John Westen

News

Study: UK doctors consistently oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide

John Westen

LOS ANGELES, CA, March 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A review of research carried out over 20 years suggests that UK doctors appear to consistently oppose euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS).

The findings - which appear in the latest issue of the journal Palliative Medicine, published by SAGE – come as no surprise to Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC).

“The fact that doctors are more likely to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide is not surprising considering the fact that these issues directly affect their medical practise,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews. “Further to that, studies have shown that palliative care doctors and medical specialists who care for people with disabilities or the frail elderly are usually the strongest opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

The study, carried out by Dr Ruaidhrí McCormack and colleagues Dr M Clifford and Dr M Conroy at the Department of Palliative Medicine, Milford Care Centre, Limerick, Eire, searched through literature from 1990 to 2010 and found 16 key studies. These examined UK doctors’ attitudes to either assisted voluntary euthanasia (AVE), or PAS, or both.

The majority of doctors opposed AVE in all of the studies but one (11 of the studies examined attitudes to AVE). The majority of doctors were against PAS in eight of the ten studies examining this topic. Six studies asked doctors if they would perform these practices were they made legal, and on average only about a quarter would be willing (PAS: 25 percent, AVE: 23 percent).

The study attempted to restrict consideration to cases of AVE and PAS where there was patient request and consent.  However, Schadenberg points out that other studies have shown that it is often not that straightforward. “The Dutch euthanasia report from 2005 showed that 550 deaths were without explicit request or consent,” he said.

A recent study from Belgium showed that 32% of all euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium occurred without explicit request or consent. Another study showed that 47% of all euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were not reported.

In the current study, one of the strongest predictors of a doctor’s unwillingness was religiosity, with the most faithful least likely to consider assisting death, or supporting its UK introduction. Other factors consistently highlighted were that palliative care reduces suffering and limits the need for assisted dying.

Schadenberg said that a similar opinion against euthanasia and assisted suicide has been seen in North America. “The reality is that the more people examine the issue of euthanasia, the more they agree that with euthanasia, choice is an illusion, and many peoples lives are directly threatened when legalized,” he said.

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