Euthanased lung cancer patients never consulted an oncologist or had a biopsy
A study of 45 people who were euthanased at Ottawa Hospital for lung cancer showed that in 13 cases (28.9%) there was no confirmation of the condition by biopsy - an otherwise standard diagnostic procedure. In 10 cases (22%) there was no consultation at any stage with a medical oncologist to discuss prognosis and treatment options.
The time between diagnosis and euthanasia being performed was as short as 3 weeks.
Treatments for lung cancer have improved considerably over the last few years leading to a reduction in mortality and an increase in the five year survival rate which is now 21.7%, according to the (US) National Cancer Institute.
This study confirms that when euthanasia is legalised it will inevitably result in premature an unnecessary deaths of people who will miss out on effective, helpful treatment. In some cases this will be due to a failure of the medical practitioners assessing them for access to euthanasia to have the specialist knowledge to properly and comprehensively advise the person on the most recent treatment options.
In other cases a person may adamantly request euthanasia when first diagnosed with cancer and be granted it quickly (as this study shows as soon as 3 weeks after diagnosis). This does not allow any time for the person to process the new situation, to receive treatment for clinical depression or to be given time to reflect and consider treatment options.
The study was carried out by Dr Sara Moore and the results presented on 9 September 2021 at the 2021 World Conference on Lung Cancer.
Dr Moore said
Biomarker-driven targeted therapy and immunotherapy offer effective and tolerable new treatments, but a subset of patients undergo medical assistance in dying [euthanasia] without accessing -- or, in some cases, without being assessed for -- these treatment options.
Given the growing number of efficacious and well-tolerated treatment options in lung cancer, consultation with an oncologist may be reasonable to consider for all patients with lung cancer who request medical assistance in dying.
Commenting on the presentation, geriatric and palliative care physician, Dr Monica Malec observed that:
Patients are seeking this option [euthanasia] despite the availability of more effective and more tolerable treatment options.
Existing literature suggests that loss of autonomy, control, and dignity are the primary drivers for seeking medical assistance in dying rather than uncontrolled symptoms, and the decision to pursue medical assistance in dying [euthanasia] may occur pre-illness.
For more information on wrongful deaths dur to missing out on effective treatment see here.