Letter: Dangerous myth about morphine

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report that Dr Michael Irwin of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society "helped patients to die", and quote the retort of the British Medical Association describing this activity as "execution". Such sloppy use of terms is dangerous to clear thought and sound morality.

When a doctor suffocates a terminally ill patient by putting a bag over his head, he does not help him to die. He kills, but he does not execute, since a killing is an execution only when it carries out a sentence of capital punishment. "Helping to die" applies when a person takes part in the lethal act himself, but is assisted by another, as when a doctor provides the pills, and the patient takes them.

J E J ALTHAM

Gonville and Caius College

Cambridge

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