British Doctors Use Euthanasia to Kill Nearly 3,000 Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 17, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Doctors Use Euthanasia to Kill Nearly 3,000 Patients

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 17, 2006

London, England ( — A new survey finds British doctors used euthanasia to kill nearly 3,000 patients in 2004. The poll also found that British doctors do not want to see the legalization of assisted suicide despite a campaign to do that.

Brunel University surveyed 857 doctors and found that thousands of deaths in 2004 were the result of illegal euthanasia.

According to a BBC report, the survey found that, of the 584,791 deaths in the UK in 2004, 936 were by voluntary euthanasia and 1,930 involved the doctor killing the patient without the patient’s consent.

Of the euthanasia deaths, one-third of them were the result of doctors treating the symptoms of a disease or injury and just under a third involved doctors withholding treatment in cases when it is supposedly in the best interest of the patient.

Both of those courses of action are legal in Britain, the BBC reported.

None of the doctors in the poll said they had been involved in an assisted suicide and just 2.6 percent of the physicians surveyed said it would be beneficial to change the law to allow it.

Discussing the report, Professor Clive Seale told the BBC, "Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are understandably very emotive subjects, but this work shows that UK doctors are less willing to take such actions than in several other countries."

In November lawmakers in the House of Lords introduced a private members bill to legalize assisted suicide. Pro-life groups have strenuously fought the bill and were successful in getting a provision allowing voluntary euthanasia to be removed from it.

Groups backing euthanasia said the report shows some doctors are engaging in the practice and that it should be legalized, but pro-life advocates disagreed.

Julia Millington, political director of the ProLife Alliance, told the BBC, "Surely the response of a civilized society is to stop this unlawful killing altogether rather than use such research to support demands for doctors to be permitted to do it legally."

A doctor associated with the British Medical Association also worried about the number of doctors engaging in euthanasia.