1500 NZ doctors sign open letter against euthanasia

More than 1500 doctors in New Zealand have signed an open letter to all New Zealanders, appealing to MPs not to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Organiser Dr Sinead Donnelly, a Palliative Medicine specialist, states that she has been overwhelmed by the response from doctors: “We started with a very simple one page website and it has just snowballed, which highlights the significant concerns of doctors with this bill.”

Dr Donnelly has rejected the notion that doctors should be involved in the practice of euthanasia: “Killing is not caring. It does not require any medical skills, it just requires the abandonment of medical ethics.”

The position of the New Zealand doctors is in conformity with the long standing policy of the World Medical Association, which opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, and was recently re-affirmed by the organisation.

As outlined in its re-affirmed statement, the World Medical Association “reiterates its strong commitment to the principles of medical ethics and that utmost respect has to be maintained for human life. Therefore, the WMA is firmly opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

The Australian Medical Association, the New Zealand Medical Association and the American Medical Association are but a few of the 107 World Medical Association’s constituent National Medical Associations which oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. Following its recent consultations, the WMA Chair Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery recently stated:

“Having held consultative conferences involving every continent in the world, we believe that this revised wording is in accord with the views of most physicians worldwide.”

The organisers of the NZ physicians letter have sent a strong message to the members of parliament currently considering the euphemistically titled “End of Life Choices” bill:

“If you are really determined to legalise euthanasia, find another profession to do it. Please leave doctors out of it so that we can focus on caring for our patients.”

Read the full text of the letter below:

We endorse the views of the World Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association that physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal.

We are committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort, including the provision of effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care.

We uphold the right of patients to decline treatment, as set out in the NZ Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.

We know that the proper provision of pain relief, even if it may unintentionally  hasten the death of the patient, is ethical and legal.  Equally the withdrawal or withholding of futile treatment in favour of palliative care is ethical and legal.

We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to die would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and respect.

We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and we are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden.

Doctors are not necessary in the regulation or practice of assisted suicide.  They are included only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy.  Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.