Right of Reply: Dr Peggy Norris

The chair of Against Legalised Euthanasia, Research & Teaching replies to our leader on mercy-killing
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The Independent Culture
I TRUST your editorial "We should not be scared of euthanasia" (27 March) will alert readers to the inherent dangers of a law permitting the killing of sick or incapacitated people, even at their request. While the physically fit and healthy may believe they would rather be "euthanatised" than be dependent on others to care for them, no one knows how he or she may feel when that time comes.

TC Warburg in his book A Voice at Twilight kept a diary of his thoughts and feelings during the last six months of his life. He was severely disabled, and required total care. Having read Exit's "Guide to Self-Deliverance," he approved of it. But then he changed his mind, and did not want "to take or lose my life. Glad there's no Euthanasia Bill through Parliament".

It would be ironic if Britain passed a euthanasia law. The hospice movement, founded here, has shown the world how patients with an incurable illness causing disability and pain can be helped by expert palliative care and drugs.

The evidence emerging from government reports in Holland proves that once killing is permitted, it is not possible to set secure limits. Doctors do not obey the rules; euthanasia is not reported.

It is tragic that the British Medical Journal on 16 January this year reported: "Police and health officials are investigating at least 50 deaths of patients around England amid accusations that the deaths were hastened by denying the patients intravenous fluids." Food and fluid are part of the normal care we owe to one another. The Department of Health's view of the Bland judgment, which labelled tube feeding "medical treatment", was that it "laid down legal principles which point a way forward". In fact it pointed 50 years back.