Answers to some objections to dying with dignity
OBJECTION - We cannot aways be sure that the patient wants to die.
Answer: There are no absolute certainties in medical practice but this does not eliminate the need, at times, for doctors to make life and death decisions. Faced with a request for euthanasia, the doctor would follow prescribed guidelines which would include being satisfied that the strength and persistence of the request left no reasonable doubt as to the patient's firm and rational intention.
OBJECTION - We cannot always be sure that there is no possibility of cure or return to an acceptable quality of life.
Answer: Cures take years to discover, test and become generally available. The doctor would discuss the prognosis so that the patient could make an informed decision as to whether a cure or remission was worth waiting for.
OBJECTION - Palliative care is now so effective that no-one need ever ask for euthanasia.
Answer: There are acknowledged limits to alliative care. There are still cases in which pain cannot be satisfactorily controlled, but of greater concern is the loss of faculties and descent into total dependence on others over a lengthy period as a miserable prelude to death. The June 2002 Morgan Poll revealed that only 23% of those polled considered that palliative care was sufficient.
OBJECTION - Efforts to find cures and to improve palliative care will be discouraged.
Answer: The will to live is so strong that no-one wishes to die while their life can still have reasonable quality. There will always be pressure to find cures and improve treatment. Euthanasia would only be an option for those whom current medical skills could not help. The incentive to perfect those skills would remain.
OBJECTION - It is always wrong to shorten life deliberately.
Answer: Those who have this conviction would be free to abstain, either as doctor or patient, but should not deny the option to those who do not share their belief. Most people hold that life should not be taken unlawfully: they accept that there are circumstances in which the taking of life at the request of the patient may be justified and that the law should provide for these.