Doctor: euthanasia not the answer

A Tauranga doctor says palliative care, not euthanasia, is the better option for patients, family, friends and doctors of cancer sufferers.

Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow says palliative care has improved greatly in the past seven years, and legalising euthanasia could cut short people’s lives who are not aware they have another option.

“In the last seven years the actual level and availability of palliative care in New Zealand has improved dramatically, we’ve seen our service grow dramatically since 2002 in Tauranga alone.”

In the past year Waipuna Hospice had 517 new referrals and treated 217 patients in the past month – up from the average 140 each month in previous years.

As well as medical treatment, palliative care also involves psychological, emotional and spiritual care, designed to ease suffering and provide a “good death”.

Richard’s comments follow Prime Minister John Key’s admission that if he was terminally ill, he would consider euthanasia.

“If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain - if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I’d want that," he told Newstalk ZB last week.

But Richard says euthanasia is not the answer and could be detrimental to family and friends left behind, who could suffer great amounts of guilt and grief.

“There’s a side to the debate that’s not been had yet; that’s the long term effects on the family members.

“There’s a ripple effect when someone dies.

“What we’re trying to do within palliative care is provide a good death; that the patient is well catered for and their wishes are honoured, and the family and friends are carried.”

He also says it’s not fair on the doctors and would mess with the patient/doctor trust.

“It’s not something that should reside within the medical profession.”

Richard says the next step in not legalising euthanasia, but looking at growing palliative care with further funding and greater community awareness.

“Our level of profile within the community is good, but it can always be better.

“Don’t spend the rest of your life dying, spend it living.”

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Unnecessary suffering

Posted on 02-09-2012 19:47 | By Colleen Spiro

Some families are often haunted by the the fact that they have to watch their loved ones suffer so much....we have more respect for animals than we do humans.


Posted on 01-09-2012 18:18 | By YOGI

Agree on teh comfort of loved ones in the last stages whent eh end result is certain, the quality of life is more important at that stage for sure.

Posted on 01-09-2012 18:08 | By whatsinaname

My daughter suffered HORRIFIC pain in the last month of her life... really cruel. . She was diagnosed with cancer and was given 48 hours. She fought it for three months. The last month was horrific for all concerned and the physical pain she went thru was unbelievable. No pain relief she recieved kept the pain at bay..I often thought about euthanasia at the time, and as we new she was not going to get better because of the type of cancer she had that would of been the kindest thing to do both for her and us as a family watching her suffer was a nightmare. she often said to me why cant they help me with the pain........ In cases like this and with the elderly who have no hope of recovering euthanasia is a good thing, to save them suffering. Everyone has there own opinion on this subject.........

Hidden agenda?

Posted on 01-09-2012 16:02 | By Kiwimon

And it’s more money in the coffers for Big Pharma to keep them alive, amen!

Being pain-free the main point

Posted on 01-09-2012 10:13 | By Phailed

Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer in their final weeks will know that keeping them totally free of pain is of the greatest importance. That might sound obvious but the reality is you often have to be very assertive with some me to get it. Whatever you call it (euthanasia, palliative care) I believe that it is better to be given a higher dose of morphine or whatever drug and kept free of pain, even if it means you actual life is shortened by a few weeks because of that drug. To me that is a "good death." I don’t know if it’s euthanasia or not.

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