The Peaceful Pill Handbook Slow Euthanasia - The Doctor’s Loophole
Morphine plays a major role in the practice of ‘Slow Euthanasia’ (or the ‘Doctrine of Double Effect’ as it is often called). In a country where assisting a suicide is an illegal act, slow euthanasia is the only way a doctor can hasten the death of a patient and escape any legal consequence.
Known commonly as the ‘doctor’s loophole’ slow euthanasia allows a doctor to end a patient’s life by slowly increasing the amount of a pain-killing drug. In the eyes of the law it doesn’t matter if, in the course of treating a person’s pain, the person dies. As long as the stated primary intention is the treatment of the person’s pain, the doctor is legally safeguarded. Yet it is the administration of the pain-relieving drug that causes the double effect; it relieves pain but it also causes death.
While slow euthanasia is relatively common, few doctors admit their involvement. Even while administering slow euthanasia, some doctors will argue that they are only treating the patient’s pain. Others know exactly what their ‘prime intention’ is, but wisely decide to keep quiet about it. Others just prefer not to think about it too closely.
It is a pity that this practice is so cloaked in secrecy. Clearly, it would be better if there were open and honest communication between the medical system (represented in the doctor and health care team), the patient and the patient’s family. However, in jurisdictions where laws are in place that make it a serious crime to hasten a patient’s death, but make it no crime at all to aggressively treat pain, there is little prospect of change.