Letter: Euthanasia: definitions, the Dutch example, dignity, and a judge's words

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Sir: In your report 'California battle lines drawn over euthanasia' (22 September), you state that in the Netherlands in 1990 more than 1,000 patients were put to death without their consent. This is now used as a tool by the pro-life lobby as a terrible warning against our following the example of the Dutch. In fact, all doctors in Western countries are in the habit of administering large doses of diamorphine and allied drugs to patients who are in extremis to bring their sufferings to an end, knowing that as these drugs are also painkillers they cannot be prosecuted.

The difference between the Netherlands and Britain is that in the Netherlands a census was conducted. In Britain, so far, there has been no census but if there were, the numbers of those released from their sufferings without consent, and bearing in mind the ratio of populations, would be likely to be rather more than 1,000 patients a year.

Yours faithfully,


Ashdown, Wiltshire

23 September