11/21/2013

ANZSPM: "Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not a solution to patient suffering"

Xavier Simons wrote an excellent article and published by BioEdge on November 16. This article is particularly important against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Palliative care is undermined by euthanasia and assisted suicide, according to many palliative care organisations. In Australia, where end-of-life issues are hotly debated, the leading palliative care body has joined the chorus of opposition.

The Australia and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) has released a new position statement on the practices, arguing that euthanasia and assisted suicide are not a solution to patient suffering, and that legalising the procedures would take attention away from the real issue - a lack of access to palliative care.

In the document the ANZSPM emphasises, "There is a clear distinction between good care for the dying and active interventions instituted in order to deliberately end the life of a patient." Instead of providing VE or PAS, doctors should try to alleviate symptoms: "When requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide arise, particular attention should be given to gaining good symptom control, especially of those symptoms that research has highlighted may commonly be associated with a serious and sustained ‘desire for death’ (e.g. depressive disorders and poorly controlled pain)."

Out of a the ten point policy statement, three points stressed "the significant deficits in the provision of palliative care in Australia and New Zealand". ANZSPM called for new government "health reform programs", as well as increased carer support for respite care, so as "decrease the sense of burden for many patients at the end of life." Statements also stressed: "When requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide arise, particular attention should be given to gaining good symptom control, especially of those symptoms that research has highlighted may commonly be associated with a serious and sustained "desire for death" (e.g. depressive disorders and poorly controlled pain). In such situations early referral to an appropriate specialist should be considered. Despite the best that Palliative Care can offer to support patients in their suffering, appropriate specialist Palliative Care to remedy physical, psychological and spiritual difficulties may not relieve all suffering at all times."

See also an excellent article by Lawyer, Margaret Dore: Quick Facts About Assisted Suicide. This article is particularly important considering the push in New Jersey to legalize assisted suicide.

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