Blog Archives

Assisted Dying 9: Pretoria judge approves the right to die with dignity, legally exercised in some American states, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland and Belgium

Breaching the evangelical Christian consensus, former archbishop, Lord Carey, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have declared themselves to be in favour of assisted dying for the terminally ill and those in a situation of intractable, unbearable suffering.

robin stransham-ford after illnessIn April this year, Judge Hans Fabricius of the Pretoria High Court found that terminally ill Robin Stransham-Ford  (left) – who had approached the court to allow him to commit assisted suicide – had a constitutionally protected right to die with dignity. He ruled that a doctor could give the 65-year-old a lethal injection, saying:

“The medical doctor who accedes to the request of the applicant will not be acting unlawfully and therefore shall not be subject to prosecution”.

robin stransham-fordRobin Stransham-Ford (right) a member of the active Dignity SA, had lived his professional and athletic life to the full. Educated at Stonyhurst, he took a law degree at University College London, becoming a member of the Black Lawyers Association and Advocates for Transformation in South Africa. Lawyer, accountant, tax practitioner and a Chief Executive of a group of reinsurance brokers at Lloyds in the City of London, he served as a wartime commissioned army officer and completed the world’s longest triathlon from London to Paris and the world’s longest non-stop canoe race from Devizes to Westminster.

He had been suffering from prostate cancer and died of natural causes on the same day that the court granted him the right to end his life.

Will British sufferers ever have the opportunities available in some American states, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland and Belgium?

Golden parachutes offer financial insiders an easy descent into government

golden parachute graphicGolden parachutes provide income when the executive leaves the company before the end of a specific period of time and – in the Financial Times – Ben McLannahan reports on top banking executives pocketing millions of dollars before taking jobs in government:

“Critics argue that such benefits, which do not apply to people quitting for other jobs in the private sector, have ensured a succession of financial insiders in senior policy positions and deferential treatment towards Wall Street”.

The revolving door

Citi is among a handful of big banks allowing government-bound staff to cash out of incentive programmes by accelerating the vesting of their stock awards. Citi has been a particularly rich source of state appointees in recent years, from Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary, to Stanley Fischer, vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve. The latest to move was that of Antonio Weiss, a former banker now serving as a counsellor to Mr Lew, who acknowledged December that he would leave Lazard with up to $21m in unvested income and deferred compensation.

AFL-CIO, America’s biggest trade union federation which manages $94bn in assets, will begin a campaign against this practice at Citigroup’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday and put similar proposals to the shareholder meetings of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase in coming weeks.

67.9% of those who voted in Switzerland’s referendum seeking constitutional limits on remuneration came out in favour of the initiative, which was passed in every canton. Swiss Justice and Police Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters that the result was “the expression of widespread unease in the Swiss population about the level of salaries paid to top managers.” There is also widespread unease in the British population about such matters.

thomas minder 2The Swiss have shown the way for Britain to start curbing its revolving door, conflicts of interest and golden parachutes or handshakes.

The Golden Parachute ban on excessive executive salaries and other means of compensation passed into Swiss law in 2014 but some parts only come into force this year, including the binding shareholder vote on remuneration.

Or will we need a Thomas Minder (above right) to come to the rescue?

Assisted Dying 8: How long will government allow private health industry vultures and religious fundamentalists to prevail?

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“He did not have a good death”: these reticent words from a grieving widow were all that she felt able to say of the prolonged intense emotional and physical suffering her husband endured before his death. She added, “I have joined Dignity in Dying”. Another acquaintance last week told the writer that her father, in similar circumstances, had asked for strychnine to be procured for him.

A condition not included in the demands of this organisation but recognised by medics and Dignitas as terminal, is dementia. Dementia is not just an enhanced state of memory loss – an inconvenience – but can adversely affect the whole personality. One who shared care of a formerly bright and independent relative with this condition for two years had to contend with extreme physical aggression, incontinence and refusal to wash.

cambridge assisted dying videoVideo of Cambridge assisted dying debate – link below

It is the core goal of Dignitas that one day nobody in the UK or any other country needs to travel to Switzerland for a self-determined end of suffering and life anymore.

People who would opt for assisted dying when diagnosed with dementia, and who have made the declaration whilst still in good health, should be given every facility in their region. For years Scandinavian countries have had a range of acceptable provision and a few American states. Only Switzerland kindly offers this facility to foreigners. As respected journalist Simon Jenkins notes, an average of twenty people a month kill themselves ‘surreptitiously’ at home and two terminally ill people a month go to Switzerland to end their lives.

At the moment the medical and care industries – a powerful parliamentary lobby – have a vested interest in prolonging the unhappy lives of such people, profiting by payments from their families and the state.

The human right to control the circumstances of one’s own death was asserted by Dr Atul Gawande in a recent Reith lecture.

debbie purdySimon Jenkins wrote that right-to-die campaigner, Debbie Purdy’s life and death by self-starvation – forced on her by parliament – should be celebrated by the Commons passing the House of Lords’ “dignity in dying” bill forthwith.

As he continues: an overwhelming majority of the public – 60-70% – wants it. The weight of legal and ethical opinion wants it. Eighty of the great and good writing to the Daily Telegraph at the weekend want it. Objection, he adds, is largely confined to religious prejudice and medical authoritarianism.

Simon Jenkins concludes that Debbie Purdy’s husband thanked the Marie Curie hospice in Bradford for helping his wife through the awful experience of self-starvation forced on her by parliament:

“How much better if he were now able to thank parliament for relieving others of having to face the same ordeal”.

 

Further reading:

Gaza 1: British media coverage low-key, state directed? 21 sites searched

One of the 15,000 who attended the London demo on Saturday wrote: “It was absolutely amazing. I had no idea there would be so many people there”.

demo london israel

21 British sites searched:

So many people, so little front page coverage in this country’s press and elsewhere, with honourable exceptions. The usually outspoken Huffington Post had published and then buried this article.

The Scotsman is an honourable exception, with its prominent report, opening: ”More than a thousand people across Scotland mounted protests against Israeli military action in Gaza today. The majority of those who turned out to protest gathered in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street, while a similar protest also took place in Aberdeen. Around 1,500 people attended the rallies in Scotland. People marched in heavy rain holding placards calling for an end to bombing in Gaza. The march ended at BBC headquarters at Pacific Quay. Police said the rally had been peaceful”.

The London Evening Standard only covered events in Gaza, placing even that news well down the page.

The Independent covered the Gaza strikes at length, ending with just two paragraphs about the worldwide demonstrations.

dublin gaza demo

Only the Irish Times covered the issue handsomely – above, in Dublin.


Next: Gaza2: poor international coverage of worldwide demonstrations against Israel’s actions – 34 sites searched

i24 logoBut handsome coverage by Israel’s i24, banned in Israel. A find! i24News, based in Jaffa and broadcast worldwide in English, French, and Arabic, is not available in Israel by Hot’s cable network or by satellite broadcaster DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. The protests were covered well, see more here. Despite its apparently objective stance, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has refused a request by owner Patrick Drahi – a ‘Franco-Israeli’ telecommunications tycoon – to allow i24 News to be broadcast in Israel.

And Switzerland takes constructive action.

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Gaza 2: poor international coverage of worldwide demonstrations against Israel’s actions – 34 sites searched

 But handsome coverage by Israel’s i24, banned in Israel

i24 logoA find! i24News, based in Jaffa and broadcast worldwide in English, French, and Arabic, is not available in Israel by Hot’s cable network or by satellite broadcaster DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. The protests were covered well, see more here. Despite its apparently objective stance, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has refused a request by owner Patrick Drahi – a ‘Franco-Israeli’ telecommunications tycoon – to allow i24 News to be broadcast in Israel.

The Washington Times headlined news of a French demonstration – but only emphasising violence during the protests in Paris. There was no mention of US and actions elsewhere.

But Iran’s Press TV directed us to one of America’s protests: “More than a thousand pro-Palestinian protesters have taken to the streets in the US Colorado state capital of Denver to condemn Israel’s ongoing onslaught against the Gaza Strip. The demonstrators gathered on Saturday at the Colorado State Capitol building, calling for an end to the Israeli attacks on the besieged coastal enclave. The gathering was followed by a march through Denver, during which the protesters held protest signs and Palestinian flags and chanted, “free, free Palestine, the occupation is a crime.”

Though Colorado’s Newsday covered Gaza’s plight admirably it remained strangely silent about the demonstrations in its own state.

New Zealand’s Scoop covered events in Gaza at length but did not refer to any demonstrations.

Times of India: appeared to cover the Kashmir demonstrations because of police killing of a demonstrator.

Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News carried a full account of the demos and a strong condemnation by Turkish leaders: “Turkish leaders have strongly condemned an Israeli ground operation into Gaza that has killed scores of civilians, declaring the Israeli administration – in another article – as a “threat to international peace . . .

turkey gaza demo“Israel advised its citizens on July 19 not to travel to Turkey, citing “the public mood” after heated protests there against Israel’s ground offensive into Gaza. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Israelis should “avoid non-essential visits” to Turkey – once Israel’s closest regional ally – or be especially vigilant and steer clear of anti-Israel demonstrations”.

Constructive moves by sensible Switzerland

 swiss gaza demo

Swiss Info, after reporting on Gaza at length and covering the Zurich demo, announced that the Swiss foreign ministry is holding exploratory talks for an international conference on the respect of humanitarian law in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authorities. The ministry confirmed it had received a letter from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, urging Switzerland, as a depository state of the Geneva Conventions, to convene a meeting of the signatory states.

DEFRA Minister Paterson: listen to the GM contamination evidence – not the biotech companies

Megan Noble and Lawrence Woodward: “UK’s push for GM crops looks ill considered and irresponsible”.

GM wild2Does Owen Paterson – described as the biotech companies’ latest PR man – know about the recent experience of GM contamination in Oregon, Switzerland, Western Australia and other regions? The fear is that GMOs cannot be contained in the field, the food chain or even in research trials.

  • South Korea doesn’t grow genetically engineered crops but imports animal feed. It is finding GM plants growing wild in areas around major ports, factories, livestock farms and roads. The most commonly found GM species were maize (corn), cotton and rapeseed. The National Institute for Environmental Research reported that there has been a 33% increase in the level of detected GMO contamination cases in the wider environment since 2009.
  • GM canola (oilseed rape) is being spilled as it passes through the Rhine port of Basel and along Switzerland’s railway system. Bernard Nicod, a member of the executive committee of the Swiss Farmers’ Association said, “It would be hard to separate the cycle of production and distribution of conventional agriculture from that of transgenic agriculture. We are not sure we can cope with the extra costs of that kind of separation.”
  • Genetically modified (GM) wheat growing in Oregon led to Japan and South Korea banning imports of US white winter wheat. The discovery was made by the University of Oregon and forwarded on to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Neither Monsanto or the USDA has explained how the contamination occurred. See the Guardian this week.
  • Currently beset by fracking-related problems, earlier this month a local paper reported tests on genetically modified wheat in North Dakota. These are being conducted by Monsanto – following the discovery of contamination in neighbouring Oregon – under a ‘cloak of secrecy’, a local farmer said Monsanto, which owns a wheat development company based in the nearby city of Bozeman, didn’t respond to a request for comment last week. In 2010, Nature reported GM canola growing wild in the region.
  • Legal proceedings are still under way after an organic farm in Kojonup Western Australia was contaminated, in 2010, with genetically modified canola contamination. The WA government revoked Steven Marsh’s organic certification.
Lesley Docksey, in Global Research, writes:

“This constant dishonest pressure on the public from people like Paterson to accept something they do not want must stop.  It is dishonest because their ‘facts’ are at the least unproven, and at worst, untrue.  Nor do they really care about feeding the world.  If they did they’d stop the waste of so much food and ensure people had equal access to what the earth can provide.  This is all about giving the biotech companies control over the world’s food”.

Noble & Woodward conclude: “Until a solution to prevent contamination is found the answer is to stop transporting these genetically engineered crops across the world; stop feeding them to animals; and even to stop growing them”.

 

Campaign: remove covert corporate influence from political life – 3: a reference to the Swiss example

How can the representatives of the people be restrained from seeking to be influential? Addressing this question in the FT, Costa Vayenas* presents the admirable Swiss precedent:
  • The country has no prime minister.
  • There are no full-time members of parliament.
  • The budget has to be balanced over the cycle.
  • Taxes cannot be raised without the people’s direct consent (the ballot papers, accompanied by return envelopes, are posted to the voter’s home)..
He comments:

“Consequently, there is not much left for politicians to be influential about. Such an approach works here, but I do not see it being copied elsewhere.”

*Costa Vayenas, Brugg, Switzerland, probably the head of Emerging Markets research at UBS Wealth Management.

Assisted Dying 5: Is government colluding with industry to ensure that maximum profit is extracted from the cradle to the grave?

Are frail or elderly Britons kept alive, against their will, to boost industry profits?

Like most people polled in Britain, BBC Online reports that Anna Soubry, newly appointed Under-Secretary of State for Health, thinks that the law needs to “evolve” to allow people to die at home – self-assisted dying not medical euthanasia.

Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who was also appointed as a health minister in the reshuffle, said there was a case “for looking at reform”: “I certainly think that we should debate it.”

Is beneficial reform being delayed due to the corporate lobbying of the huge and influential ‘health’ industry which needs the frail & elderly – and their families – to live and pay as long as possible?

Assisted dying and/or euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Columbia and three American states: Oregon, Washington, and Montana.

This corporate political nexus pervades every corner and stage of our lives

Evidence of this is regularly published on this website. The most recent example reported today is the thousands of pounds donations from a major shareholder in America’s Domino’s Pizza company given to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s constituency party. Channel 4’s Dispatches identified a disturbing new trend for fast food chains like Domino’s to open premises close to schools.

Time for change!

 

 

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Tony Nicklinson is now at peace; how many more people will be forced to suffer?

Tried and tested

Assisted-suicide and/or euthanasia is legal in Columbia, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and three American states: Oregon, Washington, and Montana.

Tony Nicklinson, who was paralysed from the neck down following a stroke in 2005, died peacefully today of natural causes.

He wanted the right to die yet was unable to take his own life or take a cocktail of lethal drugs prepared for him.

High Court judges ruled the issue was for Parliament to decide; knowing that, why did they admit the case?

Mr Nicklinson said he was “devastated” by the decision – in an article he wrote for the BBC, he had described his life as “a living nightmare”.

Tony Nicklinson and so many others could have been spared physical and mental torment.