All the patients were near the end of their lives: 15 faced death within a week and one was expected to survive one to four weeks.
The GPs “attributed death to a drug that had been prescribed, supplied, or administered explicitly for the purpose of hastening the patient’s death”, according to the results of a survey of GPs published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal.
The survey results follow the decision of Parliament’s health select committee this week to hold an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.
A petition from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society was presented to Parliament by supporters including Matt Vickers, the widower of Lecretia Seales, who died last month, aged 42, from a brain tumour. She was unsuccessful in seeking a High Court ruling that would let her doctor help her die without criminal prosecution.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal. But the survey of GPs provides few details of the life-shortening drugs which were given – in some cases by more than one person – by two doctors, 15 nurses and one “other” person.
The exception is the GP who reported involving a hospice home-care team, say the Auckland University researchers, Dr Phillipa Malpas – a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – and her colleagues.
Doctors and nurses more involved in patients’ ‘end-of-life’ decisions – study
Stuff co.nz 24 July 2015
Doctors and nurses are playing increasing roles in prescribing, supplying or administering drugs that may hasten a patient’s death, according to new research.
A University of Auckland study anonymously surveyed 650 GPs.
Sixteen reported prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit intention of bringing death about more quickly.
But in 15 of those cases, it was nurses who administered the drugs.
Researchers acknowledged the actions of the GPs would generally be understood as euthanasia, but the survey did not use that term.
In the survey, led by Auckland University senior lecturer Dr Phillipa Malpas, GPs were asked about the last death at which they were the attending doctor.