Monday 17 August 2009

The battle over assisted suicide continues apace

Today's news headlines confirms that there is a battle royal being waged over assisted suicide  across the world. For example , the Wisconsin Medical Society has voted against a motion to move to a neutral position on assisted suicide, at the same time as an Australian with quadraplegia has won the right to starve himself to death. Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff has urged Catholics to opposed moves to allow assisted suicide, and Terry Waite, the former British hostage, has used his experience to explain his opposition to the practice. Proponents of legalised assisted suicide used the example of the American state of Oregon to back up their arguments. They claim that the law in Oregon allowing assisted suicide works well and that palliative care has improved there since the law was passed. Dr David Jeffrey, a British palliative care specialist, has written a new article rejecting those claims. Dr Jeffrey says:
  • "[In Oregon, T]here is no method of investigating any complications which may arise during the process."
  • "[T]here is evidence of patients finding doctors who are willing to participate — ‘doctor shopping’ is the term which has been used to describe this practice."
  • "The experience in Oregon proves that palliative care cannot flourish alongside PAS. The lack of specialised palliative care in Oregon is due in part to their PAS law"
  • "Although PAS is legal in Oregon, there is a deep sense of unease about it within the medical profession, and the practice is not permitted within any hospital in Oregon."
  • "The provision of end-of-life care in Oregon is different from that experienced by patients in the UK. The Oregon experience cannot be claimed to be a valid basis for any change in existing law in the UK."
The ongoing debate about assisted suicide confirms to me that, as long as society remains conflicted about such issues, we have a countless opportunities to uphold the value of human life. It is our duty to take advantage of those opportunities, speaking out before it's too late.

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