Assisted dying: restricting access to people with fewer than six months to live is discriminatoryBMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6093 (Published 21 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6093
- Katherine Sleeman, NIHR clinician scientist, honorary consultant in palliative medicine1,
- Iain Chalmers, retired health services researcher
- 1King’s College London, UK
The Australian state of Victoria has become the latest jurisdiction to legalise assisted dying, joining Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and several US states. Although assisted dying remains illegal in the UK, there are signs that the country is inching towards legalisation. For example, in March 2019 the Royal College of Physicians adopted a position of neutrality, and the BMA and Royal College of General Practitioners have both decided to consult their members on whether their official positions should change from opposition.
Much of the public debate remains binary: yes or no. But this is a dangerous oversimplification. Assisted dying laws exist along a continuum. For example, in Oregon, assisted dying is only available to people who have a terminal illness expected to result in death within six months. In Belgium, by contrast, assisted dying is available to people with unrelievable mental or …