Sunday, October 22, 2017

Australian Medical Association (AMA) opposes bill to legalize euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

On Friday, October 20, after 26 hours of debate, the Victoria Australia State Lower House passed an assisted dying bill by a vote of 47 to 37. The bill will now be debated by the Victoria State upper house.

Michael Gannon President
Australia Medical Association
The President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is clear that physicians who kill their patients are contravening the code of ethics.


Michael Gannon, who was the chair of the AMA ethics committee while they debated euthanasia, and who is now the AMA President, explained the position of the Australian Medical Association in an article published in the Australian on October 20. Gannon wrote:
The AMA’s statement contains several key points. Most important, it is a positive piece, an advocacy document that calls for better end-of-life care. It calls for better education of the community on advanced care planning and the “doctrine of double effect” — that is, the notion that a death hastened by a treatment to ease suffering does not constitute euthanasia. 
Importantly, it calls for much greater investment in palliative care. 
There are similar sentiments in recommendations one to 48 of the Victorian upper house committee inquiry into end-of-life choices. Overall, this is a good report, but it was written by a group of parliamentarians known to favour EPAS. MPs did not visit jurisdictions that had elected not to implement euthanasia. They would have done well to read the detailed and careful deliberations of the House of Lords in Britain. 
It is so important that conversations on EPAS do not fail to take into account the impact such laws would have on the rest of the health system and society as a whole.
Gannon continues by emphasizing that doctors should never kill their patients.
The AMA’s statement acknowledges the diversity of opinion in the community. It acknowledges the diversity of opinion within the medical profession. 
But at its heart is a clear statement that “doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life”. 
I do not doubt the compassion or motives of most people promoting the bill in Victoria. I have heard numerous moving stories of the helplessness people feel when they watch a loved one die. 
Compassion is what drives doctors. It is at the heart of our code of ethics. I do not lack compassion for those who have watched a loved one die. ... 
The Victorian parliament has other opportunities to improve the end-of-life care it provides its citizens. That people suffer painful or prolonged deaths should be a clarion call to improve end-of-life care.
Gannon then focuses on the almost unanimous opposition to euthanasia held by national medical associations. Gannon writes:
At the recent World Medical Association meeting in Chicago, we endorsed what was only the fourth editorial revision of the 1947 Declaration of Geneva. At the heart of medical ethics is the sanctity of human life. 
It is not surprising that 107 of 109 national medical associations affiliated with the WMA have statements opposing EPAS. This includes the US and Germany, nations with one form or another of EPAS law.
Gannon finishes his article by emphasizing that euthanasia and assisted suicide contravene the code of ethics for physicians.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are at odds with modern and ancient codes of medical ethics. Every life is precious: the 10-year-old boy in Roebourne with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and severe autism, the 36-year-old veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, the 68-year-old woman in Morwell with metastatic cancer and no children to be with her as she dies. 
I do not seek to diminish or demean the opinions of those doctors who hold a different view to AMA policy. This debate is vexed. It is difficult. 
But the AMA’s position statement — which I was elected to prosecute, protect and promote — is the result of thousands of hours of work supported by generations of wisdom and ethics.
The Victoria Australia upper house needs to reject the euthanasia bill.

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