Assisted dying: Should it be legal?

For immediate release: Monday June 26, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday June 26, 2006

The latest version of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill in the UK parliament on May 12, 2006, was rejected for good reasons, says Baroness Ilora Finlay, a member of the Select Committee consulted about the previous version of the Bill. She claims, in the July issue of The Lancet Oncology, that the revised Bill still failed to incorporate the recommendations made by experts.

Baroness Finlay explains that this was the third version of the Bill to be presented to the UK parliament, and despite a substantial amount of time spent taking evidence from more than 140 witnesses, this version of the Bill failed to address key recommendations from the Select Committee's report and did not differentiate clearly between assisted dying and euthanasia. She also explains the fallacy of thinking that safeguards are watertight.

Baroness Finlay's article complements a Debate in the same issue of the journal arguing the relative merits between further palliative care and physician-assisted suicide at the end of patients' lives. Dr Margaret A Branthwaite, a retired barrister in the UK and former consultant medical practitioner, claims that "not all patients will consent to further palliative care, and practitioners are not entitled to impose their own views on patients, no matter how strongly and sincerely held". Thus, she claims, patients should be able to choose this option if they so wish.

Conversely, Dr David Jeffrey, former chair of the ethics committee of the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland, argues against the Bill with a three-pronged attack--looking at practice, politics, and progress. He claims that it is not yet the right time to have legislation for assisted suicide. "We have developed skills to care for dying patients, and should not risk losing these skills, but instead ensure that all patients have access to palliative care", he explains.

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Contact: Baroness Ilora Finlay, House of Lords, Westminster, SW1A 0PW, UK, and Dean of Medicine's Office and Department of Oncology and Palliative Medicine, Cardiff University, Velindre Hospital, Cardiff CF14 2TL, UK. T) +44 (0) 20 7219 6693 / +44 29 2019 6113, FINLAYI@parliament.uk; Margaret A Branthwaite, care of Lancet Oncology; David Jeffrey, Borders General Hospital, Melrose TD6 9BS, UK. ellemford2004@yahoo.co.uk


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