Friday, February 5, 2016

Assisted suicide should NOT be done by doctors

From today's Ottawa Citizen regarding Dr. Margaret Somerville's take on physician assisted dying:
"She said the harms and risks can be limited if government adopts these recommendations: 
  • To avoid the future “normalization” of physician-assisted dying, any new law must make it clear that it is an exception, should only be used as a last resort, and will be used rarely.
“If Canada had the same percentage of total deaths of deaths by (physician-assisted dying) as the Netherlands and Belgium currently have (about 4 per cent and 4.6 per cent, respectively) we would have between 11,000 and 12,000 deaths each year.” 
  • Patients requesting such a death must first be offered high-quality palliative care, including fully adequate pain management.
  • A new profession should be established to carry out physician-assisted dying. The practitioners should not be health care professionals or, if so, only ones who have permanently retired from practice. Practitioners should be specially trained, licensed and have travel money provided to give people across Canada equal access to euthanasia.
“For nearly 2,500 years, physicians and the profession of medicine have recognized that assisted suicide and euthanasia are not medical treatment and this position should be maintained and these interventions kept out of medicine,” Somerville told the committee.
“If this approach is not adopted, two publicly available lists of physicians and institutions should be established, those which will provide euthanasia and those which will not. This is a reasonable compromise between Canadians who agree with euthanasia and those who oppose or fear it.” 
  • Assisted death should be restricted to people who are terminally ill, with a life expectancy of less than four weeks, from a physical illness, disease or disability and experiencing extreme physical suffering.
It should not be allowed for children unable to consent for themselves. “Whether it should be available for ‘mature minors’ is a separate question.” 
  • There must be psychiatric consultation to rule out depression, or coercion, undue influence of others, or duress, “at the least where there is any possibility of these factors affecting the request or consent to it or any doubts about the person’s mental competency.”
  • A Superior Court judge should certify that all legal requirements for access to the procedure have been met.
  • There must be a minimum 15-day waiting after the patient’s request to die.
  • A national research and review body should be established to collect records of all cases, investigate where there might have been non-compliance with the law, and report, at least annually, in a way that does not breach individuals’ privacy, but informs Parliament, provincial legislatures, courts, professional licensing and disciplinary bodies, medical institutions, the public.
“This body should also be able to make recommendations for changes in law, regulations or practice when these are needed to prevent abuse of euthanasia or to protect vulnerable people.”"
I agree with Dr. Somerville especially about doctors not being the killers, and said so in this letter to the National Post in December 2014:
"Should Canada ever find itself in the sorry state wherein assisted suicide is legal, it should not be up to the doctors to perform this task. Doctors went into medicine to save lives, not to end them. Doctors are healers, not killers.
Instead, there should be a new “death technician” job for euthanasia and assisted suicide. These people would be technicians who are trained in killing people. They can’t be doctors, because obviously, it is a conflict of interest to be a doctor and also to end people’s lives. When we see one of these “death technicians” walking the halls of the hospital, there would be no mistake as to what their duties are.
When and if I am ever in the hospital knowing that my life is nearing its natural end, I want to make sure that my doctor — who has my life in his hands — would never ever willfully aid in my demise. Conversely if I see the death technician enter my room, there would be no doubt as to why he’s there."

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