15 March 2007

To Be, Or Not To Be?

That is the question raging across the world this week. In Spain on Wednesday, the breathing machine of a paralyzed woman who had breathed with the help of a machine for a decade was switched off. Despite being opposed by the Catholic Church, regional authorities approved the decision on the basis of advice from an ethics commission and a counselling judicial organ. They argued that the death of Inmaculada Echevarria would constitute a simple refusal of medical treatment, not euthanasia, which is illegal in Spain. Defending her right to die, the 51-year-old had declared "To be free, you have to fight."

Meanwhile, a 28-year-old Chinese woman who suffers from motor neurone disease and can only move her head and some fingers has appealed to delegates at the current annual session of parliament to legalise euthanasia. She protests that she needs to die before her parents or else she will die "even more miserably." Her parents are also concerned that nobody else will take care of her after they die.

Down under, the South Australia Parliament is considering its fourth bill since 1995 to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

Finally, the verdict is due tomorrow in the case of a doctor and nurse being tried for poisoning a terminally ill cancer patient in southern France, who had repeatedly expressed her desire to end her life. The doctor has defended her decision to prescribe an overdose for her 65-year-old patient, claiming that she wanted to preserve her patient's dignity. Two years ago, legislation was adopted that allows families to request that life-support equipment for a terminally-ill patient be switched off, but a doctor is still not allowed to take action to end a patient's life. However, 2000 health professionals have now signed a petition in support of the two accused, calling for a change in the law to allow active euthanasia, making this a sensitive campaign issue ahead of next month's presidential election.


The Difference said...

Update: The French doctor has been given a one-year suspended jail term and the nurse has been acquitted.