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Experts alarmed by euthanasia plans for England and Wales

27 September 2003

Experts alarmed by euthanasia plans for England and Wales Westminster, 27 September 2003--The government is planning to legislate for passive euthanasia and its proposals would also lead to active killing by doctors, experts warned at a major conference in central London this afternoon. A large audience from as far afield as Wales and Northumbria today heard alarming statements from specialist lawyers, doctors and ethicists about the dangers of the government's draft Mental Incapacity Bill, which threatens radically to destabilise protection for mentally incapacitated patients. James Bogle, leading medico-legal barrister, said that the draft Bill does not comply with the Human Rights Act, in particular article 2 (right to life) and article 6 (access to justice). Mr Bogle also said that supposed safeguards in the Bill were a cynical attempt to mislead the public and parliamentarians about the Bill's legalisation of intentional killing by neglect. Dr. Jacqueline Laing, D.Phil (Oxon.), senior lecturer in law at London Metropolitan University, said that the draft Bill encourages abuse, routine and systematic neglect and deliberate killing by omission of those who cannot care for themselves. Dr Laing warned that patients who recover capacity may have no legal redress for damages caused by others through powers given to them under the Bill's regime. Dr. Philip Howard FRCP, a senior lecturer in medicine in London and consultant physician, predicted that conscientious doctors and nurses would be criminalised by the Bill if they continued present practices that save the lives of suicidal patients and other vulnerable people. Such doctors and nurses would be forced to leave the medical profession or move to other countries if the Bill's unethical proposals became law. Dr. Howard also described as a "myth" the suggestion that advance directives or 'living wills' preserve patients' autonomy.

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