New review: Assisted suicide becomes ‘routine’ if legalised

A new review of a wide range of evidence on assisted suicide has 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, links directly to official data from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Oregon and Washington, as well as UK parliamentary reports and journal research.

It says there are “common patterns” emerging from places where assisted suicide has been legalised.

Supposed safeguards

The report 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”.

The review says that in Europe, this includes psychiatric conditions and problems related to old age, which are non-terminal.

“Supposed safeguards such as psychiatric referral have also declined in frequency”, the review says.

The guide highlights polling on assisted suicide, which appears to show huge support – but this is highly variable “depending on the words used”.

Medical opinion

“When the words ‘assisted suicide’ are used the majority in favour reduces, in some polls by up to 20%”, the guide says.

And medical opinion in the UK is consistently opposed to assisted suicide – the review links to surveys of doctors, British Medical Journal readers and palliative care specialists, and notes that the view of the British Medical Association is against changing the law.

The guide has been released ahead of a debate on legalising assisted suicide at Westminster.

MPs will debate Rob Marris’ Bill in the House of Commons on 11 September.

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