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

There is nothing wrong with assisted dying autonomously demanded by a competent patient.

In their study, titled “What people close to death say about euthanasia and assisted suicide: a qualitative study” Chapple and others found that people close to death felt that UK law should be changed to allow assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia for multiple reasons, including pain and anticipated pain, fear of indignity, loss of control and cognitive impairment. The belief in Carrère’s book Other Lives but Mine: “As a rule, he thinks one must live lucidly, experiencing everything that happens, even suffering by the author is personal. Yes, one must experience everything that happens in their life time but if possible, suffering should be an exception. The bioethical principles of autonomy, beneficence and non-maleficence are principles from which positive duties in medical practice emerge. The duty to promote good and act in the best interest of the patient and the duty to do no harm to Patients, to protect and foster a patient’s free, choices are well documented in bioethical literature. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with assisted dying so long as the demand is from a competent patient and therefore in his or her interest. Legalization of assisted dying is very prone to abuse; nonetheless, this largely remains the duty of health workers to resist from the abuse.

Inability to make a sound decision needs to be given special attention. In general, requests for termination of life or assisted suicide in the absence of advance medical directive made by seemingly incompetent patients need close scrutiny.

Competing interests: No competing interests

25 July 2012
Tom Ngabirano
Makerere University