Marlowe's Shade

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Australian Study Claims Nearly 2 Out of 3 Hospital Deaths Involve Euthanasia

From The Herald Sun

Doctors play a part in almost two in three patient deaths in Victorian hospitals, a study into the ethics of euthanasia has found.

About 10,000 Victorians die in hospital each year after doctors withdraw treatment or give pain relief to end the lives of terminally ill patients, the study found.
Conducted by Monash and Melbourne university bioethicists, the soon-to-be-released report found about 40 per cent of Victorian doctors were willing to help patients die.

And it turned up cases of sick and dying elderly people whose families agree with doctors that lives should not be prolonged with drugs.

Victorian euthanasia researcher and Monash bioethicist Dr Helga Kuhse said her research mirrored a study by Britain's Brunel University released this week that revealed two out of three hospital deaths in the UK were assisted by a doctor.

Dr Kuhse has undertaken research into Australian doctors' attitudes towards euthanasia in 1988, 1997 and last year.

Her latest study, with Melbourne University researchers, shows many doctors support voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide of incurable patients.

"It is going on everywhere in Australia," Dr Kuhse said.

"But in Victoria we might have more cases of active voluntary euthanasia. Some doctors are prepared to breach the law in order to respond to patients' requests.

"Australian law has not prevented doctors from practising euthanasia."

Bill Muehlenberg, a conservative Melbourne ethicist, said doctors should not even contemplate euthanasia.

"The practice is illegal in Australia and there's a real danger in this of doctors playing God," he said.

"Who's to say a family member doesn't have a less than good reason to say to the doctor `go ahead and withdraw treatment'?"

Dr Kuhse said patients had the legal right to refuse treatment.

"And every hospital in Victoria will withdraw treatment if a patient requests it or doctors deem it futile to continue."

Typical of most of the media coverage of euthanasia there is a good deal of confusion of terms. Withholding treatment is different from physical assisted suicide and euthanasia. But I don't think many of these recent articles that overstate the case are doing so out of a kind of outrage. As I've stated before, I think that what we have here is actually a pro-euthanasia strategy in collaboration with a compliant press. The recurring theme is that since it is happening anyway we might as well legalize it. However the track record of legal euthanasia in Holland and Oregon shows that abuses continue to occur and the the practice expands into new ethical territory.
papijoe 9:45 AM