AN ADELAIDE surgeon who shot dead a young mother at the site of a massacre to save her hours of agony has called for euthanasia to be legalised in Australia.
Dr Craig Jurisevic, a cardio-thoracic surgeon and author of the memoir Blood on My Hands, volunteered as a doctor and then became a combatant with the Kosovo Liberation Army during the Balkans war in 1999.
On patrol, he came across a civilian woman who had been shot through the legs and partly disembowelled by Serb paramilitaries.
She was moaning in pain and begged him to end her suffering. He says he knew he could not save her, so he put a blanket over her face and shot her with his pistol.
Dr Jurisevic says he has never performed euthanasia in Australia but says it is common: ”You may not get people to come out and admit that it happens, but it happens all the time. Patients with terminal cancer, for example, who aren’t in severe pain but who are uncomfortable and suffering have morphine infusions, and as the dose of morphine is increased their respiration slows down until they stop breathing and they die ?
”That’s why there are people on morphine infusions who aren’t in pain. It happens frequently in terminally ill patients.”
His comments add to similar calls from doctors at a conference of the World Federation of the Right to Die Societies in Melbourne this week.
Dr Jurisevic fears euthanasia laws could be abused by people who want to prevent euthanasia, and by people who want to use it inappropriately, but on balance he believes it is better to have the practice out in the open.
”Now that people are living longer, they are developing cancers and other terminal conditions, which mean they will suffer for a lot longer, too, leading up to their death. Part of our ethos as medical professionals is to ease suffering; not just to save life, but to ease suffering.
”And if we’re to be told that we’re not allowed to ease a terminally ill cancer patient’s suffering because it’s against the law – that they should be forced to suffer in pain and without dignity for weeks or longer – then that’s terrible.”
He has no regrets about his shooting in Kosovo but admits he acted illegally. ”Euthanasia wasn’t legal in Yugoslavia, as it was then, so that was a criminal act. That’s an argument a lot of Serb journalists within Serbia have used. They called me a criminal because I killed that poor Albanian woman. I said, ‘Well, who put her there in the first place?’ ”