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Britons Public Call For Legal Euthanasia

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Britons public call for the legalization of medically assisted suicide….

A recent poll has revealed the majority of the British public would like to see a change in the law to allow medically assisted suicide, otherwise known as voluntary euthanasia.

According the poll, conducted by The Times, almost three quarters of people want doctors to be legally allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives. And six out of ten, think that friends and relatives should also be able to help their dying loved ones commit suicide without facing prosecution.

The poll found that only 13 per cent of the public supported the complete right to assisted suicide regardless of the individual’s health. Whereas eighty-five per cent said that it should only be legal “in specific circumstances”.

asissted suicide Britons Public Call For Legal Euthanasia

Changing the law has always been opposed strongly by doctors, with two out of three against legalization. But yesterday saw the first signs of change in the medical establishment as the Royal College of Nursing dropped its opposition to assisted suicide and adopted a neutral position, following a three month consultation with members.

Many nurses are asked about euthanasia at clinics like Dignitas, in Zurich, where terminally ill patients can chose to end their lives. Until now, nurses have been unsure what advice is legal.

The Times poll, by Populus, was carried out just one week after the leading conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife died at the Dignitas clinic on July 10.

Sir Edward, 85, had become virtually blind and suffered loss of hearing while Lady Downes, 74, a former ballet dancer, had terminal cancer. Their son and daughter who accompanied them to the clinic have been questioned by police, however it seems unlikely that further action will be taken.

The current laws state that it is illegal to aide or abet anyone to commit suicide, although no one has ever been prosecuted for doing so.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former Lord Chancellor, called the current situation a ‘legal no-mans land’ with the law remaining in force but prosecutors declining to act upon it.

Many hope that the law will be reviewed later this week then the House of Lords will rule on the Debbie Purdy case. Ms Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, is seeking a guarantee that her husband will not be prosecuted if he helps her to travel to Dignitas.

Sarah Wootton, of Dignity in Dying, said the poll showed that the law was out of step with public opinion and highlighted two issues:

“Firstly, the public distinguish between assisted dying for the terminally ill and the assisted suicide of people who are not dying….

“Secondly, the public want safeguards to define who should and shouldn’t be assisted to die.”

However a spokesman for the Care not Killing Alliance dismissed the findings:

“Knee-jerk approval of assisted suicide from the worried well is not surprising in this poll, carefully timed immediately to follow the media storm around recent high-profile celebrity suicides…

“It needs to be seen within the context of the House of Lords’ recent rejection of [a legal change] and the continuing strong opposition to any change in the law from senior lawyers, leading doctors, the BMA and disabled people’s groups, all of whom have a good understanding of the dangers to public safety that would accompany any change.”

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