by Care Alliance, 14 July 2017
#3 Why involve doctors? Why not lawyers?
- The New Zealand Medical Association Position Statement on Euthanasia states: “Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. Doctor-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical … This NZMA position is not dependent on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide remaining unlawful. Even if they were to become legal, or decriminalised, the NZMA would continue to regard them as unethical.” The World Medical Association Resolution on Euthanasia “strongly encourages all National Medical Associations and physicians to refrain from participating in euthanasia, even if national law allows it or decriminalizes it under certain conditions”.
- The Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) Position Statement on Euthanasia (2017) states: “In accordance with best practice guidelines internationally, the discipline of Palliative Medicine does not include the practices of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.”
- The Scotland Report on Assisted Suicide reports that both supporters and opponents of the Assisted Suicide Bill acknowledge that “the involvement of healthcare professionals in assisted suicide, even if it were legal, would not amount to ‘medical treatment’” (n. 207). Similarly, Boudreau and Somerville note “… healing and euthanizing are simply not miscible [able to be combined] and euthanasia can never be considered ‘medical treatment’” (p. 63).
- The most common recent argument for Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia, “that patients have a right to control when and how they die – in fact points to the involvement not of doctors but of legal agencies as decision makers, plus technicians as agents” (p. 323).
- In Oregon, the most common reasons for requesting assisted suicide are social/existential rather than medical; 90% are concerned about losing autonomy; 90% are concerned about being unable to engage in enjoyable activities; 65% are concerned about loss of dignity; and 49% fear being a burden on family and/or friends/caregivers. Only 35% cite inadequate pain control or concerns about inadequate pain control as one of their reasons.
Conclusion: Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not medical treatment. “Doctors are not necessary in the regulation or practice of assisted suicide. They are included only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy”.