The Australian 24 November 2016
Family First Comment: “The Australian Medical ¬Association will today unveil a policy rejecting euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, but which acknowledges for the first time that right-to-die laws are ¬“ultimately a matter for society and government”. The position statement, previewed exclusively by The Australian, spells out how doctors can ethically give drugs and treatment to dying patients that hasten death, provided the intent is to ¬relieve suffering.”
Exactly the way it currently is, and should remain.
The Australian Medical Association will today unveil a policy rejecting euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, but which acknowledges for the first time that right-to-die laws are “ultimately a matter for society and government”.
The position statement, previewed exclusively by The Australian, spells out how doctors can ethically give drugs and treatment to dying patients that hasten death, provided the intent is to relieve suffering.
The AMA spent a year revising its stance on euthanasia after the hot-button issue was revived by an ultimately unsuccessful cross-party bid in South Australia to push right-to-die legislation through the state parliament and ongoing moves to frame such a law in Victoria with the backing of senior ministers in Daniel Andrews’ Labor government.
The AMA review was underpinned by a survey of 30,000 doctors. About 4000 responses came in, AMA president Michael Gannon said yesterday.
Views split narrowly in favour of retaining the AMA’s existing policy that doctors should not take any action primarily intended to cause the death of a patient. Doctors could, however, “relieve symptoms which may have a secondary consequence of hastening death”, the new position statement says.
Dr Gannon said 30 per cent of the responding doctors favoured a change in AMA policy to endorse or to shift to a neutral position on euthanasia, while 15 per cent were undecided.
The relatively close margin of about 55-45 per cent for and against or undecided on the existing policy underlines that doctors are as divided as the public.
The position statement says: “The AMA recognises there are divergent views within the medical profession and broader community in relation to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.”
Crucially, an even clearer majority of AMA members said if voluntary euthanasia were made legal at the state and territory level, doctors should be involved in helping terminally ill people die rather than dig in on principle and boycott the process.
Reflecting this, the AMA has altered its position to say: “If governments decide that laws should be changed to allow for the practice of euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide, the medical profession must be involved in the development of relevant legislation, regulations and guidelines.”
This would protect doctors who acted within the law, as well as patients at risk of coercion and “undue influence”, or those who might ask to die for fear of being a burden to family and carers.
“The fact that a majority of doctors don’t support a change in our statement or the law did not surprise me,” Dr Gannon told The Australian.
READ MORE: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/health/most-doctors-would-help-terminally-ill-die-ama/news-story/82a3d43d1c8742230a406e8ebe0cedb9