The Prime Minister has been reported commenting on euthanasia and that’s started more discussion, including on Kiwiblog:
There’s been an excellent comment in the thread at Kiwiblog that I think sums up the current situation very well.
- annie Says:
August 23rd, 2012 at 2:51 pm Euthanasia: the PM is, quite simply, lying. Presumably he’s the victim of some of the medical misinformation that seems routinely to come his way.Euthanasia in the sense of a permitted, planned death, doesn’t take place in our hospitals, or if it does it is rare and usually involves the rather vile method of witholding fluids from an unconscous patient who will never recover. But who, if the evidence is to be believed, can still experience thirst.
You may, if you are fortunate enough to have a humane hospital physician who puts your welfare above that of his/her own immortal soul, be given enough opiates to render you pain-free, even at the risk of causing a respiratory arrest. On the other hand, and more usually in busy hospitals, you may just be left to get on with it. However, if you start looking comfortable, forget any further dose increases.
The hospices encourage the view that they are little oases of calm and comfort, and indeed to a significant extent they are. But not all people have a good response to opiates – for many they don’t do a hell of a lot. You can give 10mg of morphine to a person with severe acute appendicitis and render them comfortable; to another person of the same weight and gender the same dose will just take a tiny edge off. For instance. Cancer pain is no different.
More importantly, the hospices don’t see, supervise or admit all patients, and in many cases don’t do it well. Te Omanga in Lower Hutt is an excellent hospice; but if you live in other cities you can’t be assured that you will even be seen – some hospices seem to be pretty quick to work to rule if they get full, and to hell with the leftovers.
This sort of bland ignorance on the PM’s part is not only disappointing, it’s positively harmful to the facts of the debate. We need both decent palliative care and the option for voluntary euthanasia. At the moment we have neither.
There’s an excellent hospice in Dunedin, I don’t know how you can do it better, but I have seen firsthand how that doesn’t necessarily avoid an uncomfortable, anguished and ignominious death.
And I agree – there is some decent palliative care, it needs to be more widely and easily available.