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Why not voluntary lawyer-assisted dying?

by | Sep 1, 2023

By Michael Cook

At an earlier stage in the debate over assisted dying, a critic wrote that it was incompatible with a physician’s Hippocratic Oath. If the public wanted it, let it be lawyer-assisted dying rather than doctor-assisted dying. Perhaps activists have taken this advice to heart. An article in the BMJ argues that because there is a shortage of British doctors willing to participate in an assisted dying scheme, lay people should be in charge. Assisted dying might also put the staff of the National Health Service in a bad odor.

Such a “demedicalised approach” is already in place in Switzerland, say two palliative care doctors and a lawyer.

When members of the public talk about an assisted death they envisage a doctor they know, sitting at their bedside and assisting them in their last moments. With so few doctors willing to be involved, this is unrealistic. There needs to be a balance between what the public want and what is best for the NHS and the people working in it.

Instead of close involvement by doctors, the authors recommend that a board review applications:

“An enhanced de-medicalized model would reduce the responsibility of healthcare professionals in assisting someone to die. Oversight could occur prospectively, with a requirement for a review board’s approval of the request for an assisted death before it can occur. These boards could include a lawyer, healthcare professional, and ethicist. This might cause delays, but offers greater support for potentially vulnerable people, and removes sole decision making from doctors.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at BioEdge and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Assisted Suicide