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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 422)



  Q420  Chairman: Is that the paradigm shift, that instead of death being seen simply as bad, it is seen in some circumstances as a good?

  Dr George: In terms of the minds of doctors whom we tend to work with in diagnoses, treatment options and all sorts of things like that, the point I am making is that bringing death on, because of the situation in the law at the moment, as you said is considered to be bad. If under some circumstances assisted suicide or euthanasia is now considered to be an entitlement of the patient—bringing it into statute makes it an entitlement—then that becomes a therapeutic option and, therefore, it becomes a potential duty for us to perform.

  Q421  Chairman: That conclusion, in a way, is just part of the logic; it is nothing to do with the evidence of any jurisdiction?

  Dr George: Not at all, it is a priori, I would have said. In terms of saying; is this an explanation for why non-voluntary euthanasia should take place; I do not think they are increasing or reducing. If you look at the Dutch data, it is fairly stable over the last five to 10 years. But, of course, in Holland the decriminalisation of euthanasia sits quite a long way back from that. If you look at the case law, then the case law puts forward, for example in the Shabot case, a lady with resistant depression following the suicide of her son who made an application to the courts for euthanasia because life was no longer worth living because of her resistant depression, and that was granted. There are other examples of mentally incapacitated patients, psychiatric patients and so on and so forth. If you are saying that within society or within practice there is a treatment that some people can have access to and others cannot, and it is not based on the criterion of appropriateness, it is based on the criterion of fairness or equality, then you are giving people who are capable and able to ask for euthanasia a moral status which is different from people who cannot, because our duty is to act in best interests and if we see what we consider to be suffering in an individual which we feel unable to address and one therapeutic option is to end that life then surely under best interests one of our duties is to end that life.

  Q422  Chairman: Do I understand the point you make is that, if it were appropriate it, should not be restricted to those who are competent to ask for it but it should be available to those for whom it is appropriate even if they are not competent to ask for it?

  Dr George: Exactly.

  Chairman: I said an hour and a half and I think we have had great help from you. We would like to thank you very much indeed. The Committee has some deliberations to do. We do thank you and are glad to have had your help. Thank you.

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