Letter: The right to die

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The Independent Online
HUGH THOMSON (letter, 9 April) asserts that in the Netherlands the three people per day whose lives are ended are "killed without consent". He takes the figure from the Remmelink Report of 1990. But half those people had already asked for euthanasia if their suffering became unbearable, most had only a few hours or days to live and the decision was discussed with other doctors, nurses and relatives. The figure remained the same when the study was repeated in 1995. There has been no "slippery slope".

How many such deaths does he suppose occur in Britain? We have no means of knowing, since here there has never been a comprehensive study of death and dying comparable with the Remmelink Report. The incidence of distressing deaths is likely to be similar in such closely neighbouring countries. Smaller studies in Britain have revealed that doctors help the dying to have a more merciful death here too, but they have to do it furtively. This is where the possibility of abuse arises, not in the openly shared decision-making now legally practised in the Netherlands.


President, European Division

World Federation of Right to Die Societies