It's a right to get pain relief: UN

THE 130 guests at the Your Death Your Choice forum in Maroochydore yesterday were told the palliative care issue was about to get trickier from a legal standpoint.

Ethics expert Professor Colleen Cartwright said the euthanasia debate and "fear of being sued" made many who cared for the terminally ill reluctant to administer higher levels of pain relief, but that reluctance in turn was leaving them legally vulnerable for human rights violations - a catch-22 scenario.

Prof Cartwright (pictured) noted that the UN and the World Health Organisation, as well as some Australian laws, recognised the provision of adequate pain relief as a human right.

"There is no excuse for leaving someone who is dying in pain. That is abuse," she said.

"If people are going to be denied their human right, perhaps the only recourse we will have is to take legal action."

She said anyone involved in providing the care potentially could be liable, noting there had been successful prosecutions in the USA of doctors, nurses, hospitals and nursing homes. It was unknown if liability could extend to government.

"Litigation is a last resort. You don't want to go to court but we're not going to let people continue to die in agony, end of story," Prof Cartwright said.

She assured carers that providing pain relief that may or may not hasten a terminally ill patient's death was not akin to facilitating euthanasia.

Carers should be aware that euthanasia was "the deliberate ending of a person's life at his or her request using drugs to accelerate death", she said.

Speakers at the forum included Greens Senator Larissa Waters, LNP Senator Sue Boyce, ALP Senator Claire Moore, former NT chief minister Marshall Perron and former lord mayor of Brisbane Jim Soorley.

Topics:  forum maroochydore palliative care

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