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Care for the dying; not euthanasia

The Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc.

The Driving Force of Palliative Medicine in Australia and New Zealand


Thursday 23 August 2012

Care for the dying; not euthanasia

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc. (ANZSPM) is appalled at Prime Minister Key’s claim that ‘there’s a lot of euthanasia that effectively happens in our hospitals’. Palliative care teams in hospitals and hospices provide care for the dying; not euthanasia.

Dr Sinead Donnelly, an experienced Palliative Medicine Specialist, and Chair of ANZSPM Aotearoa, said, ‘Prime Minister Key has seriously misrepresented the care by doctors and nurses given in our hospitals, in particular care provided by us to patients who are dying. His personal opinion given as Prime Minister has serious negative consequences in the trust people have in hospital care of the seriously ill.’ ‘Palliative care doctors and nurses throughout New Zealand, strive ceaselessly, on a daily basis, to relieve the suffering of people facing imminent death. We never practice euthanasia; euthanasia is the deliberate ending of life, and is illegal and unethical,’ Dr Donnelly said.

ANZSPM believes that the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide are outside the discipline of Palliative Medicine. ANZSPM believes that the national focus should be on achieving and maintaining excellence of palliative care for all, and not on euthanasia.

The Society endorses the New Zealand Medical Association’s Position Statement on Euthanasia, and similarly the World Medial Association’s which state that euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are unethical. Even if euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide were legalised, the NZMA would continue to regard them as unethical.

ANZSPM recommends that a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide be acknowledged with respect and be extensively explored in order to understand, appropriately address and if possible remedy the underlying difficulties that gave rise to the request. Particular attention should be given to gaining good symptom control, utilising the skills of a multidisciplinary team.

ANZSPM believes that if treatment appropriately titrated to relieve symptoms has a secondary and unintended consequence of hastening death, then that is not euthanasia.

Dr Donnelly said, “Patients have the right to refuse life sustaining treatments, but that refusing such treatments does not constitute euthanasia."

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) is a society of medical practitioners who practice or have an interest in palliative medicine. The full ANZSPM position statement on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide can be found at


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