International

Most doctors in New Zealand unwilling to euthanize their own patients

Dutch euthanasia, assisted suicide

Palliative care workers in New Zealand are concerned that the recent legalization of euthanasia in the nation is going to lead to countless deaths of people who would have actually preferred to continue living with proper medical care and pain relief. The End of Life Choice Act will take effect on November 7, 2021, but dangerous issues exist.

According to RNZ.co.nz, palliative care specialists are speaking out concerning the inadequacy of the six-hour euthanasia online training and the lack of medical professionals who actually want to commit euthanasia.

Dr. Catherine D’Souza, a senior member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, said patients will be sent to people who do not have expertise or background in end-of-life care and pain management. In fact, Medical Council Chairman Curtis Walker said that health practitioners will not be required to have specialist skills to carry out euthanasia.

“Any registered doctor and nurse practitioner with an up-to-date, annual practising certificate is counted as a medical practitioner under this act,” he said. All that is required is online training that will take up to six hours.

In addition, a Ministry of Health survey found that fewer than 30% of the health practitioners in New Zealand were “possibly or definitely” willing to commit euthanasia. While supporters of euthanasia believe this is a good amount of doctors, most of the country’s 33 hospices refused to take part in euthanasia.

With few doctors willing to participate in killing their patients, euthanasia may be available only from a small group of doctors who have no connection to the patients. (This parallels how the abortion industry functions, with doctors specializing in abortions who typically have no prior relationship with their abortion patients). Palliative Care professor Rod MacLeod said nearly every week he spent working in hospice care, a patient said they wished to end their life. But in his 32-year career, all but one of those patients changed their minds.

READ: Pro-life doctors in New Zealand sue to regain conscience protection rights

“I’ve had lots and lots of people ask me for assisted dying,” he explained. “But with palliative care provided those requests melt away.”

This means that people who otherwise would have wished to live with proper palliative care will be euthanized by doctors who have no previously established doctor/patient relationship with those patients. The Ministry of Health said doctors committing euthanasia must encourage patients to talk to their families about their decision to die but are not required to discuss their desire with anyone.

“I’d just feel incredibly sad if somebody wanted to end their life because of pain when they hadn’t had the chance to let a specialist have a go at trying to get it better under control,” Dr. D’Souza said.

Opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide warn that this kind of death is not the “death with dignity” that proponents claim it to be. Ilora Finlay, a leading palliative care doctor in Ireland, revealed at the End of Life Matters conference that death by euthanasia is not simple. The person must either take a stack of pills or an injection. The death appears peaceful to the observer, but in reality, after the injection, the person dies by drowning as their lungs fill with fluid. Finlay also said the patients do not die quickly, sometimes lingering for as long as 100 hours.

“This isn’t a gentle peaceful death. It just looks peaceful,” she said, “because they can’t move their muscles and they’re paralyzed.”

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