face traditional "payback" punishment, an NT parliamentary committee heard yesterday."

"Michael Walker, an Aborigine from Millkapiti on Melville Island, said while consent for euthanasia may have been obtained from one family, another part of the extended family could seek "payback" against the doctor." Walker warned that "Doctors could be knocked on the head."

"Under customary Aboriginal law, people who kill others can face "payback" punishment such as being speared in the leg or flogged, which can cause death."

"Jenny Hardy, a lawyer with the North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, made a written submission stating many Aboriginal people were worried, even fearful, about the bill." ['Payback' warning over euthanasia, Ballarat Courier, 30.3.95: p. 15]

Ms. Hardy said, "The concept of choosing to end your own life does not appear to be a concept which is generally accepted in Aboriginal communities, . . . Interestingly, 'suicide' is not a word which appears to translate easily into Aboriginal languages. . ."." [Koories 'might take revenge on kill doctors', Border Mail (Albury/Wondong), 30.3.95: p. 15] also, Docs who kill 'face payback risks', Northern Territory News, 1.4.95: p. 13] (The Koories call doctors who euthanasize, "kill doctors".)

The population of the Northern Territories is approximately 177,000, with 25 per cent being populated by Aboriginal people. The Aborigine have a high mortality rate much higher than the rest of the population, and they are more subject to diseases than other people and more likely to die from them. The main centres in NT are Darwin and Alice Springs which are 2 hours apart by air. In the hospital in Alice Springs, there is only one bed for palliative care in the entire hospital.

"Janie Mason, senior lecturer in nursing and health sciences at Northern Territory University, told the (parliamentary) committee that during her nursing career she had participated in voluntary euthanasia" and that "some of her students, many of them already working as trained nurses also had participated in euthanasia." When asked if she had participated in only "one or two instances," Mason replied, "More than that"." Committee chairman, Mr. Eric Poole, recommended that the committee not "inquire too deeply into the specifics of such cases."

The committee acknowledged receiving "nearly 1,000 submissions and letters the majority opposed to the bill. Barrister Mr. Greg Smith, president of the New South Wales branch of the Right to Life Associations, told the committee that legalised voluntary euthanasia would lead to chaos." Smith said, "Once you start making exceptions to the homicide laws you leave yourself open to chaos." He added, "You'll have frail elderly citizens fearing more and more that every time they go into hospital they'll get the needle . . . It will just make them fell less secure." Mr. Smith predicted "Darwin would become a euthanasia centre for all of Australia and that some unscrupulous medical practitioners could "make a nice earner" on the practice."

Proponents of the "Terminally Ill Act Petition" argued that "those people with religious and moral objections to euthanasia should not inflict their belief on others" and that "people concerned about the sanctity of life should "mind their own business" in relation to people who wanted to chose the timing of their death."[Euthanasia 'may spark paybacks', Adelaide Advertiser, 30,3.95: p. 9]

By mid-May, an outbreak of fear hit the Aborigines in the remote communities of the Northern Territory. Believing that the bill had already passed, giving "doctors the power to kill, "many Aboriginal people feared visiting the clinic for "routine injections." One spokesperson said they will become "much more petrified of all the injections if they found out that doctors can kill by that means"." On May 16, committee chairman, Mr. Eric Poole, tabled "a three volume report on the bill" less than 7 weeks after the committee started public hearings on the bill; and three months after the bill was first introduced. The report included a number of " recommendations for toughening up the euthanasia bill" which are as follows:
bulleta "COOLING OFF period" for patients planning euthanasia.
bulletTOUGHER penalties for improper conduct.
bulletDOCTORS who would administer euthanasia to have a minimum five years' experience as a medical practitioner.
bulletTHE involvement of the NT coroner.
bulletTHERE be no business or family association between the two doctors involved in the euthanasia procedure.
bulletSPECIAL provision be made for non-English speakers.

As if mildly stricken with compunction, the committee's report called "for an urgent review of the NT's palliative care system."

Eric Poole, supporter of the bill, told Parliament he believed "euthanasia was already being practiced but piously ignored under the guise of pain management." [NT Aborigines fear euthanasia, Adelaide Advertiser, 17.5.95: p. 11]

The CHN DIGEST ONLINE is researched and edited by Cheryl Eckstein, president of CHN and is copyright © of the Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN).

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