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Spain To Lagalise Euthanasia As Catholics Protest

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Spain To Lagalise Euthanasia As Catholics Protest

Spain may become one of the few nations to allow terminally ill or gravely injured patients to end their own suffering.

The country’s parliament will give final approval to a law legalising euthanasia today.

The legislation, which will take effect in June, follows growing public pressure generated by several high-profile cases, including that of Ramon Sampedro whose plight was immortalised in the Oscar-winning 2004 film “The Sea Inside”.

Speaking to AFP, Ramona Maneiro, a friend of Sampedro’s who helped him die, hailed the move as a victory “for those who can benefit from it” and “for Ramon”.

At the time, she was arrested but released due to lack of evidence, only admitting her role years later when the statute of limitations expired.

The move will see Spain become the fourth country in Europe to decriminalise assisted suicide, alongside the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

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Although Portugal’s parliament passed a similar law in January, it was blocked this week by the Constitutional Court.

The Spanish legislation will permit euthanasia in which medical staff intentionally end a life to relieve suffering, and assisted suicide in which it is the patient who carries out the procedure.

Various other countries permit the second option, as well as so-called “passive euthanasia” in which life-saving medical treatment is halted.

Backed by left-wing and centrist parties, the legislation will allow anyone with a “serious or incurable illness” or a condition which is “chronic or incapacitating” to request help dying, thereby avoiding “intolerable suffering”.

But it imposes strict criteria: the patient — a Spanish national or a legal resident — must be “fully aware and conscious” when they make the request, which must be submitted twice in writing, 15 days apart.

The request can be rejected if it is believed the requirements have not been met; it must be approved by a second medic and by an evaluation body.

Any healthcare professional could withdraw on grounds of “conscience” from taking part in the procedure that would be available through Spain’s national health service.

The move has been hailed by patients and right-to-die campaigners.

“It doesn’t make any sense that people… would choose to live an undignified life,” said Sofia Malagon, 60, who has Parkinson’s and worries what will happen if she gets dementia.

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“I don’t want to be left like a vegetable,” she told AFP.

But the move has been roundly rejected by the Catholic Church and Spain’s right-wing parties, with its promulgation also raising questions among some medical professionals.

Euthanasia “is always a form of murder since it involves one man causing the death of another,” said the Episcopal Conference, which groups Spain’s leading bishops and has accused the government of going from “defending life to being responsible for causing death”.

“Doctors don’t want anyone to die — it’s in their DNA,” said Manuela Garcia Romero, deputy head of the Medical College Organisation (OMC), expressing doubts over implementation of the law.

Since the mid-1980s when euthanasia entered the public debate, Spain has experienced several high-profile cases.

The most famous is that of Sampedro, who became a bedridden tetraplegic after breaking his neck and fought an unsuccessful 30-year court battle to end his own life with dignity.

He died in 1998 with the help of his friend Maneiro, his story immortalised in

“The Sea Inside”, a film starring Hollywood actor Javier Bardem that won the 2005 best-foreign language Oscar.

Another case was that of Luis Montes, an anaesthetist accused of causing the deaths of 73 terminal patients at a Madrid hospital. A court dropped the case against him in 2007.

More recently, pensioner Angel Hernandez was arrested in 2019 and is awaiting trial for helping his wife end her life after decades suffering from multiple sclerosis.

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UK Declares Fresh Sanctions Against Putin’s Allies

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UK Declares Fresh Sanctions Against Putin's Allies

In a fresh move at weakening Russia as it continues its war in Ukraine, the United Kingdom has announced further sanctions against Russian citizens and companies .

The sanction included some individuals described as being in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle.”

Among those sanctioned is Vladimir Potanin, described by the United Kingdom as Russia’s second-richest man.

He is said to have an estimated net worth of nearly $16 billion, and is a “key supporter of the Kremlin” accused of continuing “to amass wealth as he supports Putin’s regime.”

Putin’s cousin Anna Tsivileva has also been sanctioned.

As president of the Russian coal mining company JSC Kolmar Group — also sanctioned Tuesday — the UK believes Tsivileva and her husband Sergey Tsivilev, the governor of the coal-rich Kemerovo region, have “significantly benefitted” from their relationship with Putin.

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The UK’s latest sanctions on Wednesday also target Russian citizens and companies for their alleged involvement in supporting the Assad regime in Syria, a key Russian ally in the Middle East.

“As long as Putin continues his abhorrent assault on Ukraine, we will use sanctions to weaken the Russian war machine.

“Today’s sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin’s inner circle,” a UK government spokesperson said.

 

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US Supreme Court Ends Right To Abortion

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US Supreme Court Ends Right To Abortion

In a landmark ruling, the United States Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion and removed half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life.

The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v Wade” decision that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion, saying that individual states can now permit or restrict the procedure themselves.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the court said.

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In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said “abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” he said.

Dissenting were the three liberals on the court.

The ruling will likely set into motion a cavalcade of new laws in roughly half of the 50 US states that will severely restrict or outright ban and criminalize abortions, forcing women to travel long distances to states that still permit the procedure.

The opinion shredded the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the nation’s highest court that said women had the right to abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy over their own bodies.

Alito’s opinion largely mirrors his draft opinion that was the subject of an extraordinary leak in early May, sparking demonstrations around the country and tightened security at the court in downtown Washington.

Barricades have been erected around the court to keep back the protesters gathered outside — after an armed man was arrested on June 8 near the home of conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The court’s ruling goes against an international trend of easing abortion laws, including in such countries as Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia where the Catholic Church continues to wield considerable influence.

It represents a victory over 50 years of struggle against abortion by the religious right but the anti-abortion camp is expected to continue to push for an outright nationwide ban.

The ruling was made possible by the nomination of three conservative justices to the court by former Republican president Donald Trump — Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The case before the court was a Mississippi law that would restrict abortion to 15 weeks but during the hearing of the case in December several justices indicated they were prepared to go further.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13 states have adopted so-called “trigger laws” that will ban abortion following the move by the Supreme Court.

Ten others have pre-1973 laws that could go into force or legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Women living in states with strict anti-abortion laws will either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion or obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.

Several Democratic-ruled states, anticipating an influx, have taken steps to facilitate abortion and clinics have also shifted their resources.
Travel is expensive, however, and abortion rights groups say abortion restrictions will severely impact poor women, many of whom are Black or Hispanic.
AFP

 

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Earthquake In Afghanistan Kills Over 900

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Earthquake In Afghanistan Kills Over 900

Over 900 people have been killed and hundreds injured as a powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing.

Officials who disclosed this on Wednesday noted that the toll was expected to rise as rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.

The 5.9 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged terrain of the east, where people already live hardscrabble lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover in August.

The death toll has climbed steadily all day as news of casualties filtered in from hard-to-reach areas in the mountains, and the country’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, warned it would likely rise further.

“So far the information we have is that at least 920 people have been martyred and 600 injured,” Sharafuddin Muslim, the deputy minister for disaster management, told a press conference in the capital, Kabul.

Earlier, a tribal leader from Paktika province – one of the hardest hit areas – said survivors and rescuers were scrambling to help those affected.

READ ALSO: Over 50 Killed, Injured As Explosion Rocks Afghanistan

“The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas,” Yaqub Manzor told AFP by telephone.

Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed scores of badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas.

Some footage showed local residents loading victims into a military helicopter.

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently struck the country.

But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters, an immediate response is often limited.

“The government is working within its capabilities,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official.

“We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”

The United Nations and European Union were quick to offer help.

“Inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan tweeted.

Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted: “The EU is monitoring the situation and stands ready to coordinate and provide EU emergency assistance to people and communities affected.”

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes – especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Scores of people were killed and injured in January when two quakes struck rural areas in the western province of Badghis, damaging hundreds of buildings.

In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.

From the Vatican City, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the latest quake.

“I express my closeness with the injured and those who were affected,” the 85-year-old pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience.

The latest earthquake came at a time when Afghanistan is battling a severe humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country.

Aid agencies and the United Nations say Afghanistan needs billions of dollars this year to tackle the crisis.
Aid agencies have particularly stressed the need for greater disaster preparedness in Afghanistan, which remains extremely susceptible to recurring earthquakes, floods and landslides.

The quake was felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, 480 kilometres (300 miles) from the epicentre, according to responses posted on the USGS and European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) websites. (AFP)

 

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