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.


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