The Hon. Greg Donnelly, ALP upper house member of the NSW Parliament, has rightly pointed out the deceptive and flawed strategy of euthanasia advocates in his adjournment speech on 5 April.
Donnelly says the strategy involves advancing the argument that “euthanasia—assisted suicide—should be drawn into and be made part of medical, nursing, caring, political and general public discourse with respect to palliative care. Wrapping them up in such a holistic way with the language of palliative care is a way of insulating them from criticism and attack; it attempts to construct a firewall around them.”
Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks did just that in his article entitled "Palliative care and voluntary-assisted dying: the common ground", which was published on the Medical Journal of Australia's website in January. Donnelly says, “such a strategy is in my view deceptive and fundamentally flawed”. I couldn’t agree more.
Professor Douglas Bridge produced a response co-signed by 32 eminent palliative care specialists and academics, completely dismantling Maddocks’ argument. The response appeared on the same website in March. If you’re interested, I encourage you to read this response. However, I will highlight some of the key points here:
- The supposed common ground between palliative care, euthanasia and assisted suicide is “both a contradiction in terms and contrary to sound medical practice”.
- Some of the co-signatories have practiced palliative medicine for over 30 years. They all believe that legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide is unnecessary and unsafe.
- To make euthanasia/assisted suicide publicly acceptable, its proponents “sanitise the language, using euphemisms such as ‘voluntary-assisted dying’ and ‘go gentle’. However, the inconvenient truth remains that … the action of the doctor is to end a patient’s life or assist patients to kill themselves. This has profound ramifications for all health professionals.”
- “Quality health care manages the causes of patients’ distress rather than ending life.”
- “Requests to terminate life prematurely are uncommon and often a cry for help … It is illogical and immoral to even consider euthanasia legislation before ensuring there is universal access to palliative care.”
- “Good palliative care helps patients and families avoid both overtreatment and neglect of treatment. It enhances patient autonomy and decision-making capacity by improving symptom control and empowering patients to participate in their care.”
- “We affirm the patient's right to choose their therapy; decline futile therapy; choose the place of dying; choose who should be present; receive the best possible relief of symptoms, even, on rare occasions, deliberate palliative sedation (not terminal sedation); and refuse to prolong the dying process.
- The Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine opposes the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide.