Euthanasia Undermines Established Medical Ethics

Many of us have experienced the pain of watching loved ones suffer and die. And its normal to fear suffering at the end of our own lives.

But changes are not needed in order to effectively treat severe pain.

It’s entirely legal for a doctor to administer as much medication as needed to relieve a patient’s pain and other symptoms – even if such medication hastens the patient’s death as a side effect of that treatment.

If a patient were to die as a result of the medication, the doctor would not be at fault, because of their “intention”… Their intention was to relieve the patient’s symptoms – not cause their death. It is the same as a patient dying in surgery while being treated for a life-threatening illness or injury.

The importance of ‘intention’ comes from thousands of years of established medical ethics – which have maintained the principle that it’s unethical for a doctor to kill their patients on purpose.

Euthanasia shatters this principle. Euthanasia makes it allowable for a doctor to intentionally kill their patients, in certain circumstances, with a fatal dose of drugs.

This is why the World Medical Association, and the medical associations of almost all countries around the world including New Zealand, oppose euthanasia.

As the Australian Medical Association stated: “Doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life”

Euthanasia requires modifying the definition of healthcare to include intentional killing. Categorising euthanasia as a “health service” to legitimises it, making it sound somehow, safe.

As people generally trust health professionals – euthanasia soon becomes more acceptable, simply because a doctor is doing it.

But all over the world, most doctors do not want to be involved in euthanasia.

Labelling intentional killing as “healthcare” creates some disturbing consequences:

The first of these involves money.

The problem with calling “death” a “medical treatment”, is the fact that a one-off, fatal overdose is a LOT cheaper than complex, ongoing, medical treatments and care.

So, it’s no surprise that some terminally ill people in the U.S. states of Oregon and California were told that their medical insurance won’t pay for their chemotherapy, but would pay for deadly drugs for assisted suicide instead.

The second problem with calling “death” healthcare… is that it can be advertised as such – in hospitals, medical clinics, waiting rooms, and in the media. New Zealand and the United States allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medications. (I, Rowan, just added this because it’s something I know about which I think adds something)

So, imagine a TV ad saying: “Ask your doctor if assisted dying is right for you”

People struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts could be triggered and encouraged by such ads.

And terminally ill people, who may otherwise never consider euthanasia, would be confronted with this decision… on top of the huge burdens they already face.

A third problem…   when Euthanasia is offered as just another treatment option –there is increasing pressure on health practitioners to be involved… even if they do not want to be.

Is it right to force doctors to be involved in a medical system that condones intentional killing, contrary to established medical ethics?

Only 17 New Zealand doctors have signed an open letter in support of euthanasia. By contrast, more than 1500 New Zealand doctors have signed an open letter saying “No”.

The “No” letter ends with this request: “Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have serious negative, unintended and often overlooked consequences.  We cover these in our other videos.

But However, one of the more disturbing negative effects on a society comes from changing the definition of healthcare to include the intentional ending of life.

This radically redefines established medical ethics in most Western countries and undermines the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr Sinéad Donnelly, who specialises in caring for terminally ill people, says the practice of Euthanasia “only involves doctors to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy.  Killing is not caring.”

She goes on to say…

“Please leave doctors out of it so that we can focus on caring for our patients.”

If you enjoy our videos, please support us so we can make more like these.

Visit support.thinkingmatters.org.nz – and while there check out our other resources and events.