May 10, 2006

UK doctors join fight to oppose euthanisia law

Opponents of mercy killing plan seek to force a vote in the House of Lords on Friday.
The Bill, proposed by human rights lawyer Lord Joffe, would enable adults who are suffering “unbearably” as a result of a terminal illness and are of sound mind to die at their own request.

In practice this would mean that a doctor has to hand them a lethal drug. Doctors are also worried about pressures that the option of assisted dying would put on patients who might feel a burden to relatives.

As lobbying on both sides intensified yesterday, the Bill’s supporters released research by three professors of medical law and ethics arguing that it would lead to fewer assisted deaths.

Professor Sheila McLean, director of the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine at Glasgow University, said: “It is clear that the law as it stands is not a sufficient deterrent to doctors who are acting in secret, without accountability and without adherence to safeguards.”

But the Bill, based on euthansia laws in Oregon, is seen as the thin end of the wedge by a formidable array of opponents, who will take the unusual step of forcing it to a vote in the Lords on Friday.


Doctors’ leaders feared that their previous failure to take a position on euthanasia was being interpreted as tacit approval for mercy killing.

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