Tag Archive | "election"

Assisted Suicide: the Thin Line Between Dying With Dignity And Premeditated Murder

Photo Credit: ODYSSEY; Sarah Ann Bradford, Assisting Murder or Assisted Suicide?

Photo Credit: ODYSSEY; Sarah Ann Bradford, Assisting Murder or Assisted Suicide?

Imagine you are in unbearable pain. Every single moment of your life. Only drugs that your doctor prescribed to you hold this pain manageable to the extent that you are not screaming, that you can fall asleep. Even when you sleep, you are not getting that peaceful rest. You fall into a deep hole of drugs, drugs that keep you almost painless, but not emotionless. A few months ago your doctor diagnosed you with an incurable disease. You tried several treatments; you kept trying for all these months, but nothing helped. You are dying. Dying slowly. Your disease eats your body from inside; it eats your brain, your mind, and your memories. Your memories… you lived your life fully, you worked, you raised your children, they are all grown up by now and you already have grandkids. These little angels… Your children, your grandchildren. Thoughts about your family keep you awake at night more than your pain from the disease does. You hate, you despise until your old fingers tremor that your beloved family is seeing you slowly dying, dying helplessly and in pain. You have already arranged all your estate, you wrote a will. You are waiting for God to take you away. But not. Your doctor told that you might live for another month. You are still competent. You still have feelings. Yet you know that inevitably comes the moment when you will not be able to care for yourself anymore, you will be fed by feeding tube, wear diapers, confined to a hospital bed. You will lose the last piece of dignity. And your family will see that. It breaks your heart. There ARE things worse than death. You ask for death… with dignity.

Does a competent terminally ill person have the constitutional right to die with dignity? The right that incorporates the assistance of a doctor in obtaining drugs that the person can take to end her own life? How can any country that declares personal freedom for people and that has outlawed torture deny its own citizens the right to peacefully die? Isn’t it humane that people should be allowed, when the time comes, to end their lives with dignity without punishing those who ease their passing? Isn’t it humane to allow people to peacefully die if and when they determine that they want to end their lives? If the disease cannot be cured, if all that medicine can do is to slow the spread of the disease or mitigate dreadful, unbearable pain with drugs, isn’t it humane to allow assistance of a doctor to end the life painlessly? Doctor-assisted suicide is a complex and deeply personal subject; it affects all of us and our families as we approach the end of our lives. Assisted suicide offers terminally ill people the “bodily integrity” to humanely end their lives without lengthy suffering. When terminally ill and suffering people have only months, weeks or days to live, we should respect and honor these people’s decisions to end their suffering and pain, to allow them “end-of-life option.”

Doctor-assisted suicide is a controversial subject and only a few countries currently allow it. Countries that allow some form of assisted suicide are Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, Colombia, Albania, and Canada. All countries except Switzerland forbid foreigners from obtaining aid in dying. All countries except Belgium currently forbid people with psychiatric conditions such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia to apply for doctor-assisted suicide. In the United States, assisted suicide is legal in six states: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New Mexico, Montana, and California. And more states are coming. For example, the D.C. City Council already gave initial approval to allow physician-assisted suicide and a final vote on the bill will be on November 15, 2016. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie called his vote on assisted suicide as a “toughest vote,” loosing his composure while describing “natural” death of his father and wishing it to no one to watch how the loved one suffers and slowly dies from terminal illness. The state of Colorado will vote on the assisted suicide today, November 8, 2016. In the rest of U.S. states, aid in dying is still a criminal offense, felony manslaughter.

Oregon was the first U.S. state to approve doctor-assisted suicide by enacting the Death With Dignity Act in 1997. The state has no minimum residency requirement and people who want to obtain medical aid in dying only have to prove their residency to a doctor showing the doctor their driver’s license or a rental agreement. A total of 859 people have died under assisted suicide law since Death With Dignity Act was enacted. The state has no report on how many of terminally ill people have moved to Oregon to die. Yet the Oregon health authority’s annual reports show that more and more terminally ill patients have gotten a prescription for medical aid in dying. In 1998, only twenty-four people received those prescriptions, and sixteen used them. In 2015, seventeen years after the passing the Death With Dignity Act, 218 people requested prescriptions, and 132 used them. In fact, during 2015, the number of prescriptions increased by 24.4% and the rate of doctor-assisted suicide deaths was 38.6 per 10,000 of total deaths in Oregon.

Colorado “End of Life Options Act,” known as Proposition 106, is on todays’ ballot. Among several criteria for eligibility, the proposed law requires people to demonstrate that they are suffering from terminal illness and that two independent doctors verified that person has irremediable medical condition from which the person will naturally die within six months. Precluding the prospect of suicide tourism from other countries, the proposed law requires people to prove that they are residents of Colorado State. Safeguarding capacity and full consent, the proposed law ensures that people have given two oral requests and one written request, witnessed by at least two other persons, and gone through a waiting period of fifteen-days. The proposed law does not include such provisions as allowing capable of making medical decisions minors to choose assisted suicide, nor does the proposed legislation allow people in any stages of mental illnesses, like dementia, to request a doctor-assisted death. If the Colorado voters decide that the state should enact legislation allowing assisted suicide, Colorado will become a seventh state that allows the right to die with dignity.

The key aspects of assisted suicide’s medical practice now are the patient’s mental capacity, autonomy, and self-administration. All of the countries that currently allow assisted suicide ensure that dying from incurable disease and unbearable pain people have their actual choice of a peaceful death. Yet there are several strong arguments in opposition of assisted suicide. One of these arguments is a valid concern about vulnerable people. In fact, terminally ill people are particularly susceptible to overt and subtle pressures because of pain, effect of medication, and, often, depression. The elderly may find themselves under their inheritor’s undue influence and pressure to “hurry up” and die, making assisted suicide threatening the vulnerable, viewing them as expendable, “hiding killing with euphemisms,” transforming medical profession from “a healing into a killing profession.” Yet while vulnerability is a valid reason for making extra safeguards available, it is not a reason to deprive suffering people of their rights to die with dignity.

Many people struggle to balance their religious beliefs with support for the assisted suicide. Yet, as D.C. Council Member Anita Bonds rationalizes, personal feelings and beliefs do not justify an authority of “thinking for others on matters of life or death.” Indeed, in the states that already allow assisted suicide, the only people who make the decision is the patient and the doctor, but only the patient decides when to take the final medication. Assisted suicide in these states is nothing more than a medical program, nothing more than an option. As Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the national Compassion & Choices organization and a board member for the Colorado end-of-life options campaign explains, people who can use assisted suicide all suffer from terminal illness and the “choice” that they make is comparable “to the one made by people who jumped out of buildings on Sept. 11, 2001, to avoid burning to death.” To choose slow, agonizing, and painful death or to die with dignity is the most personal decision any competent terminally ill human being can make.

Some also rightfully argue that allowing medical aid in dying may lead insurance companies to find a loophole and deny coverage for lifelong medical care while “more cost-effective” option of assisted suicide is available. The line between death with dignity and premeditated murder of vulnerable is still unclear. And the law on where do we draw the line on assisted suicide requires careful consideration and more safeguards to assure that the option is solely based on the terminally ill people’ request.

All of us need to urge the government to “hold the line,” to set clear boundary when it comes to eligibility for doctor-assisted suicide, focusing on circumstances, and ensuring the safeguards are in place. The rights and protections of people with serious medical conditions should be carefully weighted. Yes, a terminally ill people should be allowed to make their final determination, should have the right to die with dignity. Yet we need to ensure that the thin line between dying with dignity and premeditated murder of the vulnerable is never crossed.

Today is November 8, 2016.  Today is the day to vote for or against assisted suicide in Colorado. Today is the day to vote for or against the right to die with dignity. What is your choice, Coloradans?

Ilona Starchak is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, the Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy and the Denver Criminal Law Review.



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Critical Analysis: Turmoil in Turkish Politics Could Tip Syrian War

The Turkish government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in its worst political crisis since coming to power in 2003. On April 3, access to Twitter in the country was restored after the Constitutional Court ruled that a ban imposed by Erdogan on March 21 was illegal. The prime minister had announced he would “wipe out Twitter” after reports of corruption in the government were widely spread on the network. YouTube was also blocked after a recording was posted purportedly of top government officials discussing military intervention in Syria.

With recent reports of corruption and authoritarian tactics Turkish democracy may be eroding. Image Source: WorldPolicy.org

With recent reports of corruption and authoritarian tactics Turkish democracy may be eroding. Image Source: WorldPolicy.org

The bans follow a pattern of what critics consider increasing authoritarian tendencies displayed by Erdogan. In June 2013, police forcefully broke up protests in Istanbul after resistance to a park redevelopment escalated into a larger movement against Erdogan. Later in the year, the government removed police and prosecutors from their posts after more than 50 Erdogan allies were charged with corruption. Erdogan has portrayed the allegations as a conspiracy led by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former supporter of the prime minister’s Justice and Development Party (“AK”). Gulen, who lives in the United States, leads the Hizmet movement, which fell out with the government after moves to shut down its network of private schools. Erdogan’s bombastic comments about foreign conspiracies are seen by critics as an indication that he will use further authoritarian tactics to suppress opposition.

So far, opposition parties in Turkey have not been able to capitalize on the government’s turmoil. Local elections on March 30 were handily won by the AK party. If Erdogan’s troubles and popular resistance to him increase, however, his days in power could be numbered. His own party’s rules currently prohibit him from running for a fourth term as prime minister in 2015, and his efforts to adopt a new constitution creating a more powerful presidency (which he would likely seek) have so far been unsuccessful. But if Erdogan’s departure would be a benefit to democracy in Turkey, it could have dangerous consequences across the border in Syria. Erdogan’s government has strongly supported the Syrian opposition throughout the war, though it has stopped short of direct intervention. Turkey’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (“CHP”), meanwhile, has openly sided with the Assad regime. CHP members of parliament have visited Syria to meet with Assad, while dismissing the regime’s crimes as “a lie just like…weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” They have endorsed Assad’s war as “resistance…against imperialism.” Even Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, an AK member, has made an ambiguous call for “re-calibrating” Turkey’s Syria policy

If the CHP were able to defeat the AK party in the next election, or Erdogan were forced out by his own party in favor of someone more inclined toward Gul’s view, it could have a decisive impact on the Syrian conflict, in favor of Assad. Ridding Turkey of a leader with an ego run amok might be positive, but would it be worth the cost of delivering victory to a regime involved in an internal conflict which has caused 150,000 deaths and refugees numbering in the millions?

Scott Petiya is a 3LE law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a staff editor for the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Mother Merkel’s Victory in Germany

Angela Merkel won a large margin victory September 22, 2013, to retain her position as Germany’s Chancellor. Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democrats, received 41.5% of the votes. The opposition, the Social Democrats, garnered 25.7% of the votes, creating the largest voter margin since Germany’s reunification in 1990. Although winning by an unusually high margin, Merkel’s party fell short of securing an absolute majority meaning Merkel and the Christian Democrats must turn toward the formation of a new political coalition.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats, with 41.5% of the votes, have few options to secure a majority in Germany. The Christian Democrats were last aligned with the Free Democrats, but could not push for a coalition with the group in the upcoming term because the Free Democrats failed to secure any seats in parliament.  However, with the failure of the Free Democrats to secure seats in parliament, it would seem a new “grand coalition” is likely. Therefore, the Christian Democrats will likely engage in negotiations with the Social Democrat Party to form a “grand coalition” in the coming weeks. A similar coalition was formed between the Social Democrat Party and Merkel’s Christian Democrats during her first term from 2005-2009. Although the Christian Democrats are expected to reach agreement with the Social Democrat Party, Merkel’s group will also engage in discussions with the Greens Party.  A coalition between the conservative Christian Democrats and the Green Party is unlikely because the Green Party has slowly developed more liberal policies than both the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

Angela Merkel making the “Merkel Rhombus,” a symbol of the German Chancellor’s calm and powerful leadership.  Source: Reuters

Angela Merkel making the “Merkel Rhombus,” a symbol of the German Chancellor’s calm and powerful leadership.
Source: Reuters

Chancellor Merkel’s large margin re-election victory in Germany was a rarity in the Eurozone. Merkel remains one of the last leaders in office following the European financial crisis that began five years ago; the leaders of Britain, Italy, Spain, and France have all been subsequently ousted from office.  German media portrays Merkel as a motherly figure for the country, and Merkel’s latest victory in Germany is indicative of the trust placed in her by the German people. The victory further reaffirms her important role in structuring the recovery process for the Eurozone as a whole.

Merkel opposes the issuing of European joint-bonds, and she has been applauded by some for such opposition because Germany has come out of the euro crisis in a much better position than most of its counterparts.  However, as one commentator argues, the success of the Eurozone is dependent on Germany’s actions surrounding economics, including issues such as bailouts and the European banking union.

It is likely that Merkel and the Christian Democrats party will continue to practice policies of austerity, at least in part, and continue to oppose efforts to strengthen the European Central Bank through debt financing. These policies put the Christian Democrats at odds with the Social Democrats; therefore, in order to form a successful coalition, the Social Democrats will need to cooperate with the Christian Democrats in forming a policy of compromise.  Both the Social Democrats and the Green Party support debt mutualisation for the European Union, but Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party is unlikely to change its opposition for such a policy. Therefore, the Eurozone crisis will certainly play a large role in the formation of Germany’s new coalition.

The European Union Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, optimistically stated after Merkel’s victory, “We have now the first signs of recovery in Europe, but it’s still a fragile recovery.”  The German population has already shown that they trust Merkel to improve the European economy and now the European Union is also relying on her to help improve the economic conditions within the Eurozone.  As Merkel becomes more involved in the crisis, her motherly depiction from the German media is slowing spreading.  For now, the struggling European countries, namely, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Cyprus, will have to wait to learn their fate in the coming months as such fate is intimately linked to the direction mother Merkel takes next as Chancellor. But with unemployment reaching over 25% in both Greece and Spain, the countries are hoping for quick resolution.

Stacy Harper is a 3L at Denver Law and Marketing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: China’s Upcoming “Elections” and Xi JinPing


Xi JinPing kicks a Gaelic football during a February visit to Ireland. (Wall Street Journal)

Xi JinPing is a likeable figure to the Chinese people: a fan of soccer and Hollywood war movies and married to a glamorous woman who is a famous Chinese folk singer. At ease with himself, the population is placing its confidence in this burley man with a deep, sonorous voice. Xi JinPing has some big shoes to fill. Not only is China a massive economic powerhouse, but also the Communist party is struggling with some heavy corruption. Dubbed the “fifth generation” of leadership, JinPing follows internationally known leaders that built a powerful country arguably more quickly than any other. Some analysts believe that China’s economic development model, which has delivered tremendous growth but at great environmental and social cost, is now unsustainable. As a result, JinPing must find a way to adapt a Leninist system of government to 21st-century economic problems and the political dynamics of the social media age.

Officially rising to the country’s top post as the chairman of the Politburo this Thursday, Beijing is preparing for a grand ceremony. The meeting to elect the new officials of the Chinese government, however, is not open to the public or available to media. Indeed, Internet searches have revealed new “censors” restricting searches with the party name included and any possible substituting words. On Thursday, some 2,268 delegates will elect 370 representatives to serve as the party’s central committee, who will in turn elect the two-dozen members of the Politburo. The Politburo then elects the seven- or nine-member Politburo Standing Committee who will become the epicenter of China’s power. All of this is completely hidden from the public eye.

China’s growth and the issue of US jobs being exported to China were hot topics during the recent presidential election in the United States. Now, with Xi JinPing as a rising political star in China, the United States will have to come to terms with a continuing economic battle. We, and the rest of the world, know what the United States struggles with because of media disclosure – the issues of our election were heavily discussed, from education and job growth to rebuilding our housing market. In stark contrast, we do not know the full extent of China’s struggles because the media is not allowed and is not privy to those discussions that may matter most to the public. In official deliberations, the issues are hidden behind ideological code phrases.

China’s challenges may hinge on the government’s lack of checks from the people and the media. Information is censored, government deliberations and decisions are not transparent, and many of the 1.3 billion inhabitants in China are oblivious of government policies and practices and why they exist. While the elections in the United States and China may occur contemporaneously, the processes and levels of disclosure are worlds apart.

Mimi Faller is a 2L at DU Law, and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Libya Elects New Prime Minister

New Prime Minister Ali Zidan (BBC)

Libya’s 200 member national congress has elected Ali Zidan as its new prime minister.  Zidan, a former Congressman and human rights lawyer, won 93 votes, securing a majority for him from those present and voting.  Zidan, an independent, beat a candidate favored by the Justice and Construction party,a party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The country’s national assembly president announced Zidan’s victory and requested that he propose a cabinet within two weeks.  Libya’s previous Prime Minister elect, Mustafa Abu Shagur, was dismissed after only 25 days in the position because he had failed to form a viable Cabinet list that staffed qualified legislators.  Zidan had unsuccessfully run against Mustafa Abu Shagur in the last election.

Zidan was a career diplomat under Colonel Muammar Gadhafi before he defected in the early 1980s.  He then joined Libya’s oldest opposition movement, National Front for the Salvation of Libya, from Geneva where he was in exile.

He served the former transitional government as its Europe envoy.  He was also seen as a key player in convincing former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to join the uprising against Gaddafi.  BBC’s Rana Jawad, in Tripoli, says the local observers portray him as liberal with a strong personality.

Because security is still not established across the country and western Libya is still seeing outbreaks of renewed violence, this election comes at a crucial time.

 Alexis Kirkman is a 3L and a Candidacy Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.


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