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Catholic Health calls for doctor education on care for dying

A University of Newcastle's survey of doctors' attitudes to assisted death reveals that many surgeons are either confused or acting illegally in hastening the death of patients, according to Cathoilc Health Australia.

"It is gratifying to see that of those surgeons who replied to the survey over 60% revealed they had not deliberately given over doses of drugs to hasten a patients death," said CHA's CEO Francis Sullivan. "However, 36% of the respondents had. This is cause for concern and reveals either a lack of education or a disregard for the law."

"The doctor patient relationship is based on trust," he continued. "Where 20% of the respondents admitted to giving drugs to hasten death without consent of the patient, the basis of that trust is eroded.

"The ethical care of the dying is a vital aspect of the medical profession. This survey reveals that Australia's doctors are not clear about the ethical obligations involved. It is essential that doctors receive proper and on-going education in ethics and their responsibilities to patients.

"It is never permissible to end a person's life. Euthanasia intends to cause death. This must be distinguished from other care decisions, which sometimes risk or have the effect of shortening life but which are not intended to hasten death.

"When 36% of surveyed surgeons can admit to hastening the death of their patients, and 20% did so without consent, the alarm bells should be ringing."

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