In support of assisted dyingBMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1828 (Published 09 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1828
- Colin Brewer, writer, researcher, and former psychiatrist, London, UK,
- Michael Irwin, former medical director of the United Nations
- Correspondence to: C Brewer
The novelist Terry Pratchett, who died last month, although a proponent of medically assisted suicide, was not one of the 30 essayists featured in our new not-for-profit book I’ll See Myself Out, Thank You, but several similarly high profile people have contributed (some essays have been reprinted).
To help the debate, we propose a new term: medically assisted rational suicide (MARS). It emphasises the typically calm, sober, and unhurried decisions by at least averagely rational people to end their lives sooner than might otherwise happen without direct intervention.
Whether doctors inject a lethal drug (voluntary euthanasia)—or simply prescribe it for patients to swallow (MARS)—seems unimportant, provided that a quick and comfortable death is what the patient wants.
The book was timed to coincide with Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill, which failed to be fully debated before this parliament ended, and it quotes from several supportive speeches during the second reading debate in November 2014. Many of the book’s essayists will be familiar to The BMJ’s readers, and several mention Lord Dawson’s famous comment that legislation on assisted dying was unnecessary because “all good doctors do it anyway.” But if that was ever true, it is not true now.
Dementia, MARS, and voluntary euthanasia
By Colin Brewer
For many people, an additional consideration is that they do not want their families to have to watch them living and dying in this sorry state. This may be a minor and secondary motivation for MARS for some patients but a primary and important one for others. As Baroness Warnock puts it [in her essay in our book], “I simply do not want to be remembered as someone wholly dependent on others, especially for the most personally private aspects of my life, nor …