As healthcare professionals, we have a legal duty of care for the safety and wellbeing of our patients. We write with great concern regarding the introduction of a Bill to legalise assisted suicide.
The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised. The prohibition of killing is present in almost all civilised societies due to the immeasurable worth of every human life. Everyone has a right to life under Article 1 of The Human Rights Act 1998 such that no one should be deprived of that life intentionally.
It is impossible for any government to draft assisted suicide laws which include legal protection from future extension and expansion of those laws. Canada has clearly demonstrated that safeguards can be eroded in a matter of just five years. The prohibition of killing is the safeguard. The current law is the protection for the vulnerable. Any change would threaten society’s ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse, it would undermine the trust the public places in physicians, and it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people.
Far from one person’s decision affecting no one else, it affects us all. Some patients may never consider assisted suicide unless it was suggested to them. The cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable. 1 in 60 deaths in Belgium now occur with no consent from the patient – those in coma, confused, or the elderly – are euthanised because their lives are considered not ‘worth living’.
We would not take patients’ lives – even if they asked us to – but for the sake of us all, and for future generations, we ask that the law remains unchanged.
Dr Gillian Wright, MD MPhil
Researcher in Medical Ethics,
Our duty of care, Glasgow.
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