Euthanasia too final when the risk of error is too great – Doctors

by Stacey Kirk, Stuff, 14 September 2016

Dr Stephen Child, chair of the New Zealand Medical Association, appeared before the Health Select Committee investigation into the desire to end one’s life.

Short-changing a terminally ill patient on their prognosis and the grey area between a “rational” suicide and an “irrational” one, pose too great a risk for doctors to support euthanasia laws.  

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), which represents about 5500 medical professionals, has told MPs it could not support any changes to allow assisted suicide. 

Doctors were not always right in forming a patient’s prognosis, Child said. 

“On diagnosis, 10 to 15 per cent of autopsies show that the diagnosis was incorrect. Three per cent of diagnoses of cancer are incorrect. 

“You need to have a terminal illness with death within six months, and there are many examples in Oregon (which has legalised euthanasia) of which death is longer than six months.” 

NZMA “wholeheartedly” supported patient autonomy, which included the right for patients to refuse treatment, or ask for treatment to be withheld.

“We also believe in the right of the administration of… pain relief and other medications, for the purpose of relieving pain and suffering, even if the secondary consequence of that treatment may hasten death,” Child said.

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