The State of Victoria is set to make history as Voluntary assisted dying passes upper house

 

Voluntary euthanasia laws have passed the upper the house after 28-hour sit-in, this leaves the state on the brink of becoming the first state in Australia to legalize assistive dying for the terminally ill. In what is deemed as a conscience vote, The bill passed 22-18 votes in the 40 members upper house, 11 government MP’s backed the bill, four liberals, and five Greens. The ABC is reporting that because the amendments to the bill were agreed, the bill must now go to the lower before it becomes Law.

Main areas 

  1. Patients who want to access the service will have to be assessed by medical practitioners before being able to obtain the drug
  2. They must be over the age 18 and have lived in Victoria for the last 12 months 
  3. The Drug has to be administered by the patient themselves, in rare cases, the doctor could deliver the lethal dose.  
  4. The individual must be suffering from a terminal incurable illness that causes them intolerable suffering. And the person has to make tow formal request as a written statement
  5. Doctors will have the right to refuse to offer information, prescribe or administer assistive suicide medication if they are conscientious objectors.

From 2019, patients suffering intolerable pain will be given the rights to choose doctors assisted suicide.It is estimated that 150 Victorians will ask for doctors assistive suicide.

Analysis

Before we go on let’s get some definitions straight. These definitions are general definitions, defining words like Death and dying is currently a lot more complicated than in times past.

  1. Death –  There are several definitions of death, medically this is the cessation of all vital bodily functions, and there are stages, a person can be brain-dead but still be breathing.  The definition of death is different depending on culture, religion, and ethnicity.
  2. Dying – This is the process that leads to death, for example, an individual with end-stage bone cancer is eventually going to die.
  3. Assisted suicide – Is suicide that is done with an aid of another person, sometimes a physician and this is an important distinction, a doctor does not have to be present
  4. Active Voluntary Euthanasia – This is when a medical intervention is put in place at the express interest of the patient with the view of ending life. Passive euthanasia is when death is brought about by an omission – i.e. when someone lets the person die. 

1 in 5 patient dies at home in America, most patients fear out-living death itself. Research has shown that while the general public is in favor of physician-assisted suicide, most doctors are against it. The resistance is due to the understanding of the hypocritical oath, but do no harm is becoming hard to distinguish. The Australian Medical Association statement says that “doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life. This does not include the discontinuation of treatments that are of no medical benefit to a dying patient”. An important distinction should be made here, if a doctor who is caring for terminally ill patient gives medication to alleviate pain and the patient dies, the doctor will not be charged with homicide. But if a doctor gives medication with the intent of ending a patient’s life and the patient dies then that homicide.

With modern advances in medicine, we can keep people alive for a long time even when there is no quality of life.The main arguments that are given for euthanasia and assistive suicide are; people with terminal illnesses should be able to die a painless death. However, a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most people who ask for assistive suicide do so out of fear of losing autonomy. Other studies have shown that when people are treated for depression they do not ask for assistive suicide. Moreover, even when people are given medication to end their life, there is no guarantee that the medication will work as intended.

Currently, the law as it stands in Australia only the northern territory has provisions within its constitution for doctor-assisted suicide. It passed the law in 1995 which allowed doctors to end the life of a terminally ill patient. In doing so, the law permits both physician-assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia in some circumstances. In other states it is illegal, patients can still refuse treatment, Doctors cannot force treatment on anyone. Physicians still have to consult with families about the wishes of a patient, especially when dealing with the elderly. In a case where the family does not want to pursue any treatment or the treatment is deemed futile, patients are placed in palliative care.

The question then is who gets right to decide when medical treatment is futile? because how patients react to treatment is dependant on a number of factors, such as age, gender, and genetics. There have been cases where people have been given a short time to live because of cancer or other terminal illness, but to everyone surprise, they surpass the time given. Doctors have a fiduciary responsibility to first do no harm, cases, where treatment can be deemed futile, is when aggressive treatment is causing more harm than good.

In conclusion, considering how medicine used to be before the hypocritical oath, doctors then were allowed to both end life and cure it. My view here is legalizing euthanasia will change the way medical practitioners interact with patients. Dr. Philip Nitschke shows us that these laws should not be taken lightly and if passed they should be tightly regulated.

References

Malina, D., PhD., Li, Madeline,M.D., PhD., Watt, S., Escaf, Marnie,H.B.B.A., M.H.A., Gardam, M., M.D., Heesters, A., M.A., . . . Rodin, G., M.D. (2017). Medical assistance in dying — implementing a hospital-based program in canada. The New England Journal of Medicine, 376(21), 2082-2088. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1902164165?accountid=10675

Kasman, D. L. (2004). When Is Medical Treatment Futile?: A Guide for Students, Residents, and Physicians. Journal of General Internal Medicine19(10), 1053–1056. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.40134.x