Euthanasia referendum: An oncologist’s perspective

Stuff co.nz 6 August 2020
Family First Comment: An excellent commentary – from someone who is intimately involved in this issue….
“The other day I phoned a patient to discuss the options for treatment of her cancer and she pleaded with me not to deny her treatment. “I know I may have terminal cancer and I am older but I have so much to live for; please allow me to have treatment,” she said. I reassured her that she would be given any treatment that was suitable for her. It got me thinking that it is easy for patients to feel that somehow, they are not as worthy as others to receive treatment.“

OPINION: I am a doctor and I have worked with cancer patients for over 20 years. I love to just “roll my sleeves up” and do my job.

I do not often speak in public forums or give my opinions on issues, but I am so concerned with the implications of the End of Life Choice Act that I feel the need to speak out and share my story.

The other day I phoned a patient to discuss the options for treatment of her cancer and she pleaded with me not to deny her treatment. “I know I may have terminal cancer and I am older but I have so much to live for; please allow me to have treatment,” she said. I reassured her that she would be given any treatment that was suitable for her.

It got me thinking that it is easy for patients to feel that somehow, they are not as worthy as others to receive treatment.

One of the great privileges of my job is that I can care for those who in society’s eyes may be considered vulnerable. In my practice I care for patients with brain damage, elderly folk (96 is my record so far), prisoners, people with extreme learning difficulties, with severe mental illness and with hearing or visual impairment.

Each of these patients is in addition receiving care for terminal conditions. Should the End of Life Choice Act become law, each of these patients may become open to subtle coercion to feel that requesting medically assisted dying would be ‘the right thing to do’ to avoid being a financial or physical burden to those who care for them.

The Oregon Health Authority reports that 59 per cent of patients who requested assisted suicide in 2019 gave being a burden to their family as one of their reasons.

Dr Melissa James is a radiation oncologist affiliated with the organisation Doctors say no.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/122351691/euthanasia-referendum-an-oncologists-perspective

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