By Hilary White

LONDON, January 7, 2009 ( – Speaking to a group in Belfast last night, Mary Baroness Warnock, a leading voice in British bioethics, said that doctors who refuse to cooperate in assisted suicide are “genuinely wicked.”

Following a theme of previous comments in which she said that the elderly and people with dementia have a “duty to die,” Warnock said, “There are doctors, we know, who don’t pay any attention [to a patient’s desire for suicide].

“But that seems to me a genuinely wicked thing to do – to disregard what somebody had quite explicitly said, that he wants to die – not to be resuscitated in certain circumstances and in certain circumstances to be helped to commit suicide.

“I believe that if someone is diagnosed as having the beginnings of Alzheimer’s or dementia, at that stage it is a positive duty that doctors should talk to them about what will happen when the moment comes where they reach steep decline.”

Warnock, as Britain’s leading voice for the most extreme position of utilitarian bioethics, has pressed for the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide and for the use of embryonic human beings for experimental research. In November last year, she said that there is an “absolute moral obligation” to conduct embryonic stem cell research, and that a scientist who chose not to conduct it would be “failing in their moral duty.”

John Smeaton, director of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, responded to the comments saying, “I am genuinely frightened when I hear Dame Mary Warnock say these things. Her distorted reasoning has heralded changes in British law which have led to the killing of countless vulnerable human beings in Britain and overseas.”

Warnock made her political fame in the early 1980s as the chairman of the British government’s Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, the result of which was the creation of one of the most lax legal situations in the developed world, paving the way for almost unlimited destructive research on human embryos. 

Given Warnock’s influence in Parliament and her anti-life positions, Smeaton said, “When Dame Mary Warnock says that doctors who won’t kill their patients are ‘genuinely wicked’, reasonable-minded citizens would be wise to be genuinely frightened.”

Alex Schadenberg, head of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, also responded, saying, “Baroness Warnock needs to be taken very seriously. Her attitudes promote an acceptance of killing the most vulnerable people in our community and they also create a feeling among the frail elderly that they are not valued and their lives are not worth living.

“Society needs to uphold the elderly and treat them with respect and dignity. We need to care for people with dementia, not kill them.”