Medics write a letter to Health Secretary against Assisted Suicide Bill which would let clinicians provide legal drugs for terminally ill people
By Christopher Hope, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT and Maighna Nanu Daily Telegraph
Nearly 1,700 doctors have written to Sajid Javid to oppose weakening assisted suicide laws, saying they will refuse to help patients take their own lives.
The intervention comes ahead of Friday when peers are expected to pass a Private Members’ Bill through the Lords which would allow doctors to provide lethal drugs to terminally ill people who want to end their lives.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Mr Javid are understood to be against weakening the law – but the peers’ Bill is expected to go to the House of Commons within months when it will probably be put to a free vote of all MPs.
‘Enormous’ shift ‘should not be minimised’
The letter – signed by 1,689 doctors and sent to the Health Secretary on Tuesday – said: “The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised.
“It is impossible for any government to draft assisted suicide laws which include legal protection from future extension and expansion of those laws.”
They added: “Any change would threaten society’s ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse, it would undermine the trust the public places in physicians, and it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people.
“Far from one person’s decision affecting no one else, it affects us all. Some patients may never consider assisted suicide unless it is suggested to them.
“The cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable.”
Signatories include Professor Johann de Bono, a professor in experimental cancer medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research; Prof David Galloway, the former president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow; and Rob George, professor of palliative medicine at King’s College London.
They conclude: “We would not take patients’ lives – even if they asked us to – but for the sake of us all, and for future generations, we ask that the law remains unchanged.”
Concerns dismissed by Baroness behind the bill
It comes after the British Medical Association, the biggest union of doctors, dropped its opposition to assisted dying last month and adopted a neutral stance.
Baroness Meacher, pictured here speaking in the House of Lords, is the peer behind the Bill
The doctors’ concerns were brushed aside by Baroness Meacher, the peer behind the Assisted Dying Bill, who said: “It is always easy to find a list of people to support any position.
“More significant is that the BMA last month ended its opposition to assisted dying following their survey of their members showing a majority of doctors in favour of assisted dying.”
The Royal College of Physicians said it was neutral on the issue in 2019.
Recent research from the pro-assisted suicide campaign Dignity in Dying found that up to 6,500 terminally ill people try to take their own lives every year because of a ban on assisting their death.
Mr Javid declined to comment.