The recent furore caused by the Royal College of Physicians over its recent poll of member’s views on assisted suicide is a reminder that the debate about euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is very much alive in the UK. It is helpful to look at the evidence from other countries where assisted suicide, in some form or other, is legal. Recently, the latest stats from Belgium and Oregon were released.
In 2018 there was a total of 2,357 reported assisted suicides, up from 2,309 in the previous year. Since 2010, there has been a 247% increase in just 8 years.
While there were no children euthanised in 2018, there were 14 deaths of people aged between 18-29. Belgium first legalised euthanasia in 2002.
In January, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg agreed to hear a case being brought by a man whose mother was euthanised in 2012 for depression. Tom Mortier was only informed that his mother, who was 64 and in good health, had been killed by lethal injection when officials from the hospital called him to deal with the paperwork for disposing of her remains.
There is another case in Belgium where three Belgium doctors are facing trial for certifying that a heartbroken woman was autistic, so she could be euthanised. It remains to be seen whether these landmark cases will lead to lasting change.
Assisted suicide has been legal in Oregon since 1997 and under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), terminally adults under certain specific qualifications can end their lives through the voluntary administration of a lethal dose of medications.
The latest figures show that in 2018, 249 people received prescriptions for lethal injections, up from 218 in 2017. 168 died from ingesting the medications, including 11 who received the prescriptions in previous years.
Two doctors were referred to the Oregon Medical Board for failing to comply with regulations about assisted suicide.
Under the Suicide Act 1961, it is illegal in England and Wales to assist someone if they commit suicide. In Scotland, helping someone end their own life could lead to prosecution and assisted suicide is also illegal in Northern Ireland.
At CARE we believe that there is no way any law could be made safe from abuse. Assisted suicide would put pressure on some of the most vulnerable in our society to end their lives. We think it is better to care, rather than to kill. Read more about our on-going work around assisted suicide and end-of-life matters.