A compassionate act that is part of the job

VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA

I applaud Dr Percy Rogers in his telling of how he relieved his friend of a miserable death by doses of morphine (‘‘ He was on the bed gasping in terrible pain and looking for some relief’’ , 8/5/2014). Dr Rogers is a member of our medical group supporting legislation to permit legal voluntary euthanasia. He is one of about 100 doctors who are able to proclaim publicly that they stand in favour of voluntary euthanasia. I, too, recall clearly how many years ago as a young locum specialist in England, I came across this sad individual lying near death in a side ward. She had had ovarian cancer that her doctors had missed and I surmise they felt too guilty to let her go. I instructed the nursing sister to give large doses of morphine and by the following morning the poor woman was dead, much to everyone’s relief. There are so many of us doctors performing this illegal act that it is almost conventional and dare I say, ‘‘ best practice’’ . I wish Rodney Syme every success in his campaign.

Dr Rosemary Jones, North Adelaide

Legislators need to rise to this challenge

What if every doctor in Australia who has compassionately acceded to the request of a terminally ill patient to hasten their death now admits it? The weight of that challenge will surely force governments to reform the law and decriminalise the act. Of course, every such case is going to be nuanced, but not so much as to prevent perfectly workable safeguards being devised to prevent abuse. Just as with pregnancy terminations, not every doctor will want to involve themselves in compassionate assisted dying and will have the right to abstain. But won’t it be great when we can ask our medical practitioners if they practise it within the law, and thereby choose between them – either because we may want the option for ourselves, or because we most definitely disapprove. The main reason for opposing assisted dying and other end-of-life choices is religious belief. But this cannot be allowed to influence law-making in a modern, secular society where more than 80 per cent of citizens approve of letting the terminally ill choose how and when to die.

Anne Riddell, Mount Martha

Listen to the wishes of the people

How much longer can our ‘‘ representatives’ ’ ignore the wishes of the people that put them in Parliament? Dr Percy Rogers and (at least) 100 other doctors (Letters, 8/5) – who will know what they are talking about far better than the MPs who stand in the way of compassionate legislation for choice – are only underlining what most Australians are asking for: the right to choose when to die if fate deals them a bad hand. Roll on the day when these King Canutes are overwhelmed by the waves of public opinion.

John Millard, East Doncaster

Better relief a better choice

Professor Tony Adams (Letters, 8/5) fails to mention the option of palliative sedation as an alternative to euthanasia. The intention of the former is to relieve suffering, the intention of the latter is to kill the patient. The former requires time and effort in good ongoing nursing and medical care; the latter requires little time or effort. The former is already legally available, the latter would require legal changes with safeguards that cannot deliver. If there are concerns that patient suffering is not being relieved, the answer is surely in better use of what is already available, rather than just killing people.

Geoff Sheahan, Wantirna South

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