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Euthanasia – the AMA got it right

17 Jan 2017

Euthanasia – the AMA got it right

Speaking on national television [ABC, Q&A] in November 2015, Andrew Denton strongly advocated  a Belgian-style euthanasia system, with assisted suicide for the elderly, mentally  ill and  “anyone who is suffering”, ie patients with chronic diseases or chronic pain. Nine months later, there is a complete policy reversal, and euthanasia will be limited to the “terminally ill”.

Incredibly, the media have ignored Mr Denton’s Q&A declaration and, furthermore, Mr Denton has not retracted his original views. The public and politicians have every reason to be sceptical. Dr Nitschke’s  Exit International is the largest pro-euthanasia  movement, and their stated goal is to have free access to Nembutal  for anyone wanting to end their lives . ”Rational suicide” has replaced euthanasia.

I thus congratulate the AMA Ethics and Medico-legal Committee on re-affirming its opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Every national medical association in the world (except The   Netherlands) is opposed to Euthanasia, while in 2015 the World Medical Association re-affirmed its condemnation of euthanasia.

In the UK, a parliamentary Select Committee on Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill was a virtual Royal Commission into euthanasia, and included several eminent Law Lords. The committee issued a stern warning to legislators regarding the wording of any euthanasia Bill, pointing out that in The Netherlands, 90 per cent of people euthanased were not terminally ill. The Select Committee recommended that people be “terminally ill”, with only months to live.  Wording such as “terminal illness or condition” and “unbearable suffering” are readily abused.  The euthanasia Bill recently debated in the South Australian Parliament contained similar wording, and was described as “dangerous” by AMA President Dr Michael Gannon.

In debating euthanasia, politicians should take advice from experts in the field, rather than public opinion polls. Sadly, the recent Victorian parliamentary inquiry rejected submissions from the Palliative Care Physicians and Geriatricians opposing euthanasia.

Dr John Hayes, FRACP, Consultant Physician      



Published: 17 Jan 2017