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Doctors in support of law reform for voluntary euthanasia

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To the Editor: The Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice want Australia to have enlightened euthanasia laws similar to those of the Netherlands.1 But a recent review of Dutch physician-assisted death (PAD) suggests that such practices are extremely difficult to control.2

They state that there has been some improvement in the rate of reporting of cases of euthanasia (a legal requirement), although only 2% of deaths classifiable as euthanasia but employing morphine rather than muscle relaxants are reported.

Throughout the 1990s, it was reported that about 1000 patients a year were euthanased without request. The most common reasons given for not discussing euthanasia with these patients were that they were unconscious, they had a psychiatric disorder or dementia, or “assistance in dying was clearly in the best interest of the patient”. This provides a chilling insight into who is being killed.

In 2005 it was reported that there had been a fall in the incidence of euthanasia, but there was a compensatory rise in deaths involving palliative sedation (which do not have to be reported), and it was alleged that doctors were choosing this less administratively…