Bulletin 26

Bulletin 26

Please find following a couple articles, one from the Right to Die newsletter from the US and one from the President of DWDNSW.

I have reproduced in full the article from Colombia which was reprinted in the Right to Die Newsletter because it highlights my main concern about all the legislative changes that are currently occurring i.e., that our governments still consider that they own us and our bodies. The experience that Martha Sepúlveda has gone through as described in this article tells us the limits authorities place on our rights when it comes to death.

Until we demand the right to die at a time of our choice i.e., the complete decriminalization of suicide i.e., the removal of the use of the word ‘suicide’ to be replaced by the term elective death and the free assistance to die when we choose we will have others telling us that we have to be dying of disease as according to the Church and other authorities’ requirements.

I find it interesting to think about how recently it was that authorities in Australia gave themselves permission to hang murderers. For thousands of years authorities both spiritual and secular gave themselves permission to torture, hang and burn their citizens. If citizens chose to hang, gas or shoot themselves they and their relatives were penalized with loss of property, the loss of the right to be buried in sanctified places, and shaming.

Now authorities refuse to allow their citizens the right to die at a time of their choice. The only thing that does not change in human society seems to be the fact that human beings who work their way into positions of power are determined to exercise that power over others regardless of what those ‘others’ want.

I have also included in this Bulletin a request for help from DWDNSW for people to send letters to NSW legislators. If you have relatives or friends in NSW who may be interested in writing such a letter you could forward this Bulletin to them.

Regards

Jeanne Arthur
President
DWDACT
19 October 2021

 

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Martha Sepúlveda was scheduled to become the first person in Colombia — a majority-Catholic country — without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia on Sunday. But a surprise 11th-hour decision by health officials has halted her bid.

Sepúlveda, 51, was awakened by her lawyers Friday night with news of a letter announcing that her euthanasia procedure scheduled for 7 a.m. Sunday had been cancelled, after a medical committee determined that she no longer met the conditions because her health apparently had improved.

The decision came as a surprise, her lawyers said. She had no idea health officials were meeting to review her case. She had been quietly living out what she thought were her final hours and had tuned out media coverage of her case.

“She cancelled her phone plan because she thought she was going to die tomorrow,” her lawyer, Camila Jaramillo, said Saturday night.

Jaramillo’s law firm, the Laboratory of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, has vowed to fight the decision, which it described as “illegitimate and arbitrary,” and one that violates Sepúlveda’s right to a “dignified death.” They pointed to a recent constitutional court decision that allows euthanasia for patients with intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease, even if the prognosis is not terminal within six months.

“They’re obligating her to live a life that she is not willing to continue to live,” said Lucas Correa Montoya, another lawyer representing Sepúlveda. “What has happened in the past few weeks is an example of the long road ahead for death with dignity in Colombia.”

Sepúlveda was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurological disease known in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in November 2018. In the months that followed, the Colombian woman lost control of the muscles in her legs — and she knew it would only get worse.

She would cry at night, overwhelmed by the thought of not being able to get into bed or go to the bathroom by herself. Sepúlveda, who considers herself a devout Catholic, started reading about an option that she thought could relieve her fear of what was to come: euthanasia.

Colombia was one of the first countries in the world to decriminalize euthanasia, and one of only a small number — alongside Belgium and the Netherlands — to extend the right to patients without terminal diagnoses. No U.S. state permits euthanasia; 10 states and D.C. allow medically assisted suicide for terminally ill, mentally capable adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Until this year in Colombia, the option had been available legally only to those who were expected to live for six months or less. Although ALS is a fatal disease with no cure, it progresses at varying rates, and patients can survive for years or, in some cases, decades.

The country’s constitutional court ruled in July that the right to euthanasia — recognized in Colombia in 1997 — applies not only to terminal patients, but also to those with “intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease.”

The Colombian Institute of Pain, or Incodol, which had been scheduled to carry out the procedure on Sunday, said Sepúlveda’s condition had improved between July and October, and that affected an earlier decision to allow her euthanasia procedure to proceed.

After discussing the case at length, the committee found no evidence meeting the requirements of degenerative, progressive and incurable illness, according to an explanation from the committee that was provided to The Washington Post by Jaramillo. Sepúlveda’s illness “does not completely affect the functionality of the patient in instrumental activities or daily life as the patient and her family had expressed in previous medical records.”

Determining that Sepúlveda “has a high probability of expecting a life of more than 6 months,” the committee ruled that she wasn’t eligible for euthanasia.

Committee members based their decision at least in part on media coverage of Sepúlveda since her decision became public. Sepúlveda appeared on television smiling and laughing as she dined at a local restaurant this month — despite her grim prognosis.

“All patients are capable of improving … this is part of the analysis that should be made … to evaluate a patient’s condition,” Fredy Quintero, a manager with Incodol, told Colombia’s Caracol News.

The July court ruling has divided Colombia. Church officials have described euthanasia as a “serious offense” to the dignity of human life; a member of the national bishops’ conference urged Sepúlveda to “calmly reflect” on her decision and invited all Catholics to pray that God would grant her mercy.

The country’s health ministry, responding to the news that Sepúlveda’s procedure had been cancelled, said a patient without a terminal diagnosis cannot be authorized for euthanasia because the constitutional court has not yet released its complete ruling on the matter. That claim was quickly disputed by legal experts, who said court rulings take effect immediately.

Sepúlveda’s 22-year-old son released video statements through his mother’s lawyers on Sunday, saying the “irregular” actions by the health provider happened only after the “viralization” of the news of his mother. Federico Redondo Sepúlveda called for an investigation into the actions of the health provider. “We should not tolerate this,” he said.

“It’s not just the rights of Martha Sepúlveda,” he said. “The rights of many other people that submit to these kinds of procedures, before these kinds of institutions, could also be eventually violated.”

“This circumstance brought my mom back to her previous state of desperation and sadness, and there’s nothing that can change that,” he said, adding that his mother has returned to having a “huge worry” about the future.

“We’re open to having this fight for the dignity of my mother,” he said. “My mom’s fight is the fight of thousands of people.”

Pannett reported from Sydney. Diana Durán contributed to this report.

Read more:

‘The right time to die’: Canada’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide faces criticism over restrictions

Things are still on track for the NSW assisted dying bill. Debate will begin next week.

But we urgently need your help

There have obviously been some big changes in the leadership of the NSW Liberal Party, with the Premier and other key MPs leaving parliament.

Many of you will be worried about the impact of this on the upcoming debate on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.

However, Alex Greenwich intends to introduce the Bill into Parliament next week as planned, and the new Premier, Dominic Perrottet, has given his support for a conscience vote for Liberal MPs.

That is a very significant development and we hope that MPs will exercise their vote in accordance with the wishes of their electorates.

We’ve learned to expect the unexpected but Dying with Dignity will be full steam ahead with our campaign, including delivering our Petition to MPs and our Field of Hearts display in the Domain behind Parliament House.

It will be a frantic time and we need all our supporters behind us. The single most powerful influence on MPs is hearing from constituents.

The Australian Christian Lobby and other opponents of VAD laws are bombarding MPs offices with phone calls and emails telling them that VAD laws are unsafe, unethical and unnecessary.

NSW is their last battleground on assisted dying and they are throwing all their resources and thousands of volunteers at their campaign.

Many of you have already contacted your MPs but we are asking you to do so again.

Even if your MP already supports or opposes assisted dying laws, they need to know how strongly the public feels about this. The numbers are balanced on a knife’s edge and we cannot do this without you.

Please help us by sending a message to your MP today.

Here is a quick link to send your MP a short message. It will only take a couple of minutes.

CLICK HERE TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE

We have been fighting for this law for over 50 years. This is the most critical time in the history of our cause. Please help us….

Penny Hackett
President
Dying with Dignity NSW

 

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