Attenborough: “I would want the right to die”

The Times, Health News Danielle Sheridan Published at 12:01AM, November 19 2015 One of Britain’s most loved broadcasters has said that he would rather kill himself than have to suffer in later life. Sir David Attenborough defended the right to die and insisted that people who were terminally ill should be able to make their own decisions. “When you see poor people, poor in the sense of having some wretched disease, pleading for their lives to be brought to an end, it’s difficult to think that they don’t deserve that right today,” he said. Sir David, 89, who was appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth programme, said that he would consider assisted dying if he was “compos mentis and really having a wretched life”. Campaigners for voluntary euthanasia have welcomed his support. Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said that his comments were “in line with the overwhelming majority of the British public who want to see a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent people”. Sir David’s views are shared with Stephen Hawking, who has said that keeping someone alive against their will is “the ultimate indignity”. In June, Professor Hawking, 73, said: “I would consider assisted suicide only if I were in great pain or felt I had nothing more to contribute but was just a burden to those around me.”...

‘Healthy nurse, 75, chooses death over ‘going downhill’

The Sunday Times, Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor Published: 2 August 2015 A HEALTHY and active former palliative care nurse has ended her life at a Swiss suicide clinic because she did not want to become “an old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley”. Gill Pharaoh, 75, who wrote two books giving advice on how to care for the elderly, was not suffering from a terminal disease nor was she seriously ill. Her decision to end her life was based simply on a desire not to grow old. Speaking to The Sunday Times shortly before her death in Basel on July 21, the mother-of-two said: “I have looked after people who are old, on and off, all my life. I have always said, ‘I am not getting old. I do not think old age is fun.’ I know that I have gone just over the hill now. It is not going to start getting better. I do not want people to remember me as a sort of old lady hobbling up the road with a trolley. “I have got so many friends with partners who, plainly, are a liability. I know you shouldn’t say that but I have this mental picture in my head of all you need to do, at my age, is break a hip and you are likely to go very much downhill from that.” Gill, who looked much younger than her age, is one of a growing number of Britons who are choosing an assisted death in Switzerland to avoid what they perceive to be the gradual deterioration and indignity of old age. While...

Right to die: Court backs France in Vincent Lambert case

BBC News, 5 June 2015 The European Court of Human Rights has upheld the decision of a court in France to allow a paralysed man to be taken off life support. Vincent Lambert, 39, has been in a coma for seven years after a motorcycle accident left him tetraplegic. His family have been split over whether he should be kept alive. The case was taken to the European court last year after France’s highest court had ruled in favour of ending his life support. It sparked fierce debate in France where euthanasia is illegal, although doctors can withdraw care under a 2005 passive euthanasia law. The court in Strasbourg ruled on Friday that the decision to stop intravenously feeding Mr Lambert did not violate European rights laws. ‘No relief, no joy’ Mr Lambert has been kept alive with the use of intravenous food and water at a hospital in Reims in north-eastern France. His wife Rachel and some of his brothers and sisters had agreed with doctors’ recommendation that his life should be ended as there was no hope of recovery. The doctors said Mr Lambert had shown signs last year of resisting treatment, and Rachel Lambert said her husband would “never have wanted to be kept in this state”. “There’s no relief, no joy to express. We’d just like his will to be done,” she said after the ruling. But Mr Lambert’s parents – who are said to be devout Roman Catholics – and other siblings say he has shown signs of progress and believe he just needs better care. “They are trying to make us say we...

Alzheimer’s breakthrough raises hopes of drug to reverse symptoms

The Times, Science, 16 April 2015 Alzheimer’s attacks important immune cells in the brain, according to scientists, who say the discovery could be an important breakthrough in reversing the disease. A study in mice found the disease consumed an important nutrient called arginine and that blocking that process prevented memory loss. The research, carried out by Duke University, North Carolina, and published in The Journal of Neuroscience, may lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer’s. “If indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease,” said Carol Colton, the senior author of the report, who is professor of neurology at the Duke University School of Medicine. The analysts studied mice specially bred so that their immune systems were just like a human’s. They discovered that a component of the brain’s immune system called microglia began to divide and change early on in the disease. The research also showed a dampening of immune cells and a surge of anti-immune cells. Where the scientists were able to block the impact on the amino acid arginine with a drug called difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), the mice performed better in memory tests. The researchers are now looking at whether DFMO can be used to treat patients before the onset of the disease. “We see this study opening the doors to thinking about Alzheimer’s in a completely different way,” Professor Colton...

Write a Living Will – control your end of life

GPs could be paid bonuses to help ensure patients die where they choose Ministers back the principles behind a national scheme to give every terminally-ill patient a choice about where they die, which could mean payments to GPs who help to ensure the wishes of the dying are respected. The Telegraph: By Laura Donnelly, Health Editor 2:30PM GMT 26 Feb 2015 Every terminally-ill patient should have the right to die in the place of their choosing, with GPs paid bonuses for helping to ensure more patients are given a choice, a report to ministers has said. Care minister Norman Lamb welcomed plans to give a “national choice offer” to all dying patients by 2020, so that patients who wanted to spend their last days at home were no longer forced to die in hospital. The review of choice in end-of-life care says more needs to be done to identify those who are likely to die soon, to ensure they are offered enough support, and that their wishes are respected. Controversially, the report calls for GPs to be paid more if patients’ preferences at the end of life are recorded, in order to ensure their care is properly co-ordinated. Under the current GP contract family doctors are already paid bonuses for identifying patients who are terminally ill. The report says consideration should be given to expanding the system, so that payments are also made for recording people’s preferences about where to die, in a bid to help ensure their wishes are respected. Charities welcomed the principles set out in the report, which follow surveys of the bereaved which show only half felt their relatives had died...

Find Out How to Make a Living Will

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Advance Decision

More and more people are having living wills drawn up. Living wills ensure that family members and healthcare providers know what to do if we ever lose the ability to speak for ourselves. Some treatments can extend lives without enhancing the quality of them, which is why some people do decide that they would rather be left alone if their standard of livings falls to a certain level. Once a living will is in place, there doesn’t need to be any room for confusion. Living wills are sometimes called heath care directives and can be used to tell others exactly which treatments you would like to receive and which ones you’d prefer to avoid. Respecting Your Wishes The UK Living Will Registry can help if you have decided to draw up a living will. They can provide you with in-depth guidance and support to ensure that nothing is forgotten. You can amend your will as many times as you like whilst you still have the capacity to communicate. A living will features a section called an Advance Decision that means your wishes are granted if you do lose the ability to speak for yourself. You can find out more about the UK Living Will Registry by heading to the...

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