Is there any evidence that pain control medication hastens death in New Zealand?

Tue, 18 Aug, 2015

Yes there is. A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in July this year (End-of-Life medical decision making in general practice in New Zealand – 13 years on, NZMJ July 2015) shows that when GPs were asked to consider the last end-of-life medical decision they were involved with, 4.5% of GPs had more or less practiced assisted dying. The report states that of the 359 GPs who reported making end-of-life medical decisions:

• 16.2 per cent withheld treatments with the explicit purpose of not prolonging life or hastening the end of life.
• 4.5 per cent (a total of 16 GPs) reported prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit purpose of hastening the end of life.

The authors note this would be generally understood as euthanasia, although the survey did not use that term. In 15 of these cases, nurses gave the drug to the patient. The link to the study can be found here: http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2015/07/24/gp-survey-explores-end-of-life-decisions-expert-reaction/

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