Key's euthanasia view ill-informed: doctor

Those wishing to shorten their lives with euthanasia are trying to control what should be a natural process, Otago Community Hospice palliative care registrar Dr Louise Bremer says.

She said Prime Minister John Key's view aired this week was "simplistic" and "ill-informed".

Mr Key made the comment on Newstalk ZB, saying if he was terminally ill in hospital and in pain "if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I'd want that".

"I look at a situation where I think there's a lot of euthanasia that effectively happens in our hospitals."

Dr Bremer, who also works at Dunedin Hospital as a physician in medical oncology, said euthanasia was not performed in either hospices or hospitals in New Zealand.

Doctors never caused or hastened death, she said.

Through working closely with the patient, clinicians did not extend life unduly, which did not constitute any form of hastened death, she said.

Communication with the patient was critical.

While some patients requested an end to their pain and suffering, this generally was a call for some form of relief, rather than death itself.

She believed people had become used to controlling every aspect of their lives, and this was behind calls for legalising euthanasia.

Just as people could not control when they were born, they should not control the time of their death, she believed.

The period just before death could be "uplifting" and an "opportunity for grace", giving people an opportunity to resolve issues and say goodbye.

The key to a "gentle death" was getting appropriate care in place early enough, Dr Bremer said.

Hospice chief executive Ginny Green said if people had good access to palliative care there was no need for euthanasia.

While she believed the euthanasia debate was a legitimate discussion for society to have, the practice would never have a place in the hospice movement, even if legalised, she said.



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