April 17, 2024

Are there enough euthanasia doctors in New Zealand?

Assisted dying becomes operations on November 7

More than enough sheep… 

Euthanasia becomes operational in New Zealand on November 7, but there are fears that the government may not be able to find enough acquiescent doctors. Based on experience across the Tasman in the Australian state of Victoria, 1100 people are expected to request euthanasia and about a third of those would carry through.

However, according to a report from Radio New Zealand, “the demand for assisted dying will have to be met by a workforce overwhelmingly opposed to being involved and a health system some doctors say is already struggling with a lack of resources.” It is the biggest challenge in setting up “assisted dying”, says the country’s chief medical officer.

According to a Ministry of Health survey, only 10% of doctors are “definitely willing”. Another 20% are “possibly willing”.

This means that willing doctors may have to travel around the country to provide the service.

Those doctors who are willing may have to travel around the countryside administering euthanasia.

End of Life Choice Society president Mary Panko disagrees with this gloomy forecast. “I think that it will start slow and … will gradually increase as everybody gets used to this. It's no longer an outlandish idea but a way of taking control of your own life and your own death.”

She added that euthanasia could be cost-saving. “If you're in hospital and in the last six months of your life receiving high-level medical attention, that is going to be costing the country,” she said. “We are not proposing this as a cost-saving measure … but we are saying that it's not going to be any more expensive.”

According to the Ministry of Health euthanasia will probably be a free and publicly funded service, although the Government has yet to confirm this.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge    

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