Euthanasia should only be provided only under the strictest of conditions, president of the National Bioethics Committee Dr Constantinos Fellas said on Tuesday as the debate surrounding the introduction of legislation to allow it continues.
CNBC’s position on euthanasia, he said, is that all options provided by modern medicine and pharmaceutical technology should first be exhausted and only in extreme cases, when life becomes unbearable and medical treatment is not an option, the patient, while fully conscious, should be provided with the ultimate medical option.
Furthermore, given the impossibility of generating general rules providing for euthanasia and because the committee respects the autonomy and dignity of each patient, Fellas said each case must be studied and evaluated according to its own merits.
“Depending on the case, active or passive euthanasia can be chosen. CNBC in no way agrees with the application of involuntary euthanasia… We should also consider that each case must be subject to a distinct, in-depth study and evaluation by a team of experts including a medical doctor, a psychologist, a social worker, or other experts to ensure that the correct decision is being taken,” he said.
He further clarified that since it is impossible to ascertain all details of a patient during the evaluation process, it is appropriate to consider data covering not only the patient but also their family, financial situation, and possible conflicts of interests among other aspects.
“It is a given that during the approval and implementation of euthanasia all legal measures must be taken, and appropriate legal documents be prepared to protect the doctors or other medical professionals involved in the procedure. CNBC suggests that the necessary actions in transferring expertise and knowledge from other countries applying euthanasia protocols should be taken and applied locally,” Fellas said.
Even if a society is receptive to euthanasia there should still be safeguards in place ensuring that the basic principles of bioethics are respected and applied, that the necessary moral and legal coverage and knowledge are in place and that the patient’s right to choose is respected, he added.
According to Fellas, the legislation should provide for practical measures obligating the State to uphold the provision of palliative care and equal access to all patients and to ensure that the family is encouraged in aiding the patient for the smooth cooperation between those involved in the decision for euthanasia. He also added that both the legislation and the state should ensure that the patient’s decision is taken freely and without intervention from external factors.
Fellas also emphasised that CNBC fully respects the Church’s view that euthanasia, be it passive or active, is considered deprivation of life. Commenting on suicidal ideation, he reiterated the strict requirements, criteria, safeguards, and CNBC’s unfavorable position towards involuntary euthanasia.
The committee has recently carried out a questionnaire to establish attitudes toward euthanasia in Cyprus. With a sample of 750 individuals, it found that 61 per cent of respondents said they agreed or rather agreed on the people’s right to choose death via euthanasia, while 79 per cent said this right should be an option for those who are experiencing incurable and excruciating chronic illness or when they have exhausted all options for pain relief.