Report warns of death toll if assisted suicide is legalised

More than a thousand Brits would end their lives each year if a controversial American assisted suicide law was adopted in Britain, a leading think-tank is set to warn politicians.

Assisted suicide activists have hailed the US state of Oregon’s contentious law as a model to be imitated because the safeguards suggest that assisted suicide can be effectively policed.

But a new report, composed by the think-tank Living and Dying Well, warns that allowing such a law in the UK would lead to “a total of 1,052 deaths in Britain” each year.


The report, which is due to be sent to politicians today, also cautions that the supposed safeguards in Oregon’s assisted suicide law which were designed to limit the practice to the terminally ill are now being flouted.

In order to get around the law people are “doctor shopping” in order to find a medic who is willing to ignore the criteria for an assisted suicide such as being terminally ill, mentally competent and free from coercion.

Lord Carlile, the founder of the think-tank, which is made up mostly of medical and legal experts, said: “We are convinced that changing the law to allow these practices would pose serious dangers to large numbers of seriously ill or disabled people.”


The report is due to be issued to parliamentarians in both Westminster and Edinburgh today.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University and a co-chairman of Living and Dying Well, said: “With the expert knowledge British doctors have to relieve suffering, there is no need for anyone in this country to die in pain or distress.

“Most doctors want nothing to do with assisted dying and, if it were ever to be made legal here, we would see the ‘doctor shopping’ that is such an unhappy feature in Oregon.”


James Harris, from pro-euthanasia campaign group Dignity in Dying, criticised the report’s findings.

He said: “The campaign to change the law is about choice, people should not have to suffer against their wishes in the final weeks or days of life, but it is also about better protecting people”.

Last week a report from a separate think-tank warned that the weakest members of society would be most at risk if the law on assisted suicide is changed.


Cristina Odone’s report for the Centre for Policy Studies cautioned that such a change could lead some of society’s most defenceless members to feel that they have an obligation to end their lives.

The report cautions: “As assisted suicide becomes embedded in our culture, investing resources in caring for these vulnerable groups will be seen as a waste: they’ll be gone.”

It added: “Britain will be a collection of individualists in the prime of life and good health. Anyone else will have felt compelled to end their miserable existence.”

Mrs Odone’s warning was made in a new report, entitled Assisted Suicide – How the chattering classes have got it wrong.

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