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Over a thousand New Zealand doctors reject euthanasia

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, June 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Not all doctors are keen to kill their patients.

In New Zealand, 1,085 doctors so far have signed an open letter to their fellow citizens saying they won’t do it.

“We endorse the views of the World Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association that physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal,” they wrote.

The doctors continued, “We are committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort, including the provision of effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care.” (Full letter reproduced below.)

The signatories also hold that patients have the right to refuse treatment and it is “ethical and legal” to give them “proper provision of pain relief” even if it unintentionally brings death more quickly. However, they are adamant that the doctor-patient relationship would be weakened if doctors began to kill their patients.

“We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to die would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship, which is based on trust and respect,” they stated.

The doctors are also conscious that some patients might feel it’s their duty to choose death so as not to inconvenience others. 

“We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and we are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden,” they said.

The letter is the brainchild of Care Alliance, a palliative care advocacy group that opposes a bill to make euthanasia legal in New Zealand. The “End-of-Life Choice Bill” was first proposed by MP David Seymour, the leader of the ACT (Association of Consumers and Taxpayers) Party, in 2015. In 2017, the Bill passed its first reading, and it is now in its second reading. To become law, it will have to pass a third reading.

According to Radio New Zealand, Seymour believes the Bill will pass its second reading on Wednesday. He dismissed the doctors’ letter as the expression of a minority view.  

"This represents six percent of New Zealand's doctors, all of whom will have the right to opt out if the End-of-Life Choice Bill becomes law, what they don't have a right to do is deny choice to all of those New Zealanders who do actually want it," the MP said.

However, RNZ also reported that Dr. Sinead Donnelly of Care Alliance told MPs that if they vote in doctor-caused death, they will destroy her profession. 

"As doctors, we don't want to be part of it. You're going to, in our view, destroy the profession of medicine by drawing us into ending the life of our patients,” she said.

"The risk to the vulnerable is much too great."

According to Dr. Kate Baddock, chair of the New Zealand Medical Association, if the bill is made into law, the association will lobby for a situation in which doctors are not involved. 

Most of the New Zealand Medical Association’s more than 5,000 members oppose euthanasia, she explained. 

An Open Letter to New Zealanders:


Doctors want no part in assisted suicide

 

We endorse the views of the World Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association that physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal.

We are committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort, including the provision of effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care.

We uphold the right of patients to decline treatment, as set out in the NZ Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.

We know that the proper provision of pain relief, even if it may unintentionally hasten the death of the patient, is ethical and legal.  Equally the withdrawal or withholding of futile treatment in favour of palliative care is ethical and legal.

We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to die would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and respect.

We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and we are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden.

Doctors are not necessary in the regulation or practice of assisted suicide.  They are included only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy.  Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Join us

If you are a New Zealand doctor and would like to add your name to this Open Letter, please email [email protected] with your name, qualifications and Medical Council registration number.

 

'Doctors say no' is an Open Letter to all New Zealanders by doctors supporting the World Medical Association and New Zealand Medical Association position statements that euthanasia and assisted suicide are unethical, even if they were to become legal.

 

This initiative has been organised by the Care Alliance, a charitable trust committed to nurturing better conversations about dying in Aotearoa New Zealand.

 

Total number of signatories: 1085

 


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