An asset to be realised: Doctors warn of risks


Stephen Parnis, a former AMA Victorian president and vice-president of the federal AMA, has warned that under Victoria's assisted suicide law which will come into operation on 19 June 2019, many people managing terminal illnesses would seek out assisted suicide because they did not want to be a burden. “The fact is that we have some very vulnerable people in our society whose next of kin or nearest and dearest may regard them as an asset to be realised rather than someone who needs to be loved,” he told Joe Kelly from The Australian.

Dr Mark Yates, AMA Victoria president from 2005-07, a clinical associate professor at Deakin University and a geriatrician also spoke to The Australian. He said that:

the assisted suicide laws were “still perceived by clinicians to be unethical” and that “expert palliative care” could almost always meet the needs of those nearing the end of their lives. “Lots of patients express the wish to die at the very end of their life, which is symptomatic of the fact that their needs aren’t being me. If we had ­appropriate palliative care, then all of those needs could be met … expert palliative care can almost always remedy that.” 

Dr Yates also criticised the assisted suicide law for requiring death certificates to be falsified by "sanitising" state-assisted suicides, with the underlying terminal illness recorded as the cause of death.

Senior psychiatrist, John Buchanan, who has worked in palliative medicine, told The Australian that the assisted suicide laws lacked “adequate safeguards.” 

Dr Buchanan said there was no requirement on doctors assessing an individual for assisted suicide to make a referral for them to see a palliative care specialist or an ­experienced psychiatrist. “If you look at the opinions of doctors overall, they are not in favour of it, by and large. And the more people have to do with palliative care the less they are in favour of this legislation.”

Dr Buchanan argued that some of those in favour of the new regime had been scarred by experiences in which family members did not have access to proper pain relief at the end of their live but that palliative care had “advanced tremendously in recent decades”.

See the full article here.

Read more about the risks to Victorians from the assisted suicide law here

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