Select Committee on Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill Minutes of Evidence

Survey of APM members views on Euthanasia/Physician assisted suicide—Summer 2003


  The following is a summary of the main points made by respondents. It is not the product of a methodologically sound qualitative analysis but rather an overview produced by Jim Gilbert having read all the comments. The raw data remains available via Sheila Richards.


    —  Many did not answer question 3, several explaining their refusal on the grounds of there being no `appropriate person'. Several alternative suggestions were put forward for people to perform euthanasia including philosophers, politicians, a soldier and even someone titled "professional killer".

    —  Question 4 was frequently commented upon. The following summarizes the responses of many; "if by participate you mean actually performing euthanasia or PAS, then no, but if you mean participating in the assessment process then yes". Others variously commented that palliative care professionals must be involved and others that they felt they could not morally be involved.

    —  In relation to question 2 several drew attention to the probability that requests are reduced by knowledge of the prevailing legal position.

    —  Several supported and encouraged the active involvement of APM members in the debate.

    —  Several respondents drew attention to the difficulty of requesting brief, tick box responses to complex questions.

    —  Several respondents expressed thanks for being asked their opinion in a systematic way.

    —  One respondent thought the whole questionnaire too narrow to assess such a subject.


    —  Several responses were that although a small minority might be helped by a change in the law overall the majority would be disadvantaged. Several respondents drew attention to parallels with termination of pregnancy suggesting that apparently tight safeguards may rapidly be loosened—one specifically opposing the possibility of having to fill in a "green form" (as for a request for termination of pregnancy).

    —  Many respondents drew attention to a resulting loss of trust in doctors, all suggesting that trust would be lessened by doctor's involvement in euthanasia/PAS.

    —  Palliative care was conceded by some not to be a panacea whereas others equated requests for euthanasia with a failure of palliative care.

    —  Several made the point that requests come more frequently from relatives than from patients.

    —  Some suggested that palliative medicine doctors were better to work on change from within whereas others refused any association with the process for fear of being seen to condone it.

    —  The probability of increasing pressure, perceived or real, on vulnerable patients were euthanasia/PAS to become an option, worried several respondents.

    —  Several explicitly related their views to their religious beliefs—all opposing euthanasia/PAS.

    —  One respondent was unhappy that the debate smacked of fundamentalism and inflexibility.

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