Debate over euthanasia laws in Australia has been raging for years, with many calling for terminally ill people to be given the choice over when they die.
And while medical professionals are tasked primarily with caring for their patients and helping them to overcome illnesses, one Perth female doctor, Alida Lancee, is now risking spending time in jail as she’s admitted to helping one of her patients to die in a startling TV confession.
Appearing on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes show – set to air on Sunday night – the woman breaks down in tears as she comes clean for the first time about euthanising one of her patients, despite it meaning she could be put behind bars. Meanwhile, another doctor also reveals he has given around 300 of his own patients the choice to end their lives.
In a preview for the show, the emotional doctor is asked why it makes her cry, to which she admits: “Well this is where my personal vulnerability comes out, yeah.” She adds: “It was scary…”
Remembering the moment she helped the woman to die, the doctor recalls: “She [the patient] said, ‘Please help me’. There’s nothing else I can offer in my medical tool kit. So I agreed.”
The teaser goes on to promise that the doctor will finally confess to exactly who the patient was – risking jail time and a criminal record in the process.
“I’m not wimping out now, I’m going to take this all the way,” she says. “If this requires a challenge in the court system, I have medical opinions who will back me up.”
Sure enough, the clip goes on to show other doctors appearing to defend her, with one even praising her bravery, saying: “Not many doctors are willing to do it, so she’s quite unique.”
Meanwhile, another doctor later appears on screen and admits to giving around 300 of his patients the choice of ending their lives.
Viewers have already sparked a heated debate over the short clip, with one Twitter user commenting on it: “They’re helping terminal patients die with dignity. Their choice if they want to end their suffering. We treat our pets better than we treat terminal patients who want to control their own life.”
Another agreed, adding: “Medically assisted suicide should be legal everywhere for terminal patients. It’s time that we treated people with the same common decency that we treat animals. Good sense needs to replace religious values in determining what is & isn’t legal. No one should be forced to suffer.”
However, another argued against it and wrote: “Doctors take a Hippocratic Oath ‘primum non nocere’. A doctor promises within that oath is ‘first, do no harm’. Taking a life, any life violates that oath regardless of your faith or lack of one. Taking a life, any life, is called murder.”
Currently, Victoria is the only area in Australia to have passed voluntary assisted dying laws with the legislation set to come into effect in 2019. It will offer a choice to competent adults with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. For those dying of neurodegenerative diseases, such as MND or MS, the time frame is extended to twelve months or less to live.
There are strict eligibility criteria that a patient must also meet, which include being over 18 years of age, having decisional capacity and they must raise the issue with a doctor themselves. Three formal requests must also be made, the second in writing, with the minimum timeframe between first request and opportunity to take the medication being ten days.
60 Minutes airs on Sunday night on Channel 9 at 8.30pm.