Dominion Post 24 Aug 2012
Angry doctors are appalled at Prime Minister John Key’s claims that euthanasia already happens in hospitals.
“We never practise euthanasia; euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life, and is illegal and unethical,” Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine chairwoman Sinead Donnelly said.
Mr Key’s comments could seriously damage the trust people had in hospital care of the seriously ill, the Wellington doctor said.
Mr Key signalled his broad support for euthanasia – medical assistance to die – during a stint on Newstalk ZB this week.
“If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain – if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I’d want that.”
Hospice New Zealand clinical adviser Sandy Macleod said “euthanasia does not occur in our hospitals, full stop”.
Dr Macleod, a palliative care specialist at Christchurch Hospital, said Mr Key’s comments were misguided and incorrect.
“As sickness progresses towards death, the focus of care is on minimising suffering. To minimise suffering, it is not necessary to kill the sufferer.
“Often morphine is blamed for people dying, or sedation is blamed for people dying, but the reality is they die of their disease and neither of those medical treatments hastens their death.”
Capital & Coast District Health Board head of palliative care Jonathan Adler said there was a lack of understanding about end-of-life choices.
Switching off a life support machine and allowing someone to die of natural causes was not euthanasia, Dr Adler said.