domingo, 30 de octubre de 2016

BioEdge: Steep increase in Swiss assisted suicide

BioEdge: Steep increase in Swiss assisted suicide

Bioedge

Steep increase in Swiss assisted suicide
     


The latest government statistics for assisted suicides in Switzerland reveal a 26% increase over the previous year. Most of those who died by assisted suicide were said to be terminally ill.

According to Swiss.info, a government news service, In 2014 there were 742 cases of assisted suicide in Switzerland, more than 2.5 times as many as five years previously. Assisted suicide accounted for 1.2% of all deaths in Switzerland that year. Men and women were nearly equally represented in the assisted suicide numbers.

In 42% of cases, assisted suicides were provoked by cancer. Neurodegenerative disorders led to 14% of assisted suicides, followed by cardiovascular illnesses at 11% and musculoskeletal maladies at 10%. Most people who chose assisted suicide in 2014 lived in the canton of Zurich.

Assisted suicide has been permitted in Switzerland since the 1940s, but it has accelerated in recent years. It is legal if patients commit the act themselves and those assisting have no vested interest in their death.

Although Switzerland has become a Mecca for people from overseas who wish to commit suicide and it is accepted by the Swiss, it is still controversial. Earlier this year the editor of Swiss.info, Larissa M. Bieler, protested that the Swiss had not thought deeply enough about this:

Palliative care is no panacea but it does allow an enlightened society to have a transparent discussion about death. This discussion is just as important for society as the right to autonomy. Assisted suicide has a positive image in Switzerland. In this moment of total dependence though, there are more humane ways to die than downing a cup of poison and simply fulfilling a desire for autonomy. If the absolute autonomy of our existence comes down to suicide, if the absolute ideal is to kill yourself, then this needs to be called into question, also in Switzerland. Assisted suicide must not simply become a routine affair.
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It appears that Canada has experienced a visitation from an “angel of mercy”, a media euphemism for a medical serial killer. Arrested this week, Elizabeth Wettlaufer allegedly killed eight patients in Ontario nursing homes since 2007. The Canadian media is describing her as one of Canada’s worst serial killers.
She faces stiff competition in other countries. In Italy, Daniela Poggiali, a nurse, was sentenced earlier this year over 13 deaths. In the US, Charles Cullen, a nurse. was sentenced in 2006 over the deaths of about 40 patients. In Germany Stephan Letter killed at least 29 patients in 2003 and 2004. And then there is Dr Harold Shipman, the quiet English doctor who killed 250 patients.
These horrors never seem to be mentioned when the legalization of euthanasia is being debated, but they should be. The existence of these mad “angels of mercy” demonstrates that some healthcare professionals feel compelled to kill the defenceless people entrusted to their care.
Legalisation creates a class of people who do the same thing but without the secrecy. In Belgium and the Netherlands, the bulk of the euthanasia business seems to be carried out by a handful of doctors. Some of them have killed scores of patients. What does that do to them? Why do they volunteer? Will there be more “angels of mercy” in jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal? These are all questions that need to be asked and answered. 


Michael Cook
Editor
BioEdge



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