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Doctors are not in a position to detect euthanasia coercion

Drs Say No agree with Chris Penk’s amendment to protect vulnerable patients from coercion, although the organisation still maintains that no safe euthanasia legislation can ever be drafted and continues to urge MPs to defeat the End of Life Choice Bill.

“Detecting coercion is extremely difficult and is not something doctors have any training in,” Dr Ian Gwynne-Robson says. “It requires a comprehensive assessment by a multidisciplinary team with professional expertise in this area, which is simply not medical.

“There is no way to guarantee the absence of coercion in the context of assisted suicide. This bill needs to be defeated, and this SOP points out the grossly inadequate protections against coercion in the bill.”

Mr Penk’s amendment proposes that proper due diligence by a new, specialist body to be known as the Independent Panel of Practitioners must be satisfied before confirming that someone’s life will be ended by euthanasia.

The Panel’s members would include experts in medicine, law, social work and elder abuse, and would look at evidence including the person’s previous medical doctors, relevant family members, and the person themselves. It could also involve referring the person for a psychiatric assessment and would consider relevant personal circumstances, their living situation, their will and their financial affairs.

“Growing economic pressures on families can mean they find themselves less able to provide care at the very time the needs are greatest,” Dr Amanda Landers says.

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“This can put elders at risk of coercion from families and caregivers. We doctors encounter this sort of pressure all of the time – sometimes subtle and sometimes less than subtle.”

Mr Penk’s amendment proposes specific tests that must be considered; to ensure the request to end the person’s life has not come about through family neglect, institutional neglect, societal neglect, a mental health condition, failures of the health system, or because someone else stands to gain financially from the person dying.

“While the bill as it is currently written requires medical practitioners to ‘do their best’ to ensure that the person expresses their wish free from pressure from any other person, there is no way legislation can ensure this will always be so,” Dr John Thwaites says.

“We urge MPs to carefully consider this amendment. Nobody wants to see elderly and vulnerable people coerced to end their lives against their true will. Drs Say NO hopes Chris Penk’s proposed amendment will highlight just how unsafe any euthanasia legislation is."


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