Legalising assisted suicide would increase pressure on vulnerable people to end their own lives, a group of doctors has warned.
In an open letter, more than 80 doctors said that MP Rob Marris’ Bill devalues the most vulnerable in society.
The assisted suicide Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on 11 September.
The letter, published in The Daily Telegraph, begins: “We are all doctors who work with people approaching the end of their lives. We are most concerned by the Bill before the House of Commons to legalise what is being called ‘assisted dying’.
“We believe such proposals devalue the most vulnerable in society.
“We regularly come across patients who feel a burden to their relatives and to society because of their health and social care needs.”
It adds that although elderly people may not, on the face of it, be being coerced, “they may be under pressure from within to remove themselves as a burden on their hard-pressed families.
“We fear that if Parliament were to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill people, such pressures would be given free rein.
“Most families are loving and caring but some are not.”
Do no harm
The letter concludes: “Assisting suicide runs counter to our duty of care, is contrary to the ‘do no harm’ principle and conflicts with policies for suicide prevention. As successive surveys and consultations show, the great majority of doctors are opposed to such legislation.”
A review of a wide range of evidence on assisted suicide published earlier this month revealed that the practice becomes more widespread and more routine in places where the law has been changed.
The guide, produced by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, says there are “common patterns” emerging from places where assisted suicide has been legalised.
It notes that, “in every jurisdiction numbers have increased over time and continue to do so; there has also been a shift from permitting assisted suicide for cancer victims to include other diseases”.
“Supposed safeguards such as psychiatric referral have also declined in frequency”.