Finnish Parliament debates euthanasia

by Paul Russell:

A citizen's initiative to raise the issue of euthanasia in the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) passed the requisite 50,000 signatories required to trigger a parliamentary debate late last year. This week the matter came before the main chamber.

The Uutiset news website reports that a broad concensus was reached on the need for universal access to palliative care; but a clear divide exists on the question of patient killing.

"A fatal injection is a tool for veterinarians not for human care," declared Päivi Räsänen, ex-Christian Democratic Party chair.

Finns Party chair and Foreign Minister Timo Soini weighed in on the discussion.

"We are talking about legalising the murder of another person. not a little thing. Not a matter to be decided in a marketplace by 'ayes'. We are creating a Finnish culture of death. We should not do that," Soini charged.

The Social Affairs and Health Committee will now look into the issue of euthanasia. It is also considering widespread reforms of the Finnish social and health care services.

A straw poll before the last Finnish General Election showed nearly 60% support for euthanasia amongst the elected Members of Parliament. At baout the same time, a survey of Finnish doctors working with terminally ill patients showed that only one in six doctors supported the initiative.

The recently the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care made their position clear: that no country or state should consider the legalization of euthanasia or PAS until it ensures universal access to palliative care services and to appropriate medications, including opioids for pain and dyspnea.

The Fins, like most countries, have a long way to go before universal access to palliative care is a reality.