Scottish doctors with '...tens of thousands of patient-years experience in the care of people with advanced and incurable illnesses' explain their opposition to the Harvie Bill
The Herald 9 Feb 2015
ASSISTED suicide is once again in the spotlight as the Health and Sport Committee takes oral evidence ahead of a parliamentary debate ("Fears that doctors may get a taste for killing", The Herald, February 4). We are senior clinicians with, between us, tens of thousands of patient-years experience in the care of people with advanced and incurable illnesses. We wish to explain why we are opposed to this legislation.
We recognise the suffering and distress which accompany serious illness, particularly when symptoms are difficult to control. Every day we encounter patients and family members made vulnerable and frightened by such circumstances. Yet the demand for assisted suicide is tiny.
Legalisation of assisted suicide would expose our patients to internal or external pressures to consider that option, creating a dilemma which would compound their distress and prejudice their treatment and its outcome.
Whereas proponents of assisted suicide portray the prospects for these patients as otherwise bleak, agonising and undignified, the facts are that palliative care in our country is world leading. Our patients, and their families, consistently tell us that good care made all the difference and we know that the overwhelming majority will experience a peaceful and comfortable end to life.
The diagnostic criteria for assisted suicide in this bill are so indeterminate that eligibility could apply to many conditions amenable to medical care.
Legalising assisted suicide would accommodate the demands of a few. However it would be a far more productive to alleviate suffering of many by affirming our world-leading quality of palliative care and bringing the wider availability of that care up to the level of excellence already provided for cancer patients.
Dr Stephen Hutchison MB BCh BAO MD FRCP (Glasg);
Dr Deans Buchanan MB ChB, BSc (Hons) FRCP MD;
Dr David Gray MB ChB FRCP (Glasg);
Dr Rosie Conway BSc MB ChB DPM FRCP (Edin);
Dr Kirsty Boyd MB ChB FRCP;
Dr Jo Bowden MB ChB MRCP MClinEd;
Dr Fiona Downs MB ChB BSc (Hons);
Dr J Martin Leiper, MB ChB, FRCP;
Dr Catriona SK Ross MB ChB FRCP (Edin);
Dr Sarah Miller MB ChB PRCP (Pall Med) UK;
Dr Claire Douglas BSc MB ChB MRCP;
Dr Ruth Isherwood MRCS MRCGP MSc;
Dr Susan Jackson MRCGP;
Dr Barry Laird MB ChB MD MRCGP;
Dr Chris Sugden MB ChB FRCA FRCPEdin, c/o 2 Aultnaskiach, Inverness.