A perfect storm: fear of litigation for end of life care

Julia M Anaf
Med J Aust 2020; 212 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50462
Published online: 17 February 2020

To the Editor: In their Perspective article, Mitchell and colleagues1 discuss the problems for patients resulting from overcautious attitudes in prescribing opioids within the constraints of the doctrine of double effect. In doing so, they also highlight how problems may be compounded by the inappropriate use of language in respect to voluntary assisted dying. Victoria has passed and is now implementing the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017, not “assisted suicide” legislation. Like so much of the language we use, there are underlying, negative connotations to certain words. The use of the term “suicide” in the context of a person living with a terminal or serious and incurable condition that can only be relieved through death conflates two very different realities. One is the understandable or rational desire to avoid the trajectory of escalating suffering at the end of life, while the other is the tragedy of suicide resulting from social, financial or mental health conditions that culminate in feelings of abjection and of hopelessness towards the future.

  • Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA


Competing interests:

Julia Anaf is the vice‐president of the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society (SAVES).


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