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SOURCE: The Report - Canada's Independent Newsmagazine

 

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To kill or not to kill

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by Kevin Steel

... if we ever legalize euthanasia in Canada, we would be taking such a horrendous step backwards that we could never, ever come back  says Cheryl Eckstein, the founder and president of the Compassionate Health Network, an anti-euthanasia lobby group.

Two days after this initial gust of suicide publicity, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that the pathologist who examined Mrs. Crick could find "no visual trace of cancer in Crick's body although there was evidence of previous cancers." The woman's family was understandably horrified. That same day, at a national conference of the Australian Medical Association, doctors voted down a proposal to soften their position against euthanasia.

 

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To kill or not to kill by Kevin Steel

The euthanasia debate rekindles as police lay charges of 'aiding a suicide' on Vancouver Island

 

Jack Kevorkian, Svend Robinson, Philip Nitschke and Robert Latimer; to that list of active, high-profile supporters for the legalization of euthanasia may soon be added the name of Evelyn Marie Martens. Last month, the 71-year-old grandmother from Langford, B.C., was charged with two counts of counselling a suicide and two counts of aiding a suicide. The charges are related to the deaths of Monique Charest in Duncan, B.C., a former nun from Trois-Rivières, on January 7, and Leyanne Burchell, 52, a former Vancouver schoolteacher, on June 26. A preliminary hearing for Ms. Martens is set for November 13.

She has opted for trial by judge and jury.

The investigation continues as police probe back 10 years looking for similar suspicious cases. While she is awaiting trial, Ms. Martens is remaining silent; her lawyer has publicly stated that she has no interest in fuelling the debate. But with so-called "right-to-die" movements asserting themselves throughout the western world, the case will surely renew the discussion over legalizing assisted suicide in this country.

Despite the current silence--some of it court-ordered (for instance, she had to surrender her computer)--Ms. Martens appears to have been very active in the pro-euthanasia movement. She is a known member of the Right to Die Network of Canada, and a member of NuTech, an international organization that meets to discuss methods of suicide.

Adding fuel to the fire, on July 23 Quebec police charged 46-year-old Alain Quimper with the first-degree murder of his mother, Clothilde D'Auteuil. The 78-year-old woman was found in her nursing-home bed and had been strangled with an electrical cord. D'Auteuil was said to be in deteriorating health and suffering from Alzheimer's. The police described it as a possible mercy killing.

During the late '90s in the U.S. there was intense media coverage of the trial of euthanasist Jack Kevorkian, sentenced to 10 to 25 years for actively killing one of his patients. But the issue of assisted suicide has been largely dormant in the Canadian mainstream media since the death of Sue Rodriguez in 1994. Rodriguez, suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease and with public support from NDP MP Svend Robinson, fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to have someone help her die, but lost the case. The Victoria, B.C., woman did kill herself with Mr. Robinson in attendance, but no one was ever charged with assisting her. By then, mercy killing was prominent in the news after Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer gassed his 12-year-old disabled daughter Tracy in 1993. He was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison for that crime.

 

With these life-and-death issues back at the forefront, opponents of euthanasia and mercy killing are reiterating that they can give no ground. "I believe with all my heart that if we ever legalize euthanasia in Canada, we would be taking such a horrendous step backwards that we could never, ever come back," says Cheryl Eckstein, the founder and president of the Compassionate Health Network, an anti-euthanasia lobby group. As an example of this regression, she cites the experience of the Netherlands. There, she says, despite supposedly stringent rules governing assisted suicide which are routinely ignored, not one doctor has ever spent a moment in prison for violating them.

The campaign for assisted suicide in Holland began back in 1973 with a single high-profile case. By 1981, another famous case resulted in the establishment of procedural guidelines doctors could follow when killing a patient; if strictly followed, prosecutors agreed not to charge doctors. But a 1996 study showed that all the guidelines were followed only 41% of the time; in 15% of the cases, the patient did not even ask to be killed; and in 15% a second doctor was not consulted. Nevertheless, despite what appeared to be a growing tendency on the part of doctors to play God, on April 1 this year the Dutch legally sanctioned euthanasia, again mouthing platitudes about "strict adherence" to the rules.

An extreme instance of a doctor playing God is the case of Harold Shipman in Hyde, England. The small-city doctor was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for 15 murders by lethal injection and is suspected in the deaths of 215 others. Most of his victims were elderly and infirm. An inquiry into the killings could establish no motive, though the inquiry did note after periodic interludes during which he killed no one, Shipman would start again with terminally ill victims.

In Australia, euthanasists experienced a setback earlier this year. On May 22, Nancy Crick, a 69-year-old grandmother who believed she was dying of cancer, committed suicide in front of 21 family and friends. Immediately afterward, Philip Nitschke, a voluntary-death advocate who started controversial "euthanasia advice clinics" in Australia, told Agence France Presse that he had 100 terminally ill patients, some of whom were considering following Mrs. Crick's example to take a fatal dose of barbiturates in front of their families. "Three are thinking of going down the public path," Dr. Nitschke claimed, in order to push for a change in the law (which is similar to Canada's).

Two days after this initial gust of suicide publicity, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that the pathologist who examined Mrs. Crick could find "no visual trace of cancer in Crick's body although there was evidence of previous cancers." The woman's family was understandably horrified. That same day, at a national conference of the Australian Medical Association, doctors voted down a proposal to soften their position against euthanasia.  (See link below on Nancy)

Ezekiel Emanuel, author of The Ends of Human Life Medical Ethics in a Liberal Polity and chairman of the department of clinical bioethics at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has argued that euthanasia laws should not be relaxed. He cites among other reasons that the Dutch experience has proved the slippery-slope argument is true. As laws towards euthanasia relax, doctors begin to disregard the rules, ignore the need for patient permission and begin to kill based on their own judgments about "quality of life."

Though he is opposed to legally permitting assisted suicide, Mr. Emanuel does not, however, rule out the possible necessity of voluntary death in some instances. But this is precisely why the current laws should stay in place, he says, so that each situation is legally examined. "I think that there are good cases out there; they're rare," says Mr. Emanuel. "But if they are good cases--legitimate cases--then juries will look on them sympathetically. And if they aren't legitimate, they ought not to look upon them sympathetically."

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SOURCE: The Report - Canada's Independent Newsmagazine, 02-08-12 United Western Communications 020812ar-014   http://207.216.246.197/2002/020812/014.html
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VISIT THE REPORT HOME PAGE: http://www.report.ca

LINK

NANCY CRICK http://www.abc.net.au/brisbane/stories/s1135200.htm

Phillip Nitschke reaction to the Nancy Crick case

Friday, 18 June  2004 

Presenter: Spencer Howson

 

Euthanasia campaigner, Dr PHILLIP NITSCHKE, is jubilant about the announcement that police won't be charging anyone involved in the suicide of Gold Coast woman Nancy Crick.

Sixty-nine year old Mrs Crick, a voluntary euthanasia supporter, died at her home two years ago surrounded by 21 family members and friends. It has since been revealed that she was free of cancer at the time of her death.

Phillip Nitschke was in Washington when Spencer Howson called him for reaction on the decision not to charge anyone over the death of Nancy Crick..

see also Australia’s Dr. Death by W J Smith
Spreading the assisted-suicide gospel. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-smith112602.asp

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