To Care – not to Kill

We, Doctors Opposed to Euthanasia affirm that: 

Patients at the end of life should receive diligent and competent care to relieve their pain and suffering. The doctor has the obligation to use all the means available to achieve this end, without intentionally causing or hastening death.

If a competent patient refuses treatment or requests its withdrawal (or has made wishes explicit previously), his or her wishes must be respected. 

Modern palliative care skills, drugs and technology can ease or relieve symptoms in all terminally ill patients. These methods should be universally accessible.

If a doctor who is caring for a dying patient is unable to adequately control the person’s symptoms, he should have access to the necessary Palliative Care expertise and support to enable him to do so.

In extreme situations, when adequate pain relief cannot be achieved in other ways, the doctor may employ means that reduce the level of consciousness, without this reduction being the primary goal. The minimum level of sedation to relieve distress should always be pursued.

To provoke death voluntarily, by lethal injection or any other method, cannot be considered under any circumstance as “care”. Euthanasia is not 'progressive', but an erosion of hard-fought and hard-won principles of medical and general ethics. No human being should ever have the right or responsibility to judge another human's life as either worthy of existence or unworthy. To kill a patient in order to end his or her suffering would weaken the bonds of trust between doctors and patients. 

Once the Euthanasia principle is accepted - that death is an allowable response to suffering - gradual expansion of this principle is inevitable, from terminally ill patients to any mentally competent patient with any subjectively intolerable suffering. Once it is accepted that elderly patients may choose euthanasia to prevent being a burden, the elderly will feel increasingly that they are a burden on society.

We must learn from the negative experiences of countries that have made the error of legalizing euthanasia. Legalisation or decriminalisation cause more problems than it is claimed to solve; those documented in the medical and legal literature include:

High rates of euthanasia without consent;

Euthanasia in children; 

The impossibility of ensuring adequate reporting and respect for safeguards;

A loss of trust in the doctor-patient relationship; 

Conflicts within medical teams and families;

Expansion from 'terminally ill' cases to patients with psychiatric illness and non-terminal disability;

Organ transplant for euthanased patients.

Our medical associations must continue to fulfil their role as protector of the public and of life, and support doctors in their efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of care of the dying, thus allowing all patients to receive excellent symptom relief throughout their illness and at the time of death. 

We are a voluntary organisation of doctors of all faiths and none, who believe that the power to kill should not be given to doctors.