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'Legalise euthanasia' says expert

26th June 2006

A leading expert has called for the legalisation of all forms of euthanasia even in patients who cannot consent.

Len Doyal, ex-member of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, said doctor-assisted deaths did take place and should be better regulated.

He said the law should be changed to enable doctors to withdraw treatment even if patients cannot consent.

But other experts said patients should make a living will if they do not want to be resuscitated.

Professor Doyal said that when doctors withdraw life-sustaining treatment from severely incompetent patients, such as those in a permanent vegetative state, it was effectively euthanasia, the Clinical Ethics journal reported.

Lord Joffe has put together a bill for the House of Lords which would give doctors the right to prescribe drugs that a terminally ill patient in severe pain could use to end their own life, a procedure called assisted dying.

The bill was recently delayed by six months after a vote by peers.

Referring specifically to the Joffe Bill, Professor Doyal who is emeritus professor of medical ethics at Barts and the London School of Medicine claimed some supporters of euthanasia remain silent about non-voluntary euthanasia, because they believe that focusing on voluntary euthanasia offers a better chance of legalisation.

The British Medical Association dropped its long-held opposition to assisted dying in July last year, voting at its annual conference to adopt a neutral stance on the issue.

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