How is this good medical care?

“Rather than unmanageable pain, the impetus for those accessing the law – the vast majority late-stage cancer patients – is usually what doctors term “existential suffering”. As people lose function, independence and joy, they yearn, above all, to regain a sense of control.”

These words, buried in a 3500-word pro-euthanasia puff piece in last weekend’s Weekend Australian magazine, sum up the problem with the current push for euthanasia, and the campaign of misdirection and misinformation being conducted by many of its loudest advocates.

These advocates insist that euthanasia and assisted suicide laws must be passed to ensure that people are not in pain at the end of their lives.  But even in Australia’s short history of euthanasia and assisted suicide, it’s clear that this is not about physical pain, but other types of suffering that could best be addressed with supports, and not a lethal dose.

The short experience in Australia is consistent with more than two decades of data from Oregon, where “inadequate pain control, or concern about it” does not rank in the top five reasons that people cite when asking for assisted suicide.

Routinely, the top five reasons are:

  • Less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable;
  • Losing autonomy;
  • Loss of dignity;
  • Burden on family, friends/caregivers; and
  • Losing control of bodily functions.

Why are advocates proposing that we treat existential suffering with lethal drugs?  How is this part of any good medical care?