Palliative medicine physicians use morphine with great care


A palliative medicine physician with 28 years experience in caring for patients and their families at the end of life has challenged ACT party MP David Seymour’s claim that doctors intentionally end peoples’ lives by giving them too much morphine.

Dr Sinead Donnelly said she was affronted by the fact that “a politician would imply he understood the finer details of medicine and medical treatment better than me or my colleagues.”

Donnelly said it was unfortunate even to repeat what Seymour said “but I do so to explain my justified outrage.

“For too long we have retained our professional discipline and shown restraint by not reacting publicly to such loose and ill-informed pronouncements.”

She said doctors do not intentionally end the lives of patients by giving too much morphine.

“We train under strict supervision according to national and international standards of excellence in the discipline and science of use of morphine and other drugs for symptom control.”

On Thursday 30th November in an interview with Hillary Barry on TVNZ, Seymour had claimed doctors were already providing patients with lethal injections and were assisting in their suicide. His words were, “It’s happening anyway.”

Donnelly said politicians do great harm to the perception of medical practice, and instil unnecessary fear and anxiety in the minds of the public by promulgating, on national television, incorrect, misleading and unsubstantiated statements.

“If Mr Seymour knows he is incorrect, then he is misleading the people. If he does not know that he is incorrect, then he is quite simply showing his abject lack of knowledge on this topic,” she said.

Dr Sinead Donnelly trained as a specialist in general and palliative medicine in Ireland, Scotland and the USA. She has worked in Wellington since 2008.


News category: New Zealand.

  • Hone

    In his End of Life Choice Bill, Mr Seymour defines assisted dying as “the
    administration by a medical practitioner of a lethal dose of medication
    to a person to relieve his or her suffering by hastening death”.

    In David Seymour’s view this is what ‘currently happens’.

    My experience of what ‘currently happens’ is nothing like his definition of assisted dying.

    A subtle distinction, which Mr Seymour seems to have missed, is currently the medical profession prescribes medication which may end in death, however their intention is either to heal or a least relieve pain.

    The patient may still die, however the intention is quite different.

    While on first reading I was surprised to ‘learn’ from Mr Seymour that this ‘is’ what currently happens, however on second reading I find it highly offensive of Mr Seymour to even hint that it does.

    I remain grateful to the medical profession for, over the years, their best efforts to both assist me and my whanau.

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