HUNDREDS of doctors have formed a coalition to support voluntary euthanasia and lobby state governments to decriminalise the practice.
The president of Dying With Dignity NSW, Dr Robert Marr, will launch the group - Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice - at a public forum at Parliament House on Tuesday titled A Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill for NSW.
Dr Marr said it was the first time an alliance of doctors had formed to advocate voluntary euthanasia.
''We believe it's important to form this coalition because doctors and religious groups have been the biggest opponents of voluntary euthanasia,'' Dr Marr said, explaining that the prescription of lethal drugs was banned by the physicians' Hippocratic Oath.
''No doctor wants to kill a patient. But it's not about that. It's about people having the right to decide for themselves, not politicians or priests or doctors.''
The group will make a submission to the South Australian Parliament, which is debating a law to decriminalise doctors who help terminally ill patients end their lives.
''We'll also be making a submission to the Tasmanian Parliament, where there is a push to legalise voluntary euthanasia which is supported by the Premier and Deputy Premier,'' Dr Marr said. ''There's not many things in society that have 85 per cent support but which politicians don't act on.''
But views are diverse among doctors. ''There are two things the AMA does not have a formal position on, abortion and euthanasia,'' said an Australian Medical Association spokesman, John Flannery.
''The reason the AMA doesn't have a position on euthanasia is because it's one of those issues that has lots of grey around it … doctors have their own views about the definition of euthanasia, voluntary euthanasia and assisted death. It's a very tough area to get a definitive response from the AMA on because doctors have such differing views.''
Dr Marr advocates the system used in the US state of Oregon.
''If the patient is terminally ill, they've had the best palliative care, they're not suffering from a treatable depression and not being pressured by relatives, they can request from their doctor a lethal dose of medication which they can self-administer,'' he said.
He claimed it would not open the door to misuse or overuse. ''People just want the option.''