Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Observations Life and Death

What’s wrong with assisted dying

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 29 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3755

Rapid Response:

Re: What’s wrong with assisted dying

It is disappointing that the RCGP President not only describes Voluntary Euthanasia and the Nazi war criminal Mengele in the same sentence but also seems unaware of the evidence regarding the safety of Assisted Dying around the world. One can only speculate as to the motivation for this. The opponents of Volunary Euthanasia(VE) around the world usually do this - muddy the waters with words and concepts that evoke really bad connotations. They are wiful misrepresentations of the facts regarding VE.
Numerous independent audits of existing Euthanasia Laws from several jurisdictions have shown them to be safe. The "slippery slope" does not exist. Vulnerable people are LESS likely to take advantage of assisted dying.

“Rates of assisted dying in Oregon and in the Netherlands showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured (inapplicable in the Netherlands, where all are insured), people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations. The only group with a heightened risk was people with AIDS. While extralegal cases were not the focus of this study, none have been uncovered in Oregon; among extralegal cases in the Netherlands, there was no evidence of higher rates in vulnerable groups.” M P Battin et al, “Legal physician-assisted dying in Oregon and the Netherlands: evidence concerning the impact on patients in “vulnerable” groups”, J Med Ethics 2007; 33: 591-597

Courtney Campbell, Hundere Professor in Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, and not a supporter of assisted dying, nevertheless concluded in his review of the operation of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act “The procedures embedded in the statute for ensuring informed and voluntary decisions by terminally ill patients have been substantially effective. The pre-implementation concerns of critics about coerced or compromised choices do not seem borne out in practice.” (“Ten Years of “Death with Dignity””, The New Atlantis, Fall 2008).

“There is no evidence from the Netherlands supporting the concern that society’s vulnerable would be at increased risk of abuse if a more permissive regime were implemented (in Canada).” “What has emerged is evidence that the law is capable of managing the decriminalization of assisted dying” (Report by Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel, End-of-life Decision-making November

Facts are facts and it is misinformed and arrogant to state that no safe law can be drafted.
They already exist and are working just fine and safely in Oregon, The Netherlands, Belgium, Washington State, Switzerland, Montana, Luxembourg.
Change is inevitable.

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 June 2012
David Leaf
GP , Lecturer UNSW, Senior Registrar Emergency Medicine
Dying With Dignity
44a Bond St Mosman NSW Australia