Euthanasia doctor who helped 43 patients die insists: Im not a killer

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Dr Cameron McLaren has been present at the deaths of 43 individuals and plays an active part in the assisted dying process for terminally ill patients. The first instance that saw Cameron McLaren become involved in the practice of easing someone’s suffering occurred two years ago.

The doctor inserted a needle into the arm of Phil Ferrarotto, and minutes later the businessman was dead, and in the two years since Mr Ferrarotto, the 38-year-old medical oncologist has helped provide euthanasia for a number of his patients.

Of the 43 deaths he has witnessed, Dr McLaren has given fatal doses of powerful drugs to 15 of them and he’s been present at the deaths of the 27 other patients whom all took the drugs he had prescribed them.

The doctor marks one of 183 physicians in Victoria, southeast Australia, who play an active role in the assisted dying process for terminally ill patients.

Dr McLaren spoke with The Independent, where it was noted that he was never a campaigner for the law in Victoria to change before it eventually did in 2017.

The father-of-two, from Melbourne, described the process as “the most gratifying work” he’s ever done.

He said: “What I do isn’t evil. It is appreciated by the patients and their families more than anything I’ve ever done in medicine.

“And it’s the most gratifying work that I’ve certainly ever done, not only in terms of providing the service to the patients and their families but also being able to share my experience and demystify some of the perspectives on assisted dying as well.”

The doctor went on to discuss the role practising medical staff play in the process of assisted dying, citing that it’s all about patient choice.

Cameron said: “I’m not a killer. This isn’t killing.

“The cancer or underlying medical condition has already done that, it’s brought about the social death of the patient and the end of the quality of life that they deem minimum to want to continue.”

He added that often people make the decision to control how their life ends in order to end their suffering.

He said: “They’re stuck in purgatory between living and dying and desperate for the end, and this is providing them with that. These people are choosing to make a decision and control how that happens, and I don’t agree with that being a wrong thing.”

Dr McLaren assisted in the death of Phil Ferrarotto, who had spent 18 years fighting cancer that had invaded multiple organs and left him struggling to breathe and in near-constant pain.

Following his death, Phil’s daughter Katie Harley took the medic to another room and handed him a letter her father had written for him.

Within the note, Mr Ferrarotto expressed his appreciation for Cameron’s actions and he thanked the doctor for his “bravery in administering the medication” that would allow him to “finally be at peace”.

He added: “I am pleased and honoured to have known you for what feels like a fleeting moment. I am so proud of the job that you have done and I am eternally thankful.”

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The medic explains that the element of giving people a choice and control that is central to the process of assisted dying.

He notes that the main reasons for people to apply for a permit to die are (in order) losing dignity, being less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable, loss of autonomy and uncontrolled pain or concern about it.

He said: “This is really about control, particularly for patients who have handed control over to the medical system for weeks, months, or in some cases years. It’s an opportunity to take control back from the disease that’s been dictating their life.”

While the administration of the drug to end someone’s life is relatively straightforward, the process to this point is not.

First patients would need to find a doctor willing to make an official request and then a chain of assessments starts that involves two doctors, a review board and a pharmacy team.

Some patients will receive a box containing everything they need including instructions, plus a demonstration from pharmacists at home who use a demonstrator kit using icing sugar as a prop to show patients how to mix up the drugs themselves.

Other patients, however, require an IV infusion given by a doctor like in the case of Phil Ferrarotto.

In the UK, assisted dying is banned in England and Wales under the 1961 Suicide Act.

According to the NHS website, euthanasia is regarded as either manslaughter or murder depending on the circumstances.

The NHS also states that the maximum penalty for euthanasia is life imprisonment.

However, some campaigners have called to legalise the process and wish to see it adopted in the UK.

Recently a bill to legalise assisted dying recently passed its second reading in the House of Lords.

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