NZ Herald 23 March 2017
Family First Comment: “Since there are currently no medical indications for ending a person’s life, the use of the word “medical” by legislators dishonestly transfers undue responsibility for the act of euthanasia to the medical profession. Termination of life is an anathema to most doctors and I doubt if many will wish to participate. Palliative care physicians, arguably the most trusted and empathetic members of our profession, will not have a bar of it. This may lead to a small coterie of doctors who wish to be involved – “Doctor Deaths” – a phrase that will not be welcomed by the profession or most of the public.”
Most individuals have strongly held views either for or against the proposed euthanasia legislation. My own views are those of a retired, perhaps somewhat cynical, doctor who has spent most of his professional life caring for women with gynaecological cancer.
During this time I was never asked to deliberately end the life of one of them; my wife died of cancer in her mid-40s.
A Herald editorial pointed out Parliament’s health committee has “an unenviable task”, observing, “the weight of public opinion appears to support a right to die with deliberate medical assistance though the weight of medical opinion remains decidedly against it”.
While I, and many other doctors, may have sympathies with both sides of this debate, doctors are not God, and the majority, for moral, ethical, legal and professional reasons, do not wish to become involved in killing their patients.
This emotive subject is coloured by semantics and euphemisms. The Oxford Dictionary defines medicine as “the science or practice of the prevention and treatment of disease”. This definition does not include euthanasia.
“Medically assisted dying” is a classic euphemism for euthanasia. David Seymour’s proposed End-of-Life Choice bill included the words “medically” or “medical” 178 times. The word provides an aura of caring, respectability, trust and legitimacy.
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