An online poll conducted by the Medical Journal of Australia has not received any publicity. It clearly shows that doctors are against euthanasia.
The penny drops. The fallout laid bare. There is burden enough for lawyers to figure out if there’s been a wrongful death, but the greater burden is for clinicians and allied health professionals (nurses, pharmacists, orderlies, psychologists, social workers, practice managers, housekeepers, physiotherapists … anyone in contact with the dying) who are now caught up in a system that has changed from caring to terminating lives.
It has always been a part of good medical practice that doctors do not participate in taking the life of their patient or aid them to do so, such that the World Medical Association statement on assisted suicide and euthanasia clearly considers it unethical. If doctors are involved in the taking of life, it will affect the trust that people have in their medical practitioners.
The problem with euthanasia is that once we accept the idea that we have a “right” to die, which really means a right to be killed, it becomes difficult to limit this right. Moreover, what is the point of campaigning against suicide, in schools for instance, if the state offers it as an opportunity?
When the public are given all the facts, support for euthanasia and assisted suicide drops to less than 50%. If we want a genuinely well-informed debate in WA, research conducted in the UK in 2014 reveals just how important it is for both sides of the euthanasia debate to speak the whole truth.
Are we asking doctors to ‘assist dying’ or to ‘assist suicide’? When did we stop calling it ‘mercy killing’ and start calling it ‘euthanasia’? “If Parliament is to be asked to legalise certain acts, it needs to be made clear just what those acts are. The nature of an act cannot be altered by giving it a more benign-sounding name. Good law-making requires that we use words with the meanings they have, not those we might like them to have.”
What we can conclude from opinion polls, warns Katherine Sleeman, “depends on the responder’s awareness of the complexities of assisted dying, the context of the question asked, and its precise language. If we can conclude anything from these polls, it is not the proportion of people who do or don’t support legislation, but how easily people can change their views.”