Palliative care ‘the antidote’ to assisted suicide

Dr Stephen Parnis and Associate Professor Natasha Michael (Melbourne Catholic)

Victoria’s assisted suicide legislation and its societal implications were addressed at an oration delivered in Melbourne on Wednesday night. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

The Melbourne Archdiocese’s Office for Justice and Peace’s annual Rerum Novarum Oration, "Widening the Door of Hope" at Australian Catholic University featured Associate Professor Natasha Michael, director of palliative medicine at Cabrini Health, and Dr Stephen Parnis, former vice president of the Australian Medical Association and emergency physician at St Vincent’s Hospital.

Both doctors worked tirelessly in their efforts in campaigning against euthanasia when the legislation was up for debate last year.

With the legislation scheduled to come in to effect on June 19 next year, many questions relating to the law and what this means for health professionals, aged care workers and every day Victorians are yet to be unveiled.

“The obvious question to ask is where to from here?” began Dr Parnis in his talk.

“I say the answer to that question lies in three key areas. One is gaining a better understanding of what it means to be dying and what I call death literacy.

“The second is subjecting these Victorian laws to the greatest possible scrutiny and continuing the attempts been made elsewhere to have assisted suicide made legal.

“The third is ultimately to render these laws redundant. I believe it can be done if a concerted effort is made to practice end of life care in the way it always should be practiced: with knowledge and confidence, appropriate resources and undoubted expertise.”

Dr Parnis emphasised the importance of quality end-of-life care – a message emphasised by Associate Professor Natasha Michael.

“This legislation poses both professional and practical challenges,” she said. “And it will ask if our moral traditions should be reaffirmed or indeed modified to adapt to new caregiving realities.”

Associate Professor Michael said genuine hospitable actions “borne out of a genuine interaction and disposition to the person in need” are the antidote to opting for assisted suicide.

“It is only through this hospitable action that a therapeutic alliance can occur. Only through this can the door of hope be opened.”


Appropriate End-of-Life Care the antidote to euthanasia (Melbourne Catholic

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