No consensus among doctors on assisted suicide

When it comes to assisted suicide and euthanasia legislation, there is clear disagreement amongst doctors. 

New legislation for assisted suicide in Victoria has been a lightning rod among doctors. The prospect of being required to help people to commit suicide – or to take a direct action to make them dead – is distressing. What is more, it is blatantly unfair to doctors to turn them from caregivers to death administers.  

A recent survey of doctors by the Australian Medical Association revealed just 40 per cent of doctors agreed on the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

As Dr Leah Kaminsky, a GP in Victoria, told the ABC:

“A lot of my colleagues are feeling the same as me — that even though they may support it in theory, are they going to put their hand up and do it? No,” Dr Kaminsky said.

“Not until we know that we're really doing it professionally, and there's no grey areas there that could open us up for criminal action, and also our responsibility to our patients.

“It's not something you go into lightly. Even if you very, very strongly believe in it, it's got to be done very rigorously and carefully. You really don't want to botch this up.”

Those so called safeguards? Safe nothing: those in the medical realm who support euthanasia and assisted suicide could easily manipulate reports to keep their true actions hidden. Let’s face the truth: the only people really protected by such laws are the doctors! One GP, Dr Nick Carr, was investigated after one of his patients asked for help to end her life. The patient committed suicide with medication she obtained from elsewhere, but Dr Carr was cautioned by the Medical Board of Australia for wrongly recording her death.

“There are certainly doctors who support this legislation but who wouldn't want to be involved in the actual process of providing the drug, and that's fine because they won't be required to,” Dr Carr said.

“There's going to be a process in place which enables other doctors to provide the medication, to provide the advice and support, so any individual doctor is free to support the legislation but say, ‘No, I don't want to actually be involved in enacting it.’ That's fine.”

Dr Michelle Gold, a palliative care doctor, said that assisted suicide is incompatible with the philosophy of “first, do no harm”. As reported in the ABC, this phrase is not specifically included in the Hippocratic Oath, but it is generally accepted among medical practitioners.

“To do no harm is really important,” she said.

“And I'm sure that's going to be debated and people will have different ideas about that but I feel it is a very big challenge to the way medicine has been practiced up until this point.

“What we've been training to do and what we've been doing is to protect and save and to honour life, so to have a time where you could actually deliberately cause someone's death is going to feel very uncomfortable.”

Polls on assisted suicide and euthanasia must be taken alongside reality. Legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide could have unforeseen consequences, particularly for doctors who do not want to participate for reasons of conscience.

The facts are there: euthanasia and assisted suicide cause discord among doctors, denounce an ideal upheld by medical professionals, and render ALL patients at risk of having their lives prematurely terminated. How would this benefit anyone?

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are unthinkable. Both would destroy the medical profession. Both would endanger the lives of all Australians. Both have no place anywhere in Australia.

 

Read next: The Polls – What Do They Really Tell Us?

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