Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation impacts us all

Jan 18, 2021 by

by Helen Lord, MercatorNet:

Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state, like many other jurisdictions, is currently considering legalising voluntary assisted dying (VAD). It is of great concern that legislators are seeking to incorporate this into palliative and medical care.

Voluntary assisted dying sounds like a description of what should be occurring in normal medical practice: clinicians recognising those who are dying and then assisting them to live comfortably until they die. Such medical practice is currently the domain of palliative care, which can, and does, deliver relief of pain and suffering for those who consent to receive it.

However, in the currently proposed legislation for Tasmania, VAD means no less than the legalisation of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide: the exact opposite of palliative care. As described, VAD is purely a legal process, through which people can access and be given lethal substances which will cause their deaths. In contrast, palliative care is about how each individual patient can be enabled to reach their full potential until a natural death, through the relief of pain, distressing symptoms, and suffering.

The delivery of palliative care is highly personalised; it is not an impersonal process involving the meeting of various legal criteria. Palliative care requires communication by those with the necessary skills and attitudes to assess, enable, ease, and give good holistic medical care. There is no medical condition that has as a treatment the prescription of lethal substances with the intention to kill.

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