30th July 2008
In a week peppered with long letters from opponents of the Physician Assisted Dying (PAD) Bill, you will have received one from Dr John Murtagh. He quotes as other letters have, the Canadian Medical Association’s “report” that almost every national medical association opposes PAD. This conveniently overlooks two factors:
1. “Officially” opposed medical societies are not fully representing their membership base:
- Most associations recognise that there are differing opinions amongst their memberships, which is at odds with “officially” holding only opposition to PAD.
- Recently, the Herald Sun published data from its own significant survey showing that 45% of Victorian doctors believe PAD should be legalised, with 44% opposed. (Another published study puts the figure of support at 53%; i.e. around half of Victorian doctors want the law changed.) Therefore, the AMA by opposing this Bill is failing to represent a significant body of its own members.
- Palliative Care Australia (PCA) has a confused position. Professor Margaret O’Connor, President of PCA spoke against the PAD Bill in a briefing at Spring Street, despite the fact that on 6 th June last year, the CEO of PCA, Dr Donna Daniell, wrote in a letter, “Palliative Care Australia is officially neutral on the matter of voluntary euthanasia because we do not believe it is part of palliative care.”
2. Some associations do not oppose and are not hard to find. For example:
- The Oregon Hospice Association has an official policy of…no policy. That is, they simply note that the OregonDeath With Dignity Act exists and work within the law.
- In 2007 The American Medical Women’s Association changed its official stance to supportive of PAD as a choice for both doctors and sufferers.
- In 2007 the highly respected American Association of Hospice in Palliative Medicine formally changed its position from opposition to neutrality.
Implying that medical opposition to PAD is practically universal is mischievous. A significant body of medical practitioners believe that PAD should be legalised.