Doctors helping patients die as assisted death debate rolls on
Stuff co.nz 13 July 2015
More than one in ten doctors have helped a patient die despite potentially breaking the law, a survey suggests.
In a fax poll of general practitioners, conducted by magazine New Zealand Doctor and IMS Health, nearly 12 per cent of respondents said they had helped a patient die. About two out of five doctors also said they had been asked to help a patient die, although most had refused.
The poll, reported in New Zealand Doctor was based on the responses from 110 doctors, which means about 13 doctors admitted to helping a patient die.
It comes after terminally ill Wellington lawyer Seales’ high-profile court battle to seek legal clarification for doctors, allowing them to help terminally ill patients die at a time of their choosing without risking prosecution. Seales died of a brain tumour on June 5, living long enough to be told the judge in the case, Justice David Collins, had decided it was still against the law for doctors to help their patients to die.
But the issue remains strongly contested and the poll suggested the medical community also remains divided. Of those surveyed, 45.5 per cent believed the law needed to change to legally protect doctors who helped terminally ill patients die, compared to 44.5 per cent who did not.
Some doctors responding to the survey said even if they weren’t helping patients die, pain relief could effectively have the same outcome.