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“Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

Posted April 08, 2008 12:00 AM by Sharkles

For better or worse, technology is here to stay. Technological advances have fostered medical breakthroughs, improved our access to information, and even provided new types of entertainment. For many people, there exists a love / hate relationship with certain technologies (e.g., I dislike text messaging, but I love my iPod). Whether you're an early-adopter or a laggard, some new technologies might make you uncomfortable. One such technology recently made the international news.

For some patients with terminal illnesses, a choice between life and death is not a difficult decision. Their preference for death is a simple one. Roger Kusch, a Conservative former German politician, is now promoting a technology for people who've decided that life is no longer worth living. The "Perfusor" is a mercy-killing machine designed to sidestep German laws which ban assisted suicide. By pressing a button, a person's life can be terminated with an injection of potassium chloride.

Assisted suicide (or "mercy killing") is illegal in many countries, but not in Switzerland. Since 1942, assisted suicide has been legal in that country as long as a doctor has been consulted, and patients understand the effects of their decision. If the Perfusor goes into production in Germany, Europe may become the new destination for people seeking a way out.

"The machine is simply an option for fatally ill people… Nobody is forced to use it, but I do believe that it will contribute to a debate that is moving thousands of people", says Kusch. The Profusor will be available via lending and renting so that patients could choose to insert the needles and push the button by themselves.

Although assisted suicide is illegal in Germany, lending the machine is not. German defense lawyer Gerhard Strate says, "As long as the sick person is fully conscious and aware, then lending the machine to him is no more illegal than lending him a kitchen knife or a razor blade. It becomes illegal only if the potential suicide asks someone in the room to press the button for him."

Potassium chloride has been used on Death Row prisoners in the United States for decades. Advocates for the Profusor say that death can take place within minutes, but Death Row cases prove that that process can take longer.

Personally, I am confused, alarmed, and saddened by this news. Aside from occasional news stories, I didn't realize that assisted suicide was such a prominent issue. Without knowing what it is like to be terminally ill or overwhelming dissatisfied with life, I feel uneasy about this technology.


What do you think?

  • How does this new technology make you feel?
  • Is this type of technology a good or necessary thing?


Resources:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3641866.ece
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Got_a_death_wish_Try_suicide_machine/rssarticleshow/2912219.cms
http://www.justascrap.com/2008/03/31/perfusor-kill-yourself-with-the-push-of-a-button/
http://www.assistedsuicide.org/suicide_laws.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_chloride

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#1

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/08/2008 1:00 AM

"lending the machine to him is no more illegal than lending him a kitchen knife or a razor blade."

If I knew someone was contemplating suicide there is no way I would enable him or her to do it, be it with kitchen knife, razor blade or potassium chloride. By enabling I feel I would be at the very least an accomplice to the act, if not actually guilty of murder. I dont know how anyone that is sane could do it.

Furthermore, by making it easy and painless, many people who might not do it and get through it will wind up taking the easy way out. Imagine finding out that person you helped die could have survived thanks to the medical breakthrough that came along the next day or the next week or month.

I'm not saying that would happen but why would I take that chance.

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 11:27 AM

I think suicide is a little different than ending someone's agony. First of all it's only suicide because our medical professionals aren't allowed to assist, so the patient is forced to do it on their own.

And I know this is not always true but I would think most of these people are at the stage where it would be a little too late for a "medical breakthrough". These people are usually in constant suffering and draining their own family's finances by keeping them alive.

People don't have a problem with putting a dog down when it can no longer function on it's own. I don't see why it should be any different for a human especially since the human can actually make that choice themselves when the dog cannot.

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#2

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 12:53 AM

When Dr. Kevorkian helped sufferers exit this world he said he did it to eliminate their suffering, not provide their deaths. Of course by using Kevorkian's methods, it was death that relieved suffering. I'm sure Dr. K was and is concerned only with helping the terminally ill, and those who are suffering interminably, die with dignity. Through his noble actions he gave help to the helpless, and hope to the hopeless. Kevorkian is every bit the hero, as is the soldier that throws himself a grenade to save his comrades.

When suffering becomes prolonged and intractable, so as to become intolerable, some of us choose to put an end to it by the rationale that death is better than continuing a life of torture. None of us chose to be conceived and born, but we should have the individual right to die with dignity (not as a drooling vegetable strapped to a bed) at the time of our own choosing.

Euthanasia is common when ending the life of a beloved pet that might be suffering from incurable disease or other infirmities. We should not deny the same right of assistance to our beloved humans.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 11:26 AM

Skeeter,

Yes, Dr. Kevorkian helped sufferers in this world exit- but wrongly, because of the following. You are forgetting one VERY important point, and that being we are created by God as eternal beings, just not physical ones. So, while the physical body goes into the ground at death, as we all know, the soul of a person lives on eternally, either in Heaven or Hell, depending on if we trust Christ as our personal Lord and Savior while here on earth,as the Bible says. So, while suffering here is very painful, it is for a VERY short time compared to an eternity of suffering for those who don't know Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ bless you all.

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 11:58 AM

srcradio,

Since you replied to me personally, I will do likewise...

I figured, sooner or later, someone would throw religion into the mix to muddy the waters. The, "...VERY important point...," that you allude to is not a point at all, unless one BELIEVES, as you do.

I, really, don't care to debate religion; believers have nothing to prove.

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 1:02 PM

Skeeter - I think I agree with you, but I would have phrased it just a bit differently - non-believers have nothing to prove, and believers don't need proof.

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#16
In reply to #10

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 8:42 PM

Greetings, EnviroMan,

With all due respect, I, purposely, chose the double entendre for a reason. :-)

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#18
In reply to #16

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/10/2008 8:29 AM

No worries; as I said, I'd have phrased it differently. That doesn't mean that you should have!

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#19
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/10/2008 6:07 PM

EnviroMan,

Thanks for the clarification.

Regards.

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 11:57 AM

Euthanasia is common when ending the life of a beloved pet that might be suffering from incurable disease or other infirmities. We should not deny the same right of assistance to our beloved humans.

After reading your comment (especially the above excerpt), I got to thinking of people that I've know who've died from cancer, or other terminal diseases. Maybe we as human beings are selfish when it comes to letting our loved ones go. Each person that I've known who has died from a terminal illness had seemed to come to peace with it months (or years) before they passed on, although nobody else had.

The concept of "dying with dignity" definitely strikes a chord with me. I wouldn't want my family to remember me suffering, or in a vegetable-like state. However, I am still uneasy regarding this technology because people who are not ill can get ahold of this device. I'd hate to think of someone using a device like this because they feel unsatisfied with life.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 12:08 PM

As the main issue is usually pain control and there are entire field of medicine directed at palative care, I guess I dont see the need for assisted suicide.

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#11
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 1:03 PM

And I, although I have no idea who you are, sincerely hope you never need to...

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#12
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 1:06 PM

Yes, there is an entire medical field devoted to pain control. However, we do not know exactly how each person feels inside with or without medical treatment. If someone feels that their pain is too much to handle, who are we to tell them their decision is wrong? Euthanasia is a delicate topic because it involves human lives - but I feel that ultimately each person should be able to decide for themselves. As difficult as it is to lose a loved one, it may also be difficult for them to hold on through their pain.

Granted, it's easy to say that something like this should be allowed when it's just an idea. If someone I knew was terminally ill and considering using the Profusor, I would have a hard time telling myself that it was their decision.

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#17
In reply to #8

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 9:13 PM

You say an entire field of medicine? That piece of paper that the Doctor tacks up on his wall is a license to "practice medicine". Not one of them has it totally right yet.

People speak of suicide as if it is the cowards way out, but the bravest man I ever knew took his own life because of pain brought on by nerve damage, plus he was a devout Catholic. I watched that man save several dozen people at risk to himself without a thought. If he didn't go to the Christian Heaven, I don't want to either!

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#20
In reply to #8

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/28/2008 8:37 PM

There are certain kinds of pain that cannot be relieved by any legal drug.I mean physical pain, not mental anguish.In some countries, heroin is used to relieve the pain of terminally ill cancer patients.It is administered in carefully monitored doses to only alleviate the pain, not to provide a drug "high".Some patients have had remissions, and the dose was tapered down to nothing as their pain subsided.The result was that no one was hooked on the drug after treatment.The pain "ate" the heroin, so to speak.Yet some countries deny a viable method of pain relief to those in the greatest need.They paint with a very broad brush, and ANY use of heroin is illegal.The politicians and lawmakers have lost contact with reality.I do not advocate the free use of heroin, but when properly administered by a physician, it should be available as an option to taking the "shortcut to the exit sign."

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#3

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 8:52 AM

This is another case where technology is available that exceeds our cultural ethics for what to do with it. The converse is already true. That is, we are able to prolong life with respirators, IV tubes, heart/lung machines when the patient is not curable, and has no quality of life. Doctors and nurses can keep people alive in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and machines, loaded up with just enough pain killers that they live in a twilight, until enough things fail and the patient dies. If it was your dog, you would euthanize it. But if it's your wife or mother, it's different. Use of this machine, though, supposes that the patient themselves can make a conscious decision and is well enough to carry it out, which is not the case in many end of life situations. Unfortunately the ethics debate leaves what the patient wants out! Instead, doctors, lawyers, and distraught family members impose their own agendas and feelings. The best solution we have right now is the Advanced Directive and "Do Not Resucitate" orders, and informal understandings not to go to extreme measures. What the patient wants should come first, then the family. Doctors should abide by that, and lawyers should butt out.

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#9

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 12:30 PM

its not really assisted suicide. and sometimes the drugs make you sicker in other ways than the ailment. though i feel life is precious. i also feel that joy of life is precious. how can one person say they would refuse to allow another to end thier life if a terminal desease is eating away at them? i feel that it would be more of a selfish act to not allow the person to make thier own mind up. its a touchy issue, be you buddhist, christian or any other religion. i think you have to make up your own mind. and think what you would do if you couldnt take the pain and suffering, while the pills did little to ease the pain.

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#13

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 1:24 PM

I feel I must clarify my previous post. First of all I'll say I am a believer. That said I want to say this; The Bible is ambiguous on the subject of suicide. In fact when King Saul fell on his own sword it is stated by the ghost of Samuel the prophet that they would be together, presumably in paradice.

Murder (as aposed to killing in war or criminal punishment) is, explicitly forbidden. The distinction I am making for myself is to not engage in an activity that leads to the death of another (except as already noted or in personal defence).

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#14

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 3:48 PM

Of all the things to fear, those that would protect us from ourselves are the most dangerous.They sleep snugly at night, thinking in their heart of their last good deed, that prevented someone from harming themselves.They do not consider the other's point of view, and enact laws to enforce their views upon all.Their ego is so great that they actually believe that their way is "The only way" to live.Or die.

We should all be given the choice to drop out of this world whenever we choose, for whatever reason we choose.Who else is more qualified to make that choice?You?Them?Others? How arrogant and egotistical!

Saving a child from falling off of a cliff is a lot different than condeming another person to a future of pain,whether physical or psycological.

Those who advocate that anyone wanting to take their own life is not in their right mind have never really had REAL pain on a continuous non-relenting basis.

Think objectively about it, if you can.

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

04/09/2008 3:53 PM

Puts me in mind of the song lyric - "he can't even run his own life, I'll be damned if he'll run mine..." Guest, please consider registering as a member.

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#21

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/01/2008 1:17 PM

The "suicide" machine simply mechanizes what is already happening in the world, and for better or worse is bringing it to the public's attention. Many patients who are faced with a hopeless situation choose to discontinue their efforts to live. This can take several forms. Some patients simply refuse further treatment. One mechanism for this is a DNR (do not resuscitate order), another is to not allow medical care unit it is simply too late for it to do any good. Some simply refuse to eat or drink until their body is too weak to continue. Overdoses are quite common, some of which are successful. Sometimes drugs are simply not taken. The net is that patients are already proceeding with self willed deaths. Most of these are recorded as "natural causes" because they simply fail to retard the inevitable any longer.

The reasons for these self willed deaths are many, but generally revolve around the existence or lack of hope for relief from pain (physical, mental, emotional, social), the acceptance that it is inevitable, and the desire to take some measure of control over a helpless situation.

The suggestion that modern day medications can take away the pain is patently false with some cancers, such as bone cancer. They remove some of it, but full or even major relief would require ever increasing doses but often at the expense of independence, consciousness, or lucidity.

Fear of the loss of independence, or of what is coming (especially if the patient sees what is in the cards) makes the decision somewhat easier also. One fear is that the patient will lose the ability to end the suffering if they let things go too far.

There is also the issue of expense. Should one spend their life's savings to live for three additional months, in pain, nausea, unable to sleep well, and being a burden on all around them? This isn't three months of sunny beaches and sipping mai tais. This is three months, often of misery, in and out of the hospital, with the family not knowing whether to hope for the end or some miraculous continuation. I realize that it seems horrid to work out expense issues, but already many are skimping on medications to buy food. It can be a great pain to realize that your treatment in vain will deprive your spouse or family of food and medications which might let them live well for many years to come.

The medical profession now counsels people in these situations that letting go is ok, and that supportive care without attempting expensive or extraordinary cures is really or even preferred. Basically, the goal is to make the person comfortable until the inevitable end.

The machine is just that. A little box with a pump. It may make things a little easier to visualize, but it really isn't needed as such. There are endless ways that are already in place. As long as none are practiced excessively or too prominently, none are regulated. Perhaps the little box with a pump is simply too prominent or too good a symbol.

As far as those who point out the sanctity of life, one might ask whether it retains sanctity after it loses meaning to the person who has it and thus becomes a burden to them. It is nearly impossible for someone who has not been in the situation or been closely near it to understand the mindset that one acquires in the cases where self willed death is accomplished or desired. When one can stand on their own two feet it is hard to fully understand what it is like without legs.

Many people who are in these situations prefer to live. It is a highly personal decision. Each person is an individual, and should be treated as such. What works for some, will not work for the others.

There is an interesting bright side to the device. When people know that they can stop the suffering, and that there is the chance of relief, they are often able to handle the situation they are in much better. Again, even if it isn't ever used, the device can remove enough of the uncertainty and fear of living so that an evasive death simply isn't required anymore.

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#22
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/01/2008 6:19 PM

Gee, I sure wish you had registered as a member so my "Good Answer" vote didn't go to the amorphous 'Guest'... But thank you for the cold, clear dose of reality!

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#23

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/01/2008 8:41 PM

Sorry. I wasn't able to register all the way before I put out my message.

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#24
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/02/2008 3:33 PM

Well, heck, that too is a good answer...

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#25

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/06/2008 7:44 PM

Ouch Potassium Chloride is going to hurt. Disrupting the heart until it eventually stops, and then the relatively slow death that follows as the brain becomes starved of oxygen. Seems like heroine would be a better choice.

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#26
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/07/2008 12:27 PM

Guess that's why on death row they use a series of three, starting with a tranquilizer (not far short of heroin, I guess) that renders the intended unconcious first.

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#27

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/10/2008 9:14 PM

But what if it was your child, who had been in an accident, was unconscious and in intensive care ?

Bleeding internally, a membrane around the lungs that they can't operate on is torn up, her chest cavity is filling with blood each time she breathes,

Patience and a skillful surgeon to make the right treatment decisions, to drain the blood, she makes it thru the night,

3 weeks in intensive care where she could control her pain med., a summer at home of moaning in pain, and off to high school.

This doesn't sound like those describing cancer this was instantaneous, she was 14 years old, unconscious and in unimagineable pain (her spine was bent in the accident), she did fully recover and lives a great life.

Can pain really be a criteria?

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/10/2008 11:31 PM

"...she was 14 years old, unconscious and in unimagineable pain..."

Can someone be unconscious and feel unimaginable pain?

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#29
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/10/2008 11:38 PM

Skeeter,

I think that depends on your definition of and personal experience with unconsciousness and unimagineable pain.

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#31
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/11/2008 1:22 AM

She was moaning and she sure wasn't sleeping.

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#30
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/11/2008 12:45 AM

The criteria are going to be up to the individual. Pain, hopelessness, fear, fatigue, family, faith, age, etc all go into the decision. I doubt that any one criterion is going to be sufficient, or even universally included. Many people will simply have no criteria whatsoever, and simply give a flat out "no" in all circumstances.

The particular injuries of this person do sound devastating but she was on the road to recovery (albeit a painful recovery) once the hemothorax was treated properly. She may have survived the whole adventure because she was 14, her aorta was still flexible, and she had great care at the hospital.

The pain from the subsequent pleural rub, prossibly a thoracotomy or two, bruising, the torn ligaments in the spine, etc, is severe. It is more pain than most people will ever feel in their lives, and more than I would ever wish on anyone. All that, however must be tempered with the realization that each of those will resolve itself in time. Some will resolve faster than others. A life with pain in every step or breath is still bearable if the other parts of life make up it worthwhile.

If there is hope, then the situation is not hopeless.

What would the situation be if the surgeon came back and told you that this was a complete no win situation? If he operated now, he could optimistically delay death for a few days, weeks or possibly months, but she would be in excruciating pain for the entire time, and there was no chance that a followup operation could extend things further or relieve pain. If he failed to operate or the operation was otherwise unsuccessful, that she would die either where she lay or under anesthetic. If she were given enough anesthetic to completely or reasonably deaden the pain, she would cease to breathe on her own and no longer be aware of her surroundings. The tables turn in this case.

Regrettably, this sort of decision has to be made sometimes. Sometimes there aren't any "right" answers, and what is best is hardly good. Sometimes the wishes of the patient come in second to those of the family or community. Sometimes the decision is made independently of the family, and sometimes the decision is simply overruled by fate.

I am very happy that the 14 year old recovered. It is amazing what the human mind, body, and spirit can overcome. It is difficult to tolerate such pain in children. It just seems too unfair

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#32
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/12/2008 4:41 PM

Umm the question doesn't make sense when compared to my comments. If you were going to take your own life, due to some excruciatingly painful terminal end stage disease, i would suspect pain would be a criteria in your selection of method. You describe someone who is not terminal, so i would hope you were not considering giving a process for ending her life as solution for pain. However, if she was about to die no matter what, and was no longer productive or capable of living with any value, and the choice was a very painful death or something less painful, i would then hope you would lead her to something less painful. Potassium would equate to causing a heart attack, and as generally everyone knows those are not pain free.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/12/2008 5:18 PM

She was in the heart attack ward, intensive care, had the best doctor an ex-military doc, the extent of her injuries were unknown, if the chest drains allowed her to breathe and the bleeding slowed she might live if nothing else appeared and she began to heal all of the unknown problems. And she did.

Many things go thru a persons mind when your flesh and blood, your child is suffering. I bring these comments here to alert others that the human body can go thru some terrific injuries and survive.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/12/2008 7:35 PM

Interesting tale. Not sure of the relevance to a profuser that if operated by end stage patients with no hope and nearly unendurable constant pain would cause serious pain by chemically inducing a heart attack. A better story woul drelate a end stage colon cancer patient who survived.

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#35
In reply to #33

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/12/2008 8:21 PM

I didn't go into all the details of how she got there (hit a pier then the other larger girl hit her while on a tube behind a turning boat) or the full extent of the injuries (7 broken ribs, bent spine, internal bleeding,... don't want to remember). The other girl got a cut on her leg and walked away.

I brought this up as an example of accident victims that may get to the "decision" time instantly, but need healing time to evaluate survival or recovery before decision, i.e. injuries can get you (quicker) to the same place as disease.

We've also had other people (hypothermia) recover from less then 60F body temperatures.

The "Profuser" may be a medical "niche" solution?

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#36
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/12/2008 9:04 PM

Umm yeah, i think it is for the end stage patients without hope of recovery who still are capable of making their own decisions and actively participating to some degree.

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#37

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/20/2008 7:26 AM

Here's a new article I found about possibly legalizing Euthanasia in some states. According to the article more than 80% of Americans think it should be legal.

A New Fight to Legalize Euthanasia

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#38
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Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/20/2008 11:22 AM

I can see a few episodes of law and order from this. He was a bed ridden rich older man with cancer, she was a cheating wife with a prenuptial agreement. He finds out about the fooling around and starts talking to an attorney through his children. He turns up dead from his suicide machine with assistance from his young wife. She claims it was Euthanasia and he was in pain, she asistant him out of love. The children claim murder before he could file for divorce. The ending will have to wait.

The problem i see with legalized murder by individuals, is that the line you distinguish legal murder from euthanasia. Would there need to be observers?

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#39
In reply to #37

Re: “Profusor” Takes the Pain Away… Forever

05/20/2008 12:58 PM

I'd like to see the polling methodology as well as the actual questions posed in this 'poll'. It would be hard to get 80% of Americans to agree on the easy stuff. When you concider that right-to-lifers helped put Bush in office not just once but twice in the last 8 years this 'poll' appears ludicrouse on it's face.

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