following Fact Sheet has been prepared by the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia
Society (SAVES). For further information visit their website at http://www.saves.asn.au
Voluntary Euthanasia Society
medical opinion was tested in 1987 by a survey in Victoria by the Centre
for Human Bio-Ethics, Monash University (1) and again in 1993 by a similar
survey in New South Wales by the University of NSW School of Community
Medicine (2). The results of the two surveys were very similar.
60% of respondents answered "yes" to the question:
"Do you think it is sometimes right for a doctor to take active steps
to bring about the death of a patient who has requested the doctor to
do this ?"
50% of respondents had received a request for death to be hastened and
of these, nearly 30% said that they had complied with the request. More
than 50% of the doctors who refused the request said that illegality had
been a factor in their refusal.
60% of all respondents favoured a change in the law to permit voluntary
euthanasia in certain circumstances and under certain conditions. In surveys
of medical practitioners carried out in South Australia (1991) by Flinders
University Department of Sociology (3) and in Queensland (1995) by the
University of Queensland Department of Social and Preventative Medicine
(4), the corresponding figures were 45% and 30% respectively.
opinions of General Practitioners (as opposed to medical practioners as
a whole) are of particular relevance since this group is more likely to
have treated terminally ill patients and to have provided active help
to die on request. A national survey of GPs who were members of the Royal
Australian College of General Practitioners was carried out in 1996. It
found (5) :
GPs (46%) "would wish to have the option of voluntary euthanasia"
than not (36%);
majority of GP's (56%) would not be distressed if euthanasia were
available to others;
majority of GP's (56%) believed voluntary euthanasia should be limited
to "the terminal stage of a terminal illness";
majority of GP's (64%) believed that euthanasia can be an act of caring.
Australian Medical Association and most other medical associations are
opposed to legalising voluntary euthanasia. The (Australian) Doctors'
Reform Society supports voluntary euthanasia under safeguards similar
to those used in the Netherlands. (See Fact
of medical opinion which have been carried out in Britain and many other
European countries, and in Canada and the USA, have produced similar results
to those in Australia.
H, Singer P. Doctors' practices and attitudes regarding voluntary euthanasia.
Med J Aust 1988; 148:623-627.
P, O'Malley E. Euthanasia; attitudes and practices of medical practitioners.
Med J Aust 1994; 161:137-144.
CA, Hassan R. Management of death dying and euthanasia: attitudes and
practices of medical practitioners in South Australia. J Med Ethics
M A et al. End-of-life decision making: community and medical practitioners'
perspectives. Med J Aust 1997; 166:131-135.
I, Kay B, Steven I. General practitioners and euthanasia. Aust Fam
Phys 1997; 26:399-401.
information contact SAVES at: http://www.saves.asn.au
contact: Hon Secretary, SAVES, PO Box 2151, Kent Town, SA 5071, Australia
- Fax + 61 8 8265 2287