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Doctors say no to assisted suicide

Media Release: For immediate release

Doctors say no to assisted suicide

New Zealand doctors are being invited to add their name to an Open Letter rejecting medical involvement in euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Open Letter – published online at www.doctorssayno.nz - has been launched by Wellington doctor Sinead Donnelly, who is also a trustee of the Care Alliance.

“Killing someone does not require any medical training,” she says. “If Parliament did decide to introduce assisted suicide – and I sincerely hope they do not – they should choose another profession to do it. Doctors are only included to give this bad idea a cloak of medical legitimacy.”

The Open Letter endorses the World Medical Association and New Zealand Medical Association statements that it is unethical for doctors to be involved in assisted suicide and euthanasia, even if they were made legal.

Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said that awareness of the problems of assisted suicide was growing around the world. “Just last week, Justice Michel Pinsonnault of the Quebec Superior Court ruled that ‘medical aid in dying’ is simply a euphemism for euthanasia.”

“It’s time for plain speaking on this issue,” said Mr Jansen. “I am deeply grateful to the doctors who have already signed up to the Open Letter, and encourage others to follow their lead.”

ENDS

The text of the Open Letter is:

An Open Letter to New Zealanders

Doctors want no part in assisted suicide

We endorse the views of the World Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association that physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal.

We are committed to the concept of death with dignity and comfort, including the provision of effective pain relief and excellence in palliative care.

We uphold the right of patients to decline treatment, as set out in the NZ Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.

We know that the proper provision of pain relief, even if it may unintentionally hasten the death of the patient, is ethical and legal. Equally the withdrawal or withholding of futile treatment in favour of palliative care is ethical and legal.

We believe that crossing the line to intentionally assist a person to die would fundamentally weaken the doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust and respect.

We are especially concerned with protecting vulnerable people who can feel they have become a burden to others, and we are committed to supporting those who find their own life situations a heavy burden.

Doctors are not necessary in the regulation or practice of assisted suicide. They are included only to provide a cloak of medical legitimacy. Leave doctors to focus on saving lives and providing real care to the dying.


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