Medical Schools Drop Opposition To Euthanasia Bill
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 18, 2004
LONDON, ENGLAND--Since the Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill was introduced in Parliament last year, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners have opposed the measure, which would make "voluntary euthanasia" (assisted suicide) legal in the United Kingdom.
Last week, both medical colleges announced that they have dropped their opposition and are taking a neutral stance on the measure, according to a report in the Guardian.
Professor Raymond Tallis, chairman of the RCP's committee on ethical issues in medicine, told the Guardian that his school changed its position because the bill has been "changed quite significantly" to address the committee's concerns.
"There are more safeguards -- the requirement of full palliative care has been really spelt out," he said.
Tallis also said that Britain needs to consider what other European countries, such as Holland and Belgium, have done in recent years to make euthanasia legal.
Dr. Ivan Cox, the RCGP's spokesman on euthanasia said, "It is clear that something needs to be done to clear up some of the ethical confusion surrounding end of life issues."
Both representatives added, however, that there were still major concerns which needed to be clarified. Those include deciding how doctors would be trained and determining which patients would be allowed to have doctors' help in killing themselves.
Currently under British law, assisting in a suicide carries a 14-year prison sentence.
The British Medical Association remains opposed to the bill.
Last month, Dr. Hazel Biggs, director of medical law at the University of Kent, estimated that doctors help at least 18,000 people each year to die in Britain.
The Disability Rights Commission has actively argued against the measure.
"Legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia is currently unsafe," the DRC wrote in a paper outlining its opposition to the proposal. "It could prove an unbearable pressure, on disabled people, to choose death in a society where they are made to feel inferior and a burden on relatives, carers and public resources, where there is a lack of social support services to aid dignity and independence, and sometimes a lack of palliative care resources."
"The DRC is not aware of any country that has managed to frame a law that allows assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, for people with terminal illness . . . whilst ensuring that disabled people are protected from coercion, pressure, and involuntary euthanasia."
Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill (UK Parliament)
Position Paper: Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill (Disability Rights Commission)
"Revealed: full scale of euthanasia in Britain" (The Guardian - September 19, 2004)
"'I don't want to plan my death, I want to enjoy life'" (The Guardian - September 19, 2004)