Cross-posted from Paul Russell’s Blog
Dr Paul Dunne from REALdignitytas today rejected the conclusion of the Australia21 Report on voluntary euthanasia, that voluntary euthanasia occurs “not infrequently” in Australia.
“That statement is simply incorrect” said Dr Dunne. “Many people promoting euthanasia, deliberately confuse euthanasia with current lawful medical practice, including the withdrawal of treatment or administration of pain relief. There is no reliable evidence that doctors currently intentionally kill their patients in Tasmania, they are simply providing lawful and compassionate end of life care”.
“In relation to calls to enact legislation to “protect doctors” who work in end of life care, I contend that doctors have adequate protection under the law as it exists” stated Dr Dunne.
“The proponents of euthanasia are fostering a climate of fear and distress through the constant repetition that death is always painful and people must end their lives to avoid suffering” stated Dr Dunne. “These claims undermine the excellent work that occurs in the palliative care sector and also undermines the doctor patient relationship”.
Dr Dunne also rejected the report’s statement that appropriate safeguards can be implemented to protect vulnerable people and prevent abuse in so-called “assisted dying” regimes. “This Australia21 report ignores significant studies undertaken in Belgium where euthanasia is legal” said Dr Dunne. “The Belgium studies show that in 32% of cases the patient did not explicitly request to be killed. This group of patients had distinct characteristics: they were over 80, they were in hospital, and they were not dying from cancer. 70% were comatose and 21% suffered from dementia. This is extremely worrying – our most vulnerable members of society simply killed off at the convenience of others”.
Dr Dunne stated: “How can the Australia21 report be taken seriously when it fails to address important evidence like this”.
Dr Dunne also expressed concern about the mixed messages the report sends to those contemplating suicide, by suggesting that legalising assisted suicide might help people who are suicidal. “ “Suicide Contagion” has been closely studied and is a known phenomenon both in relation to suicide and assisted suicide” said Dr Dunne. “Studies have shown that copycat suicides and assisted suicides occur following the reporting of such events. Depressed and vulnerable people are very open to suggestion. Rather than surround terminally ill people with systems to assist and normalise suicide, our community should consistently reaffirm the value of their life and take all steps to make that person comfortable and relieve their suffering. Killing people is not a compassionate response to their distress.”
Dr Dunne also dismissed the deliberate attempt of the Australia21 report to situate opposition to euthanasia as “religious” opposition. “This is simply nonsense” he stated “Do you ever hear people calling for the crime of murder to be removed from the criminal code because the idea that killing someone is wrong is a “religious” concept? The principle of the inviolability of life, is a principle that has underpinned our system of criminal law and medical ethics since time immemorial.”
Until his retirement last year, Dr Dunne was head of palliative care services for Tasmania
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