Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Nothing’s Sacred

Assisted dying: “all good doctors do it anyway”

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 28 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6536
  1. Colin Brewer, research director of the Stapleford Centre, London SW1W 9NP
  1. brewerismo{at}

The founders of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society in 1935—the world’s first—included some eminent doctors, but not Lord Dawson, the royal physician, who thought legalisation unnecessary because, “all good doctors do it anyway.” The following year, he euthanised George V in Queen Mary’s presence. In 1939, Sigmund Freud requested and received physician assisted suicide. At my first committee meeting of the society in 1979, I suggested that because legalisation might not happen for many years (and how right I was) we should consider telling our members what many doctors both know and value: how to die peacefully if, despite good palliative care, the distress and indignity of …

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