In a letter to The Times newspaper, a group of doctors and academics say they are concerned that if assisted dying is legalised, it may lead to terminally ill patients being coerced into signing their lives away. In today’s paper Katie Gibbons writes:
In a letter to The Times, experts from hospitals and universities highlight problems in the US state of Oregon and in Canada, where assisted dying is legal.
They write: “As palliative medicine doctors and academics with decades of experience caring for terminally ill people, we are concerned at the paucity of evidence supporting the Meacher bill to legalise assisted suicide.
“Evidence from Oregon shows how assessment of capacity for assisted suicide is influenced by the individual values of assessing clinicians, something that is almost impossible to mitigate against.
“Patients seeking assisted suicide often have significant psychosocial distress, making them at increased risk of coercion and abuse; Oregon’s most recent official report shows that 53 per cent of patients who died under the state’s Death with Dignity Act reported feeling a burden on their families, friends or caregivers. Pain and fear of pain were less frequently cited.”
Last week, the Assisted Dying Bill passed its first hurdle in the House of Lords. The bill’s second reading, tabled by Baroness Meacher, was unopposed in the Lords and will be scrutinised by a committee.
The report from Oregon is significant. I’ve been covering assisted dying on radio and TV since the late 1990’s. I am personally opposed to it. I’ve shared my reasons many times on The Richie Allen Show.
The Oregon research is significant. Opponents of assisted dying have been telling me for years that it would be next to impossible to mitigate against people taking their lives to reduce the burden on their families.
A few years ago, I interviewed a Spanish priest about the Swiss assisted dying company Dignitas. He eschewed his religious beliefs and told me that legalising assisted dying took us one step closer to enabling the state to make the decision on our behalf.
He posed this question: “If assisted dying is legalised, how long before the law changes again to allow the state, or an expert acting for the state to make the decision on behalf of the citizen, if the citizen is deemed to be incompetent?”