Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Euthanasia again

Good to pay my annual visit (assuming they may possibly want me back next year!) to Wootton Upper School and the A level ethics class of good friend Sharon Crisp. I was impressed by the maturity and interaction of the students-likely a good reflection of Sharon's teaching.

Euthanasia is of course a complex and emotive issue which continues to be in the news. Just last week we hear that Belgium has confirmed the legalising of euthanasia for children and the continued opposition to a change of law in favour of euthanasia of the Royal College of General Practitioners of which I am a member. Some 80% of members who responded to the consultation were in favour of leaving our legislation alone and not supporting any change in the law to enable physician assisted suicide.

Here's a brief clip from the RCGP statement (for more detail check here)

Although a minority of respondents put forward cases to shift the College’s collective position to ‘neutral’ or ‘in favour’ of a change in law on assisted dying, most respondents were against a change in the law for a range of reasons, including that a change in the legislation would:
  • be detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship
  • put the most vulnerable groups in society at risk
  • be impossible to implement without eliminating the possibility that patients may be in some way coerced into the decision to die
  • shift the focus away from investing in palliative care and treatments for terminal illnesses
  • instigate a ‘slippery slope’ whereby it would only be a matter of time before assisted dying was extended to those who could not consent due to reasons of incapacity and the severely disabled.
In addition, some respondents thought that the possibility of a wrong decision being made was too high to take the risk.
The GP-patient relationship, with GPs often attending patients in the final days and hours of their lives, means that GPs would be one of the professional groups most affected by any change in the law on assisted dying.
I'm greatly relieved by that stance, which is supported by other medical royal colleges as well as the BMA.

There' so much too say on the subject, but for anyone who wants to read further I would recommend George Pitcher's book, A time to live  It is written by a Daily Telegraph journalist who is also an anglican vicar. I found it extremely helpful and with some excellent analysis of the euthanasia practice of countries like Holland, Switzerland, and the US state of Oregon. The detailed annual figures from Oregon (a requirement of the act passed in 1998) reveal some telling detail such as the rise in the number of people requesting euthanasia either for financial reasons or the 'not wanting too be a burden' which is so open to coercion.

We ended the lesson by watching again this short clip of disabled peer Baroness Campbell



If we'd had time I would like to have shown them this short presentation to the Oxford Union by Professor Finley, an expert palliative care physician.



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