‘Tsunami’ of elderly and euthanasia are not a good mix, say Queensland doctors

By Michael Cook

With a “tsunami” of elderly patients with severe health problems approaching, Australians should not be legalising euthanasia, a senior doctor has told the Queensland Parliament. It could increase the pressure on vulnerable older people who feel they are a “burden” on others to do away with themselves, said Dr. Chrys Pulle, on behalf of the Australian New Zealand Society of Geriatric Medicine Queensland.

“There [are] risks of voluntary and involuntary euthanasia on patients with cognitive impairment, dementia, delirium or reduced capacity; adverse effects on the funding for palliative care services and research; changing the concept of doctors being treaters and life savers and healers.

“We need education for the wider public, as well as older people, about what expectations we’re likely to face once we’ve been diagnosed with a chronic neurodegenerative disease, or chronic pain condition. No one wants to be that patient in the dementia ward that’s agitated. It’s not what their loved one wants. And oftentimes that reflects the wish to end somebody’s life.”

The head of the Australian Medical Association Queensland ethic committee, Dr. Moy said voluntary euthanasia could lead to unintended consequences.

“You’re opening up the issue of value of life, that’s not just from other people imposing their values of life onto individuals, which is a problem, but the second part is individuals starting to value their lives in a different way as well. It may not just be elderly, there are disabled, there are children, you’re opening it up.”

A committee of the Queensland Parliament is conducting a year-long inquiry into voluntary assisted dying, palliative care and aged care issues.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge where this appeared.