Doctors have written an urgent letter to UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid to inform him that they will not assist patients in taking their own lives. This Friday, peers are expected to pass a private members bill through the House of Lords. The bill proposes to allow doctors to provide lethal drugs to terminally ill people who want to end their lives.
According to The Telegraph:
The letter – signed by 1,689 doctors and sent to the Health Secretary on Tuesday – said: “The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised.
“It is impossible for any government to draft assisted suicide laws which include legal protection from future extension and expansion of those laws.”
They added: “Any change would threaten society’s ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse, it would undermine the trust the public places in physicians, and it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people.
“The cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable.”
They conclude: “We would not take patients’ lives – even if they asked us to – but for the sake of us all, and for future generations, we ask that the law remains unchanged.”
Last month, the British Medical Association changed its position on assisted dying. The UK’s biggest doctors union had previously opposed assisted suicide. In September it adopted a neutral stance on the issue.
The Royal College of Physicians changed its position to neutral back in 2019.
The peer behind the bill, Baroness Meacher, dismissed the doctors letter to Sajid Javid saying:
“It is always easy to find a list of people to support any position. More significant is that the BMA last month ended its opposition to assisted dying following their survey of their members showing a majority of doctors in favour of assisted dying.”
In Scotland, a private member’s bill by Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat MSP, proposes to legalise assisted dying as a choice for adults who are both terminally ill and mentally competent.
Speaking on the BBC’s Debate Night programme last week, Scottish Labour politician Pam Duncan-Glancy, who is wheelchair bound, said this:
“You start to question what’s terminally ill. How long do you need to be terminally ill? How terminal does it need to be to be ill? You’re looking at a backdrop of a situation in society where disabled people are so far from any kind of equality whatsoever, that there is no safeguard I believe that can be put in any bill. This bill is a danger.”