UK denies right-to-die legal challenge



BRITAIN ST. (Photo credit: marc falardeau)



MARIA CHENG | August 16, 2012 06:30 PM EST | AP



LONDON — Britain‘s High Court on Thursday rejected an attempt by a man who has locked-in syndrome to overturn the country’s euthanasia law by refusing to legally allow doctors to end his life.

Tony Nicklinson had a stroke in 2005 that left him unable to speak or move below his neck. He requires constant care and communicates mostly by blinking, although his mind has remained unaffected and his condition is not terminal.

In January, the 58-year-old asked the High Court to declare that any doctor who kills him with his consent will not be charged with murder.

The High Court ruled that challenges from Nicklinson and another man named only as Martin to allow others to help them die without being prosecuted were a matter for Parliament to decide.

Nicklinson said he was “devastated and heartbroken” and planned to appeal the decision.

“I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery,” he said in a statement.

Martin, 47, also has locked-in syndrome and asked for the court to allow professionals to help him die either by withholding food and water or by helping him go to a clinic in Switzerland to die. His wife said she respects his wishes, but does not want to help kill him.

Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological disorder where patients are completely paralyzed, and only able to blink. Patients are conscious and don’t have any intellectual problems, but they are unable to speak or move.

The judges wrote that they were both “tragic cases,” but said to allow euthanasia as a possible defense to murder “would usurp the proper role of Parliament.”

Nicklinson had argued that British law violated his right to “private and family life” as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, on the grounds that being able to choose how to die is a matter of personal autonomy. He has previously described his life as “a living nightmare.”

Legal experts weren’t surprised by the ruling.

“This is a really slippery case,” said Richard Huxtable, deputy director of the Ethics in Medicine department at Bristol University. “Although the courts have been willing to look at guidance around assisted suicide, this is about as far as they have been willing to go.

“The feeling seems to be that only Parliament could give adequate thought to what sort of law should be in place and the safeguards required.”

In Europe, only Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands allow euthanasia. Switzerland allows assisted suicide and is the only country that helps foreigners die at a clinic near Zurich.

“It’s very clear courts are unwilling to make the radical shift in our understanding of murder by allowing euthanasia,” said Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

“But they did leave a small door open for prosecutorial discretion,” he said, pointing out the judges acknowledged that the decision to prosecute people who helped others to die were not always straightforward.

Britain’s top prosecutor has previously said that people who help loved ones commit suicide won’t necessarily be charged with murder.

Caplan said the British cases were a major departure from past euthanasia debates because neither man is terminally ill.

“Most of the cases which triggered legislation in the past were about dying people and their quality of life,” he said. “We will see more of these discussions as people live longer and we decide what to do about those who are severely impaired.”

Nicklinson said he hoped the courts would grant him another hearing later this year. Experts said he could take his case to the Supreme Court or to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.


Aruna Shanbaug 39 years in semi-comatose condition #Euthanasia

Aruna Shanbaug


Another birthday in a locked room. Another birthday — the 39th — to not feel any sun on her body. Another birthday to be fed mush through a nose-tube and pass it out on the bed. Another birthday without being given medicine to calm her down when she is “agitated”.

It’s important that atleast some of us remember that such a woman still exists in both, a physical and legal vacuum. Both, because of those who claim to “love her”. She is permitted passive euthanasia – a fact not known to most media — her minders have to approach the Bombay High Court. Will collective cowardice, once again, continue to condemn this woman to a living hell?

 A woman in Bombay, India called Aruna Shanbaug turns 64 on June 1 (today). This would make it 39 years in this semi-comatose condition after she was sodomised and left for dead in November 1973.

She has the world’s most dubious distinction of being the longest-known such case.

She is, according to hospital records from that time and re-confirmed since, also blind, unable to speak words, given to either howling or grinning or being catatonic, irreversibly brain-damaged.

She is also, presumably the most horrific human rights violation on an individual ever. She is not given medication. She is not even on cathetor to collect body waste. Her bed is soiled and she lies like that till her care-takers — the nurses and ayahs of the municipal run hospital in which she languishes — clean her.

What makes it a tragedy is that Passive Euthanasia is now allowed in India. All it will take is for her feed to be tapered off — as per international norms governing the process — while introducing pain-management medicine into her nose-tube through which she is fed directly into her stomach.

Aruna’s even greater irony is that while she and Pinki Virani have catalysed the Law on Passive Euthanasia it has also been deemed for her — a matter not known to most — albeit as follows: The Supreme Court said the hospital was her “next friend”, not Pinki Virani (the incident happened in 1973; the Author knows her from 1982 when she was a cub-reporter). The Supreme Court then indicated — in the open court — that another specific plea could be filed in the Bombay High Court “should they change their mind”. Please crosscheck with any of the lawyers present in the court that day; the room was jam-packed with both, lawyers and media. Please cross-check by reading the judgement for yourself as well.

“Should they change their mind”. Are they likely to? Especially since they feel so noble about taking care of her while she suffers so horribly.

Did this startling fact even come to light — that all it will take is for some municipal employees (since that is what the nurses and doctors are at that particular BMC-run hospital) to approach the Bombay High Court?

[In March 2011, the Supreme Court of India, passed this historic judgement permitting Passive Euthanasia in the country. This followed Pinki Virani’s plea to the highest court in December 2009. The corollary of this same landmark judgement is that there might be a boost in organ donations, once again positively helping millions of Indians. (The judgement provides clarity on the definition of brain-death since healthy vital organs are wasted while arguments rage over the medico-legal definition of brain-death.)]

-Pinki Virani


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APPEAL- Andhra widow seeks euthanasia for paralysed son

Uma Sudhir

Hyderabad : Poverty, desperation and lack of response by the government have forced a widow from Andhra Pradesh to seek euthanasia for her mentally disabled son. K Lakshmamma, the mother of an engineering student who was paralysed and became mentally unstable after a serious accident 15 years ago, has sought the permission of a local court in Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh to put an end to her son’s life. The petition has been admitted and the next hearing will be on March 3.
Her son C Janardhan, an engineering student, was offered a job in Australia in 1997. He was hit by a truck while he was on his way to Bangalore to get a visa.

The accident caused brain damage in addition to paralyses and loss of speech. He was in coma for three months after the accident.

The 64-year-old widow reportedly told the court that her earnings from working on a farm, coupled with her monthly widow’s pension, are not enough to cover her sons medical expenses.

“I don’t know who will take care of him after my death. I can’t see him suffer any longer. If my son gets mercy killing, I can die in peace,” she said in the petition. Her husband died eight years ago.

Struggling to make ends meet on her meager income, K Lakshmamma sold her land and home to foot the medical bills. She has been single-handedly taking care of her son for the past 15 years.

She says her failing health is the reason she was forced to approach the courts, seeking either help or euthanasia for her son.

“If they can get him some medical help, we would be grateful. He cannot fend for himself and I won’t be around forever. So I asked if the government can help us. If they do, we will live. Otherwise I will put him to sleep and kill myself. What else can we do?,’ says the distressed mother.

Lakshmamma says despite her repeated appeals for help, no response has been forthcoming from the government.

Pleading that her son should get the right to live life with dignity or death if that cannot be granted, this mother has admitted a petition in the court. The judge has said the mother cannot be allowed to put her son to death. She has also issued notices to the authorities for medical and financial help.

The court has admitted her petition for hearing and it will come up next on March 3.

Should you want to donate to this family, you can send a cheque in the name of:
K Lakshmamma or K Janardhan (Joint account holders)
A/C No 037010011024577
Andhra Bank
Burma Street, 14-26-1, CTM Road
Madanapalli, Chittoor district
Andhra Pradesh
Pin Code: 517325
For online transfers, please follow:
Branch code: 000370
IFSC Code: ANDB0000370
MICR Code: 517011202

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