Dignitas goes international

Lord Joel Joffe of Liddington The UK's House of Lords is debating Lord Joffe's private member's bill authorising voluntary euthanasia. After the debate is over, Lord Joffe, a former chairman of the charity Oxfam, plans to reshape his original measure on the Oregon model to allow doctors to prescribe lethal medications, but not to administer them.

Even if a euthanasia bill passes in the Lords, it is unlikely to be supported in the House of Commons. However, it has brought the simmering debate in the press to a boil. The Guardian supports it as a reasonable and long-overdue attempt by parliament to make humane sense of our last taboo", while the Telegraph said that "there is strong evidence that it would in many cases result not in suicide, but in murder". The Anglican bishop of Oxford argued in the Guardian that the bill represented "a flawed understanding of what it is to be a human being, one that places an excessive emphasis on personal autonomy to the neglect of our mutual interdependence".

British doctors are still divided on the issue. A spokesman for UK palliative care physicians declared that the British Medical Association had been wrong to take a neutral stand, especially without consulting all its members. Over 90% of palliative care doctors opposed a change, he said. The British Medical Journal received a flood of responses to its special issue on euthanasia, nearly of them opposed. Most insisted that they had not become doctors to kill people.

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