The Australian Medical Registration Board

Dr Syme consults with Mr Bernard Erica (ABC Australian Story)

Australia's Medical Registration Board (AHPRA) has told Dr Rodney Syme that he is a serious danger to patients.

Dr Rodney Syme, who occasionally provides advice and medication for dying patients to give them control over their dying process, has been reprimanded by Australia's Medical Registration Board (AHPRA) for posing a 'serious danger' to such patients. The story has been reported widely in the media.

On ABC's Australian Story on Monday night, "My conscience tells me", patient Mr Bernard Erica clearly volunteers that this is utter nonsense, and that like former journalist Mr Steve Guest, who Dr Syme also provided advice and medication to control the end of his life, Mr Erica in no way felt Dr Syme was a threat of any kind. Indeed, like Mr Guest, he has experienced profound and lasting relief from the very knowledge he would have control if and when the time for him came.

Mr Erica's GP, who was aware of and seemed initially supportive of Mr Erica's stance and Dr Syme's advice and medication, lodged a complaint with AHPRA when the ABC's Australian Story contacted him (the GP) for an interview in relation to the case, it was explained on Australian Story. Did this doctor suddenly feel frightened into 'protecting his own arse'?

Coroner's Court data shows that 8.5% of suicides in Victoria are the result of dying patients in extremis being denied the right to a peaceful, doctor-assisted death.

AHPRA need to hear from ordinary Australians, and doctors, that they disagree with the stance it has taken in relation to Dr Syme's careful and compassionate consultations with dying patients. Indeed, to oppose careful and considered medical assessment that providing control is the only way for this particular patient to obtain relief from intolerable psychological suffering—of the State's refusal to allow rational and deeply valued paths to death—is to condemn such patients to a high chance of violent and undignified suicide.

In a key submission to the Victorian Parliament's current inquiry into end-of-life choices, the Coroner's Court of Victoria reported that, after intensive and exquisitely careful analysis, rejecting any equivocal cases, 8.5% of suicides in Victoria are of dying persons experiencing unrelievable and intolerable suffering, and for whom current law does not provide a compassionate and peaceful doctor-assisted death.

By censuring doctors who provide patient choice, it is my view that AHPRA becomes complicit in violent suicides amongst the terminally ill. Thus it is AHPRA and not Dr Syme who represents a 'serious danger' to terminally ill patients.

By reprimanding Dr Syme for his careful and considered private medical practice and for placing additional conditions on his medical license, it is my view that AHPRA becomes complicit in violent suicides amongst the terminally ill. Thus it is AHPRA and not Dr Syme who represents a 'serious danger' to terminally ill patients.

I wrote to AHPRA to express my displeasure at their failure to recognise contemporary community standards, which are enormously in favour of providing terminally ill people the right to a peaceful, doctor-assisted death. Here is what I said.



I write to express my dismay, along with millions of Australians, at your hostile attitude towards Dr Rodney Syme and your farcical claim that he is a danger to patients. Clearly, you are mired in nineteenth century medical paternalism and are out of touch with contemporary Australian attitudes about having control over one's death in the face of intolerable and unrelievable end-of-life suffering.

Dr Syme will speak for himself of course. But I will also say that having worked with Dr Syme for years, NEVER ONCE in my experience has his "primary intention " (as you put it) been for his patient to end their life when he provides advice and medication. He provides GOOD PALLIATIVE CARE: relieving intolerable psychological suffering. Many of his patients never take the medication.

Please lift your game and modernise. Dr Syme is giving patients control to live better, not inciting them to die: a choice between ways of dying, not between living and dying.

Neil Francis


I urge you to write to AHPRA as well, which you can do here. Scroll down the page to use the web form.

Let us know what response you receive.

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