More MS news articles for April 2002

Doctors should not decide on medical and "existential" suffering

6 April, 2002
BMJ 2002;324:848

EDITORThe bizarre decision of the Dutch courts that doctors must differentiate between medical and "existential" causes of suffering before agreeing to euthanasia provides an excellent illustration of just why doctors should not get involved with killing people at all.1

If society wants euthanasia, fine. Let society draw up the (hopefully) watertight regulatory framework that will prevent abuse of this new freedom, and then let society provide the money for the staff and premises required to provide the service. There will be no shortage of volunteers to train as despatchers (we probably need a better name than that) to work in these new buildings, which I suggest could be known as thanatoria.

There is absolutely no reason why the medical profession should be involved at all, other than to certify that a patient's condition is terminal and that no curative treatment is available. In this way society can have what it professes to want and doctors can preserve their patients' trust by refusing to get involved in the killing.

Bob Bury, consultant radiologist.
Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds LS1 3EX

1.  Sheldon T. "Existential" suffering not a justification for euthanasia. BMJ 2001; 323: 1384 [Full Text]. (15 December.)

© BMJ 2002