Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)
Jose Euripedes Parra Parra, a person opposed
to mercy killing brought a lawsuit with the intention of deleting all
references to euthanasia in Colombia law. The lawsuit backfired. On
1997-MAY-20, their Constitutional Court legalized euthanasia for terminally
ill persons who have clearly given their consent. The decision was 6 to 3.
The court instructed the Congress to develop procedures
to "regulate" the practice of euthanasia."
On 2007-NOV-05, a bill to legalize and regulate
physician assisted suicide died in the Senate, because its supporters determined
that they lacked sufficient votes to pass the bill.
On 1995-MAR-28, the District Court in Yokahama found a doctor guilty of
murdering a terminally ill cancer patient who was expected to die within a few days. He
received a two-year prison term, which was suspended. The court then listed four
conditions under which mercy killing would be permitted in Japan:
- The patient is suffering in unbearable physical pain.
- Death is inevitable and imminent.
- All possible measures have been taken to eliminate the pain with no other treatment left
- The patient has clearly expressed his or her will to approve the shortening of his or
Judge Matsuura ruled that
"Dr.Tokunaga's action did not meet all these conditions,
arguing that the patient had made no clear expressions about his physical pain nor about
his will to approve euthanasia. The doctor's action cannot be viewed as euthanasia
and represents illegal termination of the patient's life."
The country currently criminalizes physician
assisted suicide. A survey by the Medical Association revealed that:
||12% of physicians had already helped terminally ill patients die.
||60% had performed passive euthanasia by withholding a medication or
procedure with the expectation of hastening death.
||9% had engaged in physician-assisted suicide.
Recent developments include:
||1997-APR-15: The South African Law Commission released a
100 page discussion paper on titled "Euthanasia and the
Artificial Preservation of Life." It included a Draft Bill
on the Rights of the Terminally Ill.7 The bill
||How mentally competent persons might refuse medical treatment and
thereby hasten death
||That physicians could administer pain control medication, even
though it has a "double effect" of killing pain and
hastening death. This is a common practice that is currently in a
||That a competent person could obtain assistance in committing
suicide from a physician under certain conditions. The patient would
have to be suffering from a terminal illness, be in extreme pain
that cannot be relieved, be over the age of 18, be mentally
competent, and persistently request assistance in dying. Two doctors
would have to agree.
||That a person could issue a living will in advance of need which
would direct what medical treatment that they would prefer to avoid.
||The conduct of medical personnel in withholding medical treatment.
Doctors could refuse to participate in any of the above.
1999-MAR-9: The South Africa Medical Association asked
that the proposed legislation be put on hold.
1999-MAR-10: Doctors for Life is a group of 600
physician who oppose choice in abortion and physician assisted suicide.
They appealed to the South African government and Law Commission
to retain the status quo and to abandon any proposed legislation.
1999-OCT: A bill was under active discussion in Parliament.
1999-OCT-4: Christians for Life organized a
demonstration to protest abortion access and physician assisted suicide.
1999-OCT-8 & 9: 40 African pro-life groups who form the National
Alliance for Life (NAL) attended the "Love Them Both"
conference in Amanzimtoti, South Africa. The conference linked the right
of a pregnant woman to choose an abortion with the right for
terminally-ill elderly persons in intractable pain who seek assistance
in committing suicide. Albu van Eeden, the NAL chairman, said |
is contrary to the very nature of medicine. It will destroy the trust
that forms the basis of the doctor-patient relationship. Legalizing
euthanasia is all about giving the doctor the right to kill, to be both
judge and executioner."
Van Eeden appears to be opposed to involuntary euthanasia in which a
person is killed without their informed consent. The law proposed for
South Africa would prohibit this, and allow physician assisted suicide
only after the individual has requested it.
Dr. F. Kellerman, a member of Doctors
for Life, said:
"We are deeply grieved because of the situation
in South Africa. Despite the thousands of people who stood up against
abortion and against the legalizing of euthanasia, the government just
continues to do what they have in mind to do. We get the impression that
irrespective of what the people say, irrespective of what scientific
facts are put to the government, even in Parliament, there are some
people who have set their minds on killing babies and bringing in
2007: A father was given a four year sentence for removing a
respirator from his brain-dead son. The sentence was suspended.
2009-MAY-21: South Korea's supreme court upheld a lower court
decision and authorized the removal of a respirator from a 76-year-old woman
who was declared brain-dead in 2009-FEB. She had previously told her family
that she did not want to be kept alive artificially if her impending hospital
treatment ended badly. The supreme court ruled that maintaining a brain-dead
state damaged "human dignity" when there was no chance of recovery. They
wrote: "If it is obvious that the patient will die soon... we can conclude
that she or he has already entered a phase of death. In this case, we must
respect the patient's will because forced life-sustaining treatment may damage
human dignity." 10
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
The text of the Northern Territory of Australia law is at: http://www.nt.gov.au/
The Right-To-Die Society of Canada has a web page at:
ERGO, the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization promotes voluntary
assisted suicide for terminally and irreversibly ill with unbearable suffering. They
include a list of "right-to-die" agencies from around the world, movies which
have dealt with the topic, a list of books on euthanasia, etc. See: http://www.efn.org/~ergo/
VESS, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Scotland maintains a WWW site with an
A-Z interactive glossary, information on Living Wills, case histories, mailing lists, and
a Values History Centre. See: http://www.netlink.co.uk/
Brad Knickerbocker, "Sanctioned euthanasia: lessons from abroad," The
Christian Science Monitor, 1998-DEC-3 at:http://www.csmonitor.com/
"Dutch to legalize mercy killing." Associated Press,
South African Law Commission, "Euthanasia and the artificial
preservation of life." Text is at: http://www.law.wits.ac.za
Maranatha Christian Journal is a religious online news source at: http://www.mcjonline.com
Their article on euthanasia is at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
"London museum exhibits euthanasia machine," EWTN News
Lim Chang-Won, "S Korea's top court upholds 'right to die' ruling,"
Hindustan Times, 2009-MAY-21, at:
Derek Humphry, "Tread carefully when you help to die," Assisted Suicide,
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAY-22
Author: B.A. Robinson