Challenge for clinicians
As a professor of nursing who specialises in health law and ethics, and the recent widow of a man who received exemplary palliative care, I know bet- ter than many the value of good palliative care for patients and their loved ones. I challenge clinicians to swear they have never cared for a patient whose death did not go to plan, whose end of life was difficult, miserable and undignified, despite their unstinting efforts, where the only solution to end their suffering was to offer pharmacological oblivion. They are the people that VAD is about.
The critical difference with VAD is who is in control — the doctor or the patient? The critical issue is that in the future all our patients want is to be in control. Professionals must accept it and we shouldn’t muddy the waters by making it about us. Mary Chiarella, Nursing School, University of Sydney, NSW The AMA rightly continues to oppose involvement of doctors in legalised euthanasia. It is a slippery slope ripe for abuses and mistakes and places doctors in the iniquitous position of having to determine eligibility and to assist in the process. My advice is to keep lawyers and politicians out of it — they have been trying to come up with legislation that satisfies all requirements and safeguards for 20 years without success.
Doctors and nurses know how to manage terminal illness; we should leave it with them. There is a fine line between administering increasing doses of drugs to maintain comfort, knowing it will hasten death, and deliberately administering a lethal dose. But it is an important fine line that we cross at our peril. Randal Williams, Burnside, SA