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Letter: Kind killing: a dangerous mistake

Sir: Angela Lambert's compassionate views are common to all who campaign for legalised euthanasia ('Killing them with kindness', 8 September). Unfortunately, they are, at best, ingenuous. At worst, they are profoundly and dangerously mistaken. They fail to differentiate voluntary euthanasia from assisted suicide and from the continuation of inappropriate treatment.

Admittedly, the last does occur quite frequently, and appears to have done so in some of the cases Angela Lambert describes. However, if the medical profession does err at times in this direction, it is surely preferable to the alternative. Hopefully, no one is suggesting involuntary euthanasia which is, of course, better described as murder.

In my experience, voluntary euthanasia is very rare. Indeed, despite many years of treating elderly people suffering from all manner of dreadful diseases, I cannot recall a specific request. This is also the general experience of my colleagues working in hospices. Perhaps this is because we mainly encounter patients who are given adequate and proper care.

Most dangerous of all is the notion that the elderly are more burdensome when they develop incurable disease. This is ageism at its worst. If anything, old people should receive a greater dividend from society since they have usually made a greater investment.

Yours faithfully,


Consultant Surgeon

University Hospital of Wales


12 September