Medscape UK report: More UK doctors oppose than support assisted suicide.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Medscape UK 2020 ethics report found that more UK doctors oppose assisted suicide than support assisted suicide. The Medscape report was based on an online responses from 1,355 UK physicians.

The Medscape question asked: 

Should physician-assisted suicide or ‘physician-assisted dying’ be made legal for the terminally ill – or for those who say they have irredeemable suffering, even if the disease may not be terminal for many years?

42% said No, 37% said Yes and 22% said it was a grey area. It is notable that 55% of the GP’s said No.

The Royal College of General Practitioners, in March, upheld their opposition to Dr. Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing commented on the Royal College of General Practitioners decision in March 2020 by stating:

‘The current laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia exist to protect those who are sick, elderly, depressed or disabled from feeling obliged to end their lives. It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion. 

‘We are pleased that the Royal College of General Practitioners recognise this and the dog whistle message that singling out the terminally ill and disabled people would send. As Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson has said, “Legalising assisted suicide will only serve to reinforce deep seated prejudices that the lives of sick and disabled people aren’t worth as much as other people’s.”

Dr Macdonald continued:

‘Just look at what is happening in Canada, which introduced assisted suicide and euthanasia in 2016. Since then around 13,000 people have been killed. Then in September, the Quebec Superior Court struck down the requirement that a person be terminally ill before they qualify for euthanasia in Canada, allowing those with chronic conditions and mental health problems to have their lives ended. 

‘But even before this court ruling there had been problems. In July a depressed, but otherwise healthy 61-year-old man, was euthanised in the province of British Columbia. Alan Nichols, a former school caretaker who lived alone was admitted to Chilliwack General Hospital, BC. Despite not being terminally ill, he received a lethal injection. Alan’s case is not isolated. 

‘The problems in Canada are not unique. This summer, a major US report from the National Council on Disability, found the laws in the handful of States that had gone down this route, were ineffective and oversight of abuse and mistakes was absent. 

‘This is an important report as those championing assisted suicide in this country, put forward a model based on Oregon and Washington – Yet in both States a majority of those ending their lives cite fear of becoming a burden a reason. 

‘The current laws that prevent assisted suicide and euthanasia do not need changing.’

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws give doctors, the right in law, to cause the death of their patients. 

Canada’s experience with legalized assisted dying is the prime example of how these laws will expand over-time.