Bill goes back to MPs as doctors say patients at risk

A GROUP of the SA's top doctors are opposing a Bill they say would allow "broad access" to assisted suicide.

The group, led by haematologist Dr Daniel Thomas, yesterday delivered a letter - signed by 29 doctors - to all Lower House MPs, calling on them to reject the proposed law. The changes would give doctors a legal defence if they administer drugs that lead to the death of a patient.

Doctors Tim Kleinig, Daniel Thomas and Ian Leitch who are opposing the proposed Bill. Picture: Brooke Whatnall

The move came as the Law Society yesterday refused to back the Bill, also claiming it was open to abuse because no second opinion was required, and Members of Parliament learnt they would be given a second chance to debate the law.

Dr Thomas, who works with terminal cancer patients, said licensing doctors "to kill" would place vulnerable patients at even more risk because it had no provision for a second opinion, psychiatric assessment or consultation with a palliative care specialist. "These people may not want to die, but feel so pressured that they request death," Dr Thomas said.

Retired surgeon Dr Ian Leitch said he signed the letter because there was "no safe place to draw the line" as to when euthanasia was appropriate and when it was not.

"I think it's important doctors take a stand because it's our profession which will be most seriously compromised by this legislation."

Another signatory, neurologist Dr Tim Kleinig, said he was against the Bill because early euthanasia could preclude patients from "sometimes many months of good quality life and palliative care with support and compassion".

The Bill, proposed by Labor MP Steph Key, passed through its second reading stage in Parliament late last month, ending debate before it moves to a committee for scrutiny.

The State Opposition yesterday requested the second reading be rescinded, allowing MPs to speak on the issue in Parliament.

Health Minister John Hill and Opposition health spokesman Duncan McFetridge both support the Bill.

Ms Key said she was happy to allow MPs to speak and did not expect it to jeopardise its approval to the committee stage.

The Bill is expected to be debated again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Law Society president Ralph Bonig said there were legal issues surrounding the wording of the Bill.

"Only one medical person is required to perform a view. This leaves the provision open to abuse in that a person may seek out pro-euthanasia practitioners," Mr Bonig wrote in a submission released yesterday.

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