Need for change

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By Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester

A few years ago, I was chairing a leading medical ethics committee and we had been asked to consider the first Bill put forward by Lord Joffe to legalise assisted dying for people with terminal illness. We opposed the Bill. Some members of the committee did so on religious grounds or on the basis of what they saw as ethical principles. The hostility of the many, including myself, against the assisted dying legislation was based on assumptions we had about its possible longer-term consequences on the practice of medicine and more broadly in society.

The case for a similar Bill to me now seems clear. Unbearable suffering, prolonged by medical care, and inflicted on a dying patient who wishes to die, is unequivocally a bad thing. And respect for individual autonomy – the right to have one’s choices supported by others, to determine one’s own best interest, when one

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