March 2, 2009
Washington's Physician-Assisted Suicide Law to Take Effect
Life ethics cases are playing out in the northwest and internationally in recent months.
While voters were electing President Obama and passing Proposition 8 on Election Day, Washington voters quietly approved a measure that made it the second state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. A month later, a judge in Montana ruled that physician-assisted suicides are legal.
Life ethics have also played out internationally in recent news. In late December, a Quebec man was found not guilty of helping his disabled uncle kill himself, opening the door to its legalization in the Canadian province.
A woman in Italy, who has been compared to Terri Schiavo, died last month after her father requested the clinic to stop feeding his comatose daughter. Eluana Englaro had been in a vegetative state for 17 years after a car accident.
The news of her death came as Italy's parliament began debating emergency legislation that would make it illegal for carers of people "unable to take care of themselves" to suspend artificial feeding, according to The Times.
A court in South Korea ruled that doctors could remove life-sustaining treatment for a 76-year-old woman who sustained brain damage and fell into a coma while undergoing a lung examination. Her children say she has no chance of recovery and her wish to die can be inferred. The case will go to the country's Supreme Court, according to AFP.
What makes it even more complicated is that 40 percent of coma patients in a ?vegetative state' may be misdiagnosed, according to a report in The Times in 2007.
This means that valuable rehabilitation strategies are routinely neglected, and misdiagnosed patients end up on unsuitable wards or in care homes where their needs are neither understood nor met.