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Euthanasia and fasting to die

18/02/2013

Taking control of one’s own death is something that has crossed the minds of many through the ages—if not in relation to ourselves; then most likely in relation to a loved one(s).

I’m tired of the endless debates by high minded specialists who ultimately will have to face their own mortality like the rest of us plebs. In reality, euthanasia is with us as it has always been. To view this as legal – illegal, moral – ill moral, ethical- ill ethical is beside the point in the world away from the debating stage and ivory tower. People, ultimately, do choose the timing and method of their own death. In hospital the medical profession is there to assist patients by appropriate medical care that includes withdrawing  treatment upon patient request, or if that treatment serves no therapeutic purpose; and by dispensing drugs to control pain. Surely, no doctors, laws, or organisations oppose ceasing care when the time to die has arrived. This is my experience as a social worker in a north London hospital. A multidisciplinary approach involving families and friends dealt with all cases in response to future directives, patient requests, and such like. No unilateral decisions were made by consultants as were made in the past.

I was startled by Professor Bill Silvester, Director of the Respecting Patients Choices programme at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. His statement came at the very end of the euthanasia debate: “If one wants to die all one has to do is give up eating and drinking for 10 days and you will die.”  It was further suggested by a commenter on the ABC website that such a fast could be combined with palliative care and that would ensure that one does not suffer. Actually, I observed several such patients in hospital. However, the affect on all staff was palpable; traumatic in fact. For that reason alone, I dismiss Silvester’s alternative as a suitable to euthanasia.

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