A panel of palliative care practitioners spoke to the media at the NSW Parliament House today in opposition to the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Bill currently before the NSW Legislative Council.

On the table with them was a copy of a petition with over 600 signatures of medical practitioners who similarly held fears about the introduction of the legislation.

“We as the panel oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia” said panel chair Dr Frank Brennan. “Too often this debate is characterised as a simple choice between suffering and choosing physician assisted suicide. But that choice is a false one, blind to enormous advances made over many decades in actively dealing with the constituent parts of suffering…physical, emotional and spiritual. One of the myths in this debate is that palliative care is powerless to assist patients who are heavily burdened”.

Other speakers raised concerns about rural access to palliative care, the risks associated with the proposed drugs, the lack of access to psychiatrists and psychologists, the inability of one or two doctors to identify coercion and the vulnerability of certain community groups:

“What we see is that similar legislation can and has been abused overseas even in the jurisdictions that people claim to be exemplary” said Dr Maria Cigolini. “This Bill will not end suffering, but what it will do is to create ambiguity about the roles of doctors, create lack of choice because people will not understand what they can receive through palliative care, and it will cause more suffering to the vulnerable in our society”.

The final debate in the NSW Legislative Council resumes tomorrow Thursday shortly after 10am. If passed, the Bill will then proceed to the Legislative Assembly for their consideration. Click here for the Legislative Council live webcast.

Pic: Panel members Prof Melanie Lovell, Anna Walsh (lawyer), Dr Frank Brennan, Dr Maria Cigolini, Dr Helen-Anne Manion, Prof Jane Philips and Prof Fran Boyle speak to media at NSW Parliament House.

Later: Click here for the subsequent story by Sean Nicholls from the Sydney Morning Herald.