Tuesday • January 3, 2006
A French prosecutor said he had dropped charges against the mother and doctor of a quadriplegic young man who helped him to die in 2003, and called for their acquittal.
Vincent Humbert, a 22-year-old fireman, was left blind, mute and paralysed after a car crash in 2000.
His mother Marie, who had campaigned in vain with her son for his right to die, administered him an overdose of sedatives, after which he lapsed into a coma.
Doctor Frederic Chaussoy later injected Vincent with a lethal dose of drugs and switched off his life support system.
Chaussoy faced a possible life sentence for poisoning with premeditation, while Marie Humbert had been charged with administering her son with toxic substances, and faced up to five years' imprisonment.
State prosecutor Gerald Lesigne said he had decided to drop charges against them after considering the "moral aspects of the offence, not its material and legal aspects".
He argued that both doctor and mother had been under considerable pressure from Vincent himself and the media attention surrounding the case, and that they had therefore acted "under constraint".
The court in the northern town of Boulogne-sur-Mer must now rule on whether to acquit the pair.
Chaussoy welcomed the "excellent" news of the prosecutor's decision, but insisted he had no regrets over helping Vincent to die.
Marie Humbert, though welcoming the prospect of Chaussoy's acquittal, accused the legal system of trying to "get shot of the issue", and of failing to tackle the question of mercy killings head-on.
She said the trial would have allowed a "debate, so that everyone realises the need to change the law" on euthanasia.
The French parliament last year adopted a law granting terminally ill patients the "right to die" by allowing them to put a stop to medical treatment, although it did not legalise mercy killing. — AFP
Dignitas in Switzerland issued this bulletin on
February 1, 2007:
"The Swiss Federal Court acknowledges the right to an accompanied suicide as a human right. Also mentally ill are entitled, if they have capacity of discernment. Decision creates legal security."
The Swiss Federal Court has acknowledged the right of a person to determine the way and the point in time of his/hers end of life as a guaranteed European human right and at the same time basically granted mentally ill this right just like everyone else, if they have capacity of discernment.
At the same time it dismissed a request for the removal of the obligation to present a prescription for the lethal drug necessary for an accompanied suicide. The decision has been announced by the lawyers of the appellant in Uster and Wetzikon ZH.
The decision by the Federal Court has been procured through the complaint of a mentally ill man, a member of Dignitas, for whom - due to legal insecurity - no physician would have written the prescription for the drug Sodium Pentobarbital necessary for a risk-free suicide. The reason for this refusal was the always somehow vague threat by the Zurich Cantonal Physician to withdraw the permission to work of those physicians who would write such a prescription.
For this reason, the appellant addressed himself to the Federal Council, the Director of the Federal Department of Health, the Zurich Cantonal Physician and the Zurich Cantonal Pharmacist, claiming the right to have direct access to the necessary drug.
To justify his claim, he referred to the European Convention of Human Rights, which in article 8 secures that all contracting states shall respect the private life of everyone within their jurisdiction. Private life would also include the decision on one?s own end of life.
All of the contacted authorities either explained to be incompetent or dismissed the request. With one complaint against the federal and another one against the cantonal authorities ? which had both dismissed his request in the appeal process ? he appealed to the Federal Court. This court also heard him personally in due course.
The Federal Court stated as follows:
?The right of self-determination in the sense of article 8 ? 1 ECHR includes the right to decide on the way and the point in time of ending ones own life; providing the affected person is able to form his/her will freely and act thereafter.?
?It cannot be denied that an incurable, long-lasting, severe mental impairment similar to a somatic one can create a suffering out of which a patient would find his/her life in the long run not worth living anymore.
Based on more recent ethical, juridical and medical statements, a possible prescription of Sodium-Pentobarbital is not necessarily contra-indicated and thus no longer generally a violation of medical duty of care...
However, utmost restraint needs to be exercised: It has to be distinguished between the wish to die that is expression of a curable psychic distortion and which calls for treatment, and the wish to die that bases on a self-determined, carefully considered and lasting decision of a lucid person (?balance suicide?) which possibly needs to be respected. If the wish to die bases on an autonomous, the general situation comprising decision, under certain circumstances even mentally ill may be prescribed Sodium Pentobarbital and thus be granted help to commit suicide.?
?Whether the prerequisites for this are given, cannot be judged on separated from medical ? especially psychiatric ? special knowledge and proves to be difficult in practice; therefore, the appropriate assessment requires the presentation of a special in-depth psychiatric opinion??
On Thursday, the General Secretary of DIGNITAS, Ludwig A. Minelli, explained that with the acknowledgement of the right to an accompanied suicide as an ECHR-right all intentions to prevent with special ?rules? people from other countries to come to Switzerland for an accompanied suicide to have no more grounds.
Article 14 of the Convention on Human Rights does not allow for discrimination. Furthermore, the legal security gained out this decision offers the basis that in the future physicians may help mentally ill who have capacity of judgment without the risk of a prohibition to practise their profession, because upon presentation of a psychiatric expertise they may prescribe Sodium-Pentobarbital.
Minelli is convinced that after some time, in other European countries, especially Germany, Great Britain and France, this decision will lead to a reconsideration of the dried up political position and enable a more liberal regime. This would reduce the demand for this service in Switzerland significantly which certainly would be desirable.
(February 2, 2007)
20. December 2005, Swissinfo
Leading Swiss hospitals say they are considering whether to
allow assisted suicide to take place within their walls.
Lausanne University Hospital confirmed at the weekend that it would permit the practice under strict conditions from January 1.
The hospital in western Switzerland said it would allow the voluntary euthanasia group, Exit, to help terminally ill patients who are unable to go home.
Patients wishing to take their own lives must have expressed a persistent wish to die, be of sound mind, suffer from an incurable disease and carry out the final act themselves.
On Monday other leading Swiss hospitals said they were debating whether to allow assisted suicide on their premises.
"We are considering the issue. Our ethics forum discussed it at their last meeting on November 30," Markus H?hler, spokesman for Bern University Hospital, told swissinfo.
"But the whole process will take some time because we have to make sure everyone is involved ? nurses, doctors and social workers."
A spokeswoman for Basel
University Hospital said its ethics committee had also grasped the nettle
but added that it was too early to say what the outcome would be.
She said enquiries regarding assisted suicide had been received in the past but these had always been refused.
Zurich University Hospital said the subject was not under consideration at the moment but would be "in the future".
According to the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS), voluntary euthanasia organisations are prohibited from Geneva University Hospital but the hospital's ethics committee has recommended lifting the ban.
The move by hospitals to address the issue follows efforts by the SAMS and the National Ethics Commission (NEC) to clarify the situation.
Switzerland has liberal laws on assisted suicide and a person who helps a terminally ill patient to die is only likely to face prosecution if they are found to be acting out of self-interest.
Both bodies contacted the cantons in April this year to find out if hospitals had rules in place stipulating whether assisted-suicide organisations were allowed on the premises.
According to the SAMS, none of the cantons had binding legal rules in place, and the majority of hospitals had no guidelines either. Most of those that did have guidelines prohibited entry to assisted-suicide organisations.
Dr Margrit Leuthold, secretary general of the SAMS, told
swissinfo that the body had yet to adopt an official position on the
decision taken by Lausanne University Hospital.
But she said she was in two minds about allowing assisted suicide in hospitals and questioned whether it should be introduced as a general rule.
"There are situations where it does not make sense for terminally ill patients to have to return home because they cannot die in hospital with Exit. This can cause a lot of additional pain and trouble," said Leuthold.
"But an acute-care hospital should be a place where people are treated to become healthy again rather than helped to die. It sends out a dangerous signal and it would also be difficult for other patients."
swissinfo, Adam Beaumont with agencies
Swiss hospital allows assisted suicide
Jan. 03 (CNA/CWNews.com) - Lausanne University Hospital has decided to permit assisted suicides, effective January 1, and now other leading Swiss hospitals are also discussing permitting the procedure, reported Doctors For Life in a press release issued yesterday.
Though Swiss law initially did not allow doctors to kill their patients, the practice of euthanasia has been gradually extended from private groups into the public health care systems.
Given a similar debate in South Africa, Doctors For Life urges the South African government and health authorities to uphold the intrinsic value of life and keep euthanasia illegal in the country. The organization is also calling upon all institutions that provide training to health professionals to improve training in palliative care, pain management and depression.
In the Netherlands, doctors have been allowed to practice euthanasia since 1973. While Dutch laws initially required that euthanasia be limited to the sickest patients, it has been steadily redefined, the press release pointed out. As a result, Dutch doctors now legally kill people with terminal or chronic illness, disabilities or depression on demand. Furthermore, repeated studies sponsored by the Dutch government show that doctors kill a significant number of their patients every year as a result of involuntary euthanasia, the medical association reported.
Eugenic infanticide also exists in the Netherlands. According to a 1997 study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, approximately 8 percent of all Dutch infant deaths result from lethal injections. As well, 45 percent of neonatologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to Lancet surveys had killed babies.
8:09 AM EST
"As a result, Dutch doctors now legally kill people with terminal or chronic illness, disabilities or depression on demand."
Let me see if I have this right..... Swiss Health care is provided for by the government and now government Doctors have the right to kill you if they see fit? Can you say N-A-Z-I and slippery slope? What's next....all people who disagree with them politikkkally?? And the Swiss don't have a problem with this?
Jan. 03, 2006
9:13 PM EST
Don't look elsewhere my fellow Americans. A solid majority or Americans favored Michael Schiavo's position over Bob and Mary Schindler's. What was the result? Afterwards, Americans, in record numbers, went out and signed living wills. Their clear purpose: to make sure they were euthanized! If we can't make a case in as clear a case as Terri's, we will never convince the majority of Americans to oppose euthanasia. We will get legalized euthanasia because we want it. Sad news indeed.
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