What’s wrong with assisted dyingBMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e3755 (Published 29 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3755
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Iona Heath's association of the names of Mengele and Shipman with doctors supportive of legislation for assisted dying is unwarranted.
The fundamental differences are centred both in compassion and patient choice.
Dr Heath's avowed reservations about assisted dying both concern an expectation of the abuse of power, either by an individual relative, or by the State should a "malign" government come to power. It is however much more likely that malign individuals who coerce the "vulnerable" into seeking an assisted death will be identified proactively by the professional scrutiny which any legislation in this area will embody.
If in the future a malign government were to come to power we, the citizens, would have far more to worry about than the abuse of assisted dying.
Competing interests: Steering Committee Member, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying
Dr Heath appears to be haunted with nightmarish visions of Drs. Mengele and Shipman, together with fears that a ‘malign’ future government may take advantage of dignity in dying and require one’s death. The reality is much less dramatic: in places that allow assisted dying, there have been no dramatic increases that would justify her fears. People request assisted dying in the face of intolerable pain, and loss of autonomy caused by severe illness. She does not advance even anecdotal evidence of “complicit, self interested support from relatives, professionals, or carers”.
The death of Susan Sontag is completely irrelevant since she wished to stay alive and would therefore never have requested assisted dying, but Dr Heath’s preference for death by aspiration pneumonia seems peculiar – there are far less terrifying ways of dying.
Competing interests: Steering Committee member, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.