New Users Registration  |  Useful Links  |  FAQ  |  Site Map 
 
Go Search

 

Skip Navigation LinksHealth Xchange > News
  News  
  Categories  
     
  Chronology  
 
  2013 2014   Dec 2014 | Nov 2014 | Oct 2014 | Sep 2014 | Aug 2014 | Jul 2014 | Jun 2014 | May 2014 | Apr 2014 | Mar 2014 | Feb 2014 | Jan 2014 |
  2013   Dec 2013 | Nov 2013 | Oct 2013 | Sep 2013 | Aug 2013 | Jul 2013 | Jun 2013 | May 2013 | Apr 2013 | Mar 2013 | Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 |
  2012   Dec 2012 | Nov 2012 | Oct 2012 | Sep 2012 | Aug 2012 | Jul 2012Jun 2012May 2012Apr 2012Mar 2012 | Feb 2012 | Jan 2012 |
  2011   Dec 2011Nov 2011Oct 2011 | Sep 2011 | Aug 2011Jul 2011Jun 2011 | May 2011 | Apr 2011 | Mar 2011 | Feb 2011 | Jan 2011 |
  2010   Dec 2010 | Nov 2010 | Oct 2010 | Sep 2010 | Aug 2010 | Jul 2010 | Jun 2010 | May 2010 | Apr 2010 | Mar 2010 | Feb 2010 | Jan 2010 |
  2009   Dec 2009 | Nov 2009 | Oct 2009 | Sep 2009 | Aug 2009 |
 
     
  Topic  
 
  Health Policy and Announcements | Diseases and Outbreaks
  Medical Research | New Treatments and Technology
   
 
     
  RSS  
 
  Singapore   SingHealth | Health Promotion Board | Ministry of Health | Asiaone
  International   World Health Organization | Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
       
 
     
  News Article  
 

Belgian study gathers data on euthanasia

 
  Monday, 02 l 08 l 2010 Source:  The Straits Times   
By: Grace Chua and Amresh Gunasingham
     
 

It shows legalisation did not lead to more cases of doctors ending lives without patient’s consent

IN DISCUSSIONS about euthanasia and assisted suicide, opponents to these two ways of ending the life of the terminally ill often invoke two fears.

One is that doctors performing euthanasia may end the lives of patients who have not explicitly asked for it.

The other is that patients seeking physician-assisted suicide, tired of the pain and suffering, may not be mentally competent when they make their request.

But these fears now seem unfounded – at least going by the experience of Belgium, which, with the Netherlands, legalised euthanasia in 2002.

For the first time, researchers there have statistics to back up their claim that legalising euthanasia will not lead to a rise in the number of cases in which the procedure is carried out without the patient’s consent.

In fact, the number of such cases fell. Belgian researchers presented the data at the 10th World Congress of Bioethics held here last week.

The meeting attracted legal and religious scholars, ethicists and academics, and papers were presented on end-of-life issues, including the results of international surveys done to find out the medical and legal points of view.

Papers were also presented on other hot topics in bioethics ranging from the uses of genetic testing to organ transplantation.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel researcher Johan Bilsen, by comparing survey data from 1998 (before euthanasia was legal in Belgium) with that from 2007, observed that the rate at which doctors terminated patients’ lives without the patients’ consent fell from 3.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent of all deaths.

As euthanasia had been legalised there, the rate of euthanasia rose from 1.1 per cent to 1.9 per cent of all deaths.

Prof Bilsen said: “The euthanasia debate has always been based on moral or ideological viewpoints, but now we have statistical data.”

He pointed out, however, that other factors also shaped the situation: When Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, it also implemented a law to protect patients’ rights. Doctors must seek patients’ permission for treatments and provisions in the law give patients broader access to palliative care.

Political factors were also at play in this small Western European nation of 11 million people, among whom Roman Catholics are a strong minority.

The issue had been debated in the country for several years but it was the change in government from a conservative to a socialist one that gave the push to legalise euthanasia.

Prof Bilsen’s fellow researchers also made presentations on the philosophical implications of other end-of-life methods such as deep sedation, where a terminally ill patient is given drugs to suppress consciousness until death occurs.

Separately at the congress, Professor Nuket Ornek Buken of Hacettepe University in Turkey presented the findings of a comparative study of doctors’ attitudes to physician-assisted suicides, involving medical professionals
from Turkey, Japan, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

The study found that attitudes among doctors were strongly linked to prevailing cultural, religious and legal norms.
 
American doctors, for example, were the most receptive to taking part in physician-assisted suicides and Saudi Arabian doctors, the least open to it.

“Culture shapes an individual’s attitudes towards diseases, suffering and death,” said Prof Nuket, adding that social norms would also shape a doctor’s attitude towards ethical dilemmas.

She noted that in Turkey, a moderately conservative Muslim nation, and many other developing countries, a “paternalistic” attitude puts decisions about treatment solely in the hands of doctors.
 
Madam Halimah Yacob, the former chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said Singapore society still does not deal comfortably with the underlying ethical and religious issues that are bundled with legalising end-of-life decisions.

She said physician assisted suicides thrust doctors into “a position of conflict”, as they enter the murky waters of how much authority they should have over their patients’ lives.

She acknowledged that, with Singapore’s population ageing rapidly, such debates are bound to crop up more regularly.

And when such debates play out, the fear that doctors or terminally ill patients will abuse the right to end a life will invariably be raised.

She said: “The deeply held belief in our society is that people should not be able to take their life. It is so precious and valued.”

     
  Ask the Specialists - Free Doctor Q&A
(Now - 31st Jul)
 
    Stress and Anxiety
If you have questions on stress and anxiety, take this opportunity to ask our specialist today.
 
    Previous Q&As
Check out our archive for all our previous doctor's Q&As!
*Latest Update: About LASIK
 
e-Appointment Online
Health Buddy App