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We can’t let voluntary assisted dying negate our commitment to the ill

Natasha Michael, The Age, 22 May 2019

Palliative care doctor Natasha Michael discusses how euthanasia will impact palliative care from her personal experience with death, patients and palliative care.

The introduction of the voluntary assisted dying legislation in Victoria on June 19 will remind us of the occasional failure of medicine. Healthcare was designed with disease in mind, not people. The legislation introduces three major threats to healthcare: validating suicide as an acceptable choice; accepting substandard medical care by supporting the lack of rigour in defining eligibility; and finally, introducing into the healthcare curriculum the intentional ending of life as acceptable medical treatment. Hereby, a new generation of healthcare professionals abdicate their commitment to the sick.

For the patient, the convolutions of modern medicine, the uncertainty of therapeutics, the conundrum of multiple doctors across multiple sites bring an uncertain horizon and instil existential anguish. Their journey of illness is ultimately alienating and lonely. For many, it is the desperation for the restoration of dignity and the return of normality that drives the desire for death: “I want to die, let me die.” Not: “Kill me.”

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