Hawaii doctors offer patients 'choice' to die

PACAID was formed to help doctors assist terminally ill patients who requested lethal drugs. [ABC: file photo]
PHOTO

PACAID was formed to help doctors assist terminally ill patients who requested lethal drugs. [ABC: file photo]

AUDIO from Pacific Beat

PACAID's Dr Miller speaks to Geraldine Coutts

Created: 16/04/2012

Last Updated: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 12:08:00 +1000

Doctors in Hawaii have set up a controversial council to support the right of a terminally ill patient to choose when they die.

Euthanasia is illegal in Hawaii, but The Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying (PACAID) says it's not euthanasia if the patients administer the drugs themselves.

The council has four members which co-founder Dr Charles Miller says is adequate, given it is a body set up to advise family doctors on end-of-life care.

"It's much more important and appropriate that the physician who is followed and cared for a patient, sometimes for many years, he should be the one or she should be the one to care and advise, and...assist that patient in their choice of how to end their life," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

"So we want to serve as a consultant service to help educate physicians and their patients that these choices are available."

Dr Miller says that at the moment, doctors are often forced to make the decision to ease a patient into death when a nurse calls to say a terminally-ill patient is struggling.

"Basically you'd just say to the nurse, just double the dose of morphine until she's comfortable," he said.

"As a natural consequence of that action, the patient will go to sleep and eventually stop breathing.

"The patient doesn't have control, it's the doctor who's saying ok, give the patient more morphine and let's make the patient comfortable."

Dr Miller says PACAID aims at giving patient's the autonomy to choose when they want to die, rather than leave it to doctors to decide when the morphine dosage is increased.

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