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Terminal Illness

Comment 6th August 2010

I am a retired family doctor coming from the days when we had personal lists of patients and we were legally responsible for their care or for organising another physician to deputise for you: this was on a 24 hour basis 365 days of the year.

Requests by patients to help them end their lives or "to help them on their way" ("you won't let me suffer will you doctor") were regular and not uncommon. I personally experienced this on a regular basis.

I make two suggestions:

1. The law on murder should  be changed so that there is a difference between compassion and malicious intent: at present it is left to the DPP to make the decision.

2. The 1961 Suicide Act should be altered so that terminally ill, mentally competent adults could be assisted to die or commit suicide.

Why does this matter?

Without any changes patients and doctors will continue to take matters into their own hands.  This is wrong and an alteration of these existing laws could help to stop doctors making ends of life decisions without regulation, transparency or safeguarding.

The intention is not to introduce a new law by the back door, rather the intention is to bring compassion, sympathy and support to both patients and doctors who are attempting to carry out their patients' wishes.

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