Luxembourg Green Party MP, Jean Huss, was the guest speaker at the Lions Club Erasmus's meeting on 24 April, accompanied by Mme Putz and Mme Kies from the Association pour la Droite de Mourir dans la Dignité (ADMD) - the Luxembourg Association for the Right to Die with Dignity. Jean Huss is the MP who first introduced a proposal for a law to allow Euthanasia in Luxembourg about 20 years ago.
A law on palliative medicine and euthanasia was finally passed this year after much campaigning from the ADMD. It missed by only one vote in 2003 and this year was the first time since 1979 that the CSV lost a vote.
Other parties had opposed in the past, but gradually came around. Other organisations, like the Church, have been consistently against it. The Luxembourger Wort, for instance, only ever published comments opposing the measure, even when reporting discussions in the Chambre when both sides of the argument were voiced.
M. Huss gave a summary of how the law works. The palliative medicine law relaxs restrictions on doctors and care-gives, which had prevented them giving pain killing medication to dying patients at doses which might hasten their death, even if such doses are needed to give effective pain or anxiety relief. Such medication can now be given in hospital or at home, by professionals or by family members or others, if the prescription is given according to the legal framework set up to ensure the patient is in the last stages of life.
The law on death with dignity allows a lethal dose of drugs to be given by a doctor if the patient chooses this rather than allowing their disease to progress naturally. The illness does not have to be terminal if the patient's quality of life is unbearable for him or her. The rules are very strict.
The patient must be 18 or older and must be lucid and ask for euthanasia repeatedly.
The patient decides whether their family is to be involved.
The patient's wishes can be expressed in a living will in case of an accident which incapacitates the patient so they can't express their wishes. The living will has to be registered with the government, such wills are valid for 5 years and have to be renewed to maintain validity.
The patient's condition must be incurable and the patient must be in physical or psychological pain.
The patient's doctor has to be ready to perform euthanasia, and has to submit a dossier with full reports on the patient's medical condition and the patient's official request for euthanasia to a committee consisting of three doctors, three lawyers, a nurse, two patients advocats and a pain control specialist. A second doctor representing the patient has to agree to the contents of the dossier. The committee then decides whether or not the patient's request is agreed. If so, the doctor is authorised to carry out the patient's wishes.
No doctor can be forced to perform euthanasia if it is against their own morality.
The committee has to prepare an annual report for the government summarising the situation of all patients requesting euthanasia and which requests were granted and denied.
The talk was very interesting and stimulated much discussion. The members thanked M. Huss for his presentation, and the members of ADMD, thanked the Club for its support.