The Malta Independent 27 July 2017, Thursday

INDEPTH: No to assisted suicide, euthanasia; yes to living will – Joe Cassar

INDEPTH online Friday, 21 April 2017, 11:30 Last update: about 4 months ago

Psychiatrist Joe Cassar is totally against the idea of assisted suicide or euthanasia, but is very much in favour of what is known as the living will, a written statement detailing a person's desires regarding future medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.

Interviewed by The Malta Independent online editor Stephen Calleja on INDEPTH, Dr Cassar said both assisted suicide and euthanasia are effectively killing a person, even if that persons expresses the willingness to die, while through a living will someone is giving his or her consent not to be revived.

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Dr Cassar said he is not in favour of any decision that is taken to voluntarily end a life, but he can understand that people with a terminal cancer take the decision not to be resuscitated if, for example, the suffer a heart attack.

 

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are killing, a living will effectively means doing nothing to save a person who has given his or her consent not to be saved, he said.

Social media is playing a huge part in encouraging people to commit suicide, he said.

The police Cyber Crime Unit monitors the social media for pornography and paedophilia, but so little is done to keep an eye on social media networks where people are talking to strangers about committing suicide, Dr Cassar said.

The former minister is not ready to speak on political issues publicly, saying that now he is an ordinary citizen and no longer involved in politics.

Dr Cassar would not be drawn into giving his opinion on the Nationalist Party, which he represented in Parliament also as Health Minister, or the upcoming general election.

He said what he misses most in politics is being at the heart of important decisions taken, the discussion of new laws and also some of the friendships he had. But it was time to move on, he said.

Dr Cassar resigned from Parliament in November 2015.

During the programme, Dr Cassar, a psychiatrist by profession, said Binge-drinking and cocaine are contributing factors in the rise in the number of people who commit suicide.

There have been 350 suicides in Malta in the last 12 years, an average of one every two weeks. Of each 100 deaths registered in Malta, one is a suicide. Dr Cassar was interviewed in the wake of an international campaign to raise awareness on mental health issues.

Effects of alcohol use, especially in cases of binge-drinking, do not go away once the hangover passes. They have a more lasting effect on people, Dr Cassar said. Alcohol is a depressogenic agent (it leads to depression), and depression is one of the major causes of suicide.

The same goes for cocaine, Dr Cassar said. There is a growing use of cocaine in Malta, even among the high and middle classes, and once the effect of the drug passes it is followed by what is known as cocaine crashing, which causes severe depression. It is no surprise that people who experience cocaine crashing have suicidal tendencies in the second 24 hours after consuming the drug.

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