Letter: You can't go your own way

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THE ARTICLE by Julia Sinclair is a sad tale of poorly managed terminal care, but it contributes nothing to any argument for euthanasia. The fact that we feel helpless in the face of impending death is not sufficient reason to kill the patient. Living wills allow patients to state in advance the kind of treatments they do not want, but they do not allow us to demand that health-care staff take someone's life. From Ms Sinclair's description it sounds as if the poor young locum doctor finally gave her father an adequate dose of analgesia, but it was clearly not a lethal injection in the sense demanded by supporters of euthanasia. Following a lethal injection the patient does not regain consciousness next morning and smile at his loved ones.

Choice and dignity in death are denied us by many factors, primarily by the lack of adequate palliative care services, compounded by powerlessness and ignorance on the part of patients and their families, but campaigns for voluntary euthanasia will do little to rectify such problems. Much of the suffering of the dying and their families comes from our failure to come to terms with the prospect of death, our own and others'. And of course euthanasia does not relieve suffering, it merely kills one of the sufferers.

DR PAUL WAINWRIGHT

Swansea, West Glamorgan

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