The myths of assisted dying

Opponents of assisted dying continue to quote misinformation about assisted dying.  Some are dispelled below.

Palliative care can relieve all suffering

It can not

The Position Statements of two leading medical organisations in Australia agree that palliative care fails to relieve all suffering in some individuals.


The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Position Statement on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, Statement 10, affirms that:

…specialist Palliative Care to remedy physical, psychological and spiritual difficulties may not relieve all suffering at all times.1   


The Australian Medical Association Position Statement Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide 2016 – Statement 1.3 indicates that:

There are some instances where it is difficult to achieve satisfactory relief of suffering.2


Assisted dying will decrease availability of palliative care

It will not

In 2018 Palliative Care Australia commissioned a report which examined the effect on palliative care of the introduction of voluntary assisted dying in those overseas jurisdictions where it is legal.  It found:

An assessment of the palliative care sectors following the introduction of assisted dying for each of the in-scope jurisdictions provided no evidence to suggest that the palliative care sectors were adversely impacted by the introduction of the legislation. If anything, in jurisdictions where assisted dying is available, the palliative care sector has further advanced.3


Slippery slope                                                          

There is none.

The State of Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act, late in 1997. 

From 1998, an annual report has been produced by the Oregon Public Health Division. 

In 2017, in Oregon, 143 people died as a result of ingesting the prescribed medication thus the estimated death rate from ingesting the medications prescribed under the Act is 0.4%. There has not been a progressive increase in the number of deaths by assisted dying. 4


Assisted dying will target the old and infirm

Not supported by evidence.

From 1998 to 2017, 1275 people died under the conditions imposed by the Death with Dignity Act.

The median age at death was 72.  Only 15.4% were 85 or older. 5

 The elderly, are no targeted.


Assisted dying will disproportionally affect the disadvantaged

Not supported by evidence.

The cumulative totals show that 96.3% were white and 73.0% had some college, university or higher education. 90.2% were enrolled in hospice care, 98.6% had private or Government assisted medical insurance.  These are not characteristics usually associated with disadvantage. 6


Criteria for assisted dying will progressively be relaxed

Not supported by evidence.

In Oregon the frequency of the illnesses for those seeking assisted dying has not changed significantly during the time of its operation.  76.9 % of patients had cancer; 7.0 % amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; 6.3 % heart/circulatory disease. 7


Facts not quoted by those opposing assisted dying

In Oregon over 90 % of assisted dying patients die at home. 8 In Australia despite the fact that seventy percent want to die at home, only fourteen percent do so. About half die in hospital and a third in residential care. 9


1. ANZSPM-Position-Statement-on-Euthanasia-and-Assisted-Suicide, Statement 8, October 2016

2. AMA Position Statement Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide 2016

3. Palliative Care Australia. Experience internationally of the legalisation of assisted dying on the palliative care sector, 28 October 2018


4. Oregon death with Dignity Act, Data Summary 2017, Page 5

5. Ibid. Page 8

6. Ibid. Page 8

7.  Ibid page 6

8.  Ibid page 10

9. Swerissen H and Duckett S, Grattan Institute, September 2014, Dying Well