Doc­tors to be asked: Would you help kill your pa­tients?

Scottish Daily Mail - - News -

DOC­TORS will be asked if they sup­port giv­ing lethal doses of drugs to ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients.

The Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians is to poll staff in Eng­land next month on whether the law should change.

It means the re­spected in­sti­tu­tion may drop its op­po­si­tion to as­sisted dy­ing, which it has held for five years.

Un­less two-thirds of its 35,000 hos­pi­tal doc­tors and con­sul­tants op­pose it, the col­lege will move to a ‘neu­tral’ stance, which crit­ics say could shift pub­lic opin­ion to­wards eu­thana­sia. If two-thirds say the col­lege should sup­port as­sisted dy­ing, the or­gan­i­sa­tion could ul­ti­mately lobby the Gov­ern­ment for a change in the law.

The poll fol­lows grow­ing sup­port from the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion on help­ing ter­mi­nally ill peo­ple to die.

The Queen’s for­mer doc­tor, Sir Richard Thomp­son, said two years ago that doc­tors have a ‘duty’ to help peo­ple die com­fort­ably.

As­sisted dy­ing is le­gal in Canada, the Nether­lands and some states in the US. Doc­tors pre­scribe a pow­er­ful painkiller and pa­tients in­ject it them­selves.

But Pro­fes­sor Patrick Pul­li­cino, of East Kent Hos­pi­tals Univer­sity NHS Trust, who helped ex­pose hos­pi­tal deaths un­der the Liver­pool Care Path­way, said: ‘As­sisted dy­ing has been tried in sev­eral coun­tries and it is the thin end of the wedge.

‘In Ore­gon, in par­tic­u­lar, most of those who seek as­sisted dy­ing are el­derly peo­ple who don’t want to be a bur­den to their fam­i­lies.’

When the RCP asked mem­bers in 2014 whether they would ‘par­tic­i­pate ac­tively’ in as­sisted dy­ing, 58 per cent said no.

In Scot­land there is no of­fi­cial guid­ance on the laws sur­round­ing as­sisted sui­cide but charges can be pur­sued.

In May 2015, plans to le­galise as­sisted sui­cide in Scot­land were re­jected by MSPs in an 82 to 36 vote against.

In 2017, a cross-party group was set up to con­tinue that de­bate and in­crease aware­ness of end-of-life choices.

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