An experienced doctor who works with terminal patients has asked whether assisted suicide is just a cost-saving exercise.
Dr Elizabeth A Burroughs, in a letter to a national newspaper, said: “Quality palliative care costs money; assisted suicide is a cheaper option. But how long would it be before pressure was being placed on the terminally ill to ‘do the decent thing’?”
Dr Burroughs also commented: “In 30 years as a GP, I was asked by at most a handful of terminally ill patients to hasten their deaths.
“In 17 years working in hospices I cannot recall ever having received such a request from a patient, although I have had more than one from relatives.”
In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Burroughs said that the alternative to assisted suicide is “high-quality palliative care, with attention being paid to all the needs of the patient by a multi-disciplinary team of medical and nursing staff, therapists, chaplains and family support workers”.
She asked: “Are we prepared to commit sufficient resources to provide the best possible end of life care for everyone? Or is saving money our priority?”
Dr Burroughs, from Cornwall, commented that “despite increased funding, we can only offer” high-quality palliative care “to a fraction of those patients who would benefit from it”.
She continued: “A recent health-needs assessment in Cornwall showed that a minimum of 40 beds was necessary to meet the specialist palliative care needs of the community.
“At present, we have a maximum of 24 beds. And Cornwall is well served, compared with some areas.”