This way the doctor treating a person’s pain is not legally responsible if the person dies, provided the guidelines for administering the drug were complied with and as long as the stated primary intention was the treatment of the person’s pain. However, the administration of the pain-relieving drug has, in reality, caused the desired double effect; it has relieved the patitent’s pain, but it has also caused their death.
Slow euthanasia is a relatively common means used by doctors to bring about the death of a very sick patient. That said, few medical professionals will admit their involvement. For their own protection doctors must insist that their ‘prime intention’ was purely pain relief. While observers may be suspicious at the relentless increase in the dose of the administered morphine, unless the doctor chooses to confess that their goal was to bring about the patient’s death (rather than pain relief), they are at little legal risk.
It is a pity that this practice remains 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 the law makes it a serious crime to hasten a patient’s death, but there is no crime at all in the aggressive treatment of a patient’s pain, there is little prospect of change.
Problems with Slow Euthanasia
Slow euthanasia has a number of features that limit its appeal to a patient. Firstly, it is the doctor who is in control. While a patient might ask for this form of help, it will be the doctor who decides if and when it will be provided. Just because you - the patient - might feel that now is the right time to begin the process, there is no guarantee that the doctor will agree.