A group of palliative care doctors have said they will play no part in helping their patients to kill themselves if assisted suicide is legalised in England and Wales.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the medics were responding to Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill – set to be debated this month in the House of Lords – which would enable those deemed to have less than six months to live to get help to prematurely end their lives.
The 21 signatories, who also spoke out against the recent British Medical Association decision to end its opposition to assisted suicide, said that changing the law “would be a seismic shift in the way in which patients are cared for”.
Describing themselves as “palliative care consultants of the next generation”, the doctors argued that changing the law “would fundamentally alter the dynamic in the patient-doctor relationship and destroy the trust” that is so essential to their work.
They added: “Offering someone the option to die is akin to saying that we do not value their life, or feel that it may not be worth living.”
In conclusion, they said: “The overwhelming majority of palliative care doctors do not want the introduction of assisted dying and will not participate if it is brought in.”
Last week, a retired health care worker with over 50 years of nursing care experience, wrote to The Scotsman in opposition to a similar move in Scotland.
Pamala McDougall said activists’ suggestion that compassion is only being shown by those who are in favour of assisted suicide “is insulting to me and many others who have dedicated their lives to caring for the terminally ill over the years, both personally and professionally”.
She also said: “My main reason for opposing this Bill is that it is unnecessary. I have seen what a difference good quality palliative care can do to alleviate pain, fear and distress.
“We must focus on providing training, funding, and political will to provide the best possible care, to make this Bill redundant.”
In 2015, a Bill to remove current safeguards in England and Wales was soundly defeated in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.
Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010.