Dr Lancee admitted to helping a number of patients die. Picture: 60 Minutes.
Dr Lancee admitted to helping a number of patients die. Picture: 60 Minutes.

"This is what I did for this lady"

DOCTOR Alida Lancee has four daughters and a successful practice, but she has risked her career and her freedom by making admissions that will likely lead to a police investigation and possible charges.

"All I want to do is provide a compassionate choice for those who need it," Dr Lancee told 60 Minutes.

The GP has admitted to assisting patients ending their lives and says her freedom is a price she is willing to pay to speak out, because she believes Australia's stance on euthanasia needs to change.

Dr Lancee has long been an advocate for assisted dying and has been subject to police investigation before.

In 2016 police were looking into the death of one of Dr Lancee's patients. Her name was eventually cleared over that case because it was determined the patient died of natural causes.

But in the interview, she admitted to helping another patient end their life.

A mother to four daughters, Dr Alida Lancee is willing to risk everything because she believes Australia's stance on euthanasia needs to change. Picture: Channel 9
A mother to four daughters, Dr Alida Lancee is willing to risk everything because she believes Australia's stance on euthanasia needs to change. Picture: Channel 9

READ MORE: Dr Alida Lancee cleared of wrongdoing by Medical Board

READ MORE: Calls for national euthanasia bill

The patient whose death Dr Lancee admitted to contributing to in the interview was Mavis Scott, 80, who had end stage lung disease.

Dr Lancee said Ms Scott said to her, "I just want to die", and pleaded with her to help.

Dr Lancee admitted to giving Ms Scott a lethal injection, telling 60 Minutes the injection she gave her dying patient was to speed up her death rather than prolong it. Dr Lancee said she spoke to both Ms Scott and her daughter for a long time.

"This is what I did for this lady," Dr Lancee said. "If you think that was against the law and I am a murderer, deal with me as you see fit and then see what the people of Australia will have to say about that."

Dr Lancee was asked whether Ms Scott would have had the same result if she was in palliative care.

"Well, it's possible," she replied. "I think it's possible but I think she might have suffered intermittent distress and have died over days, rather than hours. That's where the difference is."

Euthanasia is illegal in Australian states and territories apart from Victoria, where laws to legalise assisted dying will take effect mid-2019.

Dr Lancee's interview has reignited debate around assisted dying in Australia, with many expressing their support for a change in legislation after the interview aired.

Australia Medical Association representative Dr Omar Khorshid said the actions of doctors like Dr Lancee were "unacceptable".

"Doctors must act within the law," Dr Khorshid said. "We can't have individual doctors saying 'I know better, I can play God, I can decide who lives and who dies."

Dr Omar Khorshid said doctors choosing to not abide by the law is ‘unacceptable’. Picture: Channel 9
Dr Omar Khorshid said doctors choosing to not abide by the law is ‘unacceptable’. Picture: Channel 9

Dr Lancee also admitted Ms Scott was not the only patient she has helped die. She admitted to assisting "seven or eight" die, meaning she could face further investigation.

"So be it," she said. "All the more exemplifies how ludicrous the law is.

"My problem isn't that I've done the wrong thing, my problem is that society hasn't caught up with what people need."

Dr Lancee wasn't the only doctor who told 60 Minutes she had a hand in a patient's death.

Dr Frank Kotai and Dr Rodney Syme both supported Dr Lancee, and both doctors admitted to also assisting patients die.

60 Minutes showed footage of Dr Syme talking to a his patient Jenny Thompson, 81, who has a brain tumour leaving her with six months to live.

Dr Syme told her if she reached a point of "intolerable suffering", he would commit to giving her his support and access to medication which will give Mrs Thompson control on how she dies.

 

Dr Rodney Syme is committed to help those with a terminal illness choose how they die. Picture: Channel 9
Dr Rodney Syme is committed to help those with a terminal illness choose how they die. Picture: Channel 9

"I don't want to be taken into palliative care or put into a nursing home," Mrs Thompson said. "I want to choose how I end my life."

Dr Syme claimed doctors had been helping patients have a choice in how they die for decades.

He could not give an exact number as to how many patients Dr Syme has helped, but he said it was "probably around 300".

To assist, Dr Syme said he provided Nembutal to those patients, a sedative which is only available to vets.

Dr Syme said the drug was effective for anyone in extreme distress.

Dr Kotai said he had also helped patients die and he believes Dr Lancee needs "visible support from colleagues and friends".

Dr Kotai said he has had patients ask him to help end their life, and said he had complied "half a dozen times".

Dr Frank Kotai also admitted to helping patients end their lives. Picture: Channel 9
Dr Frank Kotai also admitted to helping patients end their lives. Picture: Channel 9

Next year Victoria will become the only state in Australia to allow doctor assists patients who seek them out wanting to end their life.

In May 2018, Australian scientist David Goodall travelled to Switzerland, where the procedure is legal to end his life. He was 104 years old.

Dr Lancee has been investigated by police before, however, they were investigating the wrong patient. By naming the patient she did assist, Dr Lancee has put herself at risk of facing criminal charges. Picture: Channel 9
Dr Lancee has been investigated by police before, however, they were investigating the wrong patient. By naming the patient she did assist, Dr Lancee has put herself at risk of facing criminal charges. Picture: Channel 9
Dr Syme has admitted to helping over 300 patients choose how they die. Picture: Channel 9
Dr Syme has admitted to helping over 300 patients choose how they die. Picture: Channel 9

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