Euthanasia in Cuba: To Die with Dignity?

Most interviewees are in favor of euthanasia, provided it’s regulated and the means to exert strict control.

"Euthanasia, what’s that? ", told me - incredibly! - a recently graduated doctor. With that answer I never knew for sure if he ignored the term or he simply didn't want to take part in this respect.

Searching for approaches on euthanasia I certain positions, although from these first lines I’d rather established that most interviewees are in favor of its practice, provided it’s regulated and the means to exert strict control.

A neighbor in her early 80’s pointed out sharply: “That’s not my case, but an old man, for example who doesn't have a quality of life and becomes a burden for the family, what’s the point on go on surviving under such conditions? "  

"I agree provided is beyond saving, and every medical and scientific resources have been tried, expressed Carmen Ibañez, specialist in Information and Documents Management.

The worker at Granma newspaper considered that the euthanasia should be practice also when a baby comes with a congenital malformation and the parents don't want to have the child.

"It’s very sad to bring to a human being to life with a defect. Take a look at myself, I have negative Rh factor and always - in my permanent concern - I told the doctor that, if any test were outside the standard, I’d rather act ahead of time! ".

Not all opinions were favorable, and some of them denied the euthanasia flatly. Inés and Heriberto are married and both are evangelical religion followers. In that, perhaps, resides their total disagreement with this practice which, according to them could bring about other inconveniences.

"The euthanasia, for example could be used as a shield to carry out unscrupulous actions, related to the acquisition of assets, inheritances, or other negative attitudes and bad behaviors", they stressed.

Two Doctors, One Opinion

Accustomed to work with patients whose lives "hang by a thread", to put it in a way, Doctor Tania Fernández Sordo, first degree specialist in Intensive and Emergency Care, already coincides with approaches related to the topic which are also complex for her.

Master in Medical Emergencies she considers that the euthanasia should be applied in those patients who – on their own request – desire with a terminal or incurable illness, like cancer.

"Besides, in critical patients, like those we take care of in our ward (intensive care unit), where their vital parameters are kept with the use of medication or apparatuses to prolong life, without real chances at recovery."

The doctor affirmed that in our country such practice is not regulated. Nevertheless, she believes that it could be analyzed by professionals of health, mainly doctors working in the ICU wards, oncologists, and other specialists. "Our job is to save lives (those that are possible), and not those that cause suffering and stretch agony."

On the other hand, the medical resident in Geriatrics Diana Rosa Graverán González explained: "taking into account the concepts handled through centuries, we must not overlook the importance of euthanasia regarding the cultural, religious traditions and habits of each country in correspondence with its environment as for socio-cultural development.

"As a doctor I think that one of our missions - and the most important one- is to alleviate the pain of human beings. However, the euthanasia could be carried out keeping in mind the patient's decision, of their relatives, whenever they are aware of the suffering and the irreversibility of the disease; not applicable to coma patients and who have not put in written in their last will their expressed desire.

"In Cuba is forbidden, there are no laws on this regard. But the law can be passed, hence patients (conscious) with irreversible illnesses they can put an end to sufferings, on well grounded legal terms.

"Human beings can’t choose when or how to be born, if only we could have the chance to - in great pain and discomfort - be able to make the call of ending with a difficult situation. The saying that goes there’s still hope while you can breathe it is not always that simple. There are coma episodes, long and irreversible, that prove otherwise."

A vote in favor from his position as lawyer

The young Cuban lawyer Malena Pérez Rodríguez thrilled with a matter on which her schoolmates at law school didn't want to go deep – due to its own content and the ignorance about it - the young lawyer Malena Pérez Rodríguez decided to go further (she even wrote a thesis) on euthanasia, which supports completetly, although she explains that before its approval some conditions must be established.

Some human beings - Malena explained - suffer from pains, regardless the drugs they are given. They are those who fight against cancer, for example, but others feel they aren’t strong enough to join this battle. And the relatives are within arm’s length, watching them suffer without any solution in sight. Therefore I say Yes to euthanasia, because there are people who don't want to live, mainly those at an advanced phase of the disease.

"How many phrases are heard in the street that go: 'I don't want to get old like that! '; 'well (…) he finally rested in peace'; 'he died and didn't suffer! '. Nobody wants to die with anguish and pain. Then, why not speed up death? Euthanasia could be included in the Civil Law; to pass a law.

"When I was studying law I found information explaining that the State cannot regulate euthanasia if the medical community and society were in agreement. In this regard, the last saying falls completely in the hands of health professionals, but I think there’s phobia with this practice.

“It’s true that the State cannot force society to accept it, but it can regulate it, for those who wish to undergo assisted death. It’s not passing a compulsory ordinance, but knowing that the chance is at hand, and that at a given time you can use it.

The possibility should exist of deciding whether / or not I want or abstain. It is important to know that proceeding is regulated and if I want to undergo that procedure I’d be committing no crime.

"Those suffering from Alzheimer, suffer a degenerative illness, but they are in no pain. However, a patient with terminal cancer suffers, it suffers an irreversible disease. That’s why I don't see euthanasia as a general alternative, but for those who want to finish with a life of suffering.

"Brakes in the current Cuban society? Mainly, I see it in the field of medicine, starting from the so-called Hippocratic oath – first do not harm, you will help to prolong life -. It is indispensable to widen the idea in this regard, and reflect on up to what point carrying euthanasia is effective to help a sick person. That is the goal. Before being doctors, first we are human beings, and we have the responsibility to aid patients and avoid traumatic processes".

According your approach, how to regulate it in order to avoid windows to wickedness?

As everything else in this world it also has negatives aspects. The Achilles heel is that euthanasia could be used to malpractice, but even so in Cuba medical mistakes have happened and as there were not aggravating rights everything has stayed just there. Anyway, I think that its approval would bring more benefits than disadvantages."

George Michael died of natural causes

George Michael died as a result of heart and liver disease, a coroner has confirmed.

The pop star was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver, according to Darren Salter, senior coroner for Oxfordshire.

The singer died aged 53 on Christmas Day at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Because there was a "natural cause of death", the coroner said there was no need for an inquest.

Thames Valley Police originally said his death was unexplained but not suspicious and an initial post-mortem examination was "inconclusive".

George MichaelGeorge Michael's death came as a shock to his millions of fans / PA

On Tuesday, the coroner said in a statement: "Inquiries into the death of George Michael have been concluded and the final post-mortem report received.

"As there is a confirmed natural cause of death, being dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver, the investigation is being discontinued and there is no need for an inquest or any further enquiries.

"No further updates will be provided and the family requests the media and public respect their privacy."

By Michelle Roberts, BBC News online health editor

The medical terms used on death certificates outline the cause of death, but not all the risk factors that have led up to it.

George Michael's lists three conditions: dilated cardiomyopathy, myocarditis and fatty liver.

This means his heart was enlarged, weakened and inflamed. The muscle wasn't doing the job of pumping blood as well as it should have.

His liver was also abnormal, containing unhealthy collections of fat. There are many possible causes for this - heavy alcohol use is one.

At the weekend, the singer's former partner Kenny Goss was quoted as saying: "I think his body just gave up. All these years, it was just weak."

He told The Sunday Mirror: "We just want closure, we want the funeral to happen, it's been a long time now."

George Michael's home in GoringGeorge Michael was at home in Goring-on-Thames when he died on Boxing Day / Getty Images

George Michael tributesFans also left tributes outside Michael's London home after his death / AFP

Fadi Fawaz, the singer's partner at the time of his death, told the Telegraph in late December he had found the star "lying peacefully in bed".

After the cause of death was revealed on Tuesday, Fawaz responded to weeks of speculation by posting a photo of himself with Michael on Twitter along with the words: "The Truth is out..."

Following the coroner's statement, Thames Valley Police said it had closed its investigation into Michael's death.

"As the cause of death was natural, no further action is proposed or required," it said.

Michael made his name with pop group Wham! in the 1980s and went on to enjoy huge success as a solo performer.

  • Published in Culture

Bolivia Decrees National Mourning for the Death of Fidel Castro

La Paz, Nov 28 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government today has declared a seven-day period of mourning for the death of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, considered by the president, Evo Morales, as a teacher of principles and values.

'National mourning is declared for the death of the former President of the Republic of Cuba, citizen Fidel Alejandro Castro, throughout the territory of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for seven days, without suspension of public or private activities,' the decree stated.

'In public buildings the Flag of the Plurinational State of Bolivia will be raised with black crepe as a sign of mourning at a national level,' the statement released by the Ministry of Communication stresses.

After learning about the death of Fidel Castro, Morales on the verge of tears said that the Commander was a master of principles and values, protector of the people and guide in the fight against imperial domination.

'The leader of the Cuban Revolution always accompanied us, and taught us to raise our voice in the face of capitalism that steals our natural resources.

His struggle was not only for Cuba and Latin America, but for the whole world, hence our tribute to the great politician, a man who gave his life for the peoples of the planet.

His career is enviable and his example as the most supportive man in the world is unattainable.

Fidel Castro was at the forefront of Latin American and Caribbean integration projects, proof of which was in his altruistic idea of giving free operations to thousands of Latin Americans.

I saw him share the initiative with the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and it seemed impossible to me, but that dream came true in Bolivia, and 700,000 citizens were given surgery by Cuban doctors.' said the President.

'That miracle is Fidel Castro, it is the Cuban Revolution,' emphasized the first indigenous president of this Andean-Amazonian nation.

  • Published in World

NYC to Pay $4.1M to Akai Gurley Family in Wrongful Death Suit

Kimberly Ballinger, Gurley's partner, charged Officers Liang and Landau of negligence and recklessness in the suit.

The City of New York will have to pay over US$4.1 million in a wrongful death settlement to the family of Akai Gurley, according to a family lawyer, the Daily News reported Monday.

Gurley was an unarmed Black man killed in the stairwell of his Brooklyn public housing by Peter Liang, a rookie police officer found guilty of manslaughter, whose sentence was commuted to probation and community service in April.

The city will be responsible for paying US$4.1 million, the New York City Housing Authority will pay US$400,000, while Liang will pay US$25,000, said Scott Rynecki, attorney for Gurley’s partner, Kimberly Ballinger.

“I’m glad it’s all done. I’m pleased with the outcome,” Ballinger told the Daily News.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dawn Jimenez-Salta approved the settlement late in the afternoon after two months of negotiations.

The money will go into a fund for the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Akaila Gurley, that can be accessed once she is 18 years old and will be invested in hopes of providing her with a larger sum at that time.

The wrongful death suit filed by Ballinger charged Liang and his partner Shaun Landau of negligence and recklessness and NYCHA for failure to repair a light bulb in the stairwell that was pitch black at the time of the shooting.

New York City has had to pay out two major settlements to families of unarmed Black men killed by police in the past year and a half, although the police officers involved were never tried for the killings.

In July 2015, a year after Eric Garner’s killing, his estate was awarded US$5.9 million. Officer Daniel Pantaleo choked Garner to death on Staten Island on July 17, 2014 and was not even indicted for the murder.

The city paid US$3.9 million to the family of teenager, Ramarley Graham in January 2015. Graham was shot to death by Officer Richard Haste in the bathroom of his apartment on Feb. 2, 2012. All charges were dropped against Haste and as with Pantaleo, he never faced trial.

Gurley lived in the Louis Pink Houses in East New York. As he and a friend were going down the stairs because the elevator was out, Liang and Landau were patrolling the building.

In violation of police procedure, Liang had his gun out and his finger on the trigger, eventually firing a shot out of nowhere, hitting Gurley as it ricocheted off the wall.

Gurley collapsed and the officers argued about what to do next. As Gurley lay dying, the officers feebly tried to resuscitate him and Gurley died minutes later.

On February 10, 2015, Liang was indicted by a grand jury on manslaughter, assault and other criminal charges. Liang was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct on February 11, 2016.

But on April 19, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun downgraded Liang's manslaughter conviction to criminally negligent homicide, sentencing him to five years of probation and 800 hours community service.

  • Published in World

Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota killed

CNN)A Baltimore rapper named Tyriece Travon Watson, who went by the stage name Lor Scoota, was fatally shot in broad daylight at a busy intersection on Friday, police said.

Watson, 23, had just left a charity basketball game in Baltimore calling for "peace in the streets" when he was killed.
He was driving in his car when an unknown black male wearing a white bandana stepped into the street and opened fire, Baltimore police said. Watson was brought to a local hospital but died from his injuries.
The shooter appeared to be targeting Watson, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said. No motive has been identified, and police have not named any suspects.
Police are examining video related to the shooting and are asking for anyone with any knowledge of the situation to come forward.
"We are making some progress but not as much progress as we would like [in finding a suspect]," Smith said.

'This revolving door of death'

In a public entreaty, Smith asked that Watson's death be a wake-up call to those seeking retribution, especially gang members.
"The eerie irony that should just absolutely tick all of us off, collectively, is that he was leaving a peace rally that was held at a local university," Smith said. "This revolving door of death is something that's despicable, and it's leaving too many mothers to bury their children."
"We need this to be a rallying cry for those out there who want to seek retribution for lil Scoota's death," he added.
On social media, rappers and local celebrities mourned the 23-year-old.
The Game was one of them, posting a photo of himself with Watson on Instagram.
"Another young one murdered," he wrote. "Then this news hits me SMH. LIFE......... hold onto it, or you'll lose it & everything in it in the blink of an eye."
Former Baltimore Raven Torrey Smith, who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers, lamented the fact that Watson was actively trying to prevent violence when he was shot and killed.
"One that was focused in stopping the violence smh crazy world man...prayers up," he said on Twitter.
@TorreySmithWR One that was focused in stopping the violence smh crazy world man...prayers up
  • Published in Culture

US Singer Frank Sinatra Jr. Dies at 72

WASHINGTON - Frank Sinatra Jr., son of the legendary singer and actor of the same name, died Wednesday at 72 years old in Florida, USA, announced his agent Andrea Kauffman, on social networks.

  • Published in Culture
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