Palliative care doctor blasts assisted suicide

A leading doctor working in end-of-life care has spoken out against legalising assisted suicide.

In a letter to The Times, Dr Carol Davis, Lead Consultant of Palliative Medicine at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, criticised the conflation of assisted suicide and palliative care.

She said that “most patients do ‘let go quietly’, dying peacefully of their illness. Their doctors know they have a duty of care to provide effective symptom control and care as life ends. But that’s a completely different matter from giving dying patients lethal drugs”.

‘Not prepared’

Dr Davis was writing in response to a letter to the newspaper by Emeritus Professor Norma Rinsler, a former Vice-Principal of King’s College London, who claimed that many doctors are merely ‘reluctant’ to prescribe lethal drugs.

But Dr Davis said: “We are not reluctant, we are just not prepared to do it.”

She emphasised that good “clinical care is a partnership between patient and doctor”, where they cannot simply impose demands on each other, adding: “Doctor-patient dialogue isn’t just another customer-supplier relationship”.

we are just not prepared to do it


Earlier this month, a survey revealed that a majority of doctors in the British Medical Association (BMA) do not want to give patients life-ending drugs.

Of the nearly 29,000 respondents, half personally supported a change in the law, but more than half (54 per cent) would not be willing to be involved in euthanasia, should it be legalised.

The majority of those involved in palliative care or geriatric medicine were opposed to a change in the law.

Also see:

Hospital corridor

Netherlands approves euthanasia for under 12s

Dutch assisted suicide ‘a cautionary tale’ for UK, experts tell MPs

Vulnerable on ‘slippery slope’ to assisted suicide, warns former Cameron aide

Related Resources