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Martin sentence highlights palliative care needs

Martin sentence highlights need for palliative care

The trial and sentence of Lesley Martin highlight the need for effective palliative care to be available to all who need it, so no-one else need go through a similar trial, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

“The Government must ensure that good quality palliative care is available in all areas of New Zealand for terminally ill people,” said Dr Tricia Briscoe, Chairman of the NZMA.

“Palliative care in New Zealand is of very high quality, but it is unfortunately not easily accessible to all. To this end, greater resources must be invested in the provision of good palliative care.

“Doctors have a duty to ensure that terminally ill patients’ last days are as pain-free and stress-free as modern medicine provides. Dr Briscoe said support must also be available to the families of those who are dying, as it can be a very stressful and distressing time for them.

“It is also important that patients understand they have the right to decline life-prolonging treatment; and the right to have adequate pain relief treatment, even that which could or will shorten life.

“There is a clear ethical distinction between giving as much strong pain relief as is needed to achieve comfort, and deliberately giving an overdose of pain relief to a patient in order to kill them. Necessary pain relief treatment does not involve a primary intention to kill the patient, but euthanasia does,” Dr Briscoe explained.

Euthanasia involves taking people who are at their weakest and most vulnerable, who fear loss of control and abandonment, and placing them in a situation where they believe their only alternative is to kill themselves. How a society treats its weakest, most in need and most vulnerable members tests its moral and ethical tone.

The New Zealand Medical Association strongly holds that for doctors to kill their patients or assist them to commit suicide is inherently wrong.

The World Medical Association last year reaffirmed its opposition to euthanasia, expressing the strong belief that euthanasia is in conflict with basic ethical principles of medical practice and urging medical practitioners not to become involved, even in countries where it is legal.

Dr Briscoe will not be commenting on Lesley Martin’s sentence.

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