The BMJ recently issued a call to government for doctor assisted dying to be legalised to reflect the view of what they call ‘the great majority of the public’ https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/top-docs-call-assisted-dying-11989162 Specifically, they claimed that 80% of the public support a change in the law, and that it works ‘well’ in other parts of the world where it has already been legalised. This is not true. Reported increasing rates of involuntary euthanasia in countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, with the extension to minor and non life threatening conditions, plus fear on the part of the elderly and vulnerable of going into hospital, provide strong evidence against such claims.
The BMJ followed up their call with a poll on their website, asking whether doctor assisted dying should or should not be legalised. Out of a total of 22,675 votes cast, they reported that 13,385 (59%) voted Yes, and 9,290 (41%) voted No. This falls far short of the 80% support they claimed, but even so it would appear the response might have been manipulated to produce the ‘desired’ result. One person who tried to vote reported, “I did respond to the poll but it told me my captcha code was wrong (although it wasn’t)… when I went to my email I had a message that they had received my response. However, they said it would only be published if it was deemed acceptable …”
Such partisan and biased campaigning, relying on grossly inflated and unproven claims, is unacceptable. Despite the BMJ’s assertion, overall doctors are said to be 2:1 against the legalisation of assisted suicide.
There are already numerous cases of patients being constructively euthanized by refusal to resuscitate, to give treatment – including hydration – and/or the administration of life-shortening drugs. The Liverpool Care Pathway, supposedly designed to provide best treatment for those facing death, was notorious for this, and was rightly closed down for abuse.
If doctor assisted dying becomes legal for those with six months to live, as called for by the BMJ, how long before the practice is extended? We all know how difficult it is to predict life expectancy, but how long before doctors simply decide that a patient’s life, on their assessment, isn’t worth preserving? Or how long before medical professionals decide the cost of treatment for the elderly or those with disability is simply too high for an already over-strained health service?
We have already legalised slaughter of the innocent at the beginning of life, with the result that since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act this country has seen the termination of over 8,000,000 unborn, but otherwise healthy, children, for what are euphemistically termed ‘social reasons’.
Are we seriously now to extend this mindset to the elderly, vulnerable, and disabled? And, if so, how soon will it be before personal decision is entirely discounted, with doctors and health officials playing God and deciding who does and doesn’t merit saving?
Whatever is maintained, these proposals are not driven by compassion, but by the desire for self-determination and control. They are infinitely dangerous, because once the gates are opened, there will be no way of controlling the flood. To borrow from and adapt Churchill, you cannot put your head in the mouth of a tiger … and tell it not to close its jaws.
No doctor should be burdened by having to make this intolerable decision. No doctor should be forced to take life. Indeed, if the Hippocratic Oath is to continue to have any substance, it should protect both doctor and patient. The public should be able to trust that medical staff have their best interests at heart and will do nothing to override their wishes.
We call on the BMA to reaffirm its stand against physician assisted suicide, and to renew its commitment to the strengthening of palliative care for the terminally ill. We further call for censure of the BMJ for its partisan campaigning.