British Ethicist: Doctors Already Kill Patients, Legalize Involuntary Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Ethicist: Doctors Already Kill Patients, Legalize Involuntary Euthanasia Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 8, 2006

London, England ( — A British "ethicist" says doctors in England are already killing patients even though the British House of Lords defeated a bill that would legalize assisted suicide. Len Doyal, ex-member of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, says British law should go even further and allow involuntary euthanasia.

Doyal said instances of doctors killing patients are already occurring argues British law should make the practice legal. He wants the British parliament to allow physicians to kill patients who can’t provide consent to withdrawing medical treatment.

"If doctors can already choose not to keep uncomprehending patients alive because they believe that life is of no further benefit to them, why should their death be needlessly prolonged?" he asked.

Lord Joffe, a member of the House of Lords, put together a bill that would legalize assisted suicide but not euthanasia. Doyal said the bill doesn’t go far enough.

"Some supporters of euthanasia remain silent about non-voluntary euthanasia, presumably because they believe that focusing on voluntary euthanasia offers a better chance of legalization," he said.

Deborah Annetts, the director of Dignity in Dying, a pro-euthanasia organization, admitted to the BBC that Doyal is correct in asserting that doctors frequently end the lives of patients they think are beyond medical hope without their consent.

"Doctors make end of life medical treatment decisions resulting in seven out of every ten deaths in Britain," she maintained.

However, Annetts disagreed with Doyal that involuntary euthanasia should be legalized. Her group favors only assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

Dr. Nigel Sykes, consultant in palliative medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospice, told the BBC that legalizing voluntary euthanasia would lead to more incidents of doctors killing patients.

"[E]uthanasia, once legalized, would lead to non-voluntary euthanasia at some point, and this would affect an increasing number of people who are among the most vulnerable in our society," he said.