Academics in Scotland have been criticised for suggesting that legalising assisted suicide would financially benefit the NHS.
Ethicist Dr David Shaw and healthcare economist Professor Alec Morton say it would be “irresponsible not to consider” the economic costs of denying assisted suicide.
Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, called the report “highly disturbing”.
Dr Macdonald said: “Very quickly the argument moves from that of personal autonomy to doctors and nurses making value judgments about the quality of other people’s lives while seeking to save money and tackle so-called ‘bed blocking’ in health services.”
He cited the situation in the US states of Oregon and Washington, where “a majority of those ending their lives cite fear of being a burden on their families and finances.
“We have also seen cancer patients denied life-saving and life-extending treatments due to their cost but offered the drugs to end their lives”.
The study claimed legalisation would be positive, as helping some patients to kill themselves would free up resources for other patients.
The researchers also said the controversial practice should be legalised because where patients die naturally, their organs deteriorate and are less likely to be viable for transplant.
In the Netherlands and Belgium it is already possible for organs to be donated following an assisted suicide.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that doctors in Victoria, Australia, assisted the suicide of 52 patients in the six months since it was legalised there.
Of the 52 people, 43 died from self-administering lethal drugs, while nine were killed by their doctor.
Margaret Tighe, President of Right to Life Australia, said: “As we predicted – once the genie is out of the bottle and doctors have been given the power to end life, at a patient’s request, the siren song of an early death will become very seductive”.