Doctors and nurses are playing increasing roles in prescribing, supplying or administering drugs that may hasten a patient’s death, according to new research.
A University of Auckland study anonymously surveyed 650 GPs.
Sixteen reported prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit intention of bringing death about more quickly.
But in 15 of those cases, it was nurses who administered the drugs.
Researchers acknowledged the actions of the GPs would generally be understood as euthanasia, but the survey did not use that term.
In the survey, led by Auckland University senior lecturer Dr Phillipa Malpas, GPs were asked about the last death at which they were the attending doctor.
Of the 650 to respond, 359 (65.6 per cent) reported that they had made decisions, such as withdrawing treatment or alleviating pain, taking into account the probability that they may hasten death.
Some made explicit decisions about hastening death.
Of the 359, 16.2 per cent withheld treatments with the “explicit purpose of not prolonging life or hastening the end of life”.
So euthanasia is already quite widespread – but with no legal protections for patients. If we legalise euthanasia, then we put in place a legal process where we can be sure any actions taken are with the consent of the patient, and is necessary tostop their suffering.