Doctors and nurses are the most trusted professionals, according to a UK poll earlier this year, just ahead of hairdressers and teachers, but absolutely thrashing politicians, real estate agents and journalists. This may account for the confidence with which supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide entrust them with the lives of the elderly and terminally ill.
However, this week’s news from Italy is a reminder that not all medicos are worthy of that trust. An anaesthetist and his nurse lover have been arrested near Milan over the deaths of at least five patients and possibly dozens more between 2011 and 2014. The deaths took place at Saronno Hospital, about 30 km north-west of Milan.
Leonardo Cazzaniga, 60, and nurse Laura Taroni, 40, are also suspected of having killed his father and her husband and her mother. It appears that they tricked Ms Taroni’s spouse into believing that he had diabetes and then poisoned him with some hospital drugs.
Police wiretapped the couple’s phones and presented excerpts from disturbing conversations. At one stage Taroni told Cazzaniga she could kill her son and her eight-year-old daughter. "Every now and again I have this urge to kill someone - I need to," Taroni allegedly told Cazzaniga. According to one of Cazzaniga's colleagues, he frequently referred to himself as an "angel of death". It appears that he also used cocaine.
Also relevant to potential euthanasia laws, it appears that colleagues and hospital administrators may have turned a blind eye to the deaths. One doctor allegedly blackmailed the hospital into hiring her in exchange for keeping quiet about the murders. She may have also helped Ms Taroni falsify her husband’s tests for diabetes.
The police are not treating the deaths as euthanasia, or mercy killing, but as homicides.
When there’s talk of border crossings and illegal Mexican migrants, my thoughts used to turn to the ugliness of Donald Trump’s dream: "I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border.”
But after reading a remarkable feature in California Sunday Magazine, I’m trying to think about 66 Garage instead. The name of Mr 66 Garage may not ring a bell with you, but to be fair, it doesn't ring one with him either. He is an undocumented migrant whose truck overturned on a border crossing in June 1999. He hit his head and never woke up.
Ever since 66 Garage has lived in a persistent vegetative state in a San Diego nursing home where he is given round-the-clock care. What a country America is: it produces a politician who treats illegal migrants as if they were cockroaches and nurses who treat them as if they were their own family.
Anyhow, this 18-20-year-old man had taken the “undocumented” part of his journey seriously. He could not be identified and the nursing home christened him 66 Garage, although some of the staff protested that it was undignified. A wonderful woman named Paula visited him every week for 15 years and wondered who he was.
There are thousands upon thousands of missing migrants and their relatives are desperate to find them. A photo of 66 Garage has been shared more than 300,000 times on Facebook. Earlier this year a friend of Paula’s took an interest in the case and 66 Garage was finally fingerprinted. A match led to his sister in the southern state of Oaxaca. Now she can wave at him over Skype on his birthday.
It’s a remarkable story about vulnerability, dignity, blood ties, and American generosity. Read it.
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