Does the doctrine of double effect apply to the prescription of barbiturates? Syme vs the Medical Board of Australia

J Med Ethics, September 2017
Author: Xavier Symons
“The doctrine of double effect (DDE) is a principle of crucial importance in law and medicine. In medicine, the principle is generally accepted to apply in cases where the treatment necessary to relieve pain and physical suffering runs the risk of hastening the patient’s death. More controversially, it has also been used as a justification for withdrawal of treatment from living individuals and physician-assisted suicide. In this paper, I will critique the findings of the controversial Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearing Syme vs the Medical Board of Australia. In that hearing, Dr Rodney Syme, a urologist and euthanasia advocate, was defending his practice of prescribing barbiturates to terminally ill patients.”
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