[Paleopsych] The Observer: Death with dignity

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Death with dignity
Time for a debate on euthanasia
Sunday September 19 2004
The Observer
[Thanks to Adelaide for finding this article.]

As the Observer reveals today, thousands of very ill patients in Britain 
are helped to die each year by their doctors. Sometimes the fatal doses of 
morphine are administered with their knowledge, sometimes only with the 
knowledge of their families who don't want to see them suffer further. It 
is all done on the quiet because such an action can lead to the doctor 
being on a murder charge. Politicians naturally shy away from entering 
this emotive arena. The very term 'mercy killing' conjures up images of 
doctors administering lethal injections to comatose patients. There is 
also the very real concern that any legislation would put elderly people 
under pressure to agree to an assisted death to help their relatives.

But the law currently proposed by Lord Joffe, and being debated in the 
House of Lords, sets out a framework which would comprehensively outlaw 
such cases. His proposal is that only patients who are terminally ill and 
judged to have less than six months to live would be eligible for an 
assisted death. They would have to be in 'unbearable pain', be capable of 
making a rational decision about their future and would have to undergo 
both a medical and psychological examination. There would also be a 
'cooling-off' period so that they could contemplate the process they had 
been through.

Polls show that both the public and the medical profession support reform 
of the law on assisted death. It is a basic desire to want our end to be 
as peaceful, dignified and pain-free as possible. The thousands of people 
with terminal illnesses have little hope of this at the moment. They need 
ministers to have the courage to look for a path which will cut through 
the ethical and legal complexities. If it is possible on abortion and 
cloning, it must also be possible to frame legislation that allows the 
dying the right to a dignified departure.

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