Assisted suicide, euthanasia and Homeopathic medicine

 To get through life without harming another is a great achievement Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist
Only Irish and Africans cope with death Hospice nurse, London

Now that campaigners on both sides of the Irish Sea are pushing for assisted dying options – being the age of individual choice – and since the UK have advanced the cause further at political level, most links below pertain to their story. And whether it’s a tax on sales reps’ use of their company car or an increase in the price of a stamp, what happens in the UK today invariably happens here the next, therefore the UK experience is relevant to ours. Yes, we are all west-Brits now!

One Irish campaigner, who was terminally ill, according to one report wouldn’t attend a court hearing in case she got pneumonia which would endanger her life! Life is full of ironies but with such matters, we have to take this genuine question seriously. As homeopaths we are not entitled legally, professionally or morally to facilitate abortion or suicide. The Homeopathic idea of euthanasia is very different in the little reference to it which is to be found in our literature. Our prescription is to make living and dying easier for our clients, in mind and body.

Death has his own time which the physician must respect

(A German folk tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm, Godfather Death, seems more relevant today than ever before.¹)

For good reason, most doctors abhor the idea of hastening someone’s decline to the point of enforcing their annihilation. There are, apart from moral objections, practical difficulties with this from a physician’s perspective as Lord McColl of Durham (formerly Professor of surgery at Guy’s Hospital) explained in the Daily Telegraph in 2009; see link below):

Let us put on one side the serious ethical objections to doctors participating in assisting suicides – objections that only a year or so ago were drawn to the attention of a parliamentary select committee (of which I was a member) by the General Medical Council and by a number of eminent physicians. Let us also for the moment ignore the fact that within the last year or so both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners have consulted with their members and firmly rejected the notion that doctors should be involved in helping to end their patients’ lives.

There is a widespread, but unwarranted, notion among the public that medicine is an exact science [eg; See my post and science category]. It isn’t: mistakes happen in diagnosis and prognosis. The select committee that investigated one of the “assisted dying” Bills brought forward in recent years by Lord Joffe was told by the Royal College of Pathologists that post-mortems regularly reveal “significant errors”, including misdiagnosis of terminal illness, in around one in 20 cases. An eminent physician, a palliative care consultant with years of experience of treating terminally ill patients, spoke of the social security forms that doctors complete for patients who are thought to be within six months of dying. “I would not like to count,” he told the select committee, “how many of those forms I have signed in my life for patients still living after a year, 18 months or even longer.”

The Association of British Neurologists told the same select committee that research showed that around 30 per cent of patients with motor neurone disease have significant cognitive impairment, even though they may appear on the surface to be completely compos mentis and capable of making decisions. A clinical psychologist from the British Psychological Society gave a warning that there was “a significant incidence of moderate to severe depression” at various stages of terminal illness. It was, she continued, hard to detect “because many of the symptoms of depression are confounded by the symptoms of the disease”.

Let’s not forget, as no-one else seems to have stated, that sometimes a desire for death is actually a symptom of the person’s diseased state. (I don’t use the words illness, disease or pathology because these are a fallacy; just words! But that’s beside the point of the argument.) Take a look at the pathogenesis of the metal zinc as proven by Hahnemann (and Kent’s experience with Zinc): various brain/spinal/neurological symptoms and the mental symptom “talks about death calmly,” we can see – at least in people corresponding to zinc symptoms, which must be common with MS and Motor Neurone – that such patients will easily succumb to assisted suicide/euthanasia; but why kill the patient to treat their symptoms?

One wonders now if some doctors are so used to suppressing symptoms, they find it easy to suppress death by delaying it and life by ending it?²

Definitions

Euthanasia is the direct killing of a patient by a Doctor or other medical professional.

Assisted Suicide is the support and immediate aid of another person to cause their own death.

Terminal Illness – Significantly, there is no definition!

The medical profession and assisted dying

Apart from the quote above from Prof Lord McColl illustrating the medical opposition and practical complexities, his and other articles are linked below.

1. Doctors want nothing to do with assisted suicide (Link)
Lord Falconer’s amendment is wrong. Doctors should not be involved in assisted suicides, says Ian McColl.

Lord McColl is a former professor of surgery at Guy’s Hospital, London.

2. Legalise assisted suicide because ‘choice’ the most important principle in medicine – says BMJ (Click Here)

It argues that “respect for autonomy” – rather than the ideas of the Hippocratic Oath – is now the “cardinal principle” in medical ethics amid a “patient revolution”.
The journal accuses professional bodies – including its owner, the British Medical Association – and the royal colleges, which oppose relaxing the euthanasia laws, of going to “extraordinary contortions” to avoid consulting their members on the issue.
“Ultimately, however, this is ultimately “a matter for Parliament, not doctors to decide,” it remarks.

If moral choice is reduced to individual choice then there is no morality. Morality has to be something objective – how else can we have an International Court of Human Rights and a United Nations, for example, making decisions if it’s all on an individual basis?

Homeopathy and Euthanasia

Let’s begin with some bibliographic cases to set the tone! Kent tells us that Lippe’s daughter was dying…

“Dr. Lippe’s daughter had cancer of the liver. Her distress was intense. As her father watched her, he noted that she rolled constantly from side to side.

This reminded him of the description of Tarantula just published, which he had read a few days previously, emphasizing this feature. He administered Tarantula and obtained for the sufferer euthanasia that appeared impossible before.”
(See James Tyler Kent’s Minor Writings or his New Remedies and Lesser Writings here or free online here)

What is meant above, and is known to those who understand a homeopathic remedy’s action, it doesn’t actively induce death but puts the patient at ease, not by drugging them but by ameliorating their symptoms.

In his Lectures on Materia Medica Kent explains the beauty and subtlety of good homeopathy in his lecture on Rumex crispus,

…You will remove the sore, bruised, aching all over the body of a consumptive by Arnica, and it will suit the cough and gagging and retching, and make him sleep. Later Pyrogen may be needed for the aching in the bones and distressing cough. You patch him up year after year; sometimes Arsenic is the remedy, and it has to be more frequently repeated; sometimes it is Lycopodium, Pulsatilla, Pyrogen or Arnica.

These medicines help him along and they have often to be changed, but finally the break down occurs, and these medicines are no longer suitable. An awful dyspnoea gradually creeps on the patient; there is craving for air; the breathing space is becoming diminished. Dropsy comes on in the extremities. The heart gives out; there is emaciation; the hippocratic countenance is seen; there is cold sweat, blue face, sinking. Even now we can palliate with Tarentula cubensis. Sometimes it has to be repeated. It will relieve for days and give an euthanasia, not a stupefaction as produced by Morphia, benumbing his senses, but an actual comforting. (Emphasis mine)
Reference: George Vithoulkas: Rumex information

And here’s a quote from Dr E.B. Nash, speaking at the Rochester Hahnemannian Society, 1889,

After 25 years of honest experimenting, I’m convinced that the best way to induce euthanasia is the homeopathically indicated one. I used in my earlier practice to resort to morphine when I was satisfied that my patient must die and I wished, or the patient wished me, to ease him or her down to death. For a few doses they often suffered less pain and expressed great satisfaction and gratitude for the relief. But if they lived any length of time, I found that the morphia, not only failed to secure the relief from suffering that it did at first, but invariably seemed to add greatly to it. In many cases I have had patients beg me not to give them any more morphine, because they suffered more with than without it.³ 

It is a delusion and a snare. It is a moment’s pleasure for an hour of pain. Even with my years of experience, it is very often difficult to select the true remedy, but when once selected and applied, I have not only seen the desired relief brought about in fatal cases, but wonderful cures brought in cases, which from any human standpoint seemed absolutely incurable. I am sure that many lives that might have been saved, or greatly prolonged, have been lost or shortened by allopathic measures for producing an easy death. (This quote and many more wonderful cases can be found on Andre Seine’s website: (Click Here)

The one thing homeopaths with experience treating the dying can say is that homeopathic medicine relieves the patient and makes dying easier. The difference being that the homeopathic patient dies with consciousness.

To quote Kent, (from Emergencies-Euthanasia in Minor Writings on Homeopathy or view original here or here in full.)

What is more inhuman than to leave the suffering patient in his last moments to writhe in the agonies of dissolution, surrounded by weeping friends. The true physician will embrace the opportunity to exercise his skill at these moments. It has come to pass that I am invited frequently to stand at the bed of moribund patients, whom I never attended during their curable ills, and as many times do I thank the Grand Master for the wonderful means of allaying the pangs of the flesh, without resort to the necessity of departing from that homoeopathic law which I have so many times pronounced universal, even in the last moments–a euthanasia. (Read online here.)

While I disagree with George Vithoulkas that vaccines have led to the need for euthanasia by causing chronic diseases, although they may contribute to auto-immune diseases, there’s something in what he’s saying, since the demand for euthanasia is particular to the western world. It’s also a symptom of a materialistic world.

I do agree with the Greek homeopathic doctors led by George that the pre-terminal stage of illness is a valuable one from a human point, allowing for meaningful experiences. I’ll quote them at length but the whole essay is worth reading.

…Regardless of the pretext behind this notion [euthanasia], the deepest reasons will certainly be financial. The justification of such an argument will be that keeping a patient alive under sedation for several days would cost millions to himself, to the state, or to insurance companies. In this way, conventional medicine has posed a dilemma that itself has created.

…the pre-terminal stage. The question is how to make this transitional stage, as good as possible.
This problem had already concerned me in 1978, while I was writing my book: “The science of Homeopathy”, at the chapter concerning the final stages of the patient, it was stated that with a modern and correct medical practice the patient should pass through this stage with maximum awareness and minimum pain.

The reason is because this stage before death is one of the most important of human life, if we consider human being as a mental being and not just a machine that ultimately ceases to work. If we look at man as a machine, then all scenarios would be possible of course, even acceptable.

However if we consider that human being is something beyond his material body… In that case we should accept the fact that man has the right to live his last hours being as alert as possible, as the processes conducted in his consciousness during his last days or hours are undoubtedly of cosmogonic importance to him.

The essential question is not how and whether we should put an end to the life of patients who severely suffer, but why this need emerged in the Western world?

Homeopathic practice has shown that those who have chosen Homeopathic medicine have suffered less, while their awareness before death was optimal.

The Assisted Dying Bill (UK) 29/12/14 debated in the Daily Telegraph (Click Link), is reproduced below:

Despite one of the celebrities, who signed the letter below advocating assisted dying, being a trained thinker/philosopher, their only argument seems to be illogical as the letter from Don Brand and his “lamppost” highlights. Most arguments in favour tend to be emotive. The Reith Lectures by Dr Gawande are available here.

SIR – This year significant progress has been made in the campaign to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people.

In light of pressure from the Supreme Court, Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill unanimously passed its Second Reading in the House of Lords, and at committee stage the majority of peers engaged constructively, rather than seeking to block its progress. To that end, an amendment was agreed to include the additional safeguard of judicial oversight. If there is not enough time for the Bill to complete its stages before the general election then it is imperative that Parliament continues this important debate afterwards.

Currently one Briton a fortnight ends their life in the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. For each person who travels abroad, 10 terminally ill people are taking their own lives in this country. The 2014 Reith lecturer, Dr Atul Gawande, has said that “we are heartless if we don’t recognise unbearable suffering and seek to alleviate it”. Most people in Britain support law change on assisted dying, and no one believes that someone should face a prison sentence of 14 years for compassionately assisting a loved one to die.

We are closer than ever to allowing dying people to have safeguarded choice in how they approach their deaths. Whoever forms the next government must allow time for Parliament to reach consensus on a safeguarded law.
Dr Aileen K Adams CBE
and 72 others

A Proponent’s articleParliament Needs to Decide on Assisted Dying Bill (Click Here)

Some Replies: (Link)

SIR – Your leading article finishes with a plea for the proponents of assisted dying to “accept the outcome and not come back time and again until they get what they want.”

This is naive. No matter how many times the vote is against assisted dying – and it has been many times over the past couple of decades – its proponents will keep on coming back to the issue.

It is, I gather, a “conscience vote” in Parliament. One can only hope the Lords have the gumption to allow doctors a conscience clause, or we may have the spectacle of doctors being prosecuted for not killing their patients.
John Allen FRCS
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Campaigners use selective quotation as the drunken man uses the lamppost: more for support than illumination.

The letter calling for a change in the law on assisted dying (December 29) quotes Dr Atul Gawande, this year’s Reith lecturer, as saying “we are heartless if we don’t recognise unbearable suffering and seek to alleviate it”.

Dr Gawande went on to point to the three or fourfold rise in the number of people in the Netherlands choosing assisted suicide, noting that “the number one reason is no longer unbearable suffering, it’s become that people don’t want to be a burden on the family and the society any more. And that concerns me a great deal because we can put people in a position where they feel that they are just a burden.”

Neither the judicial nor the medical safeguards proposed thus far would relieve this insidious but powerful social pressure.
Don Brand
Staplehurst, Kent

SIR – At what stage did actors, comedians and prize-winning novelists acquire sufficient status and moral high ground to tell Parliament how to proceed on an issue as important as assisted dying?
Diana Jones
London N12

SIR – I accept that there are compassionate people on both sides of the assisted dying debate and that such a debate is needed in this country.

I do not, however, believe that it was a coincidence that both my beloved husband and mother were enabled to die peacefully and calmly in hospices.

Law-makers must listen carefully to the views of palliative care professionals and their patients before deciding on a law that would have an international impact. Many of the fledgling palliative care programmes around the world are based on the principles and practice of the modern hospice movement, pioneered in this country by Dame Cicely Saunders. Where we lead they are likely to follow.
Gail Featherstone
Sevenoaks, Kent

A complex issue deserving of compassion – the human side: How an extraordinary day spent with Tony Nicklinson changed my views on right-to-die – interview with Peter Stanford: Click Here

And some objectors who should be listened to:
1. Assisted dying plan like telling disabled ‘it’s not worth being alive’
“…Baroness Grey-Thompson, the 11-times Paralympic gold medallist, and a group of peers and charity campaigners said a new move to relax Britain’s euthanasia laws could put frail Britons under pressure to end their lives…” (Click Here)

2. And from Disabled peer: Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide plans ‘send shiver down my spine’ (Click Here)
And how easily a good intention becomes perverse!:
Elderly should be given euthanasia ‘rewards’, say one in 10 Britons

One in 10 British people believe elderly people should be offered a “reward” if they opt for assisted suicide, new polling suggests. Anti-euthanasia campaigners said the finding was “chilling… (Click Here)

Facts of Life and DeathRight To Life’s Response To The Euthanasia Lobby
A British Independent Crossbench Life Peer, Lord Alton, explains what Dignity in Dying won’t tell you: Click Here

Socrates ended his life – does it justify suicide?

Probably the most famous of “suicides” in history and philosophy was that of Socrates. Described by his student Plato in The Last Days of Socrates, Socrates was sentenced to death for “corrupting the young” – getting them to think. His sentence was death by drinking hemlock (Conium maculatum). He willingly complied in drinking it himself. Here’s a commentary by a philosopher friend.

“Regarding Socrates and the hemlock: well, earlier on in the dialogue where Plato describes this, the Phaedo, Socrates already gives his argument against suicide: that if your property decided to destroy itself (think of someone with very expensive audio and video equipment), you wouldn’t be pleased because it’s yours.4 Similarly, (he doesn’t quite put it the way St Paul does, that your body isn’t your own but belongs to and is dwelt in by the Spirit), we’re God’s possessions, we can’t just dispose of ourselves.

“Drinking the hemlock was a recognized form of death penalty in Athens. In another dialogue, the Crito, Plato shows Socrates deliberately refusing to escape when his friends would have arranged to bribe the guards – because of his respect for the laws of Athens (who appear in the dialogue a bit like angles, as the Laws). In other words, he fully accepts that having sat before the court of Athens, he accepted its decision, even if it was an unjust one, because it wasn’t a condition for him, as a loyal Athenian citizen, only to accept its decision if it was in his favour. So, drinking the hemlock is for him an act of civic obedience.

“Earlier, in the Apology he speaks of how as a soldier he’d have done his duty even if it might have cost him his life. Now, at the end of his life, he refuses to take the easy way out and escape, as I said, out of reverence for the law (and need I say, having underlined his belief in immortality and warned those who have misjudged him that one day they too will be before the same divine judge and will have to answer for their injustice). So, definitely no suicide!”

Conclusion

With homeopathic medicine, assisted suicide and euthanasia have a different goal and outcome, by gently facilitating our natural timely death; not forcing death upon us.

Footnotes
1.
The story is quoted in full by Edward C. Whitmont, M.D. in his book The Alchemy of Healing.

2. A similar idea was raised by Dr LeFanu in the Daily Telegraph, 12th January, 2015,

Next, we must all die of something, and, as the age-determined biology of the condition suggests, this will for many be cancer. In her book Living with Dying, Dr Margaret McCartney has recently drawn attention to the consequences of failing to acknowledge this. All too frequently, the elderly person with cancer is subjected to punishing schedules of chemo and radiotherapy, to no good purpose, and the debilitating side-effects of the treatment may actually hasten their demise. “Basic nursing and doctoring can, in many situations, be better than aggressive medical treatment,” she writes.

There could be no better account of why many nowadays are denied a dignified departure by over-zealous and inappropriate cancer remedies. I would be more than grateful to hear from those with personal experience of these matters.

3. In May, 2016 research into opioids as a bad painkiller now has some new science to back it up: “Opioids like morphine have now been shown to paradoxically cause an increase in chronic pain in lab rats, findings that could have far-reaching implications for humans, says a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

4. In the Grimms’ story it’s interesting to note that the dying person was the property of Death.

Further Information
• Euthanasia and Homeopathy, by George Vithoulkas and his medical team, Greece Click Here
• A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decisions Click Here
• The French right to die – limbo! Click Here
Euthanasia, Clinical Practice and the Law – Luke Gormally (Ed.) Click Here
• Anscombe Bioethics Centre Click Here
• 8 Reasons not to Legalise Assisted Suicide click here

• New document from Anscombe Bioethics Centre: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia:
A Guide to the Evidence Link
• A Practical Guide to Spiritual Care of the Dying Link

• Physician-Assisted Suicide: Improving the Debate by Prof John Keown Click Here
• Physician-Assisted Suicide Compromises the Family and Intergenerational Obligations Click Here
• Hope Ireland – An Irish response to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide http://hopeire.com/
Polish philosopher and doctor on death: Fr Jacek Norkowski
• Physician-Assisted Suicide: Videos and other info and links
• 10 Reasons why Euthanasia is Wrong – short video
• “The new end-of-life guidelines are lethal” (03 Aug 2015) says Patrick Pullicino, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Kent click here
• “When it comes to death, nature’s way is best. As a young man, Neil Lyndon was an ardent advocate of an individual’s right to choose when to die. Now he believes we must allow nature to take its course.” Click here
• Can a Person Choose “Death with Dignity?” Click here
• The Narcissism of Assisted Suicide: A shocking case shows that assisted suicide is about more than alleviating suffering, in SpikedOnline
• Zen and the Art of Dying Well, by Courtney E. Martin in the nytimes.com blog
• A Doctor-Assisted Disaster for Medicine: “As a physician in Oregon, I have seen the dire effect of assisted-suicide
laws on patients and my profession”. By Dr. Toffler, the national director of Physicians for Compassionate Care. Link
• Belgium’s insane right‑to‑die laws: SpikedOnline
• Assisted dying is slowly turning into a fashionable, liberal cause. People do not make choices in isolation. Link
• Marris Assisted Dying Bill (to be heard on 11th Sept.): statement by Mental Health Resistance Network. Link
• Quebec legalized euthanasia last year, euphemistically called “aid in dying,” which is NOT restricted to the terminally ill, with mandated complicity that no Quebec MD can avoid due to the referral requirement. The state–which pays to kill its citizens–has now handed out “standard euthanasia kits” to all of the province’s doctors. Link
• Charles Moore: Six reasons why the proposed Assisted Dying Bill is an ethical muddle link
• On the upcoming Marris Assisted Dying Bill (which was defeated today 11th Sept): Assisted Suicide and Our Society of Autonomy by Dr Dominic Burbridge Ph.D. (link)
• There is no legal basis for normalising suicide – Assisted dying sends the message that killing yourself can be legitimately encouraged. We tinker with the law at our peril says barrister. Link
• Physician-Assisted Suicide is Always Wrong: Newsweek
• A new book, Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization by Kevin Yuill, “presents an atheistic case against the legalization of assisted suicide. Critical of both sides of the argument, it questions the assumptions behind the discussion. Yuill shows that our attitudes towards suicide – not euthanasia – are most important to our attitudes towards assisted suicide.” 
The book is thoroughly reviewed at Public Discourse

UPDATES
Recently (Aug. 2015) former Anglican Archbishop, Lord Carey, and some “liberal” Jewish leaders wrote in the Daily Telegraph suggesting assisted dying was a Christian act. Below are some replies (link).

Implications of assisted dying taken too lightly
SIR – Perhaps Lord Carey and his so-called religious colleagues (“Choosing to die”, Letters, August 15) would like to volunteer to give the lethal injections.
Ian Richmond
 Wymondham, Norfolk

SIR – The ministers of religion who write in support of the physician-assisted suicide Bill are the exception who prove the rule.

The prohibition on intentionally killing patients, or helping them to kill themselves, is a bedrock principle of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is also a foundational principle of law and of professional medical ethics.

They write that there is “nothing sacred about suffering”. Whoever said there was? Suffering is an evil, which explains why so many hospitals and hospices around the world were founded by religious people to relieve suffering and make natural death as comfortable as possible. However, there is a world of difference between killing pain and killing patients.

The ministers support the right of individuals who are “terminally ill” to hand back the “precious gift” of life. Leaving aside the propriety of handing back precious gifts, why should this supposed right be denied to those with conditions such as severe arthritis, who may face many years of suffering?

The Bill they support is simply a foot in the door.

Professor John Keown
 Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University
 Washington DC, United States

SIR – I can understand why some bishops, priests and rabbis consider that assisting a suicide may be an act of mercy.

What astounded me was the wording of the letter. How could any Christian, never mind a bishop, say: “There is nothing sacred about suffering, nothing holy about agony”? What exactly do they believe happened on Good Friday?

John L D Booth
 Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

This is significantly followed by a letter signed by some 90 doctors objecting to assisted suicide:

Pressure to end lives (24th August, 2015)
SIR – We are all doctors who work with people approaching the end of their lives. We are most concerned by the Bill before the House of Commons to legalise what is being called “assisted dying”.

We believe such proposals devalue the most vulnerable in society. We regularly come across patients who feel a burden to their relatives and to society because of their health and social care needs. These patients fit the criteria being proposed for being supplied with lethal drugs to end their lives.

They are mentally competent and are not, at least on the surface, being coerced by others to end their lives. But they may be under pressure from within to remove themselves as a burden on their hard-pressed families.

We fear that if Parliament were to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill people, such pressures would be given free rein. Most families are loving and caring, but some are not.

The case for changing the law is being constructed on the basis that assisted suicide is needed to relieve the suffering of dying.

Dying is not an easy matter for anyone, but the advances that have been made in recent years in pain relief and the alleviation of distress have transformed the way in which the process of dying can be managed. “Hospice at home” is not yet as widely available as we would like. But it is undeniable that the incidence of “bad deaths” is much smaller today than was once the case.

Assisting suicide runs counter to our duty of care, is contrary to the “do no harm” principle and conflicts with policies for suicide prevention. As successive surveys and consultations show, the great majority of doctors are opposed to such legislation

Dr Phil Williams
 Dr Roger Boyle
 Dr Anna Phelon and 87 others

Doctors’ concerns over assisted dying persist (Sept 7th. 2015)
SIR – The British Medical Association’s position on assisted dying is a matter of record. As the organisation that represents the majority of doctors across Britain, we remain firmly opposed to assisted dying.

Among the plethora of information being promoted by all sides of the argument, we wish to restate our position ahead of Friday’s debate on assisted dying. We recognise the wide range of strongly held views in society on this issue and the importance of individual choice in patient-centred care.

We believe, however, that such decisions can only be made with access to all of the relevant evidence, rather than partial or selective information.

The BMA is currently undertaking a major new project to compile the most comprehensive body of qualitative research into both end-of-life care and physician-assisted death. This will play a significant part in the public debate, providing the authoritative information that people need.

This topic has been debated regularly at the BMA’s annual policy-forming conference over the past decade, where calls for a change in the law have persistently been rejected.

Grassroots doctors have repeatedly expressed concerns about the ethical implications of assisted dying and the dangers inherent in its implementation.

Dr Ian Wilson
 Chairman, BMA Representative Body
 London WC1

15th Sept.: Prior to the Marris Bill, which, ironically came the day after World Suicide Prevention Day, is objected to by doctors and a plethora of disability rights representatives. (link) For example:

SIR – How ironic that today’s parliamentary debate on the Assisted Dying Bill should come the day after World Suicide Prevention Day.

Assisted dying is a euphemism for physician-assisted suicide. There is evidence that it is also associated with unassisted suicide, in that people have independently ended their lives using methods suggested by assisted dying campaigners.

Data from parts of the United States that have legalised physician-assisted suicide show that a weakening of the law in this way is also associated with significant increases in rates of not only physician-assisted suicide but also unassisted suicide. In Oregon, for example, a 12-year study from 1999 showed higher increases in unassisted suicide than in the US as a whole.

Suicide is not only a tragedy for the young and physically fit but also for those who are old or disabled. While some of us need help to live a full life, nobody should be made to feel that they are a burden on society. If we want to prevent suicide wherever possible, then the last thing we should do is weaken the law against assisting it.

Dr David Albert Jones
 Director, The Anscombe Bioethics Centre
 Oxford

SIR – The Assisted Dying Bill’s promise to let medical professionals abstain on conscience grounds only covers the administration of the lethal prescription. Doctors would have to offer it or risk failing to advise their patients of all the options.

This plays down the doctor’s role as an adviser. The doctor is treated as a technician who merely has to confirm the diagnosis, the prognosis and that the patient has a voluntarily settled wish to die. There is no requirement that the doctor concurs that the patient is suffering unbearably and that this cannot be addressed and reversed through palliative care.

Dr Stephen Dyer FRCP
 Wivelsfield Green, West Sussex

SIR – Do we need this Bill? For years, the families and doctors of terminally ill patients have taken quiet decisions on their own. If what they have done has been technically unlawful, has any detriment occurred?

The idea that Britain is a country where people who wish to die are officiously kept alive is absurd.

David Harris
 London SW13

SIR – The legalisation of assisted suicide would remove equality and choice from disabled people.

If this Bill is passed, some disabled and terminally ill people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes, subtle pressure and abuse. None of the safeguards proposed can prevent this outcome.

Val Fone
 Director, Action and Rights, Newham

Alan Kerr
 Greenwich Association for Disabled People (and dozens more)

Update Feb. 2016
Debbie Binner, whose husband chose assisted dying, says: 
“Why didn’t I get a say in my husband’s right to die? People would say, ‘isn’t it brilliant, that he knows what he wants and can have it?’ But it was never that simple. I didn’t care what state he was or might be in, he was my husband – as valuable in a wheelchair as anyone out of it. He had rights, but how much of his life was mine? 

“I would still have preferred him not to go. There is a beauty in caring for someone who is dying. I loved Simon, I would have loved to nurse and cherish him to the end.” Read her story here

(June 2016) “BMA pressed to end its opposition over assisted dying” we are told to which came two replies:

The assisted dying debate needs the expertise of doctors, but doctors cannot be allowed to dictate whether or not the law changes. The BMA has a responsibility to adopt a more reasonable, neutral stance.

Sir Graeme Catto
 Former Chairman, General Medical Council
 Aberdeen

Sir – … Once death is accepted as good medicine, then physicians cannot be exempt from administering it.

Ann Farmer
 Woodford Green, Essex

Then a sharp lady exposed Sir Graeme:

Assisted suicide lobby
SIR – Sir Graeme Catto is a former chairman of the General Medical Council.

He is also chairman of the lobby group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society). The poll on assisted suicide to which he refers – which, he said, found that “just 7 per cent of people agree with the BMA’s current stance” – was sponsored by this group and couched in terms which were one-sided.

It is not true that doctors are “dictating whether or not the law changes”. The British Medical Association’s opposition to legalising assisted suicide may be inconvenient for the lobbyists, but Parliament is at liberty to disregard it if it so wishes. There is nothing unreasonable about the BMA’s policy. It is a policy which most doctors strongly support.

Baroness Hollins
Former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and of the BMA
London SW1

September 2016: Legalising assisted dying is dangerous for disabled people. Not compassionate: When someone like Paralympian Marieke Vervoort talks about euthanasia, don’t support them out of a sense of misplaced pity. Persuade them life’s worthwhile. The Guardian

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