Head To Head

Should the law on assisted dying be changed? No

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1883 (Published 21 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1883
  1. Kevin Fitzpatrick, researcher, Not Dead Yet UK
  1. 1Reynoldston, UK
  1. kevin{at}inclusion21.org

Raymond Tallis (doi:10.1136/bmj.d2355) argues that allowing terminally ill people to choose an assisted death is part of good care, but Kevin Fitzpatrick believes it will endanger the lives of disabled people

Patient safety is at the heart of good clinical governance: not having the confidence to seek medical intervention early poses a threat to the lives of all patients, regardless of impairment. Disabled people, like others, and often with more reason, need to feel safe. Thus eroding what may already be a shaky sense of safety in medical care poses a further threat to disabled people’s wellbeing, continuing care, and life itself.

Impairment is already directly associated with an immediate threat to life during medical care. When Baroness Campbell, founder of Not Dead Yet UK and born with spinal muscular atrophy, was being treated for life threatening pneumonia two doctors told her they presumed that if she experienced respiratory failure, she wouldn’t want to be resuscitated: “You wouldn’t want to live on a ventilator.” No ventilation and no resuscitation meant she would die. Very scared, she stayed awake in hospital for more than 48 hours.1

Subjective opinion

Crucially, the doctors’ judgment, based on …

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