dying in Zurich
It was reported in the newpapers over the weekend that Fritz J. Raddatz, the former literary critic of Die Zeit, had “died in Zurich” and I immediately suspected that he had organised his own assisted suicide as he had been an advocate for euthanasia
Different types of Euthanasia
The laws on Euthanasia are different in different countries but they are commonly split up into different types:
|1||Voluntary euthanasia||where it is conducted with the consent of the patient|
|2||Non-voluntary euthanasia||where the consent cannot be obtained or under the law cannot be given for example being in a persistent vegetative state or child euthanasia|
|3||Involuntary euthanasia||where it is conducted against the will of the patient|
These classifications are often split into two different kinds of euthanasia
|a||active euthanasia||which entails the use of lethal substances or forces, such as administering a lethal injection, to kill and is the most controversial means.|
|b||passive euthanasia||which entails the withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life.|
This framework is commonly used to define what is legal and illegal in different countries as well as the issue of financial gain from the death – if there is gain by the person administering the leathal injection as in the case of Harold Shipman a doctor in the North of England who seems to have preyed on old ladies and got them to change their wills and then given them a lethal injection and signed the death certificate as natural causes – he was tried for murder after the discovery of what he had been doing.
In Germany under the Nazis there had been the Action T4 where people deemed unfit by the Nazi ragime where killed by lethal injection or gassed. Because of this active involuntary euthanasia programme which can be seen as a dry run for the larger and just as horrific mass exterminations of Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, homosexuals and political opponents of the regime – euthanasia was for many years after World War II off the agenda in Western Europe.
A plea from a senior member of the Church of Scotland on this issue
In the UK assisting suicide is still a criminal offence though the laws of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are different. The general practice has been that those who assist people in traveling to Switzerland for Euthanasia, doctors who administer larger than usual doses of pain-killers near the end of life or those who remove the feeding tube from a patient are not charged especially when there is no financial benefit to them.
However it is dependent on the good will of the law officials and that is a problem so Very Reverend Sandy McDonald who is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis where scar tissue is filling his lungs has asked the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (also known as The Kirk) to consider thoughtfully its position on assisted suicide.
Here are the texts in PDF format and direct links to the stories:
Please note that the typo in the Daily Record article has been corrected.
There are other cases where the question of “assisted suicide” has been addressed
- The Terri Schiavo case – where law cases went on for fifteen years in the USA
- Lorenzo Schoonbaert – where he delayed his appointment for his assisted suicide so he could watch his favourite football team win for the last time.
Next Monday is the fiftieth anniversary of the second attempt to start the Selma-Montgomery Civil Rights March which led to some landmark legislation in the USA.