As a UTAS medical student and future doctor I am very concerned about the push to legalise assisted suicide in Tasmania. I am being trained to save lives and ease patients’ suffering as they approach the end of their life. Intentionally assisting someone to end their own life prematurely, either directly or indirectly, is unconscionable to me.
Killing is not caring.
We must do better at providing support and care to those who are suffering, as well as providing adequate palliative care for those nearing the end of their life. Palliative care is shamefully underfunded in this state.
Appropriate palliative care that addresses the needs of people at their most vulnerable – when in pain, with a reduced quality of life, with a physical or cognitive disability – reduces requests for euthanasia. It is quicker, cheaper and simpler for the government to allow assisted dying than to fund adequate palliative care but we must not let utilitarian economics dictate which lives are worth living.
The clamour for assisted suicide and euthanasia will only grow louder if we do not do better at end-of-life care.
If one part of society – such as the terminally ill – are given permission to request assisted suicide, there will always be those who argue that there should be equal access to all who want it. In every jurisdiction that has legalised euthanasia or assisted suicide there has been a push for further widening of the criteria for access; to the point where, in some places now, consent is not required and even children can be euthanised.
We must protect the most vulnerable in society from the abuses that inevitably happen when assisted suicide or euthanasia are legalised. Who is to judge that a person is not under pressure from their family, a mental health condition such as depression or a health system under financial strain?
Having assisted suicide as a treatment option will fundamentally change the relationship of trust between a patient and their doctor. I want to become competent in providing palliation and knowing when to treat and when to stop futile treatment. I do not want to become competent at killing.