The conversation around death and dying

Amanda Lyons

24/10/2017 12:00:00 AM

With Victorian Government’s proposed ‘Voluntary assisted dying’ bill set to be debated in parliament this week, prominent GP and past President of AMA Victoria, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, argues that safeguards in the bill may not be adequate to protect a vulnerable patient population.

Dr Mukesh Haikerwal
Dr Mukesh Haikerwal

‘Legislating against something doesn’t mean it won’t happen,’ he told newsGP.
Although public support for assisted dying in Australia remains high at 73%, Dr Haikerwal remains concerned about issues such as elder abuse and manipulation.
‘They are trying to protect the patient [from] someone goading a relative to opt for assisted suicide, so we legislate against it. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, it just might not get found out about,’ he said.
‘Current legislation protects against elder physical and emotional abuse, yet it still occurs.’
However, Prof Brian Owler, Chair of an expert panel that provided recommendations for the proposed ‘Voluntary assisted dying’ bill, explained that the legislation is the result of rigorous research and consultation. This led to strict eligibility criteria and safeguards to prevent issues of patient safety, such as coercion or decisions being made by patients of unsound mind.
‘The legislation is safe, it is compassionate, and it is time,’ he said last week at the National Press Club in Canberra. ‘There are too many people who suffer needlessly when they are dying who have the capacity to make a decision about the manner and the timing of their death.’
Dr Haikerwal believes that rather than implementing the bill, which is being debated in Victorian Parliament this week, more funding and support should be provided for palliative care to boost services and reduce inequalities of access.
While he hopes the bill will not pass, Dr Haikerwal welcomes the opportunity to have a social conversation about death and dying.
‘You don’t have to wait until you are in your 80s to think about end-of-care decision-making,’ he said.

assisted-dying euthanasia palliative-care Victoria

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