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Cheers - AE

Saturday, 19 June 2010

End of lifeline -part II

A few days ago I blogged about a paper on involuntary euthanasia in Belgium, or rather on the tabloid misinterpretation that JuliaM's blog on it alerted me to. One point the paper made, which the Daily Mail managed not to include, was that while some questionable things were happening in Belgium they were also going on in other countries which, unlike Belgium, have no legal euthanasia or assisted suicide.
"In previous surveys, physicians reported that nurses sometimes administered drugs explicitly intended to hasten death. Nevertheless, uncertainty remained about the understanding by the nurses of the act that they performed. In our study, nurses did administer life-ending drugs with the recognition that the death of the patient was intended. In the cases of euthanasia, 12% of the nurses administered the drugs. In the United States, where no legal framework for euthanasia is provided, 16% of critical care nurses 10 and 5% of oncology nurses reported engaging in euthanasia. Similar findings have been reported in other countries."
In other words if you look at other countries it doesn't seem to matter if the law allows it or not. Kind of makes the supposed slippery slope that the Fail is getting all excited about seem rather flatter and high-friction than their article suggests, though in fairness they covered this when they said... er... just bear with me, I'll find it in a tick... sorry, no, my mistake. They didn't mention it.
And as if to bear that point out in The Telegraph we have this:
A GP cleared of murdering three patients has broken his long silence to admit that he did hasten their deaths as well as those of dozens of others in his care.
Dr Howard Martin, once feared to be a “second Harold Shipman”, told The Daily Telegraph that he gave what proved to be fatal doses of painkillers to elderly and terminally ill patients.
But he said he only acted out of “Christian compassion” and was merely trying to limit their suffering rather than “playing God”.
He disclosed that, in two cases, he hastened the deaths of patients without their permission, while one of those to whom he administered a final injection was his son, Paul, 31, when he was dying from cancer in May 1988.
Dr Martin, 75, spoke out as the General Medical Council struck him off for professional misconduct, ruling that he had hastened the deaths of 18 patients in “egregious, despicable and dangerous” conduct.
He accepted that his confession put him at risk of “spending the rest of my life in prison” if it prompted police to reopen his case.
If there is a slippery slope then I feel it's likely that most industrialised nations are already on it anyway. It might even be worth asking whether the slope was ever flat. The other way of looking at it is, as above, that recognising that people own their lives and should be free to relinquish them if they want and seek (which is not the same as successfully find) professional help to do so does not necessarily increase the numbers of medical staff who are prepared, for whatever reason, to stick the needle in without asking.
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