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Archive for December, 2010


Cape Town – The academic charged with murder after helping his terminally ill mother to die in New Zealand has arrived back in South Africa.

Addressing a media briefing in Cape Town on Wednesday, Professor Sean Davison announced he would campaign for a change to local law to permit voluntary euthanasia.

“I hope by doing this I can help bring about some good from my unfortunate situation,” he said.

Davison, 48, who arrived in South Africa on Tuesday, is head of the department of biotechnology’s forensics laboratory at the University of the Western Cape.

He is currently awaiting trial in the Dunedin District Court for giving his mother Patricia, 85, a lethal dose of morphine four years ago.

Leaked manuscript

New Zealand authorities started an investigation after publication of material from a leaked early manuscript of Davison’s book Before We Say Goodbye, detailing the last few weeks of Patricia’s life.

He was arrested while in New Zealand to visit relatives in Christchurch, and appeared in court for the first time on September 24.

He said on Wednesday that he wanted to thank the university for supporting him through “this difficult time”.

“I am most grateful to our rector, Brian O’Connell, for making a very sincere plea to the New Zealand High Court requesting my bail conditions be changed to allow me to return to my family and work in South Africa until my trial next year,” he said.

“It was not a simple decision for the court to allow me to leave since there was no legal precedent in New Zealand for allowing an attempted murder accused to leave the country, especially since South Africa does not have an extradition treaty with New Zealand.

“I understand that the law must take its course and so I will return to New Zealand so I can answer the attempted murder charge.”

Davison said he also wanted to thank the many people who had expressed their support, not just friends and work colleagues but also complete strangers.

He said he knew there were many people who had had similar experiences to the one he had with the death of his mother.

I did it for love

The only difference between his experience and theirs was that he had written a book.

“What I did to help my mother at the end of her life I did for the love of my mother,” he said.

“I did not do it to write a book nor to become a martyr for a cause to change the law. I also had no intention of joining the campaign for a law change on euthanasia.”

However publication of the book had changed his life considerably, and he now knew that the situation he faced with his mother’s death was far more common than people imagined.

He also knew that many people experienced undignified deaths that could have been prevented if the law were different.

“I now see the importance of having control over one’s own death if one is faced with a terminal illness and the need to change the law to make this possible in certain circumstances,” he said.

“I believe the South African society is receptive to the idea of changing the law to allow voluntary euthanasia in a very carefully monitored context such as how it is done in Switzerland.”

He acknowledged that not everyone would agree with this, but felt the issue should be openly debated.

Dignity SA

He wanted to help start a Dignity South Africa organisation with the goal of achieving such a law change in this country.

A statement handed out at Wednesday’s briefing said Dignity SA would be affiliated to Dignity New Zealand.

Dignity NZ was founded in 2003, on the principle that terminally ill patients should have the option of assisted suicide.

New Zealand legislators have rejected two pieces of legislation on assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

The statement said Dignity SA’s vision would be to offer the best possible environment for end-of-life care by promoting and in due course providing palliative care, plus an option of “legalised assisted dying”.

“It is envisaged that this option will be offered to South Africans via Dignity Havens as an alternative to the palliative care services that are currently offered by hospices in South Africa,” it said.

“In this way South Africans will be able to access clear choices in end-of-life care.”

– SAPA

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Prof-who-helped-mom-die-wants-SA-law-changed-20101222

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Math Atheist


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By McBrolloks

A very good example of religions organizations that causes many thousands and thousands of people to suffer needlessly, because of their own “moral standards” and religious dogma, happens in the field of assisted suicide. If it wasn’t for the interference of churches all across the world, assisted suicide and euthanasia would be legal in many countries today, and a common practice performed by physicians who assist their patients to die with dignity, by their own choice and free will.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia is illegal in most countries. It is very difficult for anyone with moderate means to end their own life with dignity, with the help of a physician. Terminally ill patients are kept alive for as long as possible, and in many cases against their own free will.

One of the most famous doctors who fought the system and helped hundreds of people end their own lives was Dr Jack Kevorkian. A hero to millions of people across the world, Dr Kevorkian stood for what he believed in. After seeing many patients suffer during their last days, been kept alive by machines against their will, he took action and started to assist people in ending their own lives. Of course, the fundies came after him right away. He spend many years in court, and many years in jail, for doing what he believed was the right thing by his patients.

I heard a doctor tell a very sad story on the radio the other day. This happened in the USA. A man collapsed in his kitchen one day. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer that was quite severe by that stage. He choose not to receive any treatment for it.  A couple of months later, he collapsed again, and was taken back to the hospital. By this time he was quite frail, and the cancer had spread through his body. When he woke up, he had a feeding tube down his throat. He asked for it to be removed, and his request was refused. He tried to explain to his doctor that he choose to die. His request was denied. He pulled the tube out twice, and was restrained, by having his hands tied up to the bed. He later used his knees, and pulled the tube out again. They then tied his legs up too. The doctor saw this man suffer for months in agony, tied up completely, requesting over and over to be allowed to die. He was in great pain, and dignity was one thing he did not have, and was not given. This started the doctor to think that maybe a patients choice to die should be taken more seriously, and the way terminally ill people are treated should be reconsidered. It was his opinion that the way doctors practice medicine in the USA today needs to be looked at in a different light. In some cases it is not about keeping someone alive for as long as possible, but helping them move on, with dignity and compassion, and giving them that choice.

Right now there is a big movement in Australia to pass legislation to help terminally ill patients who choose to end their own lives, with dignity and proper medical assistance, called: Dying With Dignity Victoria
Their polls show that in 2006 89% of election candidates, and currently 76% of sitting members believe that terminally ill individuals should have a right to seek and obtain assistance to end their life with dignity. At the same time, in 2009 a poll showed that 85% of Australians believe that terminally ill individuals should have a right to seek and obtain assistance to end their life with dignity. In 1962 it was close to a majority (47%) and by 1978 it was up to 67%, and in 2002 was 73%+. An independent poll conducted by Newspoll found 80% of Australians in favor, and just 14% opposed. But it is not legal. Why not?

One of the reasons can be traced back to the old culprit. The churches. The Roman Catholic Church is in staunch opposition, and so is the Anglican Church. These are the two largest church organizations in Australia. It does not matter what religion a terminally ill patient is, but these churches are forcing their “moral values” and dogma on everybody.

Politicians, bless their souls, are always worried what the churches are going to say come election time. It is time for everyone to wake up. The unnecessary suffering and pain people are forced to go through, against their own free will, does not benefit anybody. Euthanasia is practiced daily with our pets, whom most of us love all their lives, and really care about, and we do not want them to suffer when they reach the end of their days. We even go as far as calling it humane. But why is it not good enough for us humans?

To me the biggest injustice is the infringement on our human rights. Our right to choose, for ourselves, to end our own lives. Our right to spare ourselves from unnecessary pain and suffering. Our right to end our lives with dignity. Our right to choose where and when, and to have the proper medical assistance we deserve.  How can anybody interfere with that basic human right? This is a matter between a person and a doctor. It should be private and respected. There should not be any arrests made, doctors prosecuted, and family member charged with breaking the law, when all they did was to help someone they cared about end their lives, by their request and consent. But instead the churches balk at this practice, and call for “justice”. They want this stamped out and anyone involved made an example off. And then they (the churches) are the ones who suffer from a persecution complex.

Recently the Scottish Parliament has rejected plans to give terminally ill people the right to choose when to die, despite claims they were widely backed. One of the biggest lobbying groups against the legislation was the Care not Killing alliance of 50 groups, mostly faith-based organizations. Polls have shown that most of the population and politicians who voted on this bill was in favor of passing it, but the pressure got to them. The Bill was defeated by 85 votes to 16 with two abstentions. Of course Care not Killing used scary tactics amongst parishioners and ill, elderly and frail people in the churches as well as where the churches went and did their “work“. They spread good old fashioned propaganda and scared these people shitless, telling them they will all be put to death someday if this bill passes. This in turn scared the politicians into giving in on the matter. Isn’t it amazing how politicians will never risk their chances of reelection even if it means they have to screw over the will of the people who voted them in in the first place? When are politicians going to have the balls to stand up against the churches? Why can’t reason prevail? Why do they always bend over for religious dogma?

It is not all faith based organizations that oppose death with dignity in Australia. St Michael’s Executive Minister Dr Francis Macnab believes it is compassionate to let those who suffer to choose to free themselves of pain.

The point is, that this is a human rights issue, not a theological dogma issue. This right to choose is up to an individual, not a church or a government. It is also a doctors right to assist his patient to practice their free will to be relieved of their suffering and pain, in a dignified manner. It has nothing to do with any church and no government.

Of course there will have to be regulations, but first and foremost, it should not be illegal.

http://www.dwdv.org.au/RealStories.html

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/lifematters/when-it-is-time-to-say-enough-20101205-18lex.html

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI told Vatican officials Monday that they must reflect on the church’s culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also blamed a secular society in which he said the mistreatment of children was frighteningly common.

In his traditional, end-of-the-year speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops, Benedict said revelations of abuse in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen,” the pope said.

Benedict also said, however, that the scandal must be seen in a broader social context, in which child pornography is seemingly considered normal by society and drug use and sexual tourism are on the rise.

“The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times,” Benedict said.

He said that as recently as as the 1970s, pedophilia wasn’t considered an absolute evil but rather part of a spectrum of behaviors that people refused to judge in the name of tolerance and relativism.

As an avalanche of cases of pedophile priests came to light, church officials frequently defended their previous practice of putting abusers in therapy, not jail, by saying that was the norm in society at the time. Only this year did the Vatican post on its website unofficial guidelines for bishops to report pedophile priests to police if local laws require it.

“In the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the pope said. “It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than.’ Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

“The effects of such theories are evident today,” he said.

The traditional Christmas speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops is an eagerly anticipated address that Benedict uses to focus the church hierarchy on key issues.

Benedict has previously acknowledged that the scandal was the result of sin that the church must repent for, and make amends with victims. He repeated Monday that the church must do a better job of screening out abusers and helping victims heal.

“It is fundamentally disturbing to watch a brilliant man so conveniently misdiagnose a horrific scandal,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the main U.S. victims’ group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

She said the scandal wasn’t caused by the 1970s but rather by the church’s culture of secrecy and fixation with self-preservation in which predator priests and the bishops who moved them around rather than turn them in were rarely disciplined.

“Whenever the pope tires of talking about abuse and starts acting on abuse, he should focus on taking immediate, pratical steps to oust those who commit, ignore and conceal clergy sex crimes first,” Blaine said.

The sex abuse scandal, which first exploded in the U.S. in 2002, erupted on a global scale this year with revelations of thousands of victims in Europe and beyond, of bishops who covered up for pedophile priests and of Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to the crimes for decades.

Questions were raised about how Benedict himself handled cases both as archbishop in Munich and as head of the Vatican office that handled abuse cases.

Recently, the Vatican released documentation showing that as early as 1988 then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sought to find quicker ways to permanently remove priests who raped and molested children in a bid to get around church law that made it difficult to defrock priests against their will.

While Ratzinger was unsuccessful then, Vatican rules now allow for fast-track defrocking. But victims advocates say the Vatican still has a long way to go in terms of requiring bishops to report sex crimes to police and release information and documentation about known pedophiles.

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