August 13th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: BRAZIL: The slippery road to communist dictatorship

EDITORIAL: Australia's clean, green image at risk

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Howard Government's industrial relations pain

SCHOOLS: Subverting the English curriculum

NATIONAL SECURITY: Re-thinking Australia's response to terrorism

ECONOMICS: Ethanol and the national interest

CONSTITUTION: What is wrong with a Bill of Rights?

FAMILY LAW: Paternity fraud penalises the innocent

UNITED STATES: John G. Roberts and the US Supreme Court

STRAWS IN THE WIND: How to lose with a royal flush / Hard cases / Another 'bottom of the harbour' scheme? / Waste disposal

CINEMA: 'Vigilante justice' and movie culture

FORTHCOMING TOUR: The 'Mother Teresa of Africa' to tour Australia

Better way to help African poor (letter)

Clinical judgement on treatment of dying (letter)

Serious omission (letter)


BOOKS: NED KELLY'S LAST DAYS: Setting the record straight on the death of an outlaw

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Clinical judgement on treatment of dying (letter)

by Dr David van Gend

News Weekly, August 13, 2005

There is one key question to be asked by those looking after an injured person like Mrs Maria Korp: "Is the patient dying?"

If, in best clinical judgement, this patient is indeed dying of irreversible injuries, then we should not prolong her dying.

If, however, the patient is not dying, then doctors must not make her die. As with all tragically disabled people, we simply continue their ordinary care.

In the case of Mrs Korp and her feeding tube, the Public Advocate, Julian Gardner, affirmed that she was dying of her injuries, and that "the artificial feeding that has been provided to Mrs Korp is prolonging her dying".

On the question of why the tube feeding could not be left there while she died, he stated: "Her body is no longer able to process it. Her injuries are so horrific that they are making it impossible for her to live even with this treatment."

On that clinical judgement, Mrs Korp is indeed dying, and the feeding tube was indeed burdensome and to be removed. But it was a grave failure of Mr Gardner not to make the clinical facts clear from the start, leaving an appalling misconception that Mrs Korp is being starved to death simply because she is disabled.

Dr David van Gend,
Senior Lecturer in Palliative Medicine,
Mackenzie House Medical Centre,
Toowoomba, Qld.

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