2004 NEWS IN ETHICS  On this page:

bullet Catholic bishop in Wisconsin has ordered his priests to stop serving Holy Communion to lawmakers who support abortion or euthanasia.
bulletMore Jews revealed to be victims of Nazi experiments
bullet As some Dutch adapt to euthanasia, debate simmers elsewhere
bulletBetter screening needed to head off suicides, experts say 
bullet Police to probe hospital euthanasia claims


    A Catholic bishop in Wisconsin has ordered his priests to stop serving Holy Communion to lawmakers who support abortion or euthanasia.
    La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke's four-paragraph "notification" was published in the weekly diocesan newspaper Thursday and was posted on the diocesan Web site, along with a 10-page pastoral letter titled "On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported yesterday.
    Citing Vatican doctrine, canon law and teachings by the U.S. bishops, Bishop Burke, who takes over as archbishop of St. Louis later this month, says in the notice that it is his duty "to explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the gospel of life through their action and policies."
    The Rev. Richard Gilles, a canon lawyer and Bishop Burke's chief of staff, said: "That is a direct statement to the priests. They have an obligation to not give them [politicians] Holy Communion. But I think any pastor who has any sensitivity or common sense would sit down in private with these people ... and talk to them and ask them not to come to Holy Communion."
    Holy Communion is a central tenet of Catholic faith, which holds that bread and wine are changed in substance to the body and blood of Jesus Christ during the Mass.
    The Catholic mayor of La Crosse, John Medinger, told the La Crosse Tribune the bishop was on thin ice and suggested the next step would be to tell Catholics whom to vote for under threat of excommunication.
    The Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame professor and author of several books on the church, said a decision by U.S. Catholic bishops in a November meeting to in effect table a proposal to set national policy on the issue showed the level of support for such policies.
    The bishops did set up a task force to look at the matter, but Father McBrien said that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, not considered a liberal, had told the bishops that they also must have concern for church unity.
    He said Bishop Burke's action was not unprecedented, pointing to the threatened excommunication of members of a progressive Catholic organization by the bishop of Lincoln, Neb. The threat was never carried out.

Jan. 25, 2004, 11:41PM

More Jews revealed to be victims of Nazi experiments

Settlements bring stories

Associated Press  

NEW YORK -- A flood of new revelations about grisly medical experiments on Jews during World War II show there probably were thousands more victims than had been previously thought, an expert said Sunday.

So far, 1,778 Jewish victims of Nazi medical experiments from 33 countries have responded to Jewish groups dispersing money from Holocaust settlements recently reached through lawsuits filed in U.S. courts.

Their stories -- shocking even to those familiar with what was already known -- should prompt a re-examination of the magnitude of experimentation done by Dr. Josef Mengele and his Nazi cohorts, said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Materials Claims Against Germany.

A few of the written testimonies submitted to a settlement committee in the last year are being released today, Taylor said.

"We certainly didn't expect this number," Taylor said. He added that many of those who responded said they were more interested in having their stories known than in the $5,400 payouts, which will start being mailed this week.

Taylor said such a large number of people making claims indicates there were thousands more who died during the experiments or have died since. "Our knowledge has been significantly broadened," he said.

Data collected from the claimants show there were about 178 different types of medical experiments conducted in more than 30 camps and ghettos. Some victims, including a group of Polish nuns, were not Jewish, Taylor said.

One 82-year-old man described an experiment in which Nazi dogs with poison on their teeth were let loose to chase him and another man and rip flesh from their legs.

A 73-year-old woman told of Mengele pulling her from a line of people headed to the gas chambers at Auschwitz to go to his laboratory, where she was injected with drugs and chemicals and "they made cuts into my body and left the wounds open for them to study."

"I was used as a guinea pig for medical experiments," she writes. At another point, she says, "As bad as the experiments were, without them I would not be here today to write this."

Reading the testimonies "forces you to believe the unbelievable," Taylor said. "These people have been through hell. There's no other way to describe it."

The victims' written statements will be given to Holocaust institutions, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.



As some Dutch adapt to euthanasia, debate simmers elsewhere

By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, 1/11/2004

AMSTERDAM -- For Nelleke Jorissen-Dumee, the Netherlands' right-to-die law means death with dignity. She recalls her mother Maria's fight with cancer, and how five years ago the sick woman chose the day to end her life.

The family brought 20 red roses and played Maria's favorite songs, including Fats Domino singing "Blueberry Hill." They lit 64 candles, one for each year of her life. Then, after a final glass of wine, she lay in her daughter's arms while a doctor administered two lethal injections.

"For us, it was quite a beautiful experience," Jorissen-Dumee said.

A year and a half after the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 lives end that way here each year. The law appears to enjoy support among the Dutch public and doctors, many of whom carried out such procedures in secret for years.

But it doesn't seem right to others. Christian groups condemn euthanasia as contrary to their faith. Other opponents are urging counterparts in the United States to block passage of a similar US law.

Such opponents argue that moral objections aside, euthanasia in practice often isn't a black-and-white decision: The patient may be of unsound mind; relatives may disagree on how to proceed; morphine given to relieve pain may also hasten death without anyone having made a clear decision to end the patient's life.

For euthanasia to be legal, the doctor must determine that the patient's suffering is what the law describes as "unbearable" and "lasting," with no prospect of improvement. The doctor must give all "due care," and determine, with the patient, that "there is no reasonable alternative."

"I'm very pleased that it is in the law, because now you know what you can do and you know what you can't do," said Nico Mensing van Charante, who has been a family doctor for 27 years. When he began, most doctors had a "criminal period," he said.

Opponents say the new law encourages people to end their lives when confronted with suffering, and creates an atmosphere in which doctors can make decisions that in many cases go unreported.

"You should never aim to kill a person. That's the bottom line," said Bert Dorenbos, chairman of the Dutch group Cry For Life.

Dorenbos said he has closely followed the case of Terri Schiavo, a woman in Florida who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 13 years. Schiavo's husband won a court order to have her feeding tubes removed, only to have it overturned by Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature.

Dorenbos sent e-mail messages to US groups opposing the tubes' removal, warning them that if Schiavo is allowed to die, her case will open the door to legal euthanasia. He cited the 1990 case of a Dutch woman in a coma, Ineke Stinissen, who was allowed to die at her husband's request. Dorenbos said the case "shifted the debate" and led to legalization.

Rob Jonquiere, a physician who runs a pro-euthanasia group, The Right to Die, Netherlands, said the lesson to be learned from the Schiavo case was that if she had filled out a right-to-die request form of the type that is freely available in the Netherlands, her wishes would be known.

There is some dispute about the number of euthanasia killings in the Netherlands, but both sides agree there has been no surge in reported cases since the law took effect in April 2002.

According to Cry For Life, 1,882 euthanasia cases were reported in 2002, compared with 2,054 in 2001 and 2,123 in 2000. The group uses figures first published by the Health Ministry and supplied by euthanasia committees that usually lump together euthanasia and the tiny number of doctor-assisted suicides.

On the opposite side of the debate, The Right To Die, Netherlands, reported 3,800 cases of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicides in 2001. That figure, it said, compared with 3,600 euthanasia and doctor-aided suicides in 1995. It says anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers have held steady.

Legalizing euthanasia was supposed to encourage doctors to be more honest in reporting it, but even supporters concede it hasn't. A family doctor, Mensing van Charante, estimates that half the physicians conduct euthanasia in secret, because reporting it requires filing extensive paperwork and getting a second opinion.

In any case, the numbers may not be complete because euthanasia is strictly defined as the "active termination of life on request" and does not include what is known here as "terminal sedation," when a terminally ill patient in severe pain receives painkilling morphine in quantities that relieve the pain but that also hasten death. Under Dutch law, that leaves room for ambiguity about whether death was intended.

Henk Reitsema, 34, a former social worker at a Christian service agency, is convinced that his grandfather, 80, died from such an overdose eight years ago in a nursing home. The World War II veteran, partially paralyzed from a stroke, was in pain but mentally fit, Reitsema said.

A doctor in the nursing home, in Groningen, gave the man what Reitsema called a lethal dose of morphine. By Reitsema's account, the doctor said he was acting on a final wish, a cry of "please help me." But for Reitsema, the cry was simply a request for relief. "It's unfathomable that he would have made a determination for his own death," Reitsema said.



bullet Better screening needed to head off suicides, experts say 


Nicole Cloutier sobbed that she was going to die - that her death was marked in the sky.

Afraid she'd harm their two children or herself, Yves Gauthier locked his wife in their Gatineau bedroom and guarded the door all night.

"I was so scared, I slept in front of the door," said Gauthier, who rushed Cloutier to the emergency room at the Outaouais Regional Hospital the following day.

But four days later, her body was found floating in the Ottawa River. She had left the hospital without telling anyone.

"Every day I think about it," said Gauthier, who last week filed a $750,000 lawsuit alleging the hospital didn't properly assess his wife's suicidal tendencies on the eve of Sept. 14, 2002.

Cloutier was the fourth psychiatric patient to die at the hospital or shortly after fleeing the facility between February and September that year.

Over the last eight years, at least 50 people killed themselves in Quebec hospitals, most of them struggling with mental health problems, noted the family's lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard.

Quebec has the highest suicide rate in Canada - about 1,500 every year, twice the number of car-accident fatalities.

Suicide experts have long called for provincial standards for assessing, treating and tracking people with suicidal tendencies.

"The problem with suicide is that it's often very hard to predict," said psychiatrist Gustavo Turecki, director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies at the Douglas Hospital.

Turecki wouldn't comment on the Cloutier case specifically, but said precise "clinical elements" are usually necessary to confine someone against his or her will.

If doctors assess a patient as being at risk to herself or to others, "they can keep her against her will," said Michel Presseault of Suicide Action Montreal.

"But what happens often, unfortunately, is that she says she's feeling better, she signs a paper refusing treatment, she leaves - and then she commits suicide."

What's missing is a uniform, standard procedure for assessing risk, said Brian Mishara, director of Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

More than half miss out-patient appointments or fail to fill their drug prescriptions, he said.

"Very often, we use respect for individual choice (as a reason) for not being more aggressive in hunting these people up and seeing if there's a better way in offering them help," Mishara said. "We're not insistent; we don't bang on the door.

"Yet one of the most important predictors of future suicide is a past attempt."

Gauthier said his wife became delusional and depressed from one day to the next.

"Tuesday night she was happy, swimming in the pool with the children. The next day at 10 a.m. I got a call on my cell phone: 'Please, come home immediately. I'm scared for the children's safety. I'm all confused in my head,' " he recalled.

Later, she curled up on the kitchen floor sobbing that her death was written in the stars.

Gauthier and lawyer Ménard allege the hospital failed to properly monitor Cloutier. Better training was needed to identify the degree of surveillance Cloutier required, Ménard said.

The hospital refused to comment on the matter.

Gauthier said he launched the lawsuit for his children's sake.

"My children have trouble understanding what's going on," Gauthier said of Mireille, 6, and Isabelle, 10. "The younger one has nightmares about dying and the older one is complaining that her heart is beating too fast and that she can't breathe.

"I can't tell them the hospital did everything they could to save (their mother)," he said. "Some corrective measure needs to be put in place to prevent the same thing from happening."

A government committee appointed last year is studying the issue of suicide prevention with the aim of raising standards.



bullet Police to probe hospital euthanasia claims
By Mark Scala and Evelyn Yamine

THE nurse who reported an alleged euthanasia death at a Sydney hospital will be interviewed by police today.

Police yesterday located the records of the elderly woman who two nurses from Liverpool Hospital allege was euthanased to free up a bed.

An e-mail allegedly discussing the case with Liverpool Hospital management has also been forwarded to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The e-mail, passed on to ICAC with another e-mail reporting the death of a 22-year-old psychiatric patient, have been obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

Two nurses allege a woman in her 70s was given a lethal dose of morphine after an operation in February 1999.

Liverpool Hospital yesterday denied the allegations. The hospital said it had contacted the son of the elderly woman and that he had "no concerns" about the care given to his mother in the hospital's intensive care unit.

The statement was released as information emerged that the families of people who died at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals - whose deaths are under investigation by the HCCC - have been contacted by the health department this week and asked to sign documents stating their relatives had received satisfactory treatment.

Some of the families have not even been informed they are a part of the HCCC report.

Vanessa Bragg, one the original whistleblower nurses, said she had been in contact with some of the families who had been approached.

The nurses at the centre of the Liverpool Hospital allegations said the family of the victim was never told what had occurred.

At the beginning of the investigation, police were not able to find records of the alleged euthanasia patient, but yesterday Health Minister Frank Sartor confirmed there was evidence the woman was treated at the hospital and that she died there.

A spokesman for Opposition Leader John Brogden said the Opposition's information was solid and the fact the woman's record was not there made the matter even more suspicious.

"This raises questions of whether there has been a cover-up," he said.

While the e-mail about the euthanased patient does not identify the case, it refers to "an ethical dilemma" in the intensive care unit.

The e-mail acknowledges management had been told of the incident.



bulletSince Nov 2, 2004 you are visitor Hit Counter