Euthanasia law Spain expert warns of consequences for medicine


Given the recent approval by the Spanish deputies of the euthanasia bill, a specialist doctor warned that this legislation will put pressure on the most fragile patients and on the practice of medicine.


The Spanish Congress of Deputies approved the euthanasia bill on Thursday, December 17, a decisive step for its legalization once it passes the Senate process.


Some fear that this law will pose an obstacle for patients to access palliative care.


In a statement to ACI Prensa, the doctor specializing in palliative care, Dr. Carlos Centeno, professor at the University of Navarra and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, pointed out that “the new law puts pressure on the frail patients and on medicine: it leaves the sick and the doctors in a very bad situation ”.


The approval of the euthanasia law “is not something to celebrate, I do not celebrate it, because I see society differently.” A society with euthanasia, he stressed, “is not a good model for either medicine or society.”


He indicated that some patients, very few of the total, “will choose to exercise what they interpret to be a right. But what about everyone else? Because I am concerned about what happens to all those with advanced diseases, with progressive and irreversible diseases ”.


“What happens to the majority of seriously ill patients who do not request euthanasia? Euthanasia sends the message that there are lives that are worthless to be lived in circumstances of illness. Some patients are not going to feel well when they are suffering and need resources, when they need to be hospitalized for specialized palliative care. Or when they need special treatment to relieve pain. Or when the disease does not progress quickly, but slowly, and the deterioration is slow. What message does society convey to these people? What message does euthanasia convey to these people?


One of the arguments of the promoters of the euthanasia law in Spain is that it gives the option of ending life without suffering to those who request it, without affecting other people. However, Dr. Centeno refutes this argument.


“I don’t understand that the rest of the people are not affected. Of course it affects them, ”he insisted. “We are going to have to put reasons on the table to claim resources for ALS patients, patients with advanced cancer … I’m not talking about hypotheses, I’m talking about what is experienced in other countries.”


Dr. Centeno, however, does not believe that the law calls into question palliative care, rather it calls into question medicine, “in general the care professions, the health professions.”


“Among the purposes of medicine is not to administer a medication to hasten death. The purposes of medicine are to cure and alleviate ”, he stressed.


The problem, he argued, is that the success achieved by medicine in recent years, a success that comes from the hand of technique and therapeutic possibilities that did not exist before, “has put healing as a paradigm of medicine. But we all know that the essence of the doctor is to alleviate suffering ”.


“We doctors want to be there, with our science, with our humanity too, we want to be with the patient because we train and train to relieve him. More alleviate than cure is the essence of medicine ”.


However, due to the success of medicine in healing, it seems that “when you cannot heal it is a failure. Then comes euthanasia. ‘If I can’t heal myself, if I’m not going to live any longer, if I’m not going to live well, if I’m suffering then it doesn’t make sense, this is a failure.’ In short, “the essence of medicine is lived when we cannot heal and when we are together with the patient helping him.”


Dr. Centeno also emphasized the situation that doctors will have to face from now on. The doctor, he said, is next to the patient and “until science works, and the analgesic works, and the medication becomes effective, until then, we too suffer.”


“And in what situation do they put us when, doing everything we can to relieve the patient, in my right pocket I have the ‘key’ so that it ends? What happens to the doctor, that professional, that nurse, who is exhausted, after extending the day because another patient and another patient and another patient arrive, what happens if he has the key in his pocket so that suffering ends of the patient and yours? ”.


“Surely, this suffering could be alleviated with a little more time, with a consultation with a colleague, or with a more in-depth evaluation,” he explained.


He regretted, therefore, that “the concept of medicine is changing. The model of society, which introduces a law of euthanasia, is a model in which the value is not to accompany the sufferer. It is no longer an absolute value, the absolute value for medicine is no longer to alleviate and heal when possible, but to relieve and heal when it can be more endured until the end if we can ”.


“Although there are few of us, we will continue to defend a model of society and a model of medicine that are radically different from those proposed by a society with euthanasia,” he concluded.

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