Dr Rodney Syme: champion of human rights

Meredith Doig / 06 May 2014

Frustrated by lack of action by Parliamentarians in acknowledging the wishes of their electors re the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia, Dr Rodney Syme has chosen to declare his role in the death of Steve Guest.

Many doctors support his courageous stand and wrote the following Letter to the Editor.  It was not published.  We know politicians are frightened of religious zealots making a fuss over issues like this, but we are entitled to expect the media to be less craven.

Dear Sir/Madam,

The undersigned doctors write in support of Dr Rodney Syme who has admitted and described his part in the death of Steve Guest in 2005.

Steve Guest reportedly died by his own hand, using a drug supplied by Dr Syme.  It would appear that the Police decided that no action was required in this matter but now have no alternative but to investigate, given the nature of new information supplied to them by Dr Syme.

We, along with Dr Syme, strongly support the modification of the law in all States to permit voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted dying.  Given the regrettable failure of the various legislatures to enact permissive legislation, despite a clear majority of the electorate being in favour of this, Dr Syme has concluded that the Courts may have more sense than the Parliament.  Reaching a favourable judicial conclusion may influence the Parliament finally to take action.

We write also to contradict the ill-informed belief that doctors are opposed to  liberalisation of the law by emphasising Dr Syme’s own words “it is not uncommon practice for doctors, in secure circumstances, to help their patients to die, and it has been so for decades, if not centuries”.  We are supportive of a legal framework in which decisions to end life are entirely patient-centred and not reliant on the views of a doctor with his or her own prejudices.  We are appalled that it is currently illegal for doctors to even sit with a terminally-ill person who has decided to take his or her own life.

End-of-life assistance in whatever form should be a role of palliative care teams and should be legal.

We shall be supporting Dr Syme through the process he now faces.

Yours sincerely

Signed by 98 members of Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice.

All the more reason.