- Published on Saturday, 12 February 2011 05:33
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 3034
One of the proofs that religions are irrational is that they prohibit helping people in one of the worst times of their lives - when they are dying. They claim to help but generally they just perpetuate suffering and offer prayer which does nothing for the person suffering. The medical profession are putting their head in the sand and claiming that their job is to save life not end it. But "Dying with Dignity" wants Doctors to help with dying and not make attempts to slow down the inevitable and cause unnecessary suffering. Other than the person dying, doctors are in the best position to know when the pain and disabilities are worse than living longer. Yet they refuse to do anything.
In the U.K., one doctor who herself has only months to live, wants to change the law on assisted dying - Dr Ann McPherson. She is chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying and as the joint author of a million-selling guide to teenage health and the founder of the first website where patients could share experiences of disease (healthtalkonline.org), she is one of the best known GPs in England. She was recently interviewed for an article in The Independent where she said that modern medicine ignores the needs of the dying. She wants doctors to be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives.
"Death is seen as a technological defeat," she says. "Palliative care specialists see it as a failure if patients want an assisted death. I think that's ridiculous - it should be part of good palliative care. We have got into a terrible mess about keeping people alive when they shouldn't be."
The group McPherson launched last October, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, has gathered 340 members in three months by word of mouth alone, including some of the most eminent names in the profession.
McPherson argues that those medical bodies which oppose assisted dying do not reflect the views of their members, which are more evenly divided. A survey in 2009 found that 39 per cent of GPs and consultants backed a change in the law to permit assisted dying, while 49 per cent opposed it. In contrast, the British Social Attitudes 2010 survey found 82 per cent of the public in favour of a change in the law.
McPherson says. "We want an open debate. I think the tide of change is sweeping over them. All the surveys show that when the public are asked, in whatever way, a majority say that people who want the option of an assisted death should have it. The profession is out of step with the public on this."
"Part of the problem is that those deciding on the legal and political issues concerning assisted dying are not those facing immediate death themselves," she wrote in an article in the British Medical Journal "Why can't people have a rational discussion about assisted dying? Why can't it be available for those who want it as a choice?"
She was inundated with emails and letters in response, almost all in support, many from eminent names in the profession.
She rejects the arguments of those who say that assisted dying undermines trust in the medical profession. "I have had three or four patients in my career as a GP who definitely wanted an assisted death despite having very good palliative care. They were not in pain - they had just had enough. I felt that not being able to help them affected my relationship with them. It is the other way round - not being able to assist undermines trust."
Some places, notably Oregon and Washington in the US, permit assisted dying, and demand in those states implies that about 1,000 people annually might make use of the legislation in the UK - one in 500 of all deaths. In Oregon, one in three of those cared for in hospices at the end of their lives had considered seeking an assisted death, suggesting that it brings comfort to far more people than actually use it.
In Canada, there is a support group dedicated to this subject - go to this site: Dying with dignity