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Expert medics, academics warn assisted suicide bill inherently unsafe

Assisted Suicide
26 October 2021
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Senior medics and academics have described a "paucity of evidence" for so-called safeguards in assisted suicide plans before the UK Parliament in a letter to The Times.

The letter, signed by consultants in palliative medicine and others cites evidence from other countries that allow assisted suicide and euthanasia and say its unclear how the UK plans would prevent abuses. It states:

"As palliative medicine doctors and academics with decades of experience caring for terminally ill people, we are concerned at the paucity of evidence supporting the Meacher bill to legalise assisted suicide.

"Evidence from Oregon shows how assessment of capacity for assisted suicide is influenced by the individual values of assessing clinicians, something that is almost impossible to mitigate against.

"Patients seeking assisted suicide often have significant psychosocial distress, making them at increased risk of coercion and abuse; Oregon’s most recent official report shows that 53 per cent of patients who died under the state’s Death with Dignity Act reported feeling a burden on their families, friends or caregivers. Pain and fear of pain were less frequently cited.

"In Canada emerging evidence shows that the medical assistance in dying law can worsen the quality of death, creating strain between patients and their families and impairing effective symptom control, leading to patient and provider distress."

The letter concludes:

"Legalising assisted suicide, without strong evidence of the effectiveness of proposed safeguards, is unwise and unsafe."

Last week, during a second reading debate on Lady Meacher's 'Assisted Dying Bill' in the Lords, more than 60 Peers spoke against the plans.

CARE produced a summary of some of the most powerful speeches, which can be accessed here.

The bill now proceeds to committee stage, where it is expected to run out of time without support from the UK government.

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Assisted Suicide

Where assisted suicide is legal, it makes vulnerable people feel like a burden. CARE works to uphold laws that protect those people, and to assist them to live—not to commit suicide.

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