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Comment on doctors' poll

more: Press Releases, Medical Opinion, Press Releases/Medical Opinion

7th February 2018

Small, dated online poll with a self-selecting sample should not change law

The BMJ, which adopted a stridently pro-assisted suicide position in 2014, has this week highlighted the results of a small online poll run by in October 2017.

Dr Peter Saunders, the Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, commented:

"This is not a new poll, its questions were narrowly framed and it is being promoted by a journal that does not represent the medical profession and has become almost fanatical in its support for changing the law to allow doctors to kill their patients.

"A change in the law is opposed by every major disability rights organisation and doctors' group, including the BMA, Royal College of GPs and the Association for Palliative Medicine, who have repeatedly looked at this issue in detail and concluded that there is no safe system of assisted suicide and euthanasia anywhere in the world.

"More detailed polling, reveals serious concerns about safeguards and protecting people who are vulnerable, terminally ill and disabled. It also produces very different results. A Comres Poll in 2014 showed that public support for euthanasia drops to below 50% when the five main arguments against it are heard.

"Indeed a poll conducted just a couple of years ago found a clear majority saying that it is impossible to make a completely safe system. Asked, 'If the law is changed so that people are able to be given lethal drugs to end their life prematurely, it will be impossible to make the system completely safe from abuse by unscrupulous relatives or others who could influence the process', nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) agreed. Less than one in five (18 per cent) disagreed.

"It also found more than four in 10 (41 per cent) of those surveyed said changing the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia is likely to increase abuse of the elderly and disabled, fewer than three in 10 (29 per cent) disagreed.

"There have been over ten attempts to legalise assisted suicide through both Westminster and Holyrood since 2003 - all of which have failed over concerns about public safety.

"Laws that were introduced in Holland and Belgium and were only meant to apply to mentally competent terminally ill adults, have been extended to include the elderly, disabled, those with mental health problems and worryingly even non-mentally competent children. While in Oregon, the model often cited by those wanting to change the law, there are examples of cancer patients being denied lifesaving and life extending drugs, yet offered the lethal cocktail of barbiturates to end their own lives.

"Discriminating against the terminally ill and disabled people in law, by removing important and universal protections, risks putting pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives, because of real or imagined fears of being a burden upon relatives, carers, or on a state and health care system that is desperately short of resources.

"The safest law is the one we have, which gives blanket prohibition on all assisted suicide and euthanasia. It deters exploitation and abuse, but at the same time gives some discretion to prosecutors and judges to temper justice with mercy in hard cases."


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