Assisted dying

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In response to Dr Charles Warlow and Dr Gillian MacDougall (Letters, 6 February), we must never let suicide be a legitimate response to life’s problems.

Despite the circumstances we may find ourselves in, all human beings have inherent worth and we must not forget this. Doctors Warlow and MacDougall disagree that assisted suicide would undermine the very basis of civilised society, yet the jurisdictions they mention are hardly bastions of exemplary practice.

Experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, Oregon and Washington shows that any change in the law will lead to incremental extension and mission creep as some doctors actively extend the categories of those to be included (from mentally competent to incompetent, terminal to chronic, adults to children, assisted suicide to euthanasia).

This process will be almost impossible to police.

Euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands have increased by 13-20 per cent per year from 2006-2013. Euthanasia now accounts for more than 3 per cent of all Dutch deaths. In 2013 there were 42 reports of people who were euthanised because they suffered severe psychiatric problems and 97 cases with dementia.

A Lancet study indicated that in 2010, 23 per cent of all euthanasia deaths were not reported and 12.3 per cent of all deaths were related to deep-continuous sedation.

In Belgium there has been a 500 per cent increase in euthanasia deaths over ten years.

I would also remind Doctors Warlow and MacDougall that the vast majority of UK doctors are opposed to legalising euthanasia, along with the British Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of General Practitioners, Association for Palliative Medicine and British Geriatric Society.

We must not undermine a fundamental and historic legal and ethical principle: respect for the equal worth of all patients.

Finally, in the words of Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases, “Don’t do it, Britain… the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure.”

Martin Conroy

Oldhamstocks

East Lothian

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