Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should the law on assisted dying be changed? Yes

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 21 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2355
  1. Raymond Tallis, former professor of geriatric medicine
  1. 1University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  1. raymond{at}

Raymond Tallis argues that allowing terminally ill people to choose an assisted death is part of good care, but Kevin Fitzpatrick (doi:10.1136/bmj.d1883) believes it will endanger the lives of disabled people

The case for legalising assisted dying for people with terminal illness is easily stated. Unbearable suffering, prolonged by medical care, and inflicted on a dying patient who wishes to die, is unequivocally a bad thing. It is one of the fundamental principles of medicine that you should be allowed to determine what is in your own best interest when you are of sound mind. Nobody else’s views should be able to over-ride this right. This seems incontrovertible to me now, and yet when I first considered the matter I was opposed to legalising assisted dying. This was because I made numerous incorrect assumptions. These, I believe, form the basis of much opposition to a change in the law, and I want to address them.

We must set aside the claim that more or better palliative care can deal with all instances of unbearable suffering. My experience as a doctor for 35 …

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