A second euthanasia expert is reportedly planning to visit London just days after Dr Philip Nitschke finishes touring the UK with his suicide workshops.
Dr Boudewijn Chabot, a Dutch doctor, will run a class entitled “One Way to Die — Stop Eating and Drinking”. There have already been 60 sign-ups for the meeting.
Dr Chabot insists his approach is different from that of Dr Nitschke, the Australian euthanasia activist who is demonstrating suicide methods at different meetings in the UK this week.
He told a London newspaper: “I’m not an activist like Mr Nitschke — my approach is very different. It’s always a difficult decision to inject lethal medication but it’s the compassionate thing to do in these cases.”
In 1991 Dr Chabot, a psychiatrist, was arrested in the Netherlands after giving a patient a lethal drugs overdose, even though she was not physically or terminally ill. He was not struck off, despite being found guilty, because he had tried to persuade the woman not to end her life.
Dr Chabot has published a guide to committing suicide, and has already given one London woman the information she needed to kill herself. The 84-year-old, Efstratia Tuson, had a painful stomach disease, and died in January after refusing food and drink for five days.
Doctors have been allowed to help patients to die in the Netherlands since 2002. Several safeguards were included in the law. Patients must be suffering interminably and be of sound mind when they make the decision to end their lives. A second medical opinion must be obtained.
However, the Dutch government has acknowledged that there is a serious problem in the Netherlands with doctors ending the lives of patients without their expressed consent. In 2004 it called for an investigation into the non-reporting of euthanasia by doctors.
In 2004 a group of senior Dutch doctors formally reported themselves for killing 22 terminally ill newborn babies. They called for the Dutch Government to legalise infant euthanasia.
Opponents of legalised assisted suicide have warned that any weakening of the law in the UK could leave a situation where vulnerable people are at risk.
Already Baroness Warnock has spoken of elderly dementia sufferers becoming burdensome and so having a “duty to die”.
Last year a number of Peers were angered by an attempt by euthanasia activists to slip the option of assisted suicide into a new charter for end-of-life care.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff said Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, were using palliative and end-of-life care “like bubble-wrap around a sharp and dangerous object in an attempt to introduce assisted suicide by the back door”.
The last time a major attempt to change the law was made the overwhelming majority of palliative care practitioners opposed it.
A survey of members of the Association for Palliative Medicine in 2006 found that 94 per cent were against any change in the law.
A similar poll by the Royal College of Physicians the same year showed that 73 per cent of its members also opposed a review.
Palliative care expert Dr David Jeffrey has warned that in countries where assisted suicide is allowed, standards of care are lower. He says introducing the practice here would destroy patient trust.
The British Medical Association is opposed to the introduction of physician-assisted suicide.