Iona Heath, President of the UK’s Royal Society of General Practitioners, has written a strongly worded article opposing “assisted dying” in the British Medical Journal. Unfortunately, the article costs $30 on the Journal’s website: http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e3755.short.
Dr. Heath’s opposition to legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia is based on “a deep concern that it will be impossible to draft a law robust enough to protect the vulnerable.” She states that “…support for assisted dying is based on respect for individual autonomy, yet the influence that one person can have on another makes legislation to permit assisted dying intrinsically risky,” and also asserts that, “It seems to me to be impossible to ensure that an apparently voluntary request for assisted dying is not in some small way coerced.” Such coercion, she believes, can come either from explicit pressure, such as from a “malign state” or it may come from the patient’s feeling like a burden to others and in fact being a burden. If assisted suicide is available in the latter circumstance, people may view requesting it as a kind of sacrifice; but it will be a sacrifice made “with complicit, self interested support from relatives, professionals, or carers,” and therefore not an expression of the person’s free choice at all.
Dr. Heath’s second concern, overtreatment, is a very valid one, but so, is undertreatment., as disability rights activists Diane Coleman and Stephen Drake have shown in their excellent articles on the life-threatening devaluation of the lives of the disabled. Here are two links: