Re: Assisted dying
22 June 2012
It is very impressive to see an Editorial, several Letters, Observations and a Personal View all devoted to the topic of Assisted Dying. The multiple Rapid Responses to this article indicate a high level of interest and perhaps of anxiety, about the subject. Expressions of compassion, ethical principles, and religious faith abound and make one very proud of our profession. One must disagree very strongly with the view that the medical profession and the various Royal Colleges should support a stance of neutrality and leave decisions to Parliament, a body with very little hands-on experience of suffering and death, and surely not competent to teach us medical ethics.
I recall the debates on euthanasia that used to be popular on the radio. The panels usually consisted of two or more laymen who favoured euthanasia and a minister of religion who usually opposed it. Doctors were very seldom represented. Particularly annoying was the tacit assumption that if assisted dying were legal, doctors would be willing to carry it out. In fact there are very many doctors who would adamantly refuse to kill patients even if the process were legal. I have pointed out (1, 2) that doctors should not be involved in judicial executions or in official euthanasia. Our profession should not assume a neutral stance on a topic that impinges strongly on our professional freedom and our personal morals.
1) Spiers, ASD. Euthanasia debate. NEJM 1990; 323; 1771.
2) Spiers, ASD. Life and Deasth. The Economist; October 15, 1994, p. 8.
Competing interests: None declared
Retired, Gibraltar lane, Cookham, Berkshire.
Click to like: