Legalising assisted suicide will lead to vulnerable people being killed without their consent, a leading bioethicist has warned.
Professor David Jones’ warning adds to concerns that any move to legalise assisted suicide in the UK could expose vulnerable people to danger.
Prof Jones, Director of bioethics at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham, said: “My view is that it will lead from people who have asked to die, to people who cannot ask.”
He added: “The point is not that activity might escalate from moderate to extreme behaviour.
“The logical slippery slope form of the 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.”
The bioethicist illustrated his warning by pointing to the Netherlands where voluntary euthanasia is legal, and where more than 500 patients were killed in one year without giving their consent.
And he cautioned that this hasn’t led to people realising that the situation was “deeply shocking”.
But Prof Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen, a Dutch academic, responded by saying that non-voluntary euthanasia remains illegal and that the number of cases has fallen.
Prof Jones’ warning was made at a conference on the ethics of assisted suicide hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine.
Earlier this year it was revealed that terminally ill patients in Belgium are being subjected to euthanasia without their consent.
A study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), suggested that almost half of Belgium’s euthanasia deaths may be carried out on patients who had not asked for their lives to be ended.
The study revealed that 248 nurses, representing almost a fifth of the nurses interviewed, had cared for euthanasia patients.
And nearly 50 per cent of these, some 120 nurses, had been involved in killing patients without their “explicit request”.