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Matthew Parris: Some day soon we’ll all accept that useless lives should be ende

by Matthew Parris, The Spectator, September 2015

Matthew Parris – the London-based writer and commentator, and regular Radio New Zealand correspondent – is an advocate of legalising assisted suicide.

His ideas are worth sharing because he makes explicit the threat to vulnerable people – the elderly, the disabled, the poor – who in his view take more than they give.

At root the reason is Darwinian. Tribes that handicap themselves will not prosper. As medical science advances, the cost of prolonging human life way past human usefulness will impose an ever heavier burden on the community for an ever longer proportion of its members’ lives. Already we are keeping people alive in a near-vegetative state. The human and financial resources necessary will mean that an ever greater weight will fall upon the shoulders of the diminishing proportion of the population still productive. Like socialist economics, this will place a handicap on our tribe. Already the cost of medical provision in Britain eats into our economic competitiveness against less socially generous nations.

As costs rise, there will be a point at which our culture (and any culture) will begin to call for a restraining hand. I believe that when it comes to the cost of keeping very enfeebled people alive when life has become wretched for them, we’re close to that point.

I don’t even say we should look more benignly upon the termination of life when life is fruitless. I say we will. We may not be aware that our moral attitudes are being driven by the Darwinian struggle for survival, but in part they will be. And just as we feel ourselves looking more sympathetically at those who wish to end it all, so we shall be (unconsciously) looking at ourselves in the same way. The stigma will fade, and in its place will come a new description of selfishness, according to which it may be thought selfish of some individuals (including potentially ourselves) to want to carry on.

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Thinking again about palliative care

by Karen Hitchcock, The Monthly, July 2014

Australian doctor Karen Hitchcock reflects on the end of life experience of her grandmother.

We seek ways to make things in the last months and years neat and pre-determined and (dare I say it) cost-effective. But no algorithm or flow chart can accommodate the messy intricacies of dying. Who decides what life is worth living? 

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University of Auckland researcher to speak at Euthanasia 2016 conference

by Matthew Jansen, Care Alliance, 6 January 2016

University of Auckland researcher Dr Pam Oliver will speak at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam in May this year.

Dr Oliver is scheduled to speak about ‘Improving the legislation to reduce barriers to assisted dying’.

Dr Oliver and her colleague Dr Phillipa Malpas were at the centre of controversy last year when their research project ‘Attitudes of the medical and nursing professions towards the potential legalisation of assisted dying in New Zealand’ was the subject of complaints to the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee. Their survey had been widely distributed to New Zealand doctors and nurses with the statement that “we are independent”.

Participants were not told that Drs Oliver and Malpas are both members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

It has since emerged that Dr Oliver was the author of the ‘End of Life Care Bill’. This was not disclosed to the University.

Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said that “before she takes the international stage, Dr Oliver should explain to the New Zealand doctors and nurses who participated in her survey exactly what she meant by ‘independent’. I believe that she had an obligation to inform participants that she is, in fact, an advocate of legalising assisted suicide.”

Mr Jansen confirmed that his ethics complaint had now been referred to the Health Research Council.

Click here to read all Care Alliance media releases.

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Matt Vickers to speak at Euthanasia 2016 conference

by Matthew Jansen, Care Alliance, 5 January 2016

Matt Vickers will speak at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam in May this year.

Mr Vickers is scheduled to speak in the ‘Campaign’ programme of the conference alongside George Eighmey from Oregon.

Mr Eighmey, a former Oregon House Representative and director of Compassion & Choices, sparked controversy in 2003 when he said that the top reason for people requesting assisted suicide was “I don’t want to have anyone wipe my rear end”.

Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said that Mr Vickers’ attendance at the conference “shows what a slippery slope the so-called ‘right to die’ really is. The Dutch organisers of the conference are currently campaigning for everybody over the age of 70 to have access to a ‘suicide pill’ as a matter of right. Will Mr Vickers be speaking for or against such a law change here?”

Click here to read all Care Alliance media releases.

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Assisted-dying debate exposes ‘dark secret’ of Canada’s broken palliative care system: advocates

by Kristy Kirkup, National Post, 29 December 2015

One benefit of the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision in Carter v Canada is that it is putting the spotlight on the much more significant issue of under-investment in palliative care.

“There is some evidence that only 15 per cent of Canadians have access to high-quality palliative care when they need it,” said Philpott, who spent 30 years working as a doctor in Canada and abroad before entering politics.

“That’s unacceptable and we are committed to doing better.”

Here’s a thought: rather than rush to introduce assisted suicide as a ‘choice’ for a few, how about fixing the system of real care for everyone?

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Lessons I learned about life from my mother’s early death

by Gary Younge, The Guardian, 31 December 2015

Gary Younge’s mother died suddenly and unexpectedly aged 44 when he was 19-years old. He reflects on the “three valuable lessons I would probably never have learned without her untimely death”: that life is short and precarious; that you only get one life, and while it might be short, it’s long enough to make a difference; and that you take nothing with you.

My mum crammed a lot into those 44 years. She’d raised three kids, fostered two more, migrated to a different continent, trained as a nurse, retrained as a teacher, and was a community activist. She taught numeracy and literacy at night school and Asian women English on Saturday mornings. She was a strident, working-class black lady in a world that has never valued those qualities in the same person.

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Philip Nitschke says people don’t need to be sick to seek voluntary euthanasia

by Christopher Walsh, NT News, 28 December 2015

At least Philip Nitschke is honest and consistent. Wrong, but honest and consistent.

Dr Nitschke said he bel­ieved any legislative changes to permit voluntary euthanasia should include everybody and not just the terminally ill.

“I think it’s a mistake to not talk about this growing social phenomenon and certainly a mistake to turn your back on those people … who want to acc­ess the best drugs.

“And a lot of people want to know that the choice is there.”

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‘I get by with a little help from my friends’: Cameron Brown’s last trip home

by Julia Medew, The Age, 28 December 2015

Thirty-four year old Australian Cameron Brown was studying in London with his wife Nikki when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. His friends brought him home.

In October, after a second round of brain surgery, Cam was told he had a two-week window to fly back to Australia, and that he needed a medical escort to make the trip.

Nik and Stephen put a call out on Facebook. Within a day, more than 30 people had volunteered to escort Cam home, including an old school friend, Vince Anderson, who was training to be an anaesthetist in Perth.

By 6am the following day, Vince was flying to London to pick up Cam. He cared for his friend on the plane trip back, delivering drugs he needed to fend off life-threatening blood clots in his lungs. They made it home.

Cam, who is originally from Bendigo, has since been cared for in the palliative care unit of St Vincent’s Hospital. There, he and Nikki have been treated as a couple in a room of their own. Nikki lies beside him, tending to his every need.

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Here’s who uses Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act

by Lindsey Cook, US News, 16 October 2015

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Ninety-seven percent of  patients who have died from lethal medication since the law took effect were white, consistent with figures from last year alone that showed 95 percent of patients were white. According to the Census, the state of Oregon is 77 percent white. Hispanics, who made up 12 percent of the population in 2013 represented about 1 percent of patients.

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Last year, Wilko Johnson cheated death – now he’s back, and bloody annoyed

by Kate Mossman, New Statesman, 21 December 2015

Doctors do fantastic things for us every single day. But they are not invincible, and some times they make mistakes just like the rest of us. It might be a mistake of diagnosis or prognosis or treatment.

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, the former Dr Feelgood member began a very public goodbye. Then an oncologist went to a farewell gig – and spotted a misdiagnosis.

Wilko Johnson is well again. In spring last year, he was delivered of the three-kilogram tumour he thought would claim his life, and now he is dealing with a cosmic anticlimax: declaring in public that he was going to die, and then not doing so.

Click here to read the full article, but fair warning: it’s rock and roll, people, so there’s sex and drugs and a bit of swearing.