November 27, 2022

UK doctors consistently oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide

A review of research carried out over 20 years suggests that UK doctors appear to consistently oppose euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). The findings — which appear in the latest issue of the journal Palliative Medicine, — highlight a gap between doctors’ attitudes and those of the UK public.

A
review of research carried out over 20 years suggests that UK doctors appear to
consistently oppose euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). The
findings — which appear in the latest issue of the journal Palliative
Medicine, — highlight a gap between doctors’ attitudes and those of the UK
public.

Dr
Ruaidhrí McCormack, of Milford Care Centre, in Ireland, examined 16 key studies
from 1990 to 2010. These examined UK doctors’ attitudes to assisted voluntary
euthanasia (AVE), or PAS. The majority of doctors opposed AVE in all of the
studies but one.

Definitions
of these terms are considered controversial. The authors used the European
Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) ethics task force, which defined
euthanasia as: “a doctor intentionally killing a person by the
administration of drugs, at that person’s voluntary and competent
request.” PAS was further defined as: “a doctor intentionally helping
a person to commit suicide by providing drugs for self-administration, at that
person’s voluntary and competent request.” In both instances, the patient
plays an active role and must provide explicit consent.

One
of the strongest predictors of a doctor’s unwillingness was religiosity, with
the most faithful least likely to consider assisting death, or supporting its
UK introduction. Other factors consistently highlighted were that palliative
care reduces suffering and limits the need for assisted dying, the need for
adequate safeguards if AVE or PAS were introduced, and the idea of a profession
to facilitate these practices that does not include doctors.

According
to a British Social Attitudes survey published in 2007, up to 80% of the
British public support voluntary euthanasia by a doctor in the case of terminal
illness, and up to 60% support PAS given the same scenario. If euthanasia were
legalised, it might end up becoming the province of a small handful of willing
physicians. ~ Science
Daily, March 9

Michael Cook
euthanasia
UK