Letter: Ethanasia goes against medical ethics

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As general practitioners working with chronically sick and terminally ill patients and their families, we are opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide or euthanasia in Scotland (your report, 19 November).

Crossing the boundary between acknowledging that death is inevitable and taking intentional, active steps to end the life of a patient changes fundamentally the role of the physician and may well undermine the important doctor-patient relationship which is based on trust.

The proposed legislation is dangerous since assisted suicide or euthanasia may begin to be considered as a solution by many elderly, depressed or other vulnerable people who feel that they are a financial or emotional burden to family, carers or the state.

In this regard, we cannot support any provisions which may encourage any of our patients, and especially those who are frail and vulnerable, to believe that they have lost their inherent dignity or which may imply, however subtly, that society might be better off without them.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia promote the idea that society should be given the power to end the lives of those who consider their own lives as worthless or meaningless.

But as healthcare professionals seeking to address the suffering of patients and their families, we will never accept that some human lives are unworthy of life.

This would indeed be contrary to all historical codes of medical ethics and the policy of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Dr Anne Williams, Dr Emma O Neill, Dr Rebecca Macfarlane, Dr Andrea Cooper, Dr Shirley Scott, Dr Ronald NC Douglas (Glasgow), Dr Morag MacDonald (Thurso & Halkirk), Dr Miles Mack (Dingwall), Dr Colin Barrett, Dr Rosemary Barrett (Rutherglen), Dr Fiona Bradshaw, Dr Quintin Bradshaw (West Lothian), Dr Mark McAuley (Kirkintilloch), Dr Stephen Meldrum (Lothian & Tayside), Dr Katy Daniels (Arbroath), Dr John Scullion (Erskine), Dr Catriona Doran (Lanarkshire), Dr Philip J Stewart (Kirkintilloch), Dr Alistair MacDonald (Inverness-shire), Dr Natalie Confield (Inverness), Dr Sarah Clancy, Dr Stephen Moran, Dr Rebecca Aleeson, Dr Sheila Turville (Skye), Dr James Douglas, Dr Neil Arnott GP, Dr Jane Munro (Fort William), Dr Graeme Walker, Dr Rod Sampson (Inverness), Dr Morag A Calder (Ballachulish, Argyll), Dr Peter von Kaehne (Lochgoilhead, Argyll), Dr Lindsay Burgess, Dr Fiona Earl, Dr Steven Best (Edinburgh), Dr John Watt Robertson (Rosemarkie Ross-shire), Dr Lorna Nunn (Lothian), Dr Lois Jacob, Dr Rhona McKeown (Aberdeenshire), Dr Robert Proudlove (Bo`ness, West Lothian), Dr Moray Fraser (Thurso, Caithness), Dr Linda Robertson GP (Wishaw, Lanarkshire), Dr Alastair William Rigg (Dumfries and Galloway), Dr David Murray (Perth), Dr Janet Robertson (Moffat), Dr Catherine MacKinnon (Kirkintilloch), Dr Lianne Kylanpaa (Dundee), Dr Matthew Jack (Aberdeen)

Margo MacDonald's End of Life Bill looks as if it will not find favour with her fellow MSPs though opinion polls routinely show it is supported by 80 per cent of the country.

And when non-identifiable surveys are carried out, large numbers of doctors in the UK admit they have resorted to euthanasia when all other options have failed.

In Oregon and elsewhere, when legalisation passed into law, it brought out of the back alley the practice of giving merciful release to patients in extremis. Access to physician-assisted death allows the patient to maintain control over his or her situation and to end life in an ethical and merciful manner.

Having such access in Scotland would remove the necessity of a journey to a foreign country and dying among strangers - surely the ultimate unintended consequence.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews