A letter from 101 Victorian oncologists, sent to all Victorian MPs, illustrates the strong opposition to the Andrews government’s reckless proposal for assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Read the letter below:
19 September 2017
Dear Victorian Parliamentary Representative
We, the undersigned 101 Victorian Oncologists (cancer specialists), request that you vote AGAINST the proposed Victorian Assisted Dying Bill 2017.
As 80% of those who access physician assisted dying legally overseas have cancer, we feel our perspective on this issue should be heard.
We add our voices to the 100 palliative care specialists who have already corresponded with you requesting that you oppose the passage of this bill.
We collectively represent a significant proportion of the oncology workforce in the state of Victoria.
We do not believe that it is possible to draft assisted dying laws that have adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable populations, especially those with incurable cancer, progressive neurological illness, the aged and disabled. These groups of people experience high rates of depression and isolation. The risks that such legislation poses for the majority of these outweigh any benefits for the few in our opinion.
Physician assisted dying places people at risk of coercion that is both active and passive. As a consequence of assisted dying laws, society re-assesses the value of life; and the individual is taught to devalue their own life. Those with serious illness may perceive that they are a burden on society or their carers and come to feel that assisted dying is appropriate for them.
Assisted dying laws are easily challenged from a human rights and equality perspective. Indications over time will be extended beyond adults with terminal illness, to those with mental illness alone, dementia, disability, children and the healthy elderly who have “completed lives”. In Oregon USA in June 2017 the senate debated a bill that would allow demented patients and others with “mental incompetence” to be starved to death. Oregon is not a lead that we wish to follow.
Physician assisted death is not, by definition, medical treatment. It is not palliative care. We as doctors and medical specialists do not want to intentionally end the lives of our patients, or provide them with the direct means to do so. Assisted suicide is in conflict with the basic ethical principles and integrity of medical practice and undermines trust in the medical profession. We strive to eliminate suffering but not the sufferers themselves.
Where cure of cancer is not possible, we seek optimal palliative care services to support and care for patients and their families at the end of life. Without easy access to quality palliative care, some may request physician assisted dying as they feel they have no other choice. This is especially so for people who live in rural, regional and remote areas and for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who have less access to palliative care services.
We are very disappointed that discussion of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has dominated the agenda to improve end of life care in Victoria. We are dismayed that the multiple recommendations made by the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into End of Life Choices (June 2016) to strengthen palliative care have not been actioned. Until this is addressed, discussing physician assisted dying is premature.
In June 2017 the NSW government allocated an extra $100 million to fund palliative care services over 4 years, particularly to provide extra funds for community palliative care services and for rural and regional NSW. Need in these same areas has been identified by the Victorian End of Life Choices report. Palliative Care Victoria’s figures demonstrate that an extra $65 million per year is required to meet deficits and adequately cover future cost projections in these areas. Such funding is essential if dying Victorians are to be adequately cared for in their homes with adequate supports for both them and their families.
We call for improved funding of palliative care services in Victoria, for the benefit of all Victorians, but especially those who live with incurable cancer and their families. This will go some way to ensuring that fear of suffering does not dictate a person’s final hours, nor the memories their loved ones will carry throughout their own lives.
The United Kingdom parliament resoundingly rejected an Assisted Dying bill in 2015 as there is no “safe system” and we urge the Victorian parliament to do the same.
The undersigned 101 Victorian Cancer specialists.
The listed signatories support this statement as individual health professionals and not as representatives of any hospital or other organisation with which they are associated.
Contact person -Dr Marion Harris M: 0410689112 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alamgeer ,Dr Mohammed Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Amarasena, Dr Isuru Radiation Oncology Trainee Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Bae, Dr Susie Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Bahzadigohar, Dr Ramin Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Barnett, Dr Frances Medical Oncologist Northern Health
Bond, Dr Rodney Medical Oncologist Melton Health
Boolel , Dr Vishal Medical Oncologist Ballarat Health Services
Brady, Dr Benjamin Medical Oncologist Cabrini Health
Brown, Dr Stephen Medical Oncologist Ballarat Health Services
Carden , Dr Craig Medical Oncologist Ballarat Cancer Care
Cebon , Professor Jonathan Medical Oncologist Austin Health
Chong , Dr Geoff Medical Oncologist Austin and Northern Health
Chong , Dr/Mr Chilton Surgical Oncologist Monash Health
Chu, Dr Julie Radiation Oncology Trainee Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Chua , Dr Sue Medical Oncologist Eastern Health
Coleman , Dr Andrew Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Collins, Associate Professor Ian Medical Oncologist South West Reg. Cancer Centre Warnambool
Cooray, Dr Prasad Medical Oncologist Eastern Health
Croagh , Dr/Mr Daniel Surgical Oncologist - Gastrointestinal Surgeon Monash Health
Cullinan, Dr/Mr Mark Surgical Oncologist - Gastrointestinal Surgeon Monash Health
David , Dr Steven Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Davis, Professor Ian Medical Oncologist Eastern Health
Dawson, Associate Professor Sarah –Jane Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Delahunty, Dr Rachel Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Doughton, Dr Jacki Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Dwyer, Dr Mary Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Faisal, Dr Wasek Medical Oncologist Ballarat Health Services
Fallah, Dr Ali Medical Oncologist LaTrobe Regional Hospital
Fleming , Dr Shaun Malignant Haematologist Alfred Hospital
Fox, Dr/Miss Jane Surgical oncologist/ Breast Surgeon Monash Health
Francis , Dr Heather Medical Oncologist Ballarat Cancer Care
Francis, Associate Professor Prudence Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Ganju, Associate Professor Vinod Medical Oncologist Monash Health and Peninsula Health
Geddes, Dr Katherine Medical Oncologist St Vincents Hospital
Goss, Dr Geraldine Medical Oncologist Eastern Health and Ringwood Private Hospital
Grant , Associate Professor Peter Gynaecologist Oncologist Mercy Hospital for Women
Green, Professor Michael Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Grossi, Dr Marisa Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Hafeez, Dr Umbreen Medical Oncologist Austin Health
Haines , Associate Professor Ian Medical Oncologist Cabrini Health
Harris , Dr Marion Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Haydon, Dr Andrew Medical Oncologist Alfred Hospital and Cabrini Health
Hayes , Dr Terri Medical Oncologist South West Reg. Cancer Centre , Warnambool
Jamal. Dr Shafaet Medical Oncologist LaTrobe Regional Hospital
James , Dr Philip Medical Oncologist Ringwood Private Hospital
Jefford , Associate Professor Michael Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Joshi, Dr Sachin Medical Oncologist LaTrobe Regional Hospital
Kannourakis, Professor George Medical Oncologist Ballarat Oncology
Kwan, Dr Edmond Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Lee , Dr Belinda Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Lickliter, Dr Jason Medical Oncologist Alfred Hospital
Liew , Dr Sem Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Lim, Dr Lionel Medical Oncologist Eastern Health and Ringwood Private Hospital
Lim, Dr Ming Sheng Malignant Haematology advanced trainee Monash Health
Lipton, Associate Professor Lara Medical Oncologist Cabrini Health
Loi, Associate Professor Sherene Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Lundy , Dr Jo Medical Oncologist Peninsula Oncology
Manolitsas, Dr Tom Gynaecologist Oncologist Monash Health
Mathai, Dr Jared Medical Oncology advanced trainee Cabrini Health
Menon , Dr Sid Medical Oncology advanced trainee Monash Health
Michael, Associate Professor Michael Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Mileshkin, Associate Professor Linda Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Ngan ,Dr Sam Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Ooi, Dr/Miss Corinne Surgical oncologist/ Breast Surgeon Monash Health
Parente, Associate Professor Phillip Medical Oncologist Eastern Health and Epworth Hospital
Pellegrini , Dr Laura Medical Oncologist Eastern Health
Phillips , Dr Claire Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Phillips, Prof Kelly-Anne Medical Oncologist Melbourne
Pook, Dr David Medical Oncologist Monash Health and Cabrini Health
Pope, Dr Kathy Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Rajasooriyar, Dr Crishanthi Radiation Oncology Trainee Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Rowe, Dr Catherine Medical Oncology advanced trainee St Vincents Hospital
Ryan, Dr Gail Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Semira , Dr Christine Medical Oncology advanced trainee Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Shackleton, Professor Mark Medical Oncologist Alfred Hospital
Shapiro, Associate Professor Jeremy Medical Oncologist Cabrini Health
Spilias, Dr/Mr Dean Surgical Oncologist/ Bowel Surgeon Monash Health
Stefanou, Dr Greg Medical Oncologist John Fawkner Oncology , Coburg
Stewart, Dr Jo Medical Oncologist Austin Health
Strach, Dr Madeleine Medical Oncology advanced trainee Austin Health
Strickland , Associate Professor Andrew Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Sycamnias , Dr John Medical Oncologist St John of God , Ballarat
Tamjid, Dr Babrak Medical Oncologist Goulburn Valley Health and Peninsula Health
Tan , Dr Jennifer Radiation Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Tatarczuch, Dr Maciej Malignant Haematology advanced trainee Monash Health
Teoh, Dr/Mr William Surgical Oncologist /Bowel surgeon Monash Health
Tie , Associate Professor Jeanne Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Tiong, Dr Ing Soo Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Tiu , Dr Crescens Medical Oncology advanced trainee Eastern Health
Tran , Dr Ben Medical Oncologist Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Tsan, Dr/ Mr Cyril Tsan Surgical Oncologist /Breast Surgeon Monash Health
Tseng, Dr Michelle Radiation Oncology Trainee Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Voskoboynik, Dr Mark Medical Oncologist Alfred Hospital
Warren , Dr Mark Medical Oncologist Bendigo Health
White , Associate Professor Shane Medical Oncologist Austin and Northern Health
White, Dr Karen Medical Oncologist Barwon Health Cancer Services
Wong , Dr Jonathan Malignant Haematology advanced trainee Monash Health
Wong, Dr Vanessa Medical Oncology advanced trainee Ballarat Health Services
Woodruff, Dr Roger Medical Oncologist Austin Health
Wu, Dr Min Medical Oncologist Monash Health
Zalcberg, Professor John Medical Oncologist Alfred Health