Monica Dux describes the death of her father, and found that amid the tears and dread, there was comfort to be found in the presence of palliative carers who helped her father to live and die.
Often when improvements to palliative care are suggested to counter pressures for euthanasia / assisted suicide, the comeback is that caring is more expensive than the costs saved by eliminating people. As Ben O’Mara points out, specialist palliative care actually results in less spending, thereby reducing pressure on WA’s aged and healthcare systems. Best of all the sick, the dying and the frail receive excellence in end-of-life care and the ethos of the medical fraternity is not compromised. It is better economics to bypass the more expensive (and unsafe) road of “voluntary assisted dying” for a minority and chose the route of fixing up palliative care for the majority.
The WA Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices admitted that WA has the lowest number of publicly funded in‐patient beds per capita and that access to specialist palliative care is near non-existent in metropolitan hospitals. Furthermore, rural and remote regions have near zero access to palliative care. Surely this needs to be put right first? Proposing euthanasia or assisted suicide is nothing short of callousness and injustice.
Palliative Care specialist Dr Richard Chye is not religious, and does not follow a faith. His position against euthanasia / assisted suicide is based on longstanding clinical experience and medical evidence. He argues that the way society approaches death needs rethinking, but that does not make euthanasia / assisted suicide the answer.
According to Dr Richard Chye, there are problems with how Australians are dying, but that access to good-quality palliative care can change that. Australians want to die at home but need better support services to do so. Carers need respite and your postcode often determines access to services. These are the rights we are currently denied, and this is what we should be getting up in arms about.
A year after assisted suicide was legalised in the District of Columbia, no one has used it. Only two doctors have signed up to prescribe lethal drugs to patients. Others do not want to be known as doctors who give out death prescriptions, even if they agree to assisted suicide in principle.
It is often argued that doctors already cause patients’ death through pain relief medications. This is countered by appealing to the Principle of Double Effect which explains how to determine the responsibility for causing death.
“We may agree, as a society, that competent adults ought to be at liberty to end their own lives. But this is not the same as asserting their “right” to commit suicide, much less insisting that physicians should be complicit in fulfilling such a right.”
Australian journalist Paul Kelly suggests that passing euthanasia laws amounts to creating two classes of Australians: those whose lives should be preserved, and those we believe would be “better off dead”.
Palliative care physician Frank Brennan’s clear and powerful account of the distinction between true palliative care and euthanasia. It concludes with a moving story revealing the real human questions raised by this debate.
A Canadian doctor and medical educator is concerned that assisted suicide “strikes at the very core of our being as healers,” concluding that “Physician-inflicted death is unnecessary and potentially harmful and I do not want to teach medical students how to end their patients’ lives.”
A consultant physician explains why palliative care and euthanasia are totally different, and explodes one persistent myth about those who oppose euthanasia: “a journalist said to me recently that ‘in opposing euthanasia you intend people to die in agonising pain with no way out.’ In caring for 400-500 people each year for the past 19 years in Ireland, Scotland, US and New Zealand I have not witnessed any such death.”