‘Train on the run’: Doctors warn UK politicians against assisted death bill

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MANCHESTER, England (CNS) – Safeguards enshrined in Oregon’s Dignified Death Act 1997, which legalized assisted suicide in the state, are “not being followed,” US doctor told politicians Britons at a Zoom hearing on the UK’s assisted dying bill.

“Failures are brutal,” said Dr. Brick Lantz, Oregon physician and Oregon state representative for the American Academy of Medical Ethics, to an audience of about 90 MPs and peers. As an example, he cited the frequent problem of drugs not working as intended.

He said patients often took days to die from experimental drug cocktails, a man waking up from a coma “after several days” and, in another case, a nurse putting “a plastic bag over the patient’s head because that the patient does not die.

At a Zoom conference on September 7, American, Canadian and Belgian doctors urged British politicians to reject the new bill to legalize assisted suicide. They each explained how the laws on assisted suicide or euthanasia in their own countries undermined palliative care, destroyed trust between doctors and patients, caused the marginalization and intimidation of dissident doctors, and took the lives of patients. vulnerable in danger.

Lantz said assisted suicide “has been legalized as a way to end suffering at the end of life, but it unfairly targets people with disabilities, those with terminal illnesses, people with depression and other mental illnesses.” . … I would call it elder abuse and disability abuse. It is substandard care and it is discriminatory, ”he said.

Of Indian descent, Dr. Satya Chandragiri, an Oregon psychiatrist with 32 years of experience, was equally scathing in his assessment of the law, describing the practice of assisted suicide “like a runaway train.”

“Please don’t allow this as an option in your country,” he said, adding that he was particularly concerned about data suggesting that between a quarter and half of patients seeking to have access to lethal drugs were not terminally ill but were people with only depression.

Doctors were invited to speak by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well, a group of politicians opposed to the Assisted Dying Bill, which will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on October 22. year will reach the House of Commons.

As the current media debate is heavily biased in favor of assisted suicide, doctors have been asked to talk about their negative experiences.

The next day, September 8, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales wrote to the laity, encouraging them to pray for the defeat of the bill and to ask politicians to speak out and vote against it.

Dr. Leonie Herx, former president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, warned politicians: “Administering death is cheaper and easier than providing care, and it will quickly become the solution to all human suffering. , like us Canada.

“It’s not a slippery slope, it’s a logical progression,” she said.

Herx said that within five years of the introduction of euthanasia in Canada, the categories of people eligible for death at the hands of their physicians have expanded significantly and will soon include people with disabilities who are not dying and the mentally ill. Activists are also pushing for the law to be applied to children. The number of euthanasia deaths continues to skyrocket, she said, as physician-assisted dying is actively promoted to patients.

At the same time, Herx added, good quality palliative care in Canada is being drastically undermined, as are the conscientious rights of healthcare professionals.

She said there was now “significant bullying and marginalization within medicine and institutions for those who do not advocate euthanasia.”

“In my experience, not a day goes by that physicians are not faced with an ethical dilemma or moral distress about euthanasia. It is exhausting and demoralizing. Many colleagues have stopped practicing palliative medicine because of this, ”she said.

“I continue knowing that patients who do not want euthanasia will have no options of care if we all leave.”

Two Belgian doctors from Belgium addressed the conference: Benoit Beuselinck, an oncologist, and Timothy Devos, a hematologist, both of whom practice in the city of Leuven.

Beuselinck explained that the Belgian Euthanasia Law of 2002 was meant to be limited to patients with an unbearable terminal illness, but in recent years the medical context has been expanded to incorporate a subjective and existential understanding of suffering. so that euthanasia can be applied for the most mundane of complaints.

“My feeling is that we have replaced solidarity with autonomy and care with death,” he said.

Devos said many Belgian doctors are now fearful of offering palliative care in case they are accused of erecting a barrier to euthanasia and violating the legal rights of patients who seek it.

“No one cares about the mental and emotional toll” euthanasia puts on doctors, he said, with many privately complaining of prolonged anxiety or “survivor syndrome.”

He quoted François Trufin, palliative care nurse, writing in “Euthanasia: in search of the complete story”, a book edited by Devos. Trufin described how “a doctor’s eyes filled with tears as he confessed that some nights he would wake up sweating, seeing the faces of the people he had euthanized in front of him.”

Devos said: “Know that once the door to assisted suicide / euthanasia opens, it will always open more. This is how it happened in Belgium and in all countries, without exception, where euthanasia has been legalized. You would be delusional if you imagined it would be different in the UK.


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