FaithWorld

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death, dies

(Dr. Jack Kevorkian poses at the 62nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California August 29, 2010/Mario Anzuoni)

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, known as “Dr. Death” for helping more than 100 people end their lives, died early on Friday at age 83, his lawyer said. Kevorkian died at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he had been hospitalized for about two weeks with kidney and heart problems, said Mayer Morganroth, Kevorkian’s attorney and friend.

Kevorkian, a pathologist, was focused on death and dying long before he became a defiant advocate, crossing Michigan in the rusty Volkswagen van that carried his machine to help sick people end their lives.  He launched his assisted-suicide campaign in 1990, allowing an Alzheimer’s patient to kill herself using a machine he had devised. He beat Michigan prosecutors four times before his conviction for second-degree murder in 1999.

Kevorkian was imprisoned for eight years for second-degree murder and was paroled in 2007. As a condition of his parole, he vowed not to assist in any suicides. He was convicted after a CBS News program aired showing a video of Kevorkian administering lethal drugs to a 52-year-old man suffering from debilitating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Read the full story by Bernie Woodall here. See also our factbox on Kevorkian.

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from UK News:

UK Catholics warn against “decriminalising” suicide

BRITAIN/Catholic bishops in England and Wales warned against people thinking they may be exempt from prosecution in assisting suicide after new guidelines were issued.

The  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) set out the guidelines in September in an attempt to bring greater clarity to the thorny issue of prosecution, inviting comments during a consultation period.

Suicide is still against the law in Britain, but the high-profile case of multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, from Bradford, northern England, who has sought clarification on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her go abroad to die, has been an impetus for the guidelines. 

Swiss to tighten assisted suicide rules, maybe even ban it

Undertakers remove body of assisted suicide from Dignitas office in Zurich, 20 Jan 2003/Sebastian Derungs (Photo: Undertakers remove body of an assisted suicide from Dignitas office in Zurich, 20 Jan 2003/Sebastian Derungs)

Switzerland is looking to change the law on assisted suicide to make sure it is only used as a last resort by the terminally ill.  “We have no interest, as a country, in being attractive for suicide tourism,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference in the capital Berne.

A rise in the number of foreigners seeking to end their lives in Switzerland, and a study last year showing that more and more people seeking assisted suicides in the country do not suffer from a terminal illness, have provoked heated debate.

The cabinet — which is divided on the emotive issue — sent two proposals into the legislative process for consultation, which will last until March 1: one for tighter regulation and the other for an outright ban.

Britain muddles through with assisted suicide guidelines

purdyPressure is growing in Europe for some form of legalised euthanasia but few governments have gone as far as the Benelux countries in allowing assisted suicide in clearly defined cases. The mix of growing public support for ending lives of the terminally ill or brain dead but continued prohibitions on it in the law has led to some long and hard-fought legal battles in Italy (Eluana Englaro) and in France (Vincent Humbert). (Photo: Multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, whose case prompted Britain’s new guidelines, 2 June 2009/Stephen Hird)

It has also created a legal and ethical twilight zone where for compassionate reasons the law did not really punish the doctors, nurses or relatives who helped someone die. In France, this became clear in a number of court cases where the person accused of assisted suicide were convicted but got only a short suspended sentence. In Britain, a frequently used way to get around the law has been the so-called “suicide tourism” route to the Dignitas suicide group in Zurich.

Pressed by the Law Lords to clarify British policy, the Director of Public Prosecutions in London has issued guidelines indicating when someone who helps another person to commit suicide might face legal action. At first glace, this may seem like a clarification. But it still leaves enough questions out there to leave the issue shrouded in uncertainty. The reception in London has been mixed. Some commentators say this strikes a sensible balance but others think it’s not enough and parliament has to debate and legislate on it.

Graying Britain looks to assisted suicide reform

nitschkeIt used to be an issue just for the terminally ill. Now as populations around the world age, governments are increasingly being confronted with the taboo idea of dying as something people can volunteer to do.

“The demand for the option, if not the practice, is growing rapidly,” said Dr. Philip Nitschke, 61, founder and director of the pro-euthanasia group Exit International. (Photo: Dr. Nitschke shows his ‘suicide kit,’ 7 May 2009/Stefan Wermuth)

The Australian doctor — nicknamed Dr Death for his work on suicide — is traveling the world to teach people how to end their lives safely with a suicide drug-testing kit.

from UK News:

The right to assist suicide

Former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is calling for a change in the law, to allow people to take terminally ill patients abroad for assisted suicide without fear of prosecution.

The law may say it is illegal but in practice, those who do assist suicide abroad are not being prosecuted in practice.

The anomaly has been highlighted lately by the case of multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, who lost a legal bid to force the government to clarify the law on assisted suicide to protect her husband from any future action.

Unanswered question about “suicide tourism” in Switzerland

Undertakers remove body of assisted suicide from Dignitas office in Zurich, 20 Jan 2003/Sebastian Derungs“Suicide tourism” in Switzerland exerts a morbid fascination on the media. The assisted suicide group Dignitas, which opened in 1998, is rarely out of the news, especially in Britain (here are some of the latest stories on Google). In a rare interview last March, its founder Ludwig Minelli said it had helped 840 people to die to date, 60% of them Germans.

Another “right to die” group, Exit, gets less attention abroad because it only deals with Swiss citizens. But it seems to be just as active, if not more so. Founded in 1982, it says it gets 150-180 requests for assisted suicide annually.

There have been several polls showing general public support for these groups — the latest one says 61 percent of the Swiss approve of assisted suicide. But until recently, there has not been any serious study of the people who seek these groups out. Are there patterns in the types of people or their reasons for ending their lives this way?