University of Minnesota

Melbourne Declaration on Physician-Assisted Dying, Adopted by the 11th International Conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies (Melbourne, 15-18 October 1996)


The following Declaration was distributed as a media release on 18 October 1996 by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Victoria on behalf of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies:


We are doctors attending the 11th International Conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies being held in Melbourne (15 to 18 October, 1996).

We believe physicians have a major responsibility for ensuring that it becomes legally possible for all competent adults, suffering severe and enduring distress from terminal illnesses, to receive medical help to die if this is their persistent, voluntary and rational request. We note that such medical assistance is already permitted in Australia's Northern Territory, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

As physicians, we are familiar with the different scenarios which occur at the end of life. We have the means to help those who may suffer severely from terminal illnesses. We know that, if we should find ourselves in such situations, we have the knowledge, and the access to drugs, to achieve self-deliverance, and we wish to extend this privilege to our patients.

In the past four or five years, an increasing number of doctors in different countries have stated, publicly and courageously, that they have actively helped their terminally-ill patients to die, even when it was illegal. Now, more of us must state our support for physician-assisted dying, and become committed to such humane medical care.

Of course, no patient should consider the possibility of physician-assisted dying until other relevant options, offered by palliative medicine, have been fully explored. Indeed, palliative care will be more effective if patients are reassured they can have the option of physician-assisted dying.

Therefore, we support the right of competent, terminally-ill, adult patients, who are suffering severely, to seek our assistance, if this should be their repeated wish. We want to be able to respond compassionately without the risk of legal prosecution.

We are convinced that suitable guidelines to protect all patients can be developed. When physician-assisted dying is legalised, it will be possible for doctors, who regard this procedure as being morally proper, to perform it openly and responsibly.

We know that physicians around the world share our views and we ask them to make similar declarations in support of their terminally-ill adult patients.



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