Dying with Dignity Tasmania has welcomed the open-minded approach by Liberal MPs and Labor member, Lara Giddings, to a new voluntary assisted dying Bill. The President of DwDTas, Margaret Sing, said today that a collaborative effort is the best guarantee of effective and safe legislation that meets the needs and wishes of the broad community.
“The top priority has to be the people with intolerable and unrelievable suffering at the end of their lives and who want a choice to end that suffering through a peaceful and dignified death. But there are wider benefits for doctors faced with such difficult situations when they run out of options, and for the rest of the community who want the comfort of knowing there’s an option if they end up in this situation”, Ms Sing said. “We have no doubt that politicians of goodwill can reach agreement based on their compassion and respect for the people with terrible suffering and for their doctors, and based on the overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of safeguards in overseas legislation. So much of the opposition seems to be based on ignorance and an inaccurate and distorted picture, combined with irrational fears that doctors are going to behave illegally, irresponsibly and without due care.”
Ms Sing said it was disturbing that the AMA was repeating fears instead of doing their research and making evidence-based decisions as they do in their medical practice and on other issues. She said it was also of concern that the AMA was presenting such a one-sided view rather than representing the different views of members. “No-one knows how many doctors support assisted dying legislation. But when you look at surveys done in Victoria, the US, and in Canada by the Canadian Medical Association, you can reasonably assume that close to half our doctors now support it.” She said that while the AMA represents some doctors a survey of their members would still provide valuable information on the type of legislation that has the most support. DwDTas also urges the AMA to follow the lead of the Canadian Medical Association and support the principle that individual doctors have the right to follow their own conscience if assisted dying legislation is passed by the Parliament, as they do in the case of abortion.
Ms Sing said that DwDTas would continue to provide up to date, quality information to allay fears and concerns of MPs and to work with them to get badly needed assisted dying legislation as soon as possible.
Doctor surveys …
Victoria – The surveys are slightly dated but the ones referred to include:
a repeated study in 1987, 1993 and 2004, reported on in an article in the December 2008 Journal of Medical Ethics (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2598223/?tool=pubmed) a newspaper survey in 2008 (see report at http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/gps-back-call-formercy-killings/story-e6frf7jo-1111116923898)
US – In December 2014, it was reported that in a survey of 21,000 US doctors, 54% supported ‘aid in dying’, an increase from 46% in 2010. (http://www.nbcnews.com/health/healthnews/most-u-s-doctors-now-support-aid-dying-survey-n269691)
Canada – A Canadian Medical Association sponsored survey in mid-2014 of almost 5,000 members showed:
44.8% said they were in favour of legalizing physician-assisted death [ie prescription of drugs to be self-administered by the patient] 36.3% said they felt euthanasia should be legalized [ie doctor-administered drugs]
26.7% said they would be likely or very likely to participate if physician-assisted death was legalized. (https://www.cma.ca/En/Pages/Physician-perspective-on-end-of-life-issues-fullyaired.aspx)
At the CMA Annual General Conference in August 2014, 91% voted in favour of allowing individual physicians to follow their conscience in deciding whether or not to provide assistance. (http://www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/19aug14_conscience-should-guide-doctors-at-end-oflife.xhtml)
A December 2014 article reported: “The nation’s largest doctors’ group [the Canadian Medical Association] is quietly preparing for possible changes in federal laws governing physician assisted death, as support among its own members for medical aid in dying grows”. This has included consulting “with medical associations in jurisdictions around the world where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal to devise possible protocols for Canada if the federal law is changed”. (www.thestarphoenix.com/health/Doctors+quietly+prepare+assisted+dying/10672703/story.html)
Margaret Sing, President, Dying with Dignity Tasmania