An Australian doctor has spoken out against the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying he wants to help people, not kill them.
Dr John Obeid, an experienced geriatrician who cares for the frail and elderly in the last stages of their lives, said he doesn’t want assisted suicide or euthanasia as options in his “medical toolbox”.
Politicians in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) are currently considering legalising the practices.
Obeid said: “Medical science has provided us with a plethora of medications for pain management (and indeed for all other symptoms one might experience at the end of life) so there is no reason for a patient to languish in physical pain.”
He added that the real question was not whether politicians should legislate to allow to assisted suicide, but to address the lack of funding given to palliative care services.
He also expressed alarm that under the proposals in Victoria and NSW “a patient need not be suffering physical pain to be eligible for assisted suicide”.
Instead, the Bills permit assisted suicide for those suffering from “existential or psychological pain that they deem unbearable.”
He said it was not uncommon for patients approaching death or those with a terminal illness to go through a period of distress, but that the response should be provide healing through care and compassion.
“It is unthinkable that we would assist such vulnerable patients with suicide”, he said.
‘Duty to die’
Obeid also highlighted the “overwhelming evidence” from other countries that legalising on the basis of personal autonomy is flawed.
He said that “what appears to be a personal choice is often in fact someone else’s choice, and what starts as a ‘right to die’ soon becomes a duty to die”.
In Oregon last year, nearly half of those who were underwent doctor-assisted suicide did so on the basis that they felt a burden on their family or caregivers.
The Australian Medical Association and the World Medical Association (WMA) have released statements opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The WMA, which represents over 10 million doctors, said legalisation would “create a situation of direct conflict with physicians’ ethical obligations to patients and will harm the ‘ethical tone’ of the profession”.