Thursday, July 1, 2010

Legal assisted suicide leads to doctors killing without consent, expert claims

An article by Martin Beckford that was published today in the Telegraph in UK reports on a one-day seminar that was sponsored by the Royal Society of Medicine. The seminar featured Professor David Jones, a bioethicist from Twickenham, UK and Professor Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen from the Netherlands.

David Jones
Prof Jones said that:
If society agrees that it is in some people’s interests for them to end their own lives, (by assisted suicide) it is difficult to resist the logical conclusion that others should be helped to die even if they have not made such a request.

He claimed this situation already exists in the Netherlands, where voluntary euthanasia is legal but where about 500 patients are also killed a year by their doctors without requesting to die.

“My view is that it will lead from people who have asked to die, to people who cannot ask.”
Beckford reported Prof Jones as stating:
Anyone who wants to legalise assisted suicide must believe that it is better for some people, such as the terminally ill, to end their lives (by assisted suicide).

They must therefore agree that it is also right to help physically disabled people to die if they cannot administer the fatal dose themselves.

The logical conclusion of this is that society must permit doctors to kill mentally ill people, who are unable to give consent, if their life is deemed not worth living.

"The point is not that activity might escalate from moderate to extreme behaviour. The logical... argument is that voluntary euthanasia concedes the point that suicide or euthanasia is good for some people.

“It is in their ‘best interests’ to have their life ended. And it is the person assisting or doing the killing who must decide whether to assist in this case.”
Professor Jones explained that:
In the Netherlands, where voluntary euthanasia was legalised in 2002, latest figures show that more than 500 people were killed in 2005 by doctors without having given their consent.

When people realise the situation, they find this “deeply shocking”.
Beckford's then reported the response to Prof Jones by Prof Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen a Dutch academic who stated that:
non-voluntary euthanasia remains illegal and that the number of cases has fallen.

She showed the official figures that 0.4 per cent of euthanasia cases were classified by authorities as non-voluntary in 2005, down from 0.8 per cent in 1990.

She said that 90 per cent of doctors now say they would refuse to end someone’s life without their consent.
She also was reported to have stated that:
Although teenagers and those merely “tired of life” can request a doctor’s help in dying in the Netherlands, she said 80 per cent of those who do so are suffering from cancer and most are between 65 and 79 years old.
In other words, Professor Onwuteaka-Philipsen was saying that Professor Jones was correct, when considering the experience with euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands. Her only defense is that only a small number of euthanasia deaths occur without consent and 90% of the doctors would refuse to kill without consent.

As for people who are "tired of living", Prof Onwuteaka-Philipsen is saying that this does occur but most of the euthanasia deaths are for people with cancer.

After reading this article I must conclude that Prof Jones is correct, legalizing euthanasia leads to doctors killing without consent, while Prof Onwuteaka-Philipsen countered by agreeing but contending that it is not that common.

Link to the article in the Telegraph: