Right to die 'is hard for doctors to face'

DOCTORS are reluctant to carry out assisted suicides but will do so to ease the suffering of their patients, a Dutch physician claimed yesterday.

• Margo Macdonald's bill is before the Scottish Parliament Picture: PA

Dr Rob Jonquiere said a request from a patient for assistance in ending their life was the most difficult ever received by a doctor, as he told MSPs most of his medical colleagues were scared to carry out such procedures, but did so out of compassion to their terminally ill patients.

The former GP, who now works for the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, appeared at a special Scottish Parliamentary committee set up to examine independent MSP Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill.

He joined international experts from jurisdictions that allow assisted suicide in detailing their experiences as part of the scrutiny of the bill that would permit terminally ill people over 16 to request help to die, and stop those that help them facing charges of culpable homicide.

Dr Jonquiere, a former chief executive of the Dutch Right to Die Association, told the committee: "I was a general practitioner and I have practised euthanasia. I know from my former colleagues that the request for euthanasia is the most difficult request you get. When the patient (says] 'please, I would rather be dead than alive' you are frightened. Doctors don't like to do it.

"Everybody is afraid, even the doctor is afraid that he will terminate the life of a person who actually may be better tomorrow."

The experts also moved to allay fears allowing assisted suicide in Scotland would lead to a "slippery slope" that would eventually see more and more patients helped to die.

The experts said there was no evidence in the Netherlands and Switzerland of such a trend.

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