The seven Victorian doctors who have admitted helping patients die by injecting or prescribing lethal doses of drugs should be prosecuted, says Right to Life Victoria.
"Clearly they have admitted to breaking the law and I believe they should be prosecuted," Mrs Margaret Tighe, the group’s president, said yesterday. "It is a very serious thing, ending someone’s life," she said.
The doctors were "trying to force the Government’s hand by the outrageous and bold admissions that they had ended lives of a number of patients".
Right to Life yesterday joined the Australian Medical Association and the Victorian Government in condemning the actions of the doctors, who said in an open letter to the Premier, Mr Kennett, that they had helped patients die. Under Victorian law, assisting suicide is a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.
The AMA and the Government said yesterday that the doctors had acted unprofessionally by speaking out about euthanasia.
Mrs Tighe said in Holland, where euthanasia was legal, half of all euthanasia deaths occurred without the patients’ consent. "We only have to look at that experience to see once patient killing is unleashed there is no stopping it."
Although the AMA is opposed to euthanasia, another doctors’ representative group yesterday supported the actions of the seven Victorian doctors.
The Doctors Reform Society, which has 1000 members, said yesterday that patients had a right to request and receive medical assistance to end their lives. A spokesman, Dr Robert Marr, said the Victorian doctors who had admitted to helping terminally ill patients die deserved the support of the medical profession and the community.
Dr Marr said the AMA’s view that the law had no place in end-of-life decisions was arrogant. "At the centre of that argument is ‘let us decide. We are doctors, we know best’. It is so out of date."
Yesterday at a news conference, three of the doctors who signed the open letter, surgeon Dr Rodney Syme, anaesthetist Dr Pat Scrivenor and general practitioner Dr Darren Russell, said they were prepared to go to jail for helping patients to die, although none believed that prosecution was likely.
The Victoria Police yesterday said they were aware of the doctors’ admissions but could not comment further.
The three doctors are all members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society but none belong to the AMA. They said Parliament should consider the society’s Medical Treatment (Assistance to Dying) Bill, which would allow assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who had a life expectancy of 12 months or less.
A spokesman for Mr Kennett said the Government had not yet received the doctors’ letter.
Dr Peter Beaumont, the AMA’s Victorian president, said: "These are seven out of 10,000 doctors who have developed a high profile on this issue...that is not supported by a great majority of medical practitioners in Victoria."