GP for assisted dying
Terminally ill doctor backs divisive Bill
AN award-winning Geelong doctor facing his own terminal cancer diagnosis has called for controversial assisted dying laws to be passed.
Dr Ric Milner, who was recently named Victoria’s GP of the Year by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, expressed his views on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill as debate resumed yesterday in the Upper House of Parliament.
The 63-year-old GP held the opposite view 30 years ago when he felt the community wasn’t ready for the discussion, but said his stance changed dramatically a decade ago, well before his own diagnosis.
“It is embarrassing for me to look back at how I thought 30 years ago in terms of medicine. Individual choice is paramount,” Dr Milner said.
Asked if he would consider making use of such laws himself, Dr Milner said he’d like the option.
“I hope I have a more gentle exit but I wouldn’t mind having it there as a safety net,” he said.
Opponents to the law fear individuals may be persuaded to take the medication by family or friends but the You Yangs Medical Clinic doctor said he has observed the opposite to be true.
“My experience is patients are coerced by their family to have treatment that they would not usually want,” he said.
“In cases where a patient receives a very bad cancer diagnosis, where chances of treatment helping them is minimal, family will often say give it a go.
“In my whole life, I have never seen the opposite. I have never seen a family (try to convince) a loved one to end their life.”
Dr Milner said the legis- lation needed to be one part of a bigger look at palliative care and our approach to serious and terminal illnesses, including the promotion of advanced care plans.
“If you have access to assisted dying processes then you can bring it up with medical practitioners and explore, together, why you might be interested in that,” he said.
“In some cases they may be able to put better palliative care processes in place (that don’t involve assisted dying).
“Of course there are a small portion of people who will still access it ... but we’re talking about 200 people in all of Victoria per year.”
Objectors also suggest it could be the beginning of a slippery slope that would see the laws eventually expanded to include youth, disability or mental illness as a basis for eligibility.
“World experience says that is not true,” Dr Milner said.
“The proposed legislation is very, very strict and I can’t see that there would be any likelihood of it being loosened up.”
Dr Milner, who still works at the You Yangs Medical Clinic, is on an extended leave of absence while he undergoes chemotherapy.
Dr Ric Milner, who has terminal cancer, is calling for assisted dying laws to be passed in Victoria.